Ontario electoral reform referendum, 2007

Ontario electoral reform referendum, 2007
Results of the Referendum by Riding

An Ontario electoral reform referendum was held on October 10, 2007, in an attempt to establish a mixed member proportional representation (MMP) system for elections to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. However, the vote went heavily in favour of the existing plurality voting or "first-past-the-post" (FPTP) system.


Proposed changes to the electoral system

Currently, Ontario elects Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) using the single member plurality, or so-called "first past the post" (FPTP), system. In this system, each voter gives one vote to a candidate in an electoral district; the candidate with the most votes wins and is charged with representing all voters in the electoral district. In most cases, the party with the highest number of elected candidates is asked to form a government.

The Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform proposed a mixed member proportional representation system. In this system, a voter casts two votes: one for a candidate (or "local member") and one for a political party. The local member is elected in an FPTP-style election and represents the electoral district, while the political party vote determines, in conjunction with the number of elected local members belonging to each party, how many list members a party receives. A list member is a candidate on an ordered list that a party issues before the election; if the MMP formula determines that a party can have more seats than it won locally, it receives a "top up" number of list seats. Under this new system, the Legislature would have 129 seats: 90 local members (70% of the Legislature) and 39 list members (30% of the Legislature).

In the proposed system, list members would be assigned using the largest remainder method based on the Hare quota. The number of seats would be determined by figuring out the "quota" (the number of votes divided by the number of seats) for a seat, and distributing all seats proportionally (including local winners) based on this quota. Fractional seats would be given to the parties in rank order of the fractional amounts — bigger fractions first, until all seats are assigned. For cases (expected to be rare) where a party received more local seats than its share of the party vote, resulting in "overhang seats", in order to distribute seats proportionally to the remaining parties, the Hare formula would be reapplied using the total number of seats in the legislature minus the seats won by parties with one or more overhangs.[1]

After local and list members were assigned, a political party's overall share of seats would roughly equal its share of the party vote, thus the results are proportional. The conventions as to which party is asked to form a government would remain unchanged.

The referendum was held concurrently with the 2007 provincial election and, if passed, would have been in effect in any subsequent election. To pass, the alternative system required 60% support across the board, and at least 50% support in 64 of the 107 (60% of total) ridings. If successful, the new government would have proposed and passed new law for MMP by December 31, 2008.[2]

Referendum question

On June 20, 2007, the Ontario Democratic Renewal Secretariat announced that cabinet had decided on the wording of the referendum question:[3]

Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature? / Quel système électoral l’Ontario devrait-il utiliser pour élire les députés provinciaux à l’Assemblée législative?

  • The existing electoral system (First-Past-the-Post) / L’actuel système électoral (système de la majorité relative)
  • The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional) / L’autre système électoral proposé par l’Assemblée des citoyens (système de représentation proportionnelle mixte)

The question took many by surprise, including Fair Vote Canada, who were expecting a question requiring a Yes or No answer as had been the case in B.C. The referendum question appeared on a separate referendum ballot given to electors voting in the 2007 Ontario general election.


For detailed results, see Ontario electoral reform referendum, 2007 detailed results

With 27,676 out of 27,680 polls reporting:[4]

Response to # of votes in favour % of votes in favour # of ridings in favour
First-Past-the-Post 2,704,652 63.1 102
Mixed Member Proportional 1,579,684 36.9 5
Total 4,284,336 100 107

For results by riding see the riding pages. The data is taken from Elections Ontario

Elections Ontario education campaign

The process had begun November 18, 2004, when Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the creation of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. Modelled on the British Columbia equivalent, the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform (British Columbia), its recommendation would go to a province-wide referendum, as was done in B.C.

Enabling legislation was tabled in the spring of 2005. However, it was not passed until June 13, 2005, after an all-party agreement to delay the process while a Select Committee held hearings. As a result, the Citizens' Assembly did not get underway until March 27, 2006, and held the first meeting of its 104 members September 9, 2006.

The Ontario Citizens' Assembly recommended that a comprehensive, well-funded public education program, beginning in May 2007 (right after it released its final report) and continuing through to the referendum in October, be undertaken to assist voters with their decision. The Assembly recommended that the education campaign include a description of the new system and how it differs from the current system; a description of the Citizens’ Assembly process; and the Assembly’s rationale for recommending a Mixed Member Proportional system for Ontario. This would ensure that Ontarians could make an informed decision.[5]

A June Environics poll showed that 70% of those polled were not familiar with the proposal, including over 50% who knew nothing about the upcoming referendum.[6]

The McGuinty government decided to mandate Elections Ontario to direct the education campaign, but Elections Ontario didn't formally launch its public education campaign until August 2007.[7]

The projected cost for the referendum was $6.825 million,[8] an amount that fell short of the minimum $13 million called for by Fair Vote Canada. The assigned money would give one mailout to each Ontario household, a part-time Referendum Resource Officer in each of the province's ridings, a call centre and a website. Although the Citizens' Assembly had produced a shorter version of their report and a short leaflet further summarizing it, Elections Ontario distributed neither, to the surprise and disappointment of the Citizens' Assembly. By contrast, in British Columbia the Citizens' Assembly material was distributed to every household.

By late September 2007, public understanding of the question was still low, with 47% of respondents telling pollster Strategic Counsel they knew nothing at all about the new system, while 41% knew a little and only 12% knew a lot.[9]



The New Democratic Party of Ontario supported the referendum; however, party leader Howard Hampton criticized the system for giving Northern Ontario a decreased number of ridings.[10] The Green Party of Ontario also lent its support.[11]

Other political parties lending their support to electoral reform included the Family Coalition Party of Ontario,[12] and the Communist Party of Ontario.[13]

The proposed system received critical support from Fair Vote Canada, which organized the Vote for MMP campaign,[14] a multi-partisan citizens' based campaign. Vote for MMP had received a long list of public endorsements[15] from all parts of the political spectrum. In addition, over 140 professors of law and politics have endorsed MMP.[16]

The women's group Equal Voice were also critically supportive during Select Committee on Electoral Reform hearings,[17] speaking in support of proportional representation. Equal Voice, with the support of the Doris Anderson Fund has organized the Equal Voice in Politics[18] campaign to support MMP in the referendum.

Finally, MMP has been endorsed by the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students and sixteen other Ontario student unions.[19]


The Freedom Party of Ontario was the only party that officially opposed the proposed system, believing that rule by a majority can be anti-democratic and can be incompatible with the protection of minorities and of individual rights.[20][21] Though the PC leader at the time, John Tory, opposed electoral reform,[22] the party itself did not formally state an opinion.

Organized opposition to the proposal included the No MMP web site, which supported the FPTP option in the referendum.


No official position on electoral reform was directly stated by the Ontario Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. The positions of Liberal candidates on the issue varied, however, most PC candidates opposed the initiative.

The Ontario Libertarian Party, Confederation of Regions Party, Republican Party of Ontario, Reform Party of Ontario and Party for People with Special Needs did not officially state a position on electoral reform.

Individual candidate endorsements

The following election candidates took a public position in favour of MMP (and against the existing FPTP) :

And these candidates took a position in favour of the existing FPTP (and against the proposed MMP):

See also


  1. ^ "Description of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly's MMP System" (PDF). NA. 2007. http://www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca/assets/Description%20of%20the%20Ontario%20Citizens'%20Assembly's%20MMP%20System.pdf. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  2. ^ "Your Big Decision: Referendum Frequently Asked Questions". NA. 2007. http://www.yourbigdecision.ca/en_ca/faq.aspx. Retrieved 2007-09-30. 
  3. ^ "McGuinty Announces Referendum Date". CNW. 2007. http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/June2007/20/c7247.html. 
  4. ^ Elections Ontario web page, viewed 2007-10-13.
  5. ^ "Print Ont_CitizensAssembly_final_report_e_" (PDF). http://www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca/assets/One%20Ballot,%20Two%20Votes.pdf. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  6. ^ "Ontario Voters Divided about New Electoral System". Environics. 2007-06-19. http://erg.environics.net/media_room/default.asp?aID=637. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  7. ^ "CNW Group | ELECTIONS ONTARIO | Elections Ontario Launches Referendum Public Education Campaign - "Understand the Question"". Canadanewswire.com. http://www.canadanewswire.com/en/releases/archive/August2007/01/c2782.html. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  8. ^ "Projected Costs for the 2007 Provincial General Election and Referendum" (PDF). Elections Ontario. July 2007. http://www.elections.on.ca/NR/rdonlyres/337ACB84-DA17-442E-881F-F423A5439252/0/2007_Projected_Costs.pdf. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  9. ^ Canada. "Referendum? Now what referendum would that be?". globeandmail.com. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070923.ont-referendum24/BNStory/ontarioelection2007/home/. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  10. ^ "Proposed new voting system criticized". The Chronicle Journal. 08-03-2007. http://www.chroniclejournal.com/stories.php?id=57799. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  11. ^ "Green leader joins Jolley's bike tour". Owen Sound Sun Times. 2007-08-10. http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/webapp/sitepages/content.asp?contentid=648583&catname=Local+News&classif=News+Live. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  12. ^ "The New System of Election for Ontario". The Family Coalition Party of Ontario. 2007. http://www.familycoalitionparty.com/MMP.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  13. ^ "On October 10th: Make Your Vote Count!". The Communist Party of Ontario. 2007. http://www.votecommunist.ca/mmp. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 
  14. ^ http://voteformmp.ca
  15. ^ http://www.voteformmp.ca/en/full_list
  16. ^ http://www.voteformmp.ca/en/node/707
  17. ^ [1][dead link]
  18. ^ ": Home :: ON OCTOBER 10, 1007 VOTE YES FOR MMP! :". Equalvoiceinpolitics.ca. http://www.equalvoiceinpolitics.ca. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  19. ^ http://www.voteformmp.ca/en/node/694
  20. ^ "Electoral Reform Report Slammed". Freedom Party of Ontario. 2007-05-15. http://www.freedomparty.on.ca/mediareleases/2007.05.15.pr.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  21. ^ "Select Committee on Electoral Reform". Government of Ontario. 10-06-2005. http://www.ontla.on.ca/committee-proceedings/transcripts/files_html/2005-10-06_ER004.htm#P80_3065. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  22. ^ "PC leader calls for more free votes, fewer hours for MPPs". CBC News. 2007-08-29. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2007/08/29/tory-reform.html. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i Guerin, Matt (2007-09-24). "Liberals For Electoral Reform: Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin endorses Mixed Member Proportional". Liberals4mmp.blogspot.com. http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/2007/09/liberal-mpp-ted-mcmeekin-endorses-mixed.html. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  24. ^ Guerin, Matt (2007-09-25). "Liberals For Electoral Reform: Etobicoke North Liberal MPP Shafiq Qaadri endorses new voting system". Liberals4mmp.blogspot.com. http://liberals4mmp.blogspot.com/2007/09/etobicoke-north-liberal-mpp-shafiq.html. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  25. ^ [2][dead link]
  26. ^ a b c d Ottawa South Rogers TV debate
  27. ^ "Newspaper". Thewhig.com. http://www.thewhig.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=710624. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  28. ^ a b c d [3][dead link]
  29. ^ "City of Ottawa - Mayor Jim Watson". Jimwatson.ca. http://www.jimwatson.ca. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  30. ^ "Canadian Domain Name Registration , Low Cost Web Hosting - Siber name.ca". Mikepatton.ca. http://www.mikepatton.ca. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 

External links

Official sources

News coverage

Organized support

Organized opposition

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