Friday, August 31, 2007

Will the voters be "fully informed" by the Elections Ontario Information Campaign?

A great and seemingly true post today on the Vote For MMP blog. More on this issue from Liberals For MMP later. For now, here is the post by Steve Withers in its entirety:

"Will we be "fully informed" by the Elections Ontario Information Campaign?

The answer would appear to be a resounding NO. Why?

Because they are not required to explain to anyone WHY the Ontario Citizens' Assembly recommended MMP for Ontario. So Elections Ontario is producing no information about why Mixed Member Proportional was recommended. Yes, there are links to the Ontario Citizens' Assembly web site here and there on the web site, but the rationale for adopting MMP is nowhere to be seen in the primary information on offer. It's buried.

Ok....so we still have the Citizens' Assembly pamphlets and booklets to inform us, right?

No.

Despite strong and growing public demand as people wake up to the huge void in the official information campaign, the government now refuses to print any more Citizens' Assembly materials. The 500,000 pamphlets are supposed to be enough. If you don't have one, I guess you can go door knocking looking for one or maybe check the auctions on Ebay.

The findings of the Citizens' Assembly are now being dismissed as "advocacy material" by the very same Democratic Renewal Ministry that ran the entire deliberative process that produced the MMP recommendation. To be fair to the Minister, Marie Bountrogianni, this decision was mostly likely imposed on her from above.

It's a good thing we don't apply the same logic to murder convictions or killers would run free because the juries' deliberative, evidence-based verdicts would be dismissed as "advocacy" and unfair to the accused.

At this point, it looks like the government has not only dropped the electoral reform referendum ball, but they have attempted to bury it as well by choking off non-Internet access to the Citizens' Assembly materials explaining WHY they recommended MMP.

The Citizens' Assembly, after considering all the facts, voted 94 to 8 in favour of Mixed Member Proportional. If MMP is not carried on October 10th, it will be due to the failure of the information campaign that was supposed to "fully inform" voters. As the Citizens' Assembly members were fully informed. With each passing day it looks like the case for demanding a fair referendum, supported by a sincere information campaign grows stronger.

But what about October 10th? Clearly, it's now MORE important than ever that we assert OUR ownership over our voting system and bring in MMP. Mixed Member Proportional would make the one-party, bad-faith tricks currently underway with respect to this referendum much more difficult in future.

The people I feel genuinely sorry for in all this (aside from Ontario voters) are the Liberal MPPs who supported the Citizens' Assembly effort in good faith. They have been badly let down by the cynical power brokers who clearly call the shots in the Ontario Liberal government.

This is a "Get up! Stand up!" moment, folks. On October 10th, let's do it. Let's show them it's OUR voting system....not theirs.

Tell your friends, volunteer....and DONATE NOW! We want TV ads and radio ads and full page ads...and that takes MONEY.

Then Vote for MMP."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Owen Sound Sun Times: A student voice backs vote change

Check out this great article by Andrew Stewart today in the Owen Sound Sun Times. Andrew served on the Ontario Students' Assembly on Electoral Reform as a rep from Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.

Here's an excerpt:

"The beauty of this [MMP] system is the way it combines local representation with a mechanism for proportionality: the number of seats held by each party reflects the proportion of the votes they received.

"In the system we have now, a significant percent (often over 50%) of votes don't matter. That is, even though the voter casts a ballot for the party or candidate he or she believes is best for the job, if that candidate fails to win a seat, that vote is wasted.

"In our democracy everyone is equal, so why should we tolerate a system in which votes do not carry equal weight?"

The Great Canadian Debate: Ontario MMP

Today, the Great Canadian Debate project is hosting an online debate on the Ontario MMP referendum question. The two bloggers arguing are Scott Tribe for Mixed Member Proportional and Cameron Holmstrom against MMP.

Voters in this referendum are being asked to choose between the current First-Past-The-Post system and the proposed Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system. The MMP system was recommended by the Citizens' Assembly after months of study and deliberation. The process leading up to this referendum was unique because it was citizen-driven. The proposed alternative system had to come from ordinary citizens, not politicians who are inherently biased.

As this site posted earlier, to suggest that this unique process of citizen-driven reform can simply start over again at some point in the future and come up with a better alternative defies credibility. More than likely, most naysayers would view a defeat for MMP as a mandate to keep First-Past-The-Post for the foreseeable future.

Scott Tribe is a founding member of Liberals For MMP and a Grit blogger.

We encourage you to click on the online debate and take part in the moderated discussion (after registering on the forum.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Scott's DiaTribes: On how the List MPPs should be picked by the parties in an MMP system

Liberal blogger and Liberals For MMP member Scott Tribe posted this great analysis today on how Ontario parties could nominate their province-wide candidates if Mixed Member Proportional passes this October's referendum in Ontario.

Drafted with the help of non-partisan blogger Greg Morrow, it's definitely worth a read as it details a process which would be similar to how New Zealand parties do it. That country transitioned from First-Past-The-Post to Mixed Member Proportional in the 1990s.

Electoral Dysfunction - There is a cure

For those who haven't seen it, Don Ferguson gives Canada a prescription to get over its "Electoral Dysfunction" in this funny Fair Vote Canada video.

Citizens' Assembly member: Diversity not represented under status quo

A great letter to the editor appeared today in the Toronto Star from Mississauga Citizens' Assembly member Patrick Heenan, in response to a recent column in the same paper by Peter McKenna, an associate professor from P.E.I.

Here's Heenan's letter in its entirety:

"Peter McKenna suggests that many P.E.I. voters rejected electoral reform because they "preferred the intimate relationship that exists with their MLA under the current system." With a population of under 140,000 and a legislative assembly of 26, each member in P.E.I. represents roughly 5,400 people. For Ontario's population of 13 million to enjoy this same level of intimacy, there would have to be 2,400 MPPs at Queen's Park, up considerably from the current 103. While this would conceivably make members more accountable to voters, a Legislature of this size would not be acceptable to the people of Ontario.

"With our large and diverse population today, the idea that a member "represents" all voters because of shared geographical location is antiquated. Ridings no longer reflect a particular economic interest or ethnic or religious background. Our current system does not provide for representation of parties that have widespread, but less geographically concentrated, support.

"To produce a Legislature that is more representative of the wishes of voters, without significantly increasing the number of MPPs, the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, of which I was a member, has recommended Ontario adopt a mixed member proportional system. This system would continue the tradition of the local member and local accountability, but would add a number of list seats that will improve proportionality and will allow not just representation of geographical communities, but also parties representing "communities of interest" with a high level of support across the province.

"If you are among the 60 per cent of Ontarians who are represented by someone you didn't vote for, you might just think that this new system has something going for it."


In other news, Elections Ontario is appointing referendum resource officers in various communities to help educate the public about their referendum choices on October 10th. Here's an article from the North Bay Nugget on retired elementary school principal Rob Fraser, who will working to educate the voters of Nipissing on the voting reform question. Here's another piece about Rick Swift who will be doing the same in Leeds-Grenville.

Fraser and Swift are among 100 resource officers hired to deliver local community information sessions throughout the province on electoral reform as part of the "Understand the Question" campaign.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vote for MMP Online drive launched

Vote for MMP today announced the launch of an online pledge and donation drive to reach millions of Ontario voters between now and the historic October 10 electoral reform referendum.

On the Vote For MMP campaign site, visitors are invited to sign the "MMP for Me!" pledge indicating their intention to vote for the mixed member proportional voting system. In addition, visitors will be asked to donate just $10.10 - a figure reflecting the October 10 (or 10/10) referendum date.

We strongly urge all supporters of electoral reform to consider donating to the Vote For MMP campaign. We also strongly urge all Liberal supporters to consider donating to the Ontario Liberal Party.

Oct 10th referendum crucial to electoral reform in Ontario

Thanks to Dalton McGuinty, Ontarians have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on October 10th to vote to modernize our electoral system.

The referendum on October 10th is the final step in a unique process of citizen-based, deliberative democracy that began with the Citizens' Assembly.

In Ontario, the Citizens' Assembly was a group of 103 ordinary Ontarians selected at random by Elections Ontario (one person from every riding in Ontario, plus chair George Thomson.) They were asked to take a very close look at our current First-Past-The-Post voting system and consider possible replacements.

After months of study, they decided that our First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system should be replaced with a made-in-Ontario form of Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). Now the question is before all Ontario voters this October 10th: Do you want to keep the antiquated system we've had since 1792 or do you, like the Citizens' Assembly, want a new, modernized, more proportional voting system?

The current voting system is inherently unjust. It frequently produces legislatures that bear little resemblance to how people actually voted. For example, under our current voting system, it's not infrequent for a party which wins 45% of the popular vote on election day to end up with 60% to 70% of the seats in the legislature. Furthermore, many votes cast under our current system are wasted as they have no impact on the make-up of the legislature.

The opportunity to change something as deeply rooted as our inherited, First-Past-The-Post system has been truly rare indeed. This is the first time since Confederation that Ontario voters have had the opportunity to change it.

The process leading up to this referendum was unique because it was citizen-driven. The proposed alternative system had to come from ordinary citizens, not politicians who are inherently biased.

That's why Dalton McGuinty, in his wisdom, set up the Citizens' Assembly in 2006. A set of principles governed their deliberations: Legitimacy; Fairness of Representation; Voter Choice; Effective Parties; Stable and Effective Government; Effective Parliament; Stronger Voter Participation; Accountability; and Simplicity and Practicality. Now the Citizens' Assembly's proposal is being put to voters.

To suggest that this unique process of citizen-driven reform can simply start over again at some point in the future and come up with a better alternative defies credibility. More than likely, most naysayers would view a defeat for MMP as a mandate to keep First-Past-The-Post for the foreseeable future.

Of course, we're betting that Ontarians will agree with us and vote for Mixed Member Proportional in overwhelming numbers on October 10th.

And Ontario will finally get rid of its archaic First-Past-The-Post system and enter a new era of more representative, accountable and effective government, where every vote counts.

Matt Guerin is a longtime Liberal party member from Toronto, ON

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Round-Up

It's quiet on the electoral reform front today. Voters continue to enjoy the slow days of summer across Ontario. It's the calm before the September election/referendum storm, to be sure. Just a couple of points today:

Supporters of fixing Ontario's antiquated voting system are being encouraged to donate to the Vote For MMP campaign. The pro-reform website has been urging supporters to consider its $10.10 for 10/10 campaign. Why $10.10 for 10/10? The election is on October 10 - hence "10/10." Of course, if you can afford to donate more, they welcome such contributions.

Also, I wanted to re-iterate the message from earlier this month that despite all the back and forth debate about wasted votes, party nominations and province-wide lists, this issue is really pretty simple when it comes right down to it.

This referendum is really about whether voters think our voting system should produce results that accurately reflect how we voted.

Should 45% of the vote for one party translate into about 45% of the seats or about 70% of the seats?

If you think 45% of the vote for one party should translate into about 70% of the seats for that party, as often happens now, vote for the status quo (First-Past-The-Post). If you think 45% of the vote for one party should translate into about 45% of the seats for that party, vote for the proposed Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) System.


Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Elections Ontario launches interactive video on its Referendum website

Elections Ontario has launched an interactive video on its referendum website, www.YourBigDecision.ca. The online video uses various actors/ordinary Ontarians who walk viewers through the referendum question, the two electoral systems you are being asked to consider and what to expect on October 10th when you go into the voting booth.

It's nicely produced. The content matches the explanations already present in written format on other pages on the site, but does so using actors who do a good job presenting the basic facts about the referendum question. It's also available in closed captioning.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

DemocraticSpace: Should MMP Decision be Principled or Self-Interested?

Non-partisan blogger Greg Morrow wrote an excellent post on MMP today on his popular blog DemocraticSpace.com.

In it, Morrow argues that Liberals and other party supporters should stick to their principles when deciding how to vote on Mixed Member Proportional this October 10th.

Here's an excerpt:

"I think the decision to go with MMP should be made on principles alone. But for many, they will assess whether or not the change works to their advantage or not (as in whether it helps their party or not). Our latest Ontario PROJECTIONS (while far too early from which to draw conclusions), illustrate why provincial Liberals would be voting against their interests if they voted against MMP. The projections show that despite being tied at 37% support, the PCs have a significant seat advantage over the Liberals (52 to 44). This is precisely due to the way votes are translated into seats. The PCs inherently have an advantage in Ontario (which means that everyone else has an inherent disadvantage). Certainly, this helps explain why many PCs are against change. But those Liberals that oppose change because they think it hurts their party’s chances would do well to remember the 40 years that they were out of power. So, even for those Liberals who refuse to make a decision based on principles, it is clear that MMP helps the Liberals by ensuring they get their fair share of seats. So MMP ensures that progressive voices from across the political spectrum are heard, commensurate with their support across the province. That helps Liberals, NDPers, Greens, and even the progressive side of the PC party. 64% of people voted Liberal/NDP/Green in 2003. And it’s a reasonable bet that 1 in 5 PC supporters (another 7-8%) is on the progressive side. So at least 70% of Ontarians are progressive. So if MMP fails, it will be because progressives voted against their principles *and* against their self interests."

Scott's DiaTribes: On why preferential ballot isn't the answer for electoral reform in Ontario

Liberal blogger Scott's DiaTribes posted this excellent analysis on preferential voting (aka 'Alternate Vote' or AV for short.) For those looking for a clear explanation as to why the independent Citizens' Assembly chose Mixed Member Proportional over preferential balloting, you'll find it in Scott's post.

Here's an excerpt:

"I’ve not been as vehement against it as some, so I thought I’d ask one of my fellow bloggers and one of those very involved in the fight for electoral reform, Greg Morrow of DemocraticSPACE.com, what he thought of the preferential ballot/Alternate Vote option that was being bandied about, and he agreed to let me post my “interview” of him on here.

"It turns out Greg is in the camp of those who believe AV would be a worse system to put in place then what we currently have now. His exact quote was that “Preferential ballots are dreadful ways of electing governments.”. He believes that preferential balloting simply formalizes people’s second choices, and that the first choice is basically chosen because they are the lesser of the evils as choices facing the voters, and Greg doesn’t believe that’s a very good way for voters to be electing our representatives.

"He then pointed to the Citizen’s Assembly statement of principles they laid out when they were looking to pick a new electoral system and then said to compare Preferential ballot against that list of principles they put down. His assessment of AV against those principles is as follows:

""Fairness of Representation? Not even close. Voter Choice? No, since you know that one party/person has to get to 50%, it still means you can’t vote for a small party or independent. Effective Parties? Yes, but it tends towards a 2-party system, so its leads to 2 effective parties and a lot of ineffective ones. Effective Government? - it leads to even more distorted majorities, meaning opposition is ineffective. Does it encourage more women and minorities? On the contrary, it makes it worse."

"Greg made the point that the CA members obviously felt the same way about AV, because when the 103 members came to vote on what electoral system to endorse, only 2.1% of them supported the AV model."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Simcoe-Grey Ontario Liberal candidate Steven Fishman endorses MMP

Another Ontario Liberal candidate running in rural Ontario is endorsing the Citizens' Assembly's proposed Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system in this fall's referendum.

Simcoe-Grey Liberal candidate Steven Fishman emailed Liberals For MMP yesterday to write:

"Like other people running for office in the upcoming election, I strongly feel that the people across Ontario deserve a better form of government. The "First-Past-The-Post" at times is quite unfair. If you take the 2000 election in the United States as an example, Gore won more votes than Bush, yet Bush became President. How the world could have been different had Bush lost in 2000.

The will of the people in the popular vote should count for something, and the MMP is the best way to go as we move forward."


In other news, blogger Runesmith's Canadian Content posted her "Six Reasons To Vote For MMP" yesterday. Check them out.

Another great resource for information on the proposed Mixed Member Proportional system can be found at a new site called Ontario Referendum, including an excellent Top 10 Talking Points for Discussing electoral reform with others. Highly recommended reading for anyone looking to counter the attacks being mounted by pro-First-Past-The-Post folks.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Liberal candidate Selwyn Hicks endorses MMP

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Ontario Liberal candidate Selwyn Hicks is endorsing the Ontario Citizens' Assembly proposal for Mixed Member Proportional.

Hicks' comments appear in yesterday's Owen Sound Sun Times.

Hicks "wholeheartedly" supports the citizen group's proposals, saying, "I personally have looked into the issue and done my research and think it makes a whole lot of sense."

He thinks the current system is flawed because a party's percentage of the popular vote isn't reflected in its number of seats. Hicks pointed to the 1993 federal election after Brian Mulroney stepped down. His successor Kim Campbell's Tory government was unfairly left with just two seats out of the then-295-seat Commons, yet had earned 16 per cent of the popular vote (over 2 million votes.)

"I think it fixes a problem with our current system," Hicks said. He also likes the idea of having members-at-large. "And they're thinking about the entire province, which we're supposed to do once we're elected."

He thinks it would be "legitimate" for people to vote against the electoral reform based on confusion how the party lists of at-large members will be chosen. But it would be "political suicide" for a party to create a list "without some kind of transparent process."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Founding member of 'Liberals For MMP' Kate Holloway named Liberal candidate in Trinity-Spadina

Congratulations to high-profile environmental activist and founding member of Liberals For MMP Kate Holloway who will be the Ontario Liberal Party's candidate in the Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina in this provincial election.

Click here for the Canada Newswire press release.

Environmentalist, activist Kate Holloway Liberal candidate in Trinity-Spadina

TRINITY-SPADINA, TORONTO, ON, Aug. 10 /CNW/ - Ontario Liberals today announced that high-profile environmental activist and former Green Party of Canada executive member Kate Holloway will be the party's candidate in the Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina. Holloway has been appointed as candidate by Premier Dalton McGuinty.

"Kate Holloway has two very strong passions - the community and conservation. She believes in action and she has compiled an impressive list of achievements. I'm proud to have her as part of our Liberal team," said Premier McGuinty.

The addition of Holloway to the McGuinty Liberal team received immediate applause.

"Today's announcement represents a huge environment coup for Premier Dalton McGuinty. To be able to recruit such a high calibre environmental candidate shows he means business in further developing his strong green team going into this fall's election. Dalton McGuinty and his Liberals, now including Kate Holloway, are where the action is for environmental protection in Ontario," said Deb Shulte, Co-Chair, Friends of Boyd Park.

"Kate has a rare combination of qualities. She is passionate about the environment, wise in the ways of business, and politically astute," said Chris Lowry, Executive Director of Green Enterprise Toronto.

"Kate understands the issues of sustainability and the urgent need for a greener agenda; she will be an energetic and effective member," said Michael De Pencier, publisher of Toronto Life.

"Kate Holloway is very well known in the community as a strong and effective proponent for progress on environmental issues," said David Donnelly a prominent environmental lawyer and activist. "From action on renewable energy to climate change, she's been a leader. She's a green diva."

Holloway has founded, managed and directed several Toronto environmental startups and non-profit associations. She sits on the Steering Committee of Green Enterprise Toronto, a network helping independent businesses and consumers become greener and buy locally. She is also a founding member of the Women's Environmental Alliance.

She was also a high-profile member of the Green Party of Canada, where she served on the national executive, co-founded the Green Party Women's Caucus and ran as a federal candidate.

"As a conservationist and advocate for strong, sustainable communities I've been impressed with progress made by the McGuinty Liberals, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, investing in public transit, becoming a leader in clean energy such as wind power and offering incentives to help Ontarians go green - not to mention support for our schools, hospitals and neighbourhoods. I want to make sure that progress continues," said Holloway.

"We all know where the province was four years ago - the environment was under attack, our cities were facing neglect, public health and education were on a downward slope. We can't afford to go back to that. We need to keep moving forward," she said.

For further information: Ben Chin, (416) 358-6291

Friday Round-Up

The debate over modernizing Ontario's antiquated voting system started in earnest this week with the launch of the campaign by NoMMP.ca. On the pro-MMP side, the Vote For MMP campaign has been active for months, years in fact. With both sides now communicating to Ontario voters, we can expect a spirited discussion over how Ontario elects its legislature in the run-up to the October 10th vote.

The Orillia Packet & Times posted this editorial yesterday supportive of the Citizens' Assembly proposal of Mixed Member Proportional. Here's an excerpt: "Various forms of MMP have been successfully governing countries, states and provinces all over the world for years. When fledgling democracies adopt systems, it is often this form, not our own antiquated methods. It's also wrong to suggest that MMP would somehow be less democratic. It is actually more democratic, because it takes into account the popular vote. It also promotes coalition governments which work to form more centrist positions, rather than majority governments with massive amounts of authority, usually based on less than a majority of votes. Instead of being less democratic, it guarantees every vote will count and it resolves the old dilemma as to whether you should vote for the party or vote for the person by allowing you to do both."

The debate in Ontario is being noticed across Canada. Liberal blogger Prairie Fire had this to say about Ontario's choice: "For me, it boils down to this: virtually all the nightmare scenarios that the NO side conjures up about what a MMP system could lead to (and let’s be honest, some of them are legitimate concerns) are all found in one way or another in our current electoral system as well. So given that both systems are equally flawed, the argument in my mind moves squarely to the yes column because a MMP system gives voters more choice, makes our political system more open to new voices, and the allows everyone, no matter where they live, to feel like their vote really counts."

And finally, Progressive blog Dawg's Blog yesterday chimed in with the great post, Ten Lies About MMP. Check them out.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

MMP de-centralizes power at Queen's Park, makes our legislature more accountable

In response to the suggestion from the anti-MMP side that the proposal recommended by the Citizens' Assembly would result in more power for the politicians, blogger and Liberals For MMP member Edward Lai (Toronto-Danforth) responded with this:

"Parties have spent the last century consolidating their power, and it would probably take as long to strip them of it (if left to their own accord)."

"This is due to the executive power of the Prime Minister and the Premier. In the winner-take-all FPTP system, the party leader becomes de-facto ruler. The legislative assembly merely becomes a rubber stamp for his/her policies.

"Under MMP, coalition governing becomes the norm. The cabinet will become responsible to the legislature to get the votes approved for bills to pass. At the same time, the role of non-aligned Independent constituency members becomes more crucial. For coalitions to be formed, the party grassroots will need to have a say on which partners would be favourable to them after the election is held. If the party leader seeks to forge a coalition with controversial allies, he/she will risk the wrath of the card carrying members and will certainly be challenged in the next leadership review. At the same time, elected candidates can put more pressure on the party leader by insisting that they will not serve in any coalition government. These scenarios can only happen under MMP but not under the leader-centred approach to ruling under FPTP. Thus, I believe that MMP makes our legislature more accountable to the voters than FPTP."

Blast Furnace Canada: I Support MMP

Liberal blogger Blast Furnace Canada, aka Robert Pavlacic, posted this excellent summary yesterday why he supports Mixed Member Proportional. It's a very nice read. Here's an excerpt:

"By ensuring the representation closely reflects how people actually voted, one will feel their vote counted. Moreover, by having two ballots one can split the vote so they can vote for one party's candidate (or rather his or her slate) for the top job while selecting another party's local candidate.

"Some have argued against the idea of closed lists. And this is a concern -- generally I support the principle of no representation without selection. However, the fact is parties will have to justify who appears on their lists and why. If a party decided, for instance, to choose a slate made up entirely of white males from Toronto's financial district it would risk getting punished not just on the list but on the local level as well. Going back to Israel and its pure PR model -- would any party stand a chance if it just fielded a slate entirely from Tel Aviv or Meggido (Armageddon)? Not likely.

"There are kinks in the system and they can be worked out but this may be the best and only chance we have of getting it done. It's unacceptable a party can win the popular vote and still lose the election. MMP will prevent that from ever happening again. That's why I'm going to support this and work among my colleagues and here to get it up to the 60% vote needed to pass."

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Scott's DiaTribes: Some good points made on the list question for MMP

Liberal blogger Scott Tribe reflected today on the heated online discussions that took place on his blog yesterday in response to his posting, "The NO MMP campaign starts off with fear and falsehoods."

Tribe pointed out the best post on the issue, written by Mark Mackenzie. Here's a full reprint of Mackenzie's excellent comment:

"Party leaders are currently elected by whom? Party members. Lists will be determined in the same way, by party members. If the no side is to indict MMP on the basis that party lists are provided by party members then I would ask them how they would like to change the leadership determination of their particular party. Incidentally, the ‘power’ of the ‘list MPP’s’ will never approach the power available to the eventual premier (leader of some party) who appoints cabinet, judges, commissioners etc. etc. all without even having been elected directly by the public. Currently, you have three things tied up into one vote - local representative, party leader and party. You may like the local MPP but not the party. You may like the leader but not the party etc. With MMP, you can at least separate the local rep from the party but still do not have the ability to directly vote for a leader. Well, two out of three aint bad but to the ‘no MMP side’. Please don’t attack MMP because the party picks it, unless you are prepared to open up a debate on how party leaders are picked."

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Pro-MMP Liberal Bloggers Speak Out Against NoMMP.ca's Tactics

First off, welcome to the newly refurbished Liberals For MMP site. Today, the supporters of our antiquated First-Past-The-Post voting system officially launched their web presence at www.nommp.ca. So it seemed fitting that we also make some changes here. We hope you like them.

Of course, based on the current (and sometimes grammatically challenged) content on the NoMMP.ca site, it seems as though the supporters of the status quo will make their case not by explaining the strengths of our current system, but by simply spreading fear and mischaracterizations about the proposed Mixed Member Proportional system.

Blogger and Liberals For MMP member Scott DiaTribe's response was the first retort today to the No side's campaign with this excellent post. Scott was right on the money with this statement: "I am sorry to see that 'No MMP' is resorting already to fear and smear. They are certainly within their rights to charge or to say they fear something COULD happen under MMP. but for them to come out and assertively say it WOULD happen, as they’ve done here with their opening press release, is a falsehood."

A couple more pro-MMP Liberal bloggers also made their thoughts known today.

Abandoned Stuff by Saskboy also got in on the discussion with this insightful post, "Conservative Liberals feeling their unending power slipping away."

CuriosityCat had this to say: "The fact that the MMP system proposed does not lay out rules for the names on the individual list being chosen is not a negative at all. In fact, it allows individual parties to decide on their own criteria, and voters will be better served by this happening. If you feel that the Liberals are not doing enough to ensure that women are represented in Parliament, and their list continues this trend, but the Tories, for example, are, you can cast your vote accordingly. Only those who fear the power of the ordinary voter should be running scared of this wonderful grassroots democratic option."

And finally, our friend Mushroom got in on the action: "Under proportional representation, the people get to decide both a candidate in the riding AND the political party which best represents their interests in governing the province. In our present first past the post system, the voter gets to choose a candidate who may be in government, opposition, or a maverick who is shut out of Question Period."

Friday, August 3, 2007

Electoral Reform Referendum represents a Simple Choice for Voters

Despite the complex details listed thus far on Elections Ontario's Referendum website YourBigDecision.ca, this referendum on electoral reform actually offers voters a very simple choice.

Most voters know very little about the complexities and nuances of electoral systems. Most voters don't care.

This referendum is really about whether voters think our voting system should produce results that accurately reflect how we voted.

Should 45% of the vote for one party translate into about 45% of the seats or about 70% of the seats?

If you think 45% of the vote for one party should translate into about 70% of the seats for that party, as often happens now, vote for the status quo (First-Past-The-Post).

If you think 45% of the vote for one party should translate into about 45% of the seats for that party, vote for the proposed Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) System.


Ultimately, that's what this question is basically about.

If pro-MMP supporters continue to frame the question in these easily understandable terms, we will be successful on October 10th.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Canada and the Democratic Deficit: MMP is the answer to our flawed FPTP system...

Liberal blogger Ryan Davey has posted an essay detailing his support for Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). It's a thoughtful and thorough exploration of the issues involved and should be required reading for anyone looking to fairly assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system, as well as the proposed MMP alternative.

Here's the link to Davey's essay. I've included excerpts below:

"...The FPTP system has many drawbacks, causing many electoral scholars to feel the costs outweigh the benefits. Firstly, it produces highly disproportionate results, by being generous to the leading plurality and cheating the smaller, more diffuse parties. Since 1945, Canada has seen some of the most skewed electoral results among established democracies. For example, in the past federal election of January 2006, the Liberal Party in Ontario achieved fifty-one percent of the seats with only forty percent of the popular vote, while in the same province the smaller New Democratic Party (NDP) received just eleven percent of the seats despite attaining twenty percent of the vote. More dramatically, In Alberta, the Conservative Party won all the seats with just sixty-five percent of the vote, leaving thirty-five percent of the electorate unrepresented.

"In FPTP, when there is a multi-party structure as Canada has, a majority of voters are usually left unrepresented in government, their votes disregarded. The disproportionate allocation of seats, while frequently producing a majority government, means the winner often only receives a minority of the votes. The majority voters’ representatives, as opposition to the government and in a minority legislative position, are powerless against the minority voters’ legislative majority. They have no alternatives such as negotiation and compromise, and are left only to attack the government, thereby promoting an adversarial legislature.

"Representation among minorities and across regions is also a problem. Parties lean toward candidates with the broadest possible appeal, making access for women, aboriginals, and minorities difficult. Canada’s levels of female and minority representation are behind many other Western democracies. Parties will also naturally focus on areas where their chances of winning are greater, promoting regionalism and exacerbating regional conflicts in Canada. This can lead to regions of the country being highly, if not completely, unrepresented in government, such as Alberta previous to the last election and the Greater Toronto Area today – two regions that frequently conflict with one another...

"...Mixed Member Proportionality has few faults. There are the necessary challenges of conversion, education, and administration of a new and different system for candidates and the electorate. There is also the need for additional spill-over seats on occasions when parties win more seats than they are proportionately entitled. This can disrupt the proportional balance across regions, though only to a small degree and for a temporary period. Finally, as a more dynamic system, it is more complicated for the average voter.

"The benefits, however, are compelling. Seat allocation is more proportional, reducing the regional focus of FPTP. One-party majorities are rare, replaced with minority governments who have to build coalitions with other parties. This ensures that all votes have meaning and the majority of voters’ views are included in legislative development. The adversarial nature of FPTP is usurped by the need for cooperation. Diversity of representation also improves, as quotas can be enforced on party lists to ensure representation of women, aboriginals, and ethnic minorities. FPTP lacks the democratic principles of inclusiveness, majority-rule with minority protection, cooperation, and representation. A Mixed Member Proportional system addresses these shortfalls and improves on the democratic deficit. It also pays dividends through its impact on the system of government."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Elections Ontario Launches Referendum Public Education Campaign - "Understand the Question"

Elections Ontario today launched the first part of its province-wide Referendum Public Education Campaign "Understand the Question". The press release can be viewed at Canada Newswire here. It's listed below as well:

Elections Ontario Launches Referendum Public Education Campaign - "Understand the Question"

Province-wide communications program to ensure 8.5 million Ontario voters
are prepared to make an informed decision on October 10, 2007

TORONTO, Aug. 1 /CNW/ - In preparation for Ontario's October 10, 2007 referendum on electoral reform, Elections Ontario launched the first phase of its referendum public education campaign today. The "Understand the Question" campaign is designed to ensure that Ontario's 8.5 million registered voters are aware that the referendum is taking place and feel adequately informed to make a decision when it comes time to mark their referendum ballots this Fall.

At the same time as the general provincial election on October 10, Ontario voters will also receive a referendum ballot to choose whether to continue the current electoral system, known as First-Past-the-Post (FPTP), or adopt the Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system proposed by the Citizens' Assembly. This marks the first time since 1792 that electors are being asked to consider a change to the way that Ontario's provincial representatives are elected.

"Our mandate is to ensure that Ontario voters are not only aware that a referendum is occurring on October 10, but believe they are adequately prepared to make an informed decision based on their individual considerations and priorities," said John Hollins, Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Ontario.

"Through our past experience and ongoing consultation with political science and literacy experts, we have designed a program that we believe reflects Ontario's scope and diversity, delivers impartial educational information and allows voters to become informed through a variety of mediums," continued Hollins. "It also allows us the flexibility to make adjustments based on voter questions as we move forward towards the actual referendum date."

"Understand the Question" Campaign Elements

- The Elections Ontario referendum public education website, www.yourbigdecision.ca launching today, provides voters with impartial tools to define and understand both the First-Past-the-Post and the Mixed Member Proportional electoral systems and to assess these systems against individual voter priorities and considerations. Voters may also register their email addresses for information updates as website content will be continually enriched.

- A public toll free information telephone line, 1-888-ONTVOTE (1-888-668-8683), is available beginning today to assist voters with their questions.

- A Facebook profile and group launches today to increase referendum awareness and provide another channel for voters to make information inquiries though the email address info@yourbigdecision.ca.

- A community-level French and English media relations program is underway to distribute impartial information defining both electoral systems, critieria for making a choice against individual voter priorities and identifying other "Understand the Question" information sources.

- A province-wide French and English newspaper advertising campaign and a further community and ethnic newspaper campaign in 25 languages will appear beginning the first week of September.

- A province-wide "Understand the Question" French and English radio campaign launches today and will run until August 13, 2007.

- Over 100 Resource Officers are being hired to deliver local community information sessions throughout the province. To request an information session voters may do so through www.yourbigdecision.ca, 1-888-ONT VOTE (1-888-668-8683) or info@yourbigdecision.ca.

- An online advertising program will begin in early September targeting high traffic Ontario portals of Canadian websites to encourage voters to visit www.yourbigdecision.ca for information.

- A Youtube information site and a downloadable widget (an online viral web tool) will be available later in August to raise awareness and direct voters to "Understand the Question" information resources.

- A province-wide "Understand the Question" French and English television campaign will launch in September, 2007.

- A French and English direct mail information program will be distributed in September, 2007 to all Ontario voters.

- Householders (unaddressed ad-mail) will be distributed to homes across the province immediately after Labour Day and again in the beginning of October.

About the Referendum

In June 2005, the Ontario Legislature began a process to review electoral systems. In March 2006, the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, an independent body representing in the electors in Ontario, was created. They were asked to assess Ontario's current electoral system and different electoral systems, and recommend whether Ontario should retain its current system or adopt a different one. The Citizens' Assembly's proposal has resulted in this Referendum.

About Elections Ontario

Elections Ontario is the non-partisan agency responsible for administering provincial elections, by-elections and referendums in the Province of Ontario

For further information: Elynn Wareham, GCI Group for Elections Ontario, (416) 486-5910, ewareham@gcigroup.com; Matt Roth, GCI Group for Elections Ontario, (416) 486-5911, mroth@gcigroup.com

Voters should verify the claims of MMP critics before Oct. 10

The following editorial by 'Vote for MMP' supporter Steve Withers ran on July 30th in the Orillia Packet & Times. It's reposted here in its entirety.

GUEST COLUMN: Voters: verify the claims of electoral reform critics before Oct. 10

On Oct. 10, we will all have the chance to make history. There will be a referendum on changing the voting system we use to elect our MPPs.

In advance of the coming referendum, one of the most interesting aspects of the electoral reform debate currently underway is the lack of any substance to the arguments against the mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting system recommended for Ontario by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly.

Critics like Orillia's Doug Lewis, a former minister in the Brian Mulroney government, and Liberal party activist and backroom operative, Christopher Holcroft, are echoing the same list of negative talking points about the MMP without apparently making the effort to personally verify whether they stand up to scrutiny. Reading their articles, not one of them offer us any information or examples from other places that use MMP that might support even one of their many assertions. All we get is a shopping list of claims without facts.

If the recommended mixed-member proportional voting system were really as bad as critics claim, why on Earth would the Ontario Citizens' Assembly have almost unanimously (94 to eight) recommended it? To me, the answer is obvious. What Lewis and Holcroft and others have been saying about MMP isn't true. I hope every voter will do what Lewis and Holcroft (and others) clearly have not done, and verify if there is any truth to these claims.
Certainly, the Ontario Citizens' Assemby didn't think so after examining all of these issues in detail.

I should say I have an advantage over Lewis and Holcroft where MMP is concerned. I've actually lived in a country that uses MMP (New Zealand) and voted in elections there.

I have been a member of a party and participated personally in the vigorously democratic candidate selection meetings that can occur when there are many worthy candidates, for both local and list places on the ballot. Had any of the critics made any effort to find out how this really works, they could avoid the risk of embarrassing themselves by having so obviously not done their homework where MMP is concerned.

I hope Ontario voters do their homework on MMP and not follow the example of Lewis and Holcroft. The OCA voted for MMP for very good reasons. I urge voters to find out what those reasons are.

In my personal experience, MMP is a much better system for voters. MMP offers voters two votes: one local and one for a party province-wide. That second vote is a very powerful one, holding parties to account across the entire province, not just locally. The party bosses of the present system are terrified voters will choose MMP and be able to hold them and their party collectively to account everywhere through that province-wide vote.

The present voting system gives us one vote for one candidate in one riding. That vote only counts if your preferred candidate wins, otherwise, you get nothing. Your one vote does not count at all in any of other 102 ridings in Ontario. Your one vote, at best, holds less than one per cent of all MPPs to account and only indirectly affects the fortunes of their party. Very few voters indeed get to vote directly for the party leaders. Under MMP, your party vote is a direct vote of support for the party you favour. It counts no matter who won your local race. Its effect is for all of Ontario, not just your local riding. How anyone can say this significant enhancement of voter power is less democratic defies rational understanding.

So who are the Ontario Citizens' Assembly and why does what they think matter?

The current government of Ontario, recognizing the problems inherent in the present way we elect MPPs, created the citizens assembly process to allow ordinary voters to have a look at these problems and see if they could devise a system, with expect help and public input, that would be better.

This was done by randomly selecting 103 ordinary people, one from each riding in Ontario to do the job. They became the Ontario Citizens' Assembly. After nine months of study and public hearings across the province, the OCA recommended by a vote of 94 to eight, that Ontarians adopt an Ontario-made version of the mixed-member proportional system.

It's a shame some of our politicians and party activists defending the present system haven't bothered doing their homework on electoral reform. I hope voters won't follow their example and will make the effort to find out for themselves how MMP really works.

I should add that I certainly won't be voting for anyone who makes inaccurate, perhaps cynical, unverified claims about MMP, a system that offers the chance for the significant improvement to democracy in Ontario since 1792. If these people are willing and able to base their case against MMP on a list of unverified talking points that don't stand up to scrutiny, how could we trust them on any other important issue?

The Ontario Citizens' Assembly case for MMP can be found on the website http://www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca.

They did their homework and have made an excellent recommendation that Ontarians who also do their homework cannot help but support.

On Oct. 10, I urge you to vote for MMP.