This project is funded by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, and the Arts Research Board of McMaster University.
REFERENDUM QUESTIONS ANSWERED:
HAMILTON, ONTARIO, September 25, 2007 – The Political Science Department at McMaster University today announced it will be holding a public discussion forum on October 3, 2007 to bring together key figures in the debate on electoral reform, including leading Ontario academics; advocates for the “yes” and “no” sides of the referendum; members of the Citizen’s Assembly that developed the proposal; and the Minister responsible for the initiative, Dr. Marie Bountrogianni. The forum will inform students and local citizens on their referendum choices, in light of a proposal to change the Ontario electoral system which goes to referendum October 10, 2007. The forum brings a range of experts together to address questions about how the changes could affect voters, candidates, parties and various communities if implemented.
This is the first time ever that Ontario voters have been asked to decide how politicians should be elected in the province, and what kind of representation citizens will have in Queen’s Park. Yet many Ontarians still have questions about this referendum and would like more information about the proposal. “Elections are a critical element in representative democracy,” explains Dr. Robert O’Brien, Chair of the Political Science Department at McMaster. “We see it as part of our role to facilitate public debate on this issue, so we are pleased to host the Minister, distinguished experts, and representatives from both sides of the debate. We look forward to an open and informative discussion.”
The forum will outline the two options facing voters—our current first-past-the-post system and the system proposed under the referendum reform, known as Mixed Member Proportional or MMP. Not only is the referendum unprecendented, but the reform proposal itself is the result of a unique process known as the Citizen’s Assemby. The Assembly brought together ordinary citizens from across the province to debate the best ways to improve political representation in Ontario, and the referendum proposal reflects their work on this question.
One of the speakers at the McMaster forum will be Jeff Witt, a local resident who served on the Citizens’ Assembly. Witt says “We worked for eight months, studying and comparing electoral systems before making our recommendation. I want to ensure sure that other citizens have an opportunity to reflect on the options before they go to the polls.” Other speakers will include the Minister for Democratic Renewal, Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain), political scientists Dr. Karen Bird (an expert on women’s representation) and Dr. David Docherty (an expert on Ontario politics and legislative behaviour), as well as the Ontario Chairs of both the YES and NO sides of the campaign. Says Dr. Bird, “This could be an important step forward in the representation of minorities and women in Ontario, but we need to make sure people understand the process and feel comfortable with the changes.”
As part of this year’s provincial election, on October 10, voters will face a referendum question on the proposed electoral changes. Similar electoral reform initiatives have already been considered in British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick, and PEI, but only Ontario and BC are addressing the issue through a public referendum.
The event is sponsored by the Political Science Department at McMaster University. It will be held Wednesday, October 3, from 7-9 pm, in Council Chambers, Gilmour Hall, rm. 111.
For further information, or to schedule an interview contact:
Dr. Karen Bird, Associate Professor, Political science
Dr. Robert O’Brien, Chair of Political Science