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A Dawg's bone

Dr. Dawg takes my challenges to his assertions and adjusts them to fit his particular views without including my reply to keep his reader informed about the actual points he is addressing. Further, in an attempt to smear me, he has posted this nonsense. Dawg is using the typical pro-MMP tactic of throwing mud (and losing ground) instead of ideas[1]. So let's go over his new arguments.

1) MMP will create unstable coalition governments.

Graham doesn't stick to the question here, but takes a scattershot approach. He argues, or rather asserts, that an MMP system is "inappropriate to represent the diversity needed" in a population larger than that of PEI. He claims, after noting that we Canadians aren't European and have separate political traditions, that only four European countries have MMP--Scotland, Wales, a province in Serbia and Germany. (Alas, this is only the first of his factual inaccuracies: I shall correct them as we go along.) He notes the relatively low Ontario threshold (3%) required to obtain a list seat, and the lack of overhang provisions, in the current model. The internal caucus horsetrading that goes on now will be reduced under MMP, he asserts, because list MPPs will have no incentive to barter--they will just follow the party line. He suggests issue-by-issue agreement will be more likely than coalitions under MMP. Finally, Graham claims that had the 2003 Ontario election been run under MMP it would have resulted in the Liberals being only one seat shy of a majority.

I never referenced PEI's population, I referenced its size. The diversity needed is regional diversity. Our MMP proposal has no provisions for this, allowing parties to create lists of indentured MPPs from any area, with little to prevent them from concentration on vote rich urban areas.

I feel like the proverbial mosquito in a nudist camp, but here goes:

This fly went straight for the wine.

* How does FPTP accommodate diversity as opposed to MMP?

FPTP's approach to diversity is democratic but not particularly effective. MMP's approach to diversity is effective, but not particularly democratic.

In order to achieve the diversity that MMP proponents inexplicably assert will magically happen under our proposal, there either needs to be a law mandating diversity on the party lists, or the parties need to create their lists in a manner that is not completely and openly democratic. For a party to disqualify anyone from any list entry based on their race, sex, religious background, or number of toes, is completely undemocratic and will be necessary to create diverse lists.

* How do our political traditions differ from the Westminster system from which they arose, and why does this make MMP inappropriate?

MMP is inappropriate because it replaces the last vestige of independent representation with another layer of party oversight, breaking away from the core tradition of the Westminster model of representatives representing their ridings to the government. That's key.

* With respect to European MMP, is Graham forgetting about the forms of it to be found in Hungary, the Ukraine, Russia and Italy (which recently abandoned its chaotic pure PR system)? Other European countries use a variety of other forms of proportional representation. Indeed, the only European country that uses FPTP is Great Britain. Most of the other countries where it's still in force are former British colonies.

It should be noted that every country that uses MMP uses FPTP to select at least half its representatives, so while more than four European countries may use MMP, every country that does uses FPTP and all the problems that entails for riding elections. To say that FPTP is bad and retain it in our proposal is hypocritical.

* the Ontario threshold is relatively low--5% rather than 3% is more common. But that can be fixed if it proves to be a problem--it's hardly an argument against MMP as a whole. Ditto for the lack of overhang provisions (addition of extra seats after an election if required to preserve proportionality), which could indeed result in rare majority governments with minority support. Far from being rare, though, such false majorities have been the rule in Ontario under FPTP.

This is, of course, more a matter of opinion than argument, but I do not share MMP proponents' hatred of majority governments, even when they are held by a party other than one that I would support. My ideal, as long as we are condemned to a party system, is to have a mixture of majority and minority governments, where when all parties misbehave with majorities we can return to minority, but when minority gets too dysfunctional we can return to majority. Both types of government have their strengths and their weaknesses. The system of purgable majority is what we have as demonstrated by the minority governments in both Ottawa and Quebec City with no return to majority in sight in either case. The issue of "false majorities" is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, majority governments happen with, in some cases, less than the plurality of the popular vote, but I believe this owes more to a democratic failing in a lack of accurate, regular redistribution of ridings and of our lack of a preferential ballot than to any inherent weakness in the riding system.

* List MPPs will be unlikely to keep their heads down and toe the party line, for a variety of reasons. First, they will very likely have to run as MPPs at some point, if the German example is any guide. Secondly, that "party line" itself evolves within a party caucus, and they will have their say like anyone else: it doesn't just fall from above. Finally, they will have to debate the issues with riding MPPs, who outnumber them two to one.

There are likely to be two classes of caucuses. The first is what we have now, with caucuses made up of riding representatives. The second is likely to be dominated by list MPPs. The Liberals and Conservatives will likely be the former, with the NDP and Green more of the latter. Within the parties where MPPs are dominated by representatives of ridings, current levels of internal discussion are likely to continue. In parties where the current party line is more important than the party principles, as in the NDP, the party-appointed members are likely to be the dominant voice within caucus and will not be as inclined to barter.

In Germany, everyone's favourite example, a 1996 study of MMP MPs found the following rather interesting bit of information:

83.2% of German constituency MPs felt that they should represent all citizens in a constituency. By contrast, only 55.6% of list MPs in Germany felt the same way.[2] This discrepency goes to show that even German MMP MPs do not share this crazy notion that there is no second tier under MMP.

* Coalitions, like parties, are built around a constellation of political values. The notion of political governance based upon issue-by-issue agreement seems unlikely, based upon experience of MMP in other countries, none of whom have that hypothetical form of governance.

Canada already has that form of governance is the point I am making here. We have had numerous minority governments in the country's history, and extraordinarily few formal coalitions. Without a requirement to form a coalition before taking office, which is not something that I would support anyway, there is no obligation for a party to form a coalition with another if it feels it can govern on an issue-by-issue basis.

* Finally, under MMP in 2003, the Ontario Liberals would have fallen five seats short of a majority, not one, according to Fair Vote Canada's analysis: I'd be interested in how Graham arrived at his result. Incidentally, with a mere 6% increase in the popular vote, the Liberals doubled their seats in the legislature.

I will save my opinion of Fair Vote Canada for another day, but Dawg is right here, I got my math wrong by 1% which makes a difference of two seats. Based on the last election, the Liberals should have had 62 seats with 2% popular overhang which is 3 seats short of the 65 seats needed for majority in a 129-seat house, still within the 3%/4-seat allocation margin for a fringe party balance of power.

2) MMP will allow small fringe parties to call the shots.

Graham simply argues that it's a hypothetical possibility, based upon his erroneous account of the 2003 Ontario election. Perhaps, however, we should actually look at how MMP functions in the real world. Would Graham provide us with examples, or is he counting upon us conflating MMP with the Israeli pure PR system where, indeed, his scenario has been frequently observed?

No other jurisdiction has a comparable MMP system to that proposed in Ontario for the reasons stated elsewhere here, such as an asymmetric list/representative set, low margin of entry, completely closed list, and the underlying political traditions and culture. What would happen here can best be described as "undefined behaviour" and my contention is that fringe party control will happen sooner or later, though not continuously.

3) MMP will elect members who represent no one, and whom no one's ever heard of.

Here Graham first argues that list-formation will not be an electoral issue, because the media will only cover controversial choices. With respect, I think he's missing the point. It's not just who end up on the list, but how they do. Rival parties will not be slow to point out weaknesses--if, for example, Party A's list is stuffed with party insiders whom nobody in the electorate has ever heard of, a smart Party B strategist would take full advantage of yet another wedge issue for the campaign.

A party with pure motives and a completely democratic list, which may or may not come to exist, will challenge the list of another less perfect party in the election, without doubt. Where I have doubt is that any party will be sufficiently uncorrupt in its party list creation to be able to make such accusations without losing more than they gain. Even a party that has its membership in a party-wide vote select its list members is no less of a corrupt procedure than the already tainted party nomination procedures already in place in ridings across the province. Parties are made up of its members, and party memberships make up a tiny fraction of the province. Barely enough Ontario voters hold party memberships to achieve the MMP minimum threshhold for being granted list seats were they all to vote themselves into their own party.

Graham goes on to display his fundamental misunderstanding of the MMP proposal by arguing that the 39 list MPPs will lighten the load in only 39 of the proposed 90 ridings, leaving 51 MPPs to do more work than their riding colleagues. But no one has claimed that a list MPP would be available only to the electors in a single riding. They could, and indeed are far more likely to, work in regions, not single constituencies.

This is not my misunderstanding: it is based on Dawg's assertion in his original "lies" piece. What I wrote is, "if this were to be the case [...] with 39 list MPPs and 90 overgrown ridings, a maximum of 39 ridings will get additional representation from list MPPs seeking an alternate way into Queens Park." The case I reference is in his quote from Louis Massicotte, where he quotes: "Typically, a list member starts out by running unsuccessfully in a constituency. To run, he or she has to become familiar with the local issues. The person tries again in the next election. If his or her party comes to power, its number of list seats will decline noticeably and the only way to get elected will likely be by running in a constituency. For this reason, such a person will remain active in the constituency during his or her term of office and give such activities almost as much effort as a "directly" elected member." Massicotte, not I, is suggesting that a list MPP is only going to be interested in representing a riding in which that person has a chance of getting elected should the need arise, which in our imbalanced MMP proposal, means that fewer than half of constituencies would get a second representative, by Dawg's own argument.

Finally, having chided me for using European examples, Graham himself indulges in silly fear-mongering, pointing to Russia where some parties sell list positions to raise funds.There is "no reason this couldn't happen here," he says. To which I can only reply, citing examples closer to home, that there is no reason it would.

Dawg misses the point here completely. Using European examples is not necessarily an applicable comparison to Ontario, whether it is Russia or it is Germany. If he would like to compare Ontario to Germany, we could just as easily compare it to Russia where the lists are openly corrupt. The system with which we will be creating our party lists is closer to that of Russia than of Germany anyway, as at least Germany has laws mandating that lists be created in a democratic way[2], something not part of the Ontario proposal and objected to by MMP's proponents.

4) MMP is less efficient than Single Member Plurality (First-Past-The-Post)

Graham cites a frustrated Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand, who said in an interview, after trying to get her way on monetary policy, that it's hard to make tough decisions under MMP. This isn't an argument, but an anecdote. One would hope, in any case, that under a democratic system, tough decisions would be made with majority legislative approval.

Tough decisions are always hard to get as party interests seldom match up with provincial or national interest. The party system, not the voting system, is my number one enemy in our democracy.

He continues his response to this point by claiming that reducing the number of riding MPPs reduces the effectiveness of riding representation, blithely ignoring the fact that there will now be list MPPs in the regions to shoulder the load. (While I can agree that Ontario, and Canada, have diverse regions that require region-specific attention, the same cannot be said of ridings. As an urban Ottawa voter, for example, I would be hard-put to name differences of interests between, say, the electors of Ottawa-Centre and of Ottawa-South.)

I agree with the Ottawa example, which is why I suggested that MMP is less inappropriate for jurisdictions smaller than PEI, which Dawg interpreted as population, but I meant as physical size. When regions are as wide and diverse as Ontario, it is necessary to have regional representation. When our largest of over a hundred ridings is 50,000 square km, or around 10 GTAs, larger than the entire country of New Zealand, our issues are bound to be very diverse. That we will have list MPPs who will represent these sparsely populated vast regions of the province rather than the vote rich urban centres, like Ottawa, is not at all clear.

5) MMP does not require parties to explain how their lists are put together

Here, once again, Graham claims that list-formation will be a non-issue. See my response under (3).

This is addressed under (3).

6) MMP will make contact with your representative more difficult

As noted originally, the German electorate make no distinctions between list and riding MPs: list MPs are accessible to citizens and do their share of constituency work. Graham insists that it is "brain-damaged" to claim that list MPPs in Ontario would represent voters; I would say that it's a little odd to argue otherwise, since voters' votes put them into the legislature.

Voters votes will have put their parties into the legislature. Parties will have put the MPPs there. Try not to overlook this critical fact. The result is that list MPPs represent their parties to the voters and to their government, and not the voters to the government and their parties. In Germany, studies show that barely half of list MPs believe representing voters is high on their priority lists.

He goes on to produce that oft-heard canard that riding MPs, once elected, represent everyone in the riding, not just those who elected them. In some rarified, theoretical sense (never mind Tom Wappel) he might be right: in practical terms, our elected representatives tend to support their respective party lines on legislative votes. On a constituency basis, of course, their offices are open to anyone, but as noted the same would be the case for list MPPs.

Tom Wappel is a disgrace without doubt for his handling of his constituency request from the supporter of another party. MMP takes Tom Wappel's behaviour and makes it the norm. MMP list MPPs especially will be expected to treat voters the way Tom Wappel did. The comment that MPPs tend to support the party line is a matter that needs addressing as part of democratic, rather than electoral, reform. One of my key objections to our system that is retained and even strengthened in MMP is the existence of whipped votes, which I find completely contrary to democracy. As I have stated in the past, if you need to tell your MPs that they have confidence in you, you do not deserve their confidence.

7) MMP is confusing.

The best Graham can do here is to point to a Scottish study that showed considerable confusion among the voters when MMP was introduced. True enough--which is why in future elections the single-ballot system proposed in Ontario will be used there as well. It is profoundly insulting to the electors, in any case, to assume that giving them both a vote for a riding candidate and a vote for a party will reduce them to sobbing incomprehension.

It is indeed offensive to suggest that, so why did you? The worst kind of incomprehension is confident incomprehension, where a voter votes believing they understand the ramifications of their vote but do not.

And, at the end of his article, Graham, without a hint of embarrassment, expresses his support for one of the most complex voting systems of all time--the Condorcet system. (See for yourself.)

Dawg again takes what I wrote and only looks at a small part of it. I expressed a preference for Condorcet, but as I stated in my submission to the assembly, I believe that, for the sake of simplicity, Approval Voting would be the optimal. In between is Instant Run-Off, variants of which nearly every party uses for its own internal elections (whether instant run-off or just run-off).

That said Condorcet is not as complex as it is made out to be. I have fought three elections under variants of Condorcet, most recently last month and the voting is the simplest of any form of preferential, while the counting system is rather complex and more or less requires computer assistance. The results, however, are the most democratic of any voting system I am aware of.

8) MMP will produce two tiers of political representative

Graham merely reasserts this--and then segues into the Speaker's alleged difficulty in recognizing members who wish to address the legislature! Members are now recognized by their riding name, he points out--whatever will the poor Speaker do when there are list MPPs as well? How will he address them?

Good grief.

Here Dawg acts deliberately obtuse. The point is that some MPPs directly represent ridings, while others do not. This is, by definition, two tiers. My question that he ignores completely is whether the two tiers is a good thing. It could be argued that it is, but at that point we should be considering a return to a bicameral government in which the proportional seats become a senate and so at least recognise the two tiers for what they are. I would argue that it is not a good thing, as all representatives should be equal.

9) MMP is undemocratic

Graham continues to argue that lists are undemocratic, and hence continues to evade the point that the electors will have the final say--and that the party selection process will be under scrutiny (he claims it won't be, which I have already indicated is a fantastic assertion). He would prefer a preferential ballot, which would, whether he supports this outcome or not, inevitably put the Natural Governing Party in a majority position, since the Liberals are everybody's first or second choice. (Conservatives will prefer Liberals over NDPers; NDPers will, as Buzz Hargrove illustrated, choose Liberals over Conservatives.) I don't see this as serious electoral reform. Under MMP, on the other hand, NDPers will support their first-choice NDP, and Conservatives, their first-choice Conservative Party.

Whether the party selection process for the lists are under scrutiny is clearly a matter of conjecture for both sides in this debate. Dawg believes they will be, I believe they will not be. That he would assert that either way is a fantastic assertion and that therefore the other is obviously right is more than a little conceited. I do not believe that the 39 names on each of the 4 major party lists and the several other lists that show up as additional parties join the fray will be under any serious scrutiny, nor do I believe that the process itself will be under serious scrutiny. Each party will have its own way of doing things, and short of selling off lines on the lists, I don't see the media caring enough to keep it on the front burner and make it an election issue. Parties may challenge eachother, but in a sufficiently corruptible process, each party will adopt the same corruptible procedures.

Preferential balloting would be a meaningful form of electoral reform as it keeps what is good about FPTP and eliminates what is bad about it. It is no more wrong to say that voters will not make the "Natural Governing Party" their first or second choice than it is to say that voters will punish parties that have questionable entries on their MMP lists. Preferential balloting, except some forms like Borda, severely reduces strategic voting. It gives the advantages of the two-sided vote MMP gives us in spades, without the disadvantages of party lists. That all said, having everyone's second choice govern is still better than having everyone's fifth choice hold the balance of power.

Graham argues that strategic voting will still occur. He is not entirely wrong on this, but it would be quite a different kind of strategic voting--apples and oranges. Currently, as I noted, strategic voting means voting for a party you don't want in order to keep out a party you want even less. Under MMP, strategic voting, if it occurs, would mean splitting your vote between your party of choice and a likely coalition partner. What's wrong with that?

Under MMP the FPTP's strategic voting model remains unchanged. The notion that it will not be suggests that MMP proponents believe the riding representatives are completely irrelevant which belies an agenda of pure Proportional Representation, an extraordinarily dangerous destination. Who wins in the riding will be just as important as who wins in the list seats to the overall outcome of the election. MMP also creates, on top of the FPTP strategic voting, a second layer of strategic voting as described.

10) MMP is divisive

Graham argues that MMP will do nothing about regionally-based parties, but he doesn't really come to grips with the issue. Currently, a party facing a national (or provincial party) with a national (or provincial) base of support is tempted to exacerbate regional differences, as I noted before. Under MMP, regional differences will not go away, but there is less incentive to blow them out of proportion, because a party can gain seats by appealing to a broader constituency rather than having to concentrate its support in a few regional ridings. Graham's counter-example uses a retired New Zealand police officer as an authority, and it doesn't bear upon the regional issue at all.

A regional party will be able to leverage far more power with far fewer seats than is now the case under MMP. If the MMP proponents' prediction of near-constant minority governments comes to pass, which I don't believe is in doubt by anyone, a regional party with just a handful of seats will have far more power than a larger regional party would have today. That said, I don't see Ontario as particularly vulnerable to regional parties as compared to Canada as a whole and therefore am not terribly concerned about geographic-regional parties, at least in the short term, although I could definitely see a GTA-vs-non-GTA rift forming with myself being firmly in the latter, especially with the likely further GTAification of Ontario politics with the advent of MMP. My counterexample, as Dawg puts it, if he had cared to read it, was addressing the overall culture of cooperation within parliament, or lack thereof, and had nothing to do with regional parties.

Concluding Note:

MMP, Graham asserts, will push us further away from such basic reforms as a legislatively elected Premier. It is not at all clear why this should be so. If the electors vote in MMP, they will see for themselves that the existing system is not part of the natural order of things, like gravity, but a structure subject to change. The debate around other reforms will be likely to grow, not dissipate.

It might, but the debate is not exactly out of sight and out of mind at the moment. What passing MMP does is start us from further back when meaningful democratic reforms are next discussed. Having a legislatively elected Premier would be nice, but giving parties more power to create their own representation and weakening independent representation will only serve to weaken any efforts to make it ever happen. I would welcome progressive change, but I do not consider MMP to be that progressive change and as I have said before, changing to MMP is not better than not changing at all. Changing to a preferential ballot and retaining a full or increased slate of representative ridings, and/or removing direct party control over the legislature would be progressive change.

Another concern of mine with the untimely passage of MMP is the probability that MMP will meet the "good enough" test of electoral reform and with previously ostensibly under-represented parties now holding a near-permanent balance of power, the issue will simply never be allowed to be re-opened unless it can be further modified to their benefit, which real democratic and electoral reforms will not be, as they would not be to the benefit of any party.

"MMP has no merit," Graham baldly concludes. I'm afraid that I have to say the same about his arguments. Readers--and, more importantly, Ontario electors--will of course decide for themselves. But I can only hope that they aren't swayed by such specious reasoning.

I maintain that MMP has no merit as an electoral system for Ontario, and nor do the arguments of the MMP lobby who have a great deal to gain at the expense of the province as a whole. One key point that proponents of MMP deliberately fail to grasp is that the representatives we send to Queen's Park actually have to govern the province through good times and through bad, and not just sit pretty.

It is fairly obvious that neither I nor this nameless Dawg will convince eachother of our viewpoints. Indeed, every discussion I have had with a supporter of MMP in person has resulted in a blank stare by my counterpart with some inane bumbling about wasted votes. MMP proponents also have a pack mentality where every time one of them says the sky is blue, the rest of the supporters post comments saying how brilliant an observation that is. Not one has yet answered the question: if I vote against MMP and it passes, am I not, by that very argument, disenfranchised?

[1] Kind of like this challenged individual who believes you can't be progressive without toeing the MMP line. I share most of my opinions with the left and centre-left of the Canadian mind space but I reserve the right to think for myself, something that Erik Abbink both claims to do and seems to think is criminal in nature: "I mean, if you're a progressive ..., then shouldn't you at least share the opinion that democratic reform is desperately needed?" Well no, Dr. Saxophonist, if you're progressive you should be capable of independent thought! Sheeple movements and group think are not in any way progressive.

[2] The Political Consequences of Germany's Mixed-Member System: Personalization at the Grass Roots? by Hans-Dieter Klingemann and Bernhard Wessels. Chapter 13 of Shugart, Matthew Soberg, and Martin P. Wattenberg. Mixed-Member Electoral Systems - The Best of Both Worlds?. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Posted at 12:18 on August 15, 2007

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

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Scott Tribe writes at Wed Aug 15 21:14:52 2007...

C'mon David.. you're decrying the Yes side for taking cheapshots, yet you're engaging in them at John's site. I'm not brainwashed, thank you very much.


Scott Tribe writes at Wed Aug 15 21:20:17 2007...

(and if you don't like Dawg's tone, you can respond to my posting here.

That's as impersonal a post as it gets.


cdlu writes at Wed Aug 15 21:30:53 2007...

Scott,

I don't like the whole tone of this campaign. The Pro-MMP side's attitude is that the No side is made up of party hacks (ironic, isn't it, from a Green and NDP-backed campaign?) instead of one made up of a differing view point and it is becoming awfully tiresome. So yes, until the Yes side wants to have a conversation and not a slugfest, I will consider all its supporters to be little cry babies.

As for your post about preferential ballots it is an issue I would like to address at length, having extensive experience with preferential ballots on a small scale on democratic Internet projects, but it'll have to wait until after tonight.


Scott Tribe writes at Wed Aug 15 22:49:35 2007...

No slugfest here from me. I'm going to call out people however for what I deem are pushing incorrect statements. I dont however believe in the conspiracy theory that's been said over there... and if you look at liberal For MMP, we hardly have been calling everyone "hacks" who are anti-MMP.

They are there, however.


AamirHussain writes at Wed Aug 15 22:59:48 2007...

"(ironic, isn't it, from a Green and NDP-backed campaign?)"

Er, the very first PR statement from the MMP campaign was a statement co-authoerd by Liberal Carolyn Bennett and Conservative Senator Hugh Segal along with the NDP's Ed Broadbent.

Further:

http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

http://progressiveright.blogspot.com/search/label/electoral%20reform

Andrew Coyne has come out in favour of this as well (So is he a party hack Dipper or a party hack Greenie in your view?).

Calling the MMP campaign a 'Green and NDP backed campaign' is at best misleading rhetoric while also being a failed attempt at a cheap jab.

As is this:

"MMP takes Tom Wappel's behaviour and makes it the norm. MMP list MPPs especially will be expected to treat voters the way Tom Wappel did"

Which is nothing more than a completely made up attempt at spreading fear, uncertainty, and denial. Where in *any* MMP jurisdiction do you know of list MPs regularly asking for proof of how someone voted before agreeing to help?

Heck MMP creates *competition* between MPPs trying to steal votes from each other by competing to provide help and service. This is a level of accessibility that FPTP systems can't even conceive of. Here's a quote from a Scottish Member about the List Members that started operating in his area after MMP was introduced:

"It makes my day-to-day work much more demanding and pressurised. However, it also makes me work harder and improves the working of democracy in my constituency. Good for the people, bad for the politicians"

Sounds good to me.


cdlu writes at Wed Aug 15 23:39:59 2007...

Scott,

There are hacks and there are free thinkers on both sides. The sooner everyone acknowledges that the sooner we'll have a civilised debate. You have to admit that your opening salvo saying No MMP folks are liars and fearmongers really soured the tone, though.

Aamir, duplicate deleted as requested. Whether people not in the Greens/NDP support it is irrelevant to the point that the Greens and the NDP support it. The pro-MMP campaign says the No MMP campaign is supported by party hacks and it's an assertion I find ironic and deceitful, especially as the Liberals and Tories are largely divided on the issue.

Whether we have the optimal scenario you outline for list representatives' representative behaviour or the more cynical view I take of it will depend far more on our politicians and citizens' reaction to the implementation of MMP than with the existence of it in other countries. Ontario would be the largest Westminster-based jurisdiction both by population and by geography ever to try MMP and I don't think the reactions can accurately be predicted. My sense is that MPPs will be faced with a choice of competing to represent, or with not bothering to represent, and my sense is that in this country the latter would tend to win.


Scott Tribe writes at Thu Aug 16 00:20:46 2007...

If calling out people and taking issue with what I deemed a misleading and false statement (deliberate or not) which proclaimed the so-called faults of MMP as fact, rubbed some people the wrong way, I offer no apologies for it.

As I said at my site in that piece, its perfectly legitimate to say "We THINK this will happen under MMP" or "We're AFRAID this will happen under MMP" or "This COULD happen under MMP, and we dont like it..."

What isnt legit to say is that it WILL happen, which is what you folks did.. and which you've never issued a clarifying piece correcting.

Issue fairly released objections.. and you'll have no issues from me. Continue to release stuff like the aforementioned press release, and expect to be called out on it.


AamirHussain writes at Thu Aug 16 00:29:48 2007...

Well I would note two things to that.

First:

List MPs providing local service isn't born out of choice. It's born out of a need by politicians to get re-elected. MMP forces serious politicians to run locally as a) winning a local election is the only guaranteed way into parliament and b) list only reps can get wiped out of government just because their party does well locally. List only candidacy is not an option and the only way to build a local base of support for local candidacy is through providing local service. This is important not only to the candidate (for as much re-election security as possible) but also to parties for whom every last vote is important and having a rep on the street in an area where they don't have a local rep is the best advertisement possible.

Second:

The Ontario Citizens Assembly has created a version of MMP that is the most locally focused in the world. With 70% of the seats being local and no overhang list seats for list members to fall back on the local seats have paramount importance.

Now certainly Ontario is different from Wales, Scotland, New Zealand, and Germany. Further Ontario MMP is different from the kind of MMP used in those other places. But we must consider the strong tradition of local representation in Ontario (due to Westminster FPTP), the locally focused details of Ontario-MMP, and the experience of how list reps act in other MMP jurisdictions.

For me the fact that list politicians in MMP maintain a solid local presence due to pure self interest is what convinces me that Ontario list reps won't be any different. Which to my mind is about as cynical as one can get about politicians. That it also happens to be the optimal scenario is one of the most elegant aspects of MMP and why I'm an enthusiastic proponent of it.


Mark writes at Thu Aug 16 11:40:21 2007...

I don't remember the pro-MMP campaign calling people party hacks. Dr. Dawg may have, but last I checked he was speaking for himself.

And Vote for MMP IS a multi-partisan campaign, we have supporters from every party in Ontario form the Communists to the Family Coalition Party. We have a growing list of Liberals (see liberals4mmp.blogspot.com) and more PCs are coming on board every day.


mushroom writes at Thu Aug 16 11:45:14 2007...

"But we must consider the strong tradition of local representation in Ontario (due to Westminster FPTP), the locally focused details of Ontario-MMP, and the experience of how list reps act in other MMP jurisdictions."

Is FPTP the system Scotland and Wales elect their Members of Parliament to London even though they use proportional representation to elect representatives to the National Assembly?


Dr.Dawg writes at Thu Aug 16 14:27:53 2007...

I don't remember the pro-MMP campaign calling people party hacks. Dr. Dawg may have, but last I checked he was speaking for himself.

Of course I was. Which doesn't mean, however, that party hacks haven't assembled to blow MMP out of the water. Was the the "NoMMP" campaign a spontaneous uprising by Liberals, or just coincidentally Liberal-steered and Liberal populated? I'm the first to agree that anything is possible. I merely speculated: but even that got some people annoyed. Or defensive.


Dr.Dawg writes at Thu Aug 16 14:30:14 2007...

Sorry about the duplicate post--don't know how that happened. And the first sentence is a quote from Mark--html tags don't seem to work here.


cdlu writes at Thu Aug 16 14:43:06 2007...

Duplicate deleted. HTML tags work fine, you just didn't use them right. A "/" closes a tag, it doesn't open it.

You didn't speculate, you accused to the point of having to apologise to Joseph Angolano for your insolence on your own blog.


Dr.Dawg writes at Thu Aug 16 14:52:11 2007...

Oh, did I mess up the html? Sorry about that. But not about anything else. It's amazing what a little digging will reveal, and I repeat: the "NoMMP" campaign seems suspiciously chock-full o' Liberals, including at the helm. But, as I said, it could all be coincidence.

Angolano described himself as a "Liberal-friendly voter" and announced that McGuinty had his vote in October--no more nasty Conservative and NDP extremists for him. That I concluded he was a Liberal was, admittedly, hasty on my part. That walking, quacking creature is really a rare and valuable South American parrot. Mea bloody culpa.


cdlu writes at Thu Aug 16 15:01:22 2007...

Dawg,

Thank you.

Yes, there are Liberals on the campaign. It is the one party that is well represented on both sides of the issue. There are a number of Conservatives on the campaign as well. And independents. Not surprisingly our NDP representation is rather sparse. My understanding, and confirmed in the article you linked in your rather poorly thought out blog entry of yesterday afternoon, is that the NDP planned to make MMP a campaign issue. I certainly regret my past votes for the NDP with that kind of news.

What many proponents of the campaign, like you, clearly seem unable to comprehend is how anyone could possibly not support MMP for any reason other than partisan self-interest. But, frankly, I have the same question the other way: how can anyone possibly support MMP except for partisan interest? When there is this much money floating around a referendum campaign - the Yes side is remarkably well funded, in contrast to the No - there has to be an interested party behind it somewhere.

My opposition to Proportional and now MMP is, and has been since before the Citizens' Assembly was even struck, entirely philosophical. I do not agree with any system that includes party lists, or indirect representation (for example the BC-STV model where MPs might not represent the riding they intended to). I don't mind a bigger parliament, that doesn't bother me at all. Indeed, a 260 seat Queens Park with two preferential-elected seats per riding (with a limit of one candidate per party, even) would have my unqualified support.


Dr.Dawg writes at Thu Aug 16 15:22:24 2007...

the BC-STV model where MPs might not represent the riding they intended to

I'm no expert on the BC model, but how could that be? STV works in multi-member constituencies (ridings). Are you referring to boundary adjustments after the fact?

Incidentally, I'm not letting up on you.


cdlu writes at Thu Aug 16 15:25:36 2007...

Yes, I saw your third sniff of the good stuff. I haven't started my reply to it yet as I don't have my entire life to argue this out with you, but I'll get to it.

I am referring to multi-member constituencies, yes. It works great in Vancouver, but it really hurts the rural areas when you have a bunch of country-sized ridings mixed together with representatives coming from any one of those ridings.

I grew up in rural Quebec, and have no patience whatsoever for the COTU-urbanist attitude that is MMP and BC-STV.


Dr.Dawg writes at Thu Aug 16 15:42:33 2007...

As I understood it, the problem for the North of BC was that there would be too few MLAs in those ridings to achieve proportionality. I never heard that reps. in one riding could end up representing another one. How would that work?


cdlu writes at Thu Aug 16 15:50:58 2007...

Dawg,

That they would not be able to achieve proportionality is likely in rural ridings, so BC-STV would fail on multiple counts. The implementation of BC-STV in Urban areas with preferential or plain FPTP ballots in rural areas may well represent the optimal working solution that gains the most concensus. Given the choice between BC-STV and MMP I would take BC-STV any day of the week, although I am no fan of it.

Under BC-STV, according to the site BC-STV.ca, each riding consists of multiple MLAs. This much we all agree. When you take two ridings (as would be the case in very rural areas) or as many as seven (in urban areas) and combine them into one, there is nothing stopping all two or seven MPs from being from the same part of the riding, that is, the same pre-STV riding and thus being inclined to represent that area predominantly. As such, a BC-STV riding could end up with several MPs concentrating on the same part of the riding, with noone left for the other part. This would of course force some of them to do their best to represent the unrepresented part and they would be representing a riding they were not necessarily intent on representing, and may be less familiar with it than they'd like to be.

Imagine our two northern-most ridings that make up over half the land mass of Ontario. Put a two-riding STV riding there, and say both MPPs are from Kenora. How effective will they be at representing the eastern half of that riding?


AamirHussain writes at Thu Aug 16 15:54:05 2007...

I do note that you haven't responded to my post about how MMP provides much greater accessability than FPTP does, to the point of providing *competition* for service.

In any case I have no idea where the conception comes that MMP provides parties with more power than FPTP.

First: MMP removes the false majorities that parties currently abuse. This is by far their greatest source of power.

Second: The low threshold in Ontario-MMP (good job to the Citizens Assembly on this one) makes all parties completely vulnerable to revolt. And busts the party system open.


AamirHussain writes at Thu Aug 16 15:55:18 2007...

And the Tom Wappel comment was completely baseless and without merit, is it too much to hope for a retraction?


cdlu writes at Thu Aug 16 16:01:40 2007...

Aamir,

MMP provides parties with additional power through list MPPs. I know this is a point on which MPP's proponents disagree with MPP's opponents, but I believe whole-heartedly that list systems, especially closed list systems, strengthen parties. I see it as the parties providing representatives to parliament rather than the voters, and as has been noted previously, a very small fraction of Ontarions are party members who would be involved in the setting of party policy or the nominating of party lists.

Few people would say that the nomination process is completely free and fair, although it has its strengths at the riding level where a party-favourite can lose, yet there is this dreamland view that we can apply the same process on a macro scale fairly to make MMP party lists work.

Re the Wappel bit, what, that party list MPPs would be more inclined to help those likely to vote for them over the population as a whole? It's my opinion of the system and I stand by it.


Dr.Dawg writes at Thu Aug 16 16:03:49 2007...

OK, so we're really talking about the inability of MPPs/MLAs to represent new ridings after redistribution. Two questions come to mind:

1) Riding boundaries are redistributed on a regular basis across Canada. Are the re-elected MPs unable to represent the new folks?

2) More basically, what does it mean to "represent" a riding? How is this done, precisely? This is the sort of mystification that is bedevilling the current Ontario debate.

MPs from the ridings tend to toe the party line, and do a little constituency work--they reply to letters and telephone calls and emails and faxes, or, more likely their EAs do, they mail our regular bland reports, and attend BBQs and other riding events, especially around election time.

I'm not saying it can't get better than this, but this is how things stand at the moment. Only 5% of constituents ever contact their MP, according to one study I read buyt cannot at the moment track down; and the vast majority of electors vote party, not candidate. Certainly we expect MPs to raise regional concerns in caucus and in the House, but that's about it.

I don't know what would happen in your Kenora example. If the two MPs failed to represent the interests of the rest of the enlarged riding, allowing toxic waste dumps, urban sprawl and so on while failing to support better transport and communications in the rest of the riding, then I suspect that at least one of them might go the way of all flesh at the next election--unless Kenora has the majority of the votes, in which case those outside town would be SOL. And that would be the case under any electoral system I can think of.


alt writes at Thu Aug 16 16:07:45 2007...

I live in BC and am familiar with both sides of the STV issue. I have lived in the GVRD for 10+ years now and my parents still live in the Okanagan.

For the GVRD, STV is actually a good idea. We have a large contiguous region here that could easily be divided up in the 3 or 4 "group" ridings without a loss of representation.

The problem comes in rural areas, like the North, the Okanagan and the Kootenays because there would be a merging of ridings and those living outside the major centres (notably Kelowna and Prince George) would be severly underrepresented as the population in those centers would be able to "override" those outside of the population centers.

CDLU's comment on Aug 16 15:50:58 2007 captures this problem quite accurately. Though I do disagree with him to a point. It could simply be set up that each City Corporation would have its ridings merged so the MLAs would then represent the entire City Corporation.


AamirHussain writes at Thu Aug 16 16:17:16 2007...

But you aren't acknowledging that MMP takes far more power away by dramatically reducing the possibility of false majorities. And also leaves them open to revolt by party members and voters to a new party.

You're also ignoring the process via which parties currently create their cabinets. That's a situation where parties strive to accomodate as much diversity as they possibly can in order to appeal to as many different groups as possible. And that is in a situation that is frankly invisible to most voters. By contrast Party lists have to be published well in advance with an explanation of how the list was created in ON-MMP and will be picked apart by media and the party's opponents in a campaign. I'm in Dreamland? Hardly.

You really should give up on the Wappel point cd. List MPPs don't suddenly gain the telepathy necessary to know which one of the people coming to their office is likely to vote for them or not. I could have the opinion that politicians under AV are afflicted with the urge to murder kittens and it would have about the same amount of credibility as your opinion on List MPPs actions towards constituents.


cdlu writes at Thu Aug 16 16:37:18 2007...

Dawg,

1) Once per decade...and except when someone like Mike Harris comes along and removes 27 ridings, the ridings are made geographically smaller to accomodate the growing population each time. Few ridings (though not none) have shrinking populations, so the question you ask is misleading. The ridings are recalibrated to make it easier for MPs to represent their constituents, not harder.

2) My MP represents the views of the plurality of my riding. With a preferential ballot, it would be as close as is possible to the concensus view of the majority of my riding. He or she takes this view, that is, generally the view on which they campaigned, to the legislature and when items come up for discussion or vote, the representative expresses this view either through debate or through the vote.

At election time, the representative returns to the riding and asks the population if they have done a good job of representing them. If they say yes, the person is re-elected. If they say no, the person is not re-elected. As representatives like Bill Casey show, it is important to stand by what you campaigned on even if the party you campaigned with won't.

This last bit is what MMP takes away from representation. There is no individual accountability for the representative if they are from a party list. They may be included from or excluded from the list the next election, and even if they are included, they may not be re-elected if the party does too well at the constituency level or too poorly over all. It's a fine balance. But they are not returning to their constituents as an individual and asking for the approval of the constituents for their job representing their constituent's interests to the legislature.

Representation is also the ability of a constituent to enter an MP's office and ask for help dealing with a problem with, say, the passport office (not applicable provincially, but the point stands), or to get funding for a community project. This part of representation is the part that MMP proponents, as I understand it and as you allude to, mean, but the other part is what I mean: individual accountability is at the core of representation.

In the Kenora example I noted that one of the representatives would be forced to represent the broader view of the part of the riding they are not as familiar with. If they were unable to, they would, as you so eloquently put it, go the way of all flesh.

Aamir,

The party power you speak of and the party power I speak of are, like the different aspects of representation, not necessarily the same. The power I refer to is the control of the party over the individual representatives. The power you speak of is the control of the party over the legislature as a whole. It's apples and oranges. Not every party has control over the legislature at any given time, but under MMP, especially the smaller parties which may not be in power or a coalition partner, have more control over their representatives than they do now as, to a greater extent than FPTP representatives, the MPPs serve at the pleasure of the party and not at the pleasure of the voters.

For the Wappel point it's not something I feel strongly about. You demanded a retraction because your view must always be right, and I refused. End of story.


AamirHussain writes at Thu Aug 16 16:53:56 2007...

And to the power of the party over its individual representatives I pointed out the vulnerability of all parties to a revolt by their own *individual members* because of the lovely 3% threshold. No such thing in FPTP for the every dissapearing backbencher.

Backbenchers have more stature in minority/coalitions than in false majorities anyway.

I *requested* a retraction on the Wappel point because you made an extremly strong claim and sweeping prediction, provided no basis for it, and refused to respond to my counter arguments that were based on a) the actual experience of MMP in other jurisdictions and b) your claim not even being physically possible in the first place. Not because 'my view must always be right'. List MPPs not capable of telepathy, and neither are you.


Dr.Dawg writes at Thu Aug 16 17:01:24 2007...

The ridings are recalibrated to make it easier for MPs to represent their constituents, not harder.

How does it do that? I thought riding boundaries were redistributed to achieve a kind of population balance, when the population, as you note, is growing. My point remains: suppose you combine two ridings under STV. There will be, for the sake of argument, 2 MPs rather than one. Why can't they adequately represent the new riding? Will they still not be guided by what "sells" amongst the electorate? Will they not be accountable to them at the next election? Why would they go on "representing" the old, defunct ridings? Do MPs in newly redistributed ridings go on representing the folks in the old ones, and leave (for example) that new 'burb out in the cold? Why would they proceed in that fashion?

My MP represents the views of the plurality of my riding. With a preferential ballot, it would be as close as is possible to the consensus view of the majority of my riding. He or she takes this view, that is, generally the view on which they campaigned, to the legislature and when items come up for discussion or vote, the representative expresses this view either through debate or through the vote.

At election time, the representative returns to the riding and asks the population if they have done a good job of representing them. If they say yes, the person is re-elected. If they say no, the person is not re-elected.

Aw, c'mon. What is the "consensus view?" On which issue? Wage and price controls? Free trade? Medicare premiums? In practice, how many individual MPs stand or fall on their own records, unless corruption or a really salient local concern were at issue? Do you think Wappel kept getting re-elected because his constituents were all addle-pated looneys whose lunacy he faithfully represented? Or did they hold their noses and vote Liberal because, in fact, electors tend to vote for the party and the national record?

How many issues come up in the legislature? How many of those were campaign issues? How many campaign issues become part of a plurality consensus that bind the representative in the legislature?

This last bit is what MMP takes away from representation. There is no individual accountability for the representative if they are from a party list. They may be included from or excluded from the list the next election, and even if they are included, they may not be re-elected if the party does too well at the constituency level or too poorly over all. It's a fine balance. But they are not returning to their constituents as an individual and asking for the approval of the constituents for their job representing their constituent's interests to the legislature.

No, they are returning to the entire province or country and asking for the approval of their party's policies. If they've done well on the ground, and their party has too, they'll likely be returned, perhaps as a riding representative. But given that most electors vote for the party anyway, I can't go along with this sudden concern for the largely non-existent golden thread between electors and their riding representatives.


cdlu writes at Thu Aug 16 17:05:02 2007...

Aamir,

And neither are you. But a representative is perfectly capable of looking at a requestant's demographic or consult internal party poll records (as Tom Wappel must have done) so the claim that it is not possible is patently absurd. Unlikely? Probably. Impossible? Not at all. It wouldn't be brilliant for a representative to write to a voter and say "you're not on my side", but stalling and being unhelpful is perfectly within their capability for someone who is likely never to vote for them.

I don't suppose you remember the Democratic Representative Caucus? An internal split is perfectly possible in the current system. It may be more likely under a proportional system, but it, again, is well within the capability of our current system. And that took place against a majority.

Backbenchers in a minority have no more power than they do in a majority. Smaller parties do, but the backbenchers that represent them do not. Arguably, backbenchers have less power in a minority because their party's need to stay unified is stronger than when they are the fourth party facing at least three more years of another party's majority. That a coalition MP's power is any different from one in a majority today is insulting to the intelligence. The only difference between an absolute majority and a coalition majority is that two or more sets of views have to co-exist. The need for the party to keep its back benches in line is no different.


cdlu writes at Thu Aug 16 17:09:07 2007...

Dawg,

If you have such a cynically low view of riding representatives, why do you support MMP instead of pushing for pure PR? Or is that next?


Dr.Dawg writes at Thu Aug 16 17:34:20 2007...

I don't believe that pure PR could work in a country (or province) of diverse regions, but we've been through that before. Additionally, I believe that MMP would encourage more political participation by ordinary citizens, whose current political cynicism is a matter of record.

Obviously regional MPs would see some merit in reflecting regional interests on matters that impact the region. But this isn't what you said. You talked about "the view," a metaphysical concept if ever there was one. There is also a distinction to be made between riding issues and regional issues, which is why I don't have that much problem with shrinking the number of ridings.


AamirHussain writes at Thu Aug 16 17:42:46 2007...

"Unlikely? Probably."

Glad to see you've retreated from your initial claim that such behaviour would be the 'norm' under MMP to 'Unlikely'.

"It wouldn't be brilliant for a representative to write to a voter and say "you're not on my side", but stalling and being unhelpful is perfectly within their capability for someone who is likely never to vote for them."

Also glad to see that the probable action in this unlikely situation is no longer Wappel like but stalling and being unhelpful.... which is EXACTLY where the amazing competitive service that MMP jurisdictions enjoy comes in. Unlike the FPTP case with Wappel where the constituent was stuck with Wappel or nothing.

"An internal split is perfectly possible in the current system. It may be more likely under a proportional system,"

And isn't that exactly what you were talking about? The power of a party over its individual members is REDUCED in PR systems exactly because of these splits being easier to carry out. Revolts against the whip are enhanced under MMP as compared to FPTP.


cdlu writes at Thu Aug 16 18:03:37 2007...

Dawg,

I agree that PR will be weak in a country or province of diverse regions. That we will not be using pure PR and only a partial is incidental, we are still debating using a PR system in our diverse province.

As for the second point, it's on the record that New Zealand's voter participation is markedly down since the introduction of MMP, having reached the country's all time lows, which I addressed in an earlier blog entry. I don't buy the argument that MMP will improve voter participation. Their turn-out was in the high 80%s under FPTP and has dropped to the mid-70%s, both far higher than anything we have in North America, showing that both FPTP does not lower participation and MMP does not raise it. It clearly is not the method with which we vote that affects participation, it is the relevance of the issue(s) to the daily lives of the voters. Note, for example, the 1995 referendum in Quebec which had a participation rate in the low 90%s. As the primary expression of an electorate's political participation, voter turnout levels are a good measure and contradict your statement, at least in New Zealand.

A view in this context isn't a metaphysical concept so much as it is a generalisation of the opinions and needs of a region or riding. There are no regional MPs in the MMP proposal, only province-wide MPs and riding MPs.

The matter of the shrinking number of ridings is one that is not really important to this particular debate, but it's one that's got me just a bit confused: what's the point of reducing the number of them? The ridings were already reduced substantially around a decade ago, and the ridings as far as I know are aligned with their federal counterpart, saving the province a bundle of money in drawing the lines. I personally, as I mentioned earlier, have no problem with adding more ridings, and keeping the same number would tend to keep things simple, but fewer is a touch baffling.


AamirHussain writes at Thu Aug 16 23:43:26 2007...

So what I'm getting from this particular thread is that MMP reduces party control over the legislature, reduces a party's control over its individual members. And improves accessibility by introducing competition to provide local constituency services to boot.

The Citizens Assembly balanced the need for proportionality with the aversion for a huge legislature and the desire to keep as many local ridings as possible to create a legislature that is smaller than we had in 1999 (129), with 70% of the seats local (the most of pretty much any MMP system in the world), while still adding enough list seats to ensure good proportionality. I observed them go through the process of coming to that consensus (it was all open to the public and videos of it are on tvo's electoral reform website) and it was amazing to watch.


Dr.Dawg writes at Fri Aug 17 07:12:08 2007...

I don't buy the argument that MMP will improve voter participation. Neither do I, entirely. I was speaking more about day-to-day politics--organizing, workshops, townhalls, and so on. Of course, this requires continuing encouragement, but people's enthusiasm for change can grow once they feel confident and have won a victory. A defeat for MMP, on the other hand, is a return to the business-as-usual-can't-fight-City-Hall apathy and cynicism that plague the body politic now. If you win--and you might well--you will have shored up that cynicism once again. Back to sleep, now, electorate. Everything is well in hand. Trust us on this.

While I can't predict what will happen, I expect that the province-wide list MPPs will still have to set up shop somewhere, and will do constituency work in the regions.

Of course I can visualize even better systems--I have no difficulty with more ridings, for example. I just don't think it's a disaster to have slightly fewer. I would have preferred open, regional lists. So we got a more restrictive model, one capable of further change: so what? It's a quantum leap from the undemocratic and antique SMP system we have now.

As an aside, I think it's hilarious, in a dark sort of way, that so many Liberals are running around saying, "MMP's are going to make the parties too powerful!" I can see Martin and that evil old Chretien fellow wringing their hands and weeping along with the rest of them. "Too powerful! Can't have that!"


Dr.Dawg writes at Fri Aug 17 07:14:04 2007...

That's "MMP's going to make the parties too powerful!"


Dr.Dawg writes at Sat Aug 18 16:21:41 2007...

David:

In my last response to you over at my place, I stated:

Graham is right to point out that, so long as we have a riding system, strategic voting of the old kind will continue--I concede that point.

My friend Wilf Day reminds me not to. Under a proportional system, unless there is overhang, the electoral outcome will not depend upon this kind of strategic voting. If you go on voting for NDP candidates, rather than voting for your second-choice Liberal in a riding where the NDP has no hope, the electoral outcome will still be proportional, based upon everyone's first choice. But if you succumb to fear and ignorance (of the new electoral system), and vote Liberal, and a bunch of Liberal MPPs are narrowly returned, that just means more list seats for the Conservatives, based upon their strong second-place finishes in those ridings. Where's the strategy in that for an NDP voter? You've just made things better for the two parties you don't want.

Update/correction made at my place.


Dr.Dawg writes at Sat Aug 18 17:31:13 2007...

David:

I see you have a spammer (not me :) ). In any case, I must clarify/retract: your NDP voter who votes Liberal in the riding isn't "making things better" for the two other parties at all. The outcome is unchanged. If the Conservatives get 40% of the party vote, that means 40% of the seats, no matter what the NDP voters get up to in the riding races.

So the old strategic voting won't take place. But, as Wilf Day explains, there are other forms of strategic voting possible:

There are two main types of strategic voting found in MMP. One is in Germany where the high 5% threshold causes some big party supporters to prop up their small ally. The other is in New Zealand where the single-local-seat exemption to the threshold causes some big party supporters to prop up their small ally's leader in his local riding. Ontario MMP has no such single-local-seat exemption, and a 3% threshold. Less need for strategic voting than in most MMP jurisdictions.


cdlu writes at Sat Aug 18 20:59:26 2007...

Dawg,

The occasional spammer gets through... one of the downsides to having a completely open commenting system. :/

I disagree that MMP will have any significant effect on strategic voting due to the basic point that we are retaining FPTP for the bulk of our seats. As long as we have FPTP, strategic voting is the norm at the riding level. There will also be strategic voting at the provincial level for the party lists, but not necessarily in all parties. A smaller party's supporters are going to need to vote fairly agressively for that party, but larger parties' supporters may choose to vote for allies rather than their own parties. I don't believe there is any system anywhere that avoids strategic voting completely no matter how much you try although I maintain that some form of preferential ballot where not all candidates need to be ranked is the closest to an ideal as we can get (and is not, I should note, mutually exclusive with MMP, although it wouldn't increase my support of MMP to use it for the riding side).


cdlu writes at Sun Aug 19 08:17:40 2007...

Dawg,

Also, NDP supporters, to use your example, may continue to vote liberal in their ridings, NDP on their lists, and that is as strategic as it gets.


Dr.Dawg writes at Sun Aug 19 14:31:13 2007...

As long as we have FPTP, strategic voting is the norm at the riding level...Also, NDP supporters, to use your example, may continue to vote liberal in their ridings, NDP on their lists, and that is as strategic as it gets.

This was the fallacy that I was trapped in for a while. The second ballot is not for list candidates, David. There are systems that do this, but not MMP. The party vote IS the party vote--the second ballot will determine the over-all make-up of the legislature, including both riding and list seats. Hence we can expect relative sincerity for that vote. Yes, there are the exceptions noted by Wilf Day--but they don't apply in the Ontario model anyway.

So, to take that example made popular by Buzz Hargrove, whatever the NDP voters get up to in the riding races, the (say) 40% party vote for the Conservatives will remain the same. So where's the "strategy" if the electoral outcome is unchanged?


cdlu writes at Sun Aug 19 14:45:20 2007...

Dawg,

I understand what you are saying, but it comes back to our earlier disagreement over the role and relevance of representatives. It will still be just as important as today to vote strategically in your riding as it still changes the outcome of who will be _your_ representative. Without any voter control over the list seats, this is the only way voters for any party have of saying _who_ they want to represent them from their party.

Also, if the strategic vote at that riding level does not take place because everyone falls for the fallacy that only the second ballot matters, then the potential for much larger overhang for the winning party is there and we end up with an overhang-based majority government from a party that the majority did not want but were too busy daydreaming about the perfection of the new voting system to remember their strategy.


Dr.Dawg writes at Sun Aug 19 15:23:22 2007...

David,

Perhaps we are talking past each other. You are right that, at the riding level, an NDPer might vote Liberal because the Conservative individual running is just too much to bear. But that's not "strategic voting" in the Hargrovian sense. That's just voting. It doesn't affect the overall standings in the legislature. The NDP will still get as many seats. So the "strategy" remains unclear to me.

I am afraid I can't follow your argument about overhang. Overhang is not the rule, but the exception. When one-third of the seats are allocated by list, an overhang majority with (say) a Liberal plurality of 40% would require the Liberals to win a staggering 65 riding seats out of 90 (I'm simplifying, because some ridings, like the northern ones, are smaller than others, but the essence of the argument remains). These would have to be won with pluralities of less than 40% on average (because the Liberals will surely win some of the vote in the other 25 ridings).

Seriously, does that sound remotely likely to you? Further, we know that some seats are "safe" Liberal seats, where real majorities are not uncommon. That portion of the total Liberal vote would drive the hypothetical pluralities in the other ridings down even more. I'm not saying that such overhang majorities could not possibly ever happen, but I'm not holding my breath. Some overhang, sure--but not as much as that.

That being said, I would have liked some overhang provision in the model. But, frankly, that's just tinkering.


Dr.Dawg writes at Sun Aug 19 15:26:55 2007...

Overhang is not the rule, but the exception.

Read: "Overhang majorities are not the rule, but the exception." In fact, I can't think of an example elsewhere where this has occurred. Any instances from Lesotho or Bolivia you can quote?


Dr.Dawg writes at Mon Aug 20 20:25:14 2007...

Man, do you need a spam filter or what?


shoes writes at Wed Aug 22 22:42:16 2007...

CDLU, I want to thank and congratulate you for time spent starting, and continuing this much needed debate.

Yesterday in your / our local paper we saw an article bemoaning the lack of interest / knowledge of voters about the referendum.

Continuing their yellow journalism the Merc failed to seize the issue.

What is stopping their writers (as opposed to their journalists) from taking it upon themselves to either explore the issue further and / or invite some locals to write some article or spawn a letter-to- the-editor campaign (only one so far, DG)

They run to Tim Mau or Christianson for op ed pieces or comment. Why not stir the pot on this issue and do something positive for the commumity?

Clearly the editorial postion of the Merc is NDP. I predict editorially they will push the pro-MMP position at some point closer to the vote.

Surely some community service is in order to present both sides of the issue....how naive.

My only solace (aside from the fact that so few people read the Merc) is that we can expect more from the Kitchener Record (frankly they cover important local stories better than the Merc).

Perhaps the Trib will abandon its RIGHT-LEFT series and launch a PRO CON on the MMP issue.

Gawd..the community is pooly served by both its papers.

I worry that not enough people are on (have access) to the blogs as their source of thoughtful debate on this most important issue.

Clearly we are both on the same page on this issue...BUT... part of the impetus for this reform is to increase the publics' participation in the legislative and electoral process. Where is the local media? Certainly as of yet thay are not into informing the debate..just more yellow journalism.

Sorry about the rant. Once again thanks for your efforts.

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