2007, Politics, Society

Ontario Proportional Representation Proposal 2007

In October Ontario will vote on whether or not to accept a new method of electing our MPPs. This is a good idea, except for the fact that the proposed new one sucks balls.

Why does it suck balls? Well, I’m glad you asked. Currently, we have a first-past-the-post system, meaning that whoever gets the most votes in a given riding wins. We have 100 and something provincial ridings in Ontario currently. The current system bothers people because it does not reflect the popular vote adequately enough. So the idea is that we will combine it with PR. Proportional representation is the idea that the number of seats your party gets is correlated to your party’s percentage of the popular vote. I.e. if there were 100 seats and your part got 25% of the popular vote, you would get 25 seats. If only life were so easy. Ahem.

There are concerns with PR as well; for example certain people worry about a lack of regional representation. (Your party’s 25 MPPs could all be from the High Park neighbourhood of Toronto if the party so desired.) There are also general liberal objections, for example regarding the tyranny of the majority. But I won’t deal with these. Suffice it to say, both systems have advantages, and both have disadvantages.

The new system supposedly seeks to create a “best of both worlds” situation. It doesn’t do this. It doesn’t do this because of the way it combines the two modes. In the new Ontario, there would be 129 seats, 100 ridings with MPPs getting elected on the first-past-the-post mode, and 29 seats with MPPs getting in on PR. What is the problem? The problem is that 29 is not enough of a percentage of 129 to make any kind of difference, except to the major parties. But the point of PR is to more greatly reflect the popular vote. I’ll try to explain what I mean.

Some people (me!) would claim that having PR as a part (not the only part) of a voting system is essential because it allows minority parties to actually win seats. However, the proposed system for Ontario limits the representation of these minority parties to virtually nothing…at least potentially.

For example, say the Green party (as the strongest minority party) wins 3% of the popular vote (and say that’s enough for one of the 29 seats based on PR). This 3% gets the Green party 1 out of 29 seats, which seems fair. But in order for the Green party to get any of the other seats up for grabs, this 3% would have to be heavily concentrated in one region to win one (or more) riding(s). That is to say, the Green’s would actually win 1 out of 129 seats. This would be a hollow victory. Certainly, if the aim of this is to more greatly express “the will of Ontarians” (or substitute any other hollow phrase you can think of) this will not do it.

My dad suggests it’s change for change’s sake. He may be right. I may vote for it if only because it is better than a strict first-past-the-post system. But it isn’t anywhere near something ideal. Why not go 50-50? I still wouldn’t be satisfied, but at least it would be something. But though I complain, I must say one thing: at least it’s not “BC-STV.”

Be seeing you.

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