MMP: Good for ideas, bad for the power-hungry

In terms of outcomes for MMP, we’ve all blogged a great deal about how it is a fairer system in terms of representation and how it lets more diverse voices (Green Party et cetera) into our parliamentary system. I think we are correct and I think these are good reasons to support MMP. The problem is that those against MMP see these things as the dangers of MMP. We the electorate don’t do a very good job of giving more than 50% of the vote to any one party, and that makes it difficult for parties to unilaterally implement their agendas for the 35-45% of the electorate that support them.

I like these kinds of checks – the FPTP crowd would rather we give over our government to an elected dictatorship for four years at a time. It’s expedient that way. The idea here is that the vast bulk of the electorate ought to be putting its faith in one of two large brokerage parties. As Andrew Coyne pointed out (am I actually agreeing this guy?!) this leaves these parties acting very cautiously:

“…the consequences of losing a few points makes them excessively, almost neurotically cautious, unwilling to take the slightest risk or advocate the mildest change, but each hugging as close as it can to the median voter, the status quo and each other. Hence the dominance of the two brokerage parties, indistinguishable in philosophy — alike, that is, in the lack of it.”

Actually I don’t fully agree with Coyne, the brokerage parties will sometimes offer up radical solutions (John Tory’s faith-based funding and private clinics). But this is usually only done with a great degree of calculation.

There are those in both the Liberals and the Conservatives who are prepared to take an all-or-nothing approach to power (and there are those who are more principled in both parties). These all-or-nothing types want a majority and they are prepared to risk giving one to the other guys, in each election they go “all-in” as it were. It strikes them as inconvenient to have to condescend to make a deal with some other parties to govern the province. They will scare you with socially-conservative parties (if you’re on the left) and environmentalists (if you’re on the right).

Why should fear those with whom with we disagree, most of Ontario is fairly moderate and unlikely to lurch one way or the other at the behest of one or two MPPs whose views may not be in the mainstream. FPTPers always present this as a scenario, but if the MPPs of a minor party were being totally unreasonable, I’m sure that the big guys could shake hands and work together for a while. Either way though, it would be because of ideas, not a power-grab.

In terms of outcomes then, there is something else that we can say and that is that MMP is good for ideas and bad for the power-hungry


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