Get informed on Referendum 2007’
Most Ontarians, are well aware that this October they will be heading to the polls to cast their vote in the Ontario General Election and are adequately informed to make a decision. But, what most are not aware of, is that a provincial electoral reform referendum will also take place that very day.
On Oct. 10, electors will be asked to consider the following: Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature? The current electoral system, First-Past-the-Post, or the alternative electoral system proposed by members of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP)?
The Citizens Assembly, a group of 103 randomly selected citizens from across Ontario, was established by the Premier in 2004 to study provincial electoral reform.
Back in May, the assembly’s report, delivered to the McGuinty government, said the new Mixed Member Proportional system preserves the best of the electoral system we have now—strong local representation—while adding new elements to produce more proportional election results.
Local MPP Howard Hampton applauded the report and its ideas, and the upcoming referendum.
“We think that it’s a better system than what we currently have in Ontario,” said Hampton. “We are generally in favour of proportional representation,” he added. “It would better reflect what the actual popular vote was.”
And as a result of their proposal to adopt MMP, the Oct. 10 referendum is being held.
At this time, voters will be asked to vote on two ballots. One ballot will be for voting in the general election and the other will be for the referendum.
The existing electoral system has been in place since 1792, making this October’s referendum a historic event. Recent research conducted by the firm Ipsos Reid indicated that a majority of Ontarians are unaware that a referendum will be held on Oct. 10, and many don’t understand the significance of a referendum.
So its seems, now is the time to become informed.
How First-Past-the-Post works
Currently, the province of Ontario is divided into 107 electoral districts. In each district, voters get one vote each to choose which candidate they feel should win a seat in the provincial legislature. In other words—one vote, one ballot.
Using this system, the candidate with the most votes wins and will be the representative for the electoral district in the provincial legislature.
After the election concludes, the political party that wins the most electoral districts is normally asked to form a government.
This new system will see voters cast two votes: one for a local candidate, or “Local Member,” and one for a party “List Member.” The party vote is the popular vote, and determines the total number of seats a party wins.
With this system, the provincial legislature would consist of 129 seats: “Local Members” would fill 90 seats while “List Members,” would be asked to form a government.
Each party will nominate a slate of candidates, which they must publish beforehand. This will allow voters to decide whether a party developed its list in a fair and open way.
If a party elects fewer local members than its share of the popular vote, candidates from its list then are elected to compensate for the difference.
A party must have clear support—at least three percent—of the popular vote across the province—for a candidate from its list to be elected.
In the end, a political party’s overall share of seats will roughly equal its share of the total votes for parties in the province.
“Understand the Question”
With the lack of knowledge about the October referendum, Elections Ontario has launched its biggest and most expensive public education campaign, called “Understand the Question,” for the historic electoral reform referendum.
Budgeting $6.8 million for public education, Elections Ontario wants to make sure the people of Ontario make the right choice come October by making an informed decision when casting a vote.
“Our mandate is to ensure that Ontario voters make the right decision on Oct. 10,” said John Hollins, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Ontario.
“Vote for MMP will support all public education initiatives and dialogue on this historic referendum choice so Ontarians can make a thoughtful and informed choice on the future of our electoral democracy,” said Larry Gordon, the “Vote for MMP” campaign manager.
“The more educational initiatives, discussion and debate, the better. We need an informed decision by voters on Oct. 10, and we’re confident an informed decision will lead to overwhelming majority support for the MMP recommendation made by the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly.”
This communication campaign will ensure the 8.5 million Ontario voters are prepared for the referendum by:
•launching a Elections Ontario referendum public education website, www.yourbigdecision.ca;
•providing a public toll free information telephone line, 1-888-ONTVOTE (1-888-668-8683);
•designing a Facebook profile and group to increase referendum awareness to younger voters;
•launching a community-level French and English media relations program to distribute impartial information;
•a province-wide “Understanding the Question” French and English radio campaign;
•resources officers will deliver the message within their local communities;
•a Youtube information site and a downloadable widget;
•a province-wide “Understanding the Question” French and English television campaign; and
•the distribution of information via both direct mail and e-mail.