It's election season in this province. On October 10 we elect a new (or not so new-depending on the results) provincial government.
But there's more. We are also being asked to vote in a referendum about electoral process. Do we want to continue with the current "first past the post" system or move to a "mixed member proportional" system.
Currently there are 107 ridings in the province. In each of them the candidate with the most votes takes the seat. The party with the most seats in the Provincial Parliament then forms the government. If they get 50% plus 1 of the seats they have a majority government and are more stable If they have less than 50% of the seats they have a minority government which can more easily be brought down by the opposition parties working together. TO be honest this system is really designed for a 2-party setting. In a multi-party setting it means that a party can have a majority government with aruond 40% of the popular vote. It also means that smaller parties which may get a substantial portion of the vote are not represented in the House.
TO deal with these realities you could move to a purely proportional representation. In this system parties get an equal percentage of the seats to the percentage of votes. THe big problem with this in large jurisdictions is that local/regional voices can easily be lost. There is value to being able to hold a local rep accountable for local issues.
So we get MMP, a mixture of the two. In the proposal before us there would be fewer ridings (90 as opposed to 107), so they would obviously be bigger. THen there would be 32 proportional seats. THese seats would be used to balance the House in proportion to the vote count. ANy party receiving at least 3% of the vote would be drawn in to the equation. Each party would be asked to provide a list of candidates from which these seats would be filled. FOr more details you can check out this website http://www.yourbigdecision.ca/ or the Facebook group "Ontario is facing a Big Decision" (among others on the topic).
Now in principle I applaud the intent behind MMP. But (you had to know there was a but) there is a problem. Living in an underpopulated region of the province I see how we could be the big losers. Currently we are (by a strict representation-by-population definition) over-represented. But there are geographic limitations. HOw big a region can one person legitimately represent? Not to mention that because of our underpopulation there is a real sense that the area is treated as of secondary importance by the government "over there". AS riding numbers get dropped then what happens?
Truly I am unsure what to vote. Luckily I still have time to decide.