The Trudeau government won’t be pressured by the Conservatives or business lobbies into ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal until the public has been consulted about it, says Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.
She told Conservative trade critic Gerry Ritz in the Commons that the deal is not even open yet for ratification or a signature. A tentative agreement was reached among 12 countries during the Oct. 19 election campaign.
Trade experts have said the TPP deal, which hinges on U.S. congressional approval, likely won’t have to be approved until 2017.
The Liberal government supports free trade, Freeland said. “We understand that on a deal this big, it is essential to consult Canadians and have a full parliamentary debate.” The Liberals have yet to indicate how they plan to consult the public.
Did I miss something? Because suddenly Ms. Freeland is saying:
“It is clear that many feel the TPP presents significant opportunities, while others have concerns,” Freeland wrote.”Many Canadians still have not made up their minds and many more still have questions.”
Um. Well, of course Canadians have concerns and questions… although it’s been in negotiation for 5 years, it’s been in secret– well, at least to most Canadians, citizens and parliamentarians alike. But while we are all scrambling to catch up with this, big industry has been not only involved but fully informed from the start. They’ve had years to study and influence the content of the TPP. But for the rest of Canada? We’ve been given no opportunity at all to influence the thing, it’s thousands of pages long, it’s only just been made public and we have been presented with an ultimatum. Either Canada can sign on to the TPP as is, or we can pass.
While it’s true the new Liberal government did not negotiate this deal, the Conservative Party that did continues to support it, its current leader claims:
The reality is that it doesn’t actually matter which government negotiated the TPP, if Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government signs the TPP, it will bear the brunt of the responsibility for the thing. And I have yet to hear any evidence that this agreement will be beneficial to Canada. Oh, sure, I have no doubt Ms. Ambrose is correct–there will be enormous opportunities to be had by signing the TPP. Just none of them will benefit the public good. If Canada signs the TPP, we will be on the hook. The government that signs it will effectively abdicating our sovereign power to unaccountable corporate tribunals (via ISDS)
But Michael Geist disagrees. Michael is the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University, and he’ so concerned about the TPP that he’s been blogging a daily series about its many pitfalls:
The Trouble With the TPP
Day 1: U.S. Blocks Balancing Objectives
Day 2: Locking in Digital Locks
Day 3: Copyright Term Extension
Day 4: Copyright Notice and Takedown Rules
Day 5: Rights Holders “Shall” vs. Users “May”
Day 6: Price of Entry
Day 7: Patent Term Extensions
Day 8: Locking In Biologics Protection
Day 9: Limits on Medical Devices & Pharma Data Collection
Day 10: Criminalization of Trade Secret Law
Day 11: Weak Privacy Standards
Day 12: Restrictions on Data Localization Requirements
Day 13: Ban on Data Transfer Restrictions
Day 14: No U.S. Assurances for Canada on Privacy
Day 15: Weak Anti-Spam Law Standards
Day 16: Intervening in Internet Governance
If that’s not enough, we know Jim Balsillie fears TPP could cost Canada billions and become worst-ever policy move
And then there’s the just released Tufts’ Global Development and Environment Institute report which estimates “the 12 countries involved in the proposed free trade deal would lose a net total of 771,000 jobs in the 10 years after the deal comes into force.
All of this raises many many questions. All the evidence I’ve seen suggests signing the TPP will cause actual harm to Canada, so I can see no good reason to sign the thing. And besides, didn’t we just vote out the government that got us into this spot? Didn’t we vote for real change?
And what happened to the promised consultations?
We are beginning to see a proliferation of Main Stream Media “journalism” about electoral reform. Canadian unfamiliarity with other electoral systems makes it incredibly easy for the main stream news media to get the facts wrong, and pass along misinformation as fact when discussing “Proportional Representation” and “Preferential Ballot/Alternate Vote/Instant Runoff Voting.”
Canada’s first federal government was elected with the antiquated First Past The Post electoral system, and that’s what we have used ever since. Like many Canadians, I’ve spent my life frustrated by unrepresentative and unaccountable governments, watching helplessly at the erosion of many of the things we hold dear. After having voted all my life without ever electing anyone, I was on the verge of giving up on our hopelessly undemocratic democracy when I discovered that it does not have to be this way.
As it turns out, there are many other ways to have representative democracy. 85% of OECD nations have some proportionality in their electoral systems, and in the wider world more than 80 countries have adopted Proportional Representation. And since so many countries have adopted the principle that votes should translate into representation, there are plenty of real world examples that furnish valuable information that allows us to see what works and what doesn’t.
Everything has changed so much since 1867, and we’ve adapted to so many things; it is high time our electoral system was modernized. Just as we have welcomed indoor plumbing and automobiles and the Internet, Canadians can as easily adopt Proportional Representation. With three of our four major political parties campaigning to get rid of First Past The Post in our 42nd federal election, it looks like we’ve finally found the political will to upgrade to a system that will better serve Canadians.
Although I’m no expert, I have learned a great deal about Proportional Representation from Fair Vote Canada. Since electoral reform is such an important topic, I have been making notes as I consider how best to share what I’ve learned about meaningful electoral reform. But John Ivison’s December 4th, 2015 National Post article “Liberals’ electoral reform vow an existential threat to the Conservative Party” required an immediate answer.
By way of refutation, I made some comments on the article. However, I know how easy it is for comments to get lost, particularly on a contentious issue, so I decided it best to incorporate them here.
“The repeated commitment to look at the prospect of electoral reform, specifically use of a preferential ballot system, represents an existential threat to the Conservative Party of Canada.”
People keep making this unsubstantiated claim about Alternate Vote (AV), the winner-take-electoral system the Liberals call “Preferential Voting” (PV), a system also sold under the name “Instant Runoff Voting” (IRV). While some people like the idea, this pronouncement is no more than wishful thinking.
The best information we have about AV/PV/IRV comes from Australia, the only country on earth to have stuck with this system for any length of time. Australia uses “Alternative Vote” in their lower house, and has done for decades. What we can see in the Australian example is that AV/PV/IRV has proven to be even more effective than First Past The Post at polarizing a political system into a 2 Party dance of alternating left-right majorities.
At least in Oz they are lucky enough to have an effective proportionally elected senate which has served as a check on majority excesses that would otherwise have occurred there. Although detractors deride it as legislative “gridlock,” the Australian Senate has actually been known to stop bad laws from being passed by majority governments. As Canadians are painfully aware, we have no such check on bad legislation here in Canada.
The point is that no matter what you call it, the adoption of Preferential Voting— aka Alternate Vote (AV) aka Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) aka “ranked ballot system” — will not disenfranchise the current Conservative Party. Quite the contrary; the Australian evidence suggests this system would be more likely to entrench the two-party system Canadians have resisted for so long. Far from being an existential threat, this electoral system would shore up the crumbling status quo at the expense of the smaller parties, freeing up the Conservative and Liberal Parties to govern alternately as they always have.
what do Liberals want?
That is the question. The wording in the Liberal policy on which their electoral campaign promise is based is:
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve Canada better.
— Policy Resolution 31
The Liberal Party is divided on the issue of Preferential Ballot/AV/IRV or Proportional Representation. While some Liberals prefer the idea of Preferential Voting thinking it will give the Liberal Party an edge, many Liberals support Proportional Representation because they understand consensus government is the only way to a stable government that will be able to make long term policy and pass properly formed laws that will stand the test of time. Since all the evidence supports the adoption of an electoral system that will ensure Proportional Representation, my Liberal friends assure me their party’s devotion to evidence based policy will win out and Proportional Representation will be chosen for the good of all. The real question may well be whether the new Prime Minister will be swayed by the evidence.
Mr. Ivison’s suggestion that Proportional Representation fails to provide “directly elected MPs to represent their communities” demonstrates his failure to understand that Proportional Representation is not the name of a single electoral system. Instead, “Proportional Representation” describes any electoral system resulting in a Parliament that represents voters in the proportion in which votes have been cast. All that really means is 39% of votes will give a party 39% of the seats. It will not allow 39% of the votes to give a single party 100% of the power, which is what happens under a winner-take-all system like the one we we have now.
There are many ways to achieve a proportional electoral system. Over the last decade or so ten independent Canadian commissions, assemblies and reports made by Canadians have studied the problem of electoral reform, and *all* have recommended adoption of Proportional Representation. And of these recommendations, each and every system recommended for Canada includes directly elected MPs to represent their communities.
You can find out more about these recommendations in Wilf Day’s blog Ten Canadian Commissions, Assemblies and Reports that have recommended proportional representation.
Although Canadians tend to have no direct experience of Proportional Representation, there is no shortage of information about the many ways of achieving such a system. We have the examples of of more than 80 OECD nations that have adopted such systems over the last century or so. If the news media wishes to inform Canadians about electoral options, we would be better served if journalists like Mr. Ivison would provide us with factual information. The grass root multipartisan group Fair Vote Canada has been studying proportional voting systems for more than a decade and has a great deal of good information on offer on the Fair Vote Canada website. My local Fair Vote Chapter has a wealth of info online as well.
For those of you (like me) who often learn best accidentally through good drama, you might want to check out “Borgen,” an excellent dramatic tv political series that plays out in the framework of Denmark’s system of Proportional Representation. Although similar to “House of Cards,” I enjoyed “Borgen” much more, subtitles and all. (You stop noticing them very quickly.) The popular Danish series has spread through the EU, and now North America, and was aired on TVO earlier this year. I hope TVO takes this opportunity to run it again, although it might be better if CBC were to pick it up so the show will be available across Canada. The entire series is available in a DVD box set; even if you don’t want to spring for it, your local library may be interested in carrying it, or getting it in through inter-library loan.
In the meantime, there are many good videos available on YouTube, including these I have assembled into an Electoral Reform Playlist.
do we really want to retain the status quo?
What Canadians are accustomed to under our winner-take-all electoral system is alternating “majority” governments with a disproportionate amount of power.
What makes a government strong? Giving a single party 100% of the power based on 39% of the vote gives a single party government the power to dictate terms to the other 61% of Canadians. It that strength? It certainly doesn’t seem like democracy.
What makes for government stability? For many, it means fewer elections. But the fact is Canada has had more elections since 1945 than even the worst iterations of Proportional Representation.
For me real stability is policy and legislation that will stand the test of time….policy that lasts. And yet the first order of business for our new Liberal majority government is to undo many of the policies implemented by the outgoing Conservative majority government. It is this instability (known as policy lurch) that inclines many Liberals and Conservatives to reject winner-take-all First Past The Post electoral system. Adopting another winner-take-all system just doesn’t seem to make sense. If your house is falling down, fixing it, or moving to one that is more solid is a better solution than slapping on a coat of paint. Switching from First Past The Post to Preferential Voting/AV/IRV) is merely a superficial change like a coat of paint It might cheer us up because it looks better, but the problems will still be there.
The reality Canadians have today is an electoral system where some votes count more than others, but most votes don’t count at all. If we want real change, we need to choose a fair electoral system that will give us Proportional Representation, because all Canadians deserve an equal and effective vote to give us voice in parliament.
All other photos by Laurel L. Russwurm are dedicated to the Public Domain via CC0
After spending some time in France’s largest refugee camp, my suspicions have been confirmed – these refugees can simply walk right out.
There are no fences keeping them in or guards preventing their escape. They are really just human beings on planet earth. These are good people.
I sometimes wonder about gun laws, being that criminals do not really follow laws, especially ones that outlaw the ‘tools of their trade’. In the same way, do any of you think that terrorists entering a country to do it harm will go through a lengthy and invasive application process to permit their entry? Do you really think they will pitch tents in the frozen mud to supplicate for our approval when they can just stroll right in?
Not a soul has checked my luggage, passport, or even looked at me inquisitively in mainland Europe; and I grew my beard out in disgusting fashion to look as ’non-conforming’ as possible. But there was no one even looking.
Is this a country on high alert? I didn’t even see a cop the first day here; and we drove around downtown. I did see some today, though, in a few key locations. But it was nothing more than I am used to seeing around a big city.
I am on a sunny balcony in Central Paris looking over the streets as I type this. It looks as peaceful and gorgeous as ever.
Come on, folks; let’s think this through…
To all you people pointing out the fact that there are mostly men at these camps, insinuating that means something: It does mean something. It means the brothers and fathers went ahead on the limited or nonexistent funds they had to secure employment and income to bring their family later. I figured this out first hand. But, really, there are women and children all over the place at the camp.
Listen, there were so many questions that led to my suspending belief about these suffering people; I actually entertained all the racist and xenophobic comments that people put forward. I do that often, so as to not make a mistake.
Now, reading their posts, I shake my head wondering how these folks spewing hate are so sure about what they say. I mean, I travelled all this way to answer these questions put forth; and I have to say, we are wrong. We are wrong about this.
We need to open our hearts and borders to these folks.
The borders are as unreal as the differences we assume exist between ‘us’ and those we close our hearts and minds to.
We need to remember that.
Niagara Centre’s David Clow is one of the incredible 2015 Green Party of Canada candidates I had the privilege of meeting during the election. David is currently in Paris as a COP21 Observer.
[Guest Post by Kyle D. Hastings, Okanagan College business student]
I made this map to give people perspective on the Syrian refugees.
The purple country is Turkey.
They took in over 2,000,000 Syrian refugees and spent as estimated 4.5 billion USD.
The green country is Jordan.
They took in an estimated 1,400,000 Syrian refugees.
Last but not least, that tiny red dot, that’s Lebanon. Lebanon is the smallest country in continental Asia.
Lebanon took in over 1,100,000 Syrian refugees.
People want to ban Syrian refugees from Canada, saying, 10,500,000 dollars is too much and 25,000 people is too much.
We have a population of 35,160,000 people, in 2014-2015 we had a surplus of 1,900,000,000 dollars.
Our government has yearly expenditures in the 270,000,000,000 range.
Keep telling yourself we can’t help.
People are letting fear of ISIS try to stop us from helping people.
In this world you can never be 100% safe, but the moment we stop looking after each other is the moment we give up on humanity.
Let’s continue to be a diverse country that accepts and helps people.
The foregoing is a reprint of Kyle’s Facebook post, which has received wide circulation as well as being featured on Huffington Post Canada, and the following is Kyle’s response to questions and concerns that have been raised in response to his thoughtful article..
To anyone wondering, I am aware that large parts of Canada are uninhabited, I posted a population density map in my original facebook post.
“Our government spent over 270 billion dollars in 2014-2015.
The entire government plan to help these refugees is pegged at 1.2 billion dollars over six years.
1,200,000,000/6 years= 200,000,000 a year.
That’s 0.074% of the governments yearly federal expenditures.
“That’s much less than a tenth of one percent of their yearly expenditures to help victims of war. I understand that 1.2 billion is a lot but we must keep perspective on the size of our government. I strongly believe we can help less fortunate Canadians and Syrian refugees at the same time, it shouldn’t be one or the other.
“Aside from just economics and space I think it’s the only humane and Canadian thing to do.
“Turning these people away would go against our values.
“Before anyone freaks out about government debt please keep in mind how government debt works and that it is mainly internal debt.
In case anyone is wondering, government debt is money borrowed from the government through issuing securities, generally to the banks of the people. The banks work on a fractional reserve system which allows them to essentially hold a fraction of their deposits while utilizing the rest to make loans and gain interest. So the government uses these securities to stimulate the economy at lower interest rates and that’s how our economy works as far as I know. Government debt isn’t a totally bad thing and I can’t see the costs of this plan causing any major economical problems. We also have to remember these people are going to assimilate and they might have a lot to contribute to our country. If I said anything wrong about economics let me know, it wasn’t my major but that’s my understanding of it!
“Also I know that bringing them here is more expensive than sending more money but they’re having a problem of being severely overcrowded, so we should help out!
“The government of Canada has also issued a Syrian Emergency Relief Fund in which they match donations made by Canadians before Dec 31, to a maximum of 100 Million.
I suggest donating to UNCHR, you can get some great tax credits, 15% of your first 200 dollars to eligible charities, 29% of amount over 200 dollars.
If you or your spouse haven’t claimed donations after 2007 you can get the first time donor credit that is an additional flat 25% of your whole donation.
If I messed up on any of those tax credits let me know.
“There are a lot of people saying let’s look after our own before we help anyone else, but who decides when Canadians are looked after properly though? I don’t think with an attitude like its us or them that it would ever happen. The government spends money on many less wise policies than helping the victims of war.”
— Kyle D. Hastings
I agree with Kyle: there is no reason Canada can’t look after our own AND help these victims of war.
Personally, I think that the Canadian budget for helping Syrian Refugees ought to correspond to the Canadian budget for waging war in the Middle East. That would only be fair. — Laurel Russwurm
I am very pleased to see Elizabeth May retains her seat as the MP of Saanich—Gulf Islands. But its a bitter-sweet victory, because no other Green Party candidates were elected. Over the last few months I’ve had the privilege of meeting and getting to know a host of Green Party folk, and they are an incredible bunch of people.
My husband, Bob Jonkman, spent the last few months as the Green Candidate in Kitchener-Conestoga. Although he’s been quite active in the Free Software and Fair Vote communities for years, he’s never done anything quite like this before. It was a a huge commitment of time and energy, on many levels, but he came through with flying colours. And he did it all with grace and charm, even though he knew the odds against winning the election were incredibly slim for those running under the green banner.
And I have to say I am incredibly proud of my brilliant husband.
You did great, Bob. :)
The only real question is: who will form government?
The NDP will scrap the so-called Anti-Terror law (formerly known as Bill C-51) and restore the Charter. The NDP has also firmly committed to Proportional Representation. These two things are essential if Canada is to have any hope of being a free country. Don’t vote for anyone who will not commit to both of these.
Not taxing big business and the rich has certainly contributed to the fact Canada is the only OECD country still in a recession. (Mainstream media propaganda has tried to foster the idea this is the second recession on Harper’s watch, but the reality is that we never really got out of the first one.)
The Fear Factor
The Real Way to Change
If you haven’t yet, please vote today. (And bring a friend.) Only you can decide who will best represent you in parliament. That’s who you should vote for.
Here’s hoping we all vote Green.
Last week Canadian farmers drove their tractors to Ottawa in a protest against the TPP. There are wide-spread fears this agreement will allow Multinationals to be able to dictate laws, suppress citizen rights and dispense with environmental protections if any of these things interfere with the pursuit of profit.
Much of the ground work has been laid for the unprecedented abdication of Canadian sovereignty through many of the laws pushed through by the Harper Government in previous years.
In spite of the fact Canada is undergoing a federal election, the Harper Government has made the unprecedented decision to continue with business as usual Under the Canadian political system, government is prorogued — stopped — when an election is called. Any draft legislation which has not completed the process is thrown out. Instead of pursuing new business, the Government has always gone into “caretaker” mode. After all, there will be a new government after the election; new decisions will be up to the them. If anyone in the new government is still interested after the election, they have to start over then.
But not now.
This is why it is bizarre — and disturbing — that the Harper Government has continued with its secret trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, (TPP). Although we know this exists, whatever it is that is being negotiated is secret. Still, there have been enough hints of what we might expect that many Canadians are very much concerned, and many are very much opposed.
Instead of behaving the way Canadians rightfully expect, Mr. Harper has chosen to act as though the election doesn’t matter. As though he is Prime Minister for life. And in spite of mounting protest against the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, they announce
Even now, the content of the agreement is secret, and the New York Times reports that
“Its full 30-chapter text will not be available for perhaps a month, but labor unions, environmentalists and liberal activists are poised to argue that the agreement favors big business over workers and environmental protection.”
So Canadians will have no facts — beyond the fact the Harper Government has signed it — until long after this election.
Over the years we’ve seen our democratic processes chipped away, but most Canadians have insisted that because we hold elections (no matter how unfair), Canada is still a democracy.
But it seems Mr. Harper doesn’t think there is any reason to stop what he’s doing just because we are having an election. [A election he himself called.] Apparently elections are meaningless to Mr. Harper. Perhaps he thinks it is in the bag. After all, he has the money to outspend all the competition in TV ads. Is that all it takes?
Is this what we have come to?
40% of Canadians didn’t vote last time.
Everyone has theories to explain why more people didn’t than voted conservative. If we had a “non-of-the-above” option, it would have prevailed. But we don’t.
I myself think there are many reason why so many eligible Canadian voters don’t vote. Where I live, I know old order Mennonites don’t vote. And I know there is a lot of conflict among First Nations about whether or not to vote. And a lot of young people reject the idea of voting in a system that is so corrupt. Personally I am inclined to think the biggest demographic are voters who gave up after they realized their vote would never count. But like everyone else’s theories, that is just a guess.
Frankly, I don’t care why we don’t vote. We all have our own reasons, and that’s fine. What I do hope is that many of these Canadians can see their way to voting this time in spite of everything. As someone whose vote has never counted, I know my vote isn’t likely to count again this time. But that would change if my vote is joined by some of theirs.
If even half of the 40% who don’t customarily vote would vote, we will see change.
Does this Canadian election matter?
You betcha! This one is the most important election of my life. Its outcome will have a profound impact on our world, and on our future.
I have spent my life being non-partisan. Every election I have chosen who to vote for on the issues as I see them. With a better system my vote might have counted once or twice. But this year, I am partisan because my husband decided he had to run for the Green Party, and since he is one of the smartest and most honorable men I have ever known in my life, I am supporting him to the best of my ability. And along the way I seem to agree with most of the Green platform, so that works out. And while we very much hope you vote Green, what is most important is that you vote. Vote for the candidate that will best represent your interests.