Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More reasons to say NO to MMP

George Radwanski lays it all out in a National Post editorial, A Referendum Ontario Doesn't Need.


But even if you believe that the current system is seriously flawed, where is the evidence that this particular change would do more good than harm? The potential drawbacks and consequences haven't even begun to be explored. For instance, what would be the effect on regional representation of reducing the total number of ridings from 107 to 90, and adding 39 seats for new legislators appointed from party lists to reflect province-wide vote totals? It's a good bet that rural and northern Ontarians might well find themselves with even less representation than at present, which would scarcely be a triumph for democracy.

Likewise, would it really improve over-all representation to have two classes of MPPs, with one-third of them exempted from having to be elected, maintaining contact with constituents or facing the accountability of having to seek personal re-election? The proposed system would also make minority governments much more likely, if not inevitable. Occasionally having minority governments has its benefits. But since such governments tend to make decisions based on short-term expediency rather than long-term planning, and to be more high-spending as they toss bones to stay in power, do we want to deliberately make them more frequent or even permanent?


Radwanski also criticizes the lack of information on the subject and the rushed format, referring to it as "sideshow to a one-month election campaign". Well, unofficially I think that election campaign has been going on for months now, but it's true that the officials, media and pundits only seem to be getting into the issues of MMP now.

He closes with a suggestion that since "it's too late now to rescind the provincial legislation requiring the referendum concurrent with this election, it would be best to defeat the proposal soundly, then revisit the whole issue thoughtfully and separately a year or more down the road."

This is the point I have been trying to make - This is not a now or never situation. Don't be pressured. If you dislike FPTP, there are other options out there.


But most of all, please vote.


* * * *
Important Update: Please check out Allan Cutler's column at Step to the Right - "A new way to vote; not a better way to vote".


47 comments:

Greg said...

There are other alternatives and the citizen's assembly examined (and rejected) them all. This was the one they chose. If this is rejected that will be the end of reform for a generation. It isn't because people are malicious, it is just human nature to say, "Reform? That's been tried." If you disagree with MMP that's ok (even though I think you are wrong), just don't try to fool either yourself or others into thinking anyone will go through this exercise again any time soon.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

There are other alternatives and the citizen's assembly examined (and rejected) them all. This was the one they chose

Was STV one of the ones they rejected?

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

There are so many things wrong with Radwanski's analysis that I can't even be bothered.

As for trying again a year from now? HA! YEAH RIGHT!

Vote against MMP if you must, but Greg's right. We get electoral reform now, or we wait another generation. None of the major parties will be eager to once again put the advantages that FPTP gives them on the line, and risk losing their false majorities; and none of the minor parties can do anything about it. There's a reason it's worked out this way, and it's because the Liberals wanted to be able to SAY they gave electoral reform a chance, without having to actually risk ending up with actual reform.

Greg said...

Was STV one of the ones they rejected?

Yes. To my recollection the assembly thought the system was too complicated to sell to the voters and so it would be rejected. It was the runner up to MMP which was judged closer to the current system and thus more salable.

PaulM said...

I have yet to hear anyone actually come up with a 'benefit' of MMP, other than it makes it possible to elect candidates from fringe parties. To me, that's not a plus, that's a NEGATIVE. The NSDAP started as a fringe party, and its eventual rise to power would not have been possible without a form of proportional representation.

Proportional representation is bad. It creates instability, it gives more volume to fringe voices (which would not need amplification if the public actually liked what they were saying), and it creates a larger political chasm between left and right. It is bad, bad, bad. Bad in every way. Good in no way at all.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Wow!

MMP will lead to NAZIS!!!

That's a first!

Advantages of MMP:

How about the fact that political parties won't be given majority power in the legislature with as little as 37% of the vote.

Or that second place parties won't be able to form majority governments with the first place party as the official opposition?

There's two.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

If this is rejected that will be the end of reform for a generation.

Wow. There's a hard-sell. "This offer is only good for a limited time!"

I can wait another generation.

Funny though, that STV was rejected in the 2005 referendum in B.C. but it's likely to come up again in 2008.

To my recollection the assembly thought the system was too complicated to sell to the voters and so it would be rejected.

It would seem that the BC electorate is brighter than Ontario's..

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Also Paul,

MMP doesn't "amplify" the power of fringe parties.

Giving a party that gets 3% of the vote 3% of the power isn't amplification, it's REPRESENTATION.

The system that AMPLIFIES the power of parties is FPTP. Under FPTP (as in 1990 in Ontario) 37% of the votes cast can get you 57% of the power in the legislature.

I'd much rather have a system that gives parties that get 3% of the vote 3% of the power, than a system that gives parties with 37% of the votes 57% of the power.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Good analogy here by Steve Janke on the subject.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Joanne,

Fair enough. The citizens of B.C. appear to have been lucky.

Of course, the notion that reform was "rejected" in B.C. is really a matter of optics. 58% of the voters voted in FAVOUR of STV. That's not enough to push it through, but it's hardly "rejection".

What Radwanski counsels is that we "soundly defeat" this reform proposal. I don't think he has majority support just shy of the 60% threshold in mind when he urges a "sound defeat".

I'll agree that if MMP gets over 50% of the vote, we might get to revisit this before I retire. However, I'm afraid that all the misinformation out there, and the lack of any educational campaign (just what the Liberals wanted???) means that's going to be a tough job.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

What Radwanski counsels is that we "soundly defeat" this reform proposal. I don't think he has majority support just shy of the 60% threshold in mind when he urges a "sound defeat".

LKO - Good point. Perhaps there should be a third choice on the referendum - Future study on electoral reform, but not MMP.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Of course, that would just muddy the water.

Greg said...

Yes Joanne, the only reason BC is getting another kick at STV is because it was a) so close to passing and b) the government was embarrassed when it was pointed out that STV got over 50% and failed, while the government got less than 50% and won. If the situation is duplicated here, we might just get another kick sooner than a generation from now.

(ps. I am glad you can wait a generation. I am too old for that myself.)

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

TERRIBLE analogy by Steve Janke there Joanne.

And linuxluver explains why in the comments:

"You've more or less this the nail on the head, perhaps without realizing.

The debate about FPTP often does boil down to "power" vs "representation". The folks who see elections as being all about electing a government (and let's be clear - one THEY approve of) aren't really democrats. They are, as far as i can tell, an echo from the days when we looked to benevolent kings or dictators to rule us.

The people who support MMP, on the other hand, see the function of a legislature in a representative democratic system as being primarily about *representing*.... and governance is a by-product of representation.

The presumption in the FPTP view is that a more representative legislature must NECESSARILY deliver poorer governance. This is a false assumption.

Look at Ontario in recent years: lurching from the Conservatives, to the Liberals, to the NDP, to the Conservatives and back to the Liberals.

Dig the hole..fill it in. Dig the hole....fill it in. Literally so in the case of the abortive Eglinton Line subway system in Toronto.

FPTP has wasted billions and billions of dollars pulling the wings off by one government only to have then put back on by the next, then pulled off again by the one after that.

A more representative legislature, elected proportionally, results in more considered and evolutionary legislative change. This isn't theory. This is how it actually works. I've lived in New Zealand for the past 11 years and once MMP came in, the wild policy rides from one extreme to the other we experienced under FPTP as Left replaced Right replaced Left, came to an abrupt halt when MMP was implemented.

New Zealand now has the lowest unemployment in 35 years, a strong economy the government is trying to figure out how to cool down a little....AND a more open and transparent political system that has delivered effective government AND stable policy for more than a decade.

That's the reality. I do wish MMP critics would actually LOOK at reality instead of in the mirror of their unfounded beliefs...."

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Greg,

There's a point I didn't think of! MMP may not get 50% of the votes, but I'd be willing to bet my left arm it will get more votes than our next "majority" government will.

As you point out, it's somewhat embarassing for a government when a proposal that gets 58% of the votes is rejected, and yet they get MAJORITY POWER in the legislature with LESS than 50% of the vote!!!

johndoe124 said...

FPTP is based on ridings. We never see a party winning a majority with only 37% of ridings. In fact FPTP is proportional representation of ridings. In that sense it works perfectly and democratically. However, if popular vote is the insisted upon metric of democracy, I don't see how MMP begins to address that problem when the large majority of seats will still be decided by riding. The list vote is only a token gesture.

John M Reynolds said...

Whenever you have several items from which to choose, you will never get over 50% for the one choice unless it is plainly obvious. Politics is not plainly obvious. PR does amplify the voice of the extremists by giving them a good chance at having balance of power. That is one huge amplified voice. That would be 3% like of our population having the balance of power. Talk about tyranny of the minority!

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

johndoe124,

The PROPORTION of seats will roughly equal the popular vote. How is that a "token gesture"? If a party gets 3% of the vote they'll get 3% of the power. If they get 10% of the votes, they'll get 10% of the power. I guess I don't understand your point there on this being a "token".

As to how well FPTP serves us in making sure that RIDINGS get representation, that's just great. However, personally, I was always taught that democracy was about the PEOPLE having power, not "arbitrarily established and politically created geographical regions" having power.

Call me a democrat I guess.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I just added a link to a column by Allan Cutler at the end of this post. I'd be very interested to hear your reactions.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

John Reynolds,

And how exactly does this hypothetical party with 3% of the votes somehow have the "balance of power"???

In the last Ontario election, the Liberals got 46.4% of the vote (and a comfy 70% of the power, btw), the Tories, 34.6%, the NDP 14.7, and the Greens (almost) 3% (actually, 2.8%). So, explain to me how the Greens would have had the "balance of power" if the legislature actually (gasp!) reflected the will of the people?

Seems to me, the NDP or the Tories hold the balance in that scenario. However, even if the Greens had enough seats to give the Liberals 50%, that doesn't mean the Liberals will form a coalition with the Greens. They could just as easily align with the Tories or the NDP. They'll do what they figure will enable them to govern most effectively, and therefore hold (or increase) their proportion of the vote in the next election. If they choose to align with some "fringe party" (not that any party besides the BIG THREE has ever received more than the necessary 3% of the vote under MMP, but anyway...) then one of two things will happen. People will LIKE the direction the "fringe party" pulls the government in, and return the coalition to power in the next election, or they won't, and they'll punish them by voting the bums out.

Personally, I'd rather be ruled by a coalition of a "mainstream" party and a "fringe" party that combined represents the democratically expressed will of 55% of voters, than by a FPTP "majority" government that represents the democratically expressed will of 37% of the voters.

Also, I swear, it seems to me sometimes as if oppontents of MMP think we're going to have one election after we change the system, and that that messed up legislature with 30 parties that appear out of nowhere, all of whom get around 3% of the vote is going to rule Ontario for the rest of time. It's ludicrous.

Anyway, the tyranny of the minority is giving MAJORITY power to a party with less than 50% of the vote. Again, balance of power or no, 3% of the vote is still just 3% of the vote. If you think a party with 48% of the vote is just going to do whatever a party with 3% of the vote wants, give your head a shake. Hell, federally, the Tories have a minority government, and how much do they listen to the NDP??? If the Tories can ignore the NDP and jump back and forth between aligning with the Liberals and aligning with the Bloc, I don't see how a party with 3% of the vote is going to work all this voodoo you seem to think they'll be capable of.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Joanne,

Well, my initial response to Cutler's piece is that he's basically just saying "coalition governments don't work".

Well, OK!?!?!

May I just say to that: Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, France, New Zealand, India, Finland, Belgium, Switzerland, the European Parliament...

I love Canada, and boy are we unique, but no one can seriously tell me that we're so special that coalition government, which is the rule not the exception in the democratic world, somehow won't work here. This despite the fact that it works PRETTY MUCH EVERYWHERE ELSE ON THE PLANET.

Cutler can call the Citizen Assembly's thoughtful and well-researched conclusion that coalition governments will be more consenual and less adversarial a "leap of faith" all he likes, but their conclusion is based on the actual real-world experiences of the vast majority of democracies on Earth. Meanwhile, Cutler's conclusion that coalition government just won't work in Canada, despite the fact that it works pretty much everywhere else???

THAT's a leap of faith!

Greg said...

Alan Cutler makes some points, I would like to talk about. First, he says that the Assembly did not consider alternatives. They did...to an excruciating degree.

Second, he seems to think that coalitions mean no one is in charge. Let me just reassure him that there will still be a premier and he or she will still be responsible for the actions of their government. After all, Helen Clark is Prime Minister of New Zealand and also leaders a coalition government.

Third, I am not sure what he means by "Our Canadian culture and experience is governing through minorities". Now I assume he means (at least I hope he means) governing with minority governments (although FPTP delivers consistent minority rule with majority powers, so he could mean that too).

I like Alan Cutler, but I wish he would have spent more time at the Assembly's web site or at TVO's assembly site to get a sense of the process involved in making the choice for MMP. It was much more painfully deliberative than he is suggesting.

johndoe124 said...

"If a party gets 3% of the vote they'll get 3% of the power."

I guess I don't understand the system , then. I thought there were two votes, one vote to choose a riding candidate and one vote to choose a party. With only 39 seats available for the party votes I don't see how it translates into proportional representation. If a party receives 3% of the popular vote then they should get 3% of the 129 seats. That would be proportional and democratic.

There's also the problem that the list candidates do not directly represent constituents which is undemocratic.

By the way, what does it mean that coalitions work? Aren't most of the examples you cite governed from the Left? Bolivia and Venezuela also use MMP. Are they not worthy examples?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Now I assume he means (at least I hope he means) governing with minority governments

That's what I took from it.

Greg, you seem to have a lot of background information on the process the Assembly that went through to do the groundwork on this.

Do you have any particular links that would be helpful to folks who would like more information? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, France, New Zealand, India, Finland, Belgium, Switzerland, the European Parliament..."

Aren't most of those countries becoming increasingly left wing (socialist)? That's what worries me about this new system the most. Won't we have an almost permanent coalition govt. made up of liberal, ndp, green etc. with the conservaties being shut out every time?

TJS

Joanne (True Blue) said...

TJS, I share your concerns. I personally do not consider those countries to be anything to emulate.

I hate to burst LKO's bubble, but if anything I'm digging my heels in all the more on the "No" side.

Dirk said...

johndoe124:
"I thought there were two votes, one vote to choose a riding candidate and one vote to choose a party. With only 39 seats available for the party votes I don't see how it translates into proportional representation. If a party receives 3% of the popular vote then they should get 3% of the 129 seats."

You've almost got it. From yourbigdecision.ca:

"If a political party is entitled to more seats than it won locally, 'List Members' are elected to make up the difference. ... In the end, a political party's overall share of seats will roughly equal its share of the total votes for parties in the province."

In the last election, if we had MMP, this would have meant that the Liberals would have no list members added, the Conservatives would get a bunch of them, and the NDP would get a few. The percentages of seat distribution for all three parties would come quite close to the distribution of the total vote.

Dirk said...

To those who agree with the ignorant idea that the countries LKO listed are "becoming increasingly left wing (socialist)", I have two points:

1: Let's shove our heads further up our butts and say this is true. If the majority of the population wants a left-leaning government, then what's the issue here?

2: The countries LKO listed are NOT "becoming increasingly left wing (socialist)". Some examples:

Netherlands: becoming more conservative as the longstanding tradition of "everything goes" tolerance is being questioned, and as immigration/multiculturalism policies are also being questioned due to racial tensions.

France: just handed power the decidedly conservative -- and popular -- Sarkozy.

Germany: Another recent Conservative electoral victory, with Angela Merkel assuming political control.

Switzerland: among the most conservative countries in Western Europe. The strongest party in its government is also among the most conservative in the country.

India: The current governing party is left of center, but in the last decade or so, a conservative party has gained a significant following, so much so that it formed the previous government.

I don't know much about the other countries listed, but given the five examples I've listed, that's more than enough to show that conservative parties can realize electoral success.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Dirk, you have some valid points to offer to the discussion here. Too bad that you still throw in the innuendos, sarcasm and thinly-veiled personal attacks. I was on the point of deleting your last comment, but I'll let it stand for now.

Yes, that is true about France for sure. I wasn't aware of changes in attitude in the Netherlands. Germany - maybe.

John M Reynolds said...

Canada is to the left of much of the world without having MMP.

Balance of power means that a small minority group would have the ability to make or break the government based on whether or not the government panders enough to that minority to get the legislative votes.

MMP suggests that the popular party vote is what matters. We still won't know what the popular party vote is because we will never know how many voted on the second ballot for the party or the party leader.

Dirk said...

"Too bad that you still throw in the innuendos, sarcasm and thinly-veiled personal attacks."

I don't think I crossed the line here. I'll give you that the "heads up our butts" line was unnecessary and not very nice. But I don't think anything else in my post was out of line. And even that line is no more harsh than many things said here about Dalton McGuinty, for instance.

I'm a little frustrated at this debate because I get the sense that a number of people oppose MMP because it has the potential to reduce the power and influence of their party of choice. But to be clear: I had no intention of attacking those that are making the arguments I don't agree with. In my last post (the "heads up our butts" line excepted), only the ideas were critiqued.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

In my last post (the "heads up our butts" line excepted), only the ideas were critiqued.

Agreed. That's why I let it stand.

Dirk said...

Back to the discussion...

From John M. R.:
"MMP suggests that the popular party vote is what matters. We still won't know what the popular party vote is because we will never know how many voted on the second ballot for the party or the party leader."

This speaks to why I think MMP is a great idea. In most elections there are a few polarizing issues that are motivate many voters to vote differently from how they would normally vote. For instance, I've spoken with a handful of people who told me that they like their conservative candidate, but they won't vote for them because they have such strong feelings about the religious school funding issue. I'm sure there are a number of people on the other side of the fence as well. With MMP, voters can still vote for the candidate of their choice, yet still express a preference for a different party.

John M Reynolds said...

Dirk, you missed the point. MMP is supposed to increase representation based on the popular vote, but you will never know if the second ballot is for the party or the leader. We would need at least 3 ballots to try to sort it all out. One for the local rep, one for the party list, and one for the leader of your choice. That is about the only way you will know that you got the right popular vote, but that is even more confusing.

You also skipped the distribution of MPPs by locality argument. Is that not important to you?

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Just to clarify a bit, my list of countries was more meant as a response to the idea that coalition governments can (and do) work, pretty much everywhere in the democratic world. I wasn't actually compiling a list of countries that use "MMP", and I'm not at all certain that all of the countries actually USE MMP (and I AM certain that not many - and probably NONE - use the form of MMP on offer in our referendum). Just FYI. (also, the ellipsis was meant to indicate there are many more countries that could be listed. Frankly, we're in such a tiny minority globally still using FPTP that you could go on, and on and on...).

I also think it's dangerous to come to any conclusions that suggest a causal link between a country's method of elections and the RESULTS of those elections. Many seem concerned that MMP will move the province to the left, but I think that's missing the point, and also establishing causality where it doesn't necessarily apply. On the political spectrum, MMP will move the province in whatever direction the will of the people goes. Some countries with some forms of MMP are moving to the left, some countries are moving to the right. The greatest advantage to MMP, to my mind, is that it is a system that gives a good reflection of the will of the people as expressed through their votes. If the people move left, MMP will reflect that. If the people move right, MMP will reflect that. THE PEOPLE decide who to vote for, not the system.

Now, that being said, in the interest of full honesty and disclosure, I think perhaps TODAY if we had MMP, our legislature probably WOULD move slightly to the "left". However, it is important to keep in mind that this is not reflective of MMP changing the will of the people of Ontario, it is reflective of MMP actually REPRESENTING the will of the people of Ontario. The reason our legislature is where it is on the political spectrum today is NOT because it's the legislature people voted for, it's because it's the skewed legislature FPTP gives us. CURRENTLY (and it was not ever thus, nor will it be) the parties that tend to be most hurt by the distortions of FPTP tend to be the parties on the left. For example, in the last Ontario election, the NDP got 14.7% of the vote, but only 6.8% of the seats in Queen's Park. Of course, the Tories would have done much better under MMP last election as well, since they received 34.6% of the vote, but only 23.3% of the seats. So, instead of a strong Liberal majority, what we actually voted for was a Liberal minority, with stronger representation from BOTH the NDP AND the Tories (the big number from the last election was that while the Liberals got 46.4% of the vote, FPTP gave them 70% of the seats!). Now, I admit this probably would have meant a Liberal/NDP coalition (though we can't be CERTAIN the Liberals wouldn't have teamed up with the Tories, and it's important to note that coalitions form and work differently under MMP than they do under FPTP minorities, because the incentives are very different). So, one could argue not unconvincingly that MMP would have moved the legislature slightly to the left (though with a minority legislature and also with a much stronger conservative opposition) but that's not a CERTAINTY.

However, it's also perfectly true that under MMP, Bob Rae never gets CLOSE to a majority government in Ontario.

After the 1990 election, under FPTP, the legislature looked like this:

NDP: 57%
Liberals: 28%
Tories: 15%


What the people voted for (and what MMP would have provided) was this:

NDP: 37.6%
Liberal: 32.4%
Tories: 23.5%


How different would Ontario be today if Bob Rae had had a minority government with 55% of the seats controlled by the opposition, instead of a strong majority government? In fact, it's possible in 1990 that Rae wouldn't have formed a government AT ALL. I can't say how likely it might have been, but a David Peterson/Mike Harris government surely would have been a lot different from the Rae Days! Plus, in either scenario, we wouldn't have had the trauma of lurching from an NDP majority to a Tory majority, and years of the Tories having to tear down everything the NDP did! As another Blogger once said, what we often get with FPTP, lurching from one end of the spectrum to the other, is a long procession of "Dig a hole... Fill it in. Dig a hole... Fill it in." It's hardly the best of times!

As I said, MMP doesn't move the legislature to the left or the right. MMP moves the legislature to where the people are, and the people decide.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

John Reynolds,

However, your point on "what is the 'popular vote'" seems to be that we'll never know what's in the voters mind when he or she cast their ballot.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but we have no idea NOW what is in the voters' minds when they vote. We simply can't, and never will be able to read the minds of voters.

However, under FPTP, the voter has NO CHOICE. If they want to support a party, they MUST support the candidate that party puts before them. It's pretty well established that MOST voters don't vote NOW based on their local candidate (Quick, name your MPP! OK, most of YOU GUYS can probably do it, but we're all freaks, not regular Ontarians!!!). But nonetheless, FPTP puts all the weight on votes for a local candidate. This gives the ILLUSION that the government is close to us because we're all "voting for people" but in reality, most of us aren't voting for people at all, we're voting for parties, or party leaders. FPTP just completely ignores our intent (even MORESO than you seem to worry that MMP will!).

I can tell you that personally, during the Mike Harris years, I would have loved to vote for Elizabeth Whitmer, whom I feel was an excellent MMP, and a great representative of my local riding. However (as you might guess) I was not AT ALL interested in supporting the current Tory government. So under FPTP, I had to make a choice. Vote for the person I want to represent me, or vote for the party I want to form a government. MMP would have allowed me to send a wonderful local representative to the legislature (of course she got in anyway, but you see my point) while STILL expressing my dissatisfaction with the policies her party was implementing at a macro level.

You're correct that MMP cannot perfectly decipher the conscious or subconscious intent of an Ontario voter when they cast their vote (it's not MAGIC). But FPTP doesn't even TRY.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

John,

Not to be picky, but do you really think Canada is "to the left of much of the world"? And how are you defining that exactly? I wouldn't say we're to the RIGHT of much of the world either, but to my observation we're pretty much in the middle. We're to the left of the U.S., it's true, and probably Australia (though do we look at Australia based on their federal LEGISLATURE or the people's opinions through polls etc... because one of those things is to the left of the other... though both perhaps a bit to the right of us). We'll see what the next election in the U.K says, but I'm not even really sure we're to the left of them exactly (have you SEEN some of the stuff the British "Conservative" party is advocating??? It would make you shiver I think!). But there are also still 1.3 billion people in China, and I'm pretty sure they're still Communist.

Plus, what about Europe? Do you really see us as being to the left of much of Europe? Sure, France has become a bit more conservative lately, but there moving towards us. We're still to their right I think. Maybe Germany's to our right. But the Scandinavian countries? The Netherlands?

I figure South America's a wash, since some of their governments are way to our left, and some are way to our right. Meanwhile, and I don't mean this to be callous but I think we can leave Africa out of the equation, as most of the continent is too devastated by war, disease and poverty for us to know what the people really feel, and Russia's a basket case (though I'll grant you, probably a "right wing" basket case, but I'm sure you wouldn't argue we should emulate Russia :-))

I don't claim to know exactly where we'd fit, objectively, on a worldwide political spectrum if we REALLY looked into it. However I don't think we can just say that "Canada is to the left of much of the world " with ANY real confidence.

Thoughts?

John M Reynolds said...

"The greatest advantage to MMP, to my mind, is that it is a system that gives a good reflection of the will of the people as expressed through their votes." FPTP reflects such changes, but the amount of the shift is usually more rough. MMP may be more exact, but how certain can you be of the will of the people?

"THE PEOPLE decide who to vote for, not the system." Actually, THE PEOPLE decide which party to vote for, not the representatives. The system still picks the representatives for each party.

You seem to be saying that a slight shift to the left is important enough to change our voting system. You are admitting that the difference will only be slight! Why subject ourselves to constant coalition govenrments when the gain will only be slight?

Why should a person voting in Oakville be able to contribute to an extra person from my area being an MPP? They could both be from the same party, but not necessarily!

Your side note, "it's important to note that coalitions form and work differently under MMP than they do under FPTP minorities, because the incentives are very different," does not make any sense either, but perhaps that is getting off topic.

You use numbers like NDP: 37.6%, Liberal: 32.4%, Tories: 23.5% without even mentioning the possiblity of protest votes. How many people voted for the NDP out of protest thinking that the NDP would never really get in?

"...and years of the Tories having to tear down everything the NDP did!" There is another flaw of MMP. Mistakes won't be corrected as easily. This is one of the problems with trying to figure out the will of the people though any election. A party may get in that does things that most people wanted, but then also does a few that were unwise. You seem to be suggesting that those should not be undone. The fact that the will of the people swayed so far from the NDP in the next election tells me that the work the NDP did should be undone.

"This gives the ILLUSION that the government is close to us because we're all 'voting for people' but in reality, most of us aren't voting for people at all, we're voting for parties, or party leaders." Then fix the problem with parties instead of statesmen. MMP will make the problem worse.

"So under FPTP, I had to make a choice. Vote for the person I want to represent me, or vote for the party I want to form a government." You are still supporting the party you don't like if you vote for your local rep. How does that help reflect the will of the people?

"though do we look at Australia based on their federal LEGISLATURE or the people's opinions through polls etc... because one of those things is to the left of the other..." If the opinions gleened throught he polls do not match that of the federal legislature that is elected using proportional representation, then why will MMP make Ontario's government suddenly reflect the opinions of Ontarians?

I will not offer any more thoughts on the Right/Left global positioning of Canada since that is off topic for this thread.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Just on the wild swings John, the wild swings from the Liberals to the NDP to the Tories did NOT happen just because people didn't like what one group did, and swung wildly over to the other side. They happened because before AND after FPTP exaggerated the power the actual votes should have given the parties. It's true that people voted Tory as a "correction" to the unpopular policies of the NDP. So, in a sense, the FPTP system "corrected itself" one could say. However, you're forgetting that the only reason the NDP was able to push through all those unpopular policies in the first place was because they got a comfortable majority with only 37% of the vote. So your point that somehow mistakes (like those of the NDP) won't be as easily corrected under MMP is belied by the fact that those mistakes wouldn't have been as easily MADE under MMP. The will of the people didn't REALLY "sway so far from the NDP" as you suggest, because it was never so much WITH the NDP in the first place!

It's incorrect to suggest that we might have had difficulty getting rid of the NDP majority under Bob Rae under MMP while ignoring the fact that he NEVER WOULD HAVE HAD A MAJORITY under MMP. There was no WILD swing between the NDP and the Tories in terms of votes. The big swing happened in the LEGISLATURE because FPTP doesn't even ATTEMPT to form a legislature that represents the votes cast by the people of the province.

In terms of VOTES, the Common Sense "revolution" did this:

Before (1990):
NDP: 37.6%
Liberal: 32.4%
Tories: 23.5%

After(1995):
Tories 44.8%
Liberal: 31.1%
NDP: 20.6%


On votes cast, the Tories gained 21%, and the NDP lost 17%, quite a large shift (again, brought about because FPTP let the NDP go hog wild for 5 years with only 37% support!).

In the LEGISALTURE, however, the Tories increased their representation by 47%. The NDP meanwhile had their representation drop by 42%.

Let's look at that again.

On votes cast (1990-1995):
Tories:+21
NDP: -17

In the Legislature (1990-1995):
Tories: +47%
NDP: -42%


So, yes, there were major changes between 1990 and 1995, but A) those changes came about in large part because FPTP gave a comfortable majority to Bob Rae that he never earned, and he nonetheless ran with it and B) the actual change among the voters was NOWHERE NEAR the change that FPTP artificially imposed on the legislature.

FPTP makes no attempt whatsoever to create a legislature that reflects the votes cast by the electorate. Under FPTP we get governments like Rae's (which many consider "radically left") followed by government's like Harris' (which many consider "radically right") because FPTP distributes power in the legislature in a way which in no way reflects the votes cast by the electorate. So sure, you get so-called "stability" for five years because one party is given all the power despite having only a plurality (if you're lucky) of the electorate's support. Then, five years later, enough people change their votes that ANOTHER party gets five years of absolute power, which they use mostly to undue all the stuff the LAST false majority did.

Finally, you seem preoccupied with this idea that we can never read the minds of voters, and never know their "intent" (protest votes, did they vote for party or party leader etc...) as though that weren't a constant state of the universe. We have no more idea under FPTP what was in the voters' minds than we would under MMP. MMP will not suddenly give us telepathic powers, but that's not a flaw with MMP.

The only thing we have to intuit the intent of the voters is the votes they cast. That's the mechanism we have to determine what the voters want. FPTP gives us legislatures that bear NO RELATION WHATSOEVER to the votes cast by the electorate. We get "majority" governments with less than 40% of the votes. We get 20% swings in the vote being translated into 40% swings in the power. We get SECOND PLACE PARTIES forming "majority" governments with the first place party in opposition. We get government's like the current McGuinty Liberals, who couldn't get 50% of the votes, but nonetheless get 70% of the power.

I swear, I sometimes think that if you were trying to INTENTIONALLY create a system that would create a legislature that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the votes cast in an election, I couldn't come up with a much better system than FPTP!

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

John,

On my "side note" on coalitions working differently under MMP than under FPTP, allow me to explain.

Under FPTP, a 40% plurality will usually give a party majority power in the legislature to implement their policies as they see fit. What this means, is that any party with between 20-40% support in the province figure they might be able to get a majority. Why should the Tories, at 31% support, cooperate with the Liberals, who have 41% support? Well, first, they would never even be INVITED to cooperate with the Liberals, because the Liberals 40% support gives them a comfy 55-65% of the power, so they don't need the support! Secondly, there is no incentive for the Tories to cooperate. If they can just nudge their support up (perhaps as little as 6% based on the Rae example) then THEY can get unfettered power. There's little incentive for parties to work together in a system in which just about any of the major parties have a decent shot (which waxes and wanes over the years) of forming a majority. Why work collaboratively with your rivals for the betterment of the province if a small shift in support can give you a huge boost in power, and give you the opportunity to do whatever you want, just like your rivals are doing now?

MMP makes the radical suggestion that if a party wishes to rule unfettered with majority power in the legislature, they should actually have to gain the majority of votes cast by the citizenry. If you want 55% of the power, you have to go out and get 55% of the votes (I know, it's CRAZY!). So, a party at 35% at the polls is 15% away from unfettered power in the legislature, rather than being right on the cusp. If that party wants to be seen governing, and actually getting things accomplished for the people (in order to hopefully increase their share of the vote) there is a significant incentive for them to cooperate with the other parties in order to get things done. If they want to have power (and c'mon, they're POLITICIANS...) then they'd do well to form a coalition and cooperate with another party to form government and have an impact on the legislation passed at Queen's Park. Under FPTP, that same party at 35% in the polls is right on the cusp of being given the power to do whatever they want, regardless of the opinions of the other parties. There's no incentive to cooperate in that scenario. Just get some good ad people, attack your rivals, and BOOM! A 37% "majority" government!

So, while we'll certainly see more minority legislatures under MMP (because that's what the votes indicate people want... there hasn't been a TRUE majority government in Ontario since the 1930s) they will function very differently than minorities do under FPTP. In FPTP, the goal is all about bumping your support 2-5% to turn the minority legislature into a (false) "majority" one, in which you can do what you want. In MMP, you can focus on increasing your vote by 15% in the traditional "attack everybody else" way (good luck with that) or you can work with your colleagues from other parties to provide the people with good government so that they'll continue to support your coalition (which actually receives the votes of more than 50% of the electorate).

One can't compare minority governments under FPTP to minority governments under MMP, because under FPTP the distribution of power in the legislature is largely unrelated to the distribution of votes, whereas under MMP the two are linked. That radically changes what parties need to do to exercise power, and therefore it radically changes how the parties work together.

Therefore, as I said, coalitions form and work differently under MMP than they do under FPTP minorities, because the incentives are very different.

Greg said...

Hi Joanne, I have read a lot of the material on the Assembly's site and there is tons of video on TVO's site:

http://tinyurl.com/ypldke

Here is one discussion I think you will be interested in. It was the assembly's discussion about MMP vs. STV.
The Small Group Discussion
http://tinyurl.com/yrhdoc
The Final Debate
http://tinyurl.com/2yczys

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Thanks, Greg. I'll check those out. As I said before, I'll keep an open mind.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

John,

You write, "You are still supporting the party you don't like if you vote for your local rep. How does that help reflect the will of the people?"

Because under MMP I get TWO votes. So I can vote for Elizabeth Whitmer, because I want her to be my local representative, but I can ALSO vote for the Liberals, because I don't like what the Tory government is doing at a macro level. Sure, I'm still giving the Tories some support by helping Whitmer get into the Legislature (though, as you know, in this case she was getting in regardless) but I am ALSO able to SIMULTANEOUSLY express my support for a change in policy to the left (by giving the Liberals my "party vote"). So, my two votes are better able to express the duality of my actual opinion.

This is a REAL scenario for me. I did have two competing thoughts back in the day. One, I want Elizabeth Whitmer to be my local representative at Queen's Park. Two, I DON'T want the Progressive Conservatives to be the government of Ontario. Under FPTP, there is absolutely no way to reconcile those positions, and no attempt is made to allow me to express my true will. MMP allows me to express both. As you say, I'm still giving the Tory government support by giving Whitmer my vote, but under FPTP that is ALL I get to do. Under FPTP there is no other way to interpret my vote (without telepathy) than as a vote of 100% support for the Conservative government of Ontario (pretty much the opposite of my intended message). MMP allows me to register my support for Whitmer, AND my support for the Liberals without making me choose.

This is also very useful for people who find themselves stuck, through no fault of their own, in "safe" ridings. I'll use some federal examples here, as they are more stark and useful to illustrate the point. The federal example is the Liberal supporter in Alberta, or the Conservative supporter in Toronto (I'll use the conservative supporter example, since this is Joanne's blog and her audience is more conservative).

If you're a Tory supporter in Toronto (and here I'm talking federally where the situation is more pronounced, but it's pretty true provincially as well) then you have almost no opportunity to effect the composition of the legislature with your vote. I hope you still go out and vote, but you KNOW you're in a "safe" riding, so you know going in that a Liberal's going to get elected. I live in one of these ridings now. My riding's going Liberal October 10th. It just is. Everyone knows it, and that's just the way it is. Under FPTP, there is, sadly, little incentive for a Tory supporter (or an NDP supporter either in my riding) to come out and vote. They can vote Tory, but since FPTP is going to elect a Liberal, and nothing else, they're going to have a Liberal as their representative. And if they HATE the Liberals, they probably won't go to that representative to talk about the issues, so they've really been cut off from meaningful interaction with their government, all by an accident of geography.

Under MMP, that Tory voter can actually have their support for the Conservatives registered in a way that can actually make a difference in the legislature. Their local representative will still be a Liberal, but their second vote for the Tories will help ensure that the Tories are given the credit they are due for persuading that voter to support them. And if the Tories don't elect as many local members as the electorate's overall support for the party warrants, then that vote in Toronto will actually help elect more Tory members to the legislature.

I really think this increases not only the ability of the legislature to mirror the voice of the voters (as expressed through their votes) but ALSO adds added incentive for voters to come out and vote, because their vote is not "wasted" on a Tory in a safe Liberal riding where that local Tory simply can't get elected. Living in Toronto (and I'd imagine it's the same for Liberals in Alberta) I know many conservatives who have given up on our political system because they know their riding is going to send a Liberal to the legislature, and there's nothing they can do about it. It's sad, but it's hard for them to come out and vote, year after year, believing that they might as well be shouting at a brick wall. MMP, with it's second vote will allow these citizens to feel engaged in the political process again, and to feel like their vote actually makes a difference.

That alone would be worth the price of admission.

John M Reynolds said...

"It's incorrect to suggest that we might have had difficulty getting rid of the NDP majority under Bob Rae under MMP..." Who suggested that?

"...that those mistakes wouldn't have been as easily MADE under MMP." How sure are you of that? How many concessions will have to be made in the future simply to keep governments from falling? How many coalitions between centrist and extremist parties will yield some uncertain mandates? We could end up with even more. I see it plausible that the NDP and Libs could go something like this: You give me a TTC extension and we will vote in favour of your daycare plan. The next election would have to have a big swing just to get rid of those that made the mistakes. Since MMP makes this more difficult, the mistakes will stand.

"...the fact that he NEVER WOULD HAVE HAD A MAJORITY under MMP." -- You are yelling, yet you seem to keep forgetting the voting strategy differences. People likely would have voted differently if we had MMP in that election, so you cannot simply translate the FPTP numbers.

"FPTP makes no attempt whatsoever to create a legislature that reflects the votes cast by the electorate." But don't worry so much about it. Even with swings, the FPTP produces government that is only slightly beyond what the popular will is. Oh, wait, if there is only a slight difference, then you have already proven yourself wrong on this.

"The only thing we have to intuit the intent of the voters is the votes they cast." This would be correct for MMP list MPPs, but it is not so with regional reps. I have called my regional rep before when I wanted to let him know how I felt. The regional rep gets feedback from people in the riding.

"Because under MMP I get TWO votes." Your vote for Elizabeth Whitmer reinforces her party's mandate though that is not what you wanted. That means your will is not quite reflected in the legislature makeup. Your second vote may help to bring on a list MPP, but that just cancels out your first. Duality of your opinion? Such concepts will make the mandate even less clear. MMP makes the situation worse again.

"...I know many conservatives who have given up on our political system because they know their riding is going to send a Liberal to the legislature..." That is the key. We need more grass roots involvement. Choosing an electoral system that will make the situation worse is not the answer. Safe riding people, like my riding that always goes Liberal federally or a mix of Liberal or NDP provincially, need to talk with others. Get the word out. Get people involved. It is really our responsibility. That is the first step to getting more statesmen elected. This is our responsibility. Ultimately, it cannot be fixed by the government. Making people feel like they are contributing by bringing in MMP is a false sense of contribution. We need more participation beyond the ballot boxes. That is true democratic reform. Electoral systems and free votes, while important for the system, are small potatoes.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

John,

I don't want you to think I'm ignoring you, but it occurs to me that we're going to end up going around and around in circles here a bit (I'd say we're both pretty dug in) and while I would love to TALK about this more with you, it's just so difficult and time consuming to hash this out online in the comments like this that I feel like one of us needs to pull the plug, just for our sanity!

It was great having a civilized and engaging discussion about all this though! Thanks!

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Just for everyone's interest, here's some info on Conservative Senator Hugh Segal's endorsement of MMP and some highlights from his speech at the Economic Club of Toronto that I mentioned up post.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

It was great having a civilized and engaging discussion about all this though! Thanks!

Thanks to both of you, and everyone who has contributed to this thread.

This particular post will soon disappear into the archives, but there are so many great points that have been brought to the surface here, that I will make a point to link to it next time I do a post on MMP.

And just for the record, any posts on MMP are picked up by other sites, so your comments live on...

:)