Monday, April 16, 2007

Rick Anderson On PR

Small "c" conservative commentator Rick Anderson has come out in favor of electoral reform in Ontario:
Good for the Ontario Citizens Assembly for (a) determining that our ancient first-past-the-post voting system has passed its best before date, and (b) for recommending to Ontarians a more democratic path forward to a fairer voting system.

From all accounts, while it was easy for the Citizens Assembly to agree that Ontario's current electoral system leaves millions of voters disenfranchised and produces legislatures unrepresentative of the vote Ontarians cast, it was less easy to reach consensus on which of a myriad of various (and mostly-better) voting systems and design options is actually best for Ontario.

Proportional representatioin (PR) is now used sucessfully in 80+ countries around the world, including many of the world's most stable, successful and democratic countries. The particular form of PR recommended for Ontario (mixed-member proprtional, or PR-MMP) lets voters vote twice on one ballot, once for their local MPP and once for governing party preference. It balances our tradition of first-past-the-post voting for our local MPP with compensenatory seats awarded on the basis of the party preference - a decent Canadian compromise, and a solid starting point for the evolution toward fairer voting and more representative legislatures.

Quite a few meia reports (thankfully, not this one on, suggest this is all about helping smaller parties gain representation, which is only partially true. Among the voters routinely disenfrachised by "wasted votes" in today's system and expected to gain fairer reprsentation under PR-MMP are women, rural Liberals and New Democrats, GTA Conservatives as well as smaller-party supporters. If the parties are smart (and democratic) about how they organize the PR part of the elections, judging by the experience of other countries, we can expect all of these voters to end up better represented, and our legislatures and party caucuses to be more diverse.

Plus, PR systems tend to encourage inter-party legislative collaboration, a bonus to everyone tired of the empty partisanship which so deeply charaterizes politics in Canada.

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