Saturday, August 11, 2007

More Deception From The No Side

Wow, the anti-reform people sure are organized. They have people standing by ready to distort the reality of MMP at the drop of a hat. The latest outrage comes from one Edelgard Mahant, academic and one-time Liberal candidate, who has ridden in from Toronto to counter a pro-reform piece in the Cambridge Times. Let's catalogue the flights of fancy.

First, Ms. Mahant writes:
The number of constituencies will be reduced to 90. This means that for people living in medium and small towns, such as Cambridge, their local MPP is likely to be far away and will not have time for their problems. And the 39 list MPPs in this model will mostly come from large urban areas, severely hurting rural areas.
This is a lovely bit of scare propaganda. Who would want an MMP who is "far away"? The problem is, it isn't true.

Greg, at Democratic Space has already produced a map showing what a 90 seat legislature would look like. Frankly, if one looks at the Cambridge riding map, one would be hard pressed to see the change in the boundary. As for being "far away", the MPP may live in Brown's Subdivision rather than East Galt, but I suspect most people in Cambridge can handle that difference.

Next, we move into the straw man portion of the article.
As for coalition governments, can anyone really believe that they will reduce voter cynicism? Deals behind closed doors? This is what Belgian and Italian politics is all about. Is that what we want for Ontario? Permanent coalitions where no one party can be held responsible for what the government does?
First of all, I have said repeatedly that MMP is not a panacea. It will not fix cynicism. Only politicians behaving better will do that.

Speaking of cynicism, the phrase "deals behind closed doors" stimulates my inner cynic. Is Ms. Mahant saying that "deals behind closed doors" are not the standard operating procedure of politics in Ontario today and that somehow MMP is going to introduce this to our politics? I think if she came out and said this plainly, she would not get another word out. She would be drowned out by the laughter coming from the voters.

Finally, as for "permanent coalitions", this is an interesting tack. Most of the time, the opponents of reform have been bleating about how we are going to be condemned to minority government. Now we are going to enter a dictatorship of "permanent coalitions". They should make up their minds.

As for accountability, the government will be held to account. The parties that make up the coalition will suffer if the government messes up. It's not like Germany has had one ruling coalition government since WWII. Voters there know who is in charge and hold those people to account. Ontarians are just as smart as Germans.

Ms. Mahant attacks the notion of MMP's equalizing tendency.
As for the myth that MMP will help more women to get elected, that is just that, a myth. Yes, some PR countries where proportional representation is used do have a high proportion of women legislators (Sweden, Norway). But others, usually the larger ones (Italy, Germany), do not. Fully involving women in politics requires profound economic and political changes, changes which Canadian governments have not yet been willing to embrace. There is no quick formula to achieve this desirable end.
In fact, this isn't a myth, but it isn't a fait accompli either. If Ontarians don't value a more diverse legislature, then the parties won't meet that market demand. If Ontarians do, the parties will respond. The market will speak.

MMP is not going to be a magic pill that makes all of our problems disappear. It will however make the job of diversifying the legislature easier (through list mpps) than the present system is.

Finally, Ms. Mahant comes to the end, where she pleads for more time.
Yes, it is possible to improve the quality of democracy in Ontario, but a quick fix change in the electoral system is not the answer. We need to study how to truly involve Ontarians in the politics and the policies that affect them.
This is the plaintive call of all those who want to do nothing. We hear it all the time in issues from the effects of smoking on health, to global warming. "We need more time, more studies". Whenever, I hear that phrase, I know that someone who wants to maintain either their power or place in society is feeling threatened. We have had plenty of study. We have had a Citizen's Assembly. The time for study is over. The time for change is here.
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