On October 10th 2007, Ontarians will being going to the polls for an election. The difference this time is that you won’t just be voting for a Member of Provincial Parliament, you will also be voting for a change to the voting system for Ontario. The current system of voting is called First-past-the-post (FPTP). I am sure most people are familiar with it, but how it works is that the person in each riding who gets the most number of votes wins the seat. There are 103 seats in Ontario, and whoever has the most seats forms the government.

There are several problems with this system:

1)People often win ridings when most of the people in that riding voted against them. Examples from the 2003 Ontario election:

-In Hamilton West, Judy Marsales received 39.97% of the votes, which means she won even though 60.03% of the riding voted for someone else. Furthermore, that means that 60.03% of the people in Hamilton West had wasted votes. Their votes went straight to the garbage.

-In London-Fanshawe, 35.88% won the seat; In Oshawa, 37.32% won. -Out of the places I have lived: Sarnia-Lambton 47.59%;Hamilton West 39.97%, Mississauga Center 47.33%, Trinity-Spadina 47.66%.

-When the majority of people in several ridings are having their votes completely wasted, electing no one, there is a problem.

2) When people with a minority of the vote are being elected, it translates into an unjust balance of power. In 2003 the McGuinty Government had 72 Liberals elected to the Provincial Legislature. This translates into 69.9% of the overall seats. However, they received only 46.45% of the vote. On CBC.ca, the headline for the 2003 election reads: “Liberal Landslide”! What a joke! 46.45% of the vote equals a “landslide.” The voting system needs to be changed.

3)FPTP forces people to strategic vote. Since ridings are won by whoever gets the most votes, and votes for the non-winner are useless, then people get stuck voting for the least worse of the two dominant candidates in a riding. In FPTP, there is almost no point in voting for smaller parties because that vote is extremely likely to be wasted. Therefore, a vote in most cases, in FPTP, can only be utilized by voting for the dominant candidate that is less worse than the other dominant candidate. This current system is not conducive to multiple parties.

The New System:

Through the hard work of pro-democracy lobbyists, the Ontario Government agreed to set up a group of Ontarians, called the Ontario Citizens Assembly, to learn about electoral systems and propose a change if they saw fit. Well, they did see fit, and the system they have proposed is called Mixed-Member-Proportional (MMP).

MMP is a form of proportional representation. What this means is that parties gain the number of seats according to the number of votes they get. This concept makes so much common sense, it is a wonder that the old system has lasted this long. Some form of proportional representation is used throughout most of the modern democracies. The countries that still have the FPTP are: Canada, India, England, and the US. šŸ˜‰

Some countries that have switched to proportional representation are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, Wales.

The mechanics of MMP are as follows: There is one ballot with two votes. The seats are split up so that there are some regular ridings like FPTP and some “at-large” ridings. The first vote is for your Member just like regular. The second vote is for your preferred party. When all the votes are in, each party will have received a percentage of the vote. If a party has not elected that percentage from the regular ridings, then the party will get Members from the “at-large” seats until they have a number of seats proportional to the number of votes their party got. In Ontario, there will be 90 regular seats and 39 “at-large” seats.

So, if the Conservatives get 40% of the vote, they get roughly 40% of the seats. If the Greens get 12% of the vote, they get roughly 12% of the seats even if no one is elected in a regular riding. This is an inherently more just and democratic system. It is intuitive. This specific system is used in Germany, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. Here is a link to a video by the Ontario Citizens Assembly explaining their decision and describing the mechanics of MMP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZswX0JCb1M

Ontarians are going to be voting on this new system when the Provincial election occurs on October 10th, 2007. You will be voting to either keep the old First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system or to “Change the System” to Mixed-Member-Proportional (MMP). I obviously encourage you to vote to “Change the System” to MMP, but also, I encourage to get involved with the campaign. For information about volunteering, check out: http://voteformmp.ca/. Or if you want to get involved in the Youth Campaign you can contact Mark Greenan, mark.greenan@fairvote.ca. Lastly, if you want to get involved in the York University campaign, leave a post and I will let you know when the next meeting is.




Here we go:

July 10, 2007

Ā “Don’t hate the media; become the media!” -Jello Biafra

I thinkĀ this statement rings very true, and so it begins…