Power vs People

How many votes does it take to get a seat in Parliament?
How many votes does it take to get a seat in Parliament?

It’s hard enough for small parties to get elected under our miserably unfair winner-take-all electoral system.

Although the Trudeau Government won a majority of seats in Parliament on the promise of making every vote count as of 2019, it seems Mr. Trudeau has decided he would rather keep the system so disproportional that Liberal candidates only need 38,000 votes to get elected on average, but the Green Party needed 600,000+ votes to elect a single MP.

But that’s not the only institutional barrier to getting candidates elected in small parties.  The Main Stream Media (or MSM) — that’s the big TV networks and the major newspapers — support the status quo too.  Face it, it is a lot easier for them to give the lion’s share of the media coverage to only two candidates.  In a country where the single biggest advertiser is our government, the MSM knows which side butters their bread.  Nor does it stop there, as the Toronto Star tells us that’s just the tip of the iceberg: there are subsidies and tax breaks galore. (As a recipient of many of those government tax dollars, the Star is, unsurprisingly a big supporter.  Oh, and let’s not forget bail outs.  After doubling his own salary in 2013Postmedia’s Godfrey wants lifeline of tax breaks, bigger government ad spending,and then the poor man was forced to accept nearly a million dollars as a “retention bonus.”   Although the alternative media explains Government bailout of corporate media is not the solution to our crisis there is not a lot of listening going on.  Is it any wonder our MSM supports the status quo?

2017 By-elections

Although there are rules, small parties and independent candidates continue to get short shrift during elections.

The problem we often lose sight of is that when small parties and independent candidates get short shrift, it means voters do too. The reason small parties come to exist because citizens feel unrepresented by the big parties.  But every year it gets harder and harder to elect anyone else.

Voters need need to know who all the candidates who want to represent them in Ottawa are.  They need to know what’s actually on the menu so they don’t have to settle for second best.  But even voters who support the big parties have problems getting the representation they want from the inside.  When a party foists it choice of a candidate on an Electoral District Association it’s called “parachuting in” a candidate.  This top down process deprives the party members at the local level from choosing for themselves who will run in the election under their party.

In spite of Prime Minister Trudeau’s initial “real change” commitment to keeping his hands off the candidate nomination process in his own party, his fingerprints have been all over them pretty much from the start.  And it’s still happening.  You know it’s bad when the local Liberal candidates ends up publicly complaining about it in the MSM, as happened when PM Trudeau decided to impose one of his assistants on Markham—Thornhill.

Even when voters back the candidate they support in the Party they want, they can still find themselves disappointed or even feeling betrayed when the government they wanted turns its back on its commitments.

Big Guns

During a regular federal election, Prime Ministers and Party Leaders have their own campaigns to run, but they carve out some time here and there to drop in on candidates across the country to lend their name brand support to the electoral contest.  During a By-election period, they don’t have their own campaigns to run; which is how both the Prime Minister and Opposition Party Leader wound up in Calgary, stumping for their respective candidates in ridings recently vacated by ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and ex-cabinet minister Jason Kenney (newly elected Alberta’s provincial Conservative Party leader).

Guess which party’s candidates are getting the most press?

Fair Representation

Democracy is supposed to give citizens a say in our own governance.

But when we don’t have equal and effective votes, we don’t get fair representation.

When the deck is stacked in favour of the big political parties so only their candidates can get elected, we can’t get fair representation.

When a political system doesn’t work for a majority of the voters, people stop voting so they get no representation.

Or when people are afraid to vote for who they want and vote for someone they don’t want to stop someone they hate from getting elected, there is no longer any hope for fair representation.

Without fair representation, democracy stops being democracy.

Mr. Trudeau has disavowed his promise for electoral reform, but that is not his decision to make.  It’s ours.  So we need to keep pressuring them.  If the Liberals fail to win any of the 5 By-elections, it would certainly be a very clear message to Mr. Trudeau.  And I’ve no doubt it would increase our chance of getting the promised Proportional Representation.

Smart Voting Tips:

  1. If we really want real change, we need to start voting for politicians who will actually deliver it.
  2. We need to vote… even the disenchanted need to vote.  Do you know, more people didn’t vote than voted for the Trudeau Government?  If all the eligible voters who don’t vote would vote, we would see real real change.
  3. The first thing to remember that opinion polls are just the opinions of a tiny sample of people, kind of like the surveys they cite on Family Feud.  Don’t vote for anyone but the candidate you want.
  4. Even votes that don’t count have power.
  5. The more voters who give up in frustration, the easier it is for the defenders of the status quo to keep things from changing.
  6. Unless we start voting for what we want, we will never get it.

Power To The People

Right now there is a shade more than a week left before the 2017 By-elections will be decided on April 3rd.  There aren’t enough by-elections to change the balance of power in Ottawa, so the usual arguments for strategic voting have no power.  Which means vote for what you want.

If there is a By-election in your riding, find out who your choices are.  You can even volunteer for the candidate you like best, and maybe even help her win.

I imagine there are a fair number of Liberal supporters living in Markham—Thornhill who are annoyed to have local candidates cast aside to make way for one of the PM’s friends.  Such shenanigans undermine the local representation Canadians want.  This would be an excellent time for angry Liberals to swing their votes.  

If I were a Markham—Thornhill voter, I’d be volunteering for Caryn Bergmann because she supports the things I do… including Electoral Reform and Climate Action, and I think she will fight for them in Ottawa.  But I’m not, so all I can do is cheer her on from the peanut gallery.

If you are a Markham—Thornhill voter, I urge you to attend Thursday’s All Candidates Debate to get a good look at the choices.  Find out where they stand, decide who will best represent you.

Then vote.

It’s time to take back our democracy.



Canadian Dog Whistle Politics or #ProportionalRepresentation?



For those who don’t know, at the end of Second World War the victorious Allies governments imposed Mixed Member Proportional Representation on West Germany.

They did this specifically to prevent the rise of another Hitler.   Although these powerful government leaders clearly understood this, they chose not to follow the same path for their own nations. Presumably they believed such limitation on their own power wasn’t necessary.   Just as Canada’s current Prime Minister doesn’t feel his power needs limitation.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if there is a good Prime Minister or a bad one.  It doesn’t matter if there’s a bad government in place or not.

What matters in a representative democracy is that voters secure representation in Parliament.  All Canadians need representation, period.  Just as Canadians need the Charter, in times of good or bad.   Like the Charter, representation provides citizens with security.

Had Harry Truman implemented such a change on the USA, the likelihood of a Trump presidency would be nil.

Had Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King implemented some form of Proportional Representation in Canada, Canadians would not see be seeing a rise in dog whistle politics. My brother wrote about this phenomenon before either of us knew the term.

Winston Churchill knew Proportional Representation was a defence against fascism.

Here’s the thing: fear and dog whistle politics are a powerful tools used over and over again in winner-take-all systems because they work.  One of the things so dreadfully wrong with winner-take-all politics is that the governments we elect are so unaccountable to voters, it isn’t a question of whether they will keep all their promises, it is a question of which promises they will keep.  And, incredibly, we accept that.  We have been conditioned to understand they won’t keep all their promises.  No doubt this is a major reason the young and the idealistic don’t engage in politics: they see it for a sham, and choose to invest their energies elsewhere.

Dog Whistling Islamaphobia

MP Iqra Khalid’s Private Member’s Motion is not the first to reference House of Commons e-petition (e-411).

The Canadian MSM is now reminding us that all the MPs in Parliament — including those Conservative Leadership Candidates seeking to ride a wave of prejudice to 100% power in Parliament — voted in support of Mr. Mulcair’s October Petition.  This was long before 6 Quebec Muslims were murdered at prayer.

Mr. Speaker, following discussions with all parties in the House, I hope you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the House join the 69,742 Canadian supporters of House of Commons e-petition (e-411) in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.

The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Hansard, House of Commons, October 26th, 2016

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's Islamaphobia motion received unanimous assent in the House of Commons on Oct. 26, 2016
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s Islamaphobia motion received unanimous assent in the House of Commons on Oct. 26, 2016

So what has happened?  Do these Conservative Leadership Candidates feel a majority of their constituents approve of gunning down Muslims at prayer?

I don’t believe that for a minute.

But our winner-take-all political system allows for the distribution of a disproportional amount of power.

In a winner-take-all system like ours, Ms. Leitch doesn’t need a majority of Conservative Party Members to support Islamaphobia in order to win her party’s leadership crown.  Nor does she even need to attract a majority of voters to become the Prime Minister of Canada.

So long as we continue to use this First Past the Post Electoral System, the right dog whistle can win a 39% (or less) majority.

It doesn’t matter if we have a few women or minority MPs in the House of Commons.

We are staring in the face of the polarization inherent in FPTP.  This whole hullaballoo starkly contrasts what happens when a powerful old white male MP puts forward a Motion condemning Islamaphobia with what happens when a young ethnic woman MP does.

And it is a not pretty picture.

But it happens. And it will keep on happening so long as we retain an electoral system that rewards dog whistle politicians with more than their fair share of power.

Canada needs real Real Change.

It does not have to be this way.  In spite of his totally specious arguments to the contrary, Prime Minister Trudeau’s disavowal of his electoral reform promise not only paves the way for institutional racism, it fuels Islamaphobia.  If Ms. Khalid (and other Liberal MPs) want to change this dreadful FPTP side effect, it is time they told their leader he must restore the Electoral Reform process and show leadership to get Proportional Representation legislation through Parliament by October.

Because if Canada wants to be a healthy multicultural democracy, we must have Proportional Representation.


Sign The Electoral Reform Petition

At this time of writing, Petition e-616 is up to 120,651 signatures. If everyone who has already signed it can convince 2 Canadians to sign it our chance of having Proportional Representation implemented by 2019 will be greatly improved.





Sign the Petition e-616

Petition e-616 can be found at

This petition to the Canadian Government website has broken all records and continues to grow.  As of writing it is up to:

119,515 signatures

Sign the Petition: e-616

You can help make every vote count by signing the petition.

And after you’ve signed it (and sent the email confirmation)  you can help even more by encouraging your friends and family and co-workers and your kid’s teachers and your dentist and doctor and letter carrier and fellow religionists (including your minister, rabbi, imam or priest) … because *any* Canadian can and should sign this petition too.

If enough Canadians sign e-616, our Government might yet deliver on this oh so important promise.

Because when all Canadians are represented in Parliament, it will make our government much more accountable than it is today because no single party — no single party leader will have the power to impose an agenda against the public good.  We know Proportional Representation most often produces stable government capable of long term planning.  We also know Proportional Representation leads to co-operation between parties, not polarization like we have now.  First Past The Post elected Donald Trump in the USA, and FPTP could just as easily give us a Canadian version too.

First Past The Post gives the winner 100% of the power with only 39% (or less) of the votes.

Proportional Representation ensures 39% of the votes only deliver 39% of the power.

Right now the Liberal Government is rallying around Private Member’s Motion 103 because they hope it will makes them look like progressive multicultural heroes.  If the Conservative Party chooses an O’Leary or a Leitch as its leader, the Liberal Party hopes to ride a wave of lesser-evilism into a second majority term.  (Clever Canadians should recall how well such a plan worked out for Hillary Clinton.  Clever Conservatives won’t choose a leader the Liberals can use as a boogeyman.)

But here’s the thing: M-103 wouldn’t even be an issue if every vote counted. If the Liberal Government is truly committed to a healthy multicultural democracy it would be writing the promised electoral reform legislation as we speak.  If they are truly worried a referendum would prove too divisive or open to manipulation, the ERRE Committee’s referendum might be deferred to after 3 elections… by which time Canadians will understand Proportional Representation well enough to make an informed choice.

Canada is supposed to be a Representative Democracy.

But when a majority of Canadians aren’t represented in Parliament, it isn’t, really.

Canadians need to be able to elect the government we want by electing MPs that can actually represent us.  When the Liberal Government was elected with a majority, I hoped the fact the party was divided between Alternative Vote and Proportional Representation we would get a fair process.  Even knowing Justin Trudeau was an Alternative Vote supporter as far back as the Liberal Leadership race.  And for a while it really looked like we were.  Mr. Trudeau and senior Liberals assured us he would let the process go through.   My Liberal friends were positive that Proportional Representation couldn’t possibly fail with a fair process, because the evidence of over a century clearly supports Proportional Representation as the fairest way to achieve representative democracy.  And 14 Canadian Commissions, Assemblies & Reports recommended PR (with 0 recommending keeping First Past the post or adopting Mr. Trudeau’s favourite Alternative Vote (alias Preferential/Instant Runoff).

But so many people kept asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about Proportional Representation he decided to pull the plug on it.  So much for a fair process.  So much for real change.  And nobody is angrier about this unfair outcome than my Liberal friends.

Sign The Electoral Reform Petition

Electoral Reform Hashtags

The easiest way to encourage your friends and family is to share on social media.


Note:  #CDNpoli is possibly the most important hashtag because it reaches people interested in Canadian Politics whether or not they are informed about electoral reform.

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


Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation

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
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
Sign the Petition e-616

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

FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRE

back to The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRE

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag background
This is the twenty-fifth article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

[Guest Post by Fair Vote Canada]

Fair Vote Waterloo Community Dialogues #1The all-party committee on electoral reform (ERRÉ) has just finished four months of expert and public consultations. They will make their recommendation to Government by December 1st.

Of the ERRÉ witnesses with a position on voting systems, 88% recommended Proportional Representation. This reinforces the findings from decades of research from around the world and of 13 previous electoral reform processes in Canada, including two thorough and impartial citizens assemblies.

When the Government launched the process without a mechanism for collecting empirical data, Fair Vote Canada, a multi-partisan advocacy group, started tracking the process very closely. We are releasing the results of our work to the media because we believe the process needs to be transparent and accountable.

(You can find key a list of results below with links our spreadsheets.)

Fair Vote Waterloo Community Dialogues #@Despite a strong call for proportional representation across all of the consultative platforms, we believe reforming the electoral system could be in serious trouble based on recent comments from Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Monsef.

President Réal Lavergne expressed Fair Vote Canada’s concerns “We are worried that the Minister and the Prime Minister are saying that we cannot count on the government keeping its promise to make every vote count. Yet experts and Canadians have clearly expressed themselves in favour of proportional representation, which is what it really means to “make every vote count.”.

David Merner, Vice-President of Fair Vote Canada , 2015 LPC candidate
David Merner, Vice-President of Fair Vote Canada and former LPC candidate (2015)

David Merner, Vice-President of Fair Vote Canada and a Liberal candidate in last year’s federal election adds “This is not the time for back-tracking. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Democratic Institutions have personally created a sense of hope in Canadians, building on the 2015 Liberal campaign promise of Real Change. Millions of voters believed that the government intended to keep its promises. We believed the political cynicism of the Harper years was behind us, and thousands of us participated in the government’s consultations in good faith.”

Merner says “Now is the time for the government to deliver on its promises.

Fair Vote Waterloo Community Dialogue ERRÉ in CambridgeHighly regarded Conservative strategist and spokesperson for the Every Voter Counts Alliance, Guy Giorno, adds that “committee members must endorse what’s right for Canadians, not what benefits any particular party. Given the weight of the evidence before the committee, the only legitimate option is a recommendation for proportional representation. Let’s also remember that electoral reform was a major issue at the last election, and voters overwhelmingly supported parties promising change.”

The weight of expert testimony in favour of PR was echoed across the country in hundreds of town halls and public dialogues.

ERRE Info Session at Ayr Branch Library

Over the next few days the ERRÉ will negotiate a recommendation for a new electoral system for Canada. The final report is due on December 1.

Fair Vote Canada’s President Réal Lavergne explains that “Once that recommendation has been made, it will be incumbent on the minister to carry it forward and for the government to act on it. Leadership will be required to educate both the public and parliamentarians, and to champion the proposed reform.”

“Based on all the results of the expert and citizen consultations, the committee’s only legitimate option is to recommend in favour of proportional representation.”

Key indicators from ERRÉ hearings

Canadian Electoral System expert Dennis Pilon testified before the ERRE Committee.
Canadian Electoral System expert Dennis Pilon testified before the ERRE Committee.

88% of expert witnesses who expressed a preference called for proportional representation

4% supported the Alternative Vote
(majoritarian ranked ballot systems tend to evolve towards a two-party system, often favour centrist parties and could further entrench the distortions brought about by our existing majoritarian system. )

67% thought a referendum was undesirable or unnecessary.

Detailed analysis can be found here in our Synthesis of witness statements and views.

Open Mic-sessions

From coast to coast, Canadians lined up at the ERRÉ open-mic sessions asking that the committee keep the promise and deliver PR.

According to data released this week by the NDP, out of 428 participants who spoke up, 374 (87.38%) called for proportional representation.

MP town halls

PR in the Back YardTotal number of town halls reporting: 174

The following indicates the level of support observed for proportional representation in MP town halls.

69.5% (121 town halls) – Majority of speakers calling for proportional representation.

8.6%% (15 town halls) – Majority for electoral reform, but no clear majority specifically for proportional representation

Brantford-Brant Community Dialogue

5.2%  (9 town halls) – Support divided between majoritarian system and proportional representation

5.7%   (10 town halls) – Majority for the status quo

8.0% (14 town halls) – Report does not allow any majority view to be identified

2.9%   (5 town halls) – Majority support for the Alternative Vote

Detailed analysis can be found here in our
Synthesis of witness statements and views.

New Hamburg Branch info sessions

Citizen Community Dialogues & EventsWaterloo Region Greens Community Dialogue

Here are basic indicators from the 27 dialogues or town halls hosted by citizens and community groups posted on the ERRÉ site or for which we have directly obtained the information so far:

Total number of participants: 1,058

88% (22 events) – A majority of speakers calling for proportional representation

8% (2 events ) – A majority for change but no majority for any one option

12% (3 events) – Report does not allow any majority view to be identified.

We are aware of at least 15-20 other community dialogues that are not yet posted on the ERRÉ site.

Detailed analysis can be found here.

Minister Monsef’s Townhalls

Minister Monsef organized two types of town hall consultations: ones in her own riding, and others as part of a cross-country tour. Here is an extract from the report submitted to the ERRÉ on town halls held by Minister Monsef in her Riding of Peterborough:

“It is clear that there is an appetite for thoughtful change to the electoral system. While opinions on the various electoral systems did vary, most participants indicated their support for a more proportional electoral process that still respected the need for local representation and simplicity of the ballot.”

Although Minister Monsef routinely conducted straw polls on issues such as mandatory voting and online voting in town halls on the road, she did not do the same regarding support for proportional representation. FVC volunteers attended these events across the country and shared their opinions. Here are a few quotes from participants:

 “PR was clearly the main issue for most. With respect to PR, many attendees spoke passionately and eloquently in favour, and if anyone present opposed it, he or she was not bold enough to express that view.”

Vancouver: “It seemed that 90% of the audience… did want some form of PR.”

Edmonton: “ It seemed most people were in support of some sort of proportional representation.”

Yellowknife: “She asked whether the participants liked FPTP to remain, or Ranked system or STV or MMP or Proportional Representation implemented. One voted for FPTP. Many voted for MMP and a few voted for PR.”

Yukon: “Some Yukoners came in support of our current electoral system (First Past the Post); more were on the side of moving towards proportional representation.”

Halifax: “The feedback from the groups certainly favoured PR.”

Montreal: “There was an overwhelming support for PR in the room.”

Thunder Bay: “Of the dozens who rose to spoke, everyone spoke in favour of PR.”

Gatineau: “ Participants spoke to PR at every opportunity they had… However, the format made this difficult… Taking into consideration those interventions that spoke to the issue of PR vs FPTP or AV, the overwhelming majority of interventions – in the order of 70% or more – were in favour of PR.”

Waterloo: From the report of 4 MPs: “Every group discussed the need for our new electoral system to feature some degree of proportionality.”

Charlottetown: “ About 90% of the people there were pro-PR.”

Winnipeg: After noting that three people were for FPTP because they feared losing local representation. The rest of the comments I heard were mostly just preferences for the different PR systems.”

Happy Valley-Goose Bay: “What we said was that we wanted PR  BUT, it had to be a hybrid type that considered the lack of population and massive land mass of not only Labrador but 60 % of Canada, i.e. the North.”

Calgary: “There was overwhelming support for getting rid of the current system, with different groups mentioning STV or MMP as their top choice.”

The Hon. Maryam Monsef addresses the crowd in Waterloo Region.A concluding note

And, to conclude, this eloquent quote from a Fair Vote Canada volunteer at the Victoria town hall where the Minister said she “can’t promise you that I’ll be advocating for PR because I haven’t heard that from an overwhelming majority across the country.“


“The wheels were skidding out of control as we tried to combat the spin we received at last night’s town hall on Electoral Reform. Maryam Monsef, the Minister of Democratic Institutions hosted the gathering in Victoria billed as “the last chance” to give your input. But the tone of the meeting was quite acrimonious. They were clearly managing the message while backpedaling from an election commitment about changing the electoral system. Not only did she defend Trudeau’s recent comments about no longer needing this reform because we voted for HIM.”

“After months of hearing expert witness by the proportionally cross-partisan panel, and while MPs held public consultations with thousands of Canadians across the country, are we now to believe there is no appetite for Proportional Representation? Monsef said that she has not yet made up her mind but the implication of her words was troubling. Will the government diminish the committee’s well-researched, democratic report in December by championing their predetermined preference? For many of us who attended last night the so-called consultation felt like a sham.”

PS from Laurel:

I’ve chosen to used my own photographs, here, not only because they are free culture photos (licensed to share under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License) but because the number of electoral reform events in and around Waterloo Region has been staggering, and I wanted to share some of them with you, but there were so many local ERRÉ events that I attended (and I didn’t attend them all)  that there isn’t enough room here to use photos from them all!

There was a time not long ago when I knew nothing about electoral reform.  It was only when I was asked to take photos at local Fair Vote Waterloo events that I found myself listening to what the Fair Vote folks had to say, and after a while I even started understanding it.   This was not an easy process, nor was it fast.  It can take a while to really gain an understanding of something completely different from what we’re used to.  

That’s why every electoral reform event must incorporate an education piece.  The thing that I have seen over and over again is that even though Canadians may not know the words for it, or how to fix it, we know something is wrong with our voting system that needs to be fixed.

That is why Mr. Trudeau’s “We will make every vote count” resonated with so many people.  

And what I have learned from every discussion and every ERRÉ event I’ve attended is that when Canadians have a chance to understand the difference between winner-take-all and Proportional Representation, we almost always want some form of PR.    I think that’s because most Canadians value fairness, and the only way to get to a point where the votes of most Canadians actually count will require some form of Proportional Representation.  

Fair Vote Canada suggests Canadians who want to see the implementation of some form of Proportional Representation would do well to let the ERRÉ Committee know about it, and to make it easier for us, they have an automated tool to help us send a letter urging the committee to recommend PR here:


back to #The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRE

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
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday) 
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ

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

The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRE

back to #ERRE Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag background
This is the twenty-fourth article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

On the 1st anniversary of the Liberal Majority, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggests Canadians have lost our “appetite” for electoral reform now that his party has won a majority government.

A majority built on 39% of the votes cast.
Just as Mr. Harper had a majority built on 39% of the votes cast.

Our Electoral System Is Changing

Something unprecedented happened in the 42nd Canadian federal election of 2015.  Every party — except the one in power — campaigned on electoral reform.  This is something that would never happen without wide spread dissatisfaction with the electoral system we use now.

When most people feel they can’t vote for what they want, even if the person they vote for is elected, they don’t have the representation in Parliament they want.  When the system fails to serve us, we don’t feel engaged in or satisfied by the process.  When a majority of voters are routinely unrepresented, when some votes count more than others, but most votes don’t count at all, there is something wrong with an electoral system.

Even though we don’t understand the problem or know how to fix it, we know something isn’t working.  So when Mr. Trudeau said, “We will make every vote count,” it resonated with Canadians.

Justin Trudeau's Election Promise: "We will make every vote count."

erre-r-here-nuThe Liberal Party promise was itself an acknowledgement of the uncomfortable truth that every vote does not count in the voting system Canadians use now.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lot of Canadians were less than pleased to read the ipolitics report:  Trudeau taking heat for walking back electoral reform: Prime Minister tells Le Devoir Canadians’ motivation for change has weakened.

Our votes need to count as much today as they did last October.

The electoral reform process has barely begun.  Although the public consultation is over, the ERRE Committee hasn’t even finished hearing experts.

Your vote should count.  And so should mine.  All of our voices deserve to be heard, but they won’t be until we have a fair electoral system.  Canadians have been waiting for meaningful electoral reform for a hundred and fifty years. We can’t let them walk away from this election promise, this is our historic opportunity to create a stronger democracy and public policy that serves all Canadians.

Please phone or email your MP to let them know that we expect them to keep their election promise to make every vote count.

Tell your MP that backing off on electoral reform will lose your vote.

Here are the phone numbers and email addresses of our Waterloo Region Liberal MPs.

Bryan May – Cambridge
telephone: 519 624 7440
email: Bryan.May.P9@parl.gc.ca

MP Bryan May and the Honourable Maryam Monsef

Marwan Tabbara – Kitchener- South Hespeler
telephone: 519 571 5509
email: Marwan.Tabbara.P9@parl.gc.ca

The Honourable Maryam Monsef, MP Raj Saini and MP Marwan Tabarra

Bardish Chagger – Waterloo
telephone: 519 746 1573
email: Bardish.Chagger.P9@parl.gc.ca

The Honourable Maryam Monsef and the Honourable Bardish Chagger

Raj Saini – Kitchener Centre
telephone: 519 741 2001
email: Raj.Saini.P9@parl.gc.ca

Read the article in Le Devoir
or the English Translation

If you aren’t in Waterloo Region, you should contact your Liberal MP too.  And if you don’t know who your MP is, you can find out here by Postal Code.  If you know who it is but need the contact info you can find it here by typing your MP’s name.

And no matter where you live, you can sign the Broadbent Institute’s
Petition: Justin Trudeau, keep your promise to bring in electoral reform

Image Credits:
Justin Trudeau by A.k.fung has been dedicated to the Public Domain, which made it possible for me to dedicate my mini-poster  to the Public Domain as well.

back to #ERRE Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm

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
Proportionality #ERRE #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRE
• #ERRE today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday) 
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRE submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRE Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRE

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


#ERRE Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm

back to #ERRE submission Deadline TONIGHT!

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

After more than thirty years of casting votes that have never elected an MP, I am a Canadian who can’t wait for our First Past The Post electoral system to be replaced with some form of Proportional Representation.


• First Past The Post is not working

• Single MP ridings are virtual monopolies that fail to represent too many voters

• Don’t replace it with another winner-take-all system like Alternative Vote

• I want Proportional Representation for more representative Representative Democracy

• I want Proportional Representation so we can vote for what we want and maybe get it

• My preferred type of proportional system is Single Transferable Vote

• Any form of Proportional Representation will be an improvement

• Lower the voting age to 16

• Mandatory voting with rewards not punishments

• Voting Holiday

• No voting machines

• No online voting

• No referendum

• Permanent constituency offices

Note: In discussion of possible Proportional Electoral Systems I have completely ignored List PR because I have accepted the notions that

(a) it wouldn’t work very well within Canadian Geography, and

(b) Canadians tend to value our local representation.

I have completely ignored Fair Vote Canada’s Rural-Urban system because

(a) I don’t believe it will function as promised,

(b) local representation for rural voters will continue to be an effective monoply, and

(c) I think it would manufacture an unnecessary polarizing divide between rural and urban communities.


The problem is that we are voting in an inherently unfair electoral system, a system that was adopted because it was unfair.

Effectiveness and legitimacy

I have no confidence at all that our First Past The Post system will ever translate my vote intention into representation in Parliament because it never has.

The Alternative Vote system would be even worse, because it would raise the bar and make it even more difficult to elect women and minorities than it is now. Such winner-take-all systems almost always leave a majority of voters under represented in multiparty politics.

How effective can votes be in any winner-take-all system when some votes are worth more than others, but most votes don’t count at all?

How legitimate is a system where more voters didn’t vote than voted for a “majority” government?

Representative Democracy is supposed to allow voters to secure representation in Parliament. When only 39% of the votes cast elect a “majority” government, far too many voters are left unrepresented.

Systems that produce Proportional Representation seek to represent as many voters as possible. For this reason, only a proportional system will provide voter equality, effectiveness and legitimacy.


After decades of voting without electing anyone, I was starting to think the whole thing might be futile, and there was a time not so long ago that I was considering giving it up as a lost cause. The discovery that more than 90 other countries use Proportional Representation systems (some for more than a century!) was a real eye opener. But I know how close I came to disengaging.

My son tells me his friends don’t care at all about voting. And I’ve talked to young people willing to carry signs and demonstrate for issues they are passionate about, but don’t vote because they believe it’s futile. And I can’t say I blame them.

Adopting Proportional Representation would go a long way to remove the feeling of futility so many Canadians have. Proportional Representation will give candidates in small parties a fair chance to get elected. Once running for office stops being an exercise in futility, I have no doubt we will see even more good potential candidates (particularly women) willing to throw their hats in the ring.

Any form of Proportional Representation would certainly foster greater civility and collaboration in politics because cross party co-operation would become necessary to get things done in the more consensus style of government that will result.

The very best way to increase voter turnout would be to lower the voting age to 16. If our young people establish the habit of voting early, they are more likely to keep it up.

Mandatory Voting

I used to disagree with the idea of mandatory voting because the very idea of compelling people to vote has an undemocratic feel, but lately I’ve been wondering if it might not be such a bad idea after all.

Many people don’t vote because they don’t feel qualified, informed or even entitled to vote. If voting was mandatory, those eligible voters would understand they are expected to vote, and I am inclined to think most would do their best to make an informed choice.

Others don’t vote because they don’t like the choices. And if voting becomes mandatory, it would be essential to institute a “none of the above” choice with teeth (if a majority choose it, a new election must ensue.

The part I don’t like is the idea of punishing voters who choose not to vote with a fine. I would be happier providing a nominal reward. Just as most Canadians are willing to conform to privacy law without any teeth, it many not even be necessary to have a fine or a reward, simply passing a Parliamentary motion that voting is mandatory would encourage many non-voters to vote.

I also like the idea of making voting day a statutory holiday. Maybe the mandatory voting reward could be a “get out of work free” card that voters get in exchange for voting.

Accessibility and Inclusiveness

People keep telling me that our First Past the Post electoral system is simple.

Mechanics of Voting

If we look at the mechanics of voting from the user perspective, First Past The Post is easy to use because marking a single “x” is simple.

But the same is true in the Dual Member Proportional (DMP) system being offered in the upcoming PEI referendum: it needs only a single “x”.

Mixed Member Proportional is only a little more complicated; voters must mark two “x”es.

Single Transferable Vote (STV) and Alternative Vote (AV) are considered the most difficult to use. Instead of a simple “x,” voters need to rank their preferences. Now I am inclined to think the way to gauge voting difficulty would be to look at how many ballots are spoiled. And since there are fewer spoiled ballots in Ireland with STV than here in Canada with our “simple” FPTP ballots, I can’t imagine it is all that difficult.

All of this suggests the mechanics of how voters will mark ballots are not much of an issue. But how we mark the ballot isn’t the only measure of difficulty.

Quality of Representation

In Canada there are an awful lot of people like me who know we have a Representative Democracy but couldn’t quite understand why we never actually got the representative we asked for. There are also too many voters who feel obliged to work the odds so they can vote strategically in hopes of gaming the system that doesn’t otherwise work for them. Perhaps the worst part of this is that “strategic voting” invariably involves being told how to vote.

I’ve heard people suggest Alternative Vote would do away with strategic voting, but the evidence from Australia, the only country in the world that has used that winner-take-all system for any length of time, is that strategic voting has become institutionalized, with political parties distributing “how to vote” cards.

The best thing about Proportional Representation is that voters can vote for the candidate that will best represent them — with a reasonable expectation of getting representation they want. When most voters stand a reasonable chance of electing an MP who will represent them in Parliament, our democracy will truly be representative.


This is my assessment of the electoral systems elements Any electoral system can be implemented, Integrity: that the proposed measure can be implemented while safeguarding public trust in the election process, by ensuring reliable and verifiable results obtained through an effective and objective process that is secure and preserves vote secrecy for individual Canadians;

This is my assessment of the elements of the potential electoral systems that might be implemented would impact on the public’s trust in the election process.

First Past The Post

• What you see is not what you get: % votes ≠ % seats

• Single member ridings result in a monopoly government voice, often leaving a majority of voters without representation in Parliament.

Alternative Vote

• “Majorities” manufactured out of 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc preferences

•.Increased voter inequality: first preference ≠ third preference

• Votes for any but the top parties are futile

• Has been known to install 3rd place plurality candidates in office

• Single member ridings result in a monopoly government voice, often leaving a majority of voters without representation in Parliament.

Single Transferable Vote

• Proportionality is achieved naturally with no fiddly math.

• Most voters secure representation

• Multi-member ridings allow different local opinions to be heard and represented in Parliament

Mixed member Proportional

• Fiddly Math

• Parties have an edge over Independents

• Most voters secure representation

• Local MPs

• Multi-member ridings allow different opinions to be heard and represented in Parliament

• The role of the top-up MPs seem to cause confusion in the Multi-member regional ridings


• Simple one “x” ballot

• Fiddly Math required to achieve moderate proportionality

• Independents have an edge

• More voters secure representation

• Multi-member ridings allow different opinions to be heard and represented in Parliament

Voting Machines

I’m digitally literate enough to know the only ballots I will trust are paper ballots.

Digital technology might be employed in the process of counting paper ballots; but I would only trust such machines that run on open source (and verifiable) software.

Online Voting

I categorically oppose online voting. My most important reason is that convenience can possibly counteract the loss of the Secret Ballot.

Even if it was possible to devise a secure system, (so far, not) it would again need to use open source software to be verifiable.

But a very serious integrity issue can arise when votes are cast in private, because there is no way to prevent voter coercion, or sold votes.

Perhaps most interesting is that the young people I’ve spoken with don’t like the idea.

I can’t imagine how the ERRE Committee could even consider such a thing without talking to system security experts.

Local Representation

Proportional Representation ensures accountability because votes that count require much more respect than those that don’t. I believe local representation is important. What I disagree with is the idea that the only way to achieve this is by keeping electoral districts geographically small.

The first geographic riding I voted in was geographically massive, and over the decades I’ve been voting, ridings have been subdivided into smaller and smaller chunks. This leads me to believe the geographic size of the ridings served by Canada’s earliest Parliament would have tended to be quite large too.

Today’s Members of Parliament could serve enormous ridings much more easily than any could have in 1867. I don’t believe there were constituency offices in those day, because the work MPs did was pretty much confined to Ottawa as transportation was by horse or train, and written communication travelled by postal mail. Both transportation and communication technology has improved dramatically since then.

With planes, trains and automobiles, today’s MPs can travel far and wide to meet with constituents. They can converse with far flung constituents through email and social media to help them understand local conditions. But with only a single MP per riding, it means only one view of local needs can be properly advanced at the national level.

By combining several already large sparsely settled ridings with similar characteristics into really large electoral districts, the same amount of representation would be available, but bring more points of view to the table. People who live in large rural ridings understand the realities of scale. Applying the idea if “local representation” to a larger area would have the net result of providing better local representation for more citizens.

Constituency Offices

Since MP constituency offices are paid for by the Federal Government, wouldn’t it be a lovely idea to establish permanent offices for each riding? I think it would be of benefit to new MPs, who wouldn’t need to spend the early months of their service scrambling to find a place to rent, and it would offer continuity to riding residents.


It has been suggested that there is something democratically wrong with a consultation process that fails to engage the entire population.

The fact is that most Canadians have no idea a consultation is under way.

That isn’t at all unusual, it’s normal. Canadian Consultations always attract a self-selected group of participants who have opinions to express. We tell them what we want, what we think, how we feel, and the Committee puts it all together and presents its findings to Parliament. Isn’t that how the Parliamentary consultation process is meant to work?

I must say one of the most surprising things I’ve learned in my own voyage of discovery is that Canadians have been clamouring for electoral reform since before Confederation, and waves of discontent have followed ever since. Even when championed by Canadians like Sir Sandford Fleming who offered a prize of 1,000 1892 dollars to anyone who devised an antidote to FPTP.

Is it any wonder Canadians as a whole are uninformed about electoral alternatives? It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone as most of us have little or no experience or exposure to anything but First Past The Post.

Even though serious concerns about democratic deficits inherent in FPTP have been repeatedly raised federally and provincially with increasing frequency in recent decades, not a single change has occurred.

The extraordinary absence of our main stream news media from ERRE proceedings across Canada is not unexpected from an industry that has clearly signalled its attachment to the status quo.

Canadians know something is wrong with our system, even if most of us don’t know how to fix it.

Decreasing citizen engagement reflected in low voter turnout was is a sign something wasn’t working.

Strategic voting become a reasonable mainstream option for voters, to the point where so many voters find it imperative not to vote for the candidate who will best represent them. In a situation like this, voter intention can hardly be gleaned from how voters vote.

The urgent need to modernize our voting system could not have become any more clear than it did when four of the five parties that won seats in the 2016 election campaigned for some form of electoral reform. That was extraordinary.

It concerns me that some of the expert witnesses have suggested Canada needs more time to learn about electoral reform before we can proceed with actually making change.

Choosing another electoral system is a complex subject, which is why the citizen’s assemblies in BC and Ontario had 6 months or a year to study the alternatives before making their recommendations. It isn’t surprising most Canadians lack the time or inclination to becoming electoral reform experts, or to even to participate in the Consultation process. But it isn’t our jobit’s yours as our elected representatives. We elect you to help make policy choices on our behalf.

But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Study after study has recommended variations of Single Transferable Vote or Mixed Member Proportional Representation.

One of the worst consequences of the winner-take-all electoral system we stuggle with is the four year electoral cycle. As a consequence, anything that can’t be accomplished in four years just doesn’t get done. Adopting any form of Proportional Representation would help change that with more stable long standing governance built on a much wider base of support.

Electoral System

The only way to make every vote count is with Proportional Representation.

Ranked ballots are wonderful when used in a Proportional Representation system like Single Transferable Vote. No doubt that’s why almost 58% of BC voters voted to adopt BC-STV in their first electoral reform referendum. STV is my own favourite proportional system, in part because big parties don’t get an advantage over small parties and independent candidates, and partly because voters needn’t worry about the math because the proportionality comes naturally.

But although STV is my personal favourite, I will be pleased to see Canada adopt any form of Proportional Representation. Even those I like least would provide an enormous improvement over the level of representation we have now.


Canadians have been waiting for meaningful electoral reform for 150 years.

Please don’t let us down.


back to #ERRE submission Deadline TONIGHT!

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
Proportionality #ERRE #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRE
• #ERRE today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday) 
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRE submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRE Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm

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


#ERRE submission Deadline TONIGHT!

back to Redistricting Roulette

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

Submissions to the ERRE Consultation *must* be in before midnight tonight.

Participate in electoral reform consultations

Even if I didn’t have a lot to say, I’ve had a look at the questionaire, and I don’t like it much because the instructions about the electoral system questions are unclear. (If you “disagree” with the correct discription of an electoral system, does it mean you don’t approve of that system or does it mean you don’t want that system?)  The worst part is that people can’t just skip those; everything on every page must be answered in order to submit.  Not good.

A “brief” may sound daunting, what it really is is a way for Canadians to tell them what we think.  It can be a scholarly essay if you like, or it can just be a single line that says you want Proportional Representation.  I can tell you just saying “I want Canada to adopt Proportional Representation” will be incredibly  important; they will be crunching numbers.  If 90% of the submissions say they want PR, we might just get it.

If you wish to say a little bit more, the actual election promise was,

We will convene an all-party Parliamentary committee to review a wide variety of reforms, such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting.

— We will make every vote count

You can also offer opinions on other things, like lowering the voting age to increase voter engagement, restoring the per vote subsidy and limiting election spending.

The committee mandate is to find out what Canadians want, starting with the five principles:

  1. Effectiveness and legitimacy
  2. Engagement
  3. Accessibility and inclusiveness
  4. Integrity
  5. Local representation

We don’t need to choose a specific electoral system; in fact, the best possible outcome would be for the committee to recommend a type of Proportional Representation, Mixed Member Proportional or Single Transferable Vote, and then direct Elections Canada to convene a panel of experts to work out details to best conform to the mandate.

You can check out my PR4Canada resources page (listed in the sidebar):
Fair Vote Waterloo’s
for more information.

This is our chance to be heard.  Speak up!

back to Redistricting Roulette

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
Proportionality #ERRE #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRE
• #ERRE today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday) 
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRE submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRE Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm

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