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Hi:

Im a canadian living temporarily stateside, and I am looking for opinions on a recent news item I discovered on the gIobe and mail. So there's this citizens group on electoral reform in Ontario, which has conducted a study that has determined that ontario needs a new electoral system. Nothing new, but the cool thing is that this group is funded by the government, and their recommendations are taken seriously. the electoral system they are recommending is proportional representation (!), which means that parties would be granted the number of MPs that corresponds to the percentage of vote they won, which would be great for smaller parties like the Greens or NDP, and would allow people to vote for them knowing that their votes counted. This is almost never the case in Ontario (and Canada) where people usually vote against who they dont like rather than for who they do like. Anyway, the website is here:

http://www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca/en/resources/default.asp

and I would really like to know how people feel about this and if it excites them at all. One thing - all ontarians will be voting in a referendum this coming fall whether or not to adopt this system, and it requires a 60% approval to pass.

Everyone Ive asked who lives in canada (family, friends) have heard vague things about it and are not that interested. So, opening it for discussion.

Robin Turner
 

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MMP for Ontario

Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform

Everyone Ive asked who lives in canada (family, friends) have heard vague things about it and are not that interested. So, opening it for discussion.

Robin Turner
G'day Robin

I, too have been living outside Canada, having spent the past 24 years in New Zealand. The last 11 of those were under the MMP voting system adopted there in 1993 and used since 1996. Is MMP good? Hell yeah! I feel so strongly aboutit that I came to Ontario in April to support the Vote for MMP campaign fulltime (for no money) right though to the referendum.

I hardly know where to start in singing MMP's praises. The most critical thing is that MMP gives you the party vote that always counts toward representation for the party you actually WANT.....not the one of the big two you dislike least. I know people claim it will advantage the Greens and NDP, but they forget about all the Conservative voters in safe Liberal ridings and vice versa....who are much more numerous than than the Greens or NDP. These big-party voters in safe seats for the OTHER party will be the real winners under MMP. Their vote for their party will finally count.

I hope Ontarians wake up to how great MMP is - and will be - and blow that 60% margin required to win completely away. Having lived under MMP for the past 11 years I'm gong to be doing everything I can to get that message out there.....and explain how MMP actually works in real life.....and for the better. Feel free to mail me with any questions you may have. I've allowed other ehMac members to e-mail me.

Steve Withers
 

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It's not my system of choice, but it is an improvement for voters to signal their wants. I'll be voting for it as long as the rules for party lists (the "proportional" MPs without ridings) do not try to manipulate demographics.
 

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Party Lists

As far as choosing candidates for the lists is concerned, a party will compose its list with a view to making it attractive across the province with the aim of maximising the ability of the list to attract votes. They do this because the share of the party vote decides how many seats the party will get overall.

So...how do they do it? In NZ, the parties compose their lists in a variety of ways and all are democratic one way or another. The (conservative) National Party chooses its local candidates at riding selection meetings of party members, then asks these same people to stand on the list. Since they won't win all the local seats, this usually leaves enough people to fill the list spots.

Others parties also have members voting in some way to choose the candidates. (Aside: Party members would not tolerate anything else. Why would they waste time supporting a party that behaved in undemocratic ways? MMP gives them other options, including starting a new party if they think there is voter support for it.)

Then, the head office of the party will generally compose the list in its final form, made up of all those democratically chosen candidates. The parties themselves decide what criteria are important and likely to win voter support. Placing women and ethnic minorities high enough on the list to get elected been deemed important by most parties, particularly the two large ones, who know they will win a good number of local seats.

Remember, they are doing this both because they think it important and good but also to win votes because they believe voters agree.

Over the last 11 years, the National Party has done the least (relatively) to address gender balance. Poll after polls shows that women support the National party less than men of the same age do. National has now been in Opposition for three terms, the last one by only a narrow margin. It would appear that antipathy to that party (in relative terms) by women is keeping them out of government. Their social policies are also relevant here, but the these also directly affect large numbers of women....the general impression being that National is least sensitive to the concerns of women.

So while "affirmative action" isn't always the best option, undr MMP is a definitely a good idea to offer candidates voters would like to see elected..and it would appear that more women is one aspect of doing that successfully.

Not by compulsion, but because there are enough voters who want it that way to make it worthwhile giving them what they want.
 

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I'm fine with parties doing what they want with their lists as part of their attempt to appeal to voters; the important part is that the electoral system does not impose upon them or voters.
 

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I would cautiously support the 'Mixed Member' system over what we have, although I am concerned by the complexities and the potential for manipulation. As an first reforming step, I strongly advocate a 'Single Transferable Vote' system for Ontario and Canada. Although it doesn't produce PR it does eliminate the incentive for strategic voting and does it in a way which anyone can understand.
 

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I haven't decided but I'm leaning against MMP, principally because it will further handicap Northern Ontario, give the north fewer MPPs to push northern issues onto the agenda.

The North has 90 per cent of Ontario's land mass and almost a tenth its population. It also has a tenth of the MPPs.

Under MMP, the North will lose representation and the likelihood of important economic issues such as forestry, mining and rural development getting priority attention will be diminished, and when they do get attention, they will be decided by a southern perspective on how life in the north should be.

I acknowledge that already happens, eg. the spring bear hunt, but I believe MMP will make it worse.
 

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Brainstrained said:
I haven't decided but I'm leaning against MMP, principally because it will further handicap Northern Ontario, give the north fewer MPPs to push northern issues onto the agenda.
Although I'm not up on the dynamics of Ontario politics, I'd like to ask you; how has N. Ontario fared under the first past the post system? Does the fact that N. Ontario might have a few more MPP's under that system than the proposed system actually give N. Ontarians a bigger voice?

Under our current plurality system, at least here in BC, the outlying regions still represent whatever the party whip demands of them and the rural, outlying and less populated areas are still without a voice, sitting MPPs/MLAs or not.

Many of us who support proportional representation in general believe that it forces the politicians to more closely represent the wishes of the citizens, because a government must manufacture a coalition representing an actual majority of votes rather than the fake majority governments that can rule under a plurality system. Consensus and working together can be the result of this.

Under this kind of system the reasonable wishes of minority areas and communities may be more likely to be considered and heard. The power elites who benefit from the first past the post system and who campaign against proportional representation use the fear of rural communities losing seats as a weapon, even though under our current system they have absolutely no concern for sparsely populated rural areas. I say this as someone who lives in a rural area, currently represented by a provincial governing party MLA, who votes against the interest of our area time and time again as he sides with the big business ties of his party. So what if we have a representative and government minister as our MLA? He sells us out each time he opens his mouth. I'd rather know that my vote against this bugger actually counted for some measure of political representation, rather than being dumped in the garbage.
 

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GA, N. Ontario MPPs are fairly vocal, though unheard, when in opposition but very silent when in government. Though we can usually count on having one cabinet minister whichever party forms the government, that benefit is largely local.

For example, when Mike Harris from North Bay was premier, the focus was improving highway connections between North Bay and southern Ontario (ie Toronto). Now that the Liberals are in, the focus is on improving highway connections between Sudbury, Minister of Northern Development Rick Bartolucci's riding, and south Ontario (ie Toronto).

I can't see how MMP will change this situation for the North at all. Instead of 10 or 11 MPPs, with one almost guaranteed to be in cabinet, we'll end up with five or six MPPs with none in cabinet. Fewer voices means less attention.
 
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