Thursday, October 11, 2007

Looks like we're stuck with First-Past-The-Post for the foreseeable future

What a thumping MMP took yesterday in Ontario!

It seems obvious to me this was a very clear repudiation of any form of proportional representation for Ontario for the foreseeable future. Only once Ontario becomes less conservative, less cautious and more willing to experiment with new voting systems, can proportional voting, in whatever form, be considered again.

Voters are smart. The old saying 'The voters are always right' still applies. We can't simply reject this vote against MMP as the result of widespread public ignorance of the question. In the end, I think voters knew very well what they were voting for and what they were voting against.

It surely seemed from my discussions with hundreds of ordinary Ontarians on this issue that discontent with the current system was palpable. Most people know they don't like First-Past-The-Post.

However, Ontarians aren't willing to make a giant leap toward something like MMP unless they're convinced it will be better. They clearly weren't convinced of that.

In many ways, the referendum result was much like the election result with voters opting for the devil they know rather than the devil they don't.

The future for electoral reform remains unclear. I do think MMP would have worked very well were it to have been adopted. But clearly Ontario voters are not interested in moving to a proportional system at this time.

So what are the alternatives after this? Preferential balloting? Run-off voting?

I'm not convinced either of those two options would be much better than our current system frankly. They would still shut out smaller parties and force voters to choose between the two biggest parties in their ridings. At least under our current system, the Green Party could conceivably elect a strong local candidate with a strong local machine. See Bruce-Grey-Owen-Sound last night for a historic result for the Greens in Ontario. Clearly the Greens are on their way up under our current system.

I said two days ago that for First-Past-The-Post to be safe in Ontario, it would need at least 60% voter support. It won 63% support. Right or wrong, I think we're stuck with the current system for the foreseeable future. I doubt any political leader would entertain revisiting this issue again for a long time.

Congrats to the winners! And also congrats to Dalton McGuinty and his team for a job well-done on the election campaign trail.


Joseph L. Angolano said...


Well said, and well done for showing some class in the aftermath.

It is clear that FPTP is our chosen electoral system here in Ontario. This is now the second clear strike against MMP. I wouldn't say MMP is dead, but it is in a very deep coma.

Perhaps in the future when we have several ridings being competitively contested by four parties, and the winning candidate winning with 26-30% of the vote in each riding, unlike the typical 40-50% that we see now.

But either way, this is the first concession I've seen from the Yes Side. I know I would have done the same if we had lost. Good on you for showing some dignity.

Matt Guerin said...

Thanks, Joseph. I'm a democrat first and foremost. We asked the people a clear question and they gave us a clear answer. I agree that in the future should we see further bizarre distortions of public intent with majorities won with as little as 30% or whatever, the public will more clearly see the need to change to something more representative. And of course we'll see how BC votes in 2009 on their admittedly better version of proportional representation where all members would be directly elected by the voters.

Joseph L. Angolano said...

LOL, My second paragraph makes no sense.

I am no fan of PR, I never will be. But we might look at electoral reform if and when we get four competetive parties in each riding. I prefer preferential balloting myself, but can live with runoff voting too. That way each candidate can walk into the legislature is a strong mandate from his or her constituency, because all of them in some way got 50% of the local vote.

No system is perfect, but the discussion about electoral reform was a good one this time and educated Ontario about democracy.