Why I (now) wholeheartedly support MMP

This article was modified from its original published form. The most recent modification was on2014-09-28.

I’ve been doing some serious thinking about the referendum question facing Ontarians this fall.

Spacing Votes1 has been quite useful in distilling some of the issues and features of MMP (Mixed Member Proportional Representation) as opposed to FPTP (first-past-the-post, the current system), as evidenced by an earlier post I made. They continue to do so with [MMP Disproportionality, Part I (Local Seats)][mmp-disproportionality]; I’m looking forward to part two. I have, however, been thinking about the “list” seats versus geographically-based seats (“ridings”) and come to the conclusion that the problem isn’t list seats, but ridings.

My office-place is an interesting example in this problem, in that the office is in nominally in Oakville (it’s at Winston Churchill and Dundas, right at the very border between Oakville and Mississauga), but very few people live in Oakville. A lot of people live west of the office, in Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Burlington; a lot of people live in Mississauga proper. Some, like myself, live in Toronto. I spend nearly ⅓ of my life away from where I live, and of the ⅔ that I’m at home, roughly ⅓ of it is spent sleeping.

So while I care about my neighbourhood’s representation in parliament (both federally and provincially), I also care about the places where I work and (at a minimum) the transit corridor I travel to and from work every day. My concerns are less about where I live than how I get to and from work, which means that regional transit policies matter to me. I can’t effectively and efficiently use a transit system to get to work. (The local Go station is ~10 minutes from my house, the train doesn’t run that often and even less often coming home, and the nearest station is still ~15 minutes from work by bus; my total commute by car is under 35 minutes).

I care about how municipalities (who should be caring more about the local rights and responsibilities) are being run over roughshod by the OMB and developers and the province itself. Mike Harris did more damage to Toronto’s infrastructure through forced amalgamation and downloading than anyone else. He also reduced our democratic representation by cutting the number of city councillors from 57 to 44—the City of Toronto web site says this was adopted by City Council, but I recall reporting at the time was that the adoption was at electoral gunpoint, just like the almagamation itself.

In other words, 90% of my concerns aren’t limited to my relatively small geographic region of the Parkdale-High Park riding, and the concerns I do have about Parkdale-High Park should be addressed through City Council and my local councillor rather than my provincial representation.

Ultimately, I don’t know that I care whether my representation is regional, and even think that regional representation may be the oddity in today’s world. As such, I can only end up supporting MMP. It may not be perfect, and I may regret supporting it in the future, but I don’t believe that being held hostage to the past in this case is a good thing.

Update: Reading a bit more, I have found another point that puts me in favour of MMP. The claim is that regional ridings represent the will of the people. This is only partially true, in that there are plenty of examples of parties parachuting in “star” candidates. I think Ken Dryden was this way for the federal Liberal party; while the people of his riding ended up voting for him, he did not have to win his party’s nomination for the seat.

  1. Links to “Spacing Votes” are dead and have been changed to point to a reasonably close version on The Wayback Machine.

  • 2014-09-28: This post has been updated to adjust dead links.[ back ]