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Cornwall Standard Freehold

Winner-take-all voting system wrong

Opinion, Monday, July 2, 2007, p. 6
Letters to the Editor

I welcome the Ontario Citizens' Assembly May 15 recommendation that Ontario change its antiquated voting system to mixed member proportional representation. This recommendation gives Ontarians the unique opportunity to adopt a better and fairer way of electing our representatives at Queen's Park in the referendum on Oct. 10.

Our present first-past-the-post voting system makes a mockery of democracy. It routinely wastes votes, distorts election results, creates unrepresentative legislatures, produces phony majority governments that the majority of people actually voted against, and discourages people from voting.

In our winner-take-all voting system, a political party winning only 40 per cent of the popular vote can win over 60 per cent of the seats and 100 per cent of the power. In fact, the last time that Ontario had a government elected by a majority of the voters was in 1937.

Mixed member proportional representation, recommended by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly, gives voters strong local representation but also ensures fairer election results because political parties win seats in proportion to their overall voter support. The Citizens' Assembly mixed member proportional model will have 90 electoral ridings and 39 at-large or list seats. Voters will be able to cast two votes on their ballots, one for a preferred local candidate and one for a preferred political party. The party vote determines the overall share of seats a party will have in the Ontario legislature. If a party deserves more seats than it wins in riding elections, that party also receives list seats to ensure that its share of seats reflects its share of the popular vote. List seats are filled by list candidates nominated in advance by each political party.

With proportional representation, which is used in 81 democracies, we will have a more representative and diverse legislature. Proportional representation encourages inter-party consultation, cooperation, and consensus-making. The result is stable coalition majority governments made up of two or more political parties who represent the majority of voters. The legislation of coalition governments is more responsive to the views of the majority of the citizens and government is ultimately more accountable. When we make every vote count, we will also revitalize voter turnout and achieve a stronger democracy.

We must seize this opportunity to reform our electoral system to reflect our 21st century democratic values. Let's do it. Let's support our local Coalition for Democracy campaign. Let's vote for more voter choice, fairer election results, and stronger representation. Let's vote for mixed member proportional and for democracy on Oct. 10.

Brian Lynch, Cornwall

© 2007 Cornwall Standard-Freeholder (ON). All rights reserved.