Tuesday, October 09, 2007


What John said.

Also, I recently heard a new argument for FPTP, namely that it ensures local representatives, not regional or provincial ones (who would exist under MMP). I've been trying to parse the argument, and I really can't. It seems to hark back to an earlier era of politics, where parties weren't as influential as they are now, and MPs/MPPs/MLAs/whatever had the option of defying the whip and voting their consciences. But that isn't our political world. Maybe it should be, but unless those who value local representation get serious about restricting the influence of parties generally, then their ability to wield their influence has to be curtailed . There's no good reason to allow one party to dictate the fortunes of millions of people because they managed to get 35-40% of the population that actually voted to cast ballots in their direction. (Really, the number is probably lower, as that 35-40% number would include votes in ridings they didn't even win -- i.e., wasted ballots.) Even if, like me, you think contemporary democracy is a bit of a sham, it's simply stupid to give these unaccountable, wealthy monoliths unrestricted power. If you do believe in democracy, then you have a whole host of other reasons to vote for MMP -- a more representative parliament, genuine respect for the value of a ballot, even an opportunity to (maybe, some time down the road) change the system again, to something even better.

No matter who you vote for on the other ballot, you should vote in favour of MMP in tomorrow's referendum.

Of course, the referendum's going to go down in flames, for a number of contributing reasons. But it's worth a shot. If there's enough support for change, we may get to take a second crack at it in a couple of decades. If there isn't, then we'll all go to our graves ruled by a relic of a previous political time. (Cheerful, eh?)


Anonymous said...

Probably too late now,but, go MMP. Works here in NZ where, with any luck, we may never have a long-term right-wing govt again.

Raywat Deonandan said...

I'm in favour of MMP, but it does have one big flaw (among a host of smaller ones): it tends to disfavour a strong central leadership with impactive executive power.

Ontario is one of those provinces, due to its skewed population and resource distributions, that benefits from the ability of a strong executive to effect policies decisively.

Mind you, depending on your standpoint, that might also be an argument for MMP, so what do I know?

A more pragmatic immediate concern is whether the actual numbers proposed in Ontario's MMP plan are appropriate. Seem rather arbitrary to me.

Nonetheless, better to try it and see, than to put up with the present dysfunction.

ADHR said...

I suppose if we did away with the lieutenant-governor in favour of an elected governorship, that could solve the problem of strong central leadership. Right?

In practice, Ontario's strong executives/premiers have tended to favour particular regional interests over others (recall Mike Harris' constant assaults on Toronto), so I'm not sure it's really a good thing in practice.

Still, as we now know, MMP went down in flames. Largely, I suspect, due to lack of information: the referendum question indicated that FPTP was the currently-existing system, and I find it easy to believe that people will vote for what's familiar over what's not. The arrogant response of some in the media to the defeat really annoys me, though. FPTP/SMP is a hideous system when you have more than two parties: it's profoundly anti-democratic and it leads to general alienation of citizens from their government. Electoral reform has to happen, and I'm not clear why they're unwilling to accept that. (Well, except for conspiracy theories about it being in their own best interests.)

undergroundman said...

It doesn't take a conspiracy for people to protect their own interests. The status quo government benefits from the status quo electoral system.

I'm surprised you guys even got a petition through. I can't see that happening in the US. Though to be honest, that is probably more based on ignorance than protective interests.

The evidence that people will fight what's good for the whole out of self-interest is overwhelming.

ADHR said...

I can see the parties being against it (at least the big two) for self-interest. What I don't see is how it serves the media's best interests.

We didn't get a petition. Dalton McGuinty (premier, leader of the Liberal Party) promised to form a citizen's assembly and put electoral reform to a referendum. He was forced to hold to his promise, but did so in the most anemic way possible.

undergroundman said...

Big media serves the interests of the status quo because that's who it connects with and works for. Change means uncertainty. Why take the risk?

That's not to say that all media will respond that way, but it certainly seems to be the trend.

Look at how big media in the US is treating the fringe candidates. I've watched interview after interview where the media just scoffs at Ron Paul and Mike Gravel and makes fun of them. When these guys win online polls, the polls are taken down. It's happened dozens of times.

ADHR said...

Well, in fairness, online polls are a bit of a joke. Everyone knows how to game them. And Ron Paul really is a fringe candidate. (Not that that's any reason not to cover him. He's a candidate, so he deserves to be covered.) I don't know much about Gravel, though.

Thing is, media has to convince advertisers to buy either airtime or print ads. And, to do that, they need an audience. So, they have to at least put on a good song-and-dance of serving the people in order to get enough of the people to buy their product. Since a proportional representation system like MMP would lead to more intergovernmental negotiations, you'd think it would create more opportunities for political reporters to write or produce stories that some people would want to read or watch, respectively. Thus, media could sell to more advertisers (or sell more to the same advertisers).

It just seems counter to their own best interests to oppose this sort of reform. I have to think they're either idiots or irrationally scared.