Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Two electoral reform pieces you should read

I'm still pretty checked-out from politics for the moment, but these pieces are worth reading:

Greg Morrow explains what Ontarians can expect from electoral reform by systematically recounting what happened in New Zealand after they switched in 1996 to the very same system that Ontario has on the table now. I actually meant to write some version of this post myself some time ago, but never got around to it. This one's great, though--and certainly much more concise than mine would have been.

Over at the Tyee, Mitchell Anderson argues pretty convincingly that Dion could win an awful lot of votes to the Liberals by making some bold statements and some bold promises about electoral reform. As a New Democrat, I cringe at the prospect, because I think it would work. But as an electoral reformer, I can't help but say yes, yes, YES!


M@ said...

I agree with your stance on Dion -- electoral reform has made it to my top list of issues on which I judge politicians -- but I'm not convinced that the issue will take hold with many voters. I think the myths and misconceptions about alternatives to the FPP system are too ingrained.

But I'm willing to be surprised. I'd even have to consider supporting Harper if he were advocating meaningful reform (of course he won't, as a party with a strong regional base).

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Harper is anti-reform. That wasn't completely clear before, but he's said as much at this point. Dion is supposedly pro-reform, but thus far unwilling to put action where his mouth is. Here's hoping some pressure like this might help in that department.

West End Bob said...

However it happens, PR looks to be a positive move forward for the nation. Maybe Stephane will make the bold move . . . .

Good to see you back, IP.

janfromthebruce said...

How about voting for the party who has electorial reform and pp on their books. And vote in candidates who actually will push for PP, as part of a party platform. If they voted against it before, then they are not serious, and it's just a way to get votes. Sorry, unless we have lots of NDP MPs in the house, the job won't get done.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! The NZ stuff was good. Not much there to dissuade anyone from the benefits.

Now that the Ontariariario study group has a MMP proposal, the sales job becomes important. If I'm not mistaken, the STV plebiscite failed to get the (absurdly high) 60% needed to pass mainly because people didn't understand it and voted for the status quo over an unknown.

It's hard to think that Ginty or the Ont. Tories really want PR. I haven't heard whether we'll be given the same 60% threshold as BCers.

So... who's job is it to educate the public to the nature and benefits of MMP? Leaving that up to Ginty's bunch don't guarantee a fair and thorough exposition. Is it the job of the MSM? I don't reckon lotsa stories on PR'll be sellin' newspapers or leadin' on the Lloyd Robertson Show.

I guess it's the boogers' job. Dang! Us boogers get stuck with all the work the politicians and paid pundidiots can't be bothered with.

I reckon it's also the job of the ones who stand to gain to pitch the plan. That'd be the ON Dips an' the ON Greens, fer starters.

Jan, Ontarians will at least be seeing this on the ballot. Somehow, that occurred without lots of NDP MPP's at Queen's Park. An educated public is the key. Voters will need to support this across party lines. The less it is pushed as a partisan issue, the better chance of any progress.


Anonymous said...

Every thinking person agrees that the 18th Century FPTP electoral system does not work in the 21st Century.

The point, however, is rather on what replaces this universally bad system. You're ignoring the fact that not everybody agrees that the proper alternative is MMP. MMP is not a cure-all nor is it the de-facto best PR system. Greg and I got into this debate rather extensively on my blog a while back which people are welcome to check out. But, more importantly, I feel that the discussion here could have been improved had it mentioned just one good source discussing other PR systems such as STV.

I will pedal Hillar Pearse's academic piece (although I'm sure I sound like a broken record) which doesn't so much advocate STV as it does present the case that MMP isn't necessarily the desirable alternative.

You can access her piece at the Canadian Parliamentary Review (don't worry, it's quite readable) here:

MMP does not get to win by default and it is not synonymous with Proportional Representation.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Yeah, the Ontario threshold will be 60%. But don't lose faith! The B.C. referendum came very very close to that, and there was a lot more infighting among reformers themselves, there.


You're ignoring the fact that not everybody agrees that the proper alternative is MMP.

No, I can't agree with the notion that I'm "ignoring" that, sorry.

I'm not married to MMP, and I have always treated all electoral system models fairly in this blog rather than taking sides. However, given that the topics in those links are a) the upcoming Ontario referendum (where the citizens' assembly chose an MMP model), and b) Stephane Dion's stance on electoral reform (he claims to prefer some variant of MMP), I'm not seeing why other systems such as STV would be relevant to bring up at all in a post that merely points people at those articles.

I feel that the discussion here could have been improved had it mentioned just one good source discussing other PR systems such as STV.

I apologize for my dashed-off link post not meeting your exacting standards of what a blog post should be. Last time I checked the Bloggers' Handbook, though, we were allowed to make posts that pointed readers at another post or two that they might be interested in without grandiose pretensions of trying to start a discussion. Perhaps the rules changed in my absence.

In any case, for my more lengthy "discussions" that did consider STV alongside other systems, I'll have to refer you to my proportional representation FAQ and my follow-up post about coalition governments.

don't worry, it's quite readable

*eye roll* Oh, you're a charmer, aren't you? Sorry, I don't have time for a condescension contest tonight.

janfromthebruce said...

With you on that JimBobb. We need to get it out there, and more than lip service.
Also, Jimbobb, we need to get it out there for this election and before hand, about a one school system with 2 official languages. You will hear more about that come June, during the Ontario Public School Board Association meeting. There's about 4 resolutions coming that way.

Anonymous said...

Idealistic Pragmatist - I think it is a little bit melodramatic to suggest that I was trying to tell you what to do on your blog or that “the rules have changed" in your absence. I like your blog and I did quite like your PR FAQ, so I am sorry if you felt like I was attacking you or trying to tell you what to write. This was not the purpose of my comment.

Maybe I could have worded my comment a bit better, but I want to re-emphasize here that I wasn’t trying to tell you what you should and should not write on what is obviously your space. I wouldn’t take kindly to that myself, so why on Earth would I do that to you?

My comment was merely based on the fact that, while the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly may have settled on MMP, federally, anything is possible should PR actually get on the agenda via Dion or Layton or somebody else. Thus, since the title of the post was the very broad: “Two electoral reform pieces you should read”, I felt that a discussion about STV is definitely something which ought to be included in electoral reform pieces which people should read.

Obviously anybody can disagree or agree with this, but I don’t see why you took such offense to this. I didn’t want to quarrel with you and I wasn’t trying to be condescending to you or your readers. My comment about Pearse’s article being an ‘easy read’ wasn’t to be taken as slam on you or your readers, but rather merely referred to the fact that it’s summer and I know that few people (myself included) want to take the time to read something dense when they just want to enjoy the weather and have a break from work/school at this time of the year. So your tirade against my comment read waaaay too much into something that wasn’t there.

Anonymous said...

Paul, as a BCer, I see you going down the PR infighting road that we did - with the NDP and the Greens both turning their noses up at STV in favour of MMP. We were so close - only 2% more, and we would have PR in BC today.

If those infighting energies had been turned to supporting the PR system chosen by the Citizen's Assembly instead, we might have been the first domino to topple to see PR across Canada.

Please, you've got a chance to improve the system now. It may not be perfect, but it will be a damn sight better. Don't screw it up like we did.

M@ said...

Oh, I wasn't expecting to support Harper. Just saying that I'd have to consider it. :)

I'm really not happy to see the in-fighting about the method to be used -- I somewhat prefer STV over MMP myself, but either is far preferable to FPP.

Unknown said...


STV is not on the ballot in the fall referendum. It's MMP or FPTP. Nobody, myself included, got 100% what they wanted from the OCA's recommendation, but that's because they opted for a system that would best balance the competing goals and appeal to the widest audience. So, the choice that STV supporters like you now have is whether you will or will not campaign and vote for a proportional system that increases women's and minority representation (not to mention allows for better representation of broader issues). Will you stand up and be counted on electoral reform or not?