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Ontario Will Vote on Proportional Representation

Published on June 22, 2007, by in General.

The voters of Ontario Province will vote on October 10, 2007, on this question: “Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature? (1) The existing electoral system (first-past-the-post); or (2) The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens Assembly (mixed member proportional)?” The question will be presented in French as well as English.

British Columbia had voted on proportional representation a few years ago, but the British Columbia referendum required 60% for Proportional Representation to win. It failed in British Columbia because it only got 58%. But in Ontario, proportional representation (choice #2) will win if it outpolls choice #1, the existing system. UPDATE: thanks to the individuals who corrected this statement. The Ontario vote also requires a 60% vote.

Mixed member proportional representation means a system in which voters vote first on a district representative, and then, in a separate vote, choose their favorite political party. If, for example, the Green Party wins no district seats, but polls 5% in the “favorite party” question, then it gets 5% of all the seats in the Provincial legislature. Each party submits a “party list” in advance of the election, with their spare candidates listed in order of priority. The “make-up” members are chosen from this list. Thanks to Dan Tokaji and the Election Law blog for this news.

5 Responses

  1. Thanks for this!

    Unfortunately, the Ontario referendum will be subject to the same double super-majority threshold as in BC. In order for the referendum to be binding, the reform side will have to get 60% of the votes overall, and win 60% of the ridings.

    The only reason for this high threshold is to make sure the referendum fails. Curiously, people elected under the current system tend to think the current system is working just fine.

  2. I essentially agree with Wayne, in that this is still an uphill battle from now through October. But the B.C. and Ontario Citizens’ Assemblies are both pretty gutsy strategies on the part of the respective provincial governments.

    In B.C., the strategy nearly failed. While STV-PR fell short of the province-wide supermajority, 58% instead of 60%, it won in 97% of the legislative districts (it needed to win in 60% of them). Many of those who voted “no” said they did so because they didn’t know enough about the issue to decide. And, indeed, the “yes” and “no” campaigns were both underfunded.

    Judging from the press reports turned up by Google News Alerts, it appears to me that in Ontario discussion of PR is spreading beyond the chattering classes to parts of the electorate. If that’s true, it’s an extremely encouraging sign. The more education gets done, the more people are going to vote “yes”.

  3. Agreed again. The 60% super-majority is bad and wrong. I wouldn’t mind if the government as also required to have a 60% majority in the legislature to pass laws. We would see a lot more multi-party negotiating than we do today. If they insist on this 60%, let’s also insist they use it themselves…..

  4. Rob Dickinson

    A couple of points:

    1) The double-super-majority requirement that B.C. had is definitely a huge threshold to require, as initiatives in B.C. can be approved with smaller majorities than what was required for the BC-STV vote.

    2) Still, despite the high threshold, it is particularly impressive how close the British Columbia referendum came. One shouldn’t forget that the 58% overall and 97% of the districts result was achieved despite the fact that there was almost no money allocated or available for public education.

    IMHO, if the B.C. campaign had been allocated any reasonable amount of money to educate about the BC-STV system to the provinces 4M people, it would easily achieved the required thresholds.

    3) Point #2 above raises the obvious question – do the folks in Ontario have any real funds available to educate the public on their proposal. While the question will be considered on the merits, the proponents at least deserve to have some amount of resources to properly explain the proposal.

    Rob

  5. One thing that MMPR does not address is vote dilution, which results in unbalanced parity for urban populations.

    More importantly, it severely hinders the proportional representation of minority groups that are often centered in urban areas.

    See: http://lawiscool.com/2007/07/29/vote-dilution-means-minorities-have-less-voice/

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