Cherniak gives what I think is a fairly common argument for rejecting MMP (mixed member proportional), which is that, while it may lead to an acknowledged good--the Green Party electing its first members to the Legislature, for example-- it might also lead to a less fortunate result:
Any party that gets at least 3% of the vote would elect an MPP. That means that a party like the Christian Heritage Party would have no goal other than to earn 3% of the total vote. If they were to succeed, they would have an MPP elected. They don't get that much right now, but with the knowledge that only 3% across the province earns a seat, I suspect that there would be more incentive to actually vote for them.
Personally, this is a trade I would be willing to make in the name of fairness: about 10 Green party politicians (Jason gives a range of 6 to 13) in exchange for four radical righties (three per cent of 129 seats). However, it is extremely telling I think that Canada's premier pro-life group, the Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), has just come out in opposition to MMP. They give several interlinked reasons for their position. The first:
Some pro-lifers believe that proportional representation will result in the appointment of Family Coalition Party members at the provincial level and Christian Heritage Party candidates at the federal level. Sadly, neither party has reached the minimum 3% level of province-wide support that most proportional representation systems require to garner seats in parliament. Until there is a sea change in their support, the number of FCP/CHP elected officials would be negligible to effect change.
From the CLC's perspective, MMP's most likely result is the status quo: no suitable candidates elected. But even more interesting is their view as to what likely happens should the magic three percent threshold be exceeded and a FCP candidate make it into the Legislature:
There are very few examples of social conservative legislation being passed in countries with PR. This summer The Interim newspaper had a team of three people examine the records of other countries to track the progress of prolife and pro-family legislation in countries with PR. They found just one significant example. In the Netherlands, the Christian Union Party, as part of the coalition government there, has effected some positive change in closing down brothels, reducing the number of marijuana shops and introducing guidelines requiring cooling off wait times for abortions.
But, for the most part, the researchers at The Interim found the reverse to be true: many countries with PR have experienced an advance of anti-life and anti-family agendas in recent years as left-wing coalitions dance to the tune of the most extreme elements in parliament. We are concerned that the highly likely result of PR in Canada will be thirdplace NDP contingencies dictating social policy to minority governments.
To me this a comforting finding, and I would suggest the following explanation for it (but read the whole article, as the CLC's angle is quite different): MMP, and proportional representation more generally, enshrines the national/provincial consensus. Political outliers such as the Family Coalition will be unable to shift this consensus regardless of whether or not they send a warm body to Queen's Park. In fact, the most likely outcome in Ontario seems to be pretty close to the one the CLC envisions: a permanent Liberal minority forced to pass Progressive/Green policies to remain in power.
The Good Old Days, in other words, when Libs were slow-motion NDPers. And what's wrong with that?
Of course, the central argument against MMP concerns the potential of the "Party Machines" to appoint "list" MLAs in a manner which is undemocratic and non-accountable. This is a subject for another post, but to give a quick response: most Ontarians couldn't pick their own provincial representative out of a police line-up, and very few of them vote on the basis of their personal relationship (through constit work lets say) with a candidate. I doubt people would notice a difference under some form of proportional representation.