It stands for Mixed Member Proportional.

In the upcoming Ontario provincial election, we are also asked to vote on whether or not to change our current electoral system from a first past the post to a mixed member proportional system. As far as I can recall, this is the first time I have ever been asked to vote for a new government and in a referendum simultaneously.

In Canada and all the provinces and territories, our electoral system is a representational system. That is, the region involved in the election is subdivided into smaller regions (for this election, Ontario is divided into 107 regions or seats). Each region elects a representative to the legislature. In general, representatives belong to one of the 3 major political parties in Ontario (Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, and New Democratic Party). There are other parties, but they are small and generally don't account for much of the popular vote. On occasion an independent candidate will be elected, however, he (can't think of any independently elected women) was previously a member of one of the major parties and left because of disagreements.

Candidates are elected on a first past the post system. This means that the candidate with the most votes in a given riding wins the seat for that riding. If there are five candidates for a given seat, it is theoretically possible for a candidate to win with just over 20% of the popular vote.

As a general rule, the parliamentary makeup does not reflect the popular vote. It is not uncommon to have a majority government with less than a majority popular vote (for example, in the Canadian election of 1993, the Liberals had 60% of the seats in parliament with only 41% of the popular vote, the Bloc Quebecois had slightly more than 18% of the seats with only 13.5% of the popular vote and the Reform party had slightly less than 18% of the seats with 18.7% of the popular vote. See full results here).

The mixed member proportional system attempts to correct this by increasing the number of seats in parliament to 129 from the current 107. Those seats would be divided into 2 groups: 90 to be filled by direct vote (as we do now), the remaining 39 to be filled from party lists to try and balance out parliament based on popular vote.

While this is not a perfect representational system, it goes some way to correcting the imbalance of the current first past the post system. Despite its flaws, I will be voting for it. It may be an imperfect step towards representational democracy, but it is a step in the right direction.

However, I think it will likely not pass because awareness of it is poor. As well, people irrationally hold on to the notion of electing their member of parliament when in reality they are electing a political party in which their member has little true autonomy. Finally, given the choice, most people don't really like change.

[Updated 11-October-2007 @ 07:45 EST. The referendum on Mixed Member Proportional representation was soundly rejected with 63% of voters wanting to keep the First Past the Post system.]


I'll be voting for it too. At least I can think that my vote for the party and what I really want will not be wasted because that particular party member is not popular in my riding.
tin-tin said…
coz people are scared of changes.. of something unknown
Richard said…
MOI: I have always voted for the candidate, not the party, but our system is really about the party and not the candidate. I should point out that I have never once successfully voted for my member of parliament, nor have I every successfully voted for the party in power. I think Canada needs a more representative system of democracy (of course, I can also go on about democracy ... maybe one daya I shall).

tin-tin: it is not always fear. Sometimes it is just laziness, much easier not to change than to make the effort to change. Kind of like sitting on the sofa watching TV: you know you should go out for a walk and exercise a bit, but you are just to lazy to make the effort and change your habit.

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