Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Open Letter to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party

Fellow Tories:

This past year, the Ontario Citizens Assembly, a body that had one member chosen at random from each provincial constituency, has been studying the issue of electoral reform in the province. After studying various electoral models and consulting with citizens across the province, the OCA has recommended that the province adopt a Mixed Member Proportion electoral system over the current First Past the Post System. A provincial referendum on the issue has been scheduled to coincide with the October 10 provincial election.

The signatories of this letter have been longtime supporters of the PC Party of Ontario and are active members of Fair Vote Canada. Fair Vote Canada is a multi-partisan organization that has been actively campaigning for the adoption of some form of Proportional Representation. Although FVC does not endorse a specific form of PR, it is of the opinion that almost any form would be preferable to the current system.

Proportional Representation, if adopted, will help to make the democratic process in Ontario politics more efficient and more reflective of voters' wishes in the Province. This is an issue that we, as a party, should seriously consider.

Wilfred Day, a lawyer, electoral reform expert and member of Fair Vote Ontario, wrote an article entitled An Ontario Mixed Member Proportional Model, in which he conducted a simulation of the 2003 provincial election using an MMP model of PR in which there would be a total of 139 legislative seats, both constituency and regional. Day projected what the hypothetical results would be for each party had this system been used.

Day's results demonstrated that the Liberals would only have won a minority government under MMP with 65 seats. The PC's on the other hand would have won 49 seats, almost double the amount of seats the party actually won in 2003. The NDP would have taken 24 seats and the Green Party would have taken 4 seats.

(To read the entire report, e-mail justinodonnell@cogeco.ca to request a copy.)

As you can see, this form of PR would have been of benefit to our party in 2003, in that our loss would not have been as severe, and that our party would have gotten more even representation throughout Ontario. PR can be very beneficial to our party, and not just to the NDP or Green Party as some critics have suggested.

Had Ontario had a form of Proportional Representation in the 1987 Ontario election, the Ontario PC Party would not have suffered such a devastating defeat that reduced the party to third place in the legislature. Such big shifts as what occurred in 1987 are out of proportion to the more moderate shifts in the popular vote. Adopting MMP would help introduce a degree of stability to the electoral process where swings in party support would be more moderate and in line with the overall popular vote.

Over the next two weeks, I would urge all party members to familiarize themselves with the issue. Discuss it with family members, friends and other party members and make your feelings known on this issue to them. If you want more information on the issue, go to the Vote for MMP website (http://www.voteformmp.ca/).

It is only through a healthy debate that our party can make an informed decision on such an important issue. Our party has had a strong tradition of supporting grassroots democracy and respecting the wishes of Ontario voters. By endorsing MMP, we would be continuing with that tradition.

/Signed/

Patrick Boyer, Q.C.
Once and future MP for
Etobicoke-Lakeshore

J. Justin O'Donnell, M.L.S.
Past President
Niagara Centre P.C. Association

10 comments:

John M Reynolds said...

Why is the provincial wide popular vote more important than regional representation?

Why waste time on changing our voting system when the benefits will be few? MMP is a step toward more party power which is in the wrong direction.

Scott Tribe said...

Let's see.. greater representation for groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in the legislature, no "votes wasted" by those PC voters who live in downtown Toronto and have no hope in heck of getting a representative to air their views.. a fairer voting system. Those look like more then a "few" benefits John.

As for "more party power" - that's entirely dependent on the parties, true. But, if leaders like John Tory would publicly committ to democratically committing to your party selection List Candidates, that fear evaporates. So far, though, he's chosen not to display all that "leadership" he claims to have, and has instead tried to fear-monger about it.

John M Reynolds said...

Everyone will have two votes. The first one will often be "wasted". Actually, the second will be too since it ends up making the distribution of MPPs not as regional. If traditionally underrepresented groups want their voices heard, then they can speak out. If people liked what they had to say, then people would vote for them. Giving a traditionally underrepresented group the possiblility of the balance of power is not a good thing. They are not represented for a reason.

The parties are not stepping up to say how they will make their list election more democratic. There will be no way for conservative or liberal voters to be able to get rid of a green or ndp list MPP. The cons and libs won't have a vote in that list. Tory is not the only one not stepping up to that plate.

And you did not answer my first and most important question. You spent time complaining about wasted votes. They are not wasted. They are simply votes. It is the minimum of effort that should be expected of people. Unfortunately, it usually is the maximum of effort that people are willing to spend. Sadly, that is even too much for those who don't vote. Changing a voting system is a waste of time without getting the public involved.

Will anyone answer my first question: Why is the provincial wide popular vote more important than regional representation?

Jim said...

Why is the provincial wide popular vote more important than regional representation?

The provincial wide popular vote is an indicator of how much legislative weight should be given to a particular voting group.

A minority of the population, no matter how it is organized nor how large it conceivably is, should not govern as a majority.

This is important because we currently define who leads our government based upon how much legislative weight we give out to political parties.

The MMP proposal simply assumes that the political party / party platform will still exist as the choice for votes.

Now, you can argue - justifiably - that the MMP proposal is not perfect, that you can think of umpteen different ways to improve it.

But, make no mistake - the current system is far worse than the MMP proposal. In the hundreds of years of its existence that some say isn't broken, it has not changed to make it fairer - it won't either, no matter how much the No MMPers insist "it should". There are just too many inherit flaws with the system.

I say to you, vote for MMP, and recommend and call for improvements, rather than voting for FPTP and maintaining those flaws.

John M Reynolds said...

"This is important because we currently define who leads our government based upon how much legislative weight we give out to political parties"

This is the problem that has to be fixed. Taking power away from different areas will not be an improvement.

"A minority of the population, no matter how it is organized nor how large it conceivably is, should not govern as a majority."

Similarly, a minority of the population should not be given the opportunity of balance of power. my question of why the provincial wide popular vote is more important than regional representation still has not been answered.

Jim said...

My question of why the provincial wide popular vote is more important than regional representation still has not been answered.

That's because you're asking which we like better, apples or oranges.

I like both, actually.

Under the MMP proposal, the importance of provincial wide popular vote - to determine legislative weight - is respected and strong regional representation is possible.

Under the current FPTP system, the provincial wide popular vote is discarded with lopsided regional representation [link].

Under MMP, we have the possibility of improvement. Under FPTP, we have had none and absolutely no impetus to do so.

Saying "we should" is not good enough.

John M Reynolds said...

The new system will reduce the regional representation by lowering the number of ridings from 107 to 90. How is that good? That is weakening the regional representation. MMP can not be able to guarantee that the list MPPs are from all regions. The extra 39 list MPPs cover less than half of the ridings, so 39 or fewer ridings will have two or more representatives. To push for MMP requires you to push against regional representation. You cannot have both. They are opposites and one will have to give way to the other in this referendum. I want to know why pro-MMP people prefer the popular vote to regional representation. Thanks for trying Jim, but my question still stands unanswered.

MMP will add 39 list MPPs that are accountable to the party. Party politics is a large part of the problem. MMP will only add to this while not solving the real issue. Changing the electoral system is only a flash in the pan which does no good with respect to democratic reform. True democratic reform will have to come from the people. It is about people taking responsibility for their city, province and country. Simply changing the voting system will do nothing to spur people into action. When we get more citizen participation, even FPTP problems would become moot. It will not matter if a single party gets all the votes because they will all be a bunch of statesmen who are willing to listen to their constituents instead of party insiders. MMP will give parties even more clout with list MPPs being required to toe the party line. This is a step away from democratic reform.

Jim said...

I want to know why pro-MMP people prefer the popular vote to regional representation. Thanks for trying Jim, but my question still stands unanswered.

I'm sorry, John, you just didn't understand the answer. Your question is based upon the No Campaign's talking point that MMP diminishes regional representation.

MMP does no such thing.

John M Reynolds said...

Hi Jim. There will be 17 fewer ridings. How do you consider fewer ridings to not represent fewer regional representatives? You calling it a talking point does not diminish its truth. It is a plain fact. There will be fewer regional representatives. That means regional representation will be lowered.

The extra 39 list MMP will be accountable to the party since people elected them based on their party membership. Thirty nine people cannot be evenly distributed amongst 90 ridings. At a minimum, 51 ridings will only have one person. At most, 39 ridings will have two people. Not all regions will have the same representation. It is not possible for MMP to have strong regional representation. This matters.

Your idea that all ridings should have close to the same number of people is wrong. It is already weighted too heavily toward southern ontario. They bring in laws like the spring bear hunt that seem just fine for southern ontario, but are a real problem for the north. The south does not have to deal with the bears like we do.

John M Reynolds said...

Here is a better link for the Preliminary List of Electors for the 2007 General Election:

http://www.elections.on.ca/en-CA/Tools/ElectoralDistricts/ElectorCount.htm

I put a sorted list on my blog:

http://greycanada.blogspot.com/2007/09/electoral-districts.html