Answering questions about MMP

As many people know, Ontarians are being asked to choose between the status quo (FPP) and a new voting system (MMP) proposed by the Citizen’s Assembly in a referendum alongside the provincial vote this October 10.

Unabashedly, I am in favour of the new system. It is not a panacea, it’s not perfect (nothing is), but it’s a darn sight better than the system we currently use. Since I am active during the campaign I try to take every opportunity to promote a vote for the Yes side as I talk to people throughout the day. I’m very comfortable with my position and I think that I can speak to any objections that I come across.

Last night my wife, Corrina, told me about a conversation she had with some friends while traveling on the GO train. She is also a proponent of MMP and was discussing it when she ran across some objections that she did not know how to answer. Naturally I was happy to help her out.

1) MMP creates MPPs who are not responsible to any constituents.

This is a common worry. We are used to having one MPP who is specifically responsible for a riding. That person is who the members of that riding go to to express their concerns and to try to get action on them. If there are MPPs who are not beholding to one riding then they can’t be held accountable by any set of voters.

I look at it differently. MMP gives us 39 MPPs who are responsible to ALL the voters in Ontario. To illustrate my point I like to use an analogy from casino Municipal politics.

(Bear with me, this takes a bit of set up but it’s worth it for the pay-off in the end.)

Newmarket had always used a “Councilor-at-large” system (pick 8 people from a list of 20 or so, top 8 vote getters are the new council) but were looking to move to a Ward system (divide the town into geographic areas and vote for one person within that area.)

I was in favour of the new system. I liked having one person to take my concerns to and felt that my councilor would be more knowledgeable about the specific issues in my area. My mother-in-law favoured the current system since she had 8 people to take her concerns to, not just one. As she put it, “what if your one councilor is a jerk? then you have no-one to help you at all. At least I can go to someone else for help, you’re stuck.” My response, “If my guy is a jerk then he won’t get re-elected. It’s in his best interest to be responsible to me.” We both had valid points for and against each system (again, no system is perfect) and in the end Newmarket elected to adopt Ward Councilors.

So what does this have to do with the question? MMP effectively gives us both systems at once. Each riding will elect a representative who is solely responsible for, and accountable to, those constituents (like the Ward system), additionally there will be 39 MPPs who are available to all Ontarians regardless of where they live (like the At Large system).

Why is this good? In theory your MPP is supposed to be responsive to the concerns of all of his/her constitiuents regardless of their political bent. In practice, however, how much time will a PC MPP give the the Organized Labour concerns in his riding, or an NDP member to the Pro-Life lobby in hers? Not much I’d bet. In reality most MPPs only feel responsiblity to the minorty of voters who elected them, not the majority who voted for the other guys. This effectively disenfranchises the majority of all Ontarians from the political process. MPP gives us 39 more MPPs to take our concerns to, and odds are, at least one of those will be receptive and help take those concerns to the legislature. In reality List MPPs far from being responsible to no one, are actually free to be responsible to everyone.

2)The people on the list are selected by the parties, not the public, so they are only loyal to the party.

It is absolutely true that the individual parties will select the list members. They will be presented, in order, to the voters when the election is called along with the method the party used to choose them. A party leader could choose to make up the list all by himself, but he would have to make that public, and it probably wouldn’t play very well to the voters. And, yes, only party members will be involved in creating the list, which is no different from how candidates are chosen now. The average person has no say in who will be running for his party of choice, only party members have a say. If you want a say in who your local candidate is, you join the party and get in on the process. Similarly if you want a say in who the list members are you join the party and get in on the process.

Feel free to use these answers when you’re out promoting MMP to your friends, family and co-workers. And remember to vote Yes to MMP on October 10.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2007 at 2:53 pm and is filed under MMP, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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