By Ryan McGreal
Published April 18, 2007
The Ontario Government has announced that it intends to hold a referendum on switching Ontario's elections from the present first-past-the-post system to a system of proportionate representation (PR), where the share of seats a party has roughly matches its share of the popular vote.
I think some form of PR is the best way to go, since the present system allows a party to get a majority of seats - and carte blanche to ignore opposition for four or five years - with less than half the votes.
Coalitions of small parties that have to listen to each other tend to produce more pragmatic, less dogmatic (or cronyist) legislation than monolithic majority parties representing mere pluralities.
Further, it gives smaller parties a chance to win seats and actually represent their supporters.
Most importantly, perhaps, it allows electors to vote for the party they actually support rather than to vote "strategically" for the party they think has a chance of winning.
A referendum on PR in BC a couple of years ago won the support of 56 percent of voters, but the Campbell government had set the 'pass' threshold at 60 percent (ironically), so the will of the majority failed to become law.
Presently, the Ontario government plans to set the bar at 60 percent as well. It's incumbent on voters to insist that the government accept a straight majority in the referendum results.
With fair terms and a strong push from supporters, I don't see why a referendum in Ontario wouldn't pass.
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