Citizens Assembly News Digest
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Citizens Assembly News Digest

October 19, 2007
Written by J.H. Snider

Ontario Citizens Assembly Referendum Defeated

This issue of the Citizens Assembly News Digest is divided into seven sections:

1) Ontario Referendum Results and Analysis
2) Other Citizens Assembly News
3) Research
4) iSolon.org Update
5) Next Citizens Assembly News Digest
6) Newspaper Articles
7) Blog Entries

1)   Ontario Referendum Results and Analysis

On October 10, 2007 Ontario held a referendum on the recommendations of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.  The referendum gave the electorate two options: vote for the status quo electoral system based on First-Past-the-Post voting rules (FPTP), or support the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly to change to a system known as Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). 

As the following table from Elections Ontario shows, the referendum to change the electoral system went down to defeat 63.1% to 36.9%, with less than 5% of the political districts providing majority support for MMP.

Question : Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature?

Provincial Results

Choice

Total Valid Votes

Percentage of Valid Votes

Districts with 50% + 1

The existing electoral system
(First-Past-the-Post)

2,704,652

63.1%

102

The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly
(Mixed Member Proportional)

1,579,684

36.9%

5

 

In addition to voting on the referendum, voters were asked to vote for representatives to Ontario’s legislature.  In the legislative election, the Liberal Party won 71 seats (with 42% of the vote), the Progressive Conservative Party won 26 seats (with 32% of the vote), and the New Democratic Party won 10 seats (with 17% of the vote).  Other parties received 9% of the vote but no seats. 

The election was noteworthy in having not only Ontario’s first referendum since 1924 (virtually no one living in Ontario had ever before voted on a provincial referendum) but also the lowest voter turnout (52.8% of the vote) in provincial history.  Clearly, whatever the historical novelty of the referendum, the referendum’s existence was not a major draw in getting citizens to the polls. 

The motivation to create the citizens assembly may be traced back to 1995 when the Liberal Party was a close second in votes but only won 30 seats (23% of total seats) compared to the 82 seats (63% of total seats) won by the Progressive Conservative Party.   Under a system of rigorous proportional representation, the Progressive Conservatives would not have received a majority of seats (it only had 44.8% of the vote).    The result in the 1999 election was similar. 

Dalton McGuinty has led the Liberal Party since 1996.  In the 2003 election, he included electoral reform as part of the Liberal Party platform.  The Liberal Party won the election, and McGuinty followed through on his electoral promise in 2006 by creating the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.    

After the 2007 election results, the Liberal Party said it would not back another citizens assembly on electoral reform.  In McGuinty’s words: “We’ve had that debate; I have an abiding confidence in the collective wisdom of the people of Ontario.”  

What explains the dramatic failure of the Ontario Citzens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform’s recommendations to win voter support? The discrepancy between the Citizens’ Assembly members’ support for MMP over the status quo (84% to 16%) and the general public’s (37% to 63%) cries out for explanation.

A huge amount has already been written trying to answer this question (for many weeks insiders have known that the referendum was very likely to go down to defeat, so the explanations began early).  But we’re still far from having anything close to a definitive answer.

In attempting to answer this question, I looked at the more than 500 articles that showed up in a Nexis search on the referendum from September 14 (the date of my last Citizens Assembly News Digest) through October 18.  I also checked a variety of blog entries and web sites focused on the referendum.   The subset of newspaper articles available online are included below as are the blog entries.

The hypotheses explaining the defeat are remarkably diverse.  But the most widely reported explanations can be placed in two simple categories, depending on whether the author was an MMP supporter or opponent.  Those who supported the referendum tended to blame the information campaign (or the absence of such a campaign) waged by political elites including party leaders, the press, and the government office (Elections Ontario) responsible for educating the public about the referendum.  I’ll call this the “Referendum Campaign Hypothesis.”

Those who opposed the referendum tended to argue that the referendum failed on its merits; that is, once the public came to understand the nature of MMP, they decided they didn’t like it.  I’ll call this the “MMP Merit Hypothesis.” 

Those who opposed the referendum also tended to disparage the citizens assembly process.  But the procedural attack was relatively rare and even when joined to the merit attack usually allocated far fewer words and correspondingly less emphasis.  Nevertheless, the procedural attack is potentially very imporant.  I’ll call it the “Citizens Assembly Process Hypothesis.”

All three hypotheses appear to have significant support, so the difficulty lies in how much weight to ascribe to each factor.  It’s also interesting to note that a large number of local Ontario political scientists weighed in on the referendum debate, often strongly disagreeing with each other.   I didn’t collect the names of all the political scientists, but the list below captures the majority of those who were part of the public debate in the press.  About half also wrote op-eds. 

  1. Mark Yaniszewski, University of Waterloo
  2. Dennis Pilon, University of Victoria
  3. Jim Laxer, York University
  4. Peter MacLeod, Queen’s University
  5. Paul Nesbitt-Larking, Huron University College
  6. William Christian, University of Guelph
  7. Jonathan Rose, Queen’s University
  8. Jonathan Malloy, Carleton University
  9. Geoffrey Stevens, Wilfrid Laurier University
  10. Daniel Rubenson, Ryerson University

Overall, I would not say that, in the public eye, this was the finest moment for the field of political science.   A respected scientific field has professional consensus.   Except for a few relatively minor points—such as that voters who don’t understand a referendum item are likely to vote for the status quo—there was no consensus.

My focus here will be on providing a flavor of the different arguments.  My hope is that the burgeoning group of citizens assembly scholars will attempt a more authoritative explanation of the referendum’s failure.

Referendum Campaign Hypothesis

The Referendum Campaign Hypothesis can be divided into two sub-arguments: 1) arguments that the opponents of the referendum provided misleading information (the “Framing Hypothesis”) and 2) arguments that the absense of elite discussion of the issue doomed the referendum to failure (the “Voter Risk Aversion Hypothesis”).  The mechanism in the Voter Risk Aversion Hypothesis is that voters ignorant of or confused by a proposed change in a referendum have a strong propensity to vote for the less risky status quo.  In the days immediately preceding and following the referendum, media accounts were dominated by this type of Referendum Campaign Hypothesis. 

The flavor of this argument can be captured by various headlines such as “Referendum Debate Absent“ (Oct 10), “Public is in the Dark” (Oct 9), “Nearly three million Ontarians still don’t know about referendum (Oct 9),” “Referendum?  What referendum?”  (Oct 9), “Apathy Won’t Help Referendum” (Oct 6), and “Referendum Confusion” (Oct 6), “Referendum Campaign Poorly Done” (Oct 5), “Critics Assail Referendum Awareness” (Oct 4), “Referendum lost in campaign chaos, say reform advocates” (Oct 4), and “Keep system we know, readers urge” (Oct 1). 

The argument was also elaborated upon in many of the articles (readers satisfied with a few examples may want to skip ahead to the next section, “The Referendum Merit Hypothesis”).

"Unfortunately, Ontario's historic referendum opportunity was marred by a pathetically inadequate public information campaign by the legislature and Elections Ontario," said Rick Anderson, a proponent of electoral change.” (news, Ottawa Citizen, Oct 12)

 

That MMP fared so poorly, capturing only 36.8 per cent of the vote, is something of a surprise. But any change in long-established institutions is always resisted, and especially when it is not familiar to the voters and is quite complicated. (op-ed, Ottawa Citizen, Oct 12)

 

"I really believe if people were totally aware of what MMP was, it would have been different. What I feared, I'm sure happened. People came in (to the polling station) and said 'What is this? I don't understand it.' And, of course, no one there could explain it to them. That's not allowed."  (news, The Record, Oct 12)

 

"I personally felt that Elections Ontario could have done a better job," said Woodstock's Margaret Messenger, who was selected to be Oxford's member of the citizen's assembly. "We did get a lot of education on different systems, but the public didn't get as much.

"If our recommendation had come out a year ago and people had been given the time to educate themselves, it would have done better."

Jim Laxer, a professor of political science at York University, attributed the resounding defeat of the proposal to a lack of understanding by voters.   (news, Woodstock-Sentinel-Review, Oct 12)

 

Paul Nesbitt-Larking, chair of political science at Huron University College and a proponent of MMP, said he was "very disappointed" by the media's failure to hold the type of public conversation required on the issue.

But Peter MacLeod, research director at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University, said proponents should take solace in the fact that so many Ontarians voted for MMP despite the limited education campaign. (news, Globe and Mail, Oct 11)

 

"I don't know what the referendum is about," Luigi Maulucci, a barber in east-end Toronto for 41 years, lamented just before he voted.

"I've been listening to the news and reading the newspapers and I still can't make it out."

By all accounts, Maulucci was not alone.

One scrutineer said people arriving at her Toronto-area polling station to cast ballots for both a new provincial government and the referendum were clearly confused.

"They walk in and say, `What do I do with this thing?"' said Judy Wilkings shortly before the polls closed.

"People don't get it. They want to get it. But they just don't get it."

Scrutineers, however, were forbidden to provide any guidance.  (news, Brantford Expositer, Oct 11)

 

Elections Ontario defended itself against charges it did too little to inform the public, saying it blanketed the province with impartial leaflets and advertising. But even Jonathan Rose, the Queen's University political scientist who served as academic director for the citizens' assembly that chose MMP, acknowledged the election agency could have had a "much more vigorous" public education campaign. (news, Daily Herald-Tribune, Oct 11)

 

James Morris, voting at Alexander Muir Public School in west-end Toronto, pulled out the blue and white "Referendum Ontario" brochure he received in the mail. The brochure, written in small type, attempts to explain the choice.

"There's nothing about the design of this that makes you in any way want to read this," said Mr. Morris, a brand strategist….

Robert Lee and his partner, Lourdes Xavier, said they voted to keep the existing system because no one explained the alternative to them.

"Nobody gave me any information," said Mr. Lee, a parks department employee.  (news, London Free Press, Oct 11)

 

"It's not surprising, but it's disappointing," Bowdidge [a member of the citizens assembly] said of the referendum results, referring to criticism of the government for rushing through the electoral reform process and failing to have an adequate public education campaign.

"The government set this thing up because it was a promise from the last election, but they didn't really want it to win," he said. "The lack of a decent public education campaign and a timeline that was very tight ... didn't give people a chance to really stop and think about it and this is something you really have to think about." (news, Sudbury Star, Oct 11)

 

The referendum had no chance," NDP Leader Howard Hampton said late Wednesday as the votes were still being tallied. "All across the province, people didn't know what the issue was. They didn't know what mixed member proportional stood for, so that was not a surprise."  (news, CBC News, Oct 10)

 

"I don't blame people for voting against this," says Mr. Docherty, an MMP supporter, "because they just don't know what it means." (news, Ottawa Citizen, Oct 10)

 

"Whenever you're trying to convince the general public to make a big decision around the constitution or around changing a voting structure that has to do with the basics, you can't just hand out brochures and you can't just talk about it generally," said Lin Fines-Misiak, a member of Brant Women In Action.

"Right now, you've got a very small contingent at one end saying 'Yes' and, at the other. a second group saying strongly 'No' and a whole big group in the middle are saying, 'Gee, I just don't know enough to make an informed vote so I'm going to vote No. So No is the easier way to go." (news, Brantford Expositor, Oct 9)

 

It's complicated. The ins and outs of it are online on the report of the Citizens Assembly, the McGuinty-assembled panel that dreamed this up. A complicated formula would determine how 39 "list" seats would be divided among the parties. The idea is to use the 39 to "top up" the seats that under- represented parties won from the province's 90 constituency seats.

Confused yet? Ontarians need a double-major in poli-sci and math to figure the darned thing out.

The more complicated a system is, the more likely voters will be to say "the heck with it" and stay home. (op-ed, Niagara Falls Review, Oct 6)

 

The Elections Ontario Referendum Information Officer made a presentation which explained that there would be a referendum and what the question would be. But when the audience got to ask questions, they didn't get answers. What people wanted to know was why we are having this referendum. What is wrong with our existing system? How would the Citizens' Assembly recommendation improve things? These are important questions we need to understand to make an informed decision. Unfortunately, it turns out the Referendum "Confusion" Officer isn't allowed to answer these questions because it could encourage people to vote for the change and the officer has to be "neutral." Many people in the audience left frustrated and more confused. (letter-to-the-editor, Hanover Post, Oct 5)

 

[W]hy are we having a referendum on election day which the majority of people don't understand? I haven't heard one leader mention this issue....

My point is that people are being asked to vote on something few know anything about.  It's a week before the election and the MMP is a better-kept secret than the Coca-Cola formula. I've probably done more research than the average person on this system and I am not voting for it. Not because it's bad, but because I don't think it has been explained well enough for people to make an intelligent choice.  (op-ed, The Londoner, Oct 3)

 

[A]s the vote approaches, a serious problem has emerged: The voters don't seem to know anything about the referendum. They don't even know that a referendum will be held. Something needs to be done, and quick, to avert disaster….  The fault lies largely with Elections Ontario's so-called "neutral" approach. Their literature focuses on the technical details of the different voting systems and avoids spelling out the substantive debate surrounding the issue, which is the information voters need to make up their minds. They even refused to provide the original Ontario Citizens' Assembly's rationale for recommending the MMP system in the first place.  (op-ed, National Post, Oct 2)

 

I believe Elections Ontario has failed in its mission.

The fact that the Elections Ontario employees cannot even comment on anything except the background or the mechanics of the referendum is, in fact, a strong anti-MMP position.  Why? Because based on the mechanism alone, why would anyone choose a system that is slightly more complicated?  (transcript of a debate, Globe and Mail, Sept. 28)

 

Given the ramifications of such a major decision, I am distressed by the lack of public debate on this issue. Yes, I have seen the odd article in the papers and even attended a session where the proposed changes were being examined.

However, I have found most of the information available to be far too academic or just plain confusing. I confess that I am not familiar with the many electoral systems that exist around the world and perhaps I should make it my responsibility to have at least a cursory knowledge. Having said that, I think that I am typical of many Ontario citizens. I have asked a number of people what they know about the proposed MMP system and the upcoming referendum and, sadly, very few are even aware that they are going to be asked to make a decision….

Armed with a lot more information than when I began, I am still not sure how I will vote in the referendum. I certainly understand it better but I haven't read anything that compels me to change a system that appears to have worked for us for the last 200 years. But perhaps I am falling into the trap of not wanting to change because change is difficult and uncertain.  (op-ed, Toronto Star, Sept 27)

Referendum Merit Hypothesis

Despite the comments above, the vast majority of the newspaper coverage focused on the comparative merits of the two electoral system choices on the ballot: FPTP and MMP.  When the Citizens’ Assembly’s proposal went down to defeat by such a wide margin, it was thus perfectly natural to ascribe the defeat to the superior merit of the arguments against MMP.

The flavor of this argument can be captured by various headlines such as “MMP failed because nobody wanted change” (Oct 13), “Let’s have no more talk of electoral reform; Judging MMP on its merits, voters found it was too complicated, unhinged” (Oct 12), “Adding politicians is just adding more pigs to the trough” (Oct 9), “The wrong kind of electoral reform” (Oct 6) “Six reasons to support MMP” (Oct 4), “Proposed changes to electoral system flawed” (Oct 1), “MMP would mean minority governments” (Sep 29), “MMP only creates more problems” (Sept 29), “Proposed MMP system is a bad idea” (Sep 25), and “New electoral system would be great for failed candidates and party hacks” (Sept. 19). 

The argument was also elaborated upon in most of the articles.

"I don't think enough people saw MMP as a way to become enfranchised," said Peter MacLeod, a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University. "The injustice of the electoral system was not demonstrated. Where you don't make your case, you can't expect anyone to believe you."  (news, National Post, Oct 12)

 

[T]oo bad that, at Thanksgiving time, 2007, the process of electoral reform devised by the Liberals presented Ontarians with a turkey -- not to be petted and admired but slaughtered. The results of the vote -- and the dead proposition -- speak for themselves. (op-ed, The Record, Oct 12)

 

Despite the unambiguous referendum result, those who still believe the electoral system needs to be changed are unlikely to be satisfied. Some proponents of the mixed-member proportional system are even blaming Elections Ontario's meticulously neutral information campaign for failing to give voters the information they needed to make an informed choice and for not telling voters why the citizens' assembly supported the proposed system.

They conveniently ignore polls over the course of the campaign that showed the more people knew about the proposal, the less likely they were to vote for it. (editorial, Toronto Star, Oct 12)

 

I am writing in response to the flyer that many of us received in our mail-boxes, and the letter to the editor (Daily Miner and News, Friday, Sept. 28) written by Stan Jolly. Both urge us to vote in the upcoming Ontario referendum for the proposed Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) proposal, as opposed to the current First-Past the-Post (FPTP) system….

The flyer refers to the failings of the status quo. What failings? Using the current First-Past the-Post system throughout the country, Canada has consistently been rated among the best handful of countries in the world in which to live. Sounds OK to me.  (op-ed, Daily Miner and News, Oct 9)

 

Like the fall TV season, MMP promises a lot, but is unlikely to deliver on most of it. Instead it holds as much peril as promise. MMP could launch us into a period of permanently unstable governments, rampant deal-making and a messy, Byzantine system that manages to alienate even more people from politics. We may soon pine for the remarkably simple, straightforward FPTP.

So don't be misled by the electoral reform prophets and their MMP miracle cure. Think carefully about what MMP will really be like, and vote accordingly on referendum day.  (op-ed, Ottawa Citizen, Sept 26)

 

Our current system of voting has made Ontario a free and thriving democracy, an economic success and one of the most desirable places in the world to live. Note the number of immigrants that choose Ontario as their Canadian destination. (letter-to-the-editor, Peterborough Examiner, Sept. 26)

 

There's an old axiom that applies to many things in life, everything from auto repairs to politics - if it isn't broken, don't fix it.  (op-ed, Guelph Mercury, Sept. 24)

 

Former Liberal MPP Jim Breithaupt of Kitchener tore into the "undemocratic" electoral reform proposed for Ontario at a debate yesterday at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Breithaupt attacked the provision that would make 39 members of the legislature eligible for seats if appointed by their parties….

"It is dictatorial, arbitrary and divisive."  (news, The Record, Sept. 20)

 

Anyone who fears extremism should take a hard look at the upcoming Ontario election. In less than a month, voters will be asked to pronounce by referendum on a crazy proposal to redraw the province's electoral map. The outcome could reshape Canada's political landscape forever.

The proposed changes would open the door to more power for political and religious zealots.  (op-ed, Daily Miner and News, Sept 18) 

Surprising support for the Referendum Merit Hypothesis came from Gordon Gibson, the government official and think tank analyst who designed the British Columbia citizens assembly that was used as a model for the Ontario citizens assembly.  In an op-ed published several days before the referendum vote (“Not all electoral reforms are created equal,” Globe and Mail, October 8, 2007), Gibson endorsed the citizens assembly process and the STV recommendation of the British Columbia citizens assembly while coming out against the MMP recommendation of the Ontario citizens assembly.   As part of his analysis, Gibson offered several reasons why the British Columbia and Ontario citizens assemblies came out with different recommendations.   Two of them were the signficantly shortened time for deliberation allocated to the Ontario citizens assembly and the fact that the British Columbia citizens assembly picked its own guiding principles whereas the Ontario Citizens assembly had those principles picked for it by the government.  Gibson suggests that the government’s guiding principles may have pushed the Ontario Citizens assembly in the direction of MMP.  After voicing his opposition to MMP, Gibson concludes: “Whatever happens, the work of these ordinary citizens in tackling a constitutional issue has proven the method to be a significant new piece of machinery for democracy.”

Citizens Assembly Process Hypothesis

Most mainstream media outlets avoided or downplayed the Citizens Assembly Process Hypothesis.   I could not find a single article headline that featured it.  This may be because opponents of MMP seemed to feel they were on safer ground attacking the merits of the Citizens’ Assembly proposal rather than the Citizens’ Assembly itself.  Indeed, many opponents of MMP went out of their way to praise the Citizens’ Assembly—even if only as a brief aside--while nevertheless attacking its recommendations.  An example of this “praise the citizens assembly, oppose its recommendations” approach was contained in an editorial in the Pembroke Observer a few days before the election.

The 103 Ontarians who joined the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform and proposed adopting this mixed-member proportional system deserve applause for their hard work, thoughtfulness and civic responsibility. However, our respect for them does not diminish our strong opposition to what they recommend. (Oct 6)

A more vitriolic opponent of MMP still went out of his way to praise the citizens assembly process.

What makes MMP unattractive is its unaccountability….  The lists will become repositories of failed candidates and party hacks.  How do you spell cronyism? My guess is MMP….  [E]ven if voters reject MMP, the members of the Citizens' Assembly that came up with the proposal should be applauded as being average Ontarians who got involved - and got us talking about why our vote counts.  And isn't that what democracy is all about? (op-ed, Kingston Whig-Standard, Sept. 24)

The most common attacks on the citizens assembly process tended to focus on the bias of its members (due to the self-selection resulting from the many randomly selected citizens who chose not to participate to the citizens assembly process), the bias of the citizens assembly’s information providers (who were charged with prejudicing the assembly members in favor of MMP), and the difficulty lay citizens (versus experts) have in evaluating such complex matters as electoral systems. 

Here are some of the attacks.

[T]he Citizens' Assembly chose to recommend MMP because they were presented with one-sided arguments that favoured MMP. I know because I attended every public session of the assembly as a despairing observer.  (letter-to-the-editor, Oct 13, Ottawa Citizen)

 

The assembly established by the Liberal government was a randomly chosen collection of giddy Ontarians who thought they were there to "make history." Predictably, they recommended a sharp break from the status quo: a new system called mixed-member proportional, or MMP.

And 63.2 per cent of the voters rejected it on Wednesday. (op-ed, Guelph Mercury, Oct 12)

 

Traditionally, Westminster-style democracies have employed royal commissions (comprised of experts and/or members of the judiciary) to study issues of great importance -- for example, the Dubin, Gomery, and Romanov inquiries. New Zealand, which ultimately did choose to adopt MMP, followed this route.

Here in Ontario, the issue was left in the hands of a citizens' assembly whose members studied the issue on a part-time basis over the course of a number of weekends.  Unfortunately, leaving such issues in the hands of non-specialists leaves the process open to undue influence by the academics associated with the process.  (op-ed, The Record, Oct 12)

 

[F]or some unfathomable reason, the Liberal government entrusted the so-called Citizens' Assembly, an unelected, unaccountable group, with reforming our most precious democratic institution -- the electoral process. It put forward MMP….  Citizens' Assembly types tend to be zealots who won't rest until everyone is brainwashed to their view.  (op-ed, Toronta Star, Oct 7)

 

Making decisions about election reform is like log-rolling while attempting to perform the Charleston: it may not be something that everyone is necessarily qualified to actually do, and, not unlike knitting a sweater, baking a cake, or rotating the tires on a car, it sounds easy enough, but try doing it in the dark. (op-ed,  Kingston Whig-Standard, Oct 3)

 

Well, I couldn't help but notice that the Secretariat for the Citizen's Assembly that is recommending MMP is made up entirely of people from the Toronto area.  (letter-to-the-editor, Sudbury Star, Oct 3)

 

As a former member of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, I have followed the Star's coverage of the Assembly and the upcoming referendum with interest. Why is it that when Star writers refer to the Assembly members who are recommending the alternative electoral system, they feel it necessary to refer to them as "ordinary citizens," enclosed within quotation marks? The implication is that, despite being strangers to one another, coming from every riding across the province, sharing no political stripe and holding no political office, they had some common, hidden objective.

The effect of this is to remove the most knowledgeable, yet unbiased voice from the discussion. By unbiased, I mean that we have nothing personally to gain. Political parties have lined up on this issue according to whether the reforms will be detrimental or advantageous to them. In the B.C. referendum on electoral reform in 2004, a large number of voters chose electoral reform simply because they were willing to believe that an impartial group of fellow citizens who had thoroughly studied the matter could be relied on to provide good advice. The mocking attitude of the Star toward the Assembly seems intended to discourage this.  (letter-to-the-editor, Toronto Star, Sept 26)

One op-ed was noteworthy because the author is a political scientist critiquing his colleagues.  The op-ed’s author, William Christian, is identified as a political scientist at the University of Guelph.  The author opposes MMP and argues that his colleaugues had undue influence on the citizens assembly process.

I don't want to denigrate their efforts. They worked hard, but it is difficult to master the intricacies of various electoral systems. They were "guided" by a group of political scientists who knew the end result they wanted, which was a fashionable system known as mixed-member proportional.  (op-ed, Guelph Mercury, Sept 29)

In his op-ed, Christian makes a statement that reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of a citizens assembly and its relationship to elected officials.  He says: 

I certainly don't think the people of Ontario are incapable of understanding an issue like this. They understand far more complicated things. But the party leaders are not leading. If they don't think the issue is a priority, why should we?

What Christian doesn’t appear to consider is that elected leaders often avoid discussion of vital public issues when it’s not in their mutual self-interest to do so.

Fitting in the category of the Citizens Assembly Process Hypothesis, here are two critiques of the citizens assembly process written by bloggers:

MMP in Ontario: Vote the way academics tell you to

Is anyone else slightly suspicious of the “Citizens Assembly” processes that led to the electoral reform proposals in Ontario and British Columbia?....  The whole thing feels like one of those ghastly facilitated exercises where, without any sort of pressure at all, moderators with flip charts and soothing manners and information packages massage and re-educate you into a consensus on, of all things, exactly what the organizers had in mind when they summoned you to the facility. How many of the participants came in thinking we really should keep electing 90 MPPs in ridings, but have parties that get at least three per cent of the vote appoint, in total, 39 more MPPs to bring their share in the legislature up to their share of the popular vote? Why would they?

One wonders what kind of outrage would have greeted the announcement that the assembly members in B.C. and Ontario had met, been educated by academics on electoral system matters, and concluded that the existing SMP system was in fact the best system and that there would be no referendum. One could imagine the sneering responses of the academics themselves. “How foolish to have left such an important question to mere citizens!” As it is, those citizens, with just a little help from the academics themselves, have come to the correct decision and are therefore the toast of political science departments from Victoria to Saint Johns. (Aaron Unruh, http://www.thepolitic.com/archives/2007/10/09/mmp-in-ontario-vote-the-way-academics-tell-you-to, Oct 11)

 

How Did The Citizens Assembly Get It So Wrong?

It would seem reasonable that if you randomly selected 103 people from across the province, one per riding (plus the chair), and adjusted for age and sex, that their conclusions would be very close to those that the population as a whole would arrive at. And yet, the general population soundly rejected their proposal for mixed member proportional (MMP). How did they get it so wrong?

Let me begin by giving a big thank you to all those people who sat on the Citizens' Assembly. They did a lot of work on our behalf. However, they were far off the mark on what Ontarians wanted….

From near the very beginning of the Assembly's work, one of the "guiding principles" for the Citizens' Assembly was, "Fairness of Representation". They defined this fairness, in part, as, "parties hold seats in proportion to the votes they receive". By accepting that definition of fairness the outcome was predetermined to be some form of proportional representation. And I believe that is where they got off track.

You see, that has never been a big issue with the majority of Ontarians - and the referendum helped prove that. Many political scientists have been bothered by that, but my personal experience has been that many political scientists support parties that would benefit from MMP (i.e.: NDP, Green Party, etc.)  (anonymous,
http://ontariommp.blogspot.com, Oct 13)

Evidence

Shortly before the election, opponents of MMP and some political scientists started claiming that polling data indicated that the more the public knew about MMP, the less they liked it.   If this was true, the Referendum Campaign Hypothesis would be greatly weakened.  These claims appeared to have been based on an apparently rigorous poll done for the Globe and Mail by its pollster, Strategic Counsel.   The Globe and Mail article was entitled: “More voters understand proposed electoral changes, but fewer support them” (Oct 9).  The body of the article observed: “What's really intriguing about the Strategic Counsel survey is the finding that the more Ontarians know about the proposed change, the more inclined they are to vote against it.” 

However, there is something strange about this result.  The Globe and Mail commissioned two polls by Strategic Counsel, one conducted Sept. 10-13 and one conducted Oct 6-7.  Of the two polls, only the data from the first poll is currently publicly available on the Strategic Counsel website.  The data from that poll appear to contradict the claims in the October 9 Globe and Mail article.  The narrative summary of the first poll says: “Among decided referendum voters who have some level of knowledge of MMP, six-in-ten also support the proposed changes whereas 60 percent of those who know “nothing” say they intend to vote against the proposed changes.” (p. 5).  The data to which this summary refers is included below. 

In my reading of these poll results, I see no ambiguity: those who were more familiar with MMP were more likely to support it.  Assuming that the data from both polls are valid, the question then becomes: why would the results be so different in polls conducted only three weeks apart? 

Data honchos might also like to note that Strategic Counsel did a similar poll for the British Columbia referendum, so there are potentially more interesting findings than the ones I’ve reported here. 

Another election eve poll reported in the press claimed that 75% of voters said they had enough information about the referendum issue to form an opinion about it.  But the definition of “enough” was unclear.  It could simply mean that voters had simply decided the issue was not worth the effort to understand and that the safest course of action would thus be to vote for the status quo.

As for whether the Citizens’ Assembly process as implemented in Ontario was fundamentally biased in favor of MMP, I don’t know what data set we’ll be able to use to answer this question.  Assume, for example, that we accept the self-selection hypothesis as equally valid for both the British Columbia and Ontario citizens assemblies.  That wouldn’t explain why the recommendation of the British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly turned out to be much more popular than that of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly.   Testing the hypothesis that information providers were biased and that this bias determined the outcome of the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendation may be even more difficult.

I’m going to avoid the discussion about the merits of MMP.  But I think it’s noteworthy that the Law Commission of Canada issued a report in 2004, Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada, recommending an MMP electoral system for Canada’s federal government.   That suggests that the citizens assembly members weren’t quite the crazy, impressionable yahoos that some MMP opponents claimed. 

Lessons Learned

One of the lessons learned from British Columbia, Ontario, and the Netherlands is that dominant party elites aren’t going to wage vigorous public education campaigns on the recommendations of a citizens assembly, especially if their silence enhances the odds of their preferred outcome prevailing.  From a rational choice perspective, this is perfectly understandable.  When those parties are in the minority, democratic reforms to help minorities are in their self-interest.  But after they attain power, this is no longer the case.  Moreover, the purpose of a citizens assembly is to get around incumbents’ conflict of interest, so party elites know that their arguments for or against a citizens assembly’s recommendations will be treated as inherently suspect.

A related problem is that powerful interest groups have not waged battle on this type of issue.  On many referendums, well-heeled interest groups wage aggressive public information campaigns.  That was not the case here.  There was neither vigorous support nor opposition, possibly because democratic reform does not promise the type of selective benefits or harms that motivate most powerful special interest groups to action.  The combined budget of the independent yes and no referendum campaigns was less than $500,000, a pittance for a province the size of Ontario (a more accurate tally of referendum campaign expenditures should be available after May 10, 2008--six months after election day--when Elections Ontario mandates that all registered political entities must file their campaign financial statements).  As of October 3, media reports estimated that less than $200,000 had been raised by the combined yes and no groups.  (“Changing the Legislature’s Look,” Globe and Mail, Oct 3). 

Advocates of the Citizens’ Assembly’s MMP recommendation understood this political logic, which is why they placed so much hope in the information campaign of Elections Ontario, the Ontario agency that administers elections.  Elections Ontario claimed to spend $6.8 million on the referendum’s information campaign, a sum more than ten times greater than all the non-government sources combined.  When MMP advocates discovered that Elections Ontario intended to use these funds only to provide citizens with sample ballots and basic, neutral information about the mechanics of FPTP and MMP, they were bitterly disappointed and vigorously complained to the media. 

In my judgment, the observation that the Elections Ontario information campaign was wholly unsuited to addressing the fundamental concerns of the public about the merits of MMP was on target.  What was off target was the expectation that a government agency could or should pursue more than such modest educational goals. 

So if party elites, interest groups, and the government cannot be expected to finance an effective, user friendly public information campaign, who can?  The answer, I suggest, should be foundations.  In Washington, DC and elsewhere in the United States, almost all the domestic democratic reform think tanks and advocates are funded by foundations.  So why shouldn’t foundations also fund democratic reform information campaigns supporting or opposing ballot referendums?  The answer, I believe, is that it is illegal for them to do so.  It would jeapardize their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.  Thus, I recommend that a new exemption for political activity be carved out for 501(c)(3) organizations.  When a democratic reform is on the ballot where incumbent policymakers and party elites have a clear and present conflict of interest, foundations should be able to step into the vacuum and fund information campaigns without jeopardizing their 501(c)(3) status. 

Even without a modification to the 501(c)(3) rules, foundations could still fund useful educational materials.  But that would require including the foundation funding cycle in the design of the citizens assembly process.  Foundations typically take many months from the time someone proposes a project to them to the time they fund the project.  Six months or a year are not unusual.  In Ontario, the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendations came out in mid-May for a referendum in mid-October, slightly less than five months later.  That’s too fast for the great majority of foundations.  Thus, it may be desirable to extend the duration of the campaign period so that independent sources of financing can be lined up.

America is unique in the extent to which foundation money is available for democratic reform and other charitable purposes.  In countries where foundations are weaker, the recommendations above are correspondingly less relevant.  An alternative option would be to give a citizens assembly direct control over its own PR, just like elected officials and government agencies all have their own PR budgets.  The way citizens assemblies are currently conceptualized, however, this is probably not a viable option.  They already have too much to do in too little time. 

Lastly, I want to comment on what I believe to be the media’s deeply flawed framing of the Ontario Citizens’  Assembly’s referendum recommendation.  The ballot referendum was framed as a choice between the status quo electoral system and MMP.    The media picked up on this framing and devoted the vast majority of its discussion to the pros and cons of MMP.    This I believe reflected a fundamental misunderstanding of the democratic theory underlying a citizens assembly.  

The reason for having a citizens assembly and not just a ballot referendum is that designing an electoral system requires great expertise.    Attempting to replicate the educational process that a citizens assembly underwent is inherently a doomed and unrealistic endeavor.  The focus of the information campaign, therefore, should focus on whether or not a particular citizens assembly process is trustworthy.

This, of course, is how we make almost all complex decisions.  When a doctor recommends a course of action to me, I do not decide to spend ten years of my life attending medical school and reading medical literature so I can replicate his decision making process.  The key decision I make is whether I can trust the doctor’s recommendation.    That’s a much easier type of decision to make; it’s also the only type of realistic decision that can be made.  If everybody attempted to become an expert on every decision they had to make, the economy and political system would collapse. 

The debate, then, should have centered on whether the particular citizens assembly process in Ontario was trustworthy.  This wouldn’t have precluded a debate on the merits of MMP but that debate would have been just one part of this larger debate. 

An additional advantage of this framing is that it would provide the media with a greater incentive to scrutinize and report on the citizens assembly process itself.  This, in turn, would prod citizens assemblies to improve their processes to more closely match their practice with their ideal. 

One interesting thought experiment would be to subject every decision made by a legislative body to a referendum.  How often would we get the type of large discrepancy we got between the vote of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly and the general population?   My guess is that on type of very complex, difficult to understand, and boring issue the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly dealt with, the answer might be “quite often.”  

Some writers did place the question of the Citizens’ Assembly’s trustworthiness front and center in their decision making process.

The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform spent months studying various electoral systems and it recommended MMP. The assembly was created by the province in response to demands for electoral reform that have been brewing for years. Why are Ontario citizens ignoring the findings? Those individuals on the assembly are our representatives from the public and have nothing to gain.

I trust their findings much more than those of politicians, journalists or members of the public spouting nonsense in letters to newspapers. (letter-to-the-editor, Toronto Star, Oct 9)

 

I trust the 103 voters who made up the Ontario Citizen's Assembly and who studied and discussed many electoral systems over eight months and decided that change was needed. I am thankful for this opportunity and will vote for electoral improvement in the referendum. (letter-to-the-editor, Peterborough Examiner, Oct 5)

 

 [From Lynda Dill, a member of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly.]  May I also note that this system was designed and proposed by the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform.  We were 103 average citizens selected at random….  I guess we didn't think that you, the voters, would think that we were such idiots that we would propose a system where 39 MPPs would be paid to do nothing. (letter-to-the-editor, Stratford Beacon Herald, Oct 5)

 

I am completely in favour of making the change. Let me tell you why….  The Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform has recommended that we adopt a new voting system in Ontario. The 103 members of the Assembly were randomly selected, one from every riding.  They were not appointed by any political party. They were average people with no political agenda.  (letter-to-the-editor, Timmins Daily Press, Oct 4)

Here is my favorite:

[Election Ontario’s information campaign is] a studiously even-handed affair, but it fails to do the two things it needs to do: first, making the proposed system as plain as day, and second, communicating why the Assembly thought it was a smart enough idea to recommend.

Instead, what we get is a presentation that's so dreary and neutral it says almost nothing. You can hunt around to find some paragraphs of small print explaining Mixed Member Proportional, or you can watch a strangely off-kilter video that bogs down in the mechanics of the referendum itself, before blowing past the new system with a perfunctory explanation. Neither will leave you with a clear picture of what's being proposed here.

Worse, it doesn't satisfactorily explain the critical "Why?'s" - like why should we support MMP? At first blush, it makes sense that the government should remain neutral. But this high-minded approach manages to imply that the Citizen's Assembly came up with two equally valid systems of government for us to consider. In fact, the Assembly decided that Mixed Member Proportional was the better way to elect MPPs, and that our current system should go out the window.

This referendum is really a ratification of their decision. To make an informed vote, we don't merely need to know how MMP works; we need to know what made the Assembly think it's such a great idea compared to the status quo. And that's where this site falls down: To give a complete picture, it needs to broadcast the results of the process it set in motion, and it doesn't. By hiding behind a neutral stance, the Ontario government has hung its own election reforms out to dry….

This whole exercise began with a new form of decision-making that might have spurred some faith among the disenfranchised, a return to the fleeting, happy thought that educated citizens could make good choices. And, in the home stretch, this is where it winds up: half-baked voter education, mud-slinging websites, dumbed-down ads.

Democracy staying true to its dumb, ugly self.  [op-ed, Globe and Mail, Sept. 21)

Concluding Thoughts

The overwhelming defeat of the referendum recommended by the citizens assembly was a political blow—but not a mortal one--to citizens assembly advocates.  The fact is that even opponents of MMP were very cautious about attacking the citizens assembly process, which tells us that it was widely perceived to have significant democratic legitimacy. 

Less clear is whether the defeat of the referendum undercut its democratic rationale.  From the standpoint of democratic theory, a large discrepancy between the opinions of a citizens assembly and the general public may be a sign of success, not failure.   After all, why go through the bother of a citizens assembly if individuals within the general public can replicate the citizens assembly’s decision making process much more efficiently in a referendum?  If you can arrive at the same decision with ten minutes of work rather than 500 hours, why spend the extra time?   Of course, this analysis sidesteps the critical role of cues in the voters’ decision making process.  But when political elites either have a conflict of interest or stay on the sidelines concerning a particular debate, many of those cues are missing or corrupted. 

Surely it must be acknowledged that citizens assemblies, like all democratic processes, have lots of problems.  But the alternative of placing politicians in charge of their own re-election rules may be even worse.  The same goes for placing complex electoral reforms on the ballot without the benefit of a democratically legitimate independent body to vet them.   It may be instructive that the last eight redistricing referendums in California have gone down to defeat.  One popular explanation is that the public has been suspicious of the politically self-interested motives of the redistricting reform advocates.  When it comes to complex democratic reforms, the public wants the author of the reform to be an entity they trust.

No so-called “independent” electoral body, including citizens assemblies, may be completely immune from external, elite manipulation.  But compared to other types of independent bodies, such as bipartisan electoral commissions, citizens assemblies may be uniquely well designed to avoid pro-incumbent bias while preserving democratic accountability.

Although citizens assembly based democratic reform appears to be dead in Ontario, a closely related reform appears to be gathering steam.   Ontario’s Ministry of Health has announced plans to form citizen advisory committees modeled after the citizens assembly and chaired by George Thomson, Chair of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. 

2) Other Citizens Assembly News

Other than the Ontario referendum news, the most important citizens assembly news during the past month may have been presidential candidate John Edwards’ speech announcing his “One Democracy” initiative, including a “Citizen Congress” closely akin to Dahl’s minipopulous and Fishkin’s deliberative opinion poll.   Edwards made no mention of citizens assemblies in his speech.  But like U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s endorsement of citizen juries over the summer (see the last issue of the Citizens Assembly News Digest), independent observers have taken Edwards’ initiative as a significant step toward educating the public about and eventually endorsing citizens assemblies.  For example, Archon Fung, Professor of Public Policy at Havard’s Kennedy School, of Government, started an op-ed by describing Edwards’ initiative and then concluded with the following observations (see “A Citizen Congress,” Boston Globe, October 16, p. 11):

Sitting politicians have a strong interest in creating rules such as electoral district boundaries that get them reelected. In part because politicians, not voters, make the rules of democracy, congressional incumbents who seek reelection win 98 percent of the time.

When the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Ontario sought to reform their electoral systems recently, they created Citizens' Assemblies to develop new voting rules rather than having politicians decide. The British Columbia Assembly had 160 members and 103 people participated in the Ontario Assembly. In both cases, members were randomly selected, like juries in the United States. Each assembly met for several months. Their final recommendations were not merely advisory; they went straight to voters in popular referendums….

If they become prominent and credible, Citizen congresses and assemblies have the potential to help connect Americans to their government and increase trust in public institutions. If Americans see each other deliberating sensibly about critical issues and public leaders heed what they say, it will be palpable evidence that government really does care about what ordinary people think.

Political leaders in Canada, Britain, Brazil, and many other countries have already recognized the potential of public participation and instituted important new ways for citizens to influence government. Rather than being the world leader in democracy, America is lagging behind in its democratic imagination and ingenuity. Edwards's proposal marks an important, if modest, step to catch up. Perhaps it will empower ordinary Americans in the political process and, eventually, make America an example of democracy that is truly worth following.

3) Research

At least several papers on citizens assemblies are expected to be presented at the upcomong annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association.

4) iSolon.org Update

Please check the testimonials concerning the Citizens Assembly News Digest.  For those of you who responded to my request for testimonials, thank you.  For those of you who haven’t, it is not too late.

I’ve compiled a grid summarizing the Ontario, Netherlands, and British Columbia citizens assemblies.  I’ll be adding to that grid and other parts of iSolon.org in the coming months.  If you have a paper on citizens assemblies that I can post, please send it to me.

5) Next Citizens Assembly News Digest

Barring a major unexpected development, such as Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposing a citizens assembly to reform the U.K.’s electoral system, I don’t plan on sending out another Citizens Assembly News Digest until January 2008.   The next major known citizens assembly event will be the May 12, 2009 British Columbia referendum (only 18 months away) on whether or not to support the May 15, 2005 recommendation of the British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.

6) Newspaper Articles

10/15/07

Referendum on electoral reform a 'unmitigated disaster'
Globe and Mail - Canada
Mr. MacLeod said the success of the citizen's assembly is the bigger story in Wednesday's referendum. "The real democratic innovation is the citizens ...
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Ontario referendum results expected overnight
CTV.ca - Canada
"The final report (by the Citizens' Assembly) was released in May. I don't see why you wouldn't start a public education campaign right away,'' he said. ...
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10/14/07

Are voters ready to throw system out?
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
... system or opting for the new mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) system recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. ...
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Rejection of electoral reform plan expected
National Post - Canada
Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government announced in 2004 that a citizens' assembly of 103 average citizens from every riding in the province would evaluate ...
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10/13/07

MMP doomed from start
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
The outcome of the Ontario referendum on a mixed-member proportional voting system was predictable from the day it was proposed by the Citizens' Assembly on ...
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10/12/07

Electoral reform vote set up to fail; Local citizens' assembly ...
Owen Sound Sun Times - Owen Sound,Ontario,Canada
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound's representative of Ontario's first Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform blames the Ontario government for dooming the electoral ...
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Not all electoral reforms are created equal
Globe and Mail - Canada
A citizens assembly laboured for months to come up with Ontario's new proposal, the mixed member proportional system. In British Columbia, we also had a ...
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MMP goes down to defeat
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
... one of 103 members of a citizens' assembly that proposed the change. "But at least a lot of people ended up thinking of electoral reform. ...
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10/11/07

What Do You Need To Vote?
CityNews - Toronto,Canada
... to elect members to the provincial legislature? -The alternative electoral system proposed by the National Citizens' Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional).
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10/10/07

MMP means fairer election
Newsdurhamregion.com - Durham,Ontario,Canada
With respect to the list members, the Citizens Assembly report quite clearly states that the list members and the process used to select them will be ...
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Putting trust in the public
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform spent months studying various electoral systems and it recommended MMP. The assembly was created by the province ...
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Reform is badly needed
Waterloo Record - Waterloo,Ontario,Canada
The Citizens' Assembly studied all electoral systems with their benefits and problems, and is recommending that Ontario adopt a blending of our current ...
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10/9/07

Nearly 3 million residents still don't know about referendum, says ...
CBC Toronto - Toronto,Ontario,Canada
Elections Ontario has bungled its handling of a campaign to boost public awareness of a vote on electoral reform, members of a citizens' assembly charged ...
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The wrong kind of electoral reform
Waterloo Record - Waterloo,Ontario,Canada
The 103 Ontarians who joined the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform and proposed adopting this mixed-member proportional system deserve applause for ...
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Making sense of proposed electoral reforms
Waterloo Record - Waterloo,Ontario,Canada
That committee came up with recommendations regarding the creation of the Citizens' Assembly and the referendum itself. In March 2006, the government filed ...
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10 reasons to say no to MMP
Ottawa Citizen - Ontario, Canada
I respect and admire the work of the Citizen's Assembly that is recommending a mixed-member proportional voting system in Ontario. ...
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10/8/07

Guelph Candidate Question & Answers
GuelphNow - Guelph,Ontario,Canada
Already a demonstration of democracy, the randomly selected 103 member Citizens Assembly considered the existing First Past the Post system (FTPT) as well ...
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Fear-mongering and opposition to democratic reform nothing new ...
Canada NewsWire (press release) - Canada
... by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, an independent body of randomly-chosen voters who spent eight months studying electoral systems. ...
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10/7/07

Making an informed vote, part three
Excalibur Online - Toronto,Canada
The mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, proposed by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, is intended to repair the flaws of the single ...
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Seek information to be informed on MMP
Hamilton Mountain News - Ontario, Canada
Ask your local MPP to send you either a copy of the Citizens' Assembly report or a copy of the brochure "One Ballot, Two Votes," which gives the report in ...
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10/6/07

Why students don't vote...and why we should
Insider Media Group - Toronto,Ontario,Canada
Mixed Member Proportional recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. Again, do your research on the pros and cons of each option. ...
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Attention News Editors:
Canada NewsWire (press release) - Canada
As media partner for the Citizens' Assembly, TVO documented online the activities of the 103-member assembly, which proposed the revision to the electoral ...
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Needed: a TV debate on Ontario's MMP referendum
National Post - Canada
They even refused to provide the original Ontario Citizens' Assembly's rationale for recommending the MMP system in the first place. ...
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Ontario Referendum: Know where you stand
Insider Media Group - Toronto,Ontario,Canada
The Citizens' Assembly, a group of 103 randomly selected citizens from across Ontario, was mandated in 2006 by the government to study our existing ...
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Would MMP enhance democracy?
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
Future generations deserve better, which leads us to the alternative recommended by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. ...
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10/5/07

Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform got it right: Ontario ...
Canada NewsWire (press release) - Canada
The group also called on the Ontario media to step forward and provide more substantive information on the Citizens' Assembly's proposal for electoral ...
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10/4/07

Vote a key test for democratic reform
Globe and Mail - Canada
... associate professor in political science at Queen's University and academic director for the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, ...
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Coyne: Why PR works
National Post - Canada
In an effort to assuage fears of the unknown, the Citizens' Assembly -- the body of ordinary folks who spent months sifting through the alternatives ...
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10/3/07

Does Ontario have electoral dysfunction?
Queen's Journal - Kingston,Ontario,Canada
But when he heard about the Citizens' Assembly and the potential for electoral reform in Ontario, Field decided he couldn't stay quiet on the issue. ...
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Rural ridings are favoured
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
It is particularly arrogant to dismiss the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly, which after studying many models of PR, decided that MMP was the best ...
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10/1/07

Ontario referendum flying under the radar -- even with Air Farce
Globe and Mail - Canada
The Oct. 10 referendum comes out of a provincial initiative that involved asking 103 "ordinary" Ontarians to sit in a Citizens Assembly and talk about ...
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MMP will assure women, minorities of a role in gov't, say propo
Brockville Recorder and Times - Ontario, Canada
She said 104 members of the Citizens Assembly spent eight months working hard to come up with a "made in Ontario" proposal that combines better aspects of ...
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9/30/07

Assembly touts electoral reform
Orangeville Citizen - Orangeville,Canada
Ted Alexander, representing the Citizens Assembly, presented a video purporting to show how the members had arrived at their recommendations. ...
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The Ontario referendum on electoral reform
Globe and Mail - Canada
The MMP system -- which the citizens' assembly recommended after seven months of study and consultation -- would ensure that each party's share of seats in ...
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9/29/07

VoteForMMP.ca calls upon John Tory to reject appointment of MMP ...
CNW Telbec (Communiqués de presse) - Canada
Most advanced democracies have moved toward some kind of more proportional system, as the Ontario Citizens' Assembly has recommended Ontarians adopt. ...
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9/28/07

A new way to vote
Queen's Journal - Kingston,Ontario,Canada
On April 15, Ontario's Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform voted to recommend Ontario adopt a Mixed Member Proportional electoral system. ...
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Andrea Horwath, NDP
Hamilton Mountain News - Ontario, Canada
Andrea Horwath and the ONDP support the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform's recommendation for MMP. 2. The Ontario NDP believes reducing ...
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Lynn Rees Lambert to host debate on voting system
Kingston This Week - Ontario, Canada
... First Past The Post or vote for change and bring in the Mixed-Member Proportional system, as recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. ...
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9/27/07

Momentous choice for voters
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
There is a wealth of information regarding the referendum that clearly outlines our current system and the MMP version proposed by the Citizens' Assembly. ...
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9/26/07

Making an informed vote, part two
Excalibur Online - Toronto,Canada
Yet, there are certain qualities of SMP that are criticized by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. The main argument against SMP is that it ...
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Take a good look at reform
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
As a former member of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, I have followed the Star's coverage of the Assembly and the upcoming referendum ...
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No more politicians
Mississauga News - Ontario, Canada
... present the full ramifications and undemocratic features of this mixed member proportional system as cobbled up by the so-called Citizens' Assembly. ...
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9/25/07

Get message out on referendum
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
Earlier this year, the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, a panel of 103 "ordinary citizens" struck by the Liberal government, recommended mixed-member ...
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9/23/07

Voters will be asked how future governments are formed
Brampton Guardian - Ontario, Canada
The Citizens' Assembly proposes the latter. In 2005, the Liberal government announced a review of the province's electoral system. Average citizens from ...
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9/21/07

What's the question?
Globe and Mail - Canada
The recommendation comes from a panel of 104 randomly-selected Ontarians called the Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform. Set up as a result of a Liberal ...
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Election Reform on The Agenda with Steve Paikin live from U of T's ...
Canada NewsWire (press release) - Canada
Viewers can go to tvo.org/theagenda following the show to join a live chat with Steve Paikin, learn more about The Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform, ...
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Making an informed vote
Excalibur Online - Toronto,Canada
The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform believes that this is, in fact, the case. Ontario's current electoral system, known as the single member ...
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Should we change the system?; Yes
Waterloo Record - Waterloo,Ontario,Canada
The thoughtful and reflective report of the Citizen's Assembly has provided us with a choice between our existing system and a mixed-member proportional ...
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9/20/07

Accurate representation matters
New Hamburg Independent - New Hamburg,ON,Canada
... Paul Knowles states his belief that first past the post is "far superior" to the proportional system recommended by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly. ...
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Information evening on electoral reform
Kawartha Media Group - Peterborough,Ontario,Canada
The provincial government gave the Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform a goal to assess Ontario's current electoral system as well as others, ...
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The faces behind the question
London Free Press - Canada
That could change if voters choosing a government for the next four years also accept the recommendation of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral ...
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9/18/07

Understand the question
Barrie Advance - Ontario, Canada
The existing system (First Past The Post) or the alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens' Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional)" Used in Upper ...
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Voters will be asked if they want to change
Barrie Advance - Ontario, Canada
During a consultation phase, the Citizens Assembly heard from Ontarians, those here for generations and those newly arrived. "Some people preferred a system ...
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From Monday's Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail - Canada
With respect to the enthusiasms of the citizens assembly, MMP is a political scientist's dream. It offers the same potential to rip apart Ontario's body ...
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Foolish Ontario could muck up country
Edmonton Sun - Alberta, Canada
A citizen's assembly, mandated to review electoral inequities, proposed the changes. They recommended the direct vote by every citizen be nixed in favour of ...
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The Tragedy Of Kentlands
AHRC News Services - San Juan Capistrano,CA,USA
During my "visit" to the site, I noticed something called the "Kentlands Citizens Assembly". Aside from the fact that it sounds like something extracted ...
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9/15/07

Local provincial candidates' provide views of Oct. 10 referendum issue
Stoney Creek News - Ontario, Canada
That's exactly what Premier McGuinty had in mind, when he announced a Citizens Assembly to examine Ontario's electoral system called First Past the Post, ...
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Green Party could win big in Ontario referendum
CBC Ottawa - Ontario, Canada
MMP is the system endorsed by a citizens' assembly on electoral reform appointed by the Ontario government. In April, the province passed legislation ...
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Should Ontario vote for electoral
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
The model proposed last May by the members of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly, after public hearings and study of systems in other countries, is not "radical ...
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Ontario's Big Decision--but Do Voters Understand the Question?
Epoch Times - New York,NY,USA
The Citizens Assembly, composed of 52 per cent women and 52 per cent men aged between 19 and 78, undertook a nine-month intense study of different electoral ...
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Hamilton Centre Candidates Debate on Poverty Issues
Raise the Hammer - Canada
We are also pleased that Jeff Witt, a volunteer member of the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform has agreed to attend and present a brief overview on the ...
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Pollsters only need to make one call this election period -- to me
Newsdurhamregion.com - Durham,Canada
If you're like me and are somewhat frustrated by your voting record, you might want to check out The Ontario Citizens Assembly website at ...
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Electoral reform on ballot? Who knew?
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
This is all a bit depressing for many on the 104-member Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform who spent months studying electoral systems before choosing ...
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7) Blog Entries

10/15/07

MMP Defeated But Not Vanquished (ahem, Ian Urquhart)
By Davey's Politics(Davey's Politics)
Further, the method of creating a Citizen's Assembly to review our electoral system allowed the subject to move forward without requiring the time and attention of our elected politicians, who were free to discuss the other important ...
Davey's Politics - http://daveyspolitics.blogspot.com/

Pointing the finger
By Matthew Rae(Matthew Rae)
The issue has been around since the last election (2003) when McGuinty said he'd set up an assembly to look at electoral reform. Then we had the Citizens' Assembly touring the province to study the matter. Then we had the campaign here ...
Vote for MMP - Ottawa - http://mmpottawa.blogspot.com/

BC's Citizen Assembly
By leftwingfemina(leftwingfemina)
Warren was a guest of the Philosophy and Political Science Depts. and spoke on the BC's Citizen Assembly. This group of 160 citizens were chosen almost at random to participate in a study on electoral reform, specifically the STV, ...
Women in Canadian Politics - http://leftwingfemina.blogspot.com/

10/14/07

Welcome to the revamped 'Liberals For Electoral Reform' site
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
With the defeat of the Citizens' Assembly's Mixed Member Proportional proposal this week, we've decided to revamp this site with a new title and mission: to promote the cause of electoral reform both in Ontario and across Canada. ...
Liberals For Electoral Reform - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

10/13/07

A few thoughts on Ontario's referendum on electoral reform
By NB taxpayer(NB taxpayer)
...we could avoid the BC situation if we were to establish a Citizens' Assembly not for the purpose of pre-selecting a single option to be placed on the ballot in opposition to FPTP, but rather to design several options, which would be ...
Countering the Nanny State - http://nbtaxpayers.blogspot.com/

Why political parties must take sides on electoral reform.
By Gauntlet(Gauntlet)
The Citizens' Assembly were asked to vote either for a new system of their design, or for the existing one. They voted over 90% in favour of the new system. Ontarians, when asked the same question, voted 37% in favour. ...
Gauntlet.ca - http://www.gauntlet.ca/

Status Quo Ante: Not Good Enough
By allanmillard
His action epitomizes all that is wrong with the present system and the way he set about keeping his promise while making certain that the Citizens' Assembly would lead to failure. McGuinty has decreed that 8% of the voters (Green Party ...
Your Agenda: Campaign Tales - http://campaigntales.wordpress.com

The Mistake Of The Yes Side
By Mixed Member Proportional(Mixed Member Proportional)
Whichever of these strategies you believe, one thing you do not do is focus on your weaknesses. And that is what the yes side ended up doing throughout most of the campaign. (On Monday I will do an assessment of the Citizens Assembly)
Mixed Member Proportional - http://ontariommp.blogspot.com/

10/12/07

1:17: Democratic Disconnect...
By David Pal
Disconnection was certainly evident upstairs at the bar where members of the Citizen's Assembly and the Student's Assembly were gathering for one final get together. One bar patron next to me inquired about what event was filling up the ...
Spacing Votes • blogging Ontario's... - http://spacing.ca/votes

Ontarians embrace the status quo!
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
With 25839 of 27679 polls reporting: The existing electoral system (First-Past-the-Post) 2490678 63.3% 101 ridings The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens' Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional) 1444527 ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

MMP just ot the right alternative
The Citizens'' Assembly needs to be continued and instructed to look at more alternatives. We need a longer debate on the alternatives before we choice a system to be put before the electorate.
Eric C. Bow - http://ericcbow.spaces.live.com/

Ontario The Day After
By Dirk
The Liberal government never wanted MMP despite the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform.But then why would they,like the Conservatives the Liberals profit from the status quo. Apathy,low voter turnout,and FPTP ...
Engaged Spectator - http://engagedspectator.wordpress.com

10/11/07

Ontario's big decision
By AviShalom(Michael J.W. Stickings)
(Full disclosure here: I am acknowledged in the Citizens Assembly's technical report for advice I gave; however, I was consulted only after the citizens had come to their decision that they would propose MMP, and I received no ...
The Reaction -- by Michael JW Stickings - http://the-reaction.blogspot.com/

Election Day-Top 10 Reasons to Vote for MMP
By Matthew Rae(Matthew Rae)
Citizens' Assembly recommended MMP. MMP is recommended by the independent Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, a body of 103 randomly chosen voters who studied and deliberated for eight months on the best voting system for ...
Vote for MMP - Ottawa - http://mmpottawa.blogspot.com/

Ontario referendum should approve MMP by 84%, but will more likely ...
By Jason Diceman
At the end of their 8 month learning, consultation and deliberation process the 103 members of the the Ontario Citizens' Assembly voted 84% in approval of Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) over the current First-Past-the-Post (FPP). ...
Co-op Tools - organization democracy... - http://get.cooptools.ca

MMP in Ontario: Vote the way academics tell you to
By Aaron Unruh
Is anyone else slightly suspicious of the "Citizens Assembly" processes that led to the electoral reform proposals in Ontario and British Columbia? Yes, the idea of involving ordinary citizens in making such important decisions does ...
ThePolitic.com - http://www.thepolitic.com

10/10/07

What Do You Want From Your Vote? The MMP Debate Boiled Down.
By Davey's Politics(Davey's Politics)
But they are not going through another citizen-driven deliberative process, they are only going to give the Citizens' Assembly another shot at selling Single Transferable Vote to the public to see if it will pass on the second try, ...
Davey's Politics - http://daveyspolitics.blogspot.com/

EDITORIAL: say yes to MMP
By Spacing
But we are not shy about our support for the Mixed-Member Proportional system proposed by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. In recent years, urban concerns have not been well represented at Queen's Park. ...
Spacing Toronto • understanding... - http://spacing.ca/wire

Choose Change Tomorrow
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
Most voters know little about why the Citizens' Assembly recommended they adopt the new system. Elections Ontario's campaign has done little more than inform voters we are having a referendum on electoral reform. ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

Three Reasons Why Ontario Needs a New Voting System 1. Too little ...
By Matthew Rae(Matthew Rae)
MMP is recommended by the independent Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, a body of 103 randomly chosen voters who studied and deliberated for eight months on the best voting system for Ontario. 10. Old guard doesn't like it ...
Vote for MMP - Ottawa - http://mmpottawa.blogspot.com/

10/9/07

From Yellowknife to Toronto
By Jim
Following BC's lead, Ontario's elected officials turned to a nonpartisan Citizens' Assembly to study the issue of electoral reform and make a recommendation. Member of this assembly were randomly chosen from the voter's lists in their ...
Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays... - http://drinksoakedtrotsforwar.com/

Liberal MPP Lorenzo Berardinetti supports new voting system
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
Berardinetti is now the eleventh Ontario Liberal candidate to publicly endorse the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation for change, joining incumbents Michael Bryant, John Gerretsen, George Smitherman, Ted McMeekin, Shafiq Qaadri and ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

10/8/07

Mixed Member Proportional
By Don Spencer(Don Spencer)
The clear advantage of the mixed member proportional scheme recommended by the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform is this: all our votes for political parties will count, not just the ones for the party representative with the ...
Don Spencer's Artifacts - http://rtfax.blogspot.com/

Get Out and Vote!
By sean at tobor68 dot com(sean at tobor68 dot com)
MMP is recommended by the independent Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, a body of 103 randomly chosen voters who studied and deliberated for eight months on the best voting system for Ontario. 10. Old guard doesn't like it ...
The Escape Feed - http://tobor68.com/blog/index.html

Against All Odds: Winning Electoral Reform in Ontario
By Dissidence(Dissidence)
Finally, in 2006, the government established a citizen body to examine the question and make recommendations. The Ontario Citizens' Assembly (OCA) was modeled after a similar process in BC and they came to similar conclusions -- the ...
The Daily Dissidence - http://thedailydissidence.blogspot.com/

10/7/07

Don't Believe The Type
By Chris Tindal
Torontoist - http://torontoist.com/

MMP - No et Non
By Garry J. Wise, Wise Law Office, Toronto(Garry J. Wise, Wise Law Office, Toronto)
The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens' Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional)/L'autre système électoral proposé par l'Assemblée des citoyens (système de représentation proportionnelle mixte) ...
Wise Law Blog - http://wiselaw.blogspot.com/

Ten Reasons to Vote for Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) in the ...
By melaniemullen
MMP is recommended by the independent Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, a body of 103 randomly chosen voters who studied and deliberated for eight months on the best voting system for Ontario. 10. Old guard doesn't like it ...
Vote Green! - http://melaniemullen.wordpress.com

10/6/07

If we don't improve democracy now, when will we get another chance?
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
In Ontario, the Citizens' Assembly was a group of 103 ordinary Ontarians selected at random by Elections Ontario (one person from every riding in Ontario, plus chair George Thomson.) They were asked to take a very close look at our ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

Referendum
The government spent millions of our dollars on a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform. Purportedly, the members of the Citizens Assembly were chosen randomly but no one can establish which database or what information was used to ...
Freddie P - http://www.freddiep.ca/

Those Status Quo Folks Are Hilarious
By Chris Tindal
Yeah, um, do you think that might have something to do with the fact that you guys blocked the distribution of materials from the Citizens' Assembly explaining what they're proposing and why? Think it might have something to do with the ...
Chris Tindal - http://www.christindal.ca

10/5/07

Yes Side Best Campaign, But Should Have Stayed On Point
By Mixed Member Proportional(Mixed Member Proportional)
The "yes" side has issued a press release that, in part, states, "Elections Ontario's information campaign does not adequately inform voters why the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform - after eight months of work ...
Mixed Member Proportional - http://ontariommp.blogspot.com/

NEWS RELEASE: Bi-partisan campaign to ask Ontario voters to choose ...
By Jim(Jim)
Although the Citizens' Assembly recommended leaving it up to individual parties to decide how to nominate their province-wide candidates, all four major parties have already committed to choosing their list candidates in a democratic ...
Conservatives for MMP - http://conservativesformmp.blogspot.com/

Thursday Round-up
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
Halton Liberal MP (and former Progressive Conservative) Garth Turner has endorsed the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation for change on his blog. Vote For MMP has launched radio ads across the province. Listen out for them. ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

10/4/07

Ontario's Referendum: It's Time to Bake the Cake
By Mez
Lastly, the government should immediately reverse its recent decision to stop printing copies of the Citizens Assembly's materials, which have somehow been deemed as inappropriate "advocacy tools." The Assembly spent eight months ...
Spacing Votes • blogging Ontario's... - http://spacing.ca/votes

Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform got it right: Ontario ...
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
3 /CNW/ - Today, the VoteForMMP.ca campaign and several prominent Ontarians from differing political backgrounds backed a Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform call to Ontarians to take charge of their own learning process for the ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

The Rural Minority and MMP.
By Rural(Shane D Jolley)
Firstly if you are not sure what MMP is or need more information check out my previous post here which contains several links to further information and this link to the Citizens Assembly final recommendations. ...
Saugeen Community Blog - http://saugblog.blogspot.com/

10/3/07

Ontario Liberal Party commits to choose province-wide list ...
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
This is great news as it absolutely dispels the notion that parties will use their province-wide lists to appoint party hacks, backroom cronies and bagmen, as alleged by opponents of the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation for change, ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

10/1/07

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: The new system will give Ontario 22 more ...
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
This makes Ontarians the most under-represented citizens in Canada by far. Under the new model proposed by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly, the total number of members will rise to 129. That will be one Member for about every 95000 ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

The "Great" Referendum Debate
By Stephanie Jones
Disclosure: I served as the member from Niagara Centre on the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform and voted to recommend the change to MMP. Wish I could report that last Friday evening's staging at the MaRS Centre of the Great ...
Your Agenda: Campaign Tales - http://campaigntales.wordpress.com

Appointed List Candidates Still Dogs Yes Side
By Mixed Member Proportional(Mixed Member Proportional)
"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 proposal." ...
Mixed Member Proportional - http://ontariommp.blogspot.com/

A tremendously important article providing a philosophical ...
By rkorus
"The new MMP system recommended by Ontario's Citizens Assembly reverses this profoundly undemocratic imbalance between a handful of 'super voters' and all the rest of us," said Rick Anderson, campaign chair of Vote For MMP (www. ...
Vote Green. Pass It On. - http://votegreenpassiton.wordpress.com

9/30/07

I've cancelled by subscription to the Toronto Star because of its ...
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
I've been disgusted by the Toronto Star's unfair, biased coverage of the Citizens' Assembly referendum for weeks. You've misinformed your readers by frequently referring to new province-wide MPPs under the new system as "appointed" or ...
Queer-Liberal - http://queer-liberal.blogspot.com/

Vote for MMP: Conceptualizing electoral reform
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
The Mixed Member Proportional representation model proposed by the Citizens' Assembly achieves both goals. It maintains local representation while achieving proportionality, so that the percentage of votes each party receives is more ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

9/29/07

Twelve reasons to vote for MMP
By Skinny Dipper(Skinny Dipper)
The recommendation came from the independent Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, a body composed of 103 regular voters who studied, consulted and deliberated for eight months on the best voting system for Ontario voters. ...
The Skinny - http://skinnydips.blogspot.com/

The Truth About FPTP - Representation
By Jim(Jim)
Under FPTP, on average, there is one 1 MPP for every 118061 citizens based upon the 2006 Census data (Ontario population, 12160282). Under the MMP model proposed by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly, the total number of members would rise ...
Conservatives for MMP - http://conservativesformmp.blogspot.com/

The Great Debate: Toronto Edition - Part 1
By Mark Fox
George Thomson initially spoke on the selection of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly and the depth of study of the various alternative systems they looked at. He agreed with a common theme throughout the evening, too few people knew about ...
Ontario Election Reform - http://ontarioelectionreform.wordpress.com

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
The Citizens' Assembly was a group of 103 randomly-selected citizens from the Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario - one from each of Ontario's electoral districts. With the Chair, George Thomson, 52 of the members were male and ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

Why I Support Mixed Member Proportional Part 3: The System that is ...
A variant of the Mixed Member Proportional system that was briefly considered but dropped by the Citizens Assembly is known as Regional Open. Like the Provincial Closed model, Regional Open reduces the number of ridings across the ...
Bow. James Bow. - http://www.bowjamesbow.ca/

9/28/07

Why I Support Mixed Member Proportional Part 2: The System on the ...
I happened to meet a member of the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform this past month, while in training for the Campaign Tales website. She'sa young woman from Ottawa in her mid twenties, just out of University, and not particularly ...
Bow. James Bow. - http://www.bowjamesbow.ca/

Don't vote for MMP because it can't stop another Mike Harris?!
By Dan(Dan)
Odd that the 103 people chosen for the citizens assembly that proposed this change were all alike in their fear of Mike Harris. Urquhart goes on to compare us to New Zealand:. "Take New Zealand, for example. It used to have an electoral ...
More Notes From Underground - http://morenotesfromunderground.blogspot.com/

TVO outdoes itself: Great debate on The Agenda with Steve Paikin ...
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
TVO has also set up an excellent website page aptly titled the, "Citizens' Assembly Referendum". It contains a nicely produced animation explaining the proposed voting system, and other great videos on the Citizens' Assembly process. ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

9/27/07

Friday Night Fight Over Electoral Reform
By Kevin Plummer
Hosted by Thomas Axworthy, the evening will also feature introductory remarks from George Thomson, Chair of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform that first proposed the MMP reforms last spring. The debate offers the perfect chance ...
Torontoist - http://torontoist.com/

REMINDER: Two big Toronto forums on referendum
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
The National Post's political affairs columnist Andrew Coyne and former Ontario minister Marilyn Churley will make the case for adopting the new Mixed Member Proportional electoral system proposed by Ontario's Citizens' Assembly on ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

Two excellent letters to the editor on MMP
By rkorus
As a former member of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, I have followed the Star's coverage of the Assembly and the upcoming referendum with interest. Why is it that when Star writers refer to the Assembly members who ...
Vote Green. Pass It On. - http://votegreenpassiton.wordpress.com

9/26/07

Ontario Repeats BC's Mistakes on Electoral Reform
By Dirk
A Citizens' Assembly was formed and after consultations and study, it recommended an alternative — the single transferable vote or STV, a form of proportional representation (PR). There was a virtually non-existent public education ...
Engaged Spectator - http://engagedspectator.wordpress.com

Rebuttals of Pro-MMP Inaccurate
By Mixed Member Proportional(Mixed Member Proportional)
The Citizens' Assembly–103 every-day Ontarians chosen at random from each riding–worked for eight months on our behalf learning, consulting, and deliberating about all of the world's many electoral systems, including our current system ...
Mixed Member Proportional - http://ontariommp.blogspot.com/

Open Letter to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party
By Jim(Jim)
This past year, the Ontario Citizens Assembly, a body that had one member chosen at random from each provincial constituency, has been studying the issue of electoral reform in the province. After studying various electoral models and ...
Conservatives for MMP - http://conservativesformmp.blogspot.com/

Why I Support Mixed Member Proportional Part 1: The Antiquated ...
By James Bow
During the 2003 election, Dalton McGuinty promised to examine the issue and, upon forming the government, set up a citizens assembly of representatives picked from across the province. These average citizens looked at the options and ...
Bow. James Bow. - http://www.bowjamesbow.ca/

9/25/07

Ontario Repeats BC's Mistakes on Electoral Reform
By Gregory D. Morrow
A Citizens' Assembly was formed and after consultations and study, it recommended an alternative - the single transferable vote or STV, a form of proportional representation (PR). There was a virtually non-existent public (...)
AGORAVOX - The Citizen Media - http://www.agoravox.com/

Appointed Politicians
By Chris Tindal
That's just one of the advantages of MMP, the new voting system proposed by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly. And, since voters get two votes (one for the candidate, and one for the party), they're able to reward or punish parties and ...
Chris Tindal - http://www.christindal.ca

Pro-MMP group calls on John Tory to affirm respect for citizen ...
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
MMP was proposed by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, an independent body of 103 randomly chosen Ontario voters. Assembly members were asked by the Ontario Legislature to (a) determine whether Ontario needs a new ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

9/23/07

Shall I point out
By Greg Staples
And if the Citizens Assembly had chosen an open list system instead of the closed party list system we could always have had this joy. That is why, if Ontario decides to go with MMP, the first thing I will do is starting working to get ...
Political Staples - http://www.politicalstaples.com/

Sorry about this, but you have to explain this to me
By Dianne(Dianne)
This change is seriously deceptive, because in the rest of the article she goes on to criticize an alternative system WHICH IS NOT WHAT IS PROPOSED IN ONTARIO BY THE CITIZENS' ASSEMBLY (demonstration below). ...
Family Matters - http://familymatterswithdianne.blogspot.com/

9/22/07

Flummoxed about MMP?
By ken(ken)
National Post political affairs columnist Andrew Coyne and former Ontario minister Marilyn Churley will make the case for adopting the new Mixed Member Proportional electoral system proposed by Ontario's Citizens' Assembly on Electoral ...
KenonCanpolitics - http://kencan7.blogspot.com/

9/21/07

Natural Experiments
By Gauntlet(Gauntlet)
That's not to say that the Citizen's Assembly is right, and the voters wrong. We can't say that because we don't know how good the information the CA received was. I imagine it was excellent, if they based the process on the one used in ...
Gauntlet.ca - http://www.gauntlet.ca/

Two big Toronto forums on referendum next week
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
The National Post's political affairs columnist Andrew Coyne and former Ontario minister Marilyn Churley will make the case for adopting the new Mixed Member Proportional electoral system proposed by Ontario's Citizens' Assembly on ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

Green Party Hosts Voting Forum
... and Canadians elect their representatives, will take place at 7 pm inside the Kin Hut on the fairgrounds. Featured speakers include Janet Scotland, an electoral reform activist, and Fritz Zens, a member of the Citizens Assembly.
Westcoaster.ca - http://www.westcoaster.ca/

Critical information on the referendum
By rkorus
After studying electoral systems for seven months, the Citizens Assembly members voted 92% to recommend to their fellow Ontario citizens to vote for a mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system. The Citizens Assembly members ...
Vote Green. Pass It On. - http://votegreenpassiton.wordpress.com

9/20/07

Could the unique Citizens' Assembly process simply start over ...
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
In Ontario, the Citizens' Assembly was a group of 103 ordinary Ontarians selected at random by Elections Ontario (one person from every riding in Ontario, plus chair George Thomson.) They were asked to take a very close look at our ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

A nice article about Frank and the Green Party
By rkorus
(MMP) system proposed by the Liberal government-appointed citizens assembly on electoral reform. The party has come out strongly in favour of the proposed system, which would give it representation in the legislature if it ...
Vote Green. Pass It On. - http://votegreenpassiton.wordpress.com

Liberal candidates speak favourably of the need for democratic reform
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
Similarly, Oakville Liberal incumbent Kevin Flynn has told many local residents that he's fond of the process the Citizens' Assembly undertook in drawing up its proposal now before voters. He says he's favourable to electoral reform, ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

No Big Media coverage of MMP referendum
By ken(ken)
Suggesting the Citizens' Assembly could not have had thoughtful reasons for recommending MMP, he concluded that if there is no debate or awareness among ordinary citizens, then so be it--MMP will simply have to fail. ...
KenonCanpolitics - http://kencan7.blogspot.com/

What is the Referendum Question?
By Pseudonym(Pseudonym)
"Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature?" Option 1: The existing electoral system(First-Past-the-Post). Option 2: The alternate electoral system proposed by the Citizens Assembly (Mixed ...
Canada, eh? - http://49th-parallel.blogspot.com/

Notes from the background report
By Jason Diceman
To get a better understanding of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly process, I read the Secretariat's exhaustive 280 page background report "Democracy At Work: The Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform" (PDF). ...
The Citizens' Assembly Monument blogs - http://citizensassemblymonument.ca/blog

9/18/07

MMP on the Web
By David Pal
The final report of the Citizens' Assembly [PDF] is a nice introductory document that provides some simple projections for how MMP could affect Ontario, without delving too far into the mathematics and mechanics of the process. ...
Spacing Votes * blogging Ontario's... - http://spacing.ca/votes

Comment on Referendum could have more impact than the Election by ...
By Ben Burd
I didn't say that I wasn't in favour of it - just the method preferred by the Citizens assembly, which by the process of selection gave new meaning to the word random. i favour the STV. If the parties were in favour of it wouldn't you ...
Comments for Cobourg Blog - http://cobourginternet.com/wordpress

Establishment comes out swinging in favour of status quo
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
First, we had the quintessential Establishment man, John Tory, lashing out at the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation for change last week at the National Post editorial board. The Toronto Star last week printed the falsehood in a ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

Well, that clears it all up!
By Andy(Andy)
If at least 60% of all the referendum ballots across the province choose the alternative system recommended by the Citizens' Assembly AND 50% of the voters in at least 64 electoral districts vote for Mixed Member Proportional, ...
I, Ectomorph - http://iectomorph.blogspot.com/

9/17/07

Rick Anderson: CBC Newsworld
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
... campaign in Ontario, Rick Anderson, appeared last week on CBC's Politics. Anderson speaks eloquently about the referendum campaign and why Ontario voters should choose the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation for change on October 10th.
Queer-Liberal - http://queer-liberal.blogspot.com/

Foolish Ontario could muck up country
By styky
A citizen's assembly, mandated to review electoral inequities, proposed the changes. They recommended the direct vote by every citizen be nixed in favour of a system where members can also be elected from party lists. ...
Free Dominion - Principled Conservati... - http://www.freedominion.ca/phpBB2/index.php

Single Transferable Vote proposal for BC would be a disaster ...
By Bill Tieleman(Bill Tieleman)
BC voters didn't think enough of STV in the 2005 referendum to give the required 60 per cent approval to implement this bad idea, suggested by the Citizens Assembly. Unfortunately, it came close enough that Premier Gordon Campbell is ...
Bill Tieleman - http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/

9/16/07

Will Ontario Liberals vote with John Tory in the referendum?
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
Yesterday, while still claiming to be neutral on the subject, Tory apparently spent several minutes criticizing the Citizens' Assembly recommendation for change during an interview with the National Post's editorial board. ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

9/15/07

Forum on Your Big Decision
By Chris Tindal
On October 10th Ontarians will vote on a proposal by the Citizens' Assembly (a randomly-selected group of 103 Ontarians) to switch to a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system, similar to that used in some other countries including ...
Torontoist - http://torontoist.com/

Elections Ontario should release unofficial referendum results on ...
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
We continue to see reports like this from Elections Ontario's John Hollins that Ontarians will have to wait for the results of the October 10th referendum on the Citizens' Assembly recommendation until October 11th. ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

part2 - Improve Canada's political system
By karly(karly)
After studying electoral systems for seven months, the Citizens Assembly members voted 92% to recommend to their fellow Ontario citizens to vote for a mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system. The Citizens Assembly members ...
Karly Kitty - http://karlyguy.livejournal.com/

Canada goes proportional?
By ourkingdom
The referendum was the main outcome of an independent citizens' assembly on electoral reform set up by the provincial government last year. The Economist suggests that If the referendum produces a 'yes' vote in Ontario, ...
OurKingdom - http://ourkingdom.opendemocracy.net

MMP REFERENDUM
By Jody
In 29 days, voters in Ontario will have a choice to make with regard to a recommendation made by a panel of average citizens, selected at random (known as the Citizens Assembly). These folks studied our current system of selecting ...
Real Talk! - http://blog.getrealinontario.com/index.php

Campaign officially begins today
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
In addition to electing a new government on October 10th, voters will also choose between the current First-Past-The-Post voting system and the new Mixed Member Proportional voting system recommended by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

Dick's (bizzare?) I-24 and Jefferson's ward republics
By emmettoconnell
Think of the citizen assembly that British Columbia brought together to reform their election laws or participatory budgeting in Brazil. I can easily understand how people can perceive even local governments as being too big or too ...
Washblog - Front Page - http://www.washblog.com/

Referendum fulfils Ontario Liberal promise to put democracy in the ...
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
Dalton McGuinty did the right thing by promising a Citizens' Assembly to examine the province's electoral system. Now voters have the opportunity to vote on the Citizen's Assembly recommendation on October 10th, fulfilling the Liberal ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

Toronto Star fails to correct Monday's "inaccurate" reporting of MMP
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
Another reason why voters know little about the Citizens' Assembly process and the ongoing referendum could also be that the government has done little to inform Ontarians on the process from the start. Now the government has announced ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

MMP Explained: Q&A with The Planning Desk's Peter MacLeod
By Matt Guerin(Matt Guerin)
What is the Ontario Citizens' Assembly? What are the advantages of MMP? What are the disadvantages of MMP? What will happen if the referendum passes? Which is more important under MMP - my party vote or my vote for a local candidate? ...
Liberals For MMP - http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/

Conservative Senator Endorses MMP
By democraticspace
Today, folks at the Economic Club of Toronto heard one of the most passionate talks on MMP and why we should endorse the Citizens' Assembly recommendation. And it was given by a conservative, a Progressive Conservative -- senator Hugh ...
democraticSPACE.com/blog - http://democraticSPACE.com/blog

Sunday, boring Sunday
By aginsberg(aginsberg)
On that note, the reason we want to bring attention to the use of Citizens' Assembly literature by the pro-MMP campaign is because we'd like that kind of government support. We have no problem with information. ...
All Politics Is Local - http://localgrit.blogspot.com/

Ontario voters to vote on electoral reform
By ken(ken)
The citizens' assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new "mixed member proportional" system (MMP) that would give every Ontarian two votes instead of one - one for a local candidate, and another for a political party. ...
KenonCanpolitics - http://kencan7.blogspot.com/