Friday, October 07, 2011

Ontario voters wishes thwarted; McGuinty government's legitimacy questionable

So less than 50% of Ontario voters cast a vote, while half of them voted with their feet by staying home. Wonder why this happened?

The system once again failed to deliver democracy to Canadian voters. McGuinty is whistling past the graveyard, trying to put the best face on a crushing rebuke by voters:

Premier-elect Dalton McGuinty is ruling out negotiating with opposition leaders after his narrow victory, saying he has a strong mandate to govern Ontario.

Mr. McGuinty described the outcome of Thursday’s election, which left him just one seat shy of a third straight majority, as a “major minority.”

The result really shows that the first past the post system of voting is undemocratic, does not reflect the wishes of voters, distorts regional representation, and has resulted in a minority government which has questionable legitimacy to carry out its election campaign.

McGuinty's Liberal won 53 seats with only 37.5% of the votes cast; the Tories won 37 seats with 35.3%; and the NDP won 17 seats with 23% of the votes cast.

What Ontario voters really voted for was something entirely different. What a democratic system would have resulted in is 41 seats for the Liberals (12 fewer than they won); 39 seats for the Tories (2 more than they won); and 26 seats for the NDP (9 more than they won).

The voters of Ontario – those who voted, anyway – wanted the NDP to be the party which decided which of two parties with nearly equal seats would form the government, unless the two parties with nearly equal seats (Tories and Liberals) agreed between themselves who would win.

What is very clear is that McGuinty is living on borrowed time, that the Tories have almost as much legitimacy as the Liberals have in Ontario's legislature, and that the NDP once again got the short end of the stick.

The Cat gives McGuinty about 9 months before Ontarians go to the polls again.

Hopefully, the NDP will insist upon legislation to change FPTP to proportional representation as a price for its cooperation with either the Liberals of Tories, and the Tories would do well to consider voting for an NDP motion for such a new system.

McGuinty might have won a minority government, but Ontario voters were screwed.


  1. It will be interesting. Keep in mind though this will require pretty much all of the opposition to be on the same page and pretty much all of them to be present for a vote like that. The speaker might also be from the NDP or PCs making the legislature a de-facto 53-53 tie. The speaker is technically supposed to vote to maintain the status quo in a tie situation based on tradition.

    There may very well be some resistance to the idea of forcing voters to go to the polls again so soon given that we just had 3 elections in most of Ontario in only about one years worth of time (had municipal, federal and now provincial). That could also lower voter turnout even more and I'm not sure any party really wants to take the risk at this point their own base might just be too tired to get to the polls.

  2. The Orange Tide in Quebec heralded the coming of the Arab Spring to Canada, in my view. Now the Jack Layton falls on Andrea Horwath - and she can strike a blow to remedy the appalling democratic deficit our country faces by forcing legislation through to give our largest province a better system of electing representatives through proportional representation.

    If she simply fritters her leverage away on minor matters, the Ontario NDP might pay the price.

    So two big tests face the NDP - the federal wing of the party is facing a moment of truth in Quebec because there are so few signed up members entitled to have a say in the election of the next leader; and the Ontario wing faces the same test that the LibDems faced (and failed) in the UK: aim at the higher priority of making Canada more democratic.

  3. Same person as this morning from 9:30am commenting.

    I'm honestly not sure how much the Ontario NDP would push that. While 'change' was mentioned in their campaign changing the electoral was not and I'm pretty sure it wasn't something in their platform.

    There are actually 3 main issues I have with the idea of proportional representation. First I like the idea to some degree of having a local representative you can take a more local issue or concern to which exists in the present riding system. I don't see something like this being possible in a proportional system. Second it makes it pretty much impossible for independent candidates to be elected. Third there is less control over what people get voted in when it is strictly party based and there may be some individual candidates you just plain do not want to vote for.

    Compared to the current system I would probably at least prefer the Alternative Vote system like what Australia has (and what was the potential change in the UK referendum) where you rank candidates based on preference.

    I think a lot of developed countries with other voting systems may also have mandatory voting which might be a bigger factor in voter turn out. I could be wrong though. Another case is the Scandinavian countries where they have a much more thorough civics course and the idea of participation in society by voting is much more strongly rooted in people's minds from a young age. This again could have more to do with a better civics course and awareness/promotion program than the voting system.


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