I am exceptionally invested in Electoral Reform; having watched and participated in many of your meetings as well as being involved in many local DIY Community Dialogues and Information Sessions. I was unable to attend your single Ontario stop on your Cross Country Tour in Toronto because we were putting on a previously scheduled Info Night in a local library. After a life spent voting in every election for over three decades my vote has never actually elected an MP or an MPP. I am frankly tired of electoral futility, and especially of being a second class citizen.
It isn’t that I’ve been voting for some wild fringe party– over the years I have voted for candidates from each of the 4 major parties in English Canada. But the futility of casting my vote had me considering joining the ranks of non-voters … until I started learning about Proportional Representation.
It’s time Canada actually became the Representative Democracy I was told it was back in High School. Not just for me, but for my son. And my nieces and nephews… and everyone else’s kids, too. Because I was raised to leave a place better than I found it. And at least once before I die, I’d like to know that when I vote, it might actually count.
When MPs tell me they can represent all their constituents they are wrong. Oh, sure, any good MP can represent all their constituents in their constituency work, but that is not why MPs are sent to Ottawa. 150 years ago that wasn’t even in the job description. We voters send you to Ottawa to represent us, but the First Past The Post reality is that when MPs are in the legislature, you vote the way the party tells you.
But we need to remember the reason Prime Minister Trudeau’s gender balanced cabinet was newsworthy — it did not happen naturally. Although Canadian women make up about half the population, electing 25% women to the House of Commons was a record when Mr. Harper’s government managed it, just as electing 26% was a record for Mr. Trudeau’s government.
Whoop de doo.
That’s not exactly fair representation, but that is what you get with a First Past The Post electoral system.
While Mr. Trudeau is to be commended for attempting to redress that wrong, implementing a gender quota is an artificial fix. One side effect is that such a policy severely limits the pool of cabinet choices when half the cabinet must be chosen from a quarter of the MPs. Whether true or not, whenever a quota system is used, there are always mutterings asking if those who are chosen may not in fact be qualified for the job.
Cabinet Ministers are chosen entirely at the discretion of the Prime Minister. Any MP can be quickly scooped up for a Cabinet position, and just as easily turfed out again, all at the discretion of one man: the Prime Minister.
In Mr. Trudeau’s Cabinet, however, the male members are being chosen from three quarters of the MPs, so there will be no doubt they are worthy of the power and authority they’ve been given. But female members are being chosen from a mere quarter of the MPs. This certainly can be easily used to undermine the public perception of the value of female Cabinet Ministers. The optics of this combined with a quota certainly undermines the idea that Ministers are chosen purely on merit.
The very existence of this quota is entirely at the Prime Minister’s discretion. Which means it us not a permanent fix: it can be discarded at any time. This Prime Minister could easily change his mind about gender parity (just as he did with his Electoral Reform promise). Or the next Prime Minister may as easily choose to exclude female MPs from his Cabinet altogether. Like any policy developed under First Past The Post, this could become a pendulum issue swinging back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives.
Women chosen to serve as Ministers are well aware they owe the PM a debt of gratitude for bestowing this honour on them. When the man with the power tells the Minister of Democratic Institutions that Proportional Representation is not an option, what can she do but go along. Because female Cabinet Ministers surely know the prize can be peremptorily withdrawn at his discretion for any reason. Or none. Such context will most certainly guarantee that some (if not all) women Ministers will be very careful to do as they are told. Will they fight for what they know is right or will they toe the party line to protect their status and position?
On the other hand, if Canada elected women in more proportional numbers in a more natural way, such a quota would hardly be necessary. There would be a reasonably large pool of women MPs from which Ministers can be chosen on merit. If they share a level playing field, women and men could assert themselves with confidence (and hopefully do what’s right). Wouldn’t that be something!
It also seems the claims that Prime Minister Trudeau’s Cabinet is “the country’s most diverse” need also be taken with a grain of salt.
AS Rachel Décoste points out, “The previous Harper cabinet included women, Aboriginals, South Asians, East Asians, Quebecers and a person with a disability. If that’s not diversity, I don’t know what is.” Ms. Décoste goes on to explain:
“For visible minorities, PM Trudeau’s inaugural cabinet is decidedly less diverse than PM Harper’s. The absence of East Asians (Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, etc.) is jarring.
“The presence of black Canadians, the third largest racial demographic, is also deficient. Despite a record four Afro-Canadian MPs elected from a voter base blindly loyal to the Liberals, PM Trudeau shut them out of cabinet.
“Harper did not name any African-Canadians to cabinet. He had no black MPs to choose from. Despite a record four Afro-Canadian MPs elected, Trudeau shut them out of cabinet.”
Instead of relying on the temporary fix of patchwork quotas, the Canadian Government’s continuing failure to reflect the diversity of Canadians in the House of Commons could be addressed in a more stable and balanced manner through adoption of some form of Proportional Representation. As demonstrated in my graph, as a rule it is the countries using Proportional Representation that outperform Canada in both gender parity and overall citizen representation.
It’s great that the suffragettes fought for our right to vote; but it’s too bad they didn’t win effective votes for Canadian women. On this International Women’s Day, it is important for all Canadian women to understand: if the Canadian Government is serious about gender parity it must begin with Proportional Representation.
This is the thirty-first article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
This petition to the Canadian Government website has broken all records and continues to grow. As of writing it is up to:
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.
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.
This is the twenty-eighth article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
During the 2015 election, Mr. Trudeau unequivocally promised to make 2015 the last First Past The Post election. If elected,
“We will make every vote count.”
It’s no secret Fair Vote Canada has been using the catchphrase “make every vote count” to describe Proportional Representation for years. In fact, they launched their “Make Every Vote Count Campaign” in 2013. If you follow the link you’ll see the Hon. Stéphane Dion on the podium for the announcement. Another LPC cabinet minister, the Hon. Carolyn Bennett is on the Fair Vote Canada Board. Certainly my Liberals For Fair Voting friends were aware of this when I helped them make a little video we called “The Foundation” to help them sell Resolution 31 at their 2014 Policy Convention. Resolution 31 was duly adopted by the Liberal Party and in fact formed the basis of Mr. Trudeau’s electoral reform campaign promise.
Mr. Trudeau confirmed his electoral reform promise in the Throne Speech, and (although it took a little nudging) an all party Electoral Reform Parliamentary Committee was formed. Because of the tight time frame, the committee worked through the summer, taking evidence from experts in Canada and around the world. And the Committee, like Minister Monsef, travelled across Canada in a whirlwind tour.
No doubt because the ERRE Consultation was woefully underfunded, the Committee only managed a single stop in Ontario. No money was spent on advertising, and there was little advance notice, but in spite of the main stream media’s absolute failure to cover it, all the Electoral Reform events were full of citizens. A preponderance of citizens and experts supported some form of Proportional Representation. Then the ERRE Committee submitted a consensus report calling for some form of Proportional Representation and a Referendum. But the government was not wildly happy to see such an impossible outcome.
And so mydemocracy.ca was born. Do you know, the government spent more money sending postcards telling people to participate in a seriously problematic survey that inspired more parody than response than it did on the entire #ERRE Consultation? While the Honourable Ms. Gould’s talking points are intended to make us believe the postcard survey was a big success, the reality is that a return of 360,000 Canadians is a ridiculously low response rate for a country with upward of 15 million voters.
But the Liberal Party holds a majority in Parliament, and we all know a majority government can pass (or kill) any law it wants. No consensus is required, even when the “majority” is based on the votes of only 39%. That is, after all, how the system we currently use works. (Part of why it so badly needs modernization.)
The Liberal Party hasn’t managed to articulate a single good reason for a Prime Minister elected on promises of transparency and more democratic governance to squash the promised democratic process this way. Even if Prime Minister Trudeau decided he doesn’t want electoral reform, he could still have allowed the process to run its democratic course to the finish. The same power that allows the plug to be pulled prematurely now could have been used to whip the vote the way he wanted at the eleventh hour.
The only reason for breaking this promise in such an odious way that I can imagine is that the Prime Minister (and the Liberal powers that be) have noticed the growing interest, support and commitment Canadians are developing in electoral reform, in spite of everything.
I understand the PM was grilled about electoral reform at every single stop on his recent cross country tour. Were those in the Liberal power structure getting nervous that enough public backing might just get Proportional Representation legislation through Parliament and into Law?
For those Canadians who value fairness and democracy, now is not the time to give up on Electoral Reform.
With all the Liberal talk of values for electoral reform, the one value that never seemed to come up was fairness.
No system that assigns 100% of the power to a party winning 39% (or less) votes can be considered fair.
And in my experience, Canadians value fairness. My Liberals for Fair Voting friends know know very well they benefit from the proportionality inherent in our existing winner-take-all system. Yet they don’t think it’s fair that so many other Canadians get little or no democratic representation.
There is still time to draft electoral reform legislation (the ERRE Committee could surely manage it) and get it through with enough time for Elections Canada to implement a new system in 2019. Canadians don’t need to understand the electoral math to know our First Past The Post system is not working for a majority of Canadians. How can a nation that prides itself on fairness continue to cling to a winner-take-all system that’s inherently unfair?
What We Can Do?
Sunday February 5th, 2017
GUELPH Rally for Proportional Representation
Guelph City Hall 1PM
Rally organised by Fair Vote Guelph https://www.facebook.com/events/1852627561618419/
MP Longfield acknowledges that recent poll results in Guelph in support of
Proportional Representation are valid.
We need visible support at the rally to show our government that we want PR.
Please come to the Rally for PR on Sunday at Guelph City Hall at to support a fair open and transparent Democratic process .
STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY IN CANADA: PRINCIPLES, PROCESS AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT FOR ELECTORAL REFORM: Report of the Standing Committee on Electoral Reform Read the ERRE Report online here, or download the PDF
The 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.)
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 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.”
Highly 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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:
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.
The Liberal Party promise was itself an acknowledgement of the uncomfortable truth that every vote does not count in the voting system Canadians use now.
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
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.
Just because the #ERRE Consultation Process is over, it doesn’t mean it’s over. The Electoral Reform Process is really just getting started, as the ERRE Special Committee for Electoral Reform will now study the question so they can make their report to Parliament.
We need to continue making noise about Proportional Representation. One way to do that is to publish our submissions outside the ERRE site (they still have hardly published any). If you have a website or blog, please publish your submission there, then send me the link, so I can add it to this list of links.
If you don’t have your own blog or website (or even if you do) I will be happy to publish your #ERRE submission here. We need to be sure the ERRE Committee, Minister Monsef, and all of Parliament understands that we are serious about electoral reform.
Canadians deserve Proportional Representation. Because we’re worth it.
Note: The content of this post will continue to grow as I receive more #ERRE submissions submissions and links to #ERRE submissions. If you wish to have your submission published here email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to ERRE submission Briefs are published on the official website, but slowly, and Expert Witness briefs and private citizen’s briefs are intermingled.
NOTE: I have refrained from including this List in my Proportional Representation for Canada series, because it is an aggregation of submissions which mat or may not support Proportional Representation.
Erre Submissions submitted for publication in Whoa!Canada will be formatted, not edited.