Thursday, September 27, 2007

MMP in Guelph

In my last post, I indicated that the all-candidates debate in Guelph helped me narrow down my choices to two: Liberal candidate Liz Sandals and Green candidate Ben Polley. At present, my voting intentions are being influenced by two main issues: the funding of religious schools out of the public purse and the move to a mixed-member-proportional electoral system.

In both cases, the positions of the candidates are leading me to support the Green candidate. The Green party position on the schools question is to support a constitutional amendment to eliminate public funding for the Catholic school board system. To my mind, this is the best way to deal with the question of equitable treatment of religious groups raised by the UN. It is also a route that has been successfully followed in Newfoundland and Quebec. The Liberals, meanwhile, are content to simply defend the status quo, which is preferable to the Conservative approach, but somewhat cowardly in terms of showing leadership.

As for MMP, on his website Ben Polley clearly states that he favours MMP. The Greens are, understandably, fully in favour of a system that will give them some representation for the 5-10% of the vote that they attract. The Liberals are not taking a firm position, although some have adopted a favorable stance. I contacted Liz Sandals to find out her stance on the issue. Her reply was as follows:

"In 2003, the Ontario Liberal Party ran on a platform that included giving Ontarians a choice through a referendum, for the first time ever, on how people are elected in Ontario. When asked to study our electoral system, a randomly selected group of 103 Ontarians came forward with the suggestion of using the MMP system. I am not advocating for either side in this debate. We called the referendum to ask voters which system they prefer, and I will follow the direction of the voters.

That, to my mind, is not showing leadership on this issue, which I expect from a politician. I would at least like to know where their personal preference lies. This, again, is a check in the Polley column for me.

I might yet be swayed back to the Liberals before election day, but it's looking less likely.

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At 6:08 pm, Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist said...

It's been really interesting to watch your decision-making process on this. And I can't help but be pleased that you're taking the local candidate into account as well as the party.

I would encourage you to write to the Liberal candidate and say that her answer to the MMP question brought you off the fence, though.

At 9:34 pm, Blogger Mark Greenan said...

I second IP's motion.

I still can't get why Liberal MPPs think soft-peddling MMP was a good strategy in an election campaign seemingly designed for progressive swing voters.

At 9:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PtM, Did it ever occur to you that sitting government members should not express an opinion on the governance process. Your member is; a) showing respect for your opinion (rather than her own possible self interest) b) committing to implement whatever the referendum outcome.
You known why the Greens (and NDP and FCP) want this...self interest.
The Liberal is saying he / she will follow the electorate's decision regardless of the impact on their party's or personal electoral fate.
Good on the Libs to stay neutral. I think all parties should have but...
Are you incapable of making a decision on the merits of the case for MMP? Or do you just want another rationalization to waste a vote on the Green (Blue) platform?

At 10:00 pm, Blogger Matt said...


I was firmly committed to MMP before I contacted my MPP, but I wanted to know if she shared my views on what I think is an important democratic reform. MPPs seem to show no hesitation to express views on every other aspect of the democratic process - fundraising caps and disclosures, budget regulations, fixed election dates, etc. - and so I see no reason why this issue should be any different. McGuinty's government showed no such reluctance to impose a 4-year fixed election schedule, which I would argue was a fairly major shift from long-term parliamentary practices.

I also think that this is more than self-interest on the part of the NDP, Green and other parties, although I will not deny that it might work to their advantage - and that of all the hundreds of thousands of voters who support these parties. I think it is in the interest of all progressive-minded Ontarians to switch to an electoral system that would not permit 8 years of Harris-Eves style majority government, when only a minority of voters actually voted Conservative. Rather, I think what is happening here is that both Liberals and Conservatives are willing to continue rolling the dice with the current FPTP system because it has allowed them the full power of an unfettered majority government every so often - even when only a minority of voters cast their ballots for the government.

I'm a political historian - don't think that you can try the facile Green=Blue equation on me.


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