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By Lia Van Baalen

What do an IKEA executive, a Sicilian Mafioso and a Bavarian yodeler have in common? That’s right, they all live in countries with proportional representation.

There’s will be a referendum on Oct. 10 to bring a limited version of proportional representation to Ontario, and supporters came to Ryerson last week to argue in favour of the system.

For Ontario, Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP) would mean a hybrid of the existing system (90 members of the provincial parliament elected in ridings) and a proportional system (39 additional members elected based on the popular vote).

More than 100 students, staff and faculty turned out for the panel on MMP held at Ryerson on Sept. 26.

Catherine Baquero, a member of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly, argued that MMP is better than the current system because it allocates seats closer to the tally of the popular vote. She said McGuinty won 70 per cent of the seats in the legislature with only 47 per cent of the popular vote.

She said that it would help representation for minorities.

“MPPs not bound to a riding can focus on larger issues, such as women and minorities,” Baquero said.

Women comprise over half the population, but only a quarter of the government, panelist Louisa Moya of Equal Voice said.

Canada ranks 47th in the world for representation of women in government. Many countries in the lead, such as Wales, Scotland and Switzerland, have electoral systems similar to MMP.

However, Lillyann Goldstein, Conservative candidate for the riding of St. Paul’s, isn’t sold on the idea of MMP.

Because constituencies will be larger, she said, elected officials may be less directly responsible to individuals. She also sees the potential for parties to put political patrons on their lists of candidates. “If a voter is frustrated with the candidates on the list, how do they change it?” Goldstein said.

Both the Ryerson Students’ Union and the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson have endorsed MMP. The panel, all-candidates debate and on-campus voter registration service were all part of a series of events held over the last three weeks to get students to vote.

But the president of East African Students of Toronto doesn’t think Ryerson’s students’ unions should be lobbying so openly.

“We shouldn’t say ‘vote yes,’ because people won’t know what they’re voting for,” Samih Abdelgadir said. “We want it to be meaningful, so we should educate and inform students about what it means.”

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