Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Why you should vote for MMP tomorrow

So I was out with friends on the weekend, and between the third or fourth round (it gets fuzzy) they started talking about the referendum tomorrow, and how they weren't sure which way they'd vote. And then one of my friends said, of me, "he's a real MMP partisan."

See, the funny thing is I'm not, really -- at least, not a partisan for MMP in particular. Over the years, I've been a fan of pure list proportional representation, Instant Runoff Voting, and all sorts of other systems. I'm not really picky in the end as to which system we choose, so long as we arrive at some measure of proportionality. Don't get me wrong -- I think MMP is a good choice, and better than some of the other possibilities, and I'll be voting for it happily and enthusiastically.

What's really animated me for the last few weeks is not, however, my enthusiasm for MMP. Rather, it's been the sloppiness and stupidity of the anti- side. I've already smacked around Murray Campbell and his idle thoughts about MMP bringing about an Islamic government. And, though this is clearly more arguable, I think I've presented a decent and honest argument for why List MPPs would be at least as legitimate as some of the current MPPs, who frequently win their seats with only a few thousand votes in a province of over 10 million people.

I don't want to rehash all of the arguments for MMP and against the status quo, but the Toronto Star ran yet another editorial today against MMP. The last line of the editorial is really the only thing you need to read:
Tomorrow voters who care about good government should vote to retain the existing first-past-the-post method. Our system does not need a "fix," because it isn't broken.
Amazing. The Star has run any number of editorials complaining about many different Ontario governments, I'm sure. But it's apparently never occurred to the Star that, if the system keeps producing bad results, regardless of the party in charge, that maybe, just maybe, the system is flawed. Nope. The system isn't broken -- at least, not for the people on the Star editorial board.

It's said that journalists should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Today, the Toronto Star has thrown it's lot in with the comfortable, and would prefer not to be afflicted thank you very much. It's laziness of the worst kind -- Ontario politics is broken, but the journalists of the Toronto Star get paid whether it's broken or not I guess. Journalists are supposed to highlight the flaws of the way we do things, and supposed to show us how they can be improved (in any sphere, not just politics.) The Star, apparently, can't be bothered. Or worse, the Star thinks it's job is to hide our flaws, to keep sunlight away from dark places, and to keep criticism to a minimum. Whatever that is, it's not journalism.

Frankly, I can't wait until the next Conservative government in Ontario, and to listen to the Star's mewling supplications then -- Please, Premier, don't hurt us! If they only had a minority...

What's most infuriating about all this is the simple refusal of the anti-MMP side to deal with the reality of Ontario politics: a vast majority of voters simply do not matter, myself included. In my riding, I can either vote for the incumbent, and simply pad his victory margin, or I can vote for another candidate and not be counted at all. And that's it. Those are my choices, once every four years. If you read the Star or the Globe, you'd think this either a) didn't matter (I am a smelly hippy, after all) or b) isn't true (I'm a figment of my own imagination.) As Greg Morrow has pointed out, the outcome of this election is going to be determined by about 75,000 people -- that's it. Or, to put it another way, if you're one of the 98.5% of Ontarians who didn't get a golden ballot tomorrow, and you'd like that to change, then vote for MMP tomorrow.

There's one other thing I'd like to deal with in the Star editorial:
Consider Ontario's case. Where would McGuinty have to turn for enough support to govern, if the proposed new system were in place today, and he won less than 50 per cent of the vote and half the seats?

He could form a "grand coalition" or cut some other kind of deal with John Tory's Conservatives. But they have made funding religious schools a big part of their campaign.... Alternatively, McGuinty might try to make a pact with Howard Hampton's New Democrats, whose program is progressive and far closer to the Liberal one. But even there, the New Democrats oppose investing in new nuclear reactors.... The point is, even with like-minded partners, deal-making does not always deliver the best policies.... And where would McGuinty be forced to turn if both the Conservatives and New Democrats balked? To the Green party?
My usual thing here would be to take the latest poll numbers and show that, if they hold, McGuinty could form a coalition with not just one, but any of the three potential opposition parties. (For political and mathematical reasons, I think the NDP would be the best bet.) This puts McGuinty in the perfect position to make the Greens, Tories, or NDP moderate their positions and demands, not pull the government away from it's core decisions.

But that's not really what's bugging me about that passage. What bothers me is the Star (and other people) seem to want to make all the political divisions in Ontario seem insurmountable. We need a less democratic system, they're saying, because otherwise we can't govern the rabble. I think it's insulting to be told that, despite the success of MMP in places like Germany, the voters and representatives of Ontario just aren't smart enough to work through their differences. More than that, it shows that the main ingredient in the anti- side's cake o' inaction is fear. They can't win unless they scare you about the future. My God! We could be as poorly governed as Germany, what with their huge manufacturing exports, better health care and excellent environmental policies! Die gasp!

Be not afraid, the Book says. (It says it over and over again, in fact. And yet we're still afraid all the time.) If we approve MMP tomorrow, we'll have 4 years to work out the kinks, and 4 years of medicore Liberal government to soothe your jangled nerves. Ontario will keep working, and even after we bring MMP in, we're not going to all become too stupid to run the Province properly. Calm. Down. Be not afraid.

We vote for these governments once, and then spend years complaining about how they don't listen to us. And then, when we think of changing the way we do things, suddenly we're told "stability" is a virtue. The press lets them get away with bald-faced lies about how "dangerous" these changes are, or worse yet the press lies itself. And we still don't do anything.

At this point, you've basically got a choice: either vote for MMP tomorrow, or stop complaining about government. You've got a chance to make it better. This isn't like the weather, you -- yes, you in the chair -- have a chance to actually make some good come out of this waste of time we call an election. Or, you can do what the Toronto Star would prefer you do, and simply endorse the status quo, and everything that goes along with it. If you wished you could have punished McGuinty for raising your taxes, or Mike Harris for throwing your kids out of school, or Bob Rae for, well, anything he did, you've got a chance to change things now. Don't throw it away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MMP is a mess. Two massively superior methods for proportional representation are Asset Voting, and Reweighted Range Voting.

Clay Shentrup
San Francisco, CA