Monday, August 27, 2007

More Thoughts on the NDP and MMP

My post on the NDP's decision to not campaign on MMP seems to have generated a lot of comments. I'd like to address a few of them.

Lord Kitchener has argued that campaign regulations are preventing the party from campaigning on MMP. You can read the campaign regulations here.

"Individuals or groups who choose to advertise in favour of one outcome or the other will be required to meet financial disclosure and reporting requirements. For example, those spending over $500 on advertising must register with Elections Ontario and file a report detailing advertising spending and contributions. Political parties and constituency associations will be prohibited from registering."

I think some New Democrats are hiding behind this regulation in order to justify the party's decision not to campaign on MMP in the upcoming provincial election.

The Green Party doesn't seem fazed by Election Ontario's edict. In fact, the Greens explicitly ask people to "Vote for Mixed Member Proportional in the electoral reform referendum" on their website and they link directly to the VOTE MMP campaign.

For its part, the Family Coalition Party writes on its main page:

At the same time as the election, on October 10, a Referendum question will be on the ballot. Electors will be asked whether they wish to maintain the current system or adopt the alternative Mixed Member Proportional system.


We believe that this change will give us an opportunity to represent you at Queen's Park, if the Referendum is approved. To read more please follow this link: "The new system of Election for Ontario"

The NDP, on the other hand, doesn't mention MMP anywhere on its main page. Electoral reform is not even listed in on the website under the CAMPAIGN heading.

You can be sure that fringe parties will make MMP a central theme of their respective campaigns. They know that Election Ontario's regulations do not prevent them from taking strong principled positions on issues of public policy. The NDP has simply chosen to follow the Liberals and Tories into neutral limbo by refusing to make electoral reform a key issue. The party could easily get around the flimsy regulations with a little imagination. For example, the NDP could advertise the position that "the NDP has strongly favoured electoral reform in the past and that an NDP government would move swiftly to implement a system of MMP if the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations are approved in the October 10 referendum". However, my understanding is that the Ontario NDP is very much keeping its distance in the same way that the British Columbia NDP refused to campaign on STV. In my view, this is a bad strategy.

Mark Greenan writes: "Do we want WANT the NDP campaigning on MMP? Frankly, I don't see it as important. There are many better things the Ontario NDP leadership can do to support MMP than campaign on it."

Really? What exactly could they do in an election campaign that would be more important or useful than advertise their support for MMP? Many NDP voters are as clueless about the proposal as the general public. If the NDP were to campaign on the issue, these voters would likely be more inclined to support MMP. Furthermore, having individual NDP campaigns coordinate literature drops with the VOTE MMP camp would be very helpful. The NDP's position precludes these types of coordinated activities.

Lastly, the Daily Dissidence and Jan From the Bruce hit the nail on the head when they point out that the NDP's failure to campaign on MMP will further alienate the party in a campaign that will likely be dominated by the issues of education reform and electoral reform. The NDP's weak position on both issues, which very much mirror the Liberal positions, will surely push the party to the sidelines. (You can read my views on the NDP and education reform here.) Many progressive voters who care dearly about education reform and electoral reform may just drift to the Greens, who seem to have adopted solid and clear positions on what are sure to be important wedge issues.

The NDP has dropped the ball by choosing to not campaign on MMP.


janfromthebruce said...

I guess the NDP just doesn't want to win. Let's see, the big unions seem to be lining up behind the liberals, including the OSSTF and the Catholic teachers federation. So unions will support libs and actively campaign for them.
So let's go at the larger chunk of the population that has voter yearnings.
Recent poll at one school system at almost 70%, which turns out to be 7 out of 10 voters. And this is climbing as the One School System Network is tracking how this Issue is becoming the issue.
I'm disgusted.
Can't wait till the next poll comes out and it hits 75% for one school system.
Perhaps the EPC will figure it out - too late!

Skinny Dipper said...

I did like what you wrote what the NDP could say in its campaign.

For example, the NDP could advertise the position that "the NDP has strongly favoured electoral reform in the past and that an NDP government would move swiftly to implement a system of MMP if the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations are approved in the October 10 referendum".

The above proposed statement is straight to the point and at the same time it doesn't take away from other issues that the NDP may be supporting.

The NDP does have a problem in that there seems to be less distinction between it and the Liberals than with the Greens. For example, the NDP and Liberals support the status quo on education funding for public and Catholic schools; the Greens support one school system. If I support the status quo, I'll support the Liberals. If I want one school system, I might vote Green.

Over the past years, the Green Party is campaigning on issues that go beyond just the environment. Education in Ontario is one example with supporting one school system. The Education issue will be key in driving voters from the Liberals to the Greens while bypassing the NDP. The Greens may get more votes but not any seats. The NDP may lose votes and seats.

After the election, the NDP should look at getting another leader. Howard Hampton may be a nice guy, but he has maintained a low profile since he became leader.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! I used to vote NDP. Their tepid support for PR is one of the big things that drove me to the Greens. My biggest complaint was that they talked a good talk on electoral reform when in campaign mode but forgot all about it after the election. At least maybe they won't be talking the talk this time. I quit expecting them to walk the walk a long time ago.

Jan, we been down this road before on the federal level and I've heard all the excuses why Jack "couldn't" use his balance of power in the Martin government wrt to PR. This newest wrinkle does more to confirm my disgruntlement and little to mitigate the party's lacklustre record on electoral reform.

BTW, I fully agree with Jan on the school funding issue. Even the World Court has ruled against our unfair system of funding RC schools. It should be a no-brainer. We need public education. We don't need religious education. Those who want it should be free to pay for it. They shouldn't be taking precious funding from the public system.


janfromthebruce said...

JimBobb, I don't mix apples and oranges here, such as feds and provs.
The analyses here is absolutely correct, in that if the school issue stays number 1, the NDP will be squeezed out. Too bad, one school system fits perfect with "their equity and fairness" campaign.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Let me be clear that I'm not 100% sure about the legalities of all of this, I was simply led to believe that political parties (though not their members of course, who are free to act as individuals) were specifically barred from supporting either side in the referendum (which made perfect sense to me, given that political parties are one of the very things that makes electoral reform so difficult to acheive, as parties don't want to give up their FPTP "electoral bonus").

Does anyonbe know if the Greens, or other smaller parties who are apparently actively campaigning for MMP have run into any trouble with Elections Ontario yet? It seemed to me that the referendum process was supposed to keep the political parties out of the debate, so that this issue could be settled by the PEOPLE, not the politicos. I was led to believe the regulations were set up to do specifically that; to remove the parties from the equation.

Was I misled?

Wilf Day said...

This is a silly discussion. Every New Democrat I know, and every media person I know of, is well aware that the NDP supports MMP, and has done so since the 2002 convention resolution saying so in detail.

Now if you want to discuss something relevant, take a look at ETFO's excellent webpage on the referendum:

Now watch in the next few days to see whether the OFL, OSSTF, and other major unions put up similar pages. Some will, all should. The NDP should not, of course, since reformers are busy telling all voters this is a multi-partisan citizens' campaign:

"The three of us reflect three competing, democratic, partisan traditions in Ontario. We differ on many matters of public policy. We strongly unite, however, in our commitment to an electoral system that is democratic in more than name. The Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform produced an imaginative and practical proposal that will give us more choice, fairer results and stronger representation. We urge all Ontarians to come together and vote Yes for MMP in the October 10 referendum.”

Carolyn Bennett, MP, Liberal Party
Ed Broadbent, former NDP leader
Senator Hugh Segal, Conservative Party"

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Sasky's had provincial NDP gummint fer a few years. What sorta progress have they made on PR? I'm askin' on accounta I don't know and I figger one o' you Dippers might know. Anythin' happenin' there?

I can see why MMP advocates might not want to have the issue too strongly associated with any party since it does cut across party lines.

On the school funding issue, I think the Grits an' Dippers is takin' the easy way out with the status quo approach. It's tougher to take away funding from Catholic schools than it is to continue witholding funding from other religious schools. Sometimes, we need to do the tough stuff. Anybuddy figgers full fundin' fer RC schools is fair and equittable's got their head in the sand, sez I.

I ain't sure the Dips' stance (or lack thereof) will hurt them much. Many of teh schools that would get funded under Tory's proposal would be fundamentalist Christian schools -- not exactly the NDP base.