Ontario is sleepwalking toward a radical new way of electing its legislature.
On the ballot in the Oct. 10 election will be a referendum asking voters whether they want to keep the current electoral system or adopt a new system recommended by a citizens' assembly and called mixed-member proportional (MMP).
Supporters of MMP cite many benefits, including more voter choice, fairer results, fewer wasted votes, and a more diverse legislature. Opponents say it would mean larger ridings, more politicians, voter confusion and indecisive minority governments.
But so far neither side has connected with the electorate, according to the polls. A Strategic Counsel poll published this week in The Globe and Mail, for example, showed that 88 per cent of the voters have little or no knowledge of the proposed new system.
The reason is quite simply that both sides in the referendum debate are financially and organizationally challenged.
By and large, the voters will be making their referendum choice out of ignorance.
The conventional wisdom is that this should favour the status quo, as people are generally unwilling to take a chance on something they know little about.