Wetlands, MZOs, and Corruption in Ontario
While the Ontario government has shown itself to be be completely ineffectual in serving the interests of the public during the pandemic, it has been actively serving the interests of wealthy elites. Just recently, Ford’s government used a Ministerial Zoning Order to push through six development deals in Markham, Caledon, Vaughan, Clarington and New Tecumseth. These developments will result in the destruction of local wetlands that serve as nesting grounds for migratory birds.
These MZOs were signed in secret without any public input, and three of six benefit a single company called Flato, owned by a Doug Ford PC donor and insider. Another major beneficiary of this deal is Cortel Group owned by Mario Cortellucci who is an influential far right figure and also happens to be a major Ford donor. Amazon was another player in this deal, planning to build a warehouse on wetland in Pickering, however the company eventually chose to pull out.
The MZO fiasco is not an isolated incident. Earlier this year, Ford’s government initiated an effort to build a highway that would result in destruction of large parts of Toronto’s Green Belt. This effort is now formally opposed by the Mississauga council due to the disastrous impact it would have on the local environment.
The Ontario provincial government made a major decision to bulldoze a natural habitat without consulting the public or even consulting local government. The mayor of Aurora made this statement regarding the development. Ford government’s attack on the environment also led to mass resignations from the government-appointed Greenbelt advisory body.
While the Ford government’s abuses are egregious, it is important to note that the previous Liberal government had its own share of scandals that ultimately led to its downfall. No matter what party is in power, we see the same pattern of the government putting the interests of a wealthy minority over those of the working majority and our environment.
Our system of governance is said to be democratic. Yet, our governments do not appear to represent the interests of the people and often act as a kleptocracy. The fact that the Ford government is aggressively pursuing the destruction of our environment despite the public outcry is just one example in a long series of abuses of power committed by our officials.
Given this pattern of abuse, we must ask how we ended up in a situation where citizens do not have their interests represented in the government. One clear culprit here is our archaic system of voting.
The first-past-the-post system is directly at odds with democracy because it discriminates against third parties. First-past-the-post elections artificially inflate the representation of large parties while weakening smaller ones. Since the dominant party will win sole representation it may not even seem worth the effort to vote. A party that wins the largest number of votes, even when it’s less than a majority, wins 100% representation in every riding. Meanwhile, parties that can’t achieve a plurality in any riding receive 0% representation, regardless of their nationwide support. Candidates who do not have the backing of a major party will lose more often than not. Thus, participation in the political process is discouraged for anyone but supporters of the major parties slated to win.
On the other hand, if we had proportional representation, then every vote would count. The process would provide each party with a number of seats that corresponds to the percentage of votes it receives. Every party would provide a ranked list of candidates, voters would vote for the party of their choice, and each party would then be awarded their proportional number of seats. Every vote would count and be represented in this scenario.
This is a straight forward process that allows citizens to vote for parties that most closely reflect their interests. Proportional voting also happens to be the most popular system in the world while winner-take-all systems are only found in a handful of countries. Proportional voting produces stable coalition governments that are consistently more representative and responsive than our first-past-the-post system.
If we wish to have governments that are truly democratic and represent the interests of the majority then we need to update our archaic system of voting in a way that allows the majority to have real representation.
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