I want my MMP

An Ontario citizens’ assembly on electoral reform has come out in favour of a form of proportional representation known as mixed-member-proportional voting, or MMP. The Ontario Premier says it will be put to the people and will require a popular vote of more than 60%, which arguably makes sense for something as important as changing the voting system (though PR proponents disagree).

A similar process occurred in BC, with the assembly recommending an alternative system, single transferable vote, or STV, which failed by a narrow margin in the last provincial election, almost exactly two years ago (it got 57% of the vote, against the same threshold of 60%). The BC government says that due to the close margin, it will be put to voters again in 2008. I wrote about the vote and what’s next in CCPA’s BC Commentary publication (here).

Panel pushes vote overhaul TheStar.com – News – Panel pushes vote overhaul

May 15, 2007

Canadian Press
A government-appointed panel of citizens officially recommended today that Ontario overhaul the way it elects politicians and usher in a new system that would better distribute power in the legislature.

The panel of 104 members voted to endorse the mixed member proportional voting system, which would have citizens vote twice – once for a local representative and once for a party to govern the province.

Advocates say the new system would make the balance of power in the legislature better reflect the overall vote. The legislature would be made up of 90 members representing ridings and an additional 39 seats that would be distributed among parties to help ensure that popular vote numbers reflect the overall balance of power.

In the last four provincial elections, all governments won a majority while receiving less than 50 per cent of the popular vote. Last year, the Liberals won 69.9 per cent of the seats with 46.5 per cent of the vote, the Conservatives got 23.3 per cent of the seats from 34.7 per cent of the vote and the New Democrats got 6.8 per cent of the seats with 14.7 per cent of the vote.

Under the new system, parties would require at least three cent of the total vote to qualify for a list member, a limitation that was drawn up to discourage fringe political parties from clogging the legislature.

“It preserves the strong local representation of the current system and adds new elements that will increase voter choice and produce fairer election results,” the report states.

5 comments

  • janfromthebruce

    Yes, we want proportional representation.

  • Marc:
    TVO — Ontario’s public broadcaster – has set up a website to cover the entire Citizens’ Assembly process and to help voters cast an informed vote.

    We’ve got video from today’s report launch.

    You can check it out at http://www.tvo.org/citizensassembly

  • Thanks for the link. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. In BC, one of the reasons why STV did not win was that it is a very complicated system, and proponents were not able to articulate in a sound-bite how it would work. Support also did not break down on traditional party or left-right lines, so there were some strange bedfellows.

    Seems to me that MMP is a much more easily understood system. And some on the left who opposed STV actually wanted PR but preferred MMP (one reason is that greater gender equity could be attained in MMP).

  • STV isn’t complicated – Scottish voters believe that STV is easier to understand than MMP. You’re right about the soundbite issue; my own 3 word version of ‘Why STV?’ is “MLAs represent supporters”, unlike our current system where half the voters don’t agree with their MLA. This makes MLAs more responsive and accountable to the voters, makes every seat competitive, and ensures that every region in the province has both government and opposition representation – no area is left out and no area can be punished for voting ‘incorrectly’ without also hurting a government MLA.

    As for gender equity, I think the argument that MMP is better than STV is very weak. Wales elected 50% women in 2003 under MMP (and Scotland’s Labour party elected 56% women, also under MMP), but in both cases, women did better in the constituency elections than on the lists – exactly the reverse of what’s supposed to happen! In contrast, in the Demochoice BC virtual STV election (demochoice.ca), women comprised 27% of the candidates and won 27% of the seats, whereas in the real First Past the Post election, they only won 21%. Nomination practices therefore seem to be the determining factor. I expect that STV will let women win in proportion to how often they’re nominated.

    I hope all those who voted ‘No’ last time in hopes of getting MMP sometime in the future (by what means, I have no idea) will reconsider their prejudices in favour of MMP and against STV and support STV next time around. In the last year, STV has been adopted in Scotland, some Australian states, and several cities in the US, and is delivering exactly what it claims to – fair and proportional results.

  • As a fan of MMP, and in Ontario a supporter of the Mixed Member Proportional electoral system recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, I’d like to make it clear to BC readers that both MMP and STV are proportional representation systems which would each be a huge improvement over FPTP.

    If I lived in BC, even though my first choice was MMP, I’d be out campaigning for BC-STV as recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.

    How proportional is STV? This depends entirely on District Magnitude. With a 12-seater MMP district it takes 8.3% of the vote to win a seat. With a 7-seater STV district 8.3% will normally be enough, due to transfers. So Scotland’s 16-seater MMP districts would correspond to 11-seater STV districts, not on the table in BC.

    Slightly less proportional, but it’s a counsel of perfection to reject it on those grounds. Ireland’s STV model, on the other hand, has on average only 4-seater districts, seriously lacking in proportionality, worse than Tasmania’s 5-seaters or Northern Ireland’s quite decent 6-seaters. But still better than FPTP.

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