Tuesday, October 09, 2007

LIKE A COMMA IN THE PLACE OF A VERB

As the Ontario PC campaign flails into the dying days of the election, the party has made itself appear even more desperate by sending out a last-minute plea to party supporters to oppose an MMP electoral system.

The thing is I agree with them.

In an email sent to "tens of thousands" of supporters, the Tories warn the proposed mixed-member proportional representation system (MMP) would further empower parties' backroom insiders.

[John] Tory said yesterday he's voting against MMP "because I don't think we need more politicians, because I don't think we need appointed politicians and because I think we should get on with parliamentary reform first.

"It's more important to get the place working properly than it is to at this stage worry about how we elect people," he said in Toronto.
That last bit is exactly the argument I have been trying to make, sporadically, for the last month.(here, here, and here.)

Our voting system is not broken, at least not very much. Beyond expanding the franchise and introducing the secret ballot, it hasn't really changed since electoral politics began in Upper Canada. What is broken, what has changed is the procedures and culture in our legislatures.

MPPs (and federal MPs) have less independence, influence, and power now than at almost any point since the establishment of responsible government. Changing the electoral system isn't going to help, at all. Especially, when the proposed change is going to further enhance the influence of party machinations over MPPs.

Let me indulge in an entirely geeky metaphor. Elections are the punctuation of democracy; they come at regular, and sometimes surprising, intervals, to provide emphasis, or a necessary pause, and to define form. But they are not the substance of democracy. What really matters is all the nouns and verbs that come in between, and that's what we're missing with this distraction of electoral reform. We're copy editing when we should be re-writing the paragraph.

Post Script: Of course, its one thing for me to argue that MMP will only enhance the influence of parties and to call for parliamentary reform; I've been making this argument for some time and my disdain for the corrupting influence of parties is, if not well known, well documented.

It is another thing for the leaders of a party, who have done little to devolve their concentrated power, to make the same argument in the dying days of a referendum campaign. If Tory actually believes in real reform is he promising looser discipline and more free votes for his members in the next session of the legislature?

Posted by Matthew @ 8:14 AM