20 December 2006

Voting Reform in Ontario

The following email from Fair Vote Canada is reprinted in its entirety:
An Open Letter to Fellow Ontarians:

Is the idea of fundamental democratic reform so frightening that Ontario’s major media are afraid to cover the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform? Your guess is as good as ours, but the headline above summarizes their apparent attitude. The unfortunate result is that most Ontarians remain unaware of an unprecedented and historic opportunity to dramatically reform Ontario’s political system.

What’s the Big Deal With the Citizens’ Assembly?
The Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, composed of 103 randomly chosen voters, has been empowered by the Government of Ontario to study and recommend a new provincial voting system. Their recommendation will be put to Ontarians in a referendum to be held next fall.

What’s At Stake?
Political power. The future direction of our province. Legislation on issues like health care, education, the environment. The voting system matters. It matters a lot, because the voting system allocates political power, creates parliaments and determines who forms governments. That in turn determines who calls the shots on issues that affect our families, our communities, our society and the environment.

How Bad is the Current System?
It’s intolerable. Ontarians (and all Canadians) suffer the effects of using the world’s worst electoral system – first-past-the post. Typically, a party gets about 40 percent of the votes, wins 60 percent or more of the seats and then wields 100 percent of the power, as though it had a majority mandate. Meanwhile opposition voices are diminished and other minority voice are completely shut out of the political process. In each election, millions of Ontarians cast wasted votes that elect no one. Results are so distorted the last time we elected a legitimate majority government – one actually put in place by a majority of votes cast – was in 1937.

Are There Better Ways to Vote?

Yes. Almost all major Western democracies scrapped first-past-the-post voting last century, and adopted voting systems designed to treat all voters equally and give fair and proportional election results. More than 80 democracies now use these fair voting systems. Each has developed a version to fit its own distinctive political culture and geography. Ontario can do likewise.

What Are the Key Dates for Our Democracy Revolution?
The Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform will issue its final report by May 15. If the Assembly recommends a new voting system, Ontario will have a referendum on that recommendation on October 4 in conjunction with the next provincial election. The Citizens’ Assembly members have invited Ontarians to tell them what electoral values and principles matter most to you and/or what type of voting system you would like to have. Between now and January 31, citizens can make their views known through online submissions or by attending and speaking at one of the Assembly’s public consultation meetings.

What Can You Do To Make It Happen?
Fair Vote Canada, through our Fair Vote Ontario campaign, is leading the fight to encourage the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly to recommend a fair voting system based on proportional representation. When the Assembly does, we will then lead the Yes campaign for the October 4, 2007 referendum.

Here is what you can do between now and January 31:
  • Most important: forward this email to friends and other email lists!
  • Check the Ontario Citizens' Assembly website. Review their public consultation guide.
  • If the Assembly is holding a public meeting in your community, plan to attend, take your friends, and speak up.
  • If you cannot attend a meeting, submit your comments on the Assembly’s web site, encouraging Assembly members to scrap first-past-the-post and recommend a new, fair voting system.
  • Visit the Fair Vote Canada and Fair Vote Ontario websites. Learn more about the issues and our campaign.
  • Volunteer to help the Fair Vote Ontario campaign and help win the October 4 referendum.

Democratic reform is a do-it-yourself project for citizens. We cannot depend on the media or those in positions of power to lead the democracy revolution. It’s up to us! Let’s do it!

Yours for a strong democracy,
Larry Gordon
Executive Director
Fair Vote Canada
26 Maryland Blvd.
Toronto, ON M4C 5C9
Voice: 416-410-4034
Fax: 416-686-4929

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