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Why no MMP?

MMP represents a solution to the wrong problem in Ontario.

In my view, the fundamental problem with our system of governance is the parties themselves. Parties have far too much power, stifling the opinions of an increasingly small segment of the population still prone to independent thought.

In Parliament, MPPs are expected to mindlessly vote with their parties, which in turn represent only the small fraction of the population that have the time, money, and energy to be involved in political parties in any meaningful way.

This is the problem we need to solve. We need to strengthen independent representation and weaken the party hold on MPPs. MPPs should be representing the views of their constituents to Parliament, and not the views of their parties.

MMP does the opposite. MMP acknowledges the strength of parties and legitimises it by giving parties still greater power and authority over its MPPs, reducing the number of ridings, reducing the effectiveness of ridings, making it still more difficult for independent candidates to win, and creating a whole list of completely illegitimate MPPs accountable to noone but their parties, responsible to noone but their parties, incapable of seeking reelection if they stand up to their parties.

No, MMP is not for me. It's not for Ontario. It's not for Democracy. MMP is only for the parties, which in turn will happily tell you how democratic they are. And you had better agree that they are democratic or you'll be out of the party.

Is FPTP the be-all and end-all of democracy?

No, but it's not that bad.

There is local accountability, local representation, and the possibility for independent thought and representation. Its biggest flaw is the requirement that voters vote strategically and thus their vote may not actually represent their opinions, a failing retained by MMP. A non-comprehensive preferential ballot, that is, one where you are not required to rank all candidates, such as IRV or Condorcet, or an even simpler system of Approval Voting would both be marked improvements in our democracy that I would support whole-heartedly. But changing the way we vote is only half the battle. The real reform needs to come in Parliament. The real reform needed is the elimination of the Party Whip, the Party Line, and the Party Vote.

Eliminate those, and a Majority Government will mean nothing, but a Majority Vote will mean everything.

Posted at 13:46 on August 09, 2007

This entry has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.

No MMP campaign gets underway | elections reform | All the World's problems to be solved by MMP

Scott Tribe writes at Thu Aug 9 16:30:09 2007...

In all seriousness, David, that's a great sounding idea. but how do you propose that we get to the point where the party's hold on their MP's is weakened -particularly when we have different party's with different internal constitutions.

There doesn't seem to me to be a way to draft up any electoral law that compels them to do what you seek.

I for one am all for having what some of the British Parties do internally (ie the Conservatives) where a majority vote by disaffected MP's can trigger the downfall of the leader - you can find a couple recent examples of that. But again, that's internal party rules, not an electoral law.

I'm not obvoiously changing my mind on MMP... but I certainly don't mind the idea you seek.. but give me or the readers a solution how to get there, rather then abstract ideas.

cdlu writes at Thu Aug 9 17:02:28 2007...


I am glad you agree that this perhaps abstract idea is a worthwhile goal. I object to MMP because it gets us *further* from that goal, not closer to it. It is my understanding that caucus used to have the power to topple a leader in most parties in Canada. This disappeared quite some time ago, as is evident.

Such changes do have to come from the party membership, the same party membership you seek to empower to choose the list MPs, before any party will allow the necessary changes to the law. Parties, after all, still control the laws that govern the government.

How do we get there? It would be very difficult, but further empowering and legitimising parties with MMP will change it from "difficult" to "impossible". Parties have spent the last century consolidating their power, and it would probably take as long to strip them of it. From the removal of the caucus' ability to oust its own leader to the use of party whips against the back benches and the introduction of the party name on the ballot, we have been taking steps away from true representative democracy, away from giving power to those people we elect to represent us.

Just as there is a grass roots movement to empower parties currently under way, there needs to be a grass roots movement to disempower parties. Obviously, unlike MMP, such a movement would not have the backing of two major political parties.

Parliamentary procedures, ideally, would be changed to eliminate the very existence of party whips, including and especially on confidence bills. There is no rational reason to make a confidence bill a whipped vote. If you have to tell your MPs that they have confidence in you, you do not deserve their confidence.

Ultimately, I would like to go to a Nunavut-style government where MPs are ONLY elected independently and get together after election to select from among those who won seats a Premier or Prime Minister. That, to me, would be democratic and representative of the people. We should be using Approval or Preferential voting to get those MPs so that strategic voting is not a significant problem as it is today.

What does it take to get us there?

It takes a commitment by the people to empower themselves. We have to address the real problem which is primarily the system of governance, not the system of elections. MPs used to be elected far more independently and the leadership of parties used to be far more accountable under the very system we have today. It isn't the voting system that breaks democracy, it's the people around it.

mushroom writes at Thu Aug 9 21:05:41 2007...

"Parties have spent the last century consolidating their power, and it would probably take as long to strip them of it."

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. It is this discontent with the leadership style of Harper that I am urging all Liberals to support MMP.

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 constitency members become 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 becomes more accountable to the voters than FPTP.

Mark writes at Tue Sep 25 13:19:13 2007...

Hello David:

I have some serious accounting issues with the proposed MMP system.

Having additional members appointed by political parties that have no mandate (vote) from the taxpayers is the first.

Paying additional salaries (cost) for more members is the second.

Doubling the votes of the participating electorate. This means giving a double whammy to usually about only half of the eligible population is the third.

Accurate accounting of the double votes is the fourth.

I will not vote an approval of this rendition of new government structure.

I might vote for a system that uses the present number of seats and adjusts the voting power of the representatives by a factor of their partys percentage of the popular vote.

This would adjust the policy making potential of given political parties to better reflect the will of the people as witnessed from the overall percentages of the popular vote.

Government reform should never deviate from having the members directly accountable to their voters. Anything less is not democratic.

Carpe Diem,


Ralph Anderson (www.magma.ca/~ralphdsl) writes at Tue Apr 15 09:42:37 EDT 2008...

No MMP for good reasons

In my recall of history, in 1066 in England, the nobles got together and told the King that there were limits. Several hundred years later, England got a parliament which was getting close to rep by pop. In these parliaments, the King would want to do some things, like raise taxes. The king would check out who got elected and ask some of them to try working with his plan. But the people, as represented, could say "no thank you" or negotiate a better deal to do it. There was a government side (the Crown) and opposition. There was debate and voting. If the king didn't get his way, he could always dissolve parliament and hope that a new bunch of politicians would be nicer to him. The King would be asking his loyal subjects to elect the people that he could work with.

Nowadays, the King is so far out of it that I can't see any one person be allowed to come up with a government's "to do" list. I think political parties are a good way to come up with "to do" lists. They can be like different choices that the king will decide on before he takes one of them to parliament. Each political party is a train of thought not a king in waiting.

The way I look at it, in a democracy, the King is replaced by the People. It is the will of the People that decides what parliament and government should do. The People should vote on which political party is offering the best "to do" list.

Unlike MMP where we would be asked to elect a list of people with a Vote on Party, a real democracy would elect a list of things to do with a Vote on Party. The People in each district would also send along their best, and ask each of them to do it right or don't it at all. Each representative of the People in parliament should accept the decision of the People and work with that mandate. There could be government and opposition for purposes of debate. Parties don't need to be in parliament. Their job is done. If there is one job left for a real life King or Governor General, it's to protect the People from the elected few, to see that parliament plays by its own rules and actually works on the mandate given to it by the People. We still need one person with the legal authority, sitting on the outside, who is able to dissolve parliament and take things back to the People.

The party system has gained royal strength with FPTP's "all in one vote". MMP thought about separating the mandate of representation from party direction but just could not bring itself to do it. Two votes on Voting Day is the right step to separate representation from policy direction. So if we ever get two votes, let's not elect people both times.

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