Stacking the Deck

by matttbastard

More Notes From Underground points to a somewhat dismissive Toronto Star article by Queens Park Bureau Chief Rob Benzie claiming that 70% of Ontarians are “not familiar” with the 10/10 MMP referendum. Upsetting, but not entirely unexpected:

NDP Leader Howard Hampton, who backs MMP because “electoral results will more accurately reflect people’s voting intention,” says it’s no coincidence the referendum is below the radar.

“I would say that the government’s already stacked the deck against proportional representation,” says the only major party leader actively campaigning for MMP.

Indeed, unlike most Canadian referendums, there is no Yes or No question. “Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature?” reads the ballot, which requires voters to mark one of two boxes. “The existing electoral system (First-Past-the-Post),” or “The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional).”

Hampton points to the “vague” wording of the referendum question and the high – 60 per cent – threshold for its passage as evidence the fix is in.

He says “people are confused” because normally votes in Canada pass with 50 per cent plus one, not 60 per cent.

While the 104-member Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform held months of public hearings before selecting MMP as an alternative electoral system to be put to a referendum, the Liberals crafted the question.

First of all, kudos to Hampton for finally jumping on board the MMP bandwagon (one shouldn’t really be surprised that the Star doesn’t consider Frank DeJong and the Greens to be ‘major’). Secondly, as Steve Withers illustrates, there’s more evidence “that the fix is in”:

Will we be “fully informed” by the Elections Ontario Information Campaign?

The answer would appear to be a resounding NO.

Why?

Because they are not required to explain to anyone WHY the Ontario Citizens Assembly recommended MMP for Ontario. So the EO is producing no information about why MMP was recommended. Yes, there are links to the OCA web site here and there on the web site, but the rationale for adopting MMP is nowhere to be seen in the primary information on offer. It’s buried.

Ok….so we still have the OCA pamphlets and booklets to inform us, right?

No.

Despite strong and growing public demand as people wake up to the huge void in the official information campaign, the government now refuses to print any more OCA materials. The 500,000 [p]amphlets is supposed to be enough. If you don’t have one, I guess you can go door knocking looking for one or maybe check the auctions on Ebay.

The findings of the OCA are now being dismissed as “advocacy material” by the very same Democratic Renewal Ministry that ran the entire deliberative process that produced the MMP recommendation. To be fair to the Minister, Marie Bountrogianni, this decision was mostly likely imposed on her from above.

Finally, in a potentially (bitter) ironic twist, Uncorrected Proofs notes that the aforementioned Star piece also reveals a member of the educated 30% who may be a most unexpected (silent) ally of electoral reform:

Premier Dalton McGuinty, who first broached the subject of sweeping electoral reform more than a year before he won power in 2003, is publicly remaining neutral. But privately he is believed to favour MMP because, sources say, “he’s a Boy Scout on this stuff.”

All McGuinty will say on the record is he welcomes the dissenting views on the subject within his cabinet and the Liberal caucus.

“This is not something that’s going to be decided by a few cabinet ministers, it’s going to be something that’s decided by millions of Ontario voters. I look forward to their advice,” the premier says.

While I’m tickled a particularly bright shade of pink that ol’ Dalton earned himself a merit badge in proportional representation back in the dizzay, the fact that someone high up in his  government appears to have stacked the deck against MMP makes his off-the-record kabuki support entirely irrelevant, if not crassly insulting to the intelligence of true electoral reform supporters.

Vote for MMP

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13 thoughts on “Stacking the Deck

  1. It’s strange because in the blogosphere it’s so well known and it’s everyone versus Cherniak (it seems) but out there no one even knows it’s an issue.

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  2. I know; was buying cat food the other day, and the clerk overheard a conversation between myself and my mother on the upcoming election. He piped up about McGuinty, broken promises, etc. I mentioned the referendum, and was met with a blank stare.

    The message is not reaching the voting public, and unless we can mobilize and take our message beyond the limits of the blogosphere, the status quo will remain in place.

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  3. http://www.yourbigdecision.ca/assets/pdf/GuidelinesforCampaignOrganizers.pdf (see pg. 17 for clarification of political campaign guidelines re: the referendum)

    Of course the deck is stacked against MMP, but what is Howard Hampton going to do about it?

    If Hampton is re-elected and is asked to choose between the two positions, will he respect the 60/60 referendum law, or will he respect the will of Ontarians?

    “Confusing” referendum question? Fair Vote Ontario has already endorsed the referendum question as being “fair”. This is a non-issue, and detracts from Hampton’s main message of respecting votes of Ontarians.

    Restrictions on the semi-judicial “advocacy material” of the Citizens’ Assembly is another reason to justify a 50%+1 referendum threshold, rather than the current 60/60 threshold.

    Liberal FPTP advocates at this time: Greg Sorbara, Bob Delaney, Dwight Duncan & Steve Peters.

    The Liberals received unanimous PC support on 1st reading of the referendum bill, but no opposition support by the 3rd reading. The political manouvering around this issue is pretty complex.

    Dalton McGiunty has some admirable idealistic qualities, tempered with political realism. See 2003 Liberal campaign materials: http://www.ontarioliberal.ca/content/pdfs/democracy.pdf (pages 5, 6, & 12 refer to citizens’ assemblies & citizens juries)

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  4. Raymond: Er, do you a (cohesive/coherent) point, other than…er, well, I really don’t know what your point is, besides a partisan attack on Hampton?

    “Dalton McGiunty [sic] has some admirable idealistic qualities, tempered with political realism.”

    And his tears cure cancer, too.

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  5. Sorry for not being clear.

    My point is that now that Elections Ontario has clarified what type/manner of political advertising is allowed in a joint referendum/election campaign, party leaders can be more specific about their party policies.

    Does the NDP support MMP at all cost? at 50%+1? at 50% +1, plus a majority in 2/3 of ridings (Select Committee’s proposal)? Accept the 60/60 thresholds and hope for the best?

    Hampton’s description “Stacking the deck” is simply a partisan attack and doesn’t stand for anything.

    McGuinty (a supposed reformer) stands for 60/60.

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  6. So, what gave you the impression that I was defending Hampton? In fact, in an earlier post I got on the Ontario NDP’s case for not being aggressive enough in its position on MMP.

    My primary concern is electoral reform. Partisan politicking is secondary. So, I too would appreciate a full clarification of where each leader stands. Frankly, a 4 year old campaign document doesn’t mean shit, especially considering how many subsequent flip flops and broken promises lie at the feet of McGuinty and the Liberal party (but hey, at least they rammed through that pitbull ban! Man, they sure know how to serve up dem bread and circuses!)

    You, however, based on your comments so far, seem more concerned about bashing Hampton (and apparently fluffing your boy Dalton) than the actual referendum. Talk about cynically abusing a wedge issue.

    But maybe I’ll give Dalton a pat on the head and even a cookie if he’s willing to express his purported support for electoral reform on the record. Until then, this is what I said it is: pure Kabuki theatre.

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  7. Matt,

    I think we are in full agreement.

    The referendum rules are heavily slanted. Elections Ontario is making every effort to neutralize the opinions & perceived biases of the citizens assembly.

    This means the 60/60 thresholds don’t make sense anymore! It is time to bypass the referendum and to get to the politicians.

    Dalton has taken a stand on the referendum law.
    Hampton has taken a stand on MMP.

    Now, if only we could get all the candidates to take a stand on BOTH issues!

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  8. Why isn’t MMP an election issue if it’s a bloody extra ballot on election day? Ultimately for any vote to matter, the people have to elect a government they’ll trust to implement a referendum’s outcome without legislating it away into a pointless exercise.

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  9. Saskboy,

    For some voters, law & order is also an election issue.

    If you oppose a bad law, you must offer an alternative.

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  10. Election reformers have already offered an alternative to a ‘bad law’, which is why we’re having this fucking referendum to start with. How difficult is that to grasp?

    Holding election officials accountable for what appears to be a deliberate suppression of information pertaining to what is, as Saskboy pointed out, an election issue, is not opposing for the sake of opposing.

    And pointing this out doesn’t put the onus on Hampton to ‘come up with an alternative’, since, at this point, there IS no alternative. The referendum is on the ballot, and the word needs to get out.

    Now, once and for all, are you more concerned with making sure that Ontario voters are receiving the necessary amount of information to make an informed decision on the 10/10 referendum ballot, or are you just another Kabuki actor? Do you seriously trust the Liberals, based on their record, to ‘respect the will of the people’?

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