It was the first half of the meeting that was interesting: a presentation and discussion on MMP. Some guy from Elections Ontario did a mediocre job of explaining the proposed system -- you could tell from the questions that a lot of people didn't really "get it". At all. Then we got a "pro" speaker and a "con" speaker (whose names I didn't write down).
The "pro" speaker made points I'd heard before (and some I've made myself). Then the "con" speaker got up. The acoustics were not great, so I didn't catch his name, but it was something like "Charles Fearmonger", which is close enough because that's mostly what he did. He started by making the reasonable point that the proposed MMP system strengthens the power of the parties (which strictly speaking are not a fundamental aspect of the historical Westminster system) by giving them an explicit presence on the ballot. A couple of points:
- The choice of list candidates is done at the party level, a process which is remote from the local riding association who nominate the local candidate.
- MPPs might be more likely to toe the party line (as opposed to representing their constituents) if it affects their chances of getting on the list next election.
After making this semi-valid point, Mr. Fearmonger went downhill into borderline crankery. He claimed it was impossible to find the details of the mysterious Hare Formula by which the list seats are assigned. Huh? I found it -- it wasn't dead easy, but if a software engineer can find something on a website while sitting in his easy chair with a laptop, paying half-attention to Stephen Colbert, surely so could he. Anyways, afterwards I overheard him out in the hallway explaining the fractional-seat resolution scheme to someone -- so he must have found the same information I did! So what the hell was he on about?
Next he presented some truly alarming election scenarios, presumably to show that MMP doesn't deliver what it promises. His scenarios:
- Party X creates a "shadow" party (call it Y -- or maybe they make a deal with an already existing party). Party X only runs candidates in the riding races. Y only runs list candidates. Assuming they both do moderately well, between them they have a healthy majority, out of which they form a "coalition" government. Apparently, Mr. Fearmonger thinks we are all to stupid to see through such a transparent dirty trick, or too docile to send Party X to electoral Coventry over it.
- His final scenario was even stupider: Every riding elects an independent candidate AND all of us (except one) decide not to vote on the party side of the ballot. That one voter votes for Party X. Thus X gets 100% of the party vote, therefore all 39 list seats -- and presumably the government. Do I really need to point out how wildly unrealistic this outcome is? All electoral systems can be mathematically shown to produce absurd results in some extreme situation -- but we don't live in the ideal world of mathematics, we live in the real world.