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The real truth about MMP

MMP proponents are promising all kinds of idealistic fantasies about what MMP will bring to Ontario, but what facts are they putting before us?

Assertion: MMP will increase female and minority representation

Reality: There is no guarantee of this anywhere in the Citizens' Assembly proposal.

There is no provision in the MMP proposal, or anywhere in our laws, conventions, or our Constitution, that provides for "affirmative action" on MMP lists. All parties are free to make their lists as they see fit, as democratically or as undemocratically as they feel they can get away with. The repeated assertions by MMP supporters that MMP will increase minority and female representation is nothing more than hope -- a dream.

Assertion: MMP will increase voter participation

Reality: There is no guarantee of this anywhere in the Citizens' Assembly proposal.

There is no provision in the MMP proposal, nor anywhere in our laws, conventions, or our Constitution, that provides for an increase in voter turnout. MMP in New Zealand has resulted in record low voter turnout, for one. The second ballot will likely increase the number of checkmarks placed on ballots, as everyone will have to make twice as many of them, but there is no other likely increase in voter participation. The repeated assertions by MMP supporters that MMP will increase voter participation is nothing more than hope -- a dream.

Assertion: MMP will not reduce rural Ontario's representation

Reality: There is no guarantee of this anywhere in the Citizens' Assembly proposal.

There is no provision in the MMP proposal, nor anywhere in our laws, conventions, or our Constitution, that would ensure Northern Ontario gets list seats. Northern and rural Ontario will, like the rest of the province, lose seats when the 107 provincial seats are gerrymandered into 90 seats. Unfortunately for these regions, parties will have no obligation to include any members from these vote-poor areas on their lists. The repeated assertions by MMP supporters that the North and rural areas will get proper representation is nothing more than hope -- a dream.

Assertion: MMP will result in regional representation

Reality: There is no guarantee of this anywhere in the Citizens' Assembly proposal.

There is no provision in the MMP proposal, nor anywhere in our laws, conventions, or our Constitution, that would ensure list MPPs would have any constituency whatsoever other than the parties to represent. They would have no obligation to represent any region whatsoever. There is no benefit to a party in sitting up regional offices in regions that are not bastions of support for those parties. The repeated assertions by MMP supporters that we will have regional offices are nothing more than hope -- a dream.

Assertion: MMP will result in coalition governments

Reality: There is no guarantee of this anywhere in the Citizens' Assembly proposal.

There is no provision in the MMP proposal, nor anywhere in our laws, conventions, or our Constitution, that prevents a party from assuming power without first forming a coalition in a minority environment. There is nothing whatsoever to stop us from continuing to have dysfunctional minorities as we currently have both federally and in the province of Quebec, among others. Indeed there is not even any guarantee that we cannot continue to have majorities. The repeated assertions by MMP supporters that we will have coalition governments are nothing more than hope -- a dream.

So, what do we actually know about the proposal?

Under the proposal, Ontario will:

- have a two-part election ballot providing one vote under the current FPTP system, and one vote that creates the proportions the parties are entitled to from which Party List MPPs will be chosen.

- be reduced from 107 to 90 ridings.

- have 39 MPPs who are appointed by their parties, by a manner entirely of the parties' choosing.

That's it, those are the only guarantees we have. Those are the only facts present about switching to MMP. Everything else is nothing more than hope -- a dream.

Posted at 07:02 on September 13, 2007

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

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AamirHussain writes at Thu Sep 13 11:09:36 2007...

David, all of those assertions (aside from the increase in voter participation thing) are hardly 'dreams' but come from detailed looks at how proportional systems work in Western Democracies and in particular what is happening in New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales who transitioned from FPTP to MMP a number of years ago and aren't moving back.

So if you're going to completely discount how proportional systems and MMP in particular work in the real world (and I can link you to the studies), then go ahead. But know that any 'predicitions' you make of what would happen in Ontario under MMP would be nothing more than theoretical guesswork with no grounding in reality.

Further you did fail to mention that *fact* of the 3% threshold which breaks the large party monopoly on Ontarian democratic choices. That the party vote of every voter has an impact everywhere unlike our system in which voters in safe ridings don't (just ask people who would like to not vote Liberal in Dalton McGuinty's riding or not vote for the NDP in Howard Hampton's, useless symbolic gestures both). That the amount of seats a party earns mirrors how many Ontarians actually support them for a change.

I've created a website that shows just how extremely distorted current election results really are.

www.wastedvotes.ca


cdlu writes at Thu Sep 13 11:36:10 2007...

Aamir,

You're right, I forgot about the threshhold of 3%.

The argument that there will be no more "wasted votes" is utter and complete horseshit. Look at this critical piece of information:

We are KEEPING FPTP and all that it entails. Strategic (and wasted, in MMP propogandist terminology) voting will continue to exist, because local representation actually matters.

That and the very existence of a threshhold means that an arbitrary number of votes will be completed wasted if cast for any party that does not attain the threshhold, by your definition of wasted.

On top of that, if this ridiculous MMP vote is passed, then anyone who voted against it will clearly be wasting their votes!

As for the foreign countries running MMP, you forget, conveniently, that Ontario looks nothing like Germany, which put in MMP immediately following the war, nor New Zealand, which has cultural and regional list spot guarantees in a country whose entire land area is smaller than our largest riding.

For every study showing how wonderful MMP is where it has been implemented, there is one showing how awful it is.

Change for the sake of change is the wrong way to go.


Comrade Lenin writes at Thu Sep 13 12:08:54 2007...

The party puts forward a list, and voters vote for the party -- it sounds exactly right -- I don't understand the complaints.

For the record -- leaders of the major parties would be insane NOT to put their own names on the list, and not to name their "star" candidates to the list. It would be foolish, politically, to allow yourself to be beaten in your own "riding" if you didn't have to face that.

And are the members equal? Of course they are, once in the legislature, even though their path to the legislature (one through party channels, one from voters) are totally different.

I find the notion of rewarding people just for getting votes distasteful. What happens when a party (let's call it the Ontario Party) decides to get out the vote only for the party, and manages to convince 20 per cent of the electorate to give it 10 seats in the legislature without any sense of who they are?

Let me be even more categorical -- left-wingers (and that's who in favour of this) will be shocked to learn that parties like Le Pen's Front National will be bigger beneficiaries of this proposal than they will be.

MMP is awful.


cdlu writes at Thu Sep 13 12:18:42 2007...

Comrade, no doubt.

There is a prevailing belief in the MMP camp that people will continue to vote as they do now and thus benefit the NDP and Green parties especially quite enormously. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander...


AamirHussain writes at Thu Sep 13 12:51:18 2007...

"For every study showing how wonderful MMP is where it has been implemented, there is one showing how awful it is"

Who's talking about 'wonderful' or 'awful'? We're takling about the mechanics of how list and local members operate, what they do in campaigns in and in parliament and why, diversity of representation and the existence of coalitions versus minority government. That was the entirety of your blog post. Proportional systems are extremely common in the world today and there is a wealth of data on how they operate. Ignoring that data is an extremly odd approach to take in a debate. ESPECIALLY.

And really I would like to see a few links/sources on how 'awful' MMP is please. I'm more than willing to cite my sources.

Comrade and Cdlu you are the only ones who are bring up the left/right argument in here. I don't care what one side of the spectrum or the other thinks about this. I don't care what Party A says or Party B says. I care about my status as a voter and as somebody who has lived in Mississauga West and now in Don Valley East I would like to have the ability to NOT vote for the Liberals and have that vote actually make a difference for once. Why the hell should I be punished for not living in a swing riding?

And can you please stop with the 'left wingers are the only ones in favour of this' nonsense? This is not a partisan debate and the attempts to make it one confuse the hell out of me. http://www.voteformmp.ca/node/299

CERTAINLY local representation matters. But so does the overall support a party has. Both things matter. And a system that accomodates both of these is far superior for VOTERS than one that sacrifices one for the other. The Local vote provides local representation while the party vote in MMP allows voters to pass judgement on party leaders and party policy statements.

The Local vote keeps list MPs honest as the number of list seats a party gets is completely dependent on what happens in the swing local seats. The list vote keeps local MPs honest as they can't take their 'safe ridings' for granted anymore.

And being able to choose both seperately is more power and choice for voters. And that's what it comes down to. VOTERS.

If we vote for small parties, we should have small parties. If we don't then we shouldn't.

If we vote for right wingers we should have right wingers. If we don't then we shouldn't.

If we vote for left wingers we should have left wingers. If we don't then we shouldn't.

The choice should be OURS as voters, not of the damned electoral system.


Doye writes at Thu Sep 13 21:55:03 2007...

I'm not for MMP unless they put into place some sort of limit on the number of political parties there can be. If not, then we will end up with what Italy has, a new election every other month it seems. Always a minority government when one does get the chance to govern. I don't want to pay for expensive elections every other month. Thanks but no thanks.


AamirHussain writes at Fri Sep 14 09:47:51 2007...

Hey Doye. Germany with the MMp system has had less elections than Canada. The reason why minority governments are unstable in FPTP is because the large parties know they just have to get to 40% support and then force an election to get to the phony majority that is always in reach. the difference between 35% support and 40% support is HUGE for no good reason

In Proportional systems on the other hand 35% support to 40% support means 5% more seats. Big whooop.

Canadians don't like being dragged to elections for no good cause. This is fine for a party that thinks it'll get a phony majority, but for a 5% change? Hah. In PR systems parties are forced to accept the will of the people and govern if they haven't been given a majority mandate. That means coming to a consensus and a coalition that actually represents more than half of Canadians.

Germany and Ireland with proportional systems have had less elections than Canada has had overall and in the last 15 years. I looked it up and Italy actually has one election every 5 years.

I understand your concern Doye, but took a look at how coalition and minority governments actually work in the world right now. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.


cdlu writes at Fri Sep 14 10:36:17 2007...

Aamir, the NDP forced an election almost two years ago for modest gains in parliament. Why should we believe they would be any different under MMP?


AamirHussain writes at Fri Sep 14 11:43:51 2007...

Because it was the Conservatives who were forcing the election as they smelled a majority with less than 40% support. Phony majorities is what every large party strives for in a FPTP minority.


cdlu writes at Fri Sep 14 11:51:14 2007...

Aamir,

The Conservatives didn't get their majority and they wouldn't have had an election if the NDP hadn't brought them down. The only reason the NDP brought them down is because they felt modest gains (read: Olivia Chow needed a seat) were possible.

MMP won't magically make parties behave, contrary to its proponents' utopian predictions.


AamirHussain writes at Fri Sep 14 11:52:41 2007...

And because Paul Martin didn't form a stable coalition but instead attempted to govern as if he had a majority of seats due to the 13 years of Liberal majorities created with 43% or less Canadian support. Hell one time during those 'majorities' the Liberals only had 38% of the vote. That kind of unearned power could give anyone an inflated sense of self.


AamirHussain writes at Fri Sep 14 12:04:29 2007...

First off to be precise I am not claiming AT ALL that early elections won't happen in MMP. Something like Adscam could bring down any government.

But what I am saying (and what you CANNOT refute) is that the first glance impression of minority/coalition governments in proportional governments being unstable and causing tons of elections has no basis in what actually is happening in the world today.

And what you also cannot refute is that the phony majority temptation in FPTP governments is removed.

If you wish to ignore that it is up to you, I have no idea why you would do so though.


cdlu writes at Fri Sep 14 12:24:13 2007...

Aamir,

I think a majority with 38% is better than a balance of power (nearly as powerful as a majority) with 3%. At least the majority has a chance of representing the plurality of the population, while the balance may have no interest whatsoever in 97% of voters.

I don't have a problem with majority governments. I think having majority governments capable of being offset by occasional minorities is the absolute ideal. You'll note that our federal government and the government in Quebec are both currently governed by minorities, and the only reason they function is because there is a possibility of a majority again in the future. Without it the smaller parties would have far too much power for the government to function without ending up in huge keep-the-little-guy-happy-gift debt.

If you want real reform, look for things that are meaningful. A preferential ballot and the elimination of party whips would be meaningful reform. MMP simply shifts power from one group to another -- namely the people to the parties.


AamirHussain writes at Fri Sep 14 12:59:38 2007...

I'm glad to see that you're not repeating the baseless accusation of PR minority/coalition governments leading to endless frequent elections. Thank you for that.

I don't have any problem with a majority either, as long as a majority of voters support the party in question. Then again I don't have a problem with a party not having a majority either as long as a majority of voters don't support the party. The choice of whether we have a majority or minority government should be decided by VOTERS. Not the freaking electoral system.

Now let's come to the other frequently raised baseless accusation of PR governments being controlled by small parties (the 'balance' in your terminology).

Do you have any evidence of this happening in coalition governments like Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden etc etc all of which have very little 'possibility of a majority in the future'. Are these places controlled by their 'balance'? Or is this just a general first assumption of PR coalition government operation that you've accepted as gospel?

That's a rhetorical question of course. A large party being dominated by a small one in a coalition isn't a mark of coaltion governance. It's a mark of POOR LEADERSHIP. Bringing in 'huge little guy gift debt' type policies is also something that is not appreciated by citizens.

So yeah a party can go ahead and do that, plunging approval ratings and being punished in the next election by voters should knock some sense into them. And hey every voter will be able to make their views known, unlike FPTP in which only swing voters in swing ridings can make a difference.


Mark Greenan writes at Fri Sep 14 14:36:20 2007...

I think Aamir should be commended for his contribution to the debate.

cdlu, I share his criticisms that you are providing little evidence for your claims.

It is difficult to have productive discussions with people that make unsubstantiated statements like "MMP simply shifts power from one group to another -- namely the people to the parties" and calls statements back up by rigorous research, like how parties in proportional voting systems "behave" better, as "utopian".

In New Zealand, it is a generally accepted statement that MMP increased the power of the legislature and its private members, vis-a-vis the executive by empowering committees and increasing their role in crafting legislation.

In Lijphart's classic of comparative government Patterns of Democracy he concludes that "in contrast to majoritarian democracies, consensus democracies have multiparty systems, parliamentarism with oversized (and therefore inclusive) cabinet coalitions, proportional electoral systems, corporatist (hierarchical) interest group structures, federal structures, bicameralism, rigid constitutions protected by judicial review, and independent central banks. These institutions ensure, firstly, that only a broad supermajority can control policy and, secondly, that once a coalition takes power, its ability to infringe on minority rights is limited."

He adds (from a very well done wikipedia page) that "consensus democracies have a less abrasive political culture, more functional business-like proceedings, and a results oriented ethic."

On October 10, Vote for MMP for "broad supemajorit[y]" governments that don't "infringe on minority rights" and have a "a less abrasive political culture, more functional business-like proceedings, and a results oriented ethic."


cdlu writes at Fri Sep 14 15:37:13 2007...

Mark,

Your comment is more along the lines of what I've mentioned before as a "the sky is blue!" "what a brilliant observation!" type of support. Aamir has offered nothing new to the debate that hasn't been flaunted blindly a hundred times before, and neither have you.

You completely ignore the point of this posting which is to say that MMP offers nothing of value to Ontario. Everything MMP proponents are offering is based on the results of incomparable systems in far away lands with different histories, geographies, and most importantly, implementations. None of it is based on what is offered in our proposed implementation from the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. My point is that it is the MMP campaign that is providing unsubstantiated claims left, right, and centre and arguing that because what they assert will happen has, on occasion, happened elsewhere in incomparable systems it will obviously happen in Ontario. It's deceitful.

Regional and cultural list spots, for example, are guaranteed in New Zealand, something we are promised by propogandists like yourself will magically happen by the all-seeing wisdom of the political parties in Ontario. Germany, on the other hand, has overhang provisions and chose to adopt MMP to replace a fascist dictatorship, not an established Westminster democracy.

The notion of wasted votes and false majorities is premised entirely on the relevance of political parties. I submit to you that our democracy works in spite of, and not because of, political parties. MMP, especially in Ontario's proposed implementation by virtue of its evisceration of the riding-representative portion of our democratic system, severely hampers independent representation and eliminates all notion that a representative is responsible to his riding first, his province second, and his party last. MMP splits all our representatives into two categories -- those that represent us to the parliament, and those that represent their parties to the parliament, which, in turn, represent such a small proportion of Ontario's population that if all party members were to get together and run as a single party under this MMP proposal, they wouldn't even meet the threshhold.

Whether these parties with their entirely illegitimate closed-list MPPs will be able to come to concensus remains to be seen. If they do, that would be nice, but it is not going to happen simply because we adopt MMP. There is a lot more to reforming a democracy than breaking its electoral system.

On October 10th, don't vote for change for the sake of change. Our democracy is too important to be a social experiment. Vote for the tried, tested, and true electoral system we have.


AamirHussain writes at Fri Sep 14 17:04:19 2007...

You are advocating a position in which

a) We can't take into account how PR systems and MMP actually work in the real world because they are in different countries

b) We can't take into account Ontarian voting patterns from the past because PR is different.

With that kind of a tabula rasa mental state we would be free to paint whatever kind of nightmarish vision of any change we want. And that's what you're doing.

And since you're doing that I can see why you would think that the other side is engaging in the exact same sort of blank slate thinking except in the direction of 'wishful utopian hopes and dreams'.

But I think your premises are wrong. It DOES matter how these systems work in other countries and if we are ever going to grow and improve we SHOULD analyse what other places do and see how it works and why. Your dismissal of this information is extremely hard to understand. Heck you just completely out of hand ignored a very good source of information that Mark offered to you while simultaneously claming that he was bringing nothing new to the debate.

In the end we should look at what system is better for voters. What system allows voters to have an affect on parliament no matter what part of the province they are in and no matter how their neighbours vote. Which system allows voters to choose the best candidate to represent them and which party has the best policies seperately. Which system offers voters more choices.

And we should make these decisions by being fully informed on how these systems work in places where they are used, not relying just on our preformed conceptions on how such systems might work in theory. Do PR systems lead to endless elections? No they don't. Do PR systems mean small parties control government? No, it means small parties have input on government and a large party has to keep its own supporters and the mass of voters in mind when dealing with them in a coalition.

And one source of my information actually pays a lot of attention to German state elections using MMP, German states have quite a bit in common with Ontario and some use systems quite similar to the Ontario citizen's Assembly designed version of MMP. Oddly enough you've never asked to see it.


Mark writes at Sat Sep 15 14:21:06 2007...

Aamir,

Great dissection of the logic (well, more accurately the lack of logic) behind David's claims.

The case for how proportional voting systems, including MMP, affect government is strong. It's based on the empirical evidence of hundreds of elections and governments in dozens of countries.

The case for your claims relies on no evidence and is largely contradicting by the aforementioned evidence.

I'll let your readers choose which is best for themselves. If people want references for any of the claims I make, just ask.


AamirHussain writes at Sat Sep 15 18:57:47 2007...

David, I can appreciate the view that political parties are irrelevant. I don't share it because I see how the party less system of the Toronto city council works. To call it dysfunctional would be an understatement.

But I am confused by your opposition to a system which reduces the power of parties as MMP does.

First, the easy false majority that Ontario's large parties are used to is taken away.

Second, the 3% threshold makes all large parties vulnerable to a revolt from its own members and more important to a voter revolt to a new small party.

And here's the kicker, that revolt can happen because of unhappiness with how the party is representing a region of the province. Let there be a Rural Ontario Party if Ontarians vote for it, let there be a Toronto party if Ontarians vote for it, Let there be a South Western Ontario Party and an Eastern Ontario Party if they get votes.

Any such regional party would be much more effective in getting across the concerns of its supporters and area than the amazing vanishing backbencher that FPTP creates.

Will Ontarians do this when we get the ability to? I don't know, but I do know that this ability SHOULD be ours.

Because it is FPTP that takes power away from voters and gives it to parties. It is FPTP that limits voters choices to one of the two large parties in most of Ontario's ridings. And it is FPTP that gives power to a party's inner strategists as a large party in FPTP is narrow mindedly focused on nothing more than getting a majority result. A majority in which backbenchers are of little consequence.

MMP gives voters more choices and gives every voter a position of power in an election. I trust Ontarians with this extra power and frankly I think it is long overdue.

Yes local representation is important in a province such as ours. That is why the Ontario Citizens Assembly created a version of MMP with the most local members in the world (70% of seats being local and no overhangs). The composition of the list seats is completely and totally dependent on what happens in local elections. And if Ontarians prioritise local/regional representation then they will punish any party that doesn't provide it from its list side.

None of the things I have said is in the category of 'wishful utopian hopes and dreams' and in deference to your wishes I haven't mentioned the practical and actual workings of MMP in the places where it is used. Though I frankly remain confused by your dismissal of that information.


cdlu writes at Sun Sep 16 09:40:56 2007...

Aamir,

"But I am confused by your opposition to a system which reduces the power of parties as MMP does."

Because this is non-sense. All MMP does is shift which parties the electoral system favours from the large to the medium sized, but it does nothing to weaken the party structure as a whole. Granting parties the ability to cast MPPs without even the guise of a democratic process, as MMP necessarily does, is anti-democratic in the extreme and empowers parties enormously. Whether parties choose, at their discretion, not to exercise this power is up to those parties, but is irrelevant to the system being proposed because the system proposed creates closed, party-controlled lists.

If the forces of MMP wanted a system that was difficult to oppose, we would have an MMP system in which there is NO reduction in ridings, and the manner the lists were created was dictated in law to be fully and completely democratic. I would object to such a system as I still believe riding representation is king, but not with the same vigour as such a system would at least have some merit, but closed party lists are antithetical to democracy and is the only thing added to the FPTP system which is itself being left in place.

The composition of list seats, and this is where you and the MMP campaign continue to be completely deceitful, have nothing to do with the previous elections nor with regional lists or regional representation. The only thing they have to do with is the interest of the parties who make those lists. If a party determines that representing 5% of the population in outlying rural areas is important, then it will be reflected in its list, but if it decides the vastly more than half the province that lives in major cities is a more important target for its lists, why would it care about outlying areas? There is no guarantee anywhere in this proposal that what you are saying will happen will: parties make the lists the way they see fit, with no definite connection to anything other than that party's individual interests. Pray tell how this disempowers parties?

Mark,

If a province like PEI thinks your arguments make no sense, why should a province several orders of magnitude larger and more populous buy into FVC's non-sense?


AamirHussain writes at Mon Sep 17 10:53:24 2007...

"Because this is non-sense. All MMP does is shift which parties the electoral system favours from the large to the medium sized, but it does nothing to weaken the party structure as a whole."

You've got a rapidly evolving argument from "shifting power from the people to the parties" to "shifting from large to medium sized parties".

Because what power does a voter in Dalton McGuinty's riding have? None.

What power does a voter in Howard Hampton's riding have? None.

And that's just two examples of ridings in which the act of voting is pointless. I live in one myself.

And the 'medium sized parties' are just as vulnerable to voter revolt as large ones are. More in fact because small parties have to worry about keeping above the 3% threshold. The power remains with VOTERS.

Parties have less power in MMP than in FPTP. There is absolutely no equivalent in MMP to the total power that Jean Cretien wielded federally for 11 years while getting barely 40% of the vote, it was that absolute power that allowed him to consolidate more and more power in his inner circle and backbenchers went along for the ride because getting that false majority was all that mattered and Jean Cretien was good at getting them.

You are so hung up on your *theory* of political systems that you are completely ignoring the practical reality. Sure FPTP could theoretically seem to be every riding being represented by a MP/MPP in a legislature but that's completely freaking false in operation.

Going by THEORY the Federal Liberals with Tons of Toronto and GTA MPs should have funneled quite a lot of funding to that region. That didn't happen at all. The Liberals spent all their time wooing the fickle swing ridings in Quebec and elsewhere. Whither the local representation then?

Going by THEORY the Federal Conservatives with a complete set of Alberta MPs should be advocating a very Albertan view on things. That isn't happening at all, Harper has instead completely muzzled the MPs representing Albertans while the Conservatives spend all their time wooing fickle swing ridings mostly in Quebec where he hopes to build a majority. Whither the local representation now?

And no, procedural niceties such as abolishing the whip wouldn't do a damn thing to reduce this power. The whole drive in FPTP is to get a majority and backbencers (willingly in the case of the previous Liberals and grudingly in the case of current Conservatives) are willing to go along with their leader in pursuit of those false majorities with or without the whip.

This is NOT the case in PR systems, there is no easy phony majority in the offering, and each and every party is vulnerable to regional unreset due to a low threshold that a regional party needs to clear to become a force in legilslature. Contrast that to FPTP where Torontonians pissed of at the lack of local Liberal advocacy can't do a damn thing come election time which is exactly the same situation that Albertans angered at the muzzling of their MPs find themselves in. No god damn say at all in this democracy of ours.

"If the forces of MMP wanted a system that was difficult to oppose, we would have an MMP system in which there is NO reduction in ridings,"

You really should look at how the Ontario Citizens Assembly came to their decision. They weren't a 'force for MMP', I went and saw them go through their deliberations (it was open to the public) and it was amazing to watch. They were a force for creating a BETTER sytem for Ontarians.

These 103 randomly chosen Ontarians after spending 8 months studying how voter systems around the world ACTUALLY WORK designed a system with the most local MPPs of any MMP system in the world, achieves very good proportionality and does so while creating a legislature smaller than what we had in 1999.

What you are completely failing to see what your statment is that it would create a legislature of around 153 MPPs, that would be fine with me (and perhaps you), but Ontarians are averse to a huge legislature which is what the 103 Ontarians of the Assembly recognized. The devil is in the details with any electoral system and the Citizens Assembly struggled through all of them.

"and the manner the lists were created was dictated in law to be fully and completely democratic."

The Citizens Assembly came to the conclusion that any such legislation would be pretty arcane and impossible to enforce without creating some sort of oversight body or giving vast extra powers to Elections Ontario. This body with its powers to invalidate a list or enforce procedures on parties would be the target of accusations of bias and corruption by any miffed party and these could well be valid accusations.

And so the Assembly mandated that any list and THE MANNER of its creation be created and published well in advance of any election. Now I certainly would go through the party publications but I'm a wonk and you can argue that no normal Ontarian would go through it.

But that's certainly not true of the media and absolutely not true of other parties in an election campaign. The composition and manner of creation of a list is a huge target for any party in a campaign. So let the party be undemocratic in the creation of the list, and let them be exposed to the judgement of Ontarians through the ever so effective party vote.

"The composition of list seats, and this is where you... continue to be completely deceitful"

You keep on accusing me of deceit David and I am starting to get insulted by it. Where's my deceit?

"The only thing they have to do with is the interest of the parties who make those lists."

Hell I agree with you there and I've never denied it with the added realisation that the parties are going to be watching their opponents lists like hawks as fodder in an election campaign. The overridng interest of a party becomes to not get roasted for a deficient list in an election.

"If a party determines that representing 5% of the population in outlying rural areas is important, then it will be reflected in its list, but if it decides the vastly more than half the province that lives in major cities is a more important target for its lists, why would it care about outlying areas?"

To prevent that support from going to other parties as they would certainly pounce on this as would local media that serves those areas. And if every party starts pulling a stunt like this then let there be a Rural Ontario Party that would be infinitely more effective in advocating for the area than anything that FPTP provides. The main parties certainly proved that they don't deserve the votes in that area. Voters have the tools and powers necessary to do this in MMP, and these tools and powers are long overdue.

That Ontarians have this extra power, these additional tools and choices in MMP is NOT a "wishful hope dream". The only "wishful hope dream" that you can possibly accuse me of is believing Ontarians will use the extra power that MMP provides to each and every voter effectively and well.


cdlu writes at Mon Sep 17 11:49:10 2007...

I'm sorry you're insulted by being called out on an oft-repeated lie:

"The composition of the list seats is completely and totally dependent on what happens in local elections."

Like many before you who have claimed the list seats have anything to do with anything other than the party's whim; your statement is false and deceitful. The composition of the list seats is completely and totally dependent on who the parties -- all of them -- put on their lists, which may or may not have anything to do with the results of, at best, the previous election's local results.

Further, the publication of the manner of the creation of the lists is no guarantee that the lists will be democratic, only that they will be public, which noone has denied. A public list which openly states that every second entry on its list was auctionned off to the highest bidder is still a public list, and is completely allowable within the framework of this proposal, just as a public list made up of all the riding candidates for a party in the order of the number of members they signed up would be. Neither of these are necessarily democratic, although the latter isn't all bad, but they are both within the parameters of the Citizens Assembly recommendation.

My argument about party power is not in any way evolving. I have never stated anything but the fact that the parties have too much power as it is. Where we disagree is in whether MMP will give parties still more, or less, power. I believe they will give parties more power. You seem to think giving parties unfettered control over their representatives gives them less. The shifting from large to medium sized parties is a completely different aspect of power. MMP gives all parties more power over who their representatives are, and gives medium sized parties more parliamentary power.

Voter revolt and party revolt are both possible and happen in our current democracy. You may have noticed that the party currently in power federally didn't even exist just a few years ago, for one. That party, which you claim pays no attention to Alberta's wants, has spent a great deal of effort trying to block any kind of environmentalist progress in an effort to keep its booming oil industry afloat while the price of oil is high. I don't know about you, but I haven't seen any oil sands in Quebec.


AamirHussain writes at Mon Sep 17 12:26:56 2007...

"The composition of the list seats is completely and totally dependent on what happens in local elections."

:sigh: you know David, a lot of this would have been avoided if you'd just asked me to clarify this. The composition of the list seats in legislature IS totally depended on what happens in local elections. Which is to say that if a party does extremely well locally for example then it gets barely any or no list seats and any list only candidates get turfed.

The composition of a PARTY LIST is a different matter and wasn't what I was talking about. See, a simple misunderstanding. Just a little bit of context and we can see that there was no lie.

"Further, the publication of the manner of the creation of the lists is no guarantee that the lists will be democratic,"

Never said it was.

"only that they will be public, which noone has denied. A public list which openly states that every second entry on its list was auctionned off to the highest bidder is still a public list, and is completely allowable within the framework of this proposal,"

Wonderful, Ontarians can make their feelings known about a party that has that kind of a process through the party vote.

"You seem to think giving parties unfettered control over their representatives gives them less."

I actually think that the 3% threshold makes a party completely vulnerable to a revolt from representatives fed up with an autocratic power hungry central party authority. I also actually think that representatives have a much less compelling reason to go along with a central party authority as the party no longer offers the prospect of being a part of a fake minority with total control over what happens in the province.

I also actually think that backbenchers are much more valuable and important in a minority or coalition situation than in a majority situation.

"Voter revolt and party revolt are both possible and happen in our current democracy."

Never denied it. I said it was easier in MMP with a 3% threshold. Easier revolt means more vulnerable parties!


Ralph Anderson writes at Tue Sep 18 15:08:53 2007...

I am impressed with how civil your discussion are, here.

I am helping on the No MMP side of the referendum. I find myself actually having to defend FPTP. That's hard on me. But compared to MMP, I don't find it hard to do. I don't have a problem with 129 seats worth of representation. The issue for me is the problems caused by those 39 list seats. Parties will be attacked and dismantled due to this opportunity. The big parties, can afford it, and benefit from having more parties that contest each election and fail to reach 3%. When 10% of the vote on party lists fail to reach threshold a 45% party is allocated a majority of the seats. It's convenient. It's the Hare formula making sure that some voters don't count. In the wrong situation, which is typical of Ontario in the last three elections, it will likely deliver a majority of seats to a big party with a minority of the votes. Then, most the votes will not count for much. Pretty much the same problem for the people.

I fixed this in my submission 1002 to the Citizens Assembly, but nobody listens.

Anyway, to defend FPTP. One argument in its favour is its simplicity. It is true that candidates with 45% frequently win. In 2003, 70 Liberals were elected that way. Some would say they would win anyway if there was a preferential ballot. Some would concede a majority to these candidates, just to keep things simple. In the 2003 election, 100 of 103 candidates were elected this way. So, if it's a conceded majority in each district, it must be a conceded majority holding power in parliament. So I don't see what the problem is with FPTP that MMP can fix. These are rightful majorities based on one X arithmetic. Even a small majority is still a majority. MMP would cut the numbers down a little, but it really doesn't change a thing in the way legislation gets done.

In a democracy, I would have the people decide. Elections are a time for the people to decide. There should be a decision on representation and a decision on political direction. FPTP combines the two into one vote. MMP wants to decide on representation twice, first on one and then on a bunch, while purposely deciding to leave political direction up to the party types that get in.


John Penfold writes at Tue Sep 18 15:26:04 2007...

I say vote no to MMP for the following reasons:

1. Who do the proportional MPPs represent? Right now every MPP is individually responsible to their constituents. Every person sitting in parliament had to garner a majority of votes in their own riding. Who will proportional MPPs represent? The answer is conjecture.

2. Certain MPPs will be 'untouchable'. For example, an incumbent could be voted out in a landslide in their own riding and still get a seat if they're high on the list. That's not democratic. Yes it will be an unpopular decision for that party, but they can still do it.

3. How do candidates get their name on "the list"? You want me to vote for a new system of government that the parties are going to make up as they go along? I want to see a plan from each party before I would vote to change a system that is as firmly entrenched as FPTP.

4. I personally see government as fulfilling the collective will of communities, not individuals. So what if a government get a majority of seats with a minority of the popular vote. If 60% of the communities (i.e. ridings) in Ontario want a person from Party X, then Party X get a majority. I don't care that only 45% of people voted for Party X. MPPs represent groups of people, and it is the group's decision that counts.


AamirHussain writes at Wed Sep 19 14:50:37 2007...

"and benefit from having more parties that contest each election and fail to reach 3%. When 10% of the vote on party lists fail to reach threshold a 45% party is allocated a majority of the seats."

That is definetly possible and comes from MMP not being a perfectly proportional voting system but a very proportional voting system instead. However only 4% of the votes in the last Ontario election were cast for parties with less than 3% and the majority of that was 2.8% for the Greens. Ontarians could theoretically start voting for tons of small parties that all come close to hitting the threshold in MMP, but theoretically we could have 20 parties in FPTP. It doesn't really happen does it? The experience in other places that switched from MMP to FPTP is that the overall level of support for parties before and after the change is pretty constant. The difference is that the overall level of support for a party actually matters for a change. In the short term the Greens will probably get in and I think that's long overdue.

In the end MMP is flexible enough to adjust government with the way the population adjusts. FPTP restricts the choices that we have as voters and I do not think this is a good thing.

The other thing is that MMP does a really good job of preventing the REALLY bad situations such as a party getting majority power with 38% or less of the vote (happened in Ontario and federally in the recent past) and also the really weird situation in which a party gets LESS votes than another but still wins majority power (2006 New Brunswick, 1998 Quebec and plenty of other examples).

"So, if it's a conceded majority in each district, it must be a conceded majority holding power in parliament."

I haven't heard the term 'conceded majority' before. These are pluralities. But regardless of terminoligy I think it's a really bad thing that more than half the voters in districts don't have any affect on parliament so commonly and I think it's a really bad thing that there is no restriction on how much overall support a party must earn before it gets total majority power in parliament. MMP is better for both these things. Voting is important and it shouldn't be a wasted gesture.

"These are rightful majorities based on one X arithmetic. Even a small majority is still a majority."

Bob Rae got less than 38% of the support Ontarians, he did not have a rightful majority. Jean Cretien got 38% of the vote in one of his 'majorities' and that was not a rightful majority either. Parties should EARN the right to the total power they have in a parliament and they don't have to do that at all in FPTP.

"MMP would cut the numbers down a little,"

Actually if you do the numbers then in MMP Bob Rae, Mike Harris, and Dalton McGuiny would not have gotten majorities, and I say that's a good thing. If they don't have the support of more than half of the voters then they shouldn't be able to do whatever they want. This happens extremely rarely in MMP but happens all the time in FPTP.

"Elections are a time for the people to decide."

In FPTP so many people decide and their decision does not make any difference. More than 51 % of the people made a decision in the last federal election. And it don't make any difference to the legislature that was created. PR systems make that situation much better.

"There should be a decision on representation and a decision on political direction"

The decision on political direction is made by parties before an election in both FPTP and MMP. In MMP you have the choice of many options on political direction no matter where in the province you live (since you can vote for any of the paries anywhere and your vote will have an affect on parliament). In FPTP the effective decision a voter can make is restricted only to parties that have a hope of winning. For most ridings that's only two and in many ridings there is really only one effective choice. Which is the same as no choice at all. I live in one of those places :(.

"Every person sitting in parliament had to garner a majority of votes in their own riding."

Well not a majority. In 54% of all districts in the last Ontario election the candidate won with LESS than a majority of support.

"Who will proportional MPPs represent? The answer is conjecture."

We can get an answer by seeing how proportional members act in other places that use MMP.

If you take a look at how list members in MMP places like Germany, New Zealand, Wales, and Scotland actually act I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, they're definetly not party hacks and actually COMPETE with local members to provide local service and representation. I think that would be good for democracy myself.

Check this quote out from a Scottish local member about the list members who were suddenly competing with him after Scotland switched from FPTP to MMP

"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"

The reason for this happening is because for candidates getting into government from the list is a complete gamble as they have to hope that their party needs enough list seats for them to get in and that is very hard to predict. Every serious list candidate runs locally as well to prevent getting wiped out as the party doesn't need any or enough list seats.

"2. Certain MPPs will be 'untouchable'. For example, an incumbent could be voted out in a landslide in their own riding and still get a seat if they're high on the list. That's not democratic. Yes it will be an unpopular decision for that party, but they can still do it."

That's not untouchable because the incumbent has to hope that his party needs enough list seats for him to get in. Which as I said is far from a given. In fact in one election in Germany the leader of party was so sure he'd get in that he just put himself at the head of his list and didn't bother to run locally. Guess what happened.. his party did so well locally that it didn't need any list seats and he ended up being a leader without a seat. The list is a very unreliable way for candidates to get into government.

But you are definetly right that the situation you describe can happen. I see it as the same thing as what happens now with unpopular cabinet ministers that everybody hates but the party stays loyal to. The difference is that in MMP every single voter who decides not to vote for that party because of that hurts them while in FPTP most votes don't matter.

"3. How do candidates get their name on "the list"? You want me to vote for a new system of government that the parties are going to make up as they go along? I want to see a plan from each party before I would vote to change a system that is as firmly entrenched as FPTP."

Just as parties currently control who their candidates are for each riding. So they also control the candidates on their list. At least with the list the parties have to explain how they created their list. If a party wants to stuff its list full of party hacks from Toronto then let them. And let Ontarians show the party exactly what they think about them.

"4. I personally see government as fulfilling the collective will of communities, not individuals. So what if a government get a majority of seats with a minority of the popular vote. If 60% of the communities (i.e. ridings) in Ontario want a person from Party X, then Party X get a majority. I don't care that only 45% of people voted for Party X. MPPs represent groups of people, and it is the group's decision that counts."

I think the communities decision is really important. And I am glad that the Ontario Citizen's Assembly created a version of MMP that has the most local representatives in the world (70%) in a system in which the only safe way for a candidate to get in is through local seats, but I think that a person should not be oppressed by the place they live in as well. Because I have always lived in a party stronghold and that means that my vote is pointless and that is an extremely frustrating feeling.

It is also dangerous as it exaggerates and reinforces false regional stereotypes. Is every man woman and child in Alberata a Conservative? No. More than a third of Albertans don't vote for the conservatives. But we don't see those people at all as they don't have any representation just because they are not all concentrated in a few ridings. Is Everybody in Toronto Liberal or NDP? No way. In fact more people voted for the Conservatives in Toronto than voted for the NDP. We don't see that at all either because they aren't all concentrated in a district.

In fact this focus on ONLY the community leads to some pretty crazy results. In 1993 Two Million people people voted for the PC party federally. That led to them getting two seats. TWO. And they got hundred of thousands more votes than the Bloc Quebecois that got FIFTY-SIX. That's just wrong, were those two million people not deserving of a voice just because they weren't as concentrated in one place as the Bloc?


John Penfold writes at Wed Sep 19 15:34:00 2007...

"Just as parties currently control who their candidates are for each riding. So they also control the candidates on their list. At least with the list the parties have to explain how they created their list. If a party wants to stuff its list full of party hacks from Toronto then let them. And let Ontarians show the party exactly what they think about them."

My point is that I want them to explain their list process before I vote in favour of MMP. Just because it's going to be a transparent process during the next election doesn't mean I'm going to like it.

"In fact this focus on ONLY the community leads to some pretty crazy results. In 1993 Two Million people people voted for the PC party federally. That led to them getting two seats. TWO. And they got hundred of thousands more votes than the Bloc Quebecois that got FIFTY-SIX. That's just wrong, were those two million people not deserving of a voice just because they weren't as concentrated in one place as the Bloc?"

It sounds like you're hung up on the statistical artifact of the individual vote not matching the collective riding vote. I still believe communities should elect local leaders, individuals should not. Yes 2 million people voted Conservative, but almost all of them lived in communities where the "majority" of people did not vote for a Conservative candidate.

This is where we differ philosophically - I believe that "majority" should mean 'more than everyone else'. That is to say that if you got more votes than anyone else, you got a majority of the community's support

You believe (I think) that "majority" should mean 'more than everyone else put together'. That is, you must receive more than 50% of the community's support to be said to have a majority.


Ralph Anderson writes at Wed Sep 19 20:42:11 2007...

When AamirHussain wrote about the election in 1993, he made it all about party. I was happy when those two million voters got what they deserved in 1993, they lost the election. The candidates who affiliated with that party got what they deserved. I grow tired of hearing that a vote in FPTP is for parties. Parties would like it to be, and they always refer to it that way. But that doesnt make it so. FPTP is all about representation of the people in a district. The elected representative represents everyone in the district. The voters who voted for a different candidate have lost the election. They have not lost representation. The Assemblys official report even says that. Its a legal requirement that every citizen be represented (page 21 in answering their own question How will the new system affect representation by population?). So I'm thinking that MMP, implemented for your reasons and to suit your purposes as a vehicle for partisan repesentation in each district and through those lists, is basically illegal.


Aamir Hussain writes at Sat Sep 22 11:26:51 2007...

Hi Ralph,

That's the theory of FPTP of course, but it's not the reality. The way Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, and now Stephen Harper have consolidated control of government in their own little inner circles instead of their MPs shows that the theory of how FPTP should work has floundered on political reality. In fact FPTP pulls towards a two party system no matter what voters want because of the ridiculous 'right wing split vote' or 'left wing split vote' that forces voters to not make a true choice and instead vote strategically for the person they dislike to stop the person they hate. And these few large parties have huge power.

MMP takes away the power of parties by making them susceptible to new parties by the 3% threshold. It takes away the power of the parties by making it as hard as it should be for them to gain total majority power. It means a vote for any party anywhere actually has an affect.

John: "still believe communities should elect local leaders, individuals should not."

I believe that both communities and individuals are important which is why the mixed system is so great. It acknowledges and accommodates both.

I think the non Conservative in Alberta has value and should be heard and seen in our halls of power. I believe that the Conservative in big cities has value and should be heard and seen in the legislature that represents us. Both of these things would lead to better Canada in which there is less of this untrue and damaging regional stereotyping that FPTP perpetuates and exaggerates.

1/3rd of Albertans do not support the Conservatives. More people support the Conservatives in Toronto than support the NDP. These people deserve a voice that is heard. I have lived in a party stronghold all my life, why should my vote be merely a futile symbolic gesture?


cdlu writes at Sun Sep 23 12:47:26 2007...

Aamir,

I'm always curious why MMP proponents cite Stephen Harper - a minority prime minister, as an example of why FPTP is bad. If he can consolidate that power in a minority, then yet another reason to support MMP goes out the window.


Ralph Anderson writes at Wed Sep 26 14:41:24 2007...

Aamir Hussain wrote: "In fact FPTP pulls towards a two party system no matter what voters want because of the ridiculous 'right wing split vote' or 'left wing split vote' that forces voters to not make a true choice and instead vote strategically for the person they dislike to stop the person they hate. And these few large parties have huge power."

and "MMP takes away the power of parties by making them susceptible to new parties by the 3% threshold. It takes away the power of the parties by making it as hard as it should be for them to gain total majority power. It means a vote for any party anywhere actually has an affect."

No more vote splitting? No more lost votes failing to reach 3%? No more strategic voting one voter at a time? The answer is right there. look at it. A preferential ballot and it's done! Problem solved. Ontario and Canada, and every citizen here, can count like that. Every vote can count right up until someone gets the majority first. We can afford it, we can do it, it needs to be done. A district vote for representation, A provincial vote for provincial direction. Respect every voter's full opinion, trust every voter to do their part in a democracy of the people. All I see in MMP is more division, diversion and an intentional acceptance of inaccuracy. It's parties saying "leave it to us, we'll decide for you." If we are all equal and we all get a vote, then when we decide, it must be our majority that rules. That's fair and not hard to do.


Press For Truth writes at Wed Oct 3 21:31:04 2007...

AamirHussain

You want some references?

Okay!!!

http://nommp.ca/

http://www.thestar.com/OntarioElection/article/261461

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=85b66aee-1f3f-41ba-9796-a2836ad99b8c

http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/financialpost/comment/story.html?id=d9016584-9c4e-43c7-be65-7e746afec6df

http://www.straightgoods.ca/ViewFeature7.cfm?REF=477

http://www.waterloochronicle.ca/wat/viewpoint/viewpoint_886071.html

http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/260931

http://www.thestar.com/OntarioElection/article/261461

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=d6060c04-f3e0-4169-b79f-fae0101dce4e

http://www.radioowensound.com/news.php?id=6680

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=a7a0a991-e056-4142-9699-8cf018e9b38d

http://www.ancasternews.com/an/viewpoint/viewpoint_882623.html

http://www.intergovworld.com/Blogs/Pages/blogentry.aspx?EntryID=306

http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=e7d11977-7569-45a6-90c4-621b392b5ccc&k=0

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/OntarioVotes2007/News/2007/09/14/4496441-sun.html

http://web.mac.com/donaldpwalker/Site/No_MMP.html

http://dawn.thot.net/vote_against_mmp.html#1

http://www.splatto.net/blog/?p=729

http://www.eyeweekly.com/daily/?p=963

http://ontarioelectionreform.wordpress.com/2007/09/29/a-political-science-case-against-mmp/

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2007/08/10/duncan-referendum.html

Here's one from NEW ZEALAND

http://www.decisionmaker.co.nz/guide2006/tbp_MMPfirstdecade_comment_06.html

And if you need any more Aamir, please contact me at cgpedley@gmail.com

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