Sunday, October 07, 2007

Why I won't support MMP: Governments should not be chosen by backroom negotiations

"If I wanted Jack Layton to be part of the government I would have voted for him."

I am certain if the last Federal Election would have been fought using the MMP electoral system that statement would have been uttered by many Canadians a few weeks after the election results rolled in.

The greatest argument that proponents of MMP make is such a system would eliminate the result of a party that wins less than a majority of the popular vote from receiving the majority of seats in the Legislature. Part of that argument is "the majority of the electorate rejected the governing party so why is it allowed to govern with a majority?" What they seem to forget, or at least they hope others will forget is larger majorities of the electorate reject the parties that lose an election. So my question is, why should they have any say in government at all?

During the last federal election the NDP received about 20% of the popular vote. That means around 80% of the electorate rejected the NDP as an option to form the government. It is probably not a stretch to believe that a sizable number of those voters did so because they did not want Mr. Layton or the NDP anywhere near the levers of power. Yet with an MMP system those desires would be ignored as the various parties engaged in horsetrading to secure enough votes in The House to win a confidence motion.

For me one of the weaknesses of MMP is the need for the winner of an election to enter into negotiations with the losers of the election to find a coalition partner, because with MMP coalitions would become the norm. Of course all of those negotiations would be behind closed doors. So in the end the voters will not know what their government will look like after they have cast their vote.

So imagine you are a Conservative supporter who supported them because you liked their economic policies. Further imagine your reaction if you were to wake up a few weeks after the election to the banner headline on the front page of the Globe and Mail: "Jack Layton to be named Finance Minister". Although my personal nighmare would have been the headline: "Gilles Duceppe to be named National Unity Minister".

An interesting feature of most MMP systems is if the winner of an election cannot cobble together a working coalition the second place winner is given a chance.

So again, imagine the last Federal election. The Conservatives are unable to convince the NDP to join them and after a set period the Governor General says to Stephen Harper: "You have had your shot and failed so now I am going to give Paul Martin a chance." Of course during that time period both the Liberals and the Conservatives would have been wooing Jack Layton with all sorts of goodies to convince him to join their coalition.

So it is conceivable with the MMP system that the loser of an election can still form the government. Even in the case were polls were showing that over 60% of the electorate desired a change in government. Yep, that certainly is a more democratic system.

Proponents of MMP argue that the FPTP system results in those votes that did not go to the eventual winner of a riding being wasted. MMP will not fix that problem. If I voted for one party because it put forward a set of policies I agreed with and that party would have to change those policies to convince another party to join a coalition my vote is just a wasted. If I would have wanted the policies and the programme of the "junior partner" in a coalition to be enacted I would have voted for that party.

The greatest strength of MMP, according to its proponents, is actually its greatest weakness. Instead of voters choosing their government they are only choosing the sides that will eventually move to the back rooms to hammer out a government that will not look anything like what the electorate voted for. MMP will actually take the decision on who governs Canada or Ontario out of the hands of voters and put it into the hands of the unelected, often unaccountable political operatives that are employed by all political parties.

That is not enhancing democracy.


Blogger WesternGrit said...

Excellent write-up. I couldn't agree with you more. This is exactly why I don't support any sort of MMP system...

October 07, 2007 2:44 PM  

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