Citizens' assembly probes changes to electoral system
Recommendations could change the way MPPs are elected in the upcoming provincial election this fall

By Mike Pearson
Published January 5th 2007 in Ancaster News
Voters looking to change Ontario's electoral system are being asked to speak up.

Through the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, The Ontario government is examining the current first past the post model that elects provincial members.

Under the current model, governments are frequently elected without achieving a majority of voter support. Liberals won nearly 70 per cent of seats in the legislature in 2003 with only 46 per cent of the vote.

Besides Canada, only the U.S. the U.K. and India use the first past the post system.

Jeff Witt, a Flamborough resident, was selected to represent the riding of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot.

Members of the Assembly were selected at random by Elections Ontario from the Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario. Every registered voter was eligible to participate, with a few exceptions, such as elected officials.

Mr. Witt said assembly members have looked at dozens of electoral systems from across the globe. Assembly members have been meeting about twice each month since September.

"We've looked at them all," Mr. Witt said. "We've been cautioned not to prejudge any one system over the other."

Mr. Witt said models of proportional representation have received the most vocal public support. Under proportional representation, parties are typically assigned seats in the legislature according to the level of popular vote they receive. In theory, a party garnering 35 per cent of the vote would receive 35 per cent of the seats. But there are several variations to the system.

"The key phrase is how to turn those votes into seats, Mr. Witt said."

Another proposal is the mixed member proportional system which would allow voters to select both a party and a local candidate, even if that candidate is from a different party.

"A lot of people say they like the party but don't like the local candidate, or vice-versa," Mr. Witt explained.

A public meeting of the citizen's assembly was held on Dec. 6 in Hamilton. The next public session for this riding will be held in Burlington on Jan.18 at the Burlington Art Centre from 7-10 p.m.

After public consultations and written submissions are presented, the assembly will recommend either to keep the province's current electoral system or adopt a new one. That recommendation will be outlined in a report due by May 15 of this year.

If the assembly recommends changing the electoral system, the government will put the question to voters in a province-wide referendum by October 2007.

Mr. Witt said he expects the vote to coincide with a provincial election later this fall.

Mr. Witt said the assembly's mandate could also include what information is contained on the ballot. He noted that some country's ballots include candidates' names and addresses, plus the party logo.

The citizens' assembly is independent of government and consists of 103 randomly-selected citizens - one from each of Ontario's electoral districts. With the chair, there are 52 members of each gender in the assembly, plus one aboriginal member.

To contact Mr. Witt, e-mail [email protected] more on the citizens' assembly, visit The site allows respondents to send written submissions online to the assembly.