Tuesday, October 9, 2007

For First-Past-The-Post to be "safe", it'll need more than 60% support...

Much has been said during the Ontario referendum campaign of the 60% approval threshold imposed by the Ontario government on the new Mixed Member Proportional system.

Supporters of voting reform have decried this threshold as an unfair impediment to change. If voters are choosing between two systems, why does one system win with only 40% plus support?

Others have said that any change to our voting system requires greater public consensus than simply 50% plus one. The onus is on reformers to win 60% plus support in order for this change to go ahead.

I tend to accept the 60% threshold. Right or wrong, it's the rule that's been adopted in this referendum race. Such a vote in favour of change would be truly historic. In fact, according to the referendum law passed by the McGuinty government, if MMP wins 60% plus tomorrow, the government must implement it.

The supporters of the status quo have focussed almost exclusively in this campaign on attacking alleged shortcomings of the new system. They've spent almost no time explaining why our existing First-Past-The-Post system is better.

The reason for this is simple: First-Past-The-Post is antiquated and no longer produces governments that reflect the wishes of voters. Most anti-MMP folks in this referendum have openly admitted the existing system is flawed and some kind of change is necessary.

Since we've imposed a 60% threshold for approval for the new system, I think we should turn this rule on its head, at least symbolically.

Considering the lack of information out there for voters to make a decision, the fact that the new system is competitive in recent polling, and might even win over 50% support, shows a great deal of discontent with the existing system.

If First-Past-The-Post barely wins, like with a 52% support level over 48% for change, this will hardly be a ringing endorsement of our current system.

I think supporters of electoral reform should apply the same standard for approval to the existing system. First-Past-The-Post must win over 60% support from voters tomorrow in order to be considered "safe" for the next while. Anything less will show a strong desire for change in Ontario and will ensure this issue does not go away.


ottlib said...

I would put it alot higher than the 40s for this to have legs after this election.

The reason is this issue did not resonate with Ontarians at large.

If support for this proposal is under 50% it is dead and will not be resurrected for a very long time, if ever.

Matt Guerin said...

Considering the fact that most Ontarians still have very little knowledge of the MMP proposal, how can this vote be conclusive, especially if it's still close? If support for MMP in these conditions is in the 40s, or high 40s, the issue of electoral reform will continue. If MMP wins over 50% support, but less than 60%, this issue and MMP will most definitely continue to live another day. Only 60% plus support for the current system will convince me that MMP and electoral reform in general in Ontario is dead.

DPW said...

The Strategic Counsel poll has support for MMP down to 32% - as knowledge increased support dropped. Parliamentary reform (more free votes in addition to fixed election dates, stronger committees, etc.) would be a better agenda to win public support.

Matt Guerin said...

Ah dpw, you can't spin me. That poll showed support from MMP up from 27% to 32%. Nice lie there you tried to tell. Support for FPTP was only 35%. So it was indeed incredibly close between the two options. We'll see how the votes split tonight.