Monday, October 08, 2007

Why I’m voting AGAINST the MMP system

On Oct. 10, the people of Ontario will choose whether to keep its current electoral system – the First Past The Post system – or choose a new system recommended by the Citizens Assembly – the Mixed Member Proportional system. Like many of you, I have received the little pamphlet from Elections Ontario, which explains how the two systems work. After reading the information carefully, I have come to the conclusion that the MMP system is a bad idea.

There are a number of reasons why voters should choose the existing system over the proposed MMP system. Here are mine in no particular order.

- With MMP, the number of seats in Queen’s Park will increase. Currently, there are 107 seats. With the MMP system, there would be 129 seats. Our tax dollars pay the salaries of the 107 Provincial Parliament Members (MPPs). If the MMP system goes into effect, our taxes will increase in order to cover the salaries of the additional 22 MPPs. More people in the Provincial legislature means more agendas and more gridlock. Bills will take longer to pass. The process of government will be slowed down. It’s a simple matter of having more pigs at a trough (No, I am not calling politicians pigs. I’m using the term as a figure of speech). There is already not enough resources for everyone and with more people, there will be even less. Do we really want our tax dollars to pay more salaries and then watch as the Government process gets even slower? I sure don’t.

- With MMP, the number of ridings in Ontario will decrease. Currently, there are 107 ridings. With the MMP system, there would only be 90. It’s already hard enough to establish a connection with your local member. The MMP system would ask us to vote for someone who might not even be from the surrounding area and won’t have a grasp on how things operate, but is representing us because of amalgamation. Merging certain ridings will only increase the population. It’s already hard enough trying to contact your local member when you have an estimated 200 interest groups and people trying to also get his or her attention. Try getting his or her attention when the riding is merged with another riding and having to compete with an estimated 400 interest groups and people.

- With MMP, there would be 90 local members and 39 list members. The list members are awarded seats in the legislature based on the “popular vote” (MMP allows you to vote twice; once for a local member candidate and once for a party). For example, if the Liberals received 46% of the popular vote, they would get about 17-18 seats out of the 39 available seats. Voting for a candidate and a party does seem nice and does give the impression of having a fair result. However, it’s a back-handed approach. In fact, being a list member in the provincial legislature would be a back-door approach. To be a local member, you would have to knock on doors, attend many events and festivals, shake lots of hands, debate with your fellow candidates, and spend a lot on signs and pamphlets. To be a list member, all you would have to do is be friends with lots of important figures, have a generous cheque book, give your opinion once in a while, and (possibly) be an expert in ass-kissing and brown-nosing. You wouldn’t even have to deal with constituents. If I was a local member, I would be pissed if I had to do all this hard work just to be elected and get a seat in the legislature, while the person next to me is a list member, and all he had to do to get a seat in the legislature was donate to the party and help the leader move some furniture. I realize that’s hypothetical, but not matter how you look at it, it’s still unfair.

- Sure, the MMP’s party vote allows fringe parties the chance to have a spot at Queen’s Park. Sure, it gives the impression that there might be a fairer result. However, voters would not choose the list members! The MMP system would allow us to choose how the 39 list member seats are divided up, but it doesn’t allow us to decide who gets to sit in those seats. List members are chosen only by the party. That’s not fair! We live in a democracy. Therefore, it is our right to choose who represents us and who runs our government. It should be that way with every political system in Canada *cough* Federally Elected Senate *cough*. This concept of list members is very similar to the Upper Canada Family Compact. Remember the Family Compact? It was a group of wealthy elites that chose from a group of other wealthy elites who would run the colony, completely ignoring the opinions of the majority of the colony’s population. It led to the 1837 rebellion. With the MMP system, list members would be a modern version of the Family Compact: elites choosing other elites, while ignoring the opinions of the people of Ontario.

- Yes, the MMP system gives the Green Party the chance of having representation in the legislature. I understand that. I would like to see the Green Party have an official voice. However, it would be wrong for the Greens to get seats through a back-door approach. If the Green Party wants to have a seat at Queen’s Park, they have to earn it. In order to earn it, they have to go out to every single riding with a candidate, meet people, shake hands, preach their policies, and be elected. The people should choose whether or not a Green Party candidate gets a seat in the legislature. Choosing the party but not getting to express which candidate represents the party is wrong.

- Popularity is a measurement that should have no value. It is also very subjective. What could be popular to me is unpopular to someone else. The Liberals might only be popular with a particular group. The Conservatives might only be popular with a different group. Just because something is popular does not necessarily mean it’s the right thing to choose. Pierre Trudeau was a popular Prime Minister, but it does not mean he was the best Prime Minister. Leonard Cohen is one of the best songwriters of all time, but it does not mean he’s one of the most popular songwriters. Brittany Spears is one of the most popular singers of all time, but it does not mean she’s the best singer. By having voters decide on a party - essentially deciding the most popular political party - the MMP system will lead to subjective results. It could also lead to the possibility of a party winning the most ridings, but losing an election because another party won fewer ridings but received more “party/popular votes.” That’s not fair. Something as subjective as popularity should not be considered when deciding something as important as the next Government. This is why we need to keep the existing First Past The Post system because it is objective. It spells everything out in black and white. The candidate with the most votes wins the riding. The party with the most ridings forms the Government.

- Numerous times I hear, “I like this candidate, but I don’t like the party he/she represents.” Hey, that happens. Sometimes, you have to choose a necessary evil. It would be unfair to penalize a strong candidate just because you do not like the candidate’s party. It is also unfair to vote for a candidate and then vote for a different party that goes against everything the candidate stands for. I hate to use clichés, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

I will be voting for our existing system. I admit, the First Past The Post system is not perfect. However, it is more stable then the MMP system. The MMP system will only lead to greater imperfections and a dangerous amount of subjectivity.

For more information on the Referendum, visit

On Oct. 10, please go out and vote.

The Hek

*Be sure to catch Episode 56 of the Audio Circus. This week's episode features sounds from Nuit Blanche*


Blake said...

Very well said! As usual Eric, you spell out your position clearly and explain it with simple yet eloquent logic. Are you sure you didn't sneak in a minor in political science to your degree while I wasn't looking...? ;-) You said it better than a lot of dedicated poli sci people I know!

Eric Rosenhek said...

Thanks Blake! I'm just concerned that many people are still not clear about the referendum.

Blake said...

Agreed - neither the government nor any of the opposition parties did a very good job of promoting it in the mainstream media.

I can't recall seeing a single TV ad dealing with the subject (which is the best & most effective way of communicating with the voters en masse)...

Too many "Dalton McGuinty broke his promise" vs. "John Tory will destroy public education" attack ads to leave much room for explaining the referendum.