laurel l. russwurm's political musings


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back to #ERRE #Q Meetings & TranscriptsCanadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the sixteenth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

Not so long ago I had no idea there was any other way for Canadians to elect our government than the system we use now.  When I began getting frustrated that no one I ever voted for ever got elected (no matter which candidate or party) it never even occurred to me the solution to my problem could lay in our voting system.  All I knew was that the time I invested in Canada’s democracy ~ time spent learning about the candidates and issues and then voting for the candidate I thought would best represent me ~ the whole process had proven to be a futile exercise.  In more than 30 years of voting, no one I had ever voted for got the chance to represent me in Ottawa.  Or Queen’s Park, for that matter.   It got even worse when I moved back to my home town to raise my family, because it was a “safe seat.”

Since there didn’t seem to be any point to voting, I began wondering why I should keep doing it. Every time an election rolled around, there was a lot of talk about how awful our low voter turnout.  But maybe all those Canadians who weren’t wasting their time casting ineffective votes were smarter than I.

The lightbulb only went on over my head when I found myself listening to what people were saying at local Fair Vote events.  They talked about why 39% of the votes shouldn’t equal 100% of the power.  That made more sense than what happens when 39% of the voters elect a majority government.  I learned that the only reason we use this system is because it was the same system England had been using… a system forged in the middle ages.  Nor did I realize that a large part of the problem with our Westminster plurality electoral system had not even been designed to be democratic until I heard Canadian electoral system expert Dennis Pilon tell this to the ERRE Committee.

The reason is that the system was not designed to be democratic. Its origins are in the pre-democratic era, and it has been kept in place for electoral self-interest. Canadians have struggled to make their system democratic despite these institutional barriers. Proportional representation systems, by contrast, were designed to represent voters effectively, even if the motives of reformers were not always democratic.”

Dennis Pilon, speaking at the Thursday, July 28, 2016 Erre Committee

At first I felt pretty silly for not having figured it out myself.  But the more I learned, the less foolish I felt. The first time I saw the John Cleese on Proprotional Representation video (yes, that John Cleese), I was a little jealous that our British friends found out about Proportional Representation decades ago.  But I have to tell you, I was shocked when I discovered they hadn’t adopted it for UK General Elections in spite of the clarity Mr. Cleese brought to the subject.  Although the new voting systems established for Scotland and Wales are proportional.  Just as Ireland uses Proportional Representation.

The more I’ve learned about proportional Representation the more flabbergasted I am to realize more than ninety countries around the world have adopted Proportional Representation systems but Canada has not.  But not for want of trying.  Most Canadian electoral reformers date the need for Proportional Representation to the 1920’s, when Canada shifted from being a two party system to a multiparty system.  The reason for this is that when you have a 2 party system, whoever wins a First Past The Post election will have has done so with an actual majority of votes.  But because FPTP is a plurality system, the winner needn’t have a majority.

Still, even before we had more than 2 parties, not everyone was happy with our system.


There have been Canadians looking for electoral reform since before Confederation when the British government decided to pass The Act of Union amalgamating Upper Canada (Quebec) and Lower Canada (Ontario) in 1840.  Each province received 42 seats in legislature.  Unsurprisingly French Canada got the short end of the stick because of it’s larger population of 697,084.  This meant on average 16,597 French citizens shared a representative, while an average of only 10,849 English Canadians shared a representative.  Naturally the French Canadians protested this, clamouring instead for Representation by Population or “Rep By Pop”… or at least until the English population began outstripping the French when the tables turned.

In the late 19th Century, noted Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming offered a thousand dollar reward for anyone who could come up with a better way to elect our parliamentarians in An appeal to the Canadian Institute on the rectification of Parliament (1892)  So there have always been Canadians dissatisfied with the inequities inherent in our system.  And over the years there have been changes made, it took a while, but we finally managed to achieve universal that allowed every adult Canadian, regardless of race or gender to have a vote.  Bur even so, Canada’s democratic deficit has been growing.  In recent decades, our system more and more Canadians have disengaged from politics, leaving the job of voting up to only about 60% of the eligible voters.  Even more alarming has been the fact a growing number of Canadians have largely stopped voting for what they actually want because they know there is little or no chance of getting it.  After all, we live with a system in which a party seeking the dismantlement of Canada managed to become our Official Opposition Party decades before the NDP could.  The fact is that voting “strategically” — not for the candidate who will best represent us, but for the candidate we think is the least worst.  So many Canadians feel compelled to try to game the system that doesn’t work for us is a sure sign we are not getting the representation we want and we dare not even try.


The main reason for all of this is that our FPTP system does not deliver the results most Canadians want.  When a party with a 39% plurality wins the election, that means 61% of eligible voters didn’t vote for that party.  But the way our system works, that party can walk away with 100% of the power, because the winner only needs to get more votes than the others  to get majority power.  (And that is without factoring in the uncast votes of the 40% of eligible voters a constituency comprised of more eligible voters than those who voted in a 39% majority Liberal Government in 2015 or a 39% majority Conservative Government in 2011.   In our multi-party FTTP system, we get far more phony majorities than actual majority governments.  As the Liberal Party did in 2015, and the Conservative Party did in 2011.

The problem with disproportional results is too many voters don’t get representation in Parliament.  And the problem with phony majorities is that a Majority Government without the support of a majority of voters has the power to make policy and law without the support of a broad base of Canadians.  That’s why proportionality is important.

Nathan Cullen's proposed committee

The Liberal Party promised electoral reform during the 2015 election, and the system we have gives them the power to deliver.  And they have.  The LPC Government has gone so far as to accede to the NDP request to restructure the composition of the Parliamentary Committee studying electoral reform to be proportional.  These are good signs.

The ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform has been tasked with consulting with Canadians to find out what we want out of Electoral Reform.  The ERRE Committee is reaching out to Canadians in a variety of ways, both online and off.  One of the most important pieces of the process ought to be the ERRE Committee’s Cross Canada tour so they can consult with ordinary Canadians face to face.
Bardish Chagger in Waterloo
This is a natural part of any consultation process.  Earlier in the year I was the photographer for all 5 Fair Vote Waterloo delegations to the Waterloo Region MPs elected in 2015.  Fair Vote asked each Liberal MP to do what they could to bring the Electoral Reform Committee to Waterloo Region.  So I was surprised when I saw that Waterloo Region was not included on the itinerary the ERRE Committee had set out for the real world part of the consultation.

Some of my Fair Vote friends have suggested Waterloo Region might have been omitted because their group is so active here.  After all, Waterloo Region might even be considered responsible for the fact the Federal Government is holding an Electoral Reform Consultation at all.

As the Honorable Bardish Chagger wrote,

The Liberal Party electoral reform policy plank, which received wide spread support from Liberals across the nation, originated right here in the Waterloo Region as a grass roots initiative within the Liberal Party Membership. It was one of my proudest accomplishments, as the past president of the Waterloo Federal Liberal Association, to work with a team of fellow volunteers dedicated to electoral reform.

I can understand why the ERRE Committee wishes to to seek out and consult with Canadians who are not as well informed about electoral reform issues as some Waterloo Region residents are, but I see no good reason for the ERRE Committe to avoid ordinary Canadians who do have some understanding of the issue.  Isn’t the point of a Parliamentary Consultation to consult with all Canadians, to find out what Canadians might want from electoral reform — even those who might already know what they hope for from electoral reform?

That is worrisome.

But even more worrisome is the proposed ERRE Committee Itinerary.

ERRE Cross Canada Consultation

Ontario Population: 13.6 million (January 1, 2014)
1. Toronto

Population: 8.215 million  (July 1st, 2014)
1. Québec, Québec
2. Joliette, Québec
3.  Montréal, Québec

British Columbia
Population: 4.631 million  (Jul 1, 2014)
1. Victoria, British Columbia
2. Vancouver, British Columbia

Population: 4.146 million  (Oct 1, 2014)
1. Leduc, Alberta

Population: 1.282 million  (Jul 1, 2014)
1. St-Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba
2. Winnipeg, Manitoba

Population: 1.13  million  (Oct 1, 2014)
1. Regina, Saskatchewan

Nova Scotia
Population: 942,926 (Apr 1, 2015)
1. Halifax, Nova Scotia

New Brunswick
Population: 753,914       (July 1st, 2014)
Fredericton, New Brunswick

Newfoundland and Labrador
Population: 526,977       (July 1st, 2014)
1. St. John’s, Newfoundland

Prince Edward Island
Population: 146,283        (July 1st, 2014)
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Population: 37,174    (est Jan. 1, 2016)
1. Iqaluit, Nunavut

Northwest  Territories
Population: 44,291   (est Jan. 1, 2016)
1. Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Population: 37,193   (est Jan. 1, 2016)
1. Whitehorse, Yukon


I have no problem at all with this Parliamentary cross Canada Consultation stopping once in Nunavut, twice in B.C and Manitoba, or even 3 times in Québec. The point is to consult with Canadians across the country.

What I simply can not understand is how the ERRE committee can limit its itinerary to a single stop in the most populous province, Ontario.

back to #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts

Proportional Representation Series So Far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement 
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRE #Q Committee
• #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRE #Q


and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!


 2011 Canada Pop Pie © by Hwy43 released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License

Congratulations @BardishKW

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Since getting swept up in the electoral reform movement, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all the politcal parties in Waterloo Region.  In the days before the wider community hadn’t even heard about electoral reform, many of the people attending the Fair Vote Waterloo events where I was taking photographs were very involved in politics, some with political aspirations. That was when I first noticed a bright young woman named Bardish Chagger.  Although her face started become familiar because I kept seeing her at events like the Waterloo Robocalls Town Hall, it was only when she hosted a Liberal electoral reform debate that I learned she was a highly placed member of the local Liberal Riding Association.  As I got to know her a little, I discovered her mentor was Andrew Telegdi, an MP whose name I knew from a principled stand he took even before I moved back home.

When Bardish received the Waterloo Liberal nomination, I was happy for her.  Although I supported a different party during the 2015 election, and was very disappointed our exceptional candidate (and my friend) Richard Walsh wasn’t able to win the seat he and Bardish were contesting, I was pleased she had unseated the incumbent, and I was happy for her again.  My husband predicted she might get a cabinet position in spite of her youth, and when it happened, I was happy for her again, but now it felt kind of weird to actually know a cabinet minister.  But Bardish has brilliant people skills, and in spite of her elevation, she continued to be the approachable person she had always been, and when I meet her at events she always puts me at ease.

And now today I am happy for her elevation to the position of Government House Leader.  People say it is unprecedented for a “rookie” like Bardish to end up in such a job, but I’ve not doubt Bardish has the skills necessary to do the job.  Which is why I am offering the Honorable Bardish Chagger my most sincere congratulations.

Bardish Chagger at the Waterloo Climate Change Consultation

Bardish Chagger at the Waterloo Climate Change Consultation


Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

August 20, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Take The Poll ~ #ERRE #Q

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back to #ERRE #Q Meetings & TranscriptsAhead to laurel l. russwurm's political musings PROPORTIONALITY #ERRE #QCanadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the fifteenth article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

Twitter Poll

Although I don’t think public opinion polls should decide elections, public opinion polls can be a useful way of gathering information.

My public opinion poll is not scientific.  One of the biggest drawbacks of public opinion polls is that there is no obligation to answer truthfully.  And for self-selecting public opinion polls like this one, the people who answer are probably the ones who follow me on twitter because they agree with me.

Still, I am curious about what the people I talk to in social media actually think about this.  And I am curious what the people they talk to on social media might think.  That’s why I have launched the above twitter poll.  Maybe my friends in the twitterverse will vote in my poll, and share with their friends to bring the question to a wider pool of voters.  If you are not on Twitter but have friends who are, if you send them a link to this article or the twitter post, maybe they will vote too.

Electoral reform shouldn’t be for the benefit of parties, it should be for the benefit of citizens.

I have set my public opinion poll to run for a week, and pinned it to the top of my twitter feed.  If this gets traction, I will publish the results here after my public opinion poll concludes.

side by side 2011 and 2015 election results showing 39% seats = 100% of the power

Should 39% of the Vote = 100% of the power?

back to #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts

Ahead to PROPORTIONALITY #ERRE #QProportional Representation Series So Far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement 
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRE #Q Committee
• #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRE #Q


and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

August 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

#ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts

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Ahead to Take The Poll ~ #ERRE #Qback to #ERRE #Q CommitteeCanadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the fourteenth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

The Special Committee on Electoral Reform has been meeting since June 21st, 2016 and we are fortunate to live in a time when such proceedings can be televised to allow citizens to follow along as they happen.  Better yet, these sessions are also available online, making it possible for us to watch as it happens, or later at our leisure.

The First Batch of ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform Committee Meetings is over.  You can watch the video or read the transcripts online.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
Election of Chair, Vice Chairs and Administrative BusinessMonsef

Listen on ParVu


Wednesday, June 29, 2016Minutes
Establishing the ground rules for the Committee
Proposed ERRE Committee Meetings: July 6, 7, 25, 26, 27, 28; August 22, 23, 29, 30, 31; September 1st.


Wednesday July 6th, 2016 ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Hon. Maryam Monsef, P.C., M.P., Minister of Democratic Institutions
• Isabelle Mondou, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet and Counsel to the Clerk of the Privy Council
Watch on ParlVu http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/Redirects/ParlVuMeetingPage?MeetingId=9012450&meetingDate=2016-07-06&isAudioOnly=false


Thursday, July 7, 2016 ~ MinutesEvidence Transcript
• Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer
• Stéphane Perrault, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Regulatory Affairs
• Michel Roussel, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events#ERRE #Q Parliament

Watch on ParlVu 


Thursday, July 7, 2016 ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer, 1990-2007

Watch on ParlVu 


Monday, July 25, 2016 ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• R. Kenneth Carty
, Professor Emeritus, The University of British Columbia
• Brian Tanguay
, Professor, Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University
• Nelson Wiseman
, Director, Canadian Studies Program, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

Watch on ParlVu 


Tuesday, July 26, 2016 ~ 9:30am  ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Michael Marsh, Emeritus Professor, Trinity College Dublin (by videoconference: Dublin, Ireland)
• Michael Gallagher, Professor of Comparative Politics, Trinity College Dublin (by videoconference: Dublin, Ireland)
Read the Brief:  Presentation to Special Committee on Electoral Reform, House of Commons, Canada Dublin, 26 July 2016

Watch on ParlVu 


Tuesday, July 26, 2016 ~ 2:00pm ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Patrice Dutil, Professor, Ryerson University
Peter Russell, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

Watch on ParlVu


Tuesday, July 26, 2016 ~ 7:00pm ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Tom Rogers, Electoral Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission (by videoconference: Canberra, Australia)
• Robert Peden, Chief Electoral Officer (by videoconference: Wellington, New Zealand) New Zealand Electoral Commission

Watch on ParlVu


Wednesday, July 27, 2016 ~ 9:30am ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
 Henry Milner, Senior Researcher, Chair in Electoral Studies, Université de Montréal
• Alex Himelfarb, Clerk of the Privy Council, 2002-2006
• André Blais, Professor, Department of Political Science, Université de Montréal

Watch on ParlVu 


Expert Witness Dennis Pilon appeared before the ERRE Committee

Wednesday, July 27, 2016 ~ 2pm ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Leslie Seidle, Research Director, Canada’s Changing Federal Community, Institute for Research on Public Policy
• Larry LeDuc, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
• Hugo Cyr, Dean, Faculty of Political Science and Law, Université du Québec à Montréal

Watch on ParlVu 


Thursday, July 28, 2016 ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Dennis Pilon, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, York University
• Jonathan Rose, Associate Professor, Department of Policital Studies, Queen’s University
• Maryantonett Flumian, President, Institute on Governance

Watch on ParlVu 

Coming Soon


Monday, August 22, 2016 ~ 2pm ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
 Benoît Pelletier, Full Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Arend Lijphart, Research Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of California, San Diego (by videoconference: San Francisco, California)


Monday, August 22, 2016 ~ 6pm ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Nathalie Des Rosiers, Dean, Faculty of Law, Civil Law, Ottawa University
• Christian Dufour, Political scientist, Analyst and Writer
• Harold Jansen, Professor of Political Science, University of Lethbridge


Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 9:30 a.m.~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Barry Cooper, Professor, University of Calgary
• Nicole Goodman, Director, Centre for e-Democracy, Assistant Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs
• Emmett Macfarlane, Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo


Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 2:00 p.m.~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Matthew P. Harrington, Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
• Thomas S. Axworthy, Public Policy Chair, Massey College, University of Toronto<
• Pippa Norris, Professor of Government Relations & Laureate Fellow, U of Sydney, McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics, Harvard, Director of Electoral Integrity Project (by videoconference: South Dennis, Massachusetts)


Monday, August 29th, 2016, 2:00 p.m. ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Ed Broadbent, Chair and Founder, Broadbent Institute
• Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, Minister for Democratic Reform, Government of Quebec (2002-2003)
• Yasmin Dawood, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Democracy, Constitutionalism, and Electoral Law, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto (by videoconference: Toronto, Ontario)


Tuesday, August 30th, 2016, 9:30 a.m. ~ Minutes ~ Evidence Transcript
• Jean-Sébastien Dufresne, President, Mouvement Démocratie Nouvelle
• Eric Maskin, Adams University Professor, Department of Economics, Harvard University
• Peter John Loewen, Director, School of Public Policy and Governance and Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

It is also possible to read the Expert’s Briefs on scribd.  Please be aware they are offering a one month free offer so you can read anything on the service for a month.  However if you are not planning on paying for a subscription after that point, you should consider downloading the briefs  you might wish to refer back to at a later date.

back to #ERRE #Q Committee

Ahead to Take The Poll ~ #ERRE #Q

Proportional Representation Series So Far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRE #Q Committee
• #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRE #Q

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

#ERRE #Q Committee

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back to Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote

Ahead to #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the thirteenth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

Meet the ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform.
These Members of Parliament are currently engaged in conducting an Electoral Reform Consulatation with Canadians — both online and off — as mandated by the Federal Government.

Francis Scarpaleggia ~ Liberal
M.P./député Lac-Saint-Louis Chair Liberal Caucus/président caucus libéral


John Aldag ~ LiberalChanging how we vote
Member of Parliament for Cloverdale – Langley City

Matt DeCourcey ~ Liberal
Member of Parliament for Fredericton / Député de Fredericton

Ruby Sahota ~ Liberal
MP – Brampton North

Sherry Romanado ~ Liberal
Députée féderale pour Longueuil-Charles-Lemoyne / Member of Parliament for Longueuil-Charles-LeMoyne

Scott Reid ~ Conservative
MP for Lanark – Frontenac – Kingston

Gérard Deltell ~ Conservative
Député de Louis-Saint-Laurent à la Chambre des communes
Nathan Cullen's ERRE Committee Proposal

Hon. Jason Kenney ~ Conservative
Member of Parliament for Calgary Midnapore

Nathan Cullen ~ NDP critic for Democratic Reform and Environment & Climate Change
Member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley

Alexandre Boulerice ~ NDP
Député de Rosemont La Petite-Patrie

Elizabeth May is on the ERRE Committee for the Green Party

Elizabeth May ~ Leader of Green Party,
Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands

Luc Thériault ~ Bloc Québécois
Député de Montcalm et leader parlementaire du Bloc Québécois


• William Amos for John Aldag (Liberal)
• Greg Fergus for John Aldag (Liberal)

• David J. McGuinty for Ruby Sahota (Liberal)

• Sylvie Boucher for Scott Reid (Conservative)

• Blake Richards for Hon. Jason Kenney (Conservative)
• Pat Kelly for Hon. Jason Kenney (Conservative)
• Tom Kmiec for Hon. Jason Kenney (Conservative)

• David Christopherson for Nathan Cullen (NDP)

• Daniel Blaikie for Alexandre Boulerice (NDP)
• Sheri Benson for Alexandre Boulerice (NDP)

The Committee will present its findings to the MINISTER of Democratic Institutions 
Maryam Monsef ~ Liberal
Member of Parliament for Peterborough—Kawartha

ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform meetings in Ottawa that had been broadcast live by CPAC (on local cable station, Parlvu and still available to watch on CPAC).

If you use twitter, use the #ERRE #Q hashtag for anything you want the committee to consider.

The Committee will also be travelling throughout Canada to meet with Canadians during the consultation period.  All MPs are encouraged to hold Town Hall meetings with citizens in their respective ridings.  Everyone should contact their local MPs constituency office for details of these events.  Because the time line is so tight, it is important these be scheduled very soon.

If your MP is not making any move to hold a town hall, or if you are concerned that your MP may not support Proportional Representation, please call or write.  Whether or not you’re inside or outside Waterloo Region, you’ll find some good ideas about what you might say from the WRGreens’ Push for Proportional Representation Action page.

For more info check out PR 4 Canada Resources

back to Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote

Ahead to #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts

Proportional Representation Series So Far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRE #Q Committee
• #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

Canada will miss Mel Hurtig

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canadaflagbannerstopbillc51The day my husband and I stumbled across a campaign office for The National Party of Canada in 1993 was the first time I heard of Mel Hurtig.  Like a majority of Canadians— then and now— we were dissatisfied with the political situation in Canada.  At a time in our lives when we might have begun closing our ears to the political system that had never served our interests, since we were new parents we had a strong incentive to keep searching for solutions to what wasn’t working.

The National Party seemed sincere in its insistence that “Now is the time for real change.”

I learned a lot from reading the campaign literature, and later some of Mel Hurtig’s published work.  One thing that was always abundantly clear was that Mr. Hurtig was a passionate Canadian who worked long and hard in hope of making this great country better.  So I was sorry to learn of the passing Mel Hurtig.

Perhaps the saddest thing was the shocking superficiality of the Globe and Mail obituary.  That the self proclaimed “Canada’s National Newspaper” would employ a negative characterization of Mr. Hurtig as a “political agitator” in the title suggests the deficiencies of this obituary may arise from the corporate serving newspaper’s disapproved of Mel Hurtig’s politics.

To my mind the worst of the obituary is that it was misleading:


He ran for a federal seat for the National Party of Canada in the 1993 election, but did not win.

— Globe and mail: Publisher, author and political agitator Mel Hurtig dies at 84

There is no denying that running for office in any political party requires a great deal of commitment. With this casual dig, the Globe brushes aside this reality, but even more it ignores the fact that Mel Hurtig wasn’t just a candidate for the National Party, he founded it.  In spite of the fact the single election party failed to win any seats in Parliament, Mr. Hurtig’s achievement in attracting and running a nationwide slate of candidates is a measure of his dedication. This is a man who was both willing and able to engage and inspire Canadians.

Mel Hurtig will be missed, but his works, his greatest achievements — The Canadian Encyclopediahis books & mdash; and The Council of Canadians — will live on. For the good of the nation he loved.

A more fitting tribute is this:


Mel Hurtig loved this country more than anyone I ever met. He founded the Council of Canadians along with many dedicated Canadians to fight for a better world.

We mourn his passing.”

— Maude Barlow, Remembering Mel Hurtig

Mel Hurtig
June 24th, 1932 – August 3rd, 2016

National Party Button

My button from Mel Hurtig ‘s National Party.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

August 4, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote

with 2 comments

back to Entitlement

Ahead to #ERRE #Q Committee

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the twelfth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

PR v AV posterGetting up to speed on electoral reform can be difficult, so I’d like to share Fair Vote Waterloo’s timely and informative video, Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote.

Waterloo City Councillor Diane Freeman moderates a discussion between two of Canada’s leading experts on electoral reform, Barry Kay, Associate Professor of Political Science at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, and Dennis Pilon, Associate Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto.

In the hands of anyone else, this discussion might have not have been suitable for a general audience, but these professors kept it clear and were careful to explain things that might have become too technical.

The question and answer session at the end of the talk was equally informative.

Dennis Pilon

Dennis Pilon (2012)

When I was just starting to learn about electoral reform back in 2012, I heard Dennis Pilon speak at a Fair Vote Waterloo event at Wilfred Laurier University’s Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work in Kitchener.  Hearing Mr. Pilon again this year,  I was reminded that electoral reform isn’t really as complicated as defenders of the status quo would have us believe.  It’s really only confusing because we are unfamiliar with the alternatives.

Mr. Pilon also explains that different voting systems (including multi-member ridings, Proportional Representation and Alternative Vote) have indeed been employed in parts of Canada throughout our history.

No matter which electoral system we choose, the mechanics of voting for will not change dramatically for voters.  We’ll still go to the polling station, get our ballot, then go behind a privacy screen to mark our choice.

The mechanics of voting will hardly chance under a Proportional System.

The mechanics of voting will hardly change under a Proportional System.

Defenders of the Status Quo often tell us that Canadians understand the system we have now because it is easy.  They say adopting any new system would be more difficult for Canadians than what we have now.  And yet the reality is that we don’t actually understand it.

Many Canadians think when we vote, we’re voting for the Prime Minister.
The reality is that we don’t have presidential elections like our American friends.  We don’t have a say in who the leader will be because we don’t hold Primaries.  In Canada, the members of political parties choose their own leader. And the only Canadians who can actually vote for the Prime Minister are those who live in the presumptive PM’s riding.  The only Canadians who voted for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 live in the Quebec riding of Papineau.

Many think our votes are equal and effective.  But when 38,000 voters can elect a Liberal MP but it takes more than 600,000 voters to send a single Green MP to Ottawa, it is very clear that all our votes are not equal.

how many votes graph (sideways)

Some votes are worth more than others in Canada’s Winner-take-all electoral system.

An when 39% of the votes result in majority power, 61% of the voting electorate’s votes have not counted.

39% of the Vote = 100% of the power In 2011 and 2015 Canada

39% of the Vote = 100% of the power In 2011 and 2015 Canada

We don’t understand that our vote is supposed to result in our representation in Ottawa.

Sadly Canadian political parties have more control over Members of Parliament than voters do under our current system.

Waterloo voters picket ex-MP Peter Braid's Office

Canadian MPs frequently ignore the wishes of their constituents and vote the way the party dictates.

Many of us believe democracy is about winners and losers.  But it’s not.  It’s about representing us in Parliament.

“Democracy is NOT about picking winners and losers. You are thinking of sports, or perhaps capitalism. Democracy is about working together to accomplish more than we can do as individuals. It is about bringing all stakeholders to the table so everyone can get what they need. When democracy functions as it should, we are all winners. For that, you need a fair voting system” Wayne Smith, Executive Director, Fair Vote Canada

back to Entitlement

Ahead to #ERRE #Q Committee


Proportional Representation For Canada series so far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRE #Q Committee
• #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!


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