Whoa! Canada

laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Election Day & Ballots

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STV Indie SAMPLE BALLOT

Olivia Chow will make a wonderful Toronto mayor. The only thing that scares me is her support for the “ranked ballot” shell game.

Under a winner-take-all electoral system, only 1 candidate is elected to each position, so voters have only have a single chance to elect the candidate who supports the issue most important to us. With such a system, I should vote for John Tory. Although I disagree with the man on every other level, he is the only frontrunner who opposes the adoption of AV/IRV, which has been touted as “the” ranked ballot system.

Strategic Voting

Should I be forced to vote for a candidate I find so repugnant I would cross the street to avoid? We shouldn’t have to even consider such a thing, and wouldn’t if we had a truly democratic system. But we don’t; we have a winner-take-all system that gives a single candidate all the power. With an electoral system that allows more than two candidates, this means a majority of voters fail to achieve representation. Under such a system, what is surprising isn’t that so many Canadians don’t exercise the right to vote, it is that so many of us continue to do so, even knowing that our votes won’t count.

In spite of how absolutely crucial I believe electoral reform to be, I don’t think I could vote for Mr. Tory. I would have to vote for Olivia Chow, in spite of this one important thing on which we disagree. But I’m confident she’s smart enough to see through that and decide to support meaningful reform to Proportional Representation during the course of the consultation process. I’m confident that Olivia Chow wouldn’t close her eyes to new information to continue down the wrong path to avoid the appearance of being “wishy washy.” I don’t know about you, but I would prefer a government that looks at facts and makes policy accordingly. Like many women, Olivia Chow is more of a do-er than a conformer. What matters is to fix the problems.

So, yes, I think Olivia Chow will make a wonderful Toronto mayor, even though she currently opposes what I believe to be the single most important issue at all levels of Canadian politics, namely meaningful electoral reform.

The Truth About Ranked Ballots

“Ranked ballots” are in themselves neither proportional or non-proportional. They can be used in a proportional system, Like “STV” (Single Transferable Vote”) or they can be used in a non-proportional system like “AV” (Alternative Vote) — which is also sold under the aliases “IRV” (Instant Runoff Voting), “Preferential Ballot,” “Ranked Choice Voting” or “Ranked Ballot.” and probably more I haven’t encountered yet. Changing the name doesn’t change the system; it doesn’t matter what you call it, this winner-take-all electoral system will always smell unfair.

The people pushing “The Ranked Ballot System” claim all the advantages of STV (the proportional ranked ballot system that a clear majority of BC citizens voted to adopt) without having backed up such claims with evidence.  Because the truth is, the advantages arise out of a switch to a proportional system, not from the type of ballot.  If your neighbor’s blue painted house is cooler than yours in the summer. your white house won’t be any cooler if you paint yours blue. To make your house cooler, you would need to install air conditioning like your neighbor did.

Although AV/IRV and STV both utilize ranked ballots, the way in which they are employed in the two systems is dramatically different.  AV/IRV eliminates the candidates with less support and transfers their support to the front runners.  STV transfers the surplus support of the front runners to voter’s 2nd or 3rd choice candidates who don’t have enough support to meet the threshold.

But the real difference between the two systems, the most important difference, is that AV/IRV is a winner-take-all system.  We already have an unfair First Past The Post (FPTP) system; the same one we have used since even before confederation.  This kind of system is undemocratic because some votes count more than others, and some votes don’t count at all. In contrast, STV is a Proportional Representation system intended to make every vote count.  When only some people are represented, it’s not really democracy.

Another thing supporters of AV/IRV suggest is that parties are necessary for Proportional Representation.  Because of this, they say we can’t achieve PR at the municipal level because parties aren’t allowed at this level in Ontario. That simply isn’t true.  Not just that parties aren’t involved in our municipal politics, but the truth is that you don’t need parties at all to achieve Proportional Representation. When we are talking about electoral reform, people talk about parties because that’s what we have experience with. Still, Canadians need look no further than our own Nunavut & NorthWest Territories to find working examples of No Party Rule.  Maybe once we have Proportional Representation, we’ll be able to dispense with parties altogether.

“Proportional” just means that voters are proportionally represented by the candidates we select. If 50% of us are women, around 50% of our representatives should be women. If 70% of us don’t want mass surveillance, 70% of our elected representatives should reject laws that would legitimize mass surveillance. A good proportional outcome should have candidates that will represent the spectrum of all our interests.  In an unfair system that elects only a single representative, we choose parties because then we might be able to influence more than one policy– if our choice of candidate is lucky enough to be elected.

With a winner take-all-system, we generally have to pick the candidate we think best reflects our views, often our most important view– and hope she gets elected. THEN we must trust she will govern in ways we find acceptable. Rather than being represented by a single candidate, we would all be better represented by more than one, because we are each more complicated than that.

While I agree with one candidate on housing, I might disagree on transit. By having multi-member electoral districts (where we elect more than one candidate) we can elect candidates who will give voice to all our interests. And once we have such proportional representation, the representatives need to forge consensus in how they govern.

But right now, in your riding, if the candidate you vote for doesn’t get elected, you don’t have any representation at all. (Some people NEVER get representation– after a while they stop voting.)  But if your electoral district would be able to elect 5 or 10 representatives, your chances of representation on at least one level would skyrocket.  Better still, you are probably going to be able to elect candidates who will represent the full spectrum of all our views– not just the views of the winner.

The reality of winner-take-all systems is that, if you are LUCKY, you *might* elect the Candidate that agrees with the single issue most important to you. If you are luckier still, that representative will actually work to resolve that issue to your satisfaction. But if that issue is actually less important to your new representative than it is to you, once elected, your new representative may never lift a finger to deal with your most important thing. So how represented are you then?

No matter what AV/IRV supporters say, my 3rd choice of candidate is NOT equivalent to your first choice of candidate. For instance, if I have only 3 candidates to choose from in Toronto’s mayoral race, if I rank Olivia Chow #1, John Tory #2 and Doug Ford#3, I would not consider myself represented if Doug Ford became mayor. On the other hand, the people who ranked Doug Ford 1st would be ecstatic, not only because they elected the candidate they wanted, but because they can now count my 3rd choice towards his victory, they can now pretend he had actual majority support, and thus, that his government has more democratic legitimacy. But the reality is that he won’t, and a majority of citizens will continue to be unrepresented by the new mayor.

The point of Proportional Representation is that ALL citizens deserve adequate representation, and that is just as important– and maybe even more so– at the municipal level of government.

My fictional example STV ballot

This is my sample STV ballot using fictional characters as candidates, demonstrating how it might work under STV.
My variation would allow all the Independent candidates a second kick at the can, in much the same way parties get one.  As a non-party supporter, I would not be obliged to support any party candidate on the right side of the ballot, but able to give my favourite Independent candidate the same kind of additional support that party supporters get to throw behind their party.

The Rise of the Canadian Surveillance State

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I’ve been trying to put my thoughts about the Ottawa shootings down, and then I happened upon Russell Brand’s energetic assessment, not only of the situation, but how it is being spun.  Yes, it is terrible that a soldier died.  And that another soldier died in a completely unrelated incident earlier. But there is no question in my mind that the murders of these two men is being “spun.”

Canadian Civil Rights

The personal privacy of Canadians is supposed to be protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Maybe it was true once, but it doesn’t seem very true now.  And yet we value our Charter highly.

“The consultation also asked which of Canada’s accomplishments of the last 150 years “make you most proud to be a Canadian?”

Medicare topped that list, followed by peacekeeping, then the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms at No. 3.”

— Harper government poll for Canada’s 150th birthday cites Liberal, NDP icons

Failures

Security professional Byron Sonne was arrested before the G20 Summit, an event on which the Canadian government lavished a great deal of money on security.   Byron was concerned about the implications of the introduction of an influx of a host of new CCTV cameras in downtown Toronto,  so he took a look at the security being provided by his tax dollars (and yours).   Apparently citizens were supposed to keep their eyes closed.  Police violated Byron’s Charter rights; he was arrested and punitively denied bail for almost a year.  When he was finally released into his parents’ custody for almost another year, the draconian bail conditions obliged his parents to waive their own Charter privacy rights.

Byron lost his home, his business and his wife; and yet he was finally exonerated because, as hard as the authorities looked, there was no credible evidence.  At one of the court proceedings I attended, a law enforcement expert witness explained that their inability to break the encryption on one of Byron’s computers meant that even if acquitted, Byron would always be considered a person of interest.

The back entrance, steps away from where the Occupy Toronto protesters were brutalized by the police

 

Apparently these days, Canadians are guilty until proven innocent.

And the G20 Summit? Well, that event was marked by a great deal of violence… but not violence perpetrated by peaceful protesters, this was violence perpetrated by the “security forces” against citizens, as citizen journalists posted masses of video of such incidents to YouTube.  There were so many unlawful arrests and Charter violations that a great many voices called for a proper inquiry… which never actually happened.   The government didn’t want to be bothered investigating abuses it was responsible for. Funny that.

(I kind of think Byron was held for so long because they needed a “bad guy” in jail to justify the ridiculous amount of tax dollars spent, and hopefully distract from the civil rights abuses…)

Julian Ichim carries a red flag at one of the Kitchener "Casseroles" protests in support of Quebec students.

Julian Ichim in solidarity with the Quebec student protest, at “Kitchener Casseroles”

Canadian tax dollars paid for a whole year of an undercover officer’s infiltration of poverty activist Julian Ichims life.

Even after they were unable to prove any wrong doing against him, (Julian is, after all, an activist, not a criminal), absent evidence the undercover agent tried to convict Mr. Ichim with character assassination and innuendo.  No matter what you think about Mr. Ichim and his methods, there is no question he is sincere.  And yet, law enforcement agencies continue to harass and try to intimidate the young man.

In well over a decade of activism, working in the trenches to fight poverty and injustice in constructive ways, it seems the only “violent” act Mr. Ichim has ever performed was the act of throwing milk at politician Stockwell Day in his student days.   And yet law enforcement considers him a threat.

You should really listen to this CBC radio interview (including the bits that come after Mr. Ichim) to gain some insight into The ethics of police infiltration

Omar Khadr‘s rights are still being denied. As a child put in harm’s way by a parent, maybe he was a child soldier, or maybe he was an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time; but either way he was a victim who should have been treated better.  This 15 year old child certainly should not have been abandoned by the Canadian authorities after being dug out of the rubble nearly dead; nor should he have been delivered to the infamous Bagram then tortured and left to languish at Guantanamo Bay for years where he was convicted in what can only be described as a travesty of “justice.”  Even back in Canada this young man is still being victimized.  What happened to his Charter rights?

The Canadian Government, our government, has been chipping away at our civil rights since 9-11.  Since we are now apparently all guilty until proven innocent, our “security services” are investigating all of us all of the time… okay, our Charter Rights aren’t being chipped away, they are being steam rollered and dismantled.

Julian Ichim in the Kitchener Casseroles parade

The awesome powers of the state are being deployed, not against terrorists, but against activists trying to make Canada a better place, which often means disagreeing with government policy.  But peaceful protest and dissent are considered to be crucial elements of democracy, which is why these activities are enshrined in the Charter.

“Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms forms the first part of the Constitution Act, 1982. Here are some protections that the Charter guarantees:

  • freedom of religion, of thought, of expression, of the press and of peaceful assembly
  • the right to participate in political activities and the right to a democratic government
  • the freedom to move around and live within Canada, and to leave Canada
  • legal rights such as the right to life, liberty and security
  • equality rights
  • language rights”

— Our Country, Our Parliament (government publication)

How many of our Charter Rights have been violated in my examples?  I am not a civil rights lawyer, I’m a suburban mom who writes novels– how do I know about these things?   The Internet has made “citizen journalism” possible, so we are no longer limited to knowing what the mainstream “news media” decides we should know.   And the mainstream media has been so quiet about these issues that I’m inclined to agree with Glenn Greenwald’s assertion that our “news media” mostly functions as the propaganda arm of our government.

The examples I have cited do not exist in a vacuum; they are the result of government policy.

What it boils down to is that the government tells us they need to take away our rights, to limit them in the name of security.  To fight terrorism.  There is credible evidence to suggest law enforcement has been engaging in mass surveillance.

And yet this has done nothing to stop terrorism.

Civil Rights exist to protect citizens.  Removing or suppressing them doesn’t make us safe, it makes us unsafe.

It used to be that agents of law enforcement agents were not given permission to wiretap citizens, or to search people’s homes, or seize their goods without a warrant.  A judge had to be convinced of a reasonable probability — “probable cause” — that there was credible evidence to suggest the subject of the warrant was engaged in criminal activity.  There had to be good reason to invade anyone’s privacy.

Certainly, there would be some judges more inclined to sympathize with law enforcement agents than others, but even they wouldn’t sign warrants that could be ruled unconstitutional by higher courts.  This system wasn’t perfect, but it struck a reasonable balance between the needs of the state to be secure and the needs of the citizens to not be harassed.   Because such laws were in place to protect citizens, when an abuse did happen, the citizen had legal grounds for redress against state harassment (or worse).

Lawful Access quashes our civil rights

Since 9-11 the Canadian Government has been trying to pass “Lawful Access” legislation.  This would allow the government to spy on Canadian citizens all the time for no reason, with no judicial oversight.

This would be a huge blow to our Charter Rights that protect citizens from abuse by the power of the state.

Initially Canadians were protected from such legislation by a string of minority governments, which is about as close to democracy as we can get under our unfair electoral system.  In a minority, no party can unilaterally impose laws; laws can be passed without achieving enough consensus.   Back then I think the alarm was raised by lawyers who understood what was being proposed.  The unease spread through the tech communities, because people who understood how computers and the Internet worked could better understand how this technology could be made to work against personal freedom.  By the time Vic Toews tried to sell the idea that government spying was a good thing, enough ordinary citizens had twigged to the problem to mount the #tellviceverything Twitter campaign. There was too much bad publicity; the Minister, and indeed the government looked ridiculous.  So they backed down.

But they didn’t stop trying, because the legal authority to spy on all the citizens all the time is very powerful indeed. The most recent attempt has been Bill C-13, in which lawful access (aka unfettered spying on citizens) was dressed up as an anti-bullying measure inspired by the Amanda Todd tragedy.

Elizabeth May spoke eloquently against C13, as did Amanda Todd’s mother, Carol Todd, who said:

“We should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety.  We should not have to sacrifice our children’s privacy rights to make them safe from cyberbullying, ‘sextortion’ and revenge pornography.”

— Carol Todd, Amanda Todd’s mother raises concerns about cyberbullying bill

And, of course, Bill C-13 does in no way limit its invasion of privacy to children, or cyber bullies.  In the light of the Snowden revelations, the pressure on the Harper Government to get this law passed (to make all the illegal spying on citizens that CSIS and CSEC seem to engage in, alone and/or in conjunction with Five Eyes partner agencies) must have been enormous.

Something no one ever seems to consider is that, even in the unlikely event that our government would not abuse such powers, how do we know that faceless government agents with lawful access to the recordings they make of so many aspects of our intimate personal lives— how do we know that agents with the right to spy on us and our children are not themselves voyeurs, pornographers and pedophiles?

The University of Ottawa’s Michael Geist discussed inadequacies in Bill C13 before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, concluding that:

“This kind of privacy harm can victimize anyone. We know that information from at least 750,000 Canadian user accounts are voluntarily disclosed every year.  It is why we need to ensure that the law has appropriate safeguards against misuse of our personal information and why C-13 should be amended. I’ll stop there and welcome your questions.”

— Michael Geist, The Trouble With Bill C-13: My Appearance before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

But now, under cover of the alleged “terrorist acts” of the last few days, Mr. Harper’s government seems to have quietly passed this most controversial of laws, which shreds much of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that Canadians depend on.  According to the government website it may still need one more Senate vote before getting the Assent that will make it the law of the land.

Will this make Canadians more safe?

Without consulting with Canadians, our government squandered vast sums of money to build and equip the most expensive Canadian building in history to spy on us all the time.  In spite of this, our security forces were caught flat footed by the Ottawa shooting.

In the old days, when Canadian civil rights ensured law enforcement agents had to provide reasonable grounds before a court would issue a warrant to violate anyone’s rights– they did a better job of providing national security. Instead of catching terrorists, the Harper Government is busy watching the birdwatchers who dare speak against current environmental policy.  This doesn’t make Canada safe.

Nor will misidentifying disturbed individuals who “go postal” as “terrorists” keep Canadians safe.   Addressing the root causes– making the appropriate medical help available to disturbed individuals, for instance, would do much much more to keep Canadians safe.

SWAT teams shouldn’t break into the homes of law abiding families enjoying Sunday dinner.  It was acceptable and legal in Nazi Germany, but should it really be legal in Canada?

Spying on citizens was legal and accepted in Russia when the Tsar’s security forces did it.  Oddly enough, it didn’t keep the Tsar and his family safe.

Later, it was still legal in the Soviet Union when the KGB did it.  Material collected by such surveillance could lead to an ominous knock on the door in the middle of the night.  People who dared express concern or disagreement with State policy were often dragged from their beds and whisked away to the Gulag for “preventative detention.”  Not because they had done anything illegal, but because somebody decided that they might.  Citizens were guilty until proven innocent, rather like medieval laws that put accused witches on trial by being tied to a chair and dropped in the lake– if she floated, she was a witch (who could then be burned at the stake) but if she sank and drowned she was proven innocent.    Do we really want laws like this?  In Canada?

And, of course, as Glen Greenwald has pointed out:

“It is always stunning when a country that has brought violence and military force to numerous countries acts shocked and bewildered when someone brings a tiny fraction of that violence back to that country. Regardless of one’s views on the justifiability of Canada’s lengthy military actions, it’s not the slightest bit surprising or difficult to understand why people who identify with those on the other end of Canadian bombs and bullets would decide to attack the military responsible for that violence.”

— Glenn Greenwald, CANADA, AT WAR FOR 13 YEARS, SHOCKED THAT ‘A TERRORIST’ ATTACKED ITS SOLDIERS

And now that the Lawful Access bill has been passed by the House of Commons, the Conservative dominated Senate is the only thing standing in its way.  Will it legitimize the government’s ability to spy on us all, all the time? .

And you know how the story goes, if you give a mouse a cookie…   Apparently it works the same way for governments.  Lawful Access is the foundation, but even that is not enough.

Mr. Harper envisions curtailing our rights even more.  He is considering laws of ‘preventative detention‘ in wake of Ottawa attack.

Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the Commons that laws and police powers would “need to be strengthened in the area of surveillance, detention and arrest.” He pledged to bring forward legislation in an expedited fashion.”

Huffington Post: Tories Reject Call For All-Party National Security Oversight Committee

My maternal grandparents escaped from Russia before the Iron Curtain slammed down.  I’d always been grateful for their foresight in relocating to a better place.  Movies like Gorky Park, or The Lives of Others have made me appreciate how important this was.  And now it seems it was all for nought.

Isn’t the purpose of terrorism is to spread terror?  Although there seems to be international disagreement on what terrorism actually is, the United nations seems to agree with me:

“Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”

United Nations Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism annex to UN General Assembly resolution 49/60,”Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism”, December 9, 1994

Of course, when governments engage in criminal acts, all they need to do is change the laws to make it legal.

The news media is whipping up fear because it supports the status quo.  And it certainly seems as though our “watchdog press” has risen from the dead to become the propaganda arm of our government.

If the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize a population, oddly enough, our government and news media seem to be doing this far more successfully than anyone committing criminal acts.

But they are doing it because it is to their advantage to do it.

Not to keep us safe.


The text of Elizabeth May’s C-13 comments in Parliament can be found here.

MUST READS:
The Intercept: CANADA, AT WAR FOR 13 YEARS, SHOCKED THAT ‘A TERRORIST’ ATTACKED ITS SOLDIERS

Free The Press Canada: Government Passes Anti-Constitutional Surveillance Law During Ottawa Shooting

The Huffington Post: Glenn Greenwald Predicts Security Crackdown, More Canadian Secrecy

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Alternative Vote aka “preferential ballot” or IRV

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Why Fair Vote Canada does not support “Alternative Vote”
~ “preferential ballot” in single member ridings,
also known as “IRV­” (Instant Run­Off Voting)

guest post by Anita Nickerson,
Fair Vote Canada


Canadian Flag

There are two major “families” of voting systems in the world:­ winner-­take-­all and Proportional Representation (PR).   What we call “winner-­take-­all” is called “majoritiarian/plurality” by political scientists.

Alternative Vote (AV) is a close cousin of First Past the Post in the winner­-take-­all family.  It is a ranked (preferential) ballot system in single member ridings, and that is the system we currently use in Canada.

If a candidate has 50% of the vote, he/she is elected — and the other 49%  — or whatever percentage chose someone other than the “winner” — are wasted.

If no candidate has 50%, the candidate with the lowest percentage is dropped, and the second choices of voters for the least popular candidate are redistributed. This process is repeated until one of the front runners has achieved 50%.

AV can be a good system when the point is to elect a single person like a party leader. As a method of electing a representative body, it just a slight variation of First Past the Post.

AV is used at the national level in two countries in the world (formerly 3 countries, until Fiji replaced AV with PR).

Fair Vote Canada doesn’t endorse AV because even though it may sound a bit better that each individual MP would have to have 50% of the vote, studies over 90 years in Australia shows it changes the outcome less than 5% of the time. The overall results in Parliament when you look at how people voted and how many seats a party gets compared to the popular vote would be just as distorted as what we have now. The Independent Commission on the Voting System in the UK has actually shown that the results could be more distorted than First Past the Post.

Studies looking at second choices of voters and election results in hindsight have shown that historically AV would have handed the Liberal Party bigger phony majorities, as the second choice of left and right voters.

A 2011 study of AV in Ontario by researchers from McGill, Western and University of Montreal showed that with AV, the Liberals would get 4% fewer first choice votes than they do now, but the result would be they would win 1/3 more seats, for a big phony majority instead of a minority government.  There are still many AV fans in the Liberal Party ­ but thanks to the hard work of Liberal PR activists and some key Liberal MPs such as Stephane Dion and Joyce Murray, the good news is the federal Liberals have replaced their AV policy with endorsement of an evidence­-based process to look at all options, including PR, after 2015.

We had AV in Canada in the Western provinces for 30 years. It was brought in not for reasons of better democracy (or out of any evidence­-based process or citizen consultation)  but for the partisan advantage of one party who enacted it to keep another party out.  What happened was that it backfired. Eventually they got first­-past­-the-­post back.

There have been 10 government sponsored commissions or assemblies in Canada now which have all looked at our voting system problems and electoral reform options objectively, bringing together citizens and experts. Every single one of them recommended adding some element of proportionality as necessary to fix the problems with first-­past-­the­-post.

Your Vote Goes Here garbage Can

Nor is AV a stepping stone to PR.  It tends to channel votes into the baskets of the big parties, bringing us closer to a two-­party, left/right system (that is effectively what they have in Australia ­ this year the conservative coalition in Australia won a majority of seats with 45% of the popular vote and is undoing the policies of the previous government). The Ontario study showed that although people vote differently (more honestly) with a AV, the seat result was that AV would actually reduce the number of effective parties in the legislature.

Sometimes people say that AV is better because it is “simpler to explain” to voters ­ AV is so close to what we have now, whereas PR is “too complicated”. The UK ­ the mother of First Past the Post ­ had a referendum on AV in 2011. It failed miserably ­ 32%. The major political parties (equivalent to our Liberals and Conservatives) refused to give voters a PR option on the ballot, despite the recommendations of their own Independent Commission for PR ­ it was AV or nothing. AV was described as the “miserable little compromise.”

PR is a bit more complicated than either First Past the Post or Alternative Vote. But over 80 countries use PR, including about 85% of the other OECD (rich) countries. Canadian voters can figure it out. For example, with this proportional ballot, a voter checks two boxes. Voters learn quickly with practice.

Decades of research comparing winner­take­all to proportional systems shows that PR systems outperform winner-­take-­all systems on every measure of democracy, as well as a host of other things, such as lower income equality, better environmental outcomes, and even higher economic growth.

Nobody has ever recommended a “pure” PR system for Canada (think Israel) ­That is a straw man argument often brought up by opponents. Research shows we can obtain the benefits of PR with a moderately proportional, made­-in­-Canada, system that balances proportionality with geography, and in which all MPs are directly elected and accountable to local voters.

For those who like a preferential (ranked) ballot, there are many ways a preferential ballot can be part of a more proportional system ­ they can work together. A few examples are:

  1. STV (Single Transferable Vote): The system 58% of British Columbians voted yes to in the first referendum.
  2. P3 (Proportional-­Preferential­-Personalized): The moderately proportional preferential ballot system designed by Stephane Dion. Stephane has been speaking on this within and outside the Liberal Party for two years ­ at Liberal Party meetings, public town halls, FVC events, even the Green Party convention. His particular system is unlikely to be adopted but it started a crucial conversation within the Liberal Party.
  3. AV+ (Alternative Vote Plus): This is the system recommended by the UK Independent Commission on the Voting system. It is very similar to the Mixed Member Proportional with open lists (the system recommended by our Law Commission of Canada in their extensive 2004 report “Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada) but with a preferential ballot on the constituency side. You can see a sample ballot here.

With the NDP and Greens committing to implement PR if elected, the Liberal Party replacing their AV­ only policy with a resolution endorsed by their whole caucus stating that they will bring together parties, citizens and experts to design a system, considering proportional representation as an option for the first time since 1919, we now have the beginnings of a common ground heading into 2015 and have a real shot at casting a vote that counts in 2019.

For 2015, Fair Vote Canada calls on the federal political parties of Canada to commit to:

  • conducting a citizen-led consultation process immediately following the next federal election, to determine the best model of proportional representation for Canada whereby all MPs are elected by and accountable to voters, and
  • implementing the model in time for the following election.

Winston Churchill on AV


Image Credits:
The flag and the Fair Vote Garbage Can photos are mine, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
and my Winston Churchill is CC0

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

October 3, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Posted in Canada

I endorse the Green Party

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David Weber, Green Party

Both The Globe and Mail and the National Post have come out and endorsed Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Both newspapers claim to be Canada’s newspaper, but you can see from this whose agenda they actually serve. (And it sure isn’t yours or mine, Gracie.)

I have to endorse the Green Party, because it is the only party with a sensible platform this time out. The mainstream media is pretending the Green Party doesn’t exist, but the fact is that there are Green Candidates running in EVERY Ontario riding. If you don’t know who yours is, you can find her/him here: http://www.gpo.ca/candidates

Kitchener-Conestoga is fortunate to have the excellent first time candidate David Weber running for the Green Party. You can see what a great MPP David would make by watching the 4 videos made from the Kitchener-Conestoga Chamber of Commerce debate at the Woolwich Memorial Centre in Elmira.

David Weber on Responsible Government ~ Kitchener Conestoga (2 minutes)

David Weber on Natural Resources (2 minutes)

Kitchener Conestoga Debate: Taxes, Jobs & CETA (10 minutes)

Kitchener Conestoga Debate – Closing Comments – VoteOn 2014 (7 minutes)

All reports indicate that the NDP is doing very well in Southern Ontario in spite of the incumbent Premier’s best efforts to frighten NDP supporters into voting her a Liberal majority. Even with this dirty pool, I expect the excellent NDP incumbent Catherine Fife to be handily re-elected in her Kitchener-Waterloo riding.  Needless to say I would be equally happy to see the Green Party’s Stacey Danckert win the seat.  Both women are eminently qualified, and if Ontario was lucky enough to have Proportional Representation, I have no doubt both would win seats in the legislature.
Catherine Fife, NDP Incumbent Stacey Danckert, Green MPP Candidate

my "voteON" poster

Don’t fall for strategic voting (have you ever noticed when somebody wants you to vote strategically they tell you to vote for their candidate? Funny how they never volunteer to vote for mine.

If you’re looking for political pictures you might find what you need among my political photo albums on Flickr. Some mini posters for this election can be found in my #voteON album. All my images are licensed to share; and I’ll waive attribution for any that you use during this election.

Although I hope you don’t vote Liberal or Conservative for this one (after all, these parties between them are on the hook for what ails Ontario today) but the decision of where you cast your voter is entirely up to you.

Vote for the candidate/party/policy that suits you on June 12th, 2014.

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Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

June 11, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Will Ontario Get a Fair Leadership Debate?

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X marks the ballotDeciding who will form the government is the province of eligible voters. In order to perform this duty, we must first have all the information we need to be able to make informed choices.

Leadership Debates are important because they are in essence a job interview. Just as employers are unlikely to hire someone without an interview, voters want to get a good look at the people in the running for the top job at Queen’s Park. Any leadership debate should include all the potential job applicants.

Anything less is a disservice to the citizens who will shortly be heading to the polls.

Yet the media Consortium formed to decide such things is considering excluding Ontario’s Green Party leader Mike Schreiner from participating in the televised Leadership Debate scheduled for June 3rd.

Although it doesn’t seem to be explicitly stated anywhere, the Consortium’s rule would appear to be that a party leader who has not been elected to the Legislature is prohibited from participating in the debate.

For previous leadership debates at the federal level we have seen Elizabeth May excluded on similar grounds. Yet the Green Party is known to field a full slate of Candidates across Canada. Meanwhile, recent federal leadership debates have included the leader of the Bloc Québécois. Gilles Duceppe actually stated the truth that he cound not become Prime Minister during one such televised debate. But just because the Bloc elects Members of Parliament, even if every Bloc candidate was elected unanimously, there is simply no way the leader of a regional party could become Prime Minister of Canada under our current electoral system. It certainly seems nonsensical for a leadership debate to exclude someone who might get the job while including one who can never get it.

The Green Party of Ontario isn’t just an an upstart fringe party that will be gone tomorrow, it is an established respected Provincial Party with a well thought out comprehensive political platform. Unlike the Bloc, the Green party could produce a Prime Minister or Premier. But the broadcast Consortium chooses to exclude a Party that has fielded enough MPP candidates that it could actually form a majority government.

There is no good reason not to include the Green’s Mike Schreiner in the Leadership Debate.

So I’ve written a letter:

Dear Mr. Weiers:

As you yourself pointed out in your article B.C. election proved campaigns matter more than ever, anything can happen in an election. The most important job for the news media is to ensure citizens have access to the best information. This is why any leadership debate must include any leader who might become Premier. This would certainly include the Green Party of Ontario leader, Mike Schreiner.

The argument that an unelected party leader should not be included simply doesn’t hold water. None of the party leaders thus far included in the debate have been elected to the 41st Ontario Parliament, nor is there any guarantee any of them will secure a seat. Perhaps you might want to think back to the last days of the Mike Harris or Mulroney governments. Anything can happen.

I believe maintaining TVO and CBC are important because impartial public broadcasters are an essential part of achieving balance in any modern democracy. If the consortium excludes the Green Party from the debate, Ontario citizens will not get the information we need to make informed choices. Such a decision would be anything but balanced, nor would it be good for democracy in Ontario.

We citizens need to hear from all the leaders. Now is the time for CBC to take a leadership position and ensure that Ontario gets a fair shake.

Sincerely,
Laurel L. Russwurm


Even if the Ontario Green Party doesn’t form the next government, it certainly has enough support to deserve a voice in the debate. While wearing their broadcaster hats the members of the Consortium should remember that fresh minds bring new ideas and lead to lively discussion and good television.

Looking at the issue from a democratic standpoint, surely a consortium of corporate broadcasters have no business deciding which party leaders that citizens are allowed to hear during an election.  Not very democratic, that.

It would only be fair for the Consortium to welcome Mike Schreiner, the Green party Leader, to the televised Leader’s Debate. Not just for Mike, but for all of us.

As they say on Twitter, #letmikespeak

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To lend your voice to the effort to bring the Green Party to the Leadership debate, you can Tweet directly to the media consortium head, @bobweiers (CBC’s Bob Weiers, the senior producer of CBC News for Elections & Live Events), and/or email the consortium members:

As always, you are welcome to borrow any parts of my letter that may help you to write your own.

P.S.  The Green Party has a “Let Mike Speak” Petition you can sign too..


Elizabeth May still fighting for Democracy

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“In Canada, our problem isn't people voting more than once, it's people voting less than once.”
The text of Ms. May’s Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23) speech in parliament Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23)

It makes me so sad to watch this happen to Canada.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

May 17, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Democracy Must Respect Privacy

with one comment

Canadian Flag marked with an Xlag
Yesterday I saw a link to a new initiative intended to try to re-engage Canadians who have given up on our terribly undemocratic political system. It looked like an excellent idea — if course it did, I’ve been advocating the same thing myself for ages. The site was recommended to me by people and organizations whose work I respect and support, so I shared it widely without looking at it as closely as I usually would.

But I was wrong.

DO NOT SIGN UP with votepromise.ca!

When I made the recommendation yesterday, I had only looked at the first page of the site. Today, someone told me what happens when you click to make a “vote promise.” This web site is not only asking people for their own names and personal information, but also for the names and personal information of the people they would be trying to convince to vote.

Democracy Needs A SECRET BALLOT

The *only* way to have a democratic electoral system is by having a secret ballot and protecting the privacy of eligible voters.

Just because political parties ask us who we are going to vote for, does not mean they have a right to know.

THEY DON’T.

How we vote is private information for a very good reason. It is one of the most important protections afforded citizens in a democracy. In fact, it is positively DANGEROUS for citizens to tell elected Representatives who we are going to vote for. Especially when the political party in power is known to have an enemies list!

Citizens known to have voted against it can find themselves suffering serious consequences in their daily lives. The consequences having our privacy breached in this way may put citizens in danger of (but not limited to):

  • losing promotions, or
  • even their job,
  • Political affiliation might cost someone admission to the university of their choice
  • or prevent them from getting the apartment
  • research grant
  • building permit
  • visa
  • or job that you want.
  • It might even result in direct harassment.
  • Even families could suffer repercussions.

Citizens need civil rights to prevent the state from abusing the considerable power at its disposal. The government of the day might not provide you with the assistance or services to which all citizens are supposed to be entitled, or even go out of its way to harass you more directly..

But it isn’t only that. You can just as easily suffer discrimination from employers, teachers, or anyone holding power over any part of your life if that person is devoted to a different political party than the one you voted for. One of the most difficult parts of discrimination, is that it can be so skilfully done you might not even notice it has happened, let alone prove it did.

This is why NO ONE has the right to know who you actually vote for. If they do, you can be coerced into voting they way they want.

The secret ballot is a cornerstone of democracy.

And just as no one has the right to know who you vote for, whether or not you choose to vote is also personally private information. It is no one else’s business.

People Need Personal Privacy

Every time we sign a petition with our real name and identifying information, every time we register on Facebook (or *any* of the other social networks,) or buy anything online, we pay for the convenience with our privacy. Adults have the right to decide for themselves if they are willing to give up their own privacy, and how much. Many people have bought onto the absurd argument that we don’t need privacy if we have nothing to hide. And that is their right.

I know people who will not willingly give up their privacy. I know people who only use the Internet anonymously, away from know, using serious encryption and proxy servers. I also know people who don’t want to be photographed, people who don’t use computers, and people who will never use Facebook, Google or Twitter &tc. because they are simply not willing to sacrifice their privacy.

Most people used to dismiss these people as conspiracy theorists, at least until a brave and honorable young man named Ed Snowden risked everything to inform the world that every thing we say and do on the Internet (and the telephone) is being monitored and/or stored in perpetuity by our government in concert with the NSA.

While every adult should be entitled to make their own decisions about how or if they wish to safeguard their own privacy, no one has the right to decide this for anyone else. It doesn’t matter whether you do or don’t care about your own privacy. The privacy of every Canadian is supposed to be safeguarded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Fundamental Freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Internet is a public place. Posting an identifiable photographs of a private people on the Internet without their permission is an invasion of their right to privacy. “Tagging” a photo of a private person is an invasion of privacy.

Giving anyone’s personal information to anyone else is an egregious invasion of privacy.

If you are willing to give a website like <a href=”http://votepromise.ca/votepromise.ca your own personal information, you are at least covered by the terms of its privacy policy (as ineffectual as that policy may be). When you surrender anyone else’s personal information, they are not.

EFF warns all it takes is three pieces of personal information to identify anyone.

If you give votepromise.ca the name, email address and postal code of anyone else, you have not only positively identified them, you have broadcast their voting decision.

XflagSQ

Even if you trust votepromise.ca to protect your own personal information, even though it is not even a secure website, all of this personal information it gathers will certainly be harvested by government to do what it will.

Democracy Requires Privacy

One of the reasons we need democracy is to safeguard personal privacy; there is no way I can ever support throwing privacy under the bus. That is not acceptable.

It is an excellent idea to discuss politics with your friends and neighbors. Just try to convince anyone you think might not vote to go out and cast their ballot the way they want to, in any and all elections.

Just don’t be telling votepromise.ca or anyone else about it.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves
[Thanks Tim Southernwood!]

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

May 8, 2014 at 3:52 pm

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