Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I support MMP

At the upcoming provincial election, the people in Ontario will also vote in a referendum on whether to dump first past the post and replace it with mixed member plurality -- a form of representation by population. The method proposed is not somewhat like the system in Germany and New Zealand, where one votes for both a local candidate and a party slate.

I support the move, precisely for the reason some are opposing it: It will mean the end of endless majority governments. Why is that important?

It may be true that majorities produce stability. But they also produce arrogance. As the system is presently set up in Canada, someone could win an election outright with as little as 35% of the popular vote then rule like a dictator (with a compliant bunch of minions in the legislature) for the next four years. Coalition building would require broader and more palatable policy options that draw consensus rather than division. And it would permit "dream team" Cabinets, such as the Red-Green alliances one often sees in Europe.

Besides this is totally unlike the pure PR system in Israel, where a party wins seats with just 2% of the popular vote; it's little wonder why coalitions are so unwieldly there. The floor proposed here is slightly higher -- 3% -- but given the party seats would level out any "overhangs" it would prevent fringe groups from gaining access to the legislature unless they first had fairly broad local support.

By ensuring the representation closely reflects how people actually voted, one will feel their vote counted. Moreover, by having two ballots one can split the vote so they can vote for one party's candidate (or rather his or her slate) for the top job while selecting another party's local candidate.

Some have argued against the idea of closed lists. And this is a concern -- generally I support the principle of no representation without selection. However, the fact is parties will have to justify who appears on their lists and why. If a party decided, for instance, to choose a slate made up entirely of white males from Toronto's financial district it would risk getting punished not just on the list but on the local level as well. Going back to Israel and its pure PR model -- would any party stand a chance if it just fielded a slate entirely from Tel Aviv or Meggido (Armageddon)? Not likely.

There are kinks in the system and they can be worked out but this may be the best and only chance we have of getting it done. It's unacceptable a party can win the popular vote and still lose the election. MMP will prevent that from ever happening again. That's why I'm going to support this and work among my colleagues and here to get it up to the 60% vote needed to pass.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

No comments: