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On MMP and Toronto based news media.

Liberals For MMP has a story this AM basically saying that the establishment – mainly based in Toronto – is doing a full-out assault on MMP. This time, they bring attention to Murray Campbell’s column in the Globe and Mail where he goes at MMP in almost (but not quite the extent) the same line of attack as Sheila Copps did.

In partial defense of the Globe, this is an individual column by an op-ed columnist, not the Editorial Board of the main paper. If one were to skim through the archives of the Globe, you would in fact find that their editorial board endorsed a Mixed-Member electoral system for Canada back in May of 2005 in a series of articles they did. It has slight differences to the Ontario one, but not many.

With regards to the list members of its proposed model, the Globe had this to say:

…the last thing we need in Canada is more power in the hands of party leaders, especially governing ones. Better to compile the list through a primary of party members within the relevant geographic area, reinforcing the importance of party participation and giving power to the members. Individuals parties could also, if they wished, set minimum criteria for the inclusion of women or minorities on their lists.

And what did the Globe think were the advantages of a mixed system? They argued strenously for it, and here are their main points in their own words:

A mixed electoral arrangement clearly does a better, albeit not perfect, job of representing aggregate voter intentions. It would be comprehensible to voters and produce transparent outcomes. More important, it would decidedly reduce regional distortions

A mixed-member proportional system also makes it easier to throw the rascals out and opens the system somewhat to new entrants with new ideas, such as the Greens. It makes it slightly less likely that votes will translate into strong governments, but only at the margins, where majorities probably are not justified in any case.

…it would create different classes of representatives – directly elected by riding and elected from lists by region. Even here, though, political scientists can’t agree on which class would enjoy greater prestige – surely a good sign. And since the system would draw on regional lists decided through party primaries, even MPs chosen through proportionality would represent a regional political base and would have had to win approval by party members.

– The system might well attract a more retiring but equally capable elected representative to public life. And by reducing the constituency load on one-third of MPs – they no doubt would also want to tend to their larger political base – this new group of representatives would have more time to concentrate on committee work, the backbone of legislative oversight of the executive.

Consequently, as do we who support MMP-PR, the Globe believed that the Mixed-Member system would help to reduce, not strengthen, party leaders’ power under the system they advocated. They also wanted to go a step further:

It is widely accepted that our current political arrangements place too much power in the hands of party leaders. We think adopting a mixed-member proportional system would help address this problem. But those changes would best be accompanied by parliamentary reforms, including a mechanism to let dissatisfied caucus members trigger a leadership review by party members, as in Britain. Nothing would right the balance between the executive and legislative representatives faster than the power to subject an unpopular prime minister to party accountability.

A caveat to all this is the mixed system they endorsed is for the country, not this province or any province, but it is extremely similar. I’d be very interested if someone would ask the Globe and Mail editorial group if this position they took in May 2005 holds still now, and if they therefore support the MMP proposed change here in Ontario, unlike their op-ed columnist.

As for those I anticipate criticizing the fact the list MPP candidates in Ontario aren’t guaranteed to be picked by the membership of the party rather then the party leaders as the Globe lays out, you’re right, but the NDP has already promised they would do so, and I will again call on Dalton McGuinty and John Tory (particularly John Tory) to make that same promise. That would instantly remove the uncertainity and remove this argument the No side insists on continuing to use as some scare tactic to the public.

For those interested in the Globe’s articles on the mixed system they endorsed, you can purchase their articles from them to read the direct account (The articles in question are from May 2 -5, 2005) . Or, you can go to BlogsCanada and read my little summary I did on their articles a couple of days later, when I first endorsed what they proposed.


4 comments to On MMP and Toronto based news media.

  • Jason Townsend

    Still doing the whole grad school 'politics burned my face off' walk in the snow BS at the moment, I just had to make a few cranky posts because the Outremont drama's been killing me the last few days and I choked on my cornflakes when I read in the morning paper (Halifax Chronically Horrid) that I'm apparently part of an evil conspiracy against Stéphane – whee, I'd just about forgotten how much fun my party was. 

    Anyway, yes, I'm vehemently pro-MMP, have been for a few years; running a country with 5 non-trivial political parties with an electoral system that is inadequate to tabulating support for 3 is starting to seriously harm Canada.  But so long as I've been advocating for it I've run up against the brick wall of people who want to just tough it out until FPTP is working for their party; call it the "Gollum" factor.

    Just gotta throw that 40%-vote-majority ring of power into the volcano.  No good for democracy, no good for policy outcomes in Canada, no good for the LPC in the forseeable future.

  • mushroom

    This is something I don't understand.

    Why are the political columnists all going against MMP?  Their writing makes Andrew Coyne and Greg Staples look like Pulitzer Prize winners.

    Goes to show the quality of newspaper writing these days. 

  • Also off-topic, are you still blogging, Jason? I forget if you were or not?

    Back slightly on-topic, I take it you're an MMP supporter?

  • Jason Townsend

    Not precisely on topic here but the number of luminaries to slag MMP – either for pragmatic reasons or sloppy "zomg I remember something bad in college about France and Italy's chambers" nonsense has been… amazingly depressing.  It never surprises me now when some other great/good organ or personage comes out against it.
    It seems we need FPTP to totally screw the living bejesus out of the country before the _obvious_ will become the _sufficiently obvious_.

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