Hampton lauds final report on electoral reform

NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton is applauding the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly’s final report on electoral reform, which recommends a new electoral system for the province: Mixed Member Proportional.
It will be up to Ontario voters to decide whether the new system is adopted in a referendum being held in conjunction with the next provincial election on Oct. 10.
The assembly’s report, delivered Tuesday to the McGuinty government, says the new Mixed Member Proportional system preserves the best of the electoral system we have now—strong local representation—while adding new elements to produce more proportional election results.
The new system will see voters cast two votes: one for a local candidate and one for a party. The party vote is the popular vote, and determines the total number of seats a party wins.
Each party will nominate a slate of candidates, which they must publish before the election, as well as the process used to create them.
This will allow voters to decide whether a party developed its list in a fair and open way.
If a party elects fewer local members than its share of the popular vote, candidates from its list then are elected to compensate for the difference.
A party must have clear support—at least three percent of the popular vote across the province—for a candidate from its list to be elected.
NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton believes if the Election Statue Law Amendment Act, 2007 is passed, Ontario’s electoral system is moving in the right direction.
“We think that it’s a better system than what we currently have in Ontario,” Hampton said. “We are generally in favour of proportional representation.
“It would better reflect what the actual popular vote was.”
Hampton said opinion polling indicates people want to see a change in the electoral process.
“The opinion research shows that the majority of people in Ontario want to see this type of electoral reform,” he noted.
“People don’t like the fact that a political party can get 38 percent of votes in an election and wind up with 75 percent of the seats. That’s what people have found unacceptable.
“With proportional representation, if a party gets 30 percent of the votes, they will get 30 percent of the seats. I think most people would say that’s fair.”
Hampton also said the new system would significantly change our election process and election outcomes—resulting in more minority governments and fewer governments with large majorities.
“I think most people would see this as a good thing,” he said.
The Citizens’ Assembly’s review of the electoral process was initiated back in September.
The 103 randomly-selected members of the assembly assessed the current electoral system and others, and were asked to recommend whether Ontario should keep the current system or adopt a new one.
The assembly included one member from each of Ontario’s ridings, under the leadership of George Thomson. There were 52 females and 51 males, including one aboriginal representative.
During the consultation period, there were three main opportunities for public input: public meetings, which were conducted throughout the province, written submissions, and special outreach focus groups organized by the Social Planning Network of Ontario on behalf of the Citizens’ Assembly.
By the time the consultation period concluded, members had heard the views of roughly 3,000 people all with one intention in mind—how to offer Ontarians the best electoral process in the future.
The government will hold a referendum on this recommendation in conjunction with the next general election on Oct. 10 of this year.
“Over the next five months, people will have a chance to debate, ask questions, and discuss how this system might work,” Hampton explained. “And then people will have a chance to vote.”
If passed, the act also would make it easier for Ontarians to vote by:
•increasing the number of advance polling days from six to 13;
•extending the polling day by one hour to 9 p.m. (8 p.m. in Northwestern Ontario);
•including candidates’ party affiliation on the ballots (candidates not endorsed by a party could be identified as independents, at the candidate’s request);
•establishing additional accessibility criteria for selecting polling locations;
•improving security by requiring voters to present identification in order to vote;
•allowing the chief Electoral Officer to test new voting or vote-counting methods in future by-elections;
•encouraging higher turnout by giving the Chief Electoral Officer the authority to undertake election-related public education campaigns, and directing him to provide new-voter information to school boards for students approaching the voting age;
•making sure people who should be on the voters’ list are on the list through targeted registration (voters also would be able to confirm online that they are on the list); and
•including new reporting and transparency requirements for third parties that undertake election advertising, and eliminate the initial advertising blackout period for regularly scheduled elections.