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The NO MMP campaign starts off with fear and falsehoods.

Joseph Angolano is the communications director for the “No MMP” site. He seems like a nice guy – he actually made the point of telling me he thought my blog was a quality site – his cheque’s already been sent in the mail, though it probably got lost in the overseas transit. 😉 (He’s currently in London England).

That said, I am really disappointed to see the No MMP campaign decide they’d use fear and falsehoods to start off their attack on the proposed MMP electoral system in Ontario. My chief objection to their news-release is this:

MMP is a system that decreases the number of ridings and adds new MPPs who are not directly elected by citizens. These new MPPs will be chosen from lists that are organized by the political parties. This will allow political leaders to stack their caucuses with blind loyalists who have no direct responsibility to the people.

This is in fact not true. The fact of the matter is that the Liberal Party (and I’m certain none of the other parties) hasn’t even established any procedures or in their party consitution for how the list candidates would be chosen. I can certainly tell you that over at Liberals For MMP, we will be emphasizing that we will be advocating for a democratic way of selecting those list candidates, so that they aren’t “beholden” to the party big-wigs. I’ll also re-print what Vote For MMP had to say in response to the list question:

Where a party has an existing tradition of democratic candidate selection, it is reasonable to assume they will maintain these traditions under MMP as the members of that party would very likely take a dim view of any selection practices that were not democratic. The 3% threshold for winning seats under MMP will create strong incentives for party leaders to be more open and transparent about many things, including candidate selection. If they do not do this they risk having unhappy party members and activists walk away in disgust and either join another party or found a new party that would compete directly with the existing one. The existing system makes founding a new party in response to abuse of power by party bosses almost impossible as such a party would have a very hard time winning any seats. MMP’s 3% threshold will significantly alter the balance of power between party leaders and the rank and file. Wise party leaders will understand this and act accordingly to preserve party unity through maintaining democratic party processes. In other countries that use MMP, list candidates are typically elected to the list by the votes of party members at candidate selection meetings or party conferences.

So, a) we’re not re-creating the wheel here; there are plenty of other examples of how other countries with MMP select list candidates in an open process that does not involve party leaders stacking the process, and b) I’ll add my point it won’t only be party activists and grassroots members who would take a dim view of a closed process, but the public at large would as well – particularly if they compared that process to other parties who did have an open process. You can also be guaranteed those folks in the other parties will be taking the opportunity to hammer away at any party that appears to be using elitist measures to form their lists.

I am sorry to see that “No MMP” is resorting already to fear and smear. They are certainly within their rights to charge or to say they fear something COULD happen under MMP. but for them to come out and assertively say it WOULD happen, as they’ve done here with their opening press release, is a falsehood. I certainly hope this opening appalling statement isnt indicative of a pattern, and that they will at least try to be more honest in their arguments from here on in.

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45 comments to The NO MMP campaign starts off with fear and falsehoods.

  • Bob Shapton

    [quote comment="6754"] The formation of the lists is a key problem with this MMP proposal, we think, … Non-aligned voters, who makes up the lions’ share of voters in Ontario, get no say in the make-up of the party lists.  …  The real question we have to ask here is why you are backing a system that empowers political parties at the expense of citizens. [/quote]

    Under the present system, "non-aligned voters" get NO say in the candidates that are appointed by the partisan constituency associations, or in some cases by the party elites, so that objection to MMP should also be made about FPTP. At least with MMP the whole province gets to vote on the suitability and acceptability of list candidates, whose qualifications must be publicized before and election.

  • Mark MacKenzie

    One more comment in defense of party lists.  Party leaders are currently elected by whom?  Party members.  Lists will be determined in the same way, by party members.  If the no side is to indict MMP on the basis that party lists are provided by party members then I would ask them how they would like to change the leadership determination of their particular party.  Incidentally, the 'power' of the 'list MPP's'  will never approach the power available to the eventual premier (leader of some party) who appoints cabinet, judges, commissioners etc. etc. all without even having been elected directly by the public. 

    Currently, you have three things tied up into one vote – local representative, party leader and party.  You may like the local MPP but not the party.  You may like the leader but not the party etc..   With MMP, you can at least separate the local rep from the party but still do not have the ability to directly vote for a leader.  Well, two out of three aint bad but to the 'no MMp side', please don't attack MMP because the party picks it, unless you are prepared to open up a debate on how party leaders are picked.

  • To Jason Cherniak,
    Under the antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting system, party leaders can already stack their preferred candidates in ridings.  Federally, former Liberal leader, Paul Martin, appointed Michael Ignatieff to run in Etobicoke-Lakeshore.  Other candidates were not permitted to contest the nomination.  Provincially, John Tory appointed Jim Peterson to run as a new PC candidate.  Why should a citizen bother to join a local riding association when the leader of a party may appoint a candidate over the objections of the riding association membership?

  • janfromthebruce

    Scott, good post.

  • janfromthebruce

    I'm with JimBob and the Tommy side. In my riding federally my vote never counted and we were stuck federally with Steckle, the gun toting Christmas card guy. I believe that the public will finally start voting for what they want rather than what they don't want. What a breath of fresh air.

  • Just wanted to give big ups to Scott for a great post and sparking some great discussion. I think if we can make the case as well in the media as we did today in the blogosophere, I think October 11 will be great day for democracy!

  • Observer

    Scott,

    Sorry Observer, but I only allow people who give me valid email addresses to comment here. You can name yourself whatever you want.. but I will not have people with fake emails or no emails contribute here. – Scott

  • Linuxluver: I may say some criticisms of their position, but I will never say Jason or Joseph or anyone else on the No side are stupid – they are all smart individuals, and I speak from some personal experience, having talked to and meeting some of them at Prog Blog gatherings and elsewhere.

    It’s easy for debate to get heated, but let’s try to keep the debate to attacking points and positions… and not fall into the personal attacks mode.

  • Jeff Brownridge

    Let’s not compare MMP to perfection. Let’s compare it to the current system.

    Party Leaders already stack their lists. You show me a party (besides the Green Party) where appointments don’t happen or where Party leaders don’t wade into local nomination meetings to get their buddy in. At least this way the process is above board.

    The no side will always have to rely on hypothetical examples and “what if” scenarios because the reality of how this system has played out in Germany, New Zealand, etc. is far better then they’d like to admit. What happens if aliens form a party and create a list of aliens? What if we all wake up and vote for people with purple hats as a joke and they form the government?

    It’s almost staggering to me that there even is a no side. I guess according to Canada’s greatest Canadian, they would be the cats eh?

    It’s time for the mice to take back our political system.

  • Linuxluver

    The NO side don't appear to understand that the 3% threshold is a powerful check on any abuse of process by party leaders. Particularly in the two major parties.

    If the party leadership ever were silly enough to try to "stack" the party lists, they'd quickly find they didn't have much of a party left to stack.

    Disgusted party members could simply walk out and form a new party that respects its members….and all they need to do to win seats is get at least 3% of the vote.  This is just one reason why party lists are NOT stacked.

    There is an even simpler reason: the candidates on the lists of any significant party in every place that uses MMP are democratically elected to the lists by the votes of grassroots party members.

    It's obvious the "NO" side are running on blind faith and haven't bothered to verify if any of their claims are true…….because they aren't.

    Jason Cherniak and others risk serious embarrassment and significant damamge to thier personal credibility.

    They are peddling fear. The verifiable facts about MMP simply do not support any of their claims.  Having voted in 4 MMP elections in New Zealand and helped democratically elect candidates to my party's list, I know first hand how it's REALLY done….and how party members would respond if it were done any other way.

    Cherniak, Angolano and Co are either cynical or exceptionally stupid……making these claims when there is no evidence to support them.

    Go Scott! Well done, mate!

  • Revolt and Suicide??? That's a bit dramatic…. 

    It's true it would be stupid to ignore it, but it's been done before. Remember the MegaCity referendum??? There's more precedent for ignoring a referendum like this than to act on it. It's sad but true.

    I'd like to think that whoever wins would respect the result if it was positive, but the actions of Mr. McGuinty and Mr. Tory don't exactly leave me feeling so confident.

  • Cam;

    Considering the fact they've given such a high threshold (60% + a majority of the ridings approval) anyone who ignored the result if the voters passed this would face electoral revolt and suicide.

  • Everyone, lets remember something here. This is a non-binding referendum. Whoever forms the government could decide to ignore a positive result of this vote. If McGuinty and his gang were truly serious about electoral reform, they would have made this referendum a binding one.

  • Disproportionate representation, as we now have, lavishes undeserved seats on the big, old, established parties at the expense of fledgling parties like the Greens. The argument that MMP gives too much power to political parties doesn't hold water. The current system does that and more. Under the current system, you may as well stay home if your candidate/party doesn't win. In a tight 4-way race, 74.9% can vote against the winning candidate. Voters who recognize that their vote for a third or fourth party candidate is a vote that is meaningless either start supporting a front runner or quit voting. Neither  result serves democracy. Both results shift power to the big, established parties.

    If yer a real party hack and yer a PC or a Lib, you'll do just like Jason's doin' and try to stop democracy from takin' away unearned, disproportional PC or Liberal seats.

    JB

  • It's good knowing that there are Liberal and Conservative supporters of MMP.  If there are party loyalists who worry that political party leaders will stack the lists with his/her cronies, then these loyalists should pressure their own parties to develop a democratic process for selecting list candidates.

  • I would hope that after reading the responses here from multipartisans, that Jason, Joseph and others afraid of the new turf MMP makes available, choose to accept that there is no good reason for avoiding MMP other than to keep millions of Canadians shut out from the democratic process.

  • shaun merritt

    [quote comment="6754"]The only people who might have a say are the tiny minority of Ontarians who have party membership, that is, if their party is so inclined to give them a voice. The real question we have to ask here is why you are backing a system that empowers political parties at the expense of citizens.[/quote]

    Isn't this the system we have now? Seventy five per cent of Ontarians DID NOT vote for McGuinty, yet he has a majority. Wake up Ontario!

  • " a party leader's opinions of who should represent a riding are easily overridden."

    Someone should tell the people in Rob Ander's riding that one. I'm sure they'll all laugh and laugh and laugh.

    While I no longer have a horse in this race, it seems to me a system that grants a majority to a party that actually gets a majority of the vote (that is50+1%) is much more fair than one where a party that gets 38% or 40% of the vote gets to be a 'majority'. We currently have the latter and frankly MMP would have saved us from Bob Rae, Mike Harris, Jean Chretien and a lot of other PM's and Premiers everyone loves to hate.

    MMP is a system that is used pretty successfully around the world. Of course it leads to stable coalitions and compromise instead of 'majority' rule.

    Funny that it seems that Liberal and Conservative party apparachiks are the only ones against this, since it means they won't get their precious majorities any more.

  • The risk of failing to have proper representation due to abuses in the as yet not defined MMP system does exist, but it exists no matter what system is used. Parties can (and do at times) control who runs under party banners anyway, so having an open or closed list is of little difference. In either case, whether or not the system is transparent and fair will depend upon the legislation, of which we have no idea the content as it doesn't exist.

    Those on a closed list should be democratically elected from pools of CAs representing a region, and the names put publicly forward prior to elections.

    Or, each party holds a province-wide internal vote using some form of STV.

    Parties with undesirables on the list will be held to account by the electorate.

    An open system adds to complexity (multiple parties with multiple candidates), and I doubt that the average voter would have the time or the patience to evaluate the entire list. The truth is, people often vote by party anyway. Party brass are also capable of manipulating who appears on the list.

    Even if the referendum passes, we may still not get a new system. There's no golden rule saying that the MMP legislation has to pass.

    Ironically, in arguing that MMP will result in cronyism, the NO side is arguing that our MPPs will support legislation which allows that — Those very MPs whose nominations were produced by a system the NO side supports. Will they really allow their representation to be watered down by cronies? Of course, maybe they will be whipped to vote a certain way, which would only prove how badly the overall system works anyway.

    Democracy is best served here by having this particular debate AFTER a successful referendum, not before. However CAs come up with candidates is not the largest concern to me given that we have a system that routinely produces elected representatives who go to Queen's Park backed by a minority of voters.

    Myself, I dislike MMP. I prefer some form of STV, but MMP is superior to what we have now.

  • Matt

    The point being made by anti-MMP folks is that parties can't be trusted to put forth decent, representative lists because the proposal doesn't explicitly state how lists will be drawn up.   They forget of course that parties are vote-winning machines. 

    Let's see, which party would be more appealing to the public?  Party A which uses a democratic process for selecting its lists, ensuring all regions are well-represented, as well as women and minorities, professions, etc. , or Party B which stacks its list with unknown backroom hacks who are friends of the leader and nobody ever heard of.  Which party is more appealing to the public?   Hmmm….duh!

    Currently our political system doesn't contain rules which dictate which person the party should choose as leader either.   This effects the leadership and the direction of the country, but our laws don't state explicitly how parties must choose leaders.  Man how could we live without such a rule?  Without explicit rules, parties would be free to elect absolute imbeciles with no political experience who could be borderline insane and there's nothing we could do to stop it.   Perhaps Robert Pickton would run to be the next Liberal leader and because we don't have a rule  he might win the Liberal leadership next time!  
    Parties can't be trusted to put quality people into leadership positions unless it's explicitly spelled out in the rules!  Oh my!  Whatever are we to do! 

  • The fact of the matter is that the system, as proposed, "will allow" the leader" to stack the lists.  There is nothing in the proposal to stop it from happening.

    This is true, if a leader is stupid enough to do it. The lists will be made public before the election and I suspect bloggers and the MSM will go over them with a fine toothed comb.  If  Dalton decides to put his golf partners on the list, I will know about it and I will tell all my friends about it too and vote accordingly.

  • Matt

    David Graham wrote, "As many of us have experienced in politics in this country, a party leader's opinions of who should represent a riding are easily overridden…"

    This is wrong, at least in the Ontario Liberal Party, where nominees who want to even run for a nomination must first be approved by party central.  That is the case now under the system you are defending.  This is also the case federally in the Conservative Party where if party central doesn't even want you considered for a nomination, you will be declared ineligible and local members voters will not be able to even choose you. 

    Every member of the Ontario Liberal caucus, plus all the defeated candidates, won their nominations because party central allowed them to run in the first place.  In safe party seats, party central essentially decided who the MPP was going to be. 

    Jason, your point is completely false.   Parties will put forth their lists in the order they want them elected.  These lists will be well known and well publicized across the province.  If a voter doesn't like the names on the list or at the top of the list, the voter can choose not to vote for that party. 

    Right now, under FPTP, voters can only vote up or down on party nominee in one riding.   We have no vote for the party as a whole, or the leader.  We have no say in getting rid of Tom Wappel or Myron Thompson or Rob Anders if we're voting in Guelph per se.

    MMP gives voters more choice and more power in who will get into the legislature, not less.

  • SaxBoy

    "so the party leader can take those people who may not quite be charismatic enough to win a nomination battle, but who would be a damn good minister, for example."

    Excellent point, Matt.

    Parties always had influence on who would get elected and who not. Agreed, parties will take a more of a  central role in who will be on "the list", but what's wrong with that? Isn't the party's collective of ideas (which are democratically created by its members) more important than one individuals "right" to run for that very same party?

    MMP addresses the main problem of FPTP, which is underrepresentation of minority-parties. Anyone who thinks a FPTP system is more democratic because of a party-list really needs to reassess what democracy really means. It means giving ALL people a voice, not only the "better organised local lawyer".

  • Party loyalists? Aren't candidates in the present system supposed to be party loyalists?

    Do you really think that mavericks get elected in this system?

    If they do, they don't last long.

    The notion that these List MPPS are not accountable is stupid. Don't like the job they're doing? Vote for another party. Pretty simple, huh?

    I don't get to say who runs for the NDP, Liberals or the PC's. What is the difference between whether the NDP membership choosing the candidate or the leader doing it? As far as the average voter is concerned– not much. They will be party loyalists. They will support the leader one way or the other, if they have half a brain.

    And who in the world believes that leaders don't "stack" the ridings now with "star" candidates and other people who're desirable?

  • Sure they have control, Jason. Those lists will be numbered in order of who would get elected to the list seats if proportionality was required for a party. If they dont like who they see, they won't vote for them, just as if they don't like how a particular party picked their lists, they wont vote for them either.

    It is voters who elect the list MPP's, too. The current system rewards the LPO and PCO with MPP's they have not really elected by the popular will of the voters.

  • Scott, no matter what you say nothing will change the fact that voters have no control over who gets elected from the lists.

  • For me, the better response to this point is by saying that, true, the leader may have the power to basically stack the membership lists, but that can also be useful.  I mean, everyone always mentioned how it's tough to get some certain demographics either elected or even nominated in many cases, so the party leader can take those people who may not quite be charismatic enough to win a nomination battle, but who would be a damn good minister, for example.

    I mean, unfortunately, it is still vulnerable to having party favourites be featured on the list, but for me, this isn't much different than having normal nomination meetings being stacked by one or all sides, or having the PM have the right to appoint candidates to ridings.

  • Jason Hickman,

    As many of us have experienced in politics in this country, a party leader's opinions of who should represent a riding are easily overridden. In my own riding, as Scott well knows, our candidate for the federal nomination who was well connected with and preferred by the federal party was soundly defeated at nomination by a better organised local lawyer. Tell me how this is bad, and how something like this could happen with a list system? The party establishment's choice should never be able to win by default.

    With ridings (which we are not getting rid of under MMP, we are just castrating them), an unpopular party-appointed candidate can be soundly defeated without having to defeat the rest of the party to do it. Again, not possible for the MMP list candidates.

  • Joseph: I have no trouble with debate. I do have trouble when the opposing side issues a misleading press release that states a concern of theirs is actually going to happen when that's nowhere near the truth.

    I can post plenty of positives about MMP  and already have, David. I'm just responding today to  what I deem a dishonest and misleading press statement.

    I'll promise to post plenty of positives about the MMP system  in the upcoming months, but I'll expect to see some flowerly tributes to our great FPTP  system from you folks as well.

  • Scott, rather than accusing the No side of "bullcrap", "fear and falsehoods", why don't you post something positive about MMP, in your own words?

    I know it is tempting to dismiss people with the opposite point of view as liars, but it doesn't contribute to the political debate. There is nothing whatsoever inaccurate in the No side's press release. If you're going to "call out" the No side on falsehoods, make an effort to find something that's false.

    It might be hard though, there is no need to use fallacies to expose the problems in MMP, and if you do find something that the No side actually did get wrong, you might find that the campaign actually cares about accuracy and truth and will seek to correct it most expeditiously. MMP has numerous problems and its proponents refuse to acknowledge this. It makes it very difficult to take MMP campaigners seriously.

  • Given that under the as-is system, you see "Party bosses" selecting candidates in place of (and in some cases, notwithstanding the open opposition of) local riding associations, I hardly see this possibility as a reason to oppose MMP.

    Each party will have to make its own decisions as to how candidates are nominated – both for the "constituency" seats and the "party list" seats – and voters can take that into account, amongst the other variables out there, when they mark their X's on their ballots.

  • I'm in Toronto these days, Scott. Post my cheque here.

    Surely you have no complaints that we have a fair and balance debate here. The formation of the lists is a key problem with this MMP proposal, we think, and want to bring public attention to it.

    Non-aligned voters, who makes up the lions' share of voters in Ontario, get no say in the make-up of the party lists. The only people who might have a say are the tiny minority of Ontarians who have party membership, that is, if their party is so inclined to give them a voice.

    And even still, I would expect to see the party leader and his shadow cabinet at the top of the party list. This is hardly the basis for renewal if there is a mechanism to keep the same old people in politics.

    The real question we have to ask here is why you are backing a system that empowers political parties at the expense of citizens.

    I still like your blog.

  • Leo: bringing up the possibility is one thing, which I've already said in this very paragraph was fair  – stating it as a fait accompli and saying it WOULD happen as your (and I'm saying your, as I know you're a "no") press release does is quite another. That's just trying to ingrain into the public's head that its all but certain to happen… which is false. 

    I can assure you that every time the No side decides to issue such cleverly worded releases to the media or to the public to try and make them psychologically think all their fears of the system are in fact reality.. you'll be getting refuted for any assumptions or misleading statements – and not just by me.

  • And what will prevent the list seats from, as I have said before, becoming gifts to the party faithful? Why not quit pretending that the candidate matters and go all the way with only little party logos on the ballot, and  a little note on the bottom that formally tells the people who vote independent that they should get with the party program?

  • Leo

    Scott,

    Fear and falsehood are strong words.  I understand your point of view, and I believe you understand mine.  But simply because the No campaign want to use the possibility (and you have to acknowledge that this is a possibility) that political parties have strong control over the list doesn't mean that they will or they are using fear and falsehood.  In a campaign, the possibilities that can occur (positive and negative) on both side of the issue will be brought up and will be debatable.  That's what happens when there's a healthy debate.

  • The only one misleading the people (or trying to) is your side's opening press release Jason.

  • The fact of the matter is that the system, as proposed, "will allow" the leader" to stack the lists.  There is nothing in the proposal to stop it from happening.

    If you can't even defend the proposal with trying to mislead people as to what it really is, then why should we vote for it?

  • Joe

    What I don't get about that argument is the fact that the voters vote on the party.  So, if the "dumb as a rock" party decides that the leader is going to choose all his fishing buddies, that maybe – just maybe – the voting public wouldn't be that impressed and select another party for their party vote.Before anyone cites that as a ridiculous example.  if we're going to play the dumbest thing that could happen game, my dumb example is as worth as anyone else's.  But I'm just posting on a blog, not building a campaign around it.And, on a more serious note, don't you suppose the committee studied how that typically works when they considered other voting methods?

  • Thats bullcrap David.  Your side has come out and already stated as a fact that  the process will totally be leader-manipulated… and I'm calling your side out on it.  If you want to go over a detailed analysis-by-analysis of the 2 competing systems, fine.. but dont be coming out and issuing press releases that state things that simply arent true.

  • It is remarkably naive to believe that our democracy can be held up on the possibility that party leaders will see the light of benevolent populism. As you paste in this very diatribe, "Wise party leaders will understand this and act accordingly to preserve party unity through maintaining democratic party processes". Indeed, let us trust party leadership to see the value. If all members of the public were active members of political parties this might have a small amount of merit, but our electoral system would be as sick and broken as the American system if we relied on all our citizens being aligned to uphold democracy. Perhaps we should skip a step and go straight to "primaries" to have the public vote on lists for their party, which will be done in the same way as south of the border — by asking our citizens to put their party affiliation on their voter registrations.

    No, it isn't the NO side that is bandying BS, it is most definitely the YES side.

    The statement that you quote early on in your post is absolutely accurate. There WILL be fewer representative MPPs. There WILL be 39 MPP who will not be directly answerable to the voters.

    The No MMP campaign is not using fear and falsehoods. Unlike the party-backed Yes campaign, the No campaign is relying on reality and facts, not partisan hackery and politics.

  • Sure, I've already stated in my last paragraph that expressing fears or concerns is fair game, but dont come out and state in your opening press release that this is what WOULD happen under MMP, as they have done.

    That is a false statement.

  • KC

    Scott – Don't you think that this "COULD" is something that should be looked at?  What if one of the parties decides that the leader will have the power to choose who is on the list?  "Could" and "would" are different yes, but being concerned about things that "could" happen seems like fair game to me.

  • […] LinuxLuver: “The NO side don’t appear to understand that the 3% threshold is a powerful check on any abuse of process by party leaders. Particularly in the two major parties. If the party leadership ever were silly enough to try to “stack” the party lists, they’d quickly find they didn’t have much of a party left to stack. Disgusted party members could simply walk out and form a new party that respects its members….and all they need to do to win seats is get at least 3% of the vote. This is just one reason why party lists are NOT stacked. There is an even simpler reason: the candidates on the lists of any significant party in every place that uses MMP are democratically elected to the lists by the votes of grassroots party members.” […]

  • […] few Liberal and Conservative bloggers have come out against MMP, citing concerns that are only hypothetical in nature, since their dangerous non-democratic […]

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