Thursday, October 04, 2007

Out of Ontario at the Wrong Time.

On October 10th, Ontarians head to the polls to vote for their MPPs and, hopefully, for MMP (Mixed Member Plurality). It is a shame that I cannot vote in this important referendum. My wife, who has always been interested in politics, impresses me almost everyday with her political savvy, but remains unconvinced by MMP. She, unfortunately, believes that there is less accountability with MMP. Fortunately, she can't vote in the referendum either. Those around me also seem unconvinced by the arguments in favour of this system, arguing that there is less accountability with MMP.

Au contraire, as they might say on this side of the Ottawa river, MMP actually gives politicians more accountability. Of the 107 politicians in the legislature, 106 are currently unaccountable to you and the one who is may or may not be the one you actually voted for. With MMP you vote not only for the MPP who you want in your riding, but also for the party of your choice and, wonder of wonders, your vote actually counts towards that party.

In first-past-the-post, if 32% of the people vote for the tie-dye party, 17% of the people vote for the polka-dot party, 21% of the people vote for the plaid party, 14% of the people vote for the pinstripe party, and 16% of the people spoil their ballot, the tie-dye party wins that riding. 68% of the people in that imaginary riding have a vote that doesn't count.

In MMP, people vote for the candidate they want in their riding and the person with the most votes would represent that riding. So for the previous imaginary riding, the tie-dye candidate would probably represent that area. People would then cast a second vote for their favoured party and this vote would count towards the percentage of seats for that particular party. In Germany, there is a five per cent clause which helps exclude extremist groups from having representation.

Opponents argue that because the rest of the members of the party in MMP are appointed and not directly elected, these people are somehow going to be unaccountable and irresponsible. This argument does not hold water, in my opinion. Currently, candidates in a riding are nominated by party members. In MMP, party members will also nominate members who will then, depending on the election results, receive the party's proportion of the popular vote.

First-past-the-post is hardly representative of the people's will. For example, in the last federal election, the Bloc Quebecois received 10 % of the popular vote but had 51 seats (that is, 17% of the seats). The NDP, on the other hand, received 17% of the popular voted but had only 29 seats (that is 9% of the seats).

With MMP you still have regional representation (via your local representative), but your second vote will actually count towards the party of your choice. Voters can vote with their conscience for the party that represents their beliefs on issues that range further than their own local area.

The current system is democratic, but favours a two party system. MMP would involve more parties working together to pass legislation. Some proponents of MMP have gone so far as to call the current system of first-past-the-post undemocratic. That is, in my opinion, ridiculous. First-past-the-post is democratic, just less democratic than MMP.

My former Political Science professor, Dr. Koyzis, is quite passionate on this issue. He wrote an article on the issue and responded to the counter-argument on his blog. Both the article and his response can be found here.


Anonymous said...

Hi John,
Your blogs are interesting! See you're a fan of Peter Tosh, isn't it? Would you like to have his signature? I have got it from him, years ago, but I'm not really a fan of his music. Maybe you like to have it?

Anonymous said...

I agree with your wife.

your mother

John den Boer said...

anon: thank you. I am glad you like my blog entries. That's cool that you have Tosh's autograph, but I really wouldn't have enough money to buy something like that.

mother: Well, that's too bad. At least you're in good company!

Anonymous said...

Buy?? The autograph is not for sale, it's free, I'm not that commercial..
There is a matter I would seriously like to ask you about, but better not in public. I am not from Canada and thanks to Mr. Google I found you on
I realize it must be weird to receive a request from someone you don't know, but I hope you trust me. I give you my word, that's all I can do.

John den Boer said...

anon: That sounds cool. My e-mail address is

Who deh?