|On Oct. 10, Ontarians will be called on to vote twice. They will (or won’t) vote in the general election that decides who sits in the next provincial parliament and who governs Ontario. And, they will be called on to vote in a referendum to say “Yes” or “No” to a new electoral system for Ontario provincial elections: “mixed member proportional” representation or “MMP.”
What is MMP? Here’s the gist: instead of one vote, Ontarians would cast two votes. One vote would be cast for the local candidate of their choice in the electoral district where they live. The other vote would be cast for the political party of their choice. In each riding, the candidate who won the most votes would become the member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), just like now. But seats would be reserved for the political parties to choose the other MPPs based on how many votes the parties got.
Why MMP? Supporters argue that MMP would result in a provincial parliament that better reflected each party’s popular vote. Pro-life supporters of MMP argue it would allow a pro-life party to put a pro-life MPP in the provincial parliament.
Confused? You should be. What is really needed is not MMP reform, but “MPP reform.” What Ontario needs – what all governments need – is elected officials who speak and vote with the courage of conviction.
MMP gives political parties and their leaders more power, not less. MMP gives local party members less power, not more. Now, the local riding associations of the parties select candidates. The process is open to any party member eligible to run for office. A party leader can impose candidates, but it’s bad politics for a leader to do so. It’s considered “anti-democratic.”
So, why would people who want a “more democratic” system support MMP? MMP lets the party leader make the call, not party members. MMP is anti-democratic.
Pro-life Ontarians can join any political party, organize to win their party’s candidate selection in any riding, stand for election, and win – with “smarts” and hard work. The problem is not just getting elected. It’s what some pro-life people do when they achieve office.
Party discipline is part of the reason. If an MPP wants to curry favour with the caucus and party leader, he or she must go along with what the leader wants in order to advance in the caucus ranks. “Go along to get along.” In our system, votes on budget bills and motions are “confidence votes.” Votes on other “money bills” – bills requiring spending or a tax increase – aren’t always, unless the leader makes them so. When members fail to vote with the leader and caucus on a confidence vote, they risk being kicked out of caucus. But very few votes are confidence votes. How would MMP change this? The short answer is, it won’t.
Our system upholds “cabinet solidarity.” Every member of cabinet is expected to support the government’s position. If the premier declares the government’s position on a bill or motion, other cabinet members must vote the same way. If a cabinet member won’t, he must resign from cabinet. Sometimes opposition party leaders insist on the same solidarity for opposition critics, but not always. How would MMP change this? Same answer: it won’t.
Our system distinguishes between “government bills and motions” and “private members’ bills and motions.” A government bill or motion is introduced by a member of the cabinet. A private members’ bill or motion is introduced by an MPP who is not in cabinet. An MPP isn’t required to ask his leader or caucus for permission to introduce a private members’ bill. Traditionally, votes on private members’ bills are free votes. They’re not confidence votes and they don’t require cabinet solidarity, unless the government takes a position. How would MMP change this? Again: it won’t.
What the pro-life cause needs are more MPPs who set aside advancing their careers in caucus and cabinet and focus, instead, on advancing life and family as a political issue. We need more MPPs who argue for life and family inside caucus, in committees and the legislative assembly and in media and public meetings. We need more MPPs who recruit pro-life volunteers to their campaigns and hire pro-life staff and interns so the next generation of activists is put in place. We need more MPPs who table pro-life bills on funding, information, parental notification and others, so that the law becomes more pro-life – to achieve what Augustine called “proximate justice.”
MMP? No, we need more MPPs who advance a culture of life movement that celebrates family life, the aspirations of youth and the wisdom of age – that sees all human life as sacred. “Vote life” – not MMP.