“First-Past-the-Post … is democratic and robust, delivering strong, stable government that works. Why strain to ‘fix’ what isn't broken?”
During the Ontario Proportional Representation referendum in 2007, I was shocked to find how fiercely the Toronto Star was opposed to electoral reform. This was supposed to be a “leftist” newspaper, after all.
The MMP referendum itself was bizarre, with no real campaign for and against — just vapid public service announcements. But the Toronto Star did everything in its power to make the proposal go down in flames.
So PR Pollyannas — who believe 70% of Canadians support PR and a federal referendum will be a cakewalk — should read what the “progressive” Star has to say on the subject. Little do they know they are wading into shark infested waters…
But the strong support among [citizen] assembly members for this electoral model is another ill-advised step down the road toward scrapping our current "first-past-the-post" method, which awards ridings to the candidate who wins the most votes. It is a system that, while not perfect, has served us well. …
By contrast, proportional representation is a recipe for unstable coalitions, permanent minority government and legislative chaos. For proof, one need look no further than Israel and Italy.
As New Zealand's experience demonstrates, a move to proportional representation introduces new and unpredictable centrifugal forces into politics. Put bluntly, it encourages parties to fracture. …
Critics of electoral reform say it would create deeply unstable governments. Fans say it would make politics more responsive. In New Zealand, neither happened. The country muddles along much as it did before.
More important than the semantics of democracy is the actual democratic experience. This experience is shaped primarily by the underlying political culture, not by the electoral system. The electoral system is a sidebar in any democratic audit of a state's political system.
Under the MMP model recommended by the citizens' assembly in Ontario, these [fringe] parties would need just 3 per cent of the popular vote – about 150,000 votes – to gain four seats in the Legislature. … That's why I'll be voting against MMP.
The alternative, mixed-member proportional system has been endorsed by a panel of ordinary citizens created after the 2003 vote, during which McGuinty ill-advisedly promised to study electoral reform. …
No one suggests that first-past-the post is perfect. But Ontario's current system is democratic and robust, delivering strong, stable government that works. Why strain to "fix" what isn't broken?
Granted, some minority or coalition governments do manage to deliver solid, progressive government. But they are rarities. More commonly, governments in proportional systems are divisive, unstable, short-lived and paralyzed by conflict. Too often, the leading party is forced to align with small, sometimes radical, special-interest parties. That can badly skew the policy-making process.
Some people just won't take no for an answer.
In a province-wide referendum last month, Ontario voters soundly rejected a proposal to replace the current electoral system with a new method of voting called "mixed-member proportional." The results were not even close. Only 37 per cent of voters endorsed the alternative on offer, far short of the 60 per cent threshold required.
Proportional representation allocates seats in Parliament according to the share of the popular vote attained by each party. Thus, the Conservatives, with 38 per cent of the popular vote in last week's election, would have just 117 seats, not 143. …
In the eyes of the electoral reformers, this would mean that the Liberals, New Democrats and Greens … could get together in a coalition to topple Prime Minister Stephen Harper….
[Yet] in all likelihood, if Canada had a system of proportional representation, the outcome would be very different…. The pro-life Christian Heritage Party, for example, might win enough votes to get seats. And new parties might emerge to win seats – say, an Alberta First party or even ethnic parties.
So Harper might be kept in power by entering a coalition with pro-life and Alberta First parties. Now that, indeed, is a scary prospect.
For Canadians who were shocked by the backroom deal late last year that led to the formation of a [Liberal/NDP] "coalition" to supplant the [Harper] Conservatives in office, this kind of horse-trading is another reason to think twice about bringing proportional representation here.
I think our current system [FPTP], despite its flaws, has worked well, delivering strong and stable governments that work. Also, I firmly believe that supporters often over-exaggerate the impact on voter turnout and ignore the risks of other systems, including perpetual minority governments, legislative gridlock and backroom deals with fringe parties that have radical agendas.