Sunday, October 28, 2007

What was I saying. . . ? (MMP)

Yet again the pace of life hasn't really given me time to type out all the posts I compose in my head when I'm doing more tedious things. I hope to get to some of that stuff this week. Where was I before this hiatus? Right. . . MMP. It probably won't matter again for at least another 4 years, but for what it's worth, I voted Yes to MMP.

Read a little (or a lot) about the proposal here:

Unfortunately, the referendum didn't pass - probably because most Ontarians didn't understand it, and not because they thought it was a bad thing. Yet another reason why high voter turnout isn't always desirable. There was an organized campaign against it - with certain interest groups playing on the public's misplaced mistrust of politicians to cynically manipulate public perception of the system ("does Ontario really need even more politicians? Do you want party bosses choosing your candidate?"). On the other hand, there was basically no one advocating for, or even explaining MMP. I'm usually a pretty up-to-date guy. I had no idea of what MMP was until an acquaintance of mine, shocked that I didn't know about a referendum that was happening right around me, e-mailed the information. The result of the referendum would have been predictable just from that.

A slightly more intelligent critique of the proposal, entitled MMP - An Exercise in Dumb was posted by the wise old man at Atlas Hugged. He's a pretty articulate guy, and if even he couldn't put together a convincing argument against MMP, then I doubt there is one. "MPP for life by MMP?" Well if people don't like you, they don't have to vote for your party. It does cut two ways.

No, I voted for MMP for the same reason I created this blog - to enhance the diversity of voices. Under MMP, it would take 3% of the popular vote to get a seat in the legislature. Under MMP, the Greens, a party I do not support, would already have more than one seat.

So, why is that good?

Democracy, especially Canadian democracy, thrives on a climate in which people have choices in how they are governed. Unfortunately, people have to understand a new option before they will feel comfortable deciding in favour of it, and people can't understand what the new option represents unless it is already established in the legislature. Not being in the legislature makes you a fringe party.

Canadian democracy differs from American democracy in this way, but not enough for my liking. I feel we are slowly tending towards the situation that they have in the United States, where the two parties may propose different policies, but seem to view the world from essentially the same perspective. The Republican party is homogenous - their least conservative candidate feels that American should always be run by a Christian. The Democratic party, faced with the zero-sum game of the Presidential election, will always lean towards the Centrist candidate - not the one they believe is right, but the one who has the greatest appeal to people who would have otherwise voted for Mr. Christian Nation. Watching the Democratic debates, the only people with interesting things to say are the people at the edges of the stage, the ones who get the least TV time. Why? Because they tell a large segment of the population something it does not want to hear. And that's not how you win the Presidency. The idea of a Malcolm X arising as a political force in today's America seems bizarre. Outside of the Christian organizations, America has lost its radicals.

In Canada we have managed to maintain multiple parties, and so we've a modicum more of democracy - but that is always under threat. The Liberals, eager to become Canada's Democrats, complain of nothing more than the NDP, which eats into what they see as their share of the vote. At the provincial level, the Tories march together - either towards the centre (Ontario and the Atlantic provinces today), towards the far right (the Harris Tories), or towards perpetual government (Alberta). At the federal level the question on the right is moot, thanks to the treacherous scoundrel who is our current Minister of Defense.

So do I care that a "Party Boss" will pick the list of candidates on the proportional list? Not one bit. If I don't like the candidates, I don't have to vote for the party. Ain't that a revolutionary idea? If it means that the madmen and the sane people can speak clearly from the same podium, I'm all for it.

After all, the point of democracy is that it's up to us to tell the difference.

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1 comment:

Bob Jonkman said...

Thank you for articulating what I've been thinking all along. I was happy to see seven candidates in my riding, even though I could agree with the positions of only one or two.

However, your statement that there was basically no one advocating for, or even explaining MMP isn't quite right: The Vote for MMP did group did advocate and (try to) explain MMP. If anything, it was an even larger group than the No MMP group.

Unfortunately, Vote For MMP too got ignored by the voters, just like they ignored the election itself.