Several months ago we expressed dissatisfaction with the appointment of a Citizen’s Assembly to study the electoral system used in Ontario elections. The panel did not include a resident from Wellington County and ending up recommending a Mixed Member Proportional system that we suspected even before the committee got together.
The current regular use of publicly appointed committees as a tool to avoid public rancor when it comes to tough choices such as pay hikes for politicians, or in this case, Ontario’s voting method, still does not sit well with us. Each election, candidates are chosen to make learned decisions on behalf of voters. That is how the system is to work and it has served us fairly well.
Proponents of systems other than First Past the Post like to remind us the present form of election has been around since 1792. When responsible government and initiatives like that were established as a way for people to govern themselves people relished the freedom of participating in elections.
While we don’t pretend to be an historian or political scientist, it strikes us that the system of direct election and attitudes of the main political parties have led to the dissatisfaction presently expressed with a portion of the electorate that chooses not to vote.
The birth of the Reform Party was part of that dissatisfaction with politics and personalities. Similarly, the Green Party, Family Coalition, Christian Heritage Party, and scads of others have sprouted to fill dogmatic voids in citizens’ lives. There is nothing wrong with that, and, if anything, those parties provide points of debate that should take place in a country like ours.
As the Wellington Halton-Hills candidate for the Family Coalition lamented, the mainstream parties tend to hover around the centre of the political spectrum to get votes. After the election, depending on their success in getting seats, they are free to govern according to their policies, which do not always resemble their message on the campaign trail. Proponents of MMP would have us believe that developing a consensus during a time of minority governments would be best for us. To that we remind readers of the old joke about the result of designing a horse by committee – it ends up resembling a camel.
The Citizens Assembly on Democratic Renewal is suggesting we throw caution to the wind and support a system that is not a panacea to democracy’s woes as its advocates would have us believe. We cannot support the appointment of members to Queen’s Park who are chosen by their parties, rather than elected to their position by the public. It seems to us by the e-mails we received almost hourly at work during this election, that there are plenty of partisan hacks in the background waiting to be paid back for their loyalty. To us, if they can’t get elected the old fashioned way, they have no right to an appointment.
In order to deal with any shortcomings some people think the current system has, and get it back on track, will require all of us doing a little more work. By diluting the system with more parties and more divisive positions, the polarity of politics will continue to turn off voters. We need more working together, more dialogue on policy papers, and less partisanship.
What we don’t need is a Mixed Member Proportional system.