Like most Ontarians, I had no idea that we had a referendum coming up on adopting a Mixed Member Proportional voting system until I was handed some literature at the Milton Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago.
If you don’t know anything about MMP, please take the time to read about it here.
In essence, it is a system that allows the popular vote to be more accurately reflected in the percentage of MPPs from each party, while still ensuring that each riding is represented by the candidate elected by the majority in that riding.
What this means in practical terms is that, instead of a party with 40% of the popular vote having the power of a majority government and smaller parties like the NDP and the Greens having little or no representation, in most cases you would end up with a minority government forced to form coalitions and work together with a larger number of other parties.
Canadians tend to balk at the idea of minority governments, but the fact is that this country has functioned perfectly well under federal minorities many times throughout its history. We went for most of a decade under Diefenbaker and then Pearson minorities and still managed to get ourselves a snazzy new flag and a pretty damned good healthcare system out of it. Hell, Martin got same-sex marriage through with a minority government.
This is, in fact, how things work in most of Europe, where a lot of countries have some variation of proportional representation. We are only unfamiliar with it here because our two biggest historical role models have always been England and the U.S., and they both still use the old ‘first-past-the-post’ system. And we’ve all seen how well that’s working for the U.S.
There are a whole lot of reasons why I think MMP is a good idea, but these are the particular ones that mean the most to me personally:
1) A stronger voice for minorities. Under the current system, the major parties go for the broadest appeal they can get, and majority rule is frequently absolute. Under MMP, smaller parties can speak for the poor, the environment, women, human rights, cultural and visible minorities, and other people and issues often ignored or marginalized by the major parties. In order for the governing party to govern, they will have to address these issues. And before you bring it up, a party would need at least 3% of the vote to get representation, which would prevent narrow ‘fringe’ parties from filling up the seats.
2) Separate votes for the party and the local representative. If you really like a particular candidate but not his party, or love the party but hate the asshole they have running in your riding, you can have your cake and eat it too.
3) Less mess for the next government to clean up. Can you imagine if Mike Harris had had to work with a minority government? Or Bob Rae? Instead of having their way with us for years and years and letting their successors foot the bill, they would have had to run their more dumbassed ideas past the other parties first. Of course the same would apply to parties and policies you might like, but such is the nature of compromise.
4) More cooperation, less confrontation. Already in this country we are starting to see the same sort of angry, divisive, ‘Red Team vs. Blue Team’ mentality that is slowly destroying democracy in the U.S. I believe that MMP would reverse that trend.
5) On most issues that I personally care about, the Conservatives are generally all on their own against, well, everybody else. Progressives win, conservatives lose - assuming the leader of the NDP doesn't become drunk with power.
(ok, that one sort of contradicts #4)
6) Cherniak has come out against MMP. That says it all right there.
ON OCTOBER 10th, VOTE FOR MMP IN ONTARIO!