Lordy, lordy, lordy. I try to be charitable (sometimes) to political disagreement, but the anti-MMP people in the upcoming Ontario referendum just keep saying incredibly stupid things, or relying on outright fantasies. First we had Liberal diehards worrying about the NDP running a decoy list -- because the NDP is known to have buckets of cash sitting around with nothing to do, and because it's certainly not the Liberal Party that's been trying to, for example, co-opt the Green Party federally. But today's example comes from a Murray Campbell column a few days ago:
It offers the same potential to rip apart Ontario's body politic as Mr. McGuinty fears financing more religious schools would.... New parties would spring up because the threshold is so low - just 3 per cent of the vote. (Rick Mercer passed that mark in four days with his 2000 spoof of Stockwell (Doris) Day and YouTube gamers would love the challenge of persuading 135,000 voters to support a spoof party.) MMP advocates say it's speculation that parties based on religion or ethnicity would be formed but, equally, it's speculation that they wouldn't. Could Mr. McGuinty have resisted the pressure to adopt sharia law if he had needed an Islamist party to govern?Are you kidding me? Seriously? Jesus Christ...
Here's news bulletin: According to Statistics Canada, only 3.1% of Ontarians are Muslims. (And by "news", I mean of course the 2001 census.) If you type "Muslims in Ontario" in to that obscure research tool academics call "Google", you'll find the statscan link deviously hidden in 2nd place. So, even if we insultingly assume that all of them are slavering Al Qaeda recruits in waiting, they'd still need 96% unanimously voting for an Islamist party for them to get a single seat. And exactly how many Muslim women would vote that way in a country with the secret ballot? And how many of them are children ineligible to vote? Or is Murray Campbell counting on the 1.7% of Jewish Ontarians to back up the Al Qaeda Party? And even if the Ontario muslim population has doubled since 2001, will one seat ever, in the remaining history of the Province Ontario, be enough to swing the fate of a government? Wouldn't Ontarians demand a new election instead?
On and on. Just an incredibly stupid thing to write, much less to have printed in a national newspaper. And we won't go in to the fact that Campbell is creating a Muslim boogey man, when the votes of Christian fundamentalists probably outnumber Muslim fundamentalists in Ontario by at least an order of magnitude. (There's 20 Christians for every Muslim in Ontario.) The reality is that 70% of this Province is either Catholic or Protestant. Other Christians make up another 5%, and then "no religion" makes up about 15%. So between the thoroughly-conventional Christian churches, and the atheists/agnostics, you've got 90% of the population. I don't know why Campbell decided to spin a fantasy about Ontario being reduced to an Islamic Caliphate with the tyranny of 3% of the population, but it's silly and insulting to Ontarian muslims. Not to mention Mr. McGuinty, who apparently is helpless before the Muslim hordes of Ontario.
(I just want to really, really emphasize how insulting it is to assume that any significant number of Ontario Muslims would support an Islamist party. Speculating about it in a national paper does grievous harm to Campbell's cherished "body politic" by convincing Canadian Muslims they'll never be trusted, no matter how much they assimilate. Campbell's doing far worse then MMP will ever do.)
Campbell's broader point, that MMP will "tear apart the body politic" of Ontario, deserves at least a pro-forma rebuttal. First off, the system reccomended for Ontario is explicitly modelled on the German system, a country whose body politic was forcibly ripped apart, not with elections but with tanks, concrete, and razor wire. And guess what? The German system has helped reconcile the two halves of Germany, to the point where an East German woman now leads a coalition government with the SDP. (German Muslims apparently being unable to force a Caliphate on Berlin, either.) Secondly, Rick Salutin makes the excellent point here:
Under stable provincial governments for 20 years, Ontario has been a whirligig of instability: vanishing industries, degraded services, disruptive strikes, fractured communities—largely, I'd argue, due to arrogant behaviour by governments that didn't represent the majority and didn't have to worry about it. I imagine what people really want is stability in their lives and communities. You might get more of that under a more representative, more democratic system.It's true, Salutin here is "speculating" about the positive impact of MMP, but he's at least not creating fantastical boogeymen out of whole cloth.
Look, the press in Toronto seems to be incorrigibly anti-MMP, with only a few exceptions. I don't know why (PR, when it eventually comes to Canada, will make political reporting far more interesting) but it's there. But if we're going to have a debate about this stuff, let's please stop basing the anti-MMP arguments on total, and totally crazy, fantasies.
(I read the Campbell article after reading Salutin's column, via Chet.)