For Ontario progressives, the political hangover from last Thursday’s election is just getting started.

After watching Doug Ford’s duck-and-cover campaign deliver an even bigger majority than he had after the 2018 election, there will be some hard questions for Ontario’s NDP and Liberals, as well as the people who run for their respective leaderships. Why did they fail to connect with voters? Who’s to blame for the pitifully low turnout? And what are they going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

The most obvious answer — one that many have already floated — is a merger between the two parties. But that’s a dead letter for any number of reasons, not least the animosity the two sides and their supporters have for each other. It was hard enough for conservatives like Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney to merge the respective factions in their movement, and that’s with a constituency that’s far more amenable to the idea than progressive voters.

If you think herding cats is difficult, try herding two million of them at the same time.

Electoral reform is another popular answer here, and the usual suspects are out in force suggesting it be pursued anew. There’s no question a more representative system would have produced a less lopsided outcome, and it’s reasonable to assume the existence of a more proportional system would have encouraged more people to turn out and vote. As it was, the Ontario election saw just 43 per cent of eligible voters turn out, a huge drop from the 56.7 per cent who voted in 2018 and a figure that shattered the previous low of 48.2 per cent from 2011.

Indeed, as Andrew Coyne noted, the number of people who didn’t vote was more than three times larger than the number who voted for Ford’s PCs.

But implementing electoral reform is far more difficult than it seems to some people. Inevitably, once a party is elected under our current first-past-the-post system, they seem to rediscover its merits. Just ask the federal Liberals, who promised change before the 2015 election and then alligator-armed their way to keeping the status quo — one that has served them well in the last two elections.

That’s why it’s time for Ontario’s progressives to embrace something different: mandatory voting. At a time when the public’s engagement with our democratic process is at a dangerously low ebb, where a small minority of the public can effectively wield total control over our politics, mandatory voting can help restore faith in our political institutions and system. More importantly, it would help the province’s non-conservative majority have a government that more accurately reflects their wishes and values.

Yes, mandatory voting would provoke howls of outrage from freedom-obsessed conservatives like Pierre Poilievre, but that’s as much a point in its favour as it is against. After watching conservatives rail against common-sense things like vaccines and mask mandates, their standing and credibility with the rest of the public are not what they once were.

Opinion: If you think herding cats is difficult, try herding two million of them at the same time, writes columnist @maxfawcett. #Politics #OnElxn #ElectoralReform #MandatoryVoting

Any charter-related argument they make about mandatory voting would be even easier to knock down than the ones they tried to use on COVID-19 public health measures. That’s because the only thing that would be mandatory is the act of showing up to vote, and spoiling your ballot would remain a legitimate form of participation (and protest).

More importantly, howls of freedom-focused outrage would be transparently partisan, since conservative politicians and parties do better in elections where people don’t vote. The recent Ford campaign, which seemed like it was trying to depress voter engagement at every available opportunity, is just the latest example of that.

Now it’s time for progressive politicians and parties to turn that table. They can point to Australia, a Commonwealth country with a Westminster parliamentary system and other shared institutions, as proof that mandatory voting can and does work. They should push for the same sort of celebratory approach to democracy that Australia has pioneered, one where elections are held on Saturdays and barbecues offering “democracy sausages” are a regular and welcome sight. And they should dare this country’s conservatives to oppose it.

That won’t be easy. Where electoral reform can be a confusing and wonkish concept for many people, mandatory voting is much simpler. It would also be more difficult for conservatives to litigate against, since it would put them on the wrong side of a whole host of issues and ideas that tend to resonate with the public, from civic duty and democratic freedom to the importance of having your voice heard.

This would be a big swing for Ontario’s two biggest left-leaning parties, which showed time and time again in the recent campaign that they weren’t all that interested in taking these kinds of bold stances. But if they won’t bring forward mandatory voting, their federal siblings in Ottawa should. While the federal Liberals and NDP weren’t able to agree on electoral reform back in 2017, mandatory voting offers an opportunity to salvage some of that promised change and create a democratic system that more accurately reflects the will of all people.

It could also prevent the Conservative Party of Canada from weaponizing low turnout and political disengagement and using it to win the next election. Yes, that might be too partisan or too cynical for some progressive politicians. But they may find themselves on the business end of a campaign like the one that just re-elected Ford if they aren’t willing to let the ends justify the means. And make no mistake: their conservative opponents have no such qualms.

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Once again, Max Fawcett is, by his own admission, offering us a band-aid solution to a serious problem. Actually, it isn't a solution at all. Neither is term limits.

I have long been uncomfortable with the idea of mandatory voting, since I fear it means you end up with a lot of voters (likely low information voters) who will then vote just to avoid a fine. However, some time ago I decided that I'd change my opinion in the event federal or provincial election turnouts fell below 50%. Why? Because I think democratic legitimacy falls off considerably when you have less than a 50% participation to start with. And so here we are in Ontario. Accordingly, I'm prepared to go with mandatory voting to rescue the legitimacy of elections in a democratic country where citizen engagement has fallen to a new low. This isn't a perfect solution, but I think it beats having a democracy where more than half the electors don't give a damn and won't even vote.

I agree with this idea for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the phrase "herding cats" is an accurate if charitable assessment of the reality of dealing with so many fractious, emotional, "low information" humans that make up any democracy with "sausages" being a good example of making democracy "celebratory" since the emphasis on democracy itself is what now needs to become the primary focus, no more dividing and conquering, no more narcissism of small differences; we're down to the wire here. With a right wing intent on taking down democracy, politics has become binary, so the natural majority of progressives would win. Appealing to people's sense of responsibility as citizens under these circumstances would put the miserable, underhanded and dishonest tactics of the devious right in perspective as well. Australia's last election where action on climate change won will be an example for us and the world because they're big coal producers. They're also an example of what to do to control guns actually.

Turnout simply isn't the problem. Even with 100% turnout, our first-past-the-post electoral system would still result in half our votes electing nobody, and in all of us still ending up with a government that most of us didn't vote for. That's the maggot in the heart of our democracy. It's no wonder so many potential voters see no point in pretending any longer that their ballots are worth a damn, and we should hardly be surprised—particularly in the current climate—if they should refuse to be forced to. Indeed, we may expect a boatload of Charter challenges against such a policy. Those in favour of mandatory voting will have to demonstrate rather than merely suppose how it would help, and if they think that this would be an easier lift than reforming our electoral system, they're courting a serious hernia. It's been tried: witness the HoC Special Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE), to cite just one example.

Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom all rely on winner-take-all voting, and
all three countries are increasingly vexed with historically low turnouts, not to mention increasingly polarized politics. Germany, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Denmark and the Scandinavian nations all boast much higher turnouts than ours, not to mention higher levels of voter satisfaction and, as it would seem to matter to readers in this forum, generally more progressive policies. It should by this point be needless to add, all of of these nations rely on proportional representation to elect their legislatures. If you vote in any of these countries, you're virtually guaranteed the representation you voted for and the government all of your compatriots voted for.

Those concerned for the state of our democracy need to keep their eye on the ball. We need a better way of electing our legislatures. If we can build that, the voters will come.

So add legitimacy and credibility to a flawed system by forcing voters to vote, rather than reform the system to better reflect their opinions? No thanks

We don't need compulsory voting- it would be seen as just another attack on our rights and freedoms, i.e. the freedom not to vote.
We don't need proportional representation - FPTP gives every riding the opportunity to elect the person that the majority of voters want to represent them in the House. As a result, every MP has a responsibility in caucus to support the needs of their riding. This is important to our system of checks and balances. There are no MPs in the house who do not have to report to a constituency.
The reason why the Ontario election was such a debacle was because every major party ran a very lack-luster campaign that not only failed to arouse interest but also gave rise to massive cynicism. I place the total blame for the shamefully poor turnout at the polls on the campaign managers of the main political parties!

The "rights and freedoms" narrative devoid of any mention of responsibility is juvenile, bombastic nonsense that doesn't deserve a shred of consideration at this point. Suffice to say that any country where you imagine you can drive your big rig to the capital and park outside the prime minister's office with a massive F* Trudeau sign
The civic responsibility of living in a democracy has been completely ignored but making voting mandatory would highlight that

Apologies. To complete my sentence "any country where you imagine you can drive your big rig to the capital and park outside the prime minister's office with a massive F* Trudeau sign attached and stay there, camping out, for THREE weeks, honking your horns at all hours, polluting the air with diesel fumes and otherwise wildly interfering with your fellow citizens' lives is obviously a country with a few too MANY freedoms.
We need to stop catering to the worst among us, stop indulging the most ignorant and the most entitled, the yahoo freedumb convoy types. Many of us would dearly love to airlift them into Russia at this point.
And you could just spoil your ballot anyway, if you stupidly insisted that you shouldn't have to participate in the democracy we're trying to hold onto here, especially when we see what's happening in the States right now....

"FPTP gives every riding the opportunity to elect the person that the majority of voters want to represent them in the House."

That's simply false. Full stop. When there's only one representative per riding, FPTP ensures that the candidate with the most votes wins, no matter how far short of a true majority they fall. In most ridings, it's only the candidate with single biggest minority of votes who wins. The rest of the voters—usually the majority—lose.
On the upside, what's wrong about FPTP makes you right about compulsory voting: huge numbers of Canadians will never submit to being forced to use an electoral system that doesn't even try to guarantee them representation. They'll take that argument all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary; and none of the parties will want to be party to that.