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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Responsible reform

The Toronto Star's big page-one story today on electoral reform in Ontario is topped by the headline, "Radical voting proposal gains steam." Radical? A mix-member proportional system, as recommended by Ontario's citizens' assembly, is without a doubt the tamest (other than the status quo, of course) of all the possibilities. "Under MMP, citizens would cast two votes - one for a local representative, another for the party of their choice."

For something truly radical, try the complicated "single transferrable vote," which B.C.'s original citizens' assembly recommended in 2004. The system was promoted as being as "easy as 1, 2, 3", but was anything but. Voters narrowly rejected the scheme, but they'll get another chance to vote on reform, during the 2009 provincial election.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on February 22, 2007 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink


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Actually, the system proposed in BC was simple to understand for anyone who can add. It also is still the best proposal out there. It is the perfect combintion of giving proportional representation and giving the voters MORE power over who their MPs are, not LESS (as MMP does).

But yes, MMP is not "radical".

Posted by: Mark Logan | 2007-02-22 10:10:52 AM

I agree with Mark Logan - STV and MMP are hardly radical. The Athenian notion of random selection of citizens to sit in the legislature would be radical, but both STV and MMP simply allow candidates to run, voters to mark their ballots ('X' with MMP, expressing preferences with STV) and representatives to be elected in close proportion to their (or their parties') support amongst voters. The biggest change will be that voters will re-engage with politics because their votes will actually matter (in that they will affect the results) and that representatives from different parties will have to talk with one another and reach agreements to get their ideas enacted in law.

PS: anyone who thinks that STV is too complex can ask my 12 year old to explain it to them. It took him less than 10 minutes to learn how it works.

Posted by: Antony Hodgson | 2007-02-22 6:19:54 PM

The Ontario Assembly has simply chosen to build an MMP model first in their deliberation phase. They have not yet decided if it will be their recommended alternate.

Further, BC voters did not reject BC-STV. A vote of 57.7% Yes is a long ways from rejection. It is the government who decided not to change their "own rules" and implement BC-STV - something that was well within their own discretionary power to do.

When you understand STV you realize that it provides much greater voter choice AS WELL as proportional results. Something that MMP can not do.

MMP is pushed as "simple". Well, it isn't, and it shall be interesting to see how the OCA finds designing one.

Posted by: Wendy Bergerud | 2007-02-22 9:04:56 PM

MMP is more radical than STV. (on the radical continuum we have, current system, BC-STV, STV, preferential ballot, MMP & proportional.)

With BC-STV, we preserve the local MP, keep the MP's independent, and (depending on the size of the riding clusters) we maintain the possibility of majority governments.

Posted by: pete e | 2007-02-22 11:56:26 PM

As for complicated, STV is only complicated for the person who counts the votes. For the voter, is is as hard as putting a "1" beside your first choice, a "2" beside you second choice, etc. ...a lot simple than strategic voting calculations the current system forces on informed voters.

Posted by: pete e | 2007-02-22 11:57:16 PM

Will the Ontario MMP model give voters a choice for all their MLAs, and power over all of them? We'll likely find out next weekend.

Posted by: Wilf Day | 2007-02-25 8:43:56 PM

Re: Responsible reform, Feb. 22/07

The commentariat and politicians delight themselves by using the word 'complicated' to describe STV. (And, from recent articles the same label has been applied to the Ontario Citizens' Assembly choice of MMP.) The comment is a diversionary tactic. Pete E's comment, about STV, is a really good retort, which I will remember.

The word which I like to use to describe STV is 'sophisticated'. Yes, there is a level of complication, but that is because STV was designed to deal with several issues, it is better and it works.

For proponents of STV, and electoral reform, remember a fundamental political motivation. Politics is about power. And the appeal of first-past-the-post is a party can attain 100% of the power, with 40% of the popular vote. (The system 'cheats' for you.) With STV you get what you earn. In two sentences that explains why politicians are opposed to STV.

A quotation attributed to Mark Twain is, "It is not the parts of the Bible which I do not understand which bother me, but the parts I do understand". What politicians do understand about electoral reform is the change to achieving legislative power. They will no longer get absolute power with less than a majority of the popular vote.

FPTP has been around for so long that politicians see the system, and the results given, as an entitlement. And we all know politicians feel they are entitled to their entitlements.

As for the commentariat, most, or many, have an umbilical connection to the political structure. And, I suspect those writers opposed to electoral reform feel their job, position, respect and influence are somehow threatened.

Posted by: Ray Jones | 2007-04-27 9:59:06 AM

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