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More suppositions about why MMP is so terrible.

Jason put out a post today where he tried to put together a scenario where he thought MMP could be abused by the political parties. His statement in brief is to claim that political parties would covertly form parties on the side to run as list MPP candidates only, therefore increasing the ideological content in the legislature (and Jason, predictably, uses the socialists as his bogeyman schemers in all of this. I think he dislikes the NDP worse then the Conservatives). This isn’t a new claim by him. He tried using this example to Kate Holloway and I at the Prog Blog Toronto BBQ in late July, and we just rolled our eyes at that, and here’s why.

First, voters are a lot smarter then he apparently is wanting to give them credit for. They’d see through any attempted ploy like this immediately and act appropriately. Secondly, he admits this is just a theory of his, because when challenged by me and others at his site what his evidence is that this takes place in the other countries that use it, his only reply was that “its got to happen somewhere first”. So, as with the claim that Party back-roomers will manipulate the list MPP selections, that’s all it is – a claim.

Lastly, I don’t necessarily disagree there might be attempted split-offs from main parties, but unlike Jason who thinks it will be due to some scheming party members to get more power, I’m more apt to agree with Greg Staples inference that it will be due to some that are unhappy with the direction of the mainstream parties policies. They may want to be in a party that is more ideologically pure in their policies and be able to offer it as a choice to the voters of this province. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that. If these folks can get 3% of the popular vote to earn themselves a list seat, then they’ve got enough support in Ontario to deserve to have their views represented in the legislature, whether some of us like those views or not. Democracy isn’t about only allowing people representation with views we like.

And, as we on the Yes side keep repeating, the threat of that occurring will act as a bit of a check on all this party power that some of our No MMP folks obsess about.

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23 comments to More suppositions about why MMP is so terrible.

  • Jamie Deith

    Hey, just pointing out that it's not just a theoretical problem.

    If you're trying to build a robust system, wouldn't you try to take steps to avoid this sort of thing, when it's clearly been a major problem for at least one other list-MMP country?

  • You're really grasping at straws there, Jamie.

  • Jamie Deith

    [quote comment="8390"]Critics often point to these two countries (Italy and Israel) as “proof” that proportional voting systems create political chaos.[/quote]
    Agreed, this isn't proof that it will happen, but it is convincing proof that it can happen.
    The irony is that it's probably not all that difficult to include an anti-decoy provision in the proposal. So why didn't the OCA take the initiative and decide to learn from the mistakes of others?  Had they even thought of this potentially disastrous pitfall?  If not, what else hasn't been thought through?

  • A response from Vote For MMP:

    Critics often point to these two countries (Italy and Israel) as “proof” that proportional voting systems create political chaos. Let’s apply some perspective. With 81 nations using proportional systems, critics can find only these two extreme examples.

    To say Italy and Israel are typical political cultures under proportional representation is like saying Zimbabwe and Nigeria are typical political cultures under first-past-the-post.

    Critics don’t like to talk about Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, or the many dozens of stable governments and healthy economies with proportional voting systems and coalition governments.

  • Jamie Deith

    [quote comment="8122"]Well, Marcel, I simply don't believe that will be the case – that's another "suppositon" the No folks use. Show me the evidence it happens in Germany or New Zealand, rather then just throw nightmare scenarios out there, and then we can talk.[/quote]

    The nightmare has happened in Italy. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament_of_Italy:
    [quote]The Italian Chamber of Deputies has 630 members, of whom 475 are directly elected in single member districts.155 are elected by regional proportional representation12 will represent Italians residing overseas at the next elections (2006). The Chamber of Deputies used two ballots. The first ballot elected that district's member, on a purely plurality basis. The second ballot, in which only parties and party-lists were listed, was used to determine the proportional seats, allocated within one single national constituency, with a 4% minimum threshold for party representation…The law also introduced a closed list system for the party lists on the second ballot, i.e., excluding voters from the decision as to which members of that party would enter parliament, thereby guaranteeing reelection of party leaders whose popular support was rapidly declining…In practice, the system has proven egregiously useless, even for its own corrupt purposes. First-past-the-post candidates usually declare their formal allegiance to some decoy list that will collect no votes, known as liste civetta, thereby relieving their own party of a reduction in votes in the proportional quota. The bypass worked so well that in the elections of 2001 Forza Italia had not enough candidates to fill all the seats it was assigned.[/quote]

    Structurally there is nothing in the Ontario MMP proposal that prevent a party from pulling a similar type of stunt.

  • Don't take it too hard Scott, I'm simply adding MMP to the FPTP system that I have also rejected.

    Anarchists should embrace MMP as soon as possible.  FPTP leads to leader-centric politics and a state becoming unaccountable to voters.

    As long as the political parties are allowed to employ their whips to enforce party policy over the wishes of the electoriate the state will always be unaccountable to the people.

  • I actually heard this argument back in April from a Conservative acquaintance of mine.  Basically, they brought forward the exact same argument that Jason brought forward.  It would be crazy, but I think you could easily stop it by doing something like forcing candidates to run locally, so if you want to have parallel parties for NDP/Labour, PC/Freedom, and Liberal/Grit, then you need to run 2 candidates in every riding, and you're just going to end up splitting the votes.  I think with a bit of care in devising the actual rules, you could probably mostly avoid this case, or at least make it unattractive enough that it wouldn't benefit anyone too much.

  • On the contrary Steel City, it is up to the opponents to give us an example of where your scenario has played out, in the real world.  In New Zealand,  the legislature is more reflective of their citizenry not less since they moved to MMP (and it is far less monochromatic than Queen's Park to boot). As to the political culture, I have been following Kiwi politics for a number of years and I can say that it is not very different from Ontario's.  The transition from FPTP to MMP was very, very heated, but if you read Chris Selley's piece in MacLean's, there are few who miss the old system now.

  • steelcitygrit

    The Yes side is obligated to demonstrate in unequivocal terms why political parties in Ontario will not use list systems to render their membership more centralized and monochromatic.  It is not enough for advocates of change to say simply "it might not happen".

    Also, the comparative stuff is used rather too glibly.  How does one establish that backroom political behaviour hasn't changed in Germany, etc.? More importantly, is the fact that Canada has a culture of hard partisanship which distinguishes itself from other liberal democracies accounted for? I don't know how it could be.

    There's many of us who would love to be convinced, but some questions still need answering.

  • Well.. I'm sure the NO side in New Zealand were trying to say the exact same things in 1992 to prevent that country going to a MMP system from a FPTP system like what we have here. (In fact, I recall seeing a blogpost where they were quoting what the No side in NZ were saying, and they looked pretty similar to the stuff I see regularly spouted off here – I'll haver to see if I can dig those quotes up).

    This is Canada/Ontario, Rick – not Bosnia. Our democratic tradition would pull us through. I am pretty confident we wouldnt have electoral apocalypses here.

  • Rick

    My other worry Scott is tha a lot of what you think will end up happening is based upon what has happened elsewhere – but my big worry there is that Canada/Ontario has had such an ingrained partisan political culture, that there would not be an easy transition from FPTP to MMP, and that will result in at best, a minority government, and at worst, political chaos.

  • My apologies to Cam and Rick.

    Let's just change that to say this is what will likely will end up happening, based on precedent elsewhere.

  • Rick

    Cam makes a good point, and please stop saying that there will be regional MPPs elected. 

    "The rest will be given to legislators who will not represent specific ridings but rather the party as a whole." This from the CBC article on MMP, which is very good and shows both sides of the argument – http://www.cbc.ca/ontariovotes2007/features/features-referendum.html

    That is one of my problems with the proposed referendum question – there is not enough definition of how the new system would be implemented.  Parties will be able to pick the lists however they want, and those legislators would represent the party, not constituents.  Granted, the current system doe not have enough local interest voting, but the new system does nothing to improve that.

  • Scott.."the List Members are going to be representing the regional areas drawn up by the Ontario electoral Commission if MMP were to pass. So, you'd have 90 local ridings like what we have now, and you would also have regional ridings that those List MPP’s would represent". There is no guaranteed regional representation anywhere in this MMP proposal. It leaves it completely up to the parties to decide what they will do, which is no guarantee of anything. The only way to have guaranteed regional representation would be to have MMP seats attached directly to regions with results based on regional results. What this proposal gives us is 39 MMP seats for the whole province, with none attached to any specific region and determined by province wide vote totals. That is not guaranteed regional representation.

  • mushroom

    "Nor would the members of the Liberal For MMP group I belong to"

    This is first past the post mentality, Scott.  Come off it 😉

    Actually, under MMP winning the most seats in Parliament becomes secondary to advocating a future agenda for the betterment of politics.  No party has a right to be in power forever.

    "IF that's the reasons why you anarchist folks are going to reject this, I'm afraid you're going to be waiting a long time for electoral reform. Rather, lets fix the unfair representation and disproportionate voting results first, and then let's go after giving the MP's or MLA's or MPP's more power in caucus."

    Anarchists should embrace MMP as soon as possible.  FPTP leads to leader-centric politics and a state becoming unaccountable to voters.  MMP forces the building of broad based coalitions that sometimes encourage the need to overcome stifled political institutions.  Coalitions do not need to be long term, they are co-operative agreements in which political actors seek to maximize their rational gains or overcome possible devastating losses. 

    "For example, what the British Conservative Party uses – where if enough MP's are disgruntled with the leader, a majority vote in caucus can trigger an automatic leadership review – would be welcomed by me.'
     This is something that is problematic.  In fact, the British Conservative allow the trigger of an automatic leadership review if 25 MPs support it.  I would support it but this mechanism must be democratized further to allow the party grassroots to have a say in it also.  Thus, my support for the party membership to play a greater role in the selection of the party leader. 

  • The first part of your reply is wrong right off the bat – the List Members are going to be representing the regional areas drawn up by the Ontario electoral Commission if MMP were to pass. So, you'd have 90 local ridings like what we have now, and you would also have regional ridings that those List MPP’s would represent — which is why Mark Greenan of Fair Vote Canada and others like myself are making the point that in this scenario, List MPP’s would be opening up regional constituency offices (a couple of regional riding scenarios on what those regions might be are very excellently listed by Greg Morrow here), and that the charge they arent representing anyone but the party or perhaps the province is not correct. They will be representing a regional riding, and will be representing constituents in those regions – which is also why parties will be in their best interest in trying to get a fair mix of people from all across the province so that they can have people being able to represent those different regions who come from that area..

    As for the next part – the parties are still in the MMP system, true… but that's going to be the case for any system we get that's different from our current one  – all forms of PR out there – not just MMP, but other formats –  have not eliminated parties.

    IF that's the reasons why you anarchist folks are going to reject this, I'm afraid you're going to be waiting a long time for electoral reform. Rather, lets fix the unfair representation and disproportionate voting results first, and then let's go after giving the MP's or MLA's or MPP's more power in caucus.

    For example, what the British Conservative Party uses – where if enough MP's are disgruntled with the leader, a majority vote in caucus can trigger an automatic leadership review – would be welcomed by me.

  • There is no supposition Scott, who is a member with no identifiable constituent accountable to?

    This is no real change, it just makes the "responsible to the party first" more visible than it is under the current system. Each and every party has a whip, each and every party uses their whip, and the consequences of voting against the party line are well  known (regardless of what the member, or his or her constituency may think about the issue at hand) – the individual either finds themselves sitting so far back in the benches that they need a telescope to see the floor, or they are expelled from caucus.

  • Aaron said:

    [quote comment="8127"]It's natural that members of the Liberal Party, bound together solely by the belief that they have the god-given right to govern Canada for eternity, would be opposed to that happening.[/quote]

    Come now Aaron, don't paint us all with that brush. I'm a Liberal (albeit a new one) , and I'm obviously not opposed to it, if it were to happen. Nor would the members of the Liberal For MMP group I belong to.

  • Of course parties will abuse MMP. Just like they abuse SMP. Parties are adaptive organizations. They figure things out quickly.

    That having been said, Jason's scenario is dependent on the view that parties are almost unitary creatures and that they could coordinate this sort of move. Not even Canada's leader-centered parties could pull this off. Much more likely is your scenario: Given time under any proportional system, supporters of the big parties will split off into smaller, more ideological parties. If a proportional system appeared at the national level, all three parties would almost certainly splinter into two or three other parties.

    It's natural that members of the Liberal Party, bound together solely by the belief that they have the god-given right to govern Canada for eternity, would be opposed to that happening.

  • Lord Kitchener's Own

    What I love most about Jason's conspiracy theory is that it leads to an NDP/"Labour" secret coalition conspiring with the voters (who go along with it en masse) in order to get 27% of the seats in the Legislature with only 20% of the vote.  So his "doomsday scenario", as unlikely as it is, has a coalition of 2 parties getting 27% of the seats for 20% of the vote.

    Meanwhile, Jason is apparently simultaneously unconcerned that RIGHT NOW, the Liberals have 70% of the seats, and only 47% of the vote.  He doesn't mention that though does he?

    I'm sure that the fact that FPTP has given the Liberal party more than 70% of the power with less than 50% of the vote TWICE in the last five elections has nothing to do with Jason's opposition to MMP!!!  No, suggesting THAT would be a crazy conspiracy theory!

  • Well, Marcel, I simply don't believe that will be the case – that's another "suppositon" the No folks use. Show me the evidence it happens in Germany or New Zealand, rather then just throw nightmare scenarios out there, and then we can talk.

  • It is unnecessary to "put together" scenarios where the MMP will be abused by the political parties. The very idea that that a significant portion of the legislature will be made up of people who are beholding to the party, as opposed to the electorate,  for their seats presents quite enough potential for that.

  • If we're going to come up with bogeyman scenarios that might be possible under MMP, then you have to compare that not with how things currently work under our current system, but what the bogeyman scenarios might look like there.  I think you'll find that our current system's bogeyman scenarios are even scarier than the ones for MMP… and about as likely, too.

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