Electoral Reform


submitted by Steve Gabell

We live in a democracy, or so we are told. But do we really? In a democracy power resides with the people, which does not seem to describe the current situation in Ontario. We are less than a year out from an election, and Doug Ford and his ministers are pushing through a number of damaging policies to address long standing issues such as housing and healthcare, and completely ignoring huge numbers of responses to consultations. These are not new issues that have suddenly cropped up, yet during the election no mention was made of opening up the parts of the Greenbelt for development, of significantly changing development fees charged by municipalities on new homes, or of increasing use of the private sector in healthcare. I can distinctly remember Steve Clark at one of the all-candidates debate praising Ford for being “open and transparent”. Maybe he was using a different definition to the rest of us, as not much about this Progressive Conservative government is open and transparent.

Our electoral system is archaic and fails to ensure that the seats awarded in Parliament represent the share of the vote won by each party. First past the post may have made sense in a bygone era where electorates elected truly local representatives, where communication between constituencies and representatives was slow, and when elected representatives were more independent of their party. We now have ridings that vary in geographical size from small to enormous, we have instant communication and easy travel, and we have a party system that virtually guarantees MPPs vote as directed by the party.

Following the provincial election in 2022, we’ve ended up with one party that won the support of less than 18% of the electorate (or 40% of those who actually voted if we want to be generous), winning 67% of the seats in parliament, and 100% of the power. Does that sound democratic, or to borrow from Lord Halisham, does it sound like an elective dictatorship? Not content with having control of parliament, Ford and his Attorney General want to assume control over the process to select the next chief justice.

Participatory democracy is a core value of Green parties around the world. This is applied not just to systems for electing representatives to parliament, but within the parties as well. Every member of the Ontario Greens has a voice in policy development and acceptance, local officers are elected by members, and candidates for provincial elections are decided by members in the riding. Changing to a proportional system may increase Green representation in parliament, but we do not advocate for this out of narrow self interest. There is a significant disconnect between our elected MPPs and those they are supposed to represent, and widespread disillusionment with politics in general as was evidenced by the shockingly low turnout seen in our last provincial election.

Ontario needs electoral reform. First past the post has long outlived its usefulness. We need an electoral system that reflects how votes are cast across the province, that ensures all positions are represented, and that fosters collaboration rather than partisanship. Proportional representation would increase public engagement with politics as people felt that their vote truly mattered. Support for electoral reform is widespread across the political spectrum, as evidenced by polling commissioned by Fair Vote Canada with 76% of responders to a national poll supporting a Citizens’ Assembly on electoral reform, including 69% of Conservative voters. 

Under first past the post, over half the votes cast in the 2022 election did not count for electing a representative, whereas in Denmark less than one in 20 votes was wasted. Support electoral reform to ensure that every vote truly counts.  


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