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You have more than one vote this election

Margaret Sheridan | Interrobang | News | October 1st, 2007

The referendum will affect all Ontario voters

When you go to vote on October 10 this year, you may be surprised to know that, for the first time since 1924, Ontarians are being faced with a referendum.

“What a lot of students don't realize is that when you go to vote on polling day you'll be given two ballots,” said FSU President, Travis Mazereeuw. “One for candidates, and one for the referendum choice. It's a vote to decide whether to keep the current electoral system or to start a new one.”

The Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, which consists of 103 randomly selected Ontario citizens who were tasked with reviewing the current electoral system, has proposed an alternate system for electing both local and provincial representatives.

“The question is ‘Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislation?'” said Loren Wells, the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario. “The existing electoral legislation, first past the post, or the alternate electoral system proposed by the citizens assembly, mixed-member proportional. So there's a question with the two possible responses.”

Our current system, first past the post, is pretty straightforward. At the moment when you cast a ballot you're voting for a representative in one of the 107 electoral districts. In each district, once voting has closed, the winner is the representative who has received the most votes. From there it becomes a question as to which party has won the most ridings, because the party that gets the most representative candidates wins the provincial leadership.

“The mixed-member proportional system proposed by the citizens assembly is called a mixed system because it's a combination of two voting systems,” explained Wells. “It's a mix of the first past the post system, and the proportional representation system.”

What that comes down to is that if the MMP system wins the referendum is that a few changes will be made, starting with number of electoral districts' which will be pared down to 90 as opposed to the tradition 107, in which voters will elect a local representative using the FPTP system and that means that opposed to 107 seats in legislature there would now be 129.

“Then there would be [an additional] 39 list member seats that would be proposed by the political parties,” explained Wells. “So when you when you go to vote you'll be given a ballot to vote for a candidate, and another vote would be for a political party. And the 39 list members are allocated to the political parties depending on the percentage of the party vote that they receive.”

So what that means is that smaller parties who may not be able to win a riding outright, parties like the Green Party, would still have a shot at being represented in the Legislature if they can receive a minimum of three per cent of the popular vote province-wide.

As much as the MMP system can level the playing field so to speak, it also has its hidden flaws, the first being cost. Considering that the number of representative seats increases by 22, the cost of the Legislature will also have to increase by approximately 20 per cent.

This MMP system isn't as new as it sounds however. The system has been used in Germany since it's creation shortly after the Second World War in 1949. Since then the system has been adopted in New Zealand, South Africa, Venezuela as well as portions of the United Kingdom, including Wales, Scotland and London.

“A change in the electoral system can affect the students,” explains Mazereeuw. “Because you can have different types of government in place you'll have a wider variety of options, stand points and view points coming from different politicians. Which means that with just one major party elected, if they don't have priorities within the school system, having more people in there, we're going to have a stronger voice.”
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