Referendum Ontario

September 25, 2007

My registration card for the upcoming October 10th Ontario election arrived in the mail the other day. In the package there was a pamphlet explaining that this election will also have a referendum question. The question is whether we should keep the existing electoral system OR switch to a new alternative electoral system.

Hmmmmm…. sounds ominous. They call the old system “First Past The Poll”. Very catchy, no? I think of it as a Zero Sum Riding system where there can be only one winner in a riding. The problem with the old system is that TV commentators say things like “the Penultimate Party only won 23 seats despite winning 39% of the popular vote” the next day.

So how do you fix the system to prevent cynicism on TV? Well, you use the proposed alternative electoral system which is called Mixed Member Proportional. Catchy, no? So the way this works is that each party makes a list of special politicians that you don’t vote for in addition to the politicians that run in each riding. When the riding results are in someone calls the Election.everyonePlayNice() Java method and politicians from each party’s pre-assigned list are “elected” to make the vote proportional.

So I thought hard about this. After about 5 seconds I thought, well fair is good. But at about 7.5 seconds I realized there is some weird stuff in this new system. A ballot will allow for two votes, one for the person you want to win in your riding and one for the party you want to win in the province. Perfect for those that want to cook up devious voting strategies but really a bit of superfluous complexity in my mind. The system can work fine without the two votes but this is what we get if we vote yes. Then I wondered about the politicians in the pre-assigned list. What is that all about? How are they accountable? I don’t like the idea of nebulous blobs of politicians.

Then the real kicker occurred to me. How do election outcomes change? Well, it seems to me that the system takes seats from the zero sum riding winner and redistributes them to everyone else. So more minority governments or at least it increases the likelihood of minority governments. So the NDP or The Green Party carry the balance of power. Yuck.

Here is the other thing. After thinking hard about a simple yes/no question for 15 minutes if you still don’t have an obvious opinion then there are probably some non-trivial ramifications involved.

I’m voting no (I’m thinking maybe…. nothing like firm commitment).

UPDATE (2007/10/11): Electoral reform rejected with 63% against.

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4 Responses to “Referendum Ontario”

  1. Joanne Says:

    Isn’t it just as likely smaller conservative groups could also hold a balance of power? Just because the political landscape has only fringe lefty groups now (that have some support) doesn’t mean that couldn’t change. Think of what this system might have meant to the Reform Party! I think you should vote Yes! then start the Radman Party of Ontario.

  2. Jwithin Says:

    If more people went to municipal meetings and heard some of the crap that elected officials delivered………..voting would be taken seriously.

    Take it very seriously..it is your tax dollars that these politicians are making decisions about.

  3. RAD Says:

    My dislike of small groups holding a balance of power isn’t a lefty vs. righty thing despite my example. I really dislike any political party that makes a fundamental change without a mandate (e.g. federal Conservatives with their income trust changes). Nebulous blobs of Reformers holding a balance of power is just as yucky as nebulous blobs of NDPers.

    Well, this is election day so I guess we will find out the referendum results soon enough.

  4. jwithin Says:

    It is too bad that our present political system is not a fit for all participants. I meet intelligent, sensitive, aware people every day who I wish I could captivate into active participation in the political scene.

    It is not that these people are “off by one” but more that the rest of humanity needs an awakening of another type of collaborative thinking.

    If only.


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