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Local candidates split on referendum issue

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FRANCES—With election day coming up Oct. 10, and advance polls open as of Tuesday, district voters will have two decisions to make when checking off their ballots—who to elect to represent Kenora-Rainy River at Queen’s Park and whether or not to change the current electoral system.

Voters will have to decide between the existing system (the so-called “First Past the Post”) or the proposed Mixed Member Proportional one—in which parties would be assigned extra seats in the legislature based on the percentage of the popular vote they garnered.

The four local candidates have differing opinions on what they think would be best for constituents.

“I’m in favour of proportional representation. In fact, the New Democrats have long been in favour of proportional representation,” said NDP leader and incumbent MPP Howard Hampton.

“If you look at a lot of the progressive countries in Europe—Norway, Denmark, Sweden Finland, Germany, Holland—they all have some form of proportional representation and it’s working well.

“They have stable governments, they have good democratic participation, most people come out and vote, most people take part and are engaged in the important social questions.

“I think we would be well-served if we moved in that direction,” he added.

Hampton noted the benefit of the new system would outweigh any downside.

“I know some folks say, ‘Oh, will Northern Ontario lose some seats?’ Under the current electoral system, Northern Ontario will lose two seats probably by about 2010.

“So what might or might not happen under proportional representation will be no worse than what would happen under the current system,” he argued.

“What proportional representation does that’s important is the electoral results most closely reflect [how] people actually voted. If 30 percent of the voters voted for this party, then that party, more or less, gets 30 percent of the seats.

“I think that’s good,” said Hampton.

“What I think it does is encourage participation.” he continued. “There’s no such thing as a lost vote. You might not elect someone at the constituency level, but your vote will elect someone on a larger level.

“You might not win your riding, but you’ll win a seat at large,” he noted.

Also in favour of the Mixed Member Proportional option is Green Party candidate Jo Jo Holiday.

“This province hasn’t seen a change in its voting style in over 200 years,” she said last week. “There was 103 randomly-chosen folks from Ontario to form a citizens’ assembly.”

Holiday said she supports the change, though she’s sure with new change that there will be glitches to be ironed out.

“Let's move forward, give the voter more control over his/her decision, and be able to make politics work,” she remarked.

On other hand, local Liberal candidate Mike Wood said the proposed system would not benefit the Kenora-Rainy River riding.

“This would be my own personal opinion, but I think it’s bad for the north. I’m personally voting against it,” he remarked.

“I believe the chances of diluting our voice are too great,” Wood added. “And I’m not interested in diluting our voice any more than it already has been.”

“Personally, I think it’s going to get more confusing for the voters,” said Progressive Conservative candidate Penny Lucas.

“We have trouble getting the voters out now. I can’t imagine if we changed the way we vote how that’s going to increase voter participation,” she added.

(Fort Frances Times)

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