Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Vote 'Hell, No!' to the Ontario electoral reform referendum

Later this year, Ontarians will vote on a proposal recommended by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. They want us to accept a form of (mild) proportional representation in our provincial government.

Andrew Coyne pokes some holes in the Post's editorial opposing PR. His criticism is valid on it's own but Coyne, who is so smart about everything else, fails to speak to the simple point I would like the pro-PR crowd to address:

Why do they think that naming representatives based on percentages of party vote is the right thing to do? Seriously, I don't get it at all.

The pro-PR crowd always breaks out a bunch of examples of how this parliament or legislature is unfair because party A got X% of the vote and got too many / too few seats, thinking we will be dazzled with the apparent obvious absurdity of the math at hand. There's no logical connection to me that any form of PR is a better choice than our current system, however.

For one thing, party politics are already badly entrenched in our current politics -- this will just make it much worse. Why would we want to add a bunch of party hacks to the legislature that wouldn't be directly accountable to anyone? You wouldn't be able to blast them out of the house with dynamite.

(Oh yeah, increasing the number of MPPs by 30% is a bad idea all on it's own. Most of them just sit around taking up space -- why would we want to pay for more?)

Call me weird, but I still vote for the candidate's name that's on the ballot. That's the person I want to represent me. And if I don't like the individual that's representing me, I can try to do something about it.

Some think that the proposed reforms would cause either gridlock or wishy-washy coalition governments. I generally welcome gridlock -- governments are constantly making useless intrusive laws that benefit either no one or some selected groups who know how to shout the loudest. But that's a pretty bad reason to support PR, so I won't use it.

The only genuinely important pieces of legislation are budgets, and that's where I want governments to have the cojones to the do the right thing. Under the proposed system, we would have a government that would be even more mushy-middle, more gutless, and the budgets would naturally be loaded with plump pork products for all manner of special interest groups that they'd have to cater to according to the political winds of the day.

All forms of democracy have their failings. I think it's pretty foolhardy to start tinkering with a system that is working more or less okay, and with a track record of success of several hundred years.

(By the way, fixed election dates are also dumb. Really dumb. They just are. Don't ask why.)


Krankor said...

Yeah, but think of all of the fringe parties that would end up with a single seat and would provide endless hours of entertainment! Your local commie representative, sitting in the backbenches as the other loony MPPs crunch up on the bench in recoil from his smell... the Marijuana Party rep, who uses every Question Period to suggest the legislative body orders pizza and nachos and just generally mellows out... the Natural Law Party dude...

My God, man! Think of the possibilities!

sporkless said...

Krankor, you make a convincing argument. Sold!

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Re: fixed election dates. Two problems with that idea:

1) Electoral campaigns would cease to last only a couple of weeks pre-writ and 36 days post-writ. Instead, they'd last two years (nationally) and 12 to 18 months at the provincially. (For an example, please refer to the USA.)

2) While I think Jean Chretien, for example, was a major weasel for calling two elections much earlier than necessary (especially the one in November 2000, but don't get me started on that one), having fixed election dates would prevent a true leader from calling a snap election in a time of major crisis. A good example of this is Clyde Wells, who got royally ticked off at the teachers' union about 14 years ago or so, as they were striking and were being intransigent at the negotiating table. Public opinion was overwhelmingly against the union, but they refused to budge. Finally he threatened to legislate a new contract, with or without them. The union bosses told him that he had neither the mandate nor the balls to do it, and he basically said, "F*** you, and watch this." He called a snap election, won it easily, and rammed through a settlement. No has heard from the silly union bosses since. Say what you like about Clyde Wells - and I have said many critical things about him - he had the guts to do the right thing, and he used flexible election dates to do it.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Oh, and in the People's Republic of PEI, we voted in a plebiscite on this very topic about a year or 18 months ago. It went down to a thumping defeat. There is hope -- although not much, in general terms -- for Ontario.

Krankor said...

Good points on fixed election dates, Iggy. For a first term POTUS, for example, the first half of the term is "getting up to speed" and the second half is campaigning for reelection. Leads to some very bad policy.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Among the recent two-term presidents, Clinton and GWB seemed to have trouble "settling in". On the other hand, Nixon and Reagan didn't. Maybe the enormous size of the government nowadays, with entrenched bureaucrats wielding more power than ever, combined with Presidents that have major changes in mind (like Clinton and Bush II), is responsible for this.