Monday, October 1, 2007

Appointed List Candidates Still Dogs Yes Side

The issue of 'appointed' list candidates continues to dog the VoteforMMP campaign. The Toronto Star yesterday came out against mixed member proportional (MMP) in their editorial entitled "Electoral reform a backward step" and is encouraging voters to vote against MMP. Their opposition is detailed, but includes, "The other 39 [MPPs] would be selected from lists of politicians drawn up by the parties", and "Jurisdictions that have adopted some form or other of proportional representation – think of Italy, Israel, Germany, Belgium – have become notorious for chaotic politics and legislative gridlock."

Below I have included the full rebuttal from the VoteForMMP campaign. In it they focus on The Star's assessment that the list candidates will be appointed rather than directly elected. It is not The Star's only argument, but it is one that the pro-MMP side cannot seem to shake. Given that the limited polling done on this issue shows that urban voters are more likely to support MMP, The Star's opposition to MMP is going to be a setback for the 'yes' side.

Reality Check: calls on Toronto Star to clean up misleading referendum reporting

    TORONTO, Sept. 30 /CNW/ - is accusing the Toronto Star of
fear-mongering and inaccurate journalism in the Star's editorial today against
electoral reform.
In today's editorial, the Toronto Star repeated the misleading claim that
under Ontario's proposed new MMP system, the new province-wide candidates
"could simply be appointed by party bosses."
"This argument is regularly being used falsely by unthinking defenders of
the status quo to deter support for needed electoral reform," said Rick
Anderson, campaign chair of "It's a shame that a media
organization with the Star's credentials is not more careful with the facts
regarding such an important question confronting voters."
After eight months of careful study, Ontario's Citizens' Assembly on
Electoral Reform recommended that Ontarians adopt a mixed member proportional
(MMP) electoral system, in which:

(a) a redesigned ballot allows voters to vote once for their preferred
local candidate and a second time for their preferred party, and

(b) future legislatures are composed of a mix of 90 locally-elected MPPs
(elected as today) and 39 new provincially-elected MPPs elected by voters
proportionate to the party votes cast on the second part of the new

"The Citizens' Assembly did not recommend that any MPPs be appointed, nor
is that the practice in other democracies which use MMP," said Anderson. "It
is misleading and unacceptable to characterize that as part of the MMP
In today's system, parties are left to determine their own methods for
democratically nominating local candidates. Likewise, the Citizens' Assembly
left it to the individual parties to determine their own methods of nominating
both riding and provincial candidates in the future, with the provisos that
the parties are required to nominate their candidates publicly before voters
vote and to publish the details of their candidate nomination processes in a
clear, democratic and transparent fashion.
"In the other jurisdictions which use MMP all parties have adopted
democratic candidate nomination processes for proportional candidates, just as
they have for local candidates. Moreover, even in advance of the new system
being adopted three of Ontario's four parties have already made public
statements affirming they will follow democratic practices to nominate MMP
candidates." (See backgrounder below.)
"The notion that under MMP candidates would be appointed is simply
hogwash," said Anderson. "Star readers should demand greater accuracy from
their paper. Informed voters require a higher standard than this inaccurate
sloganeering." is a multi-partisan citizens' campaign supporting the mixed
member proportional (MMP) voting system proposed by the Ontario Citizens'
Assembly on Electoral Reform.


John Tory, Leader, Ontario PC Party (National Post, September 25, 2007):
"The Conservative leader went on to say that if the referendum passes, his
party will likely find a democratic way to develop its list of candidates:
'The history of our party is that the party insists on choosing its candidates

Howard Hampton, Leader, Ontario New Democratic Party (Ontario Today, CBC
Radio, September 26, 2007) "We believe we should nominate the at-large
candidates according to a very democratic process. We would want to ensure we
have more women, more visible minority candidates, more First Nations
candidates...a lot of people who make up the Ontario mosaic."

Frank de Jong, Leader, Green Party of Ontario (GPO press release,
September 27, 2007): "Democracy extends to choosing candidates in a
transparent and equitable manner...We are committed to using a transparent and
equitable process to produce a slate of qualified Green candidates who
accurately reflect Ontario's diverse population."


Anonymous said...

The yes side are a bunch of babies. Every time someone points out a flaw in MMP they cry foul. The list candidates are appointed, everyone knows it, but their trying to fool Ontario.

Scott Tribe said...

Actually.. we're pointing out the truth of the matter in that 3 of the 4 Parties in Ontario are going to pick these List Candidates by democratic means, and I'll be shocked if the Liberals dont as well.

That looks like we're "shaking" the argument perfectly fine, by pointing out the fear and falsehoods over this matter.

Anonymous said...

"Democratic" means? How is it democratic if the parties are appointing these people instead of the voters. That is the point the yes side is missing.

Scott Tribe said...

By the way, I'm curious why the owner of this site cloaks himself in anonymity. The claims here are that this site is neutral, but I see a lot more articles attacking the pro-MMP side then I do the status quo side, and I see continuing fallacies and inaccurate charges from this site that the No side constantly uses.

Scott Tribe said...

Gee, Anonymous, the statements that the party leaders have given should provide you with your answer... but I'll restate it for you.

The parties listed in your piece are committed democratically electing them at regional nomination meetings. How is that less democratic then how they nominate a candidate for a local riding?

Furthermore, that process is publicized beforehand, and the voters get to see who is on the list and in what order, and they can vote accordingly if they like the list and the process.

As Professor David Docherty from the University of Wilfrid Laurier said: "This provides voters with the opportunity to pass judgment not only on a party’s platform, but on how they came up with their list of candidates, which is hardly undemocratic".

Mixed Member Proportional said...

You've seen arguments the no side uses because I present both sides. In this article, the one you've chosen to allege bias, I quoted just two sentences from the editorial against MMP but provided the ENTIRE release refuting that editorial.

Anonymous said...

Scott, even what you're writing tells me their appointed and not directly elected by the voters. If they were elected by the voters I could choose who I would vote for. I can't, because the parties are appointed the list. I get to accept it or reject it.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...


In that sense, you don't get to pick who you vote for NOW. You're simply presented with the party's chosen candidate, and you can accept or reject that candidate.

The only difference with the list MMP is that you are presented with the party's team of candidates, and you get to accept or reject the team. There's no fundamental difference between a vote for individuals that's an indirect vote for the party, and a vote for the party that's an indirect vote for individuals.

Anonymous said...

That's crap. For local candidates the party nominates someone and I can put an x beside their name or not. With MMP I can vote for the party but they choose their own list. I can't put an x beside anyone's name. You guys are missing the point. These candidates ARE appointed.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

You can't currently put an X next to a party's name, but it's parties that form governments under FPTP. Nobody voted for the Liberals under your view of things, but the Liberals still formed a governmnet with 70% of the seats. Democracy does not equal "voting for people by name". If it did, most of the Western world's democracies would not be considered democracies. In plenty of countries you ONLY vote for a party's full list of candidates. You NEVER vote directly for individuals one at a time.

MMP gives the best of both worlds. You can cast a vote directly for a party's policies, and the team they have selected to represent those policies in the legislature, AND you can cast a vote for you favourite local candidate, regardless of party preference. These candidates are not appointed, they are elected by our votes. If none of us vote for them, they don't get in. The fact that we vote for a team of candidates rather than a single candidate is the whole point, and it's no less legitimate than voting for a single candidate.

I swear, I sometimes wonder if MMP opponenets are WILLFULLY ignorant, or just plain ignorant.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

It occurs to me that perhaps annonynmous does not realize that parties present their lists of candidates to the voters BEFORE the election.

When you cast your party vote you'll know exactly the team of candidates you're voting for. True, you're not putting an X next to a list of names (putting each of the parties' full lists on the ballot would make the ballot HUGE) but you'll know exactly who you're voting for before you cast your party vote. If you don't like a party's list, don't vote for it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not questioning the legitimacy of MMP. I just don't like that the list candidates are not directly elected by the voters.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Ok, well that's fair enough. However, there's a HUGE difference between saying that list members aren't DIRECTLY elected by voters (which I personally think is immaterial, but whatever) and saying that list members are "appointed" by parties (which they clearly aren't, even if they are appointed as candidates by the parties).

It's true that we're electing list candidates indirectly through party votes in MMP (just like we elect parties indirectly to government by candidate votes in our current system), but both are clearly elections, not "appointments". I disagree with (but don't have a problem with) the argument that the indirect election of list members through party votes for the total list rather than one at a time individually is a flaw in MMP. However, claiming that List MPPs are "appointed" is disengeguous to say the least.

Gary said...

It's rather quite simple and those who distort this, including the Toronto Star, do so willfully in order to preserve their ability to win elections with a minority of the voters. But let's recap anyway.

1) If you don't like a candidate nominated in a riding - you don't vote for him or her.
2) If you don't like a the list of candidates nominated by a party, you don't vote for that party.

If you don't like party's province-wide, at large candidates, vote for another party. If you don't like any of the parties nominated at large candidates, don't vote for any of them. You can still vote for your local candidate.

Then again, these are the same people who say that marking two "x"s on a ballot is way too complicated for voters.

Anonymous said...

Okay ... so these people ARE appointed by the parties. They may have their own process for that appointment, but the parties are appointing them rather than the voters. That sucks!

Lord Kitchener's Own said...


It's like talking to a brick wall!!!

Anonymous said...

Ya, a brick wall that is supported by the Toronto Star, all sorts of editorialists, and average Joes like me. You guys may not get it, but your campaign is in freefall because you can't understand that to an average Joe like me what you have described is appointment. Maybe you coulda fast talked me outa that, but with the Star supporting me I know you guys are playing games.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this seems to be a contentious point. Clearly, despite what Scott Tribe says, the 'yes' side can't be doing a very good job putting forward a convincing argument to this point since it still keeps coming up. Maybe people don't really understand the mechanics of the proposed system (btw, screaming 'ignorance!' at them doesn't help your cause), but maybe there's some legitimacy to the concerns being raised by the other side.

Lord Kitchener, I can understand your frustration having to repeatedly respond to the same arguments. I'm sure the other side is feeling the same way. What's more frustrating, though, is to see what seem to be reasonable responses to rebuttals ignored, as they have been in a couple of other comment threads on this site. Worse still, someone asked you a direct question in comments here, in what seemed like an honest attempt to better understand the debate, and it went unanswered. What better way to win support then to explain your point of view to someone who genuinely is undecided and want to know?

One argument that I keep seeing parroted here is 'most western democracies use some form of PR. You wouldn't call THEM undemocratic!' Logical fallacy aside, there are varying forms of democracy, and there are varying degrees. I've challenged this argument before in a comment here that was ignored, so I'll repeat what is an honest question: With regards to countries that elect governments exclusively from party list, is there one that involves casting a ballot for a single party only who then fills their allotment of seats from a pre-determined, unvarying list?

A pure democracy is one where the people themselves make all the decisions (presumably with continual referendums). Obviously, this is cumbersome for a group of any reasonable size, and certainly not suitable for an entire nation, so we choose a less democratic system of electing representatives to speak for us. Still less democratic would be choosing representatives in fixed groups. A bare minimum for democracy would be to elect a single party on a ballot and have them govern. Would you be satisfied with the full PR system I described in the preceding paragraph? What about the minimal democracy above?

The 'yes' side is also crying foul about inaccuracies in the 'no' statements about "appointed" candidates. That's fair. While candidates could be simply named to the lists, it isn't necessarily true and, if party leaders are to be believed it simply wouldn't happen. However, the 'yes' side seems just as guilty of misleading by omission. They keep pushing the point of 'democratically nominated' list candidates. While strictly true, they fail to mention who does the nominating, leaving this statement to imply "the people". Unless I'm way off base, it's the parties who nominate and elect candidates to the list (if I'm wrong, and the general public is free to attend and vote in nomination meetings, then that is super-cool and a huge win for democracy). As a non-party member, I have no say in who gets on the list or what order the list is in, and therefore my say in who is working for me at Queen's Park is diminished. It takes some of the power away from the people, and puts it in the hands of the parties. I can certainly see why some citizens may take pause at that idea. The degree and importance of that 'power shift' is certainly debatable, and the amount it weighs on an individuals decision will vary person to person but it's definitely a reasonable thing to consider when making your decision. This issue is just one of the arguments against MMP, and is just one aspect of what I think is the real underlying question: is a move to MMP a victory for democracy?

Gary, forgive my naivity, but how does the Toronto Star benefit from raising objections to MMP? How do they 'preserve their ability to win elections'? Last time I checked, they weren't on the ballot.

As for attacks on anonymous posting, it really shouldn't matter whether a poster is a 12-year old boy, or a member of the Citizen's Assembly that proposed the idea, or a shill for the 'no' side, or a party leader if the arguments can stand up on their own. But for those who think this site is biased, I found this blog that tries to take a neutral position in explaining the pros and cons of the two sides - though of course each side is going to find fault with how their position is portrayed. It's mainly a science blog, but like any concerned Ontarians has an interest in the outcome of the upcoming referendum.


Mixed Member Proportional said...

The list candidates as proposed is what is called a closed list. Voting for each member of the list is called an open list. It was considered by the Citizens' Assembly but rejected as too complicated, I believe. Also, most Western democracies do not use PR. The most common system is the plurality system. First-past-the-post is one type of plurality system but I believe it is also the least common (at least in its pure Westminster form).

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Well, I apologize for being curt, it's just I really wish people would at least use pseudonyms instead of posting as "anonymous". I can only calmly explain the system to "anonymous" so many times before my head explodes. Eventually, you just figure "anonymous" is messing with you, and being deliberately obtuse.

For what it's worth, I think it's also a problem that many pro-MMP folks assume when people claim that list MPPS are "appointed" under MMP that those people are talking about them being appointed to the list as CANDIDATES, not appointed to the LEGISLATURE (as you know candidates are appointed all the time under FPTP). To people who understand MMP I think it's so obvious that list MPPs are elected FROM the list by voters to sit in the legislature that they don't even realize that someone could possibly be questioning that fact. So they focus on the fact that most parties won't appoint candidates to their lists because it never even occurs to them that this is not what people are compalining about (because what people are complaining about makes no sense).

As for the Toronto Star, that was one of the worst editorials EVER. One outright lie, and at least three major distortions regarding MMP in a single piece. If you have to stray that far from the truth to endorse FPTP, then that should tell readers something about FPTP.

For now, I think my sanity requires me to leave it to Andrew Coyne to debunk the fear mongering surrounding this issue. Unfortunately, this column doesn't get into debunking the distorition that list MPPs are "appointed" and not "elected". However, Mr. Coyne has apparently decided that there is so much misinformation and distortion out there that he needed to break his dispelling of the fear mongering into two separate columns. I expect his next column will lay out pretty definitively how wrong it is to refer to list MPPs as "appointed". Stay tuned.

Finally MMP, could you point to some of these "plurality" systems you speak of other than the FPTP system used in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. As far as I can tell, every other Western democracy, in one form or another, uses something that would be described as a form of PR, but I'd love to learn about another form of plurality system.

Mark Greenan said...

Mixed-member proportional,

It is flatly false to say that "most Western democracies do not use PR".

There may be one of two exceptions, but all countries that use first-past-the-post are former British colonies.

The ONLY Western democracies that use first-past-the-post are Canada, the US and the UK.


Anonymous said...

Ha ha. I can imagine the frustration dealing with numerous people with the same 'anonymous' handle. It's also bad for us anonymous cowards since we're all arguing with the same name! (for the record, they're not all me!) I just can't be bothered to come up with a witty pseudonym, so I'll just sign them.

I agree with you that a lot of the argument probably stems from mixed terminology that everybody is using - the distinction between being appointed as a candidate and appointed as a representative (and the confused use of the word 'appointed'). I think there is legitimacy to the concerns of the no-MMP camp, it just isn't being articulated in the most accurate way. (I also vainly like to think that I've succeeded in that task, but I'm probably being foolish).

If your Toronto Star response was directed at me (and not the other anonymous, ha ha), I wasn't trying to defend it's content at all. I just honestly wanted to know what they had to gain from it (as Greg suggested they did). It's one thing to rationally disagree with the content, it's another to just blow it off as some sort of partisan rambling.

I have read that Andrew Coyne column, and I have to say I found the comments on the column more instructive. They contain well spoken arguments and rebuttals from both sides of the issue.

I don't know about other forms of 'plurality' voting (and I know that question wasn't addressed to me) or what the definition of such a system would be (single non-transferable vote seems to be one that would fit the bill?), but there are certainly other voting systems out there. One that I am personally intrigued by is single transferable vote/instant run-off voting. Even MMP with a different list election system might be interesting. Obviously the referendum question doesn't address any other voting system, but my question is, "Is MMP as proposed by the Citizens Assembly the BEST system for use in Ontario?" If it's not, even if you prefer it to FPTP, are you doing yourself a favour by voting for it instead of insisting (to whatever degree an individual can do that) that the BEST system be put on the ballot in a future referendum? I know the two aren't mutually exclusive, but realistically how open to another electoral system change are Ontarians going to be if we vote for MMP but decide something else might be better? I'm not trying to 'fear-monger' or even propose this as a reason not to vote for MMP - just thinking philosophically. To put it another way, are you voting FOR MMP or AGAINST FPTP?


Lord Kitchener's Own said...

"for the record, they're not all me!" LOL

In answer to the last question, I'd have to say, both. I'm voting against FPTP in the only means given to me, by voting for MMP. I don't necessarily think the MMP proposal put before voters is a panacea. I don't necessarily think it's the best voting system ever conceived by man. But I'm not being asked that question. I'm being asked which system I think we should use in Ontario, A or B. My opinion on C is, in the context of the Referendum, irrelevant. I've been asked if I want FPTP or MMP, and in that case it's absolutely clear to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I want MMP. (Heh, "I want my MMP").

If I'm asked if I want a Pepsi or a kick in the groin, I may very well prefer a Coke. Or a margarita. Or a fine wine.

In any case, I'm not going to vote for the kick in the groin.

Mixed Member Proportional said...

Mark Greenan, you're right and I was wrong. Most countries do use PR, though it is also true that most countries use the plurality system, of which first-past-the-post is one type. Its mixed member proportional that isn't used by many countries, which I unfortunately mixed up with PR. My apologies.

Gary said...

"Gary, forgive my naivity, but how does the Toronto Star benefit from raising objections to MMP? How do they 'preserve their ability to win elections'? Last time I checked, they weren't on the ballot."

I guess when they come out with their endorsement of the Liberals you'll figure it out. Excuse my poor grammar in the first post.

And again, if at large candidates are "appointed" then so are local candidates. The nomination of party hacks is nothing new. The election of party hacks by the voters is nothing new. Then there are the decent politicians.

Voters will actually elect the at large candidates with their party vote. I don't see what's so complicated about it except that the FPTP lovers want to confuse people by repeating the word "appoint, appoint, appoint" ad nauseum.

It's a nomination and an election. Do you thing voters are just voting for the party for fun and that this vote has no meaning? Do you think that the OCA designed this so that party bosses could put their axe murdering, peyote-ridden cousin into the legislature?

The big question is this - if MMP is so helpful to party bosses why is the old guard so opposed to it? Are they such democrats and guardians of the public interest that their own self-interest does not come into play?

If you were a party strategist, what would you prefer? To win an election with 34% of votes or with 51%? Of course the FPTPers will never answer this.

Democracy is about voters and citizens - not about ridings and artificial borders. Ridings should not determine the government, the voters should.

Andy said...

Not sure who wrote the Canada Newswire piece, but they get this wrong:

39 new provincially-elected MPPs elected by voters proportionate to the party votes cast on the second part of the new ballot.

It's not at all true that the 39 list members are elected proportionally to the party votes. Rather, they are "top-up" seats designed to make the composition of the entire 129-seat legislature proportionate to the party vote totals. If the Greens get 10% of the party vote while failing to win a single riding, they can claim approximately 13 of the 39 list seats, not 4 of 39.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions that people have, and one that makes MMP seem less of a departure from the current system than it actually is. A lot of people undoubtedly think that small parties can only win their proportionate "share" of the 39 list MPPs -- in fact they get their "share" of all 129 MPPs.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Andy's right. If a party gets 10% of the vote, they get 10% of the seats.

Oh, the horror!

Meanwhile, Andrew Coyne's promised column is here today. It's title?

MMP does not mean appointed by party hacks.

Sigh. I love that man.

Andy said...

Well, to some extent it is arguably something of a "horror" if people are casting their votes for the Greens under the impression that doing so will at most produce a token Green caucus when it could quite conceivably produce a very substantial Green caucus able to wield a wildly disproportionate amount of power in the inevitable minority government situation.

Andy said...

I would add the observatio that party vote is only one kind of voting under MMP. If the Greens get 10% of the party vote and 2% of the riding vote in an MMP election, then why is it so obvious that 10% of the members of the legislature ought to be Greens?

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