Mixed member proportional representation is a voting system used to elect representatives to numerous legislatures around the world. MMP is similar to other forms of proportional representation (PR) in that the overall total of party members in the elected body is intended to mirror the overall proportion of votes received.

Q: What is MMP?

A: MMP or mixed-member proportional representation is a political system used in places like New Zealand and Germany, where voters cast a two-part ballot, selecting both a preferred local candidate and a political party.

In Ontario’s version, voters would choose “local” MPPs in the traditional way in 90 newly created, larger ridings instead of the existing 107 constituencies. With their vote for the party of their choice on the second part of the ballot, they would also select an additional 39 MPPs from lists of candidates compiled by the parties.

These “list” MPPs would be elected based on their parties’ popular vote, to top up a party’s tally of “local” MPPs and more accurately reflect results across the province. The Legislature would be expanded to 129 MPPs to accommodate the changes.

Q: What are the advantages of MMP?

A: Smaller parties like the Greens, the Family Coalition and the Freedom Party would have a chance at winning seats in the Legislature even if they cannot win a riding outright. Any party that wins at least 3 per cent of the popular vote would be awarded four “list” seats. It would mean the end of majority governments when a party has won less than half the vote and prevent scenarios like former NDP premier Bob Rae’s landslide victory in 1990 with 37.6 per cent of the vote.

Q: What are the disadvantages of MMP?

A: Critics charge the 39 “list” MPPs would not be directly elected and the parties could use the lists as a sort of Senate to reward party apparatchiks, financial donors or others. As well, it would likely spell the end of decisive, majority governments since no party has won 50 per cent or more of the popular vote since 1937.

Q: What is “first past the post”?

A: “First-past-the-post,” or FPTP, is the current method of electing MPPs and is how Canadians have traditionally chosen federal and provincial representatives. It is a winner-take-all system, where the candidate with the most votes wins a riding. The political party that wins the most electoral districts forms the government.

Q: What are the advantages of FPTP?

A: Simplicity and familiarity. The system is in use in countries around the world, including Britain and the United States, and has served Ontario and Canada for generations.

Q: What are the disadvantages of FPTP?

A: The winner-take-all nature of it means that the majority’s voting intent may not be honoured. In recent history, most Ontario voters did not want Dalton McGuinty, Mike Harris or Bob Rae as premier, yet all three were elected with majority governments. It also means the ballots of dissenting voters in ridings won by the Liberals, Tories or New Democrats are meaningless province-wide. In theory, a party could win all 107 seats by winning every riding with a little over one-third of the vote.

Q: Who selected MMP as the alternative to FPTP?

A: The new system was proposed by the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, a group of 104 people – 103 randomly selected to represent every riding, plus George Thomson, a former judge and senior civil servant, who chaired the panel. The panel prepared a report for the government after holding public hearings.

Q: How do I vote in the referendum?

A: There will be a separate referendum ballot that can be cast when you submit your election ballot. Both ballots will go in the same box.

Q: What does it take for the referendum to pass?

A: The proposal must be approved by a “super majority” of 60 per cent of the votes cast across Ontario and by at least 50 per cent of the voters in 64 of the 107 ridings.

Q: If passed, when would the new system take effect?

A: It would be in place for the next provincial election scheduled for 2011. However, if there is a minority government after Oct. 10, the next election could come as early as 2008.

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