Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Improve Democracy in Ontario -- On October 10, 2007, Support Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) Voting!

We interrupt the Climate Change posts for an important message: Ontarians have a unique opportunity to improve their democracy (and incidentally, help save the Planet, too). On Provincial Election Day, October 10, 2007, Ontarians can vote "YES" on a Referendum question to add Proportional Representation to the electoral system.

The traditional voting system (known as "first past the post") has resulted in too many minority Governments (in terms of popular support for the governing party) that call themselves "majorities" (because they end up with a majority of the seats in the Legislature). [UPDATE August 19, 2007: See charts of percent popular vote vs. percent seats in the Legislature in recent elections (citizensassembly.gov.on.ca "Resources" - links under "Electronic Press Kit" near bottom of page).] Moreover, smaller parties with a strong but spread-out support base can't get a seat in the Legislature (unless their supporters all move into one or a few ridings :-) This is deeply undemocratic, and it over-emphasizes local (even parochial) concerns over Province-wide (even Planet-wide) issues.

Speaking of Parties promoting Planet-wide issues, a recent poll has put the Green Party of Ontario at 11% support (sesresearch.com [PDF] via greenparty.on.ca). But this Party is very unlikely to get even one seat under the current system. If a recession hits and saving the planet returns to the back-burner for larger political parties (like it did in the 1990s), having the Green Party in the Legislature would help ensure that the issue does not vanish completely. For these reasons, a system that would give the Green party a voice would be a vast improvement for democracy -- and for the Planet.

A bit of background:

"After months of learning, consulting and deliberating, the province’s first Citizens’ Assembly decided to recommend a new electoral system for Ontario: Mixed Member Proportional [MMP]." (citizensassembly.gov.on.ca "How We Got Here")

"A Mixed Member Proportional system combines members elected in local districts and members elected for the whole province from party lists to serve as Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) in the legislature.This combination produces proportional election results that better reflect the wishes of voters." (citizensassembly.gov.on.ca "The Recommendation")
This is known as "one person, two votes". You would vote for a local representative, and for a Party. The two don't have to be aligned, giving you great flexibility.

As a bonus, there would be no more need for "strategic voting"! Many Ontarians have voted for one large Party to try to block another large Party, despite really wanting to vote for a third (smaller) Party. Under MMP, you could vote for a local representative from the larger Party (for example), and still vote for the smaller Party to help them get Proportional seats.

Under the proposal, the 90 traditional, locally-elected representatives would still predominate. But 39 representatives would be assigned by Party. For any Party with at least 3% of the popular vote, the formula would bring the percentage of seats in the Legislature to the percentage of the popular vote. (See citizensassembly.gov.on.ca "How the New System Works" for more details.)

Also, check out the Vote for MMP web site, which is published by "is a multi-partisan citizens’ campaign to support the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)" (voteformmp.ca "About Us").

If you have a blog, help spread the word by adding a "Vote for MMP" button from http://mmpbloggers.blogspot.com/

(We are not members or affiliates of any of the above organizations. We are expressing our support as individuals.)

Most importantly, if you are eligible to vote, make sure that you come out on October 10, 2007 and vote "YES" for MMP!

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