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A Great Canadian Debate on the merits of MMP – followup thoughts.

I was asked if I would consider participating in a yes or no columns debate on MMP over at The Great Canadian Debate website, which puts out a different question every week and has 2 bloggers from opposing sides go at it. I of course agreed to do so, and you can find my arguments for it, and my opponent, Cam Holmstrom’s against (one of the few NDP’ers to be against MMP) located here. Followup discussion and debate in their forums are located here.

I won’t re-paste my arguments from there over here (not today anyhow); but I’ll add 2 points.

1st, Cam makes the charge that the Yes side makes a lot of assumptions of what will happen. Well yea, in a way we do, but we’re going on what has already happened in the countries like Germany and New Zealand that use it. I will retort that not only are Cam and others like him also making assumptions on what terrible things they claim will happen if MMP is voted in – but I haven’t seen Cam or any other NO blogger who is against this proposal use any evidence from other countries to support their claims of all the woe and disaster MMP is supposedly going to bring. I believe the Yes side is on much firmer ground in this debate – because we have precedent we’re going by. The No side is merely using “maybe this will happen..” without showing any supporting evidence of the electoral version of Armageddon happening from the countries that are currently using it.

2ndly, Cam says that MMP isn’t a panacea. Well Cam, no one over on the Yes side would disagree with you. I’ve made that same point myself elsewhere. The question is – is it an improvement to our current FPTP electoral system? Cam thinks otherwise, but I believe that it is, and that we should not be aiming for perfection when picking a different electoral system, else we’ll never make ANY changes to our current flawed system. I would also ask Cam what exactly he proposes for electoral reform if not MMP – which is a compromise between the current system we have and the more purer forms of Proportional Representation out there. Other forms of PR probably emphasize even less local representation then this mixed system setup, so if Cam doesnt like MMP, I’m not sure what form of PR he’ll like, if any. He needs to post what exactly he’d like to see. For all my disagreements over this issue with Jason C., he at least has stated he would like to see preferential ballot. I think myself that’s a horrible setup that is merely FPTP lite, but at least he’s made a case for it.

I would state to the readers of this blog and elsewhere this gets read that if you and your fellow voters believe this is an improvement over the current system – as I definitely do – then you should vote for a better democracy on 10/10 and vote Yes to MMP.


9 comments to A Great Canadian Debate on the merits of MMP – followup thoughts.

  • Davey… the national scene has nothing to do with this debate in Ontario. There is no provincial Senate to "balance out" regional needs. Regional representation is extremely important because, surprise surprise, people from different regions have different concerns.

    As for the Reform and the Bloc, I say that they are not an example of what is wrong with politics, they are an example of what is right with politics. While I don't agree with the vast majority of their ideas, the fact is that they stepped up to the plate where the other parties didn't. They represent those areas and that constituency. The fact is that 80% of Canada's population resides in cities that make up, what, 20% of the geographic area (that's a rough estimate). What about those other 20% of the people who live in the vastness of the rest of this country with their vastly different concerns??? Should they be ignored to create "cohesion". If we want cohesion and unity as a country, than it is the job of our politicians and leaders to work together to make that happen, not monkey with the system to create a false-unity that's really just suppressing different views. That's not democratic.

  • Cam,

    I don't agree that more regional representation is needed in the MMP framework.  I think FPTP already emphasizes regional concentrations which is why we got the Reform party and the Bloc (and consequently an Ontario-based Liberal Party), and why the NDP suffers.  We need more national cohesion and for parties to focus their support less on regional concentrations.  Theoretically, the Senate is supposed to be the regional balance to the House, but we know that's an entirely different discussion of reform.

  • Mark… I wouldn't think that a government would ignore a positive vote in this referendum, but look at history. What happened to that referendum held over the creation of the Mega-City??? That was ignored, and that didn't hurt the Harris Tories at the time. I bet that with a little bit of investigating, I could find more than a few more.

    I don't think that Fair Vote will up and quit either, but I don't think that the push for electoral reform will never have another chance at change. To say that "just because they said no the first time," we'll never get another chance is a bit naive too. By that kind of logic, there would be so many ideas and things that we benefit from now that simply wouldn't exist. This is not going to be the only chance because if the people continue to push for change, they will get their chance again.

  • Cam,
    On the non-binding referendum point, you really think a government would ignore a 60% + vote for MMP. Really?!?

    I'm not saying the issue will go away. Fair Vote won't fold. Personally, I'll still push for electoral reform. But to think that, after a hypothetical low level of support for MMP, future governments won't say "Ontarians had their say on electoral reform and they said they don't want it" is the height of naivete, IMHO.

  • Mark… you may be right about how those in power will determine the results to look at them however they like, but that can very easily be at their peril. We keep leaving out that this is a non-binding referendum, so there is no guarantee that if a positive vote is received that this will be adopted.

    If MMP is accepted, I predict it will be at least a generation until the proper changes needed to MMP would be made to.

    The whole issue of electoral reform has gotten to this point because the people have pushed it to this point. So, after this vote if it fails, I have a hard time believing that those people are going to pack up their tents and go home. Not to mention the fact that electoral reform in Ontario has never received the profile that it is getting right now. I believe that profile will have a lasting effect on the voters of Ontario, and will spur more discussion and support for some kind of PR. Look at just about every referendum ever held in history, win or loose, the ideas that brought about the referendum do not go away.

  • I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one, Cam. I think the majority of those "in the halls of power" want nothing more to see the referendum fail and the thorny issue of electoral reform fall by the way side. And they'd like nothing more than people like you who support electoral change to support the status quo. They'll be glad to interpret your vote as a endorsement of the status quo – whether that was your intention or not.

    If the vote for MMP is less than 50% on October 10, I predict it'll be a generation before we see any electoral change in Ontario.

  • Mark…. I don't argue with the premise that you're presenting, which is why I have always said that this is very much a tough decision for me.

    The fact is that there are no guarentees as to who would make that next step in making that change to regional MMP regardless of the result of the vote. If I voted Yes and the Yes side won, I feel pretty confident in saying that there would be a very strong sentiment in the halls of power to "let this thing take hold before messing with it". That being said, there are very few people out there saying that FPTP is the way to go, and there are many like myself that are against this version of MMP but are for reforms. When you add those to those who support this MMP, I believe that if this referendum fails, the momentum for change of some kind will be much stronger to push the new government for changes to FPTP. It's not like this is the one and only chance to make these changes.

    I believe in doing the job right the first time, and i'd rather get it right than spoil the momentum for change by approving a system that I don't believe will create that positive change.

  • Cam, I think anyone who's been following what you've been writing on this and has moderate knowledge of electoral systems would know that you're clearly a proponent of a regional MMP system – as used in Scotland.

    One thing though and I think I've addressed this to you already – what to you think is the better way to get to such a system? Voting for MMP on October 10? Or voting for the status quo? Personally, I think it's extremely naive to think that the latter will be interpreted as anything but support for the electoral status quo.

    If you want a regional MMP system, it seems to me to make much more sense to vote for MMP October 10 and then press the legislature for changes to the Citizens' Assembly's model.

    Or do you think that after a majority vote for the status quo the government is going to start another electoral reform process? If so, I've got some swamp land in Florida you might be interested in …

  • Scott…. I have said time and time again that I want to see some form of PR that takes regional representation into better account. In fact, I made comments on such a proposal just yesterday on one of your other blogs. But I will repeat them.

    If those 39 MMP seats were distributed by regions, based on regional votes, I would be able to get behind it. I also believe that form would benefit smaller parties because most smaller parties have regional pockets of support, and under that set up, they would stand a much better chance of getting to the 3% threashold than if their regional result is watered-down by the entire provinces totals.

    As for this quote "The No side is merely using “maybe this will happen..” without showing any supporting evidence of the electoral version of Armageddon happening from the countries that are currently using it.", I have pointed to the political history of this province and country to support my views constantly. I would point out that the Yes side has yet to provide examples of other jurisdictions that are actually comparable to Ontario, because New Zealand, Germany and Scotland are not in regards to geographic size and the uneven distribution of population. I believe that those two factors play a huge role in the need for those MMP seats to be directly attached to regions, no matter how you split it up.

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