As some of you may have noticed, the debate over Ontario's historic referendum on fixing its antiquated voting system (First-Past-The-Post versus Mixed Member Proportional) has started in earnest in the blogosphere.
I'm a big supporter of electoral reform, have been for years. FPTP has always disturbed me by the way it distorts the wishes of voters at election time.
Under FPTP, one party that wins, say, 40% of the vote can typically walk away with a majority government for four or five years. Even more disturbing, First-Past-The-Post has a history of handing the second place party a victory. This happened with the PQ in Quebec in 1998, the NDP in British Columbia in 1996 and the Liberals in New Brunswick in 2006.
It's difficult to listen to pro-First-Past-The-Post supporters argue about the importance of democratic representation when they themselves are supporting the current system which frequently distorts voters' wishes at election time.
Furthermore, it seems pro-FPTP supporters are now engaging in a campaign of misinformation about Mixed Member Proportional (no doubt to confuse voters into keeping the status quo.) This in unfortunate.
The NoMMP.ca website uses the following statement: "Who exactly do these list MPPs represent? MMP has no real answer. They sort of do not represent anyone, which means that there is less accountability and weaker democracy in Ontario."
Under the Citizens' Assembly proposal, so-called list MPPs (I prefer calling them province-wide candidates) will be elected province-wide. They will serve the entire province, not just one constituency. In addition to having local representation in one of the 90 constituencies under MMP, voters will also have 39 additional province-wide representatives to whom anyone in Ontario can turn for assistance. This is more representation, not less.
Check out this letter to the editor by MMP opponent Edelgard Mahant in the Cambridge Times.
In it, she writes: "The number of constituencies will be reduced to 90. This means that for people living in medium and small towns, such as Cambridge, their local MPP is likely to be far away and will not have time for their problems. And the 39 list MPPs in this model will mostly come from large urban areas, severely hurting rural areas."
Mahant has no problem stating as fact that province-wide candidates will mostly come from large urban areas. This is an absolute falsehood. She has no idea where most list candidates will come from. The MMP proposal leaves it up to parties to decide how to pick their province-wide candidates, creating a healthy competition between them to create the best list. But Mahant doesn't mind painting a false picture designed to mislead voters about MMP.
Liberal blogger Scott's DiaTribes had a great post on this issue when the NoMMP.ca campaign was launched.
In it, Scott wrote: "I am sorry to see that “No MMP” is resorting already to fear and smear. They are certainly within their rights to charge or to say they fear something COULD happen under MMP. but for them to come out and assertively say it WOULD happen, as they’ve done here with their opening press release, is a falsehood. I certainly hope this opening appalling statement isn't indicative of a pattern, and that they will at least try to be more honest in their arguments from here on in."
I couldn't agree more, Scott. Unfortunately, based on what we've seen thus far from the pro-FPTP folks, I'm not optimistic.