You would think if a referendum in which the outcome would massively restructure electoral democracy in a province, there would be continuous debate in the press, in communities, and by the political parties themselves. Not so in Ontario.
The October provincial election will have a referendum question, asking citizens if they support a proportional representation scheme (“mixed member proportional”, or MMP). Here, 90 members would be elected directly by communities/geograhical areas they represent. Political parties would choose the remaining 39 members, with seats distributed proportionally by votes received. To succeed, the referendum requires both a 60% majority and a majority in at least 64 ridings.
So why doesn’t it have a chance? Political parties are actually legally prevented from taking official public positions on MMP. This courtesy of the governing Liberal party, who made sure that debate would be limited to occasional pieces in the newspaper and television. Coincidentally the Liberals may have the most to lose in proportional representation. Strategic voting, one of the benefits of occupying the political “middle” and having relatively little policy, would be no more. The NDP, and even parties considered marginal now like the Greens, would take big bites out of that soft Liberal support.
If I was a bettor, I’d guess that MMP will get in the low 40 percent range. This outcome will have more to do with people not knowing what it means, rather than their disapproval of proportional representation.