Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Old-style politics vs. the citizens of Ontario

The verdict from Andrew Coyne on Ontario electoral reform is identical to mine: the details of the system the citizens' assembly picked aren't the exact same things I would have chosen if I'd designed it myself, but the proposed new system is certainly better than how the province elects its MPPs currently. And anybody taking an honest look at the pros and cons of how the proposed system would work in practice alongside a similarly honest look at the pros and cons of how the current system works in practice should come to the same conclusion.

Just as an aside, it's endlessly fascinating to me that the pundits most consistently in favour of electoral reform initiatives are maverick, non-party-line-toeing conservatives like Coyne and old-style Tories like John Ibbitson. While this may make some lefties uncomfortable, I welcome it. If that finally gets it through people's thick skulls that these reforms are
not about promoting particular parties or ideological agendas, but about giving all voters an equal voice in electing their parliaments, then I say bring it on.


Anonymous said...


It's me again after you called me out for dismissing lefties in Alberta at Scott's DiaTribes:)

I will post something in my blog about PR pretty soon. I have been having discussions with Greg over at democraticSPACE over closed lists and open lists. My attitude is this, I can understand why closed lists have been recommended. I can also highlight the success that MMP with closed lists have brought in other political arenas (Scotland, New Zealand, Wales, Basque Country etc).

Greg is concerned that a closed list system will not be able to win the 60 per cent support in a referendum. With the Liberals and Tories interested in maintaining FPTP in Ontario, it will be a uphill battle. But we need all the supporters of electoral reform in Ontario to present a unite front in winning this referendum. The difference between how 30 to 40 odd regional candidates are elected should not destroy this opportunity for reform.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Oh, I'm definitely in agreement about the united front. That's why I'm not going to be outlining any of the specifics of my preferred electoral system in my blog. No citizens' assembly is ever going to pick every single feature this particular electoral system geek wants to see, but if they come up with a fairer system, they deserve my support nonetheless.

And while I myself may have made different choices, as someone who's lived in a country with (at least at the federal level) closed-list MMP, I can say that most of the arguments against it are at best blown out of proportion, and at worst completely spurious. It works just fine--better than what we've got, that's for sure.

derrida said...

I personally can't think of many issues on which the electorate of Ontario would reach a supermajority of 60% approval. Most nuanced discussion of electoral reform, while interesting, is also a moot discussion. Whatever is put forward by the Citizens Assembly stands practically no chance of being adopted.
Frankly, I'm surprised the required "supermajority" threshold of 60% hasn't been the subject of more discussion. Personally, as someone who's long been committed to the need for electoral reform, I'm outraged that the Ontario Liberals unilaterally imposed this condition on electoral reform. I understand why they did it; the FPTP system has favoured most the party with the greatest portion of the popular vote. I don't understand why everyone seems to consider it superfluous to the discussion on electoral reform, even if there's nothing we can do to change it now.
The requisite condition of a supermajority insult to the Citizens Assembly, and an insult to the people of Ontario. While I commend these Liberals for running for election in 2003 on electoral reform and opening up the possibility of such change, I cannot but condemn these self-same Liberals for making it virtually impossible to legislate such reform. Lately McGuinty claimed a "neutrality" on the subject wanting rather the voice of the people to be heard. He wants the people to decide but is willing to accept their decision only if nearly impossible conditions are met. I sat in the gallery of the legislature and watched as McGuinty shocked everyone, even members of his own caucus (who evidently also remained unawares of this stipulation and showed their disgust by walking out because that was not what had been agreed to), by imposing this nearly unprecedented prerequisite of a “supermajority” on any referendum on electoral reform. It’s classic run from the left/govern from the right Liberal politics. It’s also a shame and a mere pretense of democracy.
From Fair Vote Canada:
Dr. Dennis Pilon, University of Victoria political scientist and FVC National Council member:
“Apart from the recent PEI and BC referendums, no voting system change decision in Canada was ever subjected to a super-majority rule. In fact, the establishment of all Canadian federal and provincial voting systems was by a simple majority vote of the designers…[and] all western countries have seen the establishment of their voting systems or any changes in their voting systems handled either through a simple majority vote of parliament or a simple majority vote in a referendum.”

Anonymous said...

"this particular electoral system geek"

Greg is actually a very solid urban geographer based in UCLA. His research work on urban planning is exceptional. However, he may see things differently as a urban geographer than the political scientist/advocate in us.

I have now posted my comments to Greg's proposals on my blog. You can see that a political scientist may have a different perspective. We can't be both wrong. In fact, you should note the similarities we have.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


When I said "this particular electoral system geek," I was referring to myself.