If you feel uninformed and confused about Ontario's referendum on electoral reform, or even if you didn't realize we were having a referendum on the same day as election day, one note of comfort:
You are -- by far -- not alone.
The October 10 Referendum will ask voters to choose between the electoral system we have now (known as first-past-the-post or FPTP) and a system called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). To find out official information on the referendum, including what the ballot will look like, visit yourbigdecision.ca, Elections Ontario's special referendum web site.
In helping TVO's Queen's Park Bureau Chief Susanna Kelley produce our September 27 special program on the Ontario Referendum, I've heard many stories of people completely bewildered by how MMP would work. The Agenda's director, Michael Smith, told me he has a friend who's actually gone to a couple of meetings discussing MMP and still doesn't understand it.
You can't blame Michael's friend: Whatever its merits might be, MMP is much more difficult to explain than our first-past-the-post system: In the FAQ section of yourbigdecision.ca, it takes about 20 lines of text to explain MMP, while FTFP is explained in a mere seven lines.
Resources to help you understand
But there are resources out there to help you better understand MMP. Apart from yourbigdecision.ca, you can visit the official Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform web site. There not only can you get a step-by-step explanation of the MMP system, but an illustrated example of how it would work. Plus there's background information on why the citizens who were asked to review Ontario's electoral system came up with the recommendation that they did.
I'd also recommend TVO's own Citizens' Assembly web page, and not just because I work here. There's a lot of good information on the TVO site, including a documentary by Gemini Award-winning producer David Hawkins on the Citizens' Assembly process, and the pros and cons of the recommendation to adopt MMP.
The TVO site also features a video animation prepared for TVO by Centennial College student Steve Newberry. The animation does a pretty good job of explaining in simple terms how MMP would work. It can be found easily on the site's main page.
Resources to help you decide
While the referendum question hasn't gotten a lot of attention yet, pro-MMP and anti-MMP camps are hard at work trying to convince the public to either vote for MMP or FTFP. A prominent pro-MMP site is Vote for MMP, and a prominent pro-FTFP/anti-MMP site is No MMP. Both sites make their case on how you should vote and provide links to articles, commentaries and blogs that bolster their position. Each site also has a list of prominent Ontarians who are voting either for MMP or for FTFP.
May we have a moment of your time?
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