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:

Toronto:
 “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.“

Victoria:

“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:

http://fairvotecanada.good.do/thankyou/keepthepromise

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
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
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
• International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD
• An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

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
• #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
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
• International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD
• An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

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

 

Canadians Deserve Facts from the Main Stream Media

06 vote_1745
GPC candidate Bob Jonkman casts his vote (2015)

We are beginning to see a proliferation of Main Stream Media “journalism” about electoral reform. Canadian unfamiliarity with other electoral systems makes it incredibly easy for the main stream news media to get the facts wrong, and pass along misinformation as fact when discussing “Proportional Representation” and “Preferential Ballot/Alternate Vote/Instant Runoff Voting.”

Canada’s first federal government was elected with the antiquated First Past The Post electoral system, and that’s what we have used ever since.   Like many Canadians, I’ve spent my life frustrated by unrepresentative and unaccountable governments, watching helplessly at the erosion of many of the things we hold dear.   After having voted all my life without ever electing anyone, I was on the verge of giving up on our hopelessly undemocratic democracy when I discovered that it does not have to be this way.

As it turns out, there are many other ways to have representative democracy.  85% of OECD nations have some proportionality in their electoral systems, and in the wider world more than 80 countries have adopted Proportional Representation.  And since so many countries have adopted the principle that votes should translate into representation, there are plenty of real world examples that furnish valuable information that allows us to see what works and what doesn’t.

Everything has changed so much since 1867, and we’ve adapted to so many things; it is high time our electoral system was modernized.   Just as we have welcomed indoor plumbing and automobiles and the Internet, Canadians can as easily adopt Proportional Representation.   With three of our four major political parties campaigning to get rid of First Past The Post in our 42nd federal election, it looks like we’ve finally found the political will to upgrade to a system that will better serve Canadians.

Although I’m no expert, I have learned a great deal about Proportional Representation from Fair Vote Canada.  Since electoral reform is such an important topic, I have been making notes as I consider how best to share what I’ve learned about meaningful electoral reform.  But John Ivison’s December 4th, 2015 National Post article “Liberals’ electoral reform vow an existential threat to the Conservative Party” required an immediate answer.

By way of refutation, I made some comments on the article.  However, I know how easy it is for comments to get lost, particularly on a contentious issue, so I decided it best to incorporate them here.

“The repeated commitment to look at the prospect of electoral reform, specifically use of a preferential ballot system, represents an existential threat to the Conservative Party of Canada.”

— National Post: “John Ivison: Liberals’ electoral reform vow an existential threat to the Conservative Party

NONSENSE!

X marks the ballotPeople keep making this unsubstantiated claim about Alternate Vote (AV), the winner-take-electoral system the Liberals call “Preferential Voting” (PV), a system also sold under the name “Instant Runoff Voting” (IRV).  While some people like the idea, this pronouncement is no more than wishful thinking.

The best information we have about AV/PV/IRV comes from Australia, the only country on earth to have stuck with this system for any length of time. Australia uses “Alternative Vote” in their lower house, and has done for decades. What we can see in the Australian example is that AV/PV/IRV has proven to be even more effective than First Past The Post at polarizing a political system into a 2 Party dance of alternating left-right majorities.

At least in Oz they are lucky enough to have an effective proportionally elected senate which has served as a check on majority excesses that would otherwise have occurred there. Although detractors deride it as legislative “gridlock,” the Australian Senate has actually been known to stop bad laws from being passed by majority governments.  As Canadians are painfully aware, we have no such check on bad legislation here in Canada.

The point is that no matter what you call it, the adoption of Preferential Voting— aka Alternate Vote (AV) aka Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) aka “ranked ballot system” — will not disenfranchise the current Conservative Party.  Quite the contrary; the Australian evidence suggests this system would be more likely to entrench the two-party system Canadians have resisted for so long.  Far from being an existential threat, this electoral system would shore up the crumbling status quo at the expense of the smaller parties, freeing up the Conservative and Liberal Parties to govern alternately as they always have.

what do Liberals want?

Working hard on set: Sharon Sommerville and John Dreger
The Foundation” video pitch for LPC Resolution 31

That is the question. The wording in the Liberal policy on which their electoral campaign promise is based is:

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve Canada better.
Policy Resolution 31

The Liberal Party is divided on the issue of Preferential Ballot/AV/IRV or Proportional Representation.  While some Liberals prefer the idea of Preferential Voting thinking it will give the Liberal Party an edge, many Liberals support Proportional Representation because they understand consensus government is the only way to a stable government that will be able to make long term policy and pass properly formed laws that will stand the test of time.  Since all the evidence supports the adoption of an electoral system that will ensure Proportional Representation, my Liberal friends assure me their party’s devotion to evidence based policy will win out and Proportional Representation will be chosen for the good of all. The real question may well be whether the new Prime Minister will be swayed by the evidence.

regional representation

Mixed Member Proportional ballot in mock election

Mr. Ivison’s suggestion that Proportional Representation fails to provide “directly elected MPs to represent their communities” demonstrates his failure to understand that Proportional Representation is not the name of a single electoral system. Instead, “Proportional Representation” describes any electoral system resulting in a Parliament that represents voters in the proportion in which votes have been cast.  All that really means is 39% of votes will give a party 39% of the seats.  It will not allow 39% of the votes to give a single party 100% of the power, which is what happens under a winner-take-all system like the one we we have now.

There are many ways to achieve a proportional electoral system. Over the last decade or so ten independent Canadian commissions, assemblies and reports made by Canadians have studied the problem of electoral reform, and *all* have recommended adoption of Proportional Representation.  And of these recommendations, each and every system recommended for Canada includes directly elected MPs to represent their communities.

You can find out more about these recommendations in Wilf Day’s blog Ten Canadian Commissions, Assemblies and Reports that have recommended proportional representation.

Although Canadians tend to have no direct experience of Proportional Representation, there is no shortage of information about the many ways of achieving such a system.  We have the examples of of more than 80 OECD nations that have adopted such systems over the last century or so. If the news media wishes to inform Canadians about electoral options, we would be better served if journalists like Mr. Ivison would provide us with factual information.  The grass root multipartisan group Fair Vote Canada has been studying proportional voting systems for more than a decade and has a great deal of good information on offer on the Fair Vote Canada website.  My local Fair Vote Chapter has a wealth of info online as well.

800px-Borgen_tbane_01For those of you (like me) who often learn best accidentally through good drama, you might want to check out “Borgen,” an excellent dramatic tv political series that plays out in the framework of Denmark’s system of Proportional Representation. Although similar to “House of Cards,” I enjoyed “Borgen” much more, subtitles and all. (You stop noticing them very quickly.) The popular Danish series has spread through the EU, and now North America, and was aired on TVO earlier this year. I hope TVO takes this opportunity to run it again, although it might be better if CBC were to pick it up so the show will be available across Canada. The entire series is available in a DVD box set; even if you don’t want to spring for it, your local library may be interested in carrying it, or getting it in through inter-library loan.

In the meantime, there are many good videos available on YouTube, including these I have assembled into an Electoral Reform Playlist.

do we really want to retain the status quo?

Election Results: 2011 and 2015
39% of the votes = 100% of the power

What Mr. Ivison describes as “strong, stable governments” produced by our “much-maligned status quo” does not reflect the Canadian reality.

What Canadians are accustomed to under our winner-take-all electoral system is alternating “majority” governments with a disproportionate amount of power.

What makes a government strong? Giving a single party 100% of the power based on 39% of the vote gives a single party government the power to dictate terms to the other 61% of Canadians. It that strength? It certainly doesn’t seem like democracy.

What makes for government stability? For many, it means fewer elections. But the fact is Canada has had more elections since 1945 than even the worst iterations of Proportional Representation.

For me real stability is policy and legislation that will stand the test of time….policy that lasts.  And yet the first order of business for our new Liberal majority government is to undo many of the policies implemented by the outgoing Conservative majority government. It is this instability (known as policy lurch) that inclines many Liberals and Conservatives to reject winner-take-all First Past The Post electoral system.  Adopting another winner-take-all system just doesn’t seem to make sense.   If your house is falling down, fixing it, or moving to one that is more solid is a better solution than slapping on a coat of paint.  Switching from First Past The Post to Preferential Voting/AV/IRV) is merely a superficial change like a coat of paint  It might cheer us up because it looks better, but the problems will still be there.

The reality Canadians have today is an electoral system where some votes count more than others, but most votes don’t count at all. If we want real change, we need to choose a fair electoral system that will give us Proportional Representation, because all Canadians deserve an equal and effective vote to give us voice in parliament.

flag_1422banner


Image Credits

Borgen by Tommeh72 released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

All other photos by Laurel L. Russwurm are dedicated to the Public Domain via CC0

Why Don’t Canadians Vote?

Canada is a diverse nation; and there are many reasons for not voting.  This insightful article looks at one demographic.

Nothing lost when indigenous people vote

[guest post by James Wilson.
Originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2015
]

In 1960, when former prime minister John Diefenbaker successfully restored the right to vote for First Nations people, he earned the nickname “the man who made us people again” by elders in my northern reserve. That’s why it shocks me, over a half-century later, to still occasionally hear some of our leaders encouraging our people not to vote.

A few have argued for First Nations people to vote is for us to buy into the colonial, racist system that has done us so much harm over the years and removed us from our claims of sovereignty. Simultaneously, they argue the Canadian Constitution protects our rights as First Nations people.

I don’t buy into this confused response because, to me, you can’t denounce the obligations of citizenship without first denouncing the benefits.

My 14-year-old daughter responded to the “Why should First Nations people vote?” question in a straightforward manner. To her, it is about who makes decisions that affect her. “If you want to have no control over the decisions that affect your life, then don’t vote.” To her, conceding control is the furthest thing from sovereignty.

In the Oct. 19 election, there are 45 indigenous candidates running for the federal parties who, like all other candidates, make choices in terms of whom they are going to communicate with. They ask themselves, “Should I door-knock in community A with a population of 1,000 and a voter turnout of 80 per cent or visit community B with 1,000 people and a 40 per cent voter turnout?”

If door-knocking and voter identification are the bread and butter of politics, then the choice to visit community A is easy, as they’ll encounter an engaged voter at almost every door. And, from the perspective of a voter, the community will have a significant advantage, as their concerns will be heard over and over again by candidates.

When my 11-year-old son was asked the same question, his answer was strikingly different than his sister’s. He said we all need to vote because, “It’s part of being treaty.” He’s not far off from the views of his grandfather who, when asked one day why he was wearing a military jacket, said: “I do it to acknowledge and honour those aboriginal people who put their lives on the line to help the British monarchy, as a symbol of the sacred treaty relationship between the Crown and First Nations.”

Sure, there are probably other less important reasons why so many young people have and continue to respond to the call, across so many conflicts, but I believe the base is to honour the treaties. Even when the monarch, according to the late Jacob Bignell, told indigenous soldiers the First World War was not their war and they could be excused from participating, aboriginal soldiers kept their oath.

We need to continue that commitment.

Through the generations, we’ve had many First Nations veterans who have served and fought and died for Canada and for our collective rights, including the right to vote. In my father’s view and mine, we fully plan to honour this sacrifice, as an important part of defending the treaties the Crown and First Nations came together to make.

Political scientist Kiera Ladner, who holds the Canada Research Chair in indigenous politics and governance, says voting can be an expression of your nationhood, not contrition. If we as First Nations are “nations within,” then voting in a federal, provincial or band election would not dissolve your citizenship but enhance it. If someone gave you the opportunity to vote in the upcoming U.S. election, would you vote? Most of us would say, “Yes, what happens in the U.S. has a great influence on me. I won’t stop being Canadian, so why not?”

Also worth noting is if a person has ever voted in a First Nations band election, they have already voted in a Canadian system. In fact, it would be rare to find an individual who felt less Cree or less Ojibwa by voting for their chief and council.

The bottom line in the ground game of politics is this: First Nations people have tremendous power as the fastest-growing segment of Canada’s population. It’s time for mainstream parties to woo our people as voters, candidates and as part of their long-range plan. Equally, now’s the time for First Nations voters to fully exercise the right restored to them some 75 years ago… or risk becoming irrelevant on the political landscape.

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James Wilson is commissioner of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, a neutral body mandated to encourage discussion, facilitate public understanding and enhance mutual respect between all peoples in Manitoba.

Follow @JamesBWilson_ on Twitter

8 Reasons Why Elizabeth May must be in every Leadership Debate

Elizabeth May cropped cc 4311smElizabeth May is many things.

  1. Leader of a National Party
    She is the leader of a nation wide political party. A party that fields candidates in every riding. Which means there is a possibility, no matter how slim, that she could become Prime Minister. All it would take would be enough Canadians voting to send enough Green Party Candidates to Ottawa.This is reason enough for her inclusion in every leadership debate.
  2. A conservative estimate: 1 million supporters
    The Green Party of Canada received almost a million votes in 2008. A great many people who would support a small party won’t if they think their vote won’t elect anyone, so if almost a million people were willing to vote for such a party, it is probable that a great many more did not.One of the biggest hurdles small parties face in our winner-take-all electoral system is that small parties (like Independents) find it almost impossible to get candidates elected. So it isn’t at all surprising that a great many supporters whose hopes for a Green MP were dashed would have been seduced into voting strategically in 2011.But things changed in 2011.The ineffectiveness of strategic voting was amply demonstrated by Mr. Harper’s majority government. Still, in any winner-take-all system the votes cast for any small party don’t accurately reflect its support, so there is little doubt that more Canadians would vote Green if there was a chance of electing GreenMPs.In a nation whose population is just shy of thirty seven million, Ms. May’s inclusion in the debates would still be warranted even if there are only a million or so Green supporters
  3. House of Commons
    When any country is saddled with an unfair winner-take-all electoral system, citizen’s find it a struggle to vote for any party that can’t elect a single MP. But in 2011 Elizabeth May was the first Green Party of Canada MP elected to Parliament. And since that time, Green MPs have been elected in Provincial ridings across Canada. Suddenly we’ve seen the Green Party is viable; supporting Green Party Candidates is no longer perceived to be a hopeless gesture. In fact, a Green Party member was elected to PEI’s provincial legislature where not a single NDP candidate won a seat.This suggests Green Party inclusion on the basis of party viability wouldn’t be amiss.
  4. A stellar record
    Elizabeth May’s parliamentary record has been staggering. Not only has she earned the respect of her fellow parliamentarians, she has shown Canadians the importance of a strong dissenting voiced in Ottawa. While her leadership on environmental issues has never been in doubt, Canadians have since learned she is equally passionate about many other issues, notably about necessary democratic reform to Proportional Representation as well as her relentless battle against the Canadian civil rights busting Bill C-51.This record should certainly entitle Ms. May to a seat at every debate.
  5. A Real Party
    Some people say she should be excluded because the Green Party isn’t a “real” party. After all, it has only 3 seats. But what constitutes a “real party” is decided by those who already hold the power. When Kim Campbell’s Progressive Conservatives were decimated – from a crushing majority to a mere 2 seats, the rules were changed to allow the PCs to retain Official Party status… and all the perks that went along with it. Just because they changed the rules again– expressly to further disadvantage small parties– doesn’t change the fact that this argument has been shown to be purely specious. Any party with even a half a million supporters is a real party.After all, shouldn’t half a million citizens count?
  6. The Gender Gap
    But there is more. Slightly more than half of Canada’s population is female. 50.4% of the total population to be exact. That is a larger share of the population than voted for any of Canada’s major parties in 2011. And yet the leaders of the other three major parties are all male. Any debate devoid of a female perspective would certainly fail a large segment of the population. This alone would be enough of a reason to include Ms. May.Shouldn’t Canadian women have a voice?
  7. Fairness
    And if all of those things are not enough, poll after poll show that 80% of Canadians (or more) support Elizabeth’s May’s inclusion in the debates.Not because 80% of Canadians support the Green Party, but because the vast majority of Canadians believe in fairness.
  8. Meaningful Electoral Reform
    Without Ms. May’s inclusion in every debate, who will talk about meaningful electoral reform? Who will keep Proportional Representation on the table?

Elizabeth May must be included in every leadership debate.

Anyone who supports excluding the Green Party of Canada leader from the leadership debates does so only because they are afraid their team might not win if she does.
And how fair is that?

Elizabeth May and Mike Schreiner in Guelph

42nd Canadian Election #elxn42

X marks the ballotThe long awaited 2015 federal election has been called, so Canadians are now being treated to one of the longest Federal Elections in Canadian History.  Because of strict spending caps, the standard election period has traditionally been half as long as the one we are having now.  Since the passage of the Harper Government’s Orwellianly titled “Fair Elections Act,” any party with an absurdly large budget (like, say, the Conservative Party of Canada) has an even better chance to outspend the other parties.  Will they be able to effectively “buy” an election win in this way?  I hope not.

Right now all the parties are scrambling to put on their game faces, but I have no doubt election fever will slow down a good bit until we get closer to the election.  We have time to catch our breath.  More important, we have time to start conversations about the Canada we want to have.  About the future we want for ourselves, and for our kids.

British SuffragetteThey call it “voter apathy” but I believe that’s a misnomer: we ought to call it “Voter Disillusionment.”  Although our electoral system is not only antiquated but unfair, a great many Canadians — on the order of 40% in 2011 — have become disillusioned or have other reasons for not getting out to vote.  The fewer Canadians who vote, the weaker our representation in Parliament, as we can see from much of the legislation pushed through with little or no scrutiny by our current majority government.

Originally, our First Past The Post electoral system was designed to serve rich white men.  It was only well into the 20th century that all Canadian citizens of legal age finally achieved the right to vote, but still, the system adopted before confederation wasn’t never intended to serve all Canadians.   No one knows better than I — after 30+ years of voting in every election without ever sending a representative to Parliament — just how unfair our winner-take-all electoral system actually is.  However, this year, meaningful electoral reform to Proportional Representation is indeed on the table.  The Harper Government has a majority government– and 100% of the power — based on less than 40% of the vote.  In the last election, more eligible Canadian voters did not vote than those who voted for the Harper Government’s majority.   If all the disillusioned Canadian voters were to vote this year, things would indeed change.

Canada’s fortunes will certainly improve with a switch to a better form of representative democracy, so I encourage everyone reading this to do your best to engage any other eligible voters you know who might ordinarily not vote to go to the polls this fall.  We see enough attack ads on tv… it is time for civil discussion about politics in our real lives.  My own strong hope is that the disillusioned voters will cast their votes for candidates who support Proportional Representation, but just voting for what you want is just as important.  Please consider: it is the Canadians who don’t vote who have the least representation in Ottawa.

It may help to direct any such potential voters to the many valuable online resources (here’s a borrowed list) to help them get informed, but please try not to influence their decision.  People who don’t believe they can vote for what they want are much less likely to vote at all, so please try to encourage them to vote for the candidate they believe will best represent them in Ottawa. Canada Flag Banner