Wednesday, October 10, 2007

MMP? I vote no!

I was hoping to put together a nice studied essay about why I'm voting no to the Mixed Member Proportional referendum. But yeah, that didn't happen. So now it's voting day and I at least want to get something out there, so forgive me if this one rambles a bit...

A year ago, long before I'd ever heard of MMP, a friend of mine came back from a vacation trip to New Zealand. He was there for over a month and drove from top to bottom; and being more politically aware than I; was smart enough to ask the local Kiwis about their MMP system wherever he went.

In a word, it's crap. The core candidates in each party are on the top of the proportional list, and people are stuck with them election after election after election, no matter how hated they may become. The folks they actually can vote for tend to have very little voice within the parties they represent and basically just back-bench for them. They've had nothing but minority governments (their word is coalition) since the introduction of MMP, so basically, nothing ever gets done quickly and costs way more than it should by the time it does get done.

The yes side's strongest point is that it will give a more representative government to minorities and rural areas. Why? The minorities point is basically a bigoted statement that says "Hey, these people can't get elected any other way." a) I strongly resent that, and b) if it were true, why would they be more likely to be selected by their party for the proportional list, and not just on the list but near the top, where placement actually gets them a seat? They wouldn't be. Nothing in the proposed MMP legislation gives minorities any more of a voice. As for rural areas the number of ridings would be REDUCED under MMP, meaning less rural seats and less chance for rural legislation to come about.

Democracy is not about the power of the vote, it's about the power of the fear of the next vote. Under either system, your vote says very little about your beliefs or how you feel on any of the major issues, it's just a multiple choice where you pick the lessor of two or three evils. Where your voice really counts is between elections. When you let your representative, WHETHER YOU VOTED FOR THEM OR NOT, know how you feel. That keeps the fear in them; that keeps them honest. The 39 proposed MMP seats are not directly elected in any riding, and fear of a single vote, your vote, is greatly reduced.

I hated it when the PC candidate was elected to my riding in the last federal election; not that I love the Liberals, but again; it was a lessor of three evils thing. Like it or not though, he is my representative, and I've made sure to keep him up to date on how I feel about gay marriage, climate change, tax breaks versus debt reduction, etc. He doesn't know, and doesn't need to know, how I voted in the last election. I can assure you that he does care a lot about how I'll vote in the next one. And that's how my voice gets heard. With MMP, 30% of our 'elected' representatives (from the top of the lists and no doubt the movers and shakers of their parties) don't have to care. Ouch!

In the end, with MMP, you might see one or two seats held by non-traditional parties, but that's basically about it. The price we'll pay is an endless series of minority governments where that one green guy or pot girl who now has a seat is as powerless and irrelevant to the overall process as they've always been. (Forgot to mention it above but my friend reports that down NZ way, a lot of time in parliament is wasted voting down ridiculous legislation proposed by the new fringe seats.) Real change, even on crucial issues, will suddenly take decades instead of years and cost a lot more to implement due to the wonderful magic of inflation.

Yeah, uhm, no thanks!


Even if you don't traditionally go out and cast a vote, politics is something you're likely to grow into at some point. (You sure couldn't have told me 10 years ago that I'd give a shit.) The results of this referendum is something we'll have to live with for a long time, so read about it, think about it, vote on it.