Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Open Debate on MMPR on CBC

CBC is showing the open debate from last night on MMPR. This is much less civil than the debate we had at the QSC. More relying on talking points, and the proponent's being far less open to admitting the faults of their proposal.

I recognized Pat Mella's voice even before I got into the room. Despite her being kind of hard to listen to, she's making the best points against the system.

Our old friend Mark Greenan is pushing for this proposal, and sadly still wants to push the 'change is better than no change' idea without wanting to go into detail about how the list candidates are chosen.

If one is so in favour of a system where the loser wins, why not just say so? If you are championing a system then you should be the one explaining exactly what it does and why.

The two things that annoy me the most in political debates are talking down to people and relying on talking points.

Again I'm being told that being skeptical about this system means you are aiding and abetting the entrenched 'political elite'. That was the response when Pat Mella raised the valid point that the list candidates put much more power in the hands of the party and is an elitist system. The reply was little more than a snark, and again leaves me shaking my head.

Again I don't like the way the question is set up, with either rejecting reform or accepting this specific system as-is. It seems like the commission on electoral reform is threatening to take its ball and go home if they don't get exactly what they propose.

It also puts the 'no' side on the defensive to always have to explain that they aren't against reform per se, but don't support the loser wins system being proposed.

I've decided to vote 'no' as a protest against the way this process has come about. If an open, citizen-led committee had come up with the same proposal after a long period of public deliberation I may have even voted for it, but I'm sort of feeling like an Iraqi being told to go to the polls and vote for something I've only been told about the day before.

Update: Cyn's post, "F.P.R." on the subject has gotten a ton of comments, with osme very informative discussion.

Update 2: Someone commented that it seemed like I was making my decision based on the people presenting the ideas rather than the positions themselves. I apologize if this was the impression I have given with this post. The subject of this post is the debate on CBC itself, so I was focusing on the debaters and their comments and styles primarily, but my reservations about the specifics of the closed list system were already well-formed for me beforehand. I have been waiting to be convinced that it's still a good idea, and it hasn't happened yet.
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By al - 6:48 p.m. |

You said: "Again I don't like the way the question is set up, with either rejecting reform or accepting this specific system as-is. It seems like the commission on electoral reform is threatening to take its ball and go home if they don't get exactly what they propose."

The Commission, for better or for worse, was given the specific mandate to (A) develop an MMP system and to inform Islanders about such system as well as the existing Single Member Plurality system and (B) pose a plebiscite question based on Part (A). we did not have the option of looking at different systems or of tweaking the current system nor did we have the option of posing a question unrelated to our specific mandate. We were given this mandate by the Legislature of PEI and, if you find that mandate insufficient (and we heard many comments to that effect), you should take it up with your MLA who (as part of the legislative collectivity) started the whole thing with very specific terms. I don't know why they set it up the way they did and we tried to work within our mandate. Personally speaking, if Islanders choose to say No, it won't bother me a bit: our Commission provided a clear choice to Islanders. I think it's great that you have taken a such an interest in not only the process but are digging deeper to explore what electoral systems can mean to the "body politic". I just wanted to clarify that issue about the Commission.
This is sort of what I have a problem with, and why my 'no' vote, if I stick to that position, will be more a vote against the process by which this has come about than anything else.

An open process with the same conclusion may have been more appealing to me.
Maybe I'm paranoid, but I think that the process was set up the way it was to ensure a no vote:

- The Commission asked government shortly after it was struck for an extension so that a longer education campaign could be mounted, something that the Commission stated to the Standing Committee was "key to success". That request was very quickly denied (4 days later).

- The reduction in polls to one fifth of the normal number (62 instead of 297) and the implementation of a 60% threshold (completely unnecessary in a non-binding plebiscite)will most definitely decrease the voter turnout. The additional hours of advance polling won’t be too much help, in my opinion, since almost half takes place in the DRO’s house (how many people will feel comfortable voting in someone’s house - kind of weird).

- Lastly, there is a refusal by the party that set this in motion to enlighten the electorate about how they will create their list, despite many calls from voters and the media to do so. Timing can’t be argued as a factor - the MMP system was not a surprise. That was the what the Commission was mandated to recommend.

If I were to vote in protest over the way the system has come about, I would be more inclined to vote yes.
No matter how the "YES" or the Electoral Reform Commission wants to explain it, MMP is weighted for the "loser to win".
Do we need a change? Definitely.
Is this model the change that is acceptable to all Islanders? Definitely not. One would think if we listened to Mr. Greenan that everyone else in the democratic world votes under MMP rules. Most of the new governments that have been formed in the last 40 years world wide have previously been non-democratic so it is easy to see how any form of voting would be acceptable to the people of these developing countries.
I agree with Alex when he wrote (ad libing here) that if you want to support a model that gives seats to the losers, then stand up for what you believe. It was interesting to listen to Mr. Greenan respond with his 'canned' answers. I am still trying to understand his comment about why the elitist have not joined his party. I suppose it is because no one knows who the elitist are. It was a really unintelligent snark at Ms. Mella whom he kept referring to as " being around longer than himself". The remark brought thunderous applaud from his supporters...I rest my case.
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