Sunday, September 23, 2007

Discussing MMP

A friend from university is living in Europe these days (lucky guy) but is still an Ontarian and is getting ready to vote in the upcoming election. He's been trying to read-up on MMP, and he asked me a question the other day that I thought was interesting, and it was one I hadn't heard before so I thought I'd share it:

What happens if one of these (list) guys votes against the party due to his concience? Are they kicked out of caucus then they have no party to vote with and no constituency to represent?

It's an interesting question. With no constituency to represent and no party to be a part of they'd essentially be a free agent. Obviously, if they're now not in any party (assuming they don't join another caucus) if they wanted to get re-elected it would have to be as a constituency MPP, so they'd have to chose a riding (if they hadn't already) to unofficially represent and start working the grassroots.

Something else occurs to me though. Would a list MPP be more beholden to their party, more apt to tow the party line, in order to stay high on the party list next time, perhaps feeling they couldn't get elected directly, without the list's help?

Food for thought. I'm still trying to wrap my head around MMP but I'll need to do it soon, as I'll be down in Las Vegas for a work trip on E-Day. I'll see if I can find out what odds they're offering on the referendum...

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Scott Tribe said...

Actually... technically, if the Electoral Commssion of Ontario were to draw up regional areas as discussed by Greg Morrow, they would be representing a regional constituency.

Steve V said...

Jeff, I would say these people would be less likely to vote against their party, because they would have to be loyalists to get on the list in the first place. I don't see how a maverick, free-thinking person, would ever make it on the list in the first place, "nominations" or not.

Ben said...

It's an issue in Ukraine (and Russia) -- should the party list seats belong to the party (the so-called "imperative" mandate) or to the individuals then assigned them? (Said individuals were open to bribery -- that's the problem seen in Kiev.)

Matt Guerin said...

These are interesting questions. As the list MPP would've been elected from his/her party's slate, one would assume that this person should tow the party line on key votes. I would expect that those key votes would be budget votes, throne speech votes, confidence votes, etc. However, it's true that the list MPP could still vote against their party on conscience issues. I don't know what would happen in this instance. Obviously the law would have to flesh out what happens in this kind of situation. Can list MPPs switch parties? I'd say the law should say no. If the list MPP voted against the party on an issue and was kicked out, should that list MPP be forced to resign their seat and let the next person on the list take the seat? Maybe so.

Currently, there are no rules on MPPs switching parties. Or being kicked out of the party. We only have historical precedence. Sure now an MPP can be elected as a Liberal and then switch to the Tories and voters have no say about it until the next election. I'd suspect that any legislation implementing MMP (should it pass) might remain mostly silent on these issues, except perhaps how to deal with a list seat that becomes vacant for whatever reason - the party would get the next person on their list who is still available. Perhaps such legislation could deal with list MPPs switching parties. Obviously a list MPP switching parties undermines the proportional element of the system, so perhaps that might not be possible. I'd like to see how other jurisdictions with MMP deal with this issue on the law books. Likely that would be our guide on how to deal with it here.

Scott Tribe said...

Hey Steve:

Regardless If they're democratically elected at nomination meetings like they are elsewhere, (and as the NDP has promised to do), or if some or all of them get picked by the party leadership, they're no less likely or more likely to vote against their party then they are now.. We don't exactly have the provincial parties with MPP's will-nilly voting against their party's platform.

Dan said...

"Something else occurs to me though. Would a list MPP be more beholden to their party, more apt to tow the party line, in order to stay high on the party list next time, perhaps feeling they couldn't get elected directly, without the list's help?"

I think most MPPs are pretty beholden to the party these days anyway. They're trying to get cabinet positions and things of that sort. It isn't like we currently have lots of maverick free-thinking MPPS now anyway.

northwestern_lad said...

This question opens up an interesting dilmna. Let me add this twist to this. Because under MMP, voters do not directly elect those MMP MPP's, they are voting for a party, not an MPP. So if the resulting MMP MPP got kicked out of that party for not towing the party line, does that seat belong to the MMP MPP or the party itself??? I would suggest that the seat would belong to the party, not the individual MPP because the voters voted for a party, not that individual. Therefore, the party might be able to send the MMP MPP packing and just simply replace him with someone who is loyal. At least under FPTP, you can say that that seat belongs to the MPP because they were directly elected. The party they support is irrelevant in this situation for them.

But what was said earlier about how these MMP MPP's would be beholden to the parties makes sense because those MMP MPP's want to be higher up on those lists, and the best way to ensure that is to tow the party line.

Gauntlet said...

This is exactly the concern that I have about MMP. Once you come to the conclusion that MMP necessarily makes a greater portion of the legislature MORE beholden to political parties, you have to look at what the consequences of that are. More partisan debate, less respect for politicians, more power in the hands of party leaders whose selection processes are not governed by federal legislation.

As I said on my blog, MMP is probably the best that Ontario can get now, though STV would have been better. I encourage Ontarians to vote for it. But I also encourage them to think seriously about what they're going to have to do to balance out its negative effects.

I'm thinking about that myself, and when I have some ideas, I'll let people know.

Scott Tribe said...

Hello Jeff: A possible answer to your query - someone asked a similar question of Peter MacLeod:

Can politicians still cross the floor under MMP?

Great question! Let me answer this two ways because it begs a second question: what happens if an MPP resigns or is unable to complete their term? Basically, all electoral systems have rules to fill seats that may become vacant between elections and the MMP system would be no different.

Under the proposed MMP system if a local seat becomes vacant, a by-election will be held. This is the practice under Ontario’s current system and unlike an MMP general election, there would be no second party vote on this by-election ballot. If a list seat becomes vacant, Elections Ontario will select the next available person on that party’s list as submitted for the previous general election.

Governing what happens when an MPP crosses the floor is a bit more complicated. If they represent a local seat, then they would be free to cross.

If a member was elected from the list, then it is likely that the legislature would adopt a rule forcing the MPP to resign and run again, either for a riding or on the other party's list at the time of the next general election. Of course, if that member resigned, the list seat would be filled by the next available person on the party's list.

Of course, more complicated still is if a party wishes to discipline a member by ejecting them from the party's caucus. If the member is elected from a riding, then they would be free to join another party's caucus or sit as an independent. If the member had been elected from that party's list, it's likely that the leader of the party could simply call for their resignation from the legislature.

This was not part of the Assembly's recommendation because strictly speaking it is outside the purview of the electoral system. Once elected, it is up to the legislators themselves to create the House rules that govern these unusual scenarios.

northwestern_lad said...

Scott... Thanks for posting that response. That answer just builds on my thought that those MMP seats do not belong to the MMP MPP's, they belong to the party. Therefore if an MMP MPP took a principled stand on an issue and got booted from caucus for it, they could lose their seat all together. That means that those MMP MPP must suck up to the party to keep their seats, to keep their place.

I've never really thought much of the "back-room boys" argument, but this scenario does play that out pretty well. At the end of the day, these MMP MPP's would not be directly elected and as a result would not be directly responsible to the voters. It's "the party" that is, and therefore, "the party" will work towards their own self-interests.

Steve V said...

I agree that our current system doesn't see too many free-thinkers, but I'm not sure it's a good thing to further entrench that mindset, it might just add another layer of cronyism.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Obviously the law would have to flesh out what happens in this kind of situation.

I'm not sure how comfortable I am then, since it seems like I'm being asked to vote (on the referendum) somewhat blindly, without all the facts.

What I like about the current, rather flawed though, system is that, in theory, it recognized that while someone may be elected under a party banner their first duty is as a representative of their constituents. That's why someone can cross the floor now, because they are elected, not their party.

While I recognize that, since the list is designed to correct inequalities in seat distribution, it would make sense in theory for a booted/quit list MPP's seat to be retained by the party, I don't think I like that in practice. I think once the person is in office, whether it's via list or direct, it needs to be their seat. I don't like the party being able to yank it away or fill it with another person if they get out of line. That would create two classes of MPPs.

they're no less likely or more likely to vote against their party then they are now

But it still happens. See Joe Commuzi, Garth Turner, Michael Chong, Bill how this would be handled under MMP is very relevant.

Interesting excerpt you posted further down, but it looks like the meat of it is that the answer is TBD. How it's handled in jurisdictions that currently have MMP would be interesting.