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Some good points made on the list question for MMP

The Fear and Falsehoods post brought out a lot of good discussion on MMP, as I suspected it would. I was going to get into some other aspects of the question, but since the No side seems to think the Party Lists part of MMP is the end of democracy as we know it (or at least, that may be what they’ll try and make the public believe), there are some very good rebuttals and points made that I wanted to bring to the frontpage for those who may have stopped reading the comment thread. Here are a couple of them:

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.”

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”.

Michael Bednarski: 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?

Finally, the best of the posts for last, which I reprint in full, is by Mark Mackenzie:

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.

The No to MMP side is trying to make the argument that the List seats will somehow make the electoral system more undemocratic, when in reality, as you can see from the above examples, the FPTP is ALREADY undemocratic in certain aspects of how it operates, so for the No side to claim they’re somehow saving democracy by retaining the current system is a bit of a stretch. The key of course, will be in the messaging of this to the electorate and getting it out there and widespread and educate people to show and compare the 2 systems. I’m willing to bet MMP comes out being more democratic looking then FPTP does to the electorate.

I believe a UN official over in the Balkans once said that perfection was the enemy of possibility – in that case for a peace deal. MMP isn’t perfect, but its possibilities of improving the electoral system we have are very heartening, and its a darn better system then what we have now.

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11 comments to Some good points made on the list question for MMP

  • Eddy

    Unrah said:
      1.) Party leaders currently appoint some candidates, like Ignatieff. Have such appointments resulted in "electoral suicide" in those ridings? Hardly. 
       
    >>These appointments hav not resulted in electoral suicide precisely because they are in FPTP ridings.  Under MMP, if a party appoints "their guy" to a particular list seat, and that angers only 1% of the electorate, that party will lose at least 1 seat.  So it's obviously a bad idea.  However, the current system allows this problem, because there is no proportionality within the riding.  In other words, if the party consistently wins 57% of the vote in the riding, it doesn't have to fear a 1% change of vote, because it won't lose them any seats. 

  • Matt

    In response to Unruh’s post:

    1.) Party leaders currently appoint some candidates, like Ignatieff. Have such appointments resulted in "electoral suicide" in those ridings? Hardly.

    The electoral suicide could come from the fact that grassroots members, pissed at such appointments, could easily break away from their party and form a new party. The threshold of 3% for representation in the legislature makes it a legitimate threat to the leadership of established parties – treat your grassroots members well or face the consequences. Right now, such threats are hollow as FPTP wipes out non-mainstream parties from ever electing anyone regardless of the thousands of votes they may receive. If a party sets up an undemocratic way of creating its lists, rewarding cronies and supporters of the leader, those members unhappy not only can quit the party, but form another party, etc.

    2.) How do we know that parties won’t form a cartel and ALL appoint their lists? It’s hard to punish undemocratic parties when all the parties are doing the same thing.

    Such a cartel would easily fail as it would only take one party to break ranks. When parties smell an opportunity for advantage over their opponents, you think they’ll never take it?

    3.) Most importantly, the list selection method matters less (at least to me) than where the list members are actually coming from. Liberal list candidates will come from Toronto, Conservative list candidates will come from whatever the Tory stronghold is now, and then each list will have a few tokens from the north and the rural areas. Given that list members are accountable to no one besides the party, why would we be happy that the number of members responsible to constituencies is going to decline?

    No parties have decided how they’ll set up their lists. They may undertake regional conventions to create a ranking. The parties could institute rules that the ranking of the list could start with a nominee in Northern Ontario and rotate between regions on down the list.

    You say that there’s nothing to make the parties do this. Well political advantage by ensuring the list is well-representative of the province is a huge incentive.

    4.) Has anyone actually thought about what this proposal will do to party constituency associations?

    Constituency associations will continue to be active. They will nominate candidates as per usual. They may also be asked to help organize regional conventions in order to help draft up the list. I don’t see why MMP would have any negative impact on riding associations.

  • Something I've been noticing as a recurring theme in the anti-MMP comments I see are statement s that seem to refer more to pure PR than to the MMP proposal as put forth by the Ontario Citizens Coalition. Many opponents seem genuinely uninformed or misinformed on the "mixed" part. The vast majority of MPP's elected in an MMP system would be regional/geographic reps. The small number list MPP's would be added to ensure better proportionality and better representation of voters who don't support the big parties. To read what some opponents are saying, you'd think all the MPP's would come from the list. 

    When debating this issue, it's important that we debate the two actual choices — not some hypothetical choices. We are going to choose between an existing FPTP system that routinely delivers "majority" governments when, in fact, a majority of voters voted against the winners and a new, improved system that will make every vote count.

    The pro-MMP side has been saddled with a tough fight.

    Electoral reform is a complex issue and many voters find it arcane and boring. As I read recently in a blog, the devil we know is often preferrable to the devil we don't know. People who do not understand MMP will be inclined to keep the current system ratherthan risk the unknown.

    The referendum will require 60% approval to pass MMP. That's a high hurdle.

    The big parties will be the losers so we can't expect much support from too many top level party operatives or MPP's.

    MMP is not perfect. Nothing is. We've got 2 choices. MMP is a more democratic, fairer system. Let's get out of teh 19th century and try to be a better democracy.

    JB

  • Well.. thats your opinion, KC. You're entitled to it. I don't share it.

  • KC

    Scott – I dont accept that the No side has been fearmongering or misleading and this type of charectarization of their position is exactly what I mean by being dismissive.   It should be enough to rebut their arguments.     The debate that took place over the last day could have been far more civil without the accusations of "fearmongering" and spreading "falsehoods". 

  • Leny Vilekoskytch

    "As a member of a riding I have a lot of power to prevent that person from getting the seat if I disagree with the appointment."

    The power you have is to not vote for him.  Except, it really isn't…if you spoil your ballot you haven't done anything to oppose that person.  So your power is to vote for someone else.  That seems oddly like the proposed situation under MMP. 

    If you are living in a riding where the margin of victory is measured in the thousands, your voting for someone else is largely inconsequential under the current system, save for the possibility that someone might notice and report the decrease of 1 vote in the margin of victory.

    As was noted above, having potential politicians run on their own merits and face a direct election from the people they seek to govern  isn't something that we demand from the premier, very much the face (and head) of the government. 

    As you noted, the good of MMP (like having your vote matter when living in a "safe seat") does outweigh the bad.  Where we would appear to differ is in characterizing the arguments raised by the no side thus far as valid.

  • No Aaron, my reference wasn't specifically at you. See yesterday's post and comments for what I'm referring to. You've posted a bunch of "what if" hypotheticals that I'm leaving others to answer.

  • Was my post fear-mongering and misleading?

  • As opposed to the fear-mongering and misleading statements the No side has put out so far, Kyle? The Yes side is  merely defending the setup of the idea against that. If you want to call it dismissive, so be it.

  • KC

    I still think you arent giving the argument enough credit.  It is a strong argument regardless of whether or not you and I agree with it. 

    – There is just something about a party putting someone way up their list and then saying "you dont like it, vote us all out" that seems undemocratic to me.   It deprives voters of choices and puts them in a tough spot.   I can already see myself fuming that someone I really loathe is well up the list but really wanting to support a particular party. 
    –  "What if" arguments are perfectly valid.  There is nothing wrong about speculating about possible consequences.   A LOT of politics and policy involves speculation.  We couldnt function without it.
    –  Party leaders choosing riding candidates and stacking a PR list are totally different.  Its a different calculus for voters.   As a member of a riding I have a lot of power to prevent that person from getting the seat if I disagree with the appointment.  Under PR if they are far up the list I am virtually powerless. 
    I should reaffirm that I SUPPORT MMP because I think the good (ie having seat outcomes more reflective of the popular vote) outweighs the bad, but frankly Ive found this campaign to totally dismiss this valid argument of opponents as ridiculous.  The best arguments you cite above is that MMP shouldnt be compared against perfection, it should be compared against the status quo.   Advance that argument, argue that the list system will all work out, but personally I find the dismissive tone of supporters of MMP to be counterproductive and divisive. 

  • This whole debate revolves around the faith one has in political parties. To summarize the pro-MMP position: "Yes, MMP will permit parties to stack their lists BUT to do so would be electoral suicide, so they won't." Really?

    1.) Party leaders currently appoint some candidates, like Ignatieff. Have such appointments resulted in "electoral suicide" in those ridings? Hardly.

    2.) How do we know that parties won't form a cartel and ALL appoint their lists? It's hard to punish undemocratic parties when all the parties are doing the same thing.

    3.) Most importantly, the list selection method matters less (at least to me) than where the list members are actually coming from. Liberal list candidates will come from Toronto, Conservative list candidates will come from whatever the Tory stronghold is now, and then each list will have a few tokens from the north and the rural areas. Given that list members are accountable to no one besides the party, why would we be happy that the number of members responsible to constituencies is going to decline?

    4.) Has anyone actually thought about what this proposal will do to party  constituency associations?

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