Site Administrator Of:

Supporter Of:


Ontario election aftermath & is it time for mandatory voting?

It was a fascinating result last night in Ontario (I say that as someone interested in political science, not as a Liberal partisan). It’s not often in a First-Past-The-Post electoral system that you see a party fall exactly 1 seat short of a majority, but that’s what happened in the case of Dalton McGuinty and The Ontario Liberal Party. Late polls indicating a majority never materialized, or the PC party again had more dedicated partisans coming out to vote. That said, the Liberals were way behind in polls 2-3 months ago, so a win, even if it fell short of a majority, has to be a satisfying outcome for them. The Sun columnists were declaring McGuinty dead and buried 3 months ago, as you might remember. Their front page was rather amusing this AM, seeing them wail and gnash their teeth.

That leads me to the next point: the voting turnout was pathetic. It sits unofficially between 45-49%: the worst turnout in Ontario election history (beating out the last election’s poorest ever turnout). There will be some who say that this proves that we need electoral reform to get voters re-interested in the electoral process. It may be a factor, but I’m not so sure that electoral reform will cause the other 51% of the voters who didn’t vote to get all enthused again in voting. Besides, if Ontario voters wanted electoral reform, they had a chance to do it four years ago and massively rejected it (as they have in other provinces). There are others who say the negative campaigning, lack of issues and so on is what has caused the turnout to massively drop. That may also be true, but those underlying factors are not going away.

It may now be time for Ontario and the rest of Canada for that matter to consider implementing what they have in Australia and other countries in Europe – and that is mandatory voting. If you don’t vote, you get fined. Some may see that as drastic, but other alternatives aren’t feasible or have been rejected.


8 comments to Ontario election aftermath & is it time for mandatory voting?

  • Canadians are, sadly, used to seeing exaggerated regional differences in our federal elections. Now Ontario has joined the parade of stronghold politics.

    In two-thirds of Ontario’s ridings, Liberal strongholds — the GTA, Ottawa, Hamilton-Niagara and the North — it took only 26,000 Liberal voters to elect an MPP. Elsewhere it took 53,156 to do so. In the rest of Ontario, 36 of the 107 ridings, Progressive Conservative strongholds, it took 25,667 PC voters to elect an MPP while elsewhere it took 73,858 to do so. In the Liberal stronghold regions it took 44,818 NDP voters to elect an MPP, while in the PC stronghold regions it took 153,966 NDP voters to elect an MPP.

    In Ontario’s outgoing cabinet of 28 members, nine were from those 36 ridings. In last week’s election only nine Liberal MPPs were elected from those ridings. Will all nine be in cabinet, including rookie Teresa Piruzza?

    A belated apology: in this old thread I argued in favour of province-wide lists with MMP, simply because the Citizens’ Assembly had made that choice:

    I was wrong: across Ontario, 63.1% voted against MMP. About 31% were simply against proportional representation. Many more were voters who wanted all MPPs to be personally elected, not on closed lists. Many more were voters who wanted all MPPs to be anchored in their own region, not on province-wide lists. Another 7.5% were voters outside Toronto who disliked province-wide lists even more than Toronto voters did; it is easy to see the correlation between distance from Toronto and rejection of the model.

    The Law Commission of Canada in its 2004 report said “Based on the feedback received during our consultation process, many Canadian voters would also most likely desire the flexibility of open lists in a mixed member proportional system. Allowing voters to choose a candidate from the list provides voters with the ability to select a specific individual and hold them accountable for their actions should they be elected.”

    The open regional list method was also recommended by the Jenkins Commission in the UK. Their colourful explanation accurately predicted why closed lists would be rejected in Canada: additional members locally anchored are “more easily assimilable into the political culture and indeed the Parliamentary system than would be a flock of unattached birds clouding the sky and wheeling under central party directions.”

    If those 103 Citizens’ Assembly members had had another six or eight weeks to deliberate, some elements might have been different, like regional lists and open lists. They ran out of time. The Law Commission had the time to do the detailed design work required. Their 2004 model is as good as new, never been used or rejected.

    Federally, Liberals now need proportional representation more than the NDP does. Provincially, both parties need regional MMP. Four MPPs were re-elected who supported MMP in 2007, principally John Gerretsen who has not given up. On Sept. 21, 2011, at an all-candidates meeting in Kingston he expressed renewed support for proportional representation. He was eloquent about the benefits of coalitions and agreements, and the fact that his party with 42% should not have been allowed to rule with a majority. (He acknowledged that not all in his party share this view.) This is like what he said in 2007: “Nobody is ever 100-per-cent right and nobody is ever 100-per-cent wrong. Governing is the art of compromise. There’s nothing wrong with having the governing party take into account smaller parties.” Remember that Gerretsen is a lawyer, former President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), and the longest serving Mayor in Kingston’s history. He’s not afraid to go after what he wants.

  • sunsin

    Vote by mail and give the voter a hundred dollar credit, either off his/her taxes or in real money if he/she doesn’t pay taxes.

    Don’t punish, reward.

    And if none of the candidates gets over 50%, then a runoff election between the two highest scorers, again by mail, with a couple of weeks break so that the voters could think about what deals the candidates were making to scoop up the votes from those who didn’t make the cut.

    You could still ignore such a system if you wanted without being penalized, so it wouldn’t come under the very strong objections against coerced voting. And it would ensure over half the participating voters in each riding vote for the person who will actually represent them, even if that means holding two elections in succession instead of one. A runoff is no problem if you vote by mail.

    This would be far better than those incomprehensible wonky systems where you indicate your first, second, sixteenth choice, and then feed the results into a computer to be told who won. (Hint: ask the computer programmer.)

    I am partial to straight proportional representation from the purely democratic standpoint, but it tends to detach the members of Parliament from local concerns, which would increase feelings of alienation.

  • kmartin

    Hey Scott
    I have to agree with the other posters that mandatory voting is not a good idea. I would rather see a low turn out by educated voters than some moron who hasnt taken the time or could care less, skewing the results because they are forced to do so. I agree that its a shame that people have become apathetic but given the choices that we are faced with, where we have to choose between dumb and dumber, is it any wonder? I found the decision this provincial election to be a very difficult choice to make. My normal choice i was faced with, the liberals were unfortunatly not a option for me this time around due to Daltons lies about taxes and the very high debt. Hudak was also not a choice given that he wanted to cancel green programs. NDP, no way. I remember the Bob Rae days and was caught in the social contracts of the day taking Rae days and making substantialy less money in the same proffession as my coworkers who had far less experience and seniority.
    I think even though I hate a system that neuters a leaders ability to run a government ie the minority system, I believe this time around it was the best posssible turnout we could have asked for.

  • Scott, with the utmost respect, don’t be an idiot.

    The decision to not vote is as democratic a choice as voting is itself. You may not like it that most eligible voters decided to stay home, but it is far more undemocratic to force these people into making a choice among a selection they consider to be equally odious.

    I think the best explanation of why voter turnout was so low was because the choice most of them wanted to vote for simply wasn’t on the ballot. To counteract this, I recommend placing a “None of the Above” option on the ballot. And give it teeth: if that option wins out, a new election is held, and the candidates are barred from running within it under their old party affiliations. I suspect that will bring a lot of people back to the polls.

    Following that, I would recommend proportional representation and online voting. These things make voting easier for some people, and give them less of a sense that their vote is wasted.

    That may or may not work, and if it doesn’t work, then well, too bad. Not voting is a democratic right, and it’s wrong to try and take that away from them.

  • I dunno, Scott. It is tempting to go down the road of mandatory voting but Lorne makes a valid point. A result would be high voter turnout but would that neccesarily be a good thing if these are uninformed and begrudging votes?
    But as far as the choice between voting for tweedledum or tweedledee and having a real choice – well, what is a real choice? Seriously? There are very good candidates at the riding level from all parties. These are folks who are connected to their communities and work their asses off for them.
    Me, I think that the problem lies in somehow overcoming the blanket of cynicism that covers the politics of the 21st century… and I don’t have an answer for that.

  • While I understand the impulse for compulsory voting, I have a basic philosophical objection to such legislation; it attempts to legislate a legitimacy where none exists. As voter turnout slowly goes down in Western democracies, as it is doing almost everywhere, it demonstrates that fewer and fewer people believe in a system whereby the political options are more or less limited by an international system of corporate power. The political system seems like a farce not because politicians are clowns but because their room for maneuver is so small that it doesn’t seem to matter that much who you vote for, the ultimate results are more or less the same on many many substantive issues. Failure to vote is a demonstration that the system itself lacks legitimacy as organizations like the World Bank, the IMF, and The World Trade Organization are actually dictating much of our political policy. And what those organizations don’t dictate, large banks and corporations do. To compel people to vote attempts to impose a legitimacy where none prevails.

  • I personally do not favour mandatory voting, for the simple reason that forcing a person to vote really does not solve the problem of apathy, and may be ultimately counterproductive. Just because someone may face a fine for not voting does not guarantee an informed ballot. For those who have no interest in the process, they might very well simply pick the first person on the ballot in order to minimize the time required to ‘do their civic duty.’

    As well, there is something about a coercive electoral system that seems oxymoronic in a democracy, which surely must also include the protection of a citizen’s freedom not to vote if that is his/her choice.

    I suspect that the only thing that will enhance voter turnout is when citizens believe there is real choice, not simply the option of voting for tweedledum or tweedledee. If and when that time will arrive, I have no idea.

unique visitors since the change to this site domain on Nov 12, 2008.