Monday, August 13, 2007

See You in September

I'm going to take a break from blogging for the next few weeks. I should be back in full spin mode some time after Labour Day.

I will be putting comment moderation on later tonight, so get your comments in.

Updated: Moderation is on.

Dalton McGuinty Will Raise Taxes

I've come to the conclusion that Dalton McGuinty will raise our taxes, if he's re-elected on October 10, 2007. This goes beyond simply arguing that Mr. McGuinty has problems keeping his election commitments (although, that does help).

This thought of mine has been on my mind for some time now:

Mr. McGuinty indicated that his new government was unaware of the financial health of the province and that money due for needed services was unavailable. So, he broke his promise not to raise taxes to address the "social deficit".

Well, now, presumably, he is aware of the financial health of the province, as his ongoing struggle over the fiscal imbalance seems to indicate.

And, that fight has not ended.

Dalton McGuinty, while able to find money for autism lawsuits, pitbull bans, and cricket clubs, still cannot find money to fix the so-called social deficit which he promised to fix in 2003. This was his justification for raising our taxes with the so called "health premium" in his first budget.

Dalton McGuinty is publicly attacking the federal Conservatives over what he sees as unfair treatment under employment insurance. It's obviously a transparent attempt to show the province that Mr. McGuinty is trying to "do something" in light of Ontario's sagging economy. It will accomplish little, if anything, before the election. Superficially, it will keep a certain high profile supporter of Mr. McGuinty on side.

Add to this the number of times the federal government shows up in Ontario Liberal election promises - most notably in their transit promise (where the federal government is to provide a third of the cost).

Add to this the fight on the municipal front from Toronto and Ottawa for more funding for infrastructure, social services and transit. The Premier has told municipalities that there is no money, and that, especially with Toronto, to "grow up and raise taxes".

By being in a constant state of conflict with both municipalities and the federal government, Mr. McGuinty is likely setting us up so that he can do what he does best: blame someone else for his policy (in)decisions.

It's a common theme with the Ontario Liberal Party. Any time they are unable or unwilling to deliver on one of their campaign or project announcements it is because of everybody and everything else, except Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberal Party.

This is why I believe that Dalton McGuinty has a "social deficit premium" in the wings for the next budget, should he form government.

There is a very simple way to relieve Mr. McGuinty of the pressure to set us up this way; simply do not elect Ontario Liberals in October.

MMP : What 90 Local Ridings Would Look Like

Greg Morrow, from democraticSPACE, gives us a glimpse at what 90 local ridings would look like under the proposed Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system.

[H/T, They Call Me "Mr. Sinister"]

Updated: Removed Greg's commentary from this post (you can, of course, still read it at his site). It should be noted that I think the maps are valuable from the point of view of displaying how the 90 local ridings could be distributed.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - False Majorities

Wikipedia defines representative democracy thusly:
Representative democracy involves the selection of government officials by a majority of votes by the people being represented. Representatives may be elected by a particular district (or constituency), or represent the entire electorate proportionally proportional systems, with some using a combination of the two. Some representative democracies also incorporate elements of direct democracy, such as referendums. A characteristic of representative democracy is that while the representatives are elected by the people, to act in their interest, they retain the freedom to exercise their own judgment as how best to do so.

Keep that definition in mind as we progress.

I've heard that one of the strengths of FPTP is that, in most cases, governments elected in this system are majority governments. Is that true?

Well, that is true. But, it's called a false majority.

A false majority is when representatives of one political party form a clear majority in the legislature, but were elected with a minority of the popular vote.

Surely though, it's rare for a political party to win a minority of the votes but to take a majority of the legislature. Right?

That's not right. In fact, that's the most common result in FPTP. It is rare for a political party to actually obtain a majority of the popular vote. Even advocates for the FPTP system acknowledge this.

For historical purposes, the last time an Ontario election resulted in a political party forming government receiving a majority of the votes was in 1937, when a coalition of the Liberals and Liberal-Progressives took 51.6% of the popular vote. They took 65 of 90 seats (72%).

But, FPTP just says that a party has to take the most votes to form government. So, FPTP always ensures that the party with the most votes forms government. Is that true?

That is most certainly not true.

  • In the 1998 Quebec general election, the separatist Parti Québécois took 42.87% of the popular vote compared to the Liberal Party which took 43.55%. Yet, the PQ formed a majority with 76 of the 125 seats.
  • In the 2006 New Brunswick general election, the Liberal Party took 47.1% of the popular vote compared to the Progressive Conservative Party which took 47.5%. Yet, the Liberals formed a majority with 29 of the 55 seats.
In short, FPTP cannot even guarantee that the party that forms government actually has achieved a plurality of the votes!

FPTP could be called "Second Place Forms Government Sometimes, Too".

Isn't it undemocratic to have a minority of the population electing a majority of the legislature?

It most certainly is, but supporters of FPTP will tell you this is the most desirable form of government.

Up next, politics as usual.

Note: My apologies if this is a duplicate. Once again, I'm having posting issues.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Little Bits - August 9, 2007

Because a man cannot blog on electoral reform alone.

  1. In all the craziness around Mike Colle and the questions of accountability surrounding the distribution of capital grants by the Ontario Liberals, some of us have let the issues involving the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation kind of slide. I'm glad to see that John Tory is bringing this back to the forefront.

    It seems OLG has been settling some cases with problem gamblers and the OLG out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. Ring a bell?

  2. A riding's returning officer must be non-partisan. I'm not necessarily sure that the executive assistant of the spouse of an opponent constitutes being partisan, but the position should be beyond even a whiff of conflict

  3. Did anybody hear that the Ontario Liberal riding association in Parry Sound-Muskoka was having problems nominating a candidate? Apparently, it was Dalton McGuinty's fault.
    The Liberals are the last party in Parry Sound-Muskoka to select a candidate for the provincial election. The delay reportedly stems from the dissolution of the party’s provincial riding association in 2004, following the McGuinty government’s decision to remove Parry Sound-Muskoka’s northern Ontario designation.

    The move, which eliminated the riding’s ability to gain access to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, angered a number of party members, who later resigned from the association’s executive.

Addendum - The Truth About FPTP : How Political Parties Choose Candidates

This is an addendum to Part 3 of my Series, The Truth About FPTP : How Political Parties Choose Candidates.

How many political parties in Ontario use FPTP to select leaders?

Neither the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, the Ontario Liberals, nor the Ontario NDP uses FPTP to select leaders. That is, of course, unless the candidate is acclaimed.

How many political parties use FPTP to select candidates?

Neither the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, the Ontario Liberals, nor the Ontario NDP uses FPTP to select candidates. That is, of course, unless the leader selects the candidate or the candidate is acclaimed.

Why would partisan activists of political parties then support FPTP if political parties themselves do not use FPTP?

That's for another debate, but it certainly does indicate that even the political parties themselves understand that FPTP is not the best method for electing officials.

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - How Political Parties Choose Candidates

I heard that the people who get chosen to run in a political riding under FPTP would be named from a list of supporters of political parties. Is that true?

That is correct. Only party members may run as a candidate for a political party under FPTP.

So who gets to determine the makeup of the political candidates?

The political parties are solely responsible for the composition of the party candidates under FPTP. They can either be determined by direct orders by the party leadership, or they might be determined by a vote by party members.

No matter what, the candidates for election will be in the hands of members of political parties, who make up a tiny part of the population of Ontario.

Non-aligned voters do not get a say at all.

If I do not like the candidate representing the party that I want to vote for, can I alter the name so I can put the name of my preferred candidate in when it comes time to vote?

No, you cannot. FPTP only allows for closed party candidate selection. This means that voters cannot cross off names or change the candidate's name in the ballot box. The only choice given to the voters under FPTP is to vote for the candidate chosen by the political party.

Your preferred candidate may run as an independent, but they are unlikely to win under FPTP.

But, under FPTP, I can still support the political party, by voting for the party but not the candidate, correct?

No, that is not correct. If you want to support the political party, you must vote for the candidate you do not support.

Wait. I will have to vote for someone I may not want to represent me? Isn't that undemocratic?

Yes. You cannot support your political party and not support their preferred candidate. Similarly, you cannot support your local candidate and not support their political party.

You must choose between selecting a political party you do not support, a candidate you do not support, or spoiling your ballot. Those are your only choices.

That is undemocratic.

Isn't giving political parties total control over selecting the candidate undemocratic?

It is important to be highly regarded within the party to be selected or chosen as a candidate. It helps if the candidate is also well known in the community, but this is not always the case.

If a candidate is highly regarded by the party but not well known in the community, he or she may be parachuted into a riding, most likely into a riding that's called a "safe seat" - one where support runs high for the party, regardless of candidate. The candidate will likely have no ties to the community - neither personal nor professional. He or she is then pretty much guaranteed a seat in the legislature, regardless of how well the party does in an election.

So if you want to vote for a party but do not like whom they have running in your riding, you are pretty much stuck. Not only is this undemocratic, it is also unfair.

If I don't like a candidate running in another riding, how can I make sure that he or she does not get into office?

You could move to that riding, and vote in their election. For most of us, that's simply not possible. Once you have moved, you'd also have to convince the rest of the riding not to support that candidate - and if you don't have a lot of ties in the community, it may be all but impossible.
Update: Fixed a typo.

Update x 2: I've added an addendum.

Up next, false majorities.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dalton McGuinty Gets Funnier Everyday

Am I the only one to find it utterly laughable for Dalton McGuinty to ask Ottawa for money two weeks almost to the date from him telling the city of Toronto to grow up and raise taxes?

I can't figure out if he's doing this on purpose or not. Like we're all on Candid Camera and he's going to point to a camera and say, "Gotcha!"

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - Representation

Does FPTP give us better representation than MMP?

The answer is no, of course not.

Right now, Ontarians, compared to citizens in other provinces, are already the most poorly represented citizens in Canada. In our current legislature, there are 103 Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP). Under FPTP, on average, there is one 1 MPP for every 118,061 citizens based upon the 2006 Census data (Ontario population, 12,160,282).

Under the MMP model proposed by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly, the total number of members would rise to 129, thereby meaning 1 member for every 94,266 Ontarians.

But, doesn't that just mean there is less direct representation?

No, that's not true either.

Under the current model, an Ontarian is represented directly by their local MPP, and indirectly by the Premier and the Cabinet. For example, if a citizen has an issue with education, they are free to contact their local MPP, the Minister of Education, or the Premier with their concerns.

Under the new model, an Ontarian is represented directly by their local MPP, directly by thirty-nine other Ontario-wide MPP's, and still indirectly by the Premier and the Cabinet. In this example, if a citizen has an issue with education say, they can contact their local MPP, or one of the other thirty-nine Ontario-wide MPP's, the Minister of Education, or the Premier with their concerns. In this way, Ontarians are represented directly by 40 Members plus the Premier and his or her Cabinet. Remember, those 39 Ontario-wide MPP's are relying on your vote just as much as your local candidate (more so, in fact).

Wait. How can a list candidate be relying on my vote more than my local candidate?

If a local candidate is removed from caucus, they can still run in a local riding as an independent. Name recognition for the local candidate will run high, if he was a high performing candidate, such as a Chuck Cadman, or a maverick non-conformer, like a Garth Turner. However, the list candidate does not have a local riding to fall back on if they are removed from caucus.

This means, if the list MPP is removed from caucus, and if they want to run again in the next election, they will need to find a local riding - which means, they will have to represent you to get your vote, in that riding. Or, at the very least, bring that name recognition to the local riding. That's no different under FPTP.

I'll get into the list candidates, in another post. I'll come back, and link to that post from here.

Fine. But, isn't more politicians a bad thing?

More politicians are a bad thing, if they do not represent anything. As it would stand under the proposal, there would be 1 Member of Provincial Parliament for about every 95,000 Ontarians, with the total number of MPP's being 129.

By comparison, some other ratios are:

  • Quebec has 1 Member for every 60,369 citizens (125 seats in the National Assembly; based on a population of 7,546,131).
  • Alberta has 1 Member for every 39,643 citizens (83; population of 3,290,350)
  • Manitoba has 1 Member for every 20,147 citizens (57; population of 1,148,401)
  • PEI has 1 Member for every 5,031 citizens (27; population of 135,851)
  • Nunavut has 1 Member for every 1,551 citizens (19; population of 29,474)

So, Ontario is largely the true conservative bastion when it comes to the number of politicians (federally, they are a little more "conservative" in their representation) and will remain the conservative bastion it is, under MMP.

Up next, how political parties choose candidates under FPTP.

[The Truth About FPTP]

The Truth About FPTP

This is the summary page for my series on The Truth About First Past the Post, or FPTP. I will update this as I add more pages to it.

On October 10, Ontarians will be voting in a referendum on electoral reform. Ontarians will be asked to choose between our existing electoral system, First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) and the one recommended by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly, Mixed Member Proportional (MMP).

  1. The Truth About FPTP - What is It?
  2. The Truth About FPTP - Representation
  3. The Truth About FPTP - How Political Parties Choose their Candidates (Addendum)
  4. The Truth About FPTP - False Majorities
  5. The Truth About FPTP - Politics as Usual
  6. The Truth About FPTP - Summary

Updated: I've linked to this post from the individual posts.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Imagine George Bush Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

The Auditor General's Report - The Road From Here

This is the third part of my look at the Auditor General's Report into the Year-end Grants Provided by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration [PDF]. You can find the preamble here and the review here.

Once again, I remind you of a famous quote - the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. We've already looked at the past behaviour and could simply draw our conclusions from there. But, let's look at the reactions to the report and the subsequent actions taken by the Ontario Liberals.

First, the Minister at the heart of the scandal, Mike Colle, resigned. Interesting to note though is Ian Urquhart's take.

But [Mike] Colle was not a rogue minister, and he didn't find the money for the grants in the men's room of his ministry. It was given to him to distribute by the minister of finance, and [Premier Dalton] McGuinty himself participated in at least one of the ceremonies in which the cheque was presented.

Colle, then, is really a scapegoat, as Conservative Leader John Tory suggested. But he is also a team player, and he said in a statement yesterday that he was leaving cabinet lest his continued presence were to distract attention from "all the good work we are doing."

Whether his departure has the desired effect of getting the issue off the political agenda remains to be seen.

It is clear to everyone that this was not confined to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The Minister resigning is not sufficient.

Secondly, one of the interesting strategies put forward by the Liberals was to go on a hunt to determine whether the money should be paid back. It's interesting because it's completely transparent as a wild goose chase meant simply to deceive Ontarians that this government cares about accountability [Toronto Star, Tory keeping pressure on Liberals over grants.

Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips has assumed [Mike] Colle's duties. McGuinty said Phillips will look at the fine print on the grants to see if the government can recover any of the money.

"I'm not going to prejudge that," the premier told reporters. "I'm waiting for the minister to get back to me with his advice."

"Fine print". What fine print? In order for there to be fine print, there has to be print.

That money went out the door with no application and no agreement for how it was to be used. What is supposed to occur when Minister Gerry Phillips goes knocking on doors to ask for the money back? I know [Globe & Mail, Cricket group's leader rebuffs call to return Ontario grant]:
The head of the Ontario Cricket Association said it should not have to return any of the $1-million grant it received from the Ontario government and, in fact, he plans to ask for more funding.

What it will do, however, is:

  • Reinforce the fact that the Ontario Liberals have no control over the finances of this province.
  • Reinforce the fact that the Ontario Liberals are not accountable to the taxpayers of this province.
  • Reinforce the fact that the Ontario Liberals cannot be trusted to look after those who truly need and require the money for capital grant programs.

It is clear to everyone that the Ontario Liberals are unfit to govern.

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - What is It?

On October 10th, you may be asking yourself, "What is First-Past-the-Post, and if it's the best system of democracy, why are so many calling for it to be reformed?"

First, where does the term come from?

The term first past the post (abbreviated FPTP or FPP) was coined as an analogy to horse racing, where the winner of the race is the first to pass a particular point on the track (in this case a plurality of votes), after which all other runners automatically and completely lose (that is, the payoff is "winner-takes-all"). There is, however, no "post" that the winning candidate must pass in order to win, as they are only required to receive the largest number of votes in their favour. This sometimes results in the alternative name "furthest past the post".

That's nice, but how does it work?

There is a very simple example that quickly illustrates how FPTP works.

Imagine you and nine friends are trying to decide on where to go for dinner and suppose your group comes to the decision to use the FPTP method of voting - that is, whichever restaurant was picked the most, wins. Each of your friends and yourself pick a different restaurant, with the exception of two - they both choose McDonald's. All ten of you (having agreed to be bound by the will of the vote) are now off to enjoy Big Mac's or Chicken McNuggets.

No consensus and certainly no majority of opinion. Seems trivial in this example, you might argue. Suppose however, you were deciding policy on something important like social services, taxation, or whether or not to go to war.

Let's also clear out some misconceptions about FPTP.

First Past The Post is used by the most people - about 45% - in the world living in democracies, in about 45 countries.

This is due more to history than a true choice or selection of democratic traditions. If your parents have bad habits, the children will tend to copy or mimic those bad habits too.

Of the 43 countries that currently use FPTP:

  • 32 are former colonies or protectorates of the United Kingdom, or former colonies of former colonies of the United Kingdom (Papua New Guinea from Australia, Samoa from New Zealand, Bangladesh from Pakistan). Remember, the United States and Canada are former British colonies too.
  • India uses Proportional Representation in their upper house.
  • The United Kingdom does not even use FPTP in Scotland, Wales (local elections only), and Northern Ireland, nor to select representatives for the European Union.
  • Louisiana does not use FPTP.
FPTP is then the electoral choice for elections in Bhutan, Ethiopia, Micronesia, Morocco, Palau, South Korea, some of the United Kingdom, and Yemen.

MMP is currently in use in Germany, New Zealand, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Lesotho.

... and South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Next up, how FPTP gives us poor representation.

Update: Corrected some punctuation (I don't claim all, if you find more ;-) ).

[The Truth About FPTP]

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Another Former Liberal MPP to run as Progressive Conservative

Carman McClelland, former Liberal MPP for Brampton North, will run as a Progressive Conservative in the new riding of Brampton Springdale.

Ontario Liberals and the Ontario Economy

Rest assured, Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberal Party will be pointing fingers.

National Post, Ontario could lose its 'have' status

Perhaps the most startling element of the report, written by Global Insight managing director Dale Orr, is how far Ontario has fallen in terms of economic growth per capita, which is how standards of living are measured. This may not bode well for the province's Liberal government, which faces an election in October. Premier Dalton McGuinty's government has been under attack from economists who say the province's tax regime is not competitive in terms of attracting business investment and, as a result, its economy has suffered.

Toronto Star, Ontario's economy a concern

In an historic first, the province's unemployment rate has been higher than the national average for six straight months this year and now stands at 6.5 per cent, compared to 6.1 per cent nationally.


And in another historical first, Montreal now has a lower unemployment rate than Toronto (6.5 per cent compared to 6.9 per cent).

CBC, Ontario getting poorer, while N.L. shines: economists

Ontario's economy will face more sub-par growth this year, while Newfoundland and Labrador's will grab the top spot, according to two major banks' provincial forecasts released Friday.


BMO Capital Markets foresees Ontario's economy facing such challenges that "it is fair to ask whether Ontario truly is still a so-called 'have' province," pointing out that the province's jobless rate has, for the first time ever, moved above the national average over the past year.

Financial Post, Ontario tax policy no friend of growth

Mr. McGuinty is, of course, a pro at taxing, having slapped Ontarians with a $1.6-billion health "premium" soon after taking office and instituting the first corporate tax increase in 18 years. With sublime timing, he hiked the general rate to 14% from 12.5% in 2004 and the manufacturing rate to 12% from 11% -- just as the province was sliding into a manufacturing recession as the loonie soared.


Ontario has a combined federal/ provincial corporate tax rate of 36%, compared with 32% for Quebec and an OECD average of 28%. Ontario's marginal effective tax rate, a broad measure of the investment tax burden, is the highest in the country at 37%, compared with 25% for Quebec.

Past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour, you know.

At any rate, all this economic doom and gloom aside, the always comical Ben Chin, a failed Liberal Party candidate, has an amusing YouTube newscast spoof up where he's playing a wacky newscaster - it's both funny and ironic.

Count on your Ontario Liberals to shine out like a shaft of gold when all around it is dark.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Elections Ontario has launched

Here is the press release verbatim. I haven't had a chance to explore the website or the other tools yet to offer an opinion.
TORONTO, Aug. 1 /CNW/ - In preparation for Ontario's October 10, 2007 referendum on electoral reform, Elections Ontario launched the first phase of its referendum public education campaign today. The "Understand the Question" campaign is designed to ensure that Ontario's 8.5 million registered voters are aware that the referendum is taking place and feel adequately informed to make a decision when it comes time to mark their referendum ballots this Fall.

At the same time as the general provincial election on October 10, Ontario voters will also receive a referendum ballot to choose whether to continue the current electoral system, known as First-Past-the-Post (FPTP), or adopt the Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system proposed by the Citizens' Assembly. This marks the first time since 1792 that electors are being asked to consider a change to the way that Ontario's provincial representatives are elected.

"Our mandate is to ensure that Ontario voters are not only aware that a referendum is occurring on October 10, but believe they are adequately prepared to make an informed decision based on their individual considerations and priorities," said John Hollins, Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Ontario.

"Through our past experience and ongoing consultation with political science and literacy experts, we have designed a program that we believe reflects Ontario's scope and diversity, delivers impartial educational information and allows voters to become informed through a variety of mediums," continued Hollins. "It also allows us the flexibility to make adjustments based on voter questions as we move forward towards the actual referendum date."

<< "Understand the Question" Campaign Elements
  • The Elections Ontario referendum public education website, launching today, provides voters with impartial tools to define and understand both the First-Past-the-Post and the Mixed Member Proportional electoral systems and to assess these systems against individual voter priorities and considerations. Voters may also register their email addresses for information updates as website content will be continually enriched.
  • A public toll free information telephone line, 1-888-ONTVOTE (1-888-668-8683), is available beginning today to assist voters with their questions.
  • A Facebook profile and group launches today to increase referendum awareness and provide another channel for voters to make information inquiries though the email address
  • A community-level French and English media relations program is underway to distribute impartial information defining both electoral systems, critieria for making a choice against individual voter priorities and identifying other "Understand the Question" information sources.
  • A province-wide French and English newspaper advertising campaign and a further community and ethnic newspaper campaign in 25 languages will appear beginning the first week of September.
  • A province-wide "Understand the Question" French and English radio campaign launches today and will run until August 13, 2007.
  • Over 100 Resource Officers are being hired to deliver local community information sessions throughout the province. To request an information session voters may do so through, 1-888-ONT VOTE (1-888-668-8683) or
  • An online advertising program will begin in early September targeting high traffic Ontario portals of Canadian websites to encourage voters to visit for information.
  • A Youtube information site and a downloadable widget (an online viral web tool) will be available later in August to raise awareness and direct voters to "Understand the Question" information resources.
  • A province-wide "Understand the Question" French and English television campaign will launch in September, 2007.
  • A French and English direct mail information program will be distributed in September, 2007 to all Ontario voters.
  • Householders (unaddressed ad-mail) will be distributed to homes across the province immediately after Labour Day and again in the beginning of October. >>
About the Referendum

In June 2005, the Ontario Legislature began a process to review electoral systems. In March 2006, the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, an independent body representing in the electors in Ontario, was created. They were asked to assess Ontario's current electoral system and different electoral systems, and recommend whether Ontario should retain its current system or adopt a different one. The Citizens' Assembly's proposal has resulted in this Referendum.

About Elections Ontario

Elections Ontario is the non-partisan agency responsible for administering provincial elections, by-elections and referendums in the Province of Ontario.

Updated: Comments are closed for this post.

Jim Prentice to Finance?


Phantom leadership team, too.