Monday, September 19, 2011

Ontario election: Will the NDP be able to remedy Ontario's democratic deficit?

With polls showing neither the Liberal nor the Conservative parties being able to secure a firm majority in the coming election, we might be poised for a historic breakthrough in the way we run our elections in Canada.
Andrea Horwath - lacking insight and courage?

One poll of polls shows a possible minority government, with the NDP holding a critical number of seats and so being able to determine which of the LPC and CPC will become the next government of our largest province:

Based on a weighted aggregation of the latest polls,’s seat projection model puts the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals on track to win 44 seats apiece, with the New Democrats taking the remaining 19 seats in the 107-seat Legislature. With even numbers in the caucuses of both Dalton McGuinty and Tim Hudak, the NDP would be in a position to decide which man becomes Ontario’s next premier.

The NDP has for a long time favoured electoral reform in Canada through proportional representation.

With the polls showing the Ontario NDP in the position to determine who becomes the next government of Ontario, that party has a once in a lifetime chance to propel Canada forwards by demanding – as the price of its cooperation – that the Ontario system be replaced by a proportional representation system.

And the Ontario NDP can insist on this whether they support the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party.

If the NDP did insist on modernizing our democracy by using proportional represenation, this could be the most significant change in our archaic system of elections since the passage of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, it seems that the NDP leader might lack the courage to insist on PR as a price for supporting either a Tory or Liberal government:

And in response to a question from a voter on the street, Ms. Horwath said she'd like to see the province take another shot at proportional representation, which was defeated in a referendum in 2007.
"If we were to form a government, we would start having that conversation again," she told Gail O'Gorman. "The last conversation, it was scaremongering, and nobody understands it."

Ms. Horwath clarified in a scrum later on that while her party supports proportional representation, initiating another referendum isn't top of mind.

"We very were disappointed with the way things went the last time around," she said. "But. ... it's not top of the agenda."

If Horwath fails to use this opportunity to make a dramatic and overdue change in our elections laws happen, she will join Nick Clegg of the UK Liberal Democrats as a failed leader of a minority party. Cleg had the chance to change the UK system of election  to one using PR, but settled for far less while giving the Tories the chance to rule for 5 years. As a result, Clegg will face his party being obliterated at the next election, with no chance of significant electoral change for another generation in the UK.

One wonders if Horwath has the political smarts to understand that she stands on the brink of being able to secure lasting change in the way we elect  our representatives to our provincial and federal governments.

Or is she too small a person to seize the opportunity?


  1. Maybe she wants to avoid referendum-based attack ads. Talking about the ridiculous expense of a referendum, what a terrible person she is for wanting one, and further nonsense talking points that I'll leave those "wonderful" PR-people to come up with for themselves.

    She's lucky that she's not up against the federal Conservatives, they'd already have the attack ads running no matter how much she'd distance herself from this issue.

  2. I don't think she should insist on holding another referendum on proportional representation as the price for the NDP's cooperation with a minority government.

    I think she should insist on the minority government actuall passing legislation to change the election system to a proportional representation system as the price for NDP support.

    This chance to bring in a better system of electing our representatives might not come again for decades.

  3. It would be stupid for Horwath to hypothesize as to what she might do should she finish last in an election. This one isn't over by a long shot.
    I doubt there will be as big a collapse for McGuinty as there was for his federal counterpart (Ignatieff) in May but there is still reasonable hope that Horwath could end up premeire with the Libs propping her up. (even if Hudak has won more seats than both of them).

    PR was such a disater last time around that it would be foolish to even mention it now.

  4. CuriosityCat, I understand, and agree with your premise, to an extent. But I also see and agree with anon's take.

    It's a political decision, and a wise one at that. As he or she (anon) correctly points out,

    "PR was such a disater last time around that it would be foolish to even mention it now."

    They would be better off fighting that fight later. And I'm speaking as one who is not a great fan of the dippers.

  5. The NDP might miss the flood, and time and tide wait for no man ....


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