Film maker Joel Ashton McCarthy has turned his talents toward promoting Proportional Representation in the BC Referendum.
Joel crowd sourced his excellent video, again demonstrating ordinary people think Proportional Representation and democracy are important.
How can they call a system that routinely gives 100% power to candidates & parties who’ve won less than a majority of the votes a democracy?
Instead of providing representation to as many voters as possible, our “First Past the Post” system disfranchises most of us.
The only real majority government (elected with 50+% of the votes) elected in BC was the BC Liberals who were elected on a promise of electoral reform in 2001. But once they had 100% power in hand, they lost interest in adopting fairer elections. In fact, the idea that Proportional Representation would limit their future power to what they earn in votes lost all its charm. They designed the 2005 Referendum to fail.
Even with 57.7% of the voters voting to adopt Single Transferable Vote Proportional Representation in the 1st BC Referendum, it failed. Even so, it was a little too close for comfort, so they worked even harder to keep it from being adopted in the second referendum. Nothing changed and the BC Liberals enjoyed nearly 2 decades of majority power without ever winning a majority of votes again.
Politicians across Canada and around the world stack the deck against meaningful electoral reform. In the UK they promised electoral reform but managed to keep a Proportional Representation option off the referendum ballot. The status quo serves them an unfair advantage they just can’t resist.
In spite of the mind numbing voter apathy that arises from votes that don’t count, enough ordinary people have begun to understand the issue– and care– that the push for electoral reform has never gone away. Instead, it is growing stronger every day.
Mr Trudeau’s promise of voting reform resonated so strongly with Canadian voters because we knew our system was not working well. When Mr Trudeau broke his promise it didn’t kill off the idea of voting reform forever, as he clearly intended. Instead, the net effect of has been to galvanize Canadians. The genie is out of the bottle, and is not going back.
All the Quebec opposition parties got together and made a pact that whichever formed government would just go ahead and implement Proportional Representation.
And right now BC is having its 3rd Referendum. Votes must be in by December 7th, 2018.
Looks like we’re at a tipping point, folks. Something is going to give. And when it does, it will be clear that the fearmongers defending the status quo have been dishonest with Canadians. Voters will discover what representative democracy is supposed to be like. And the sky won’t fall.
Once that happens, the dominoes will fall. Which province will be first?
If you’re in BC, make sure to vote. Maybe your province will lead the way!
For someone generally proud to be lucky enough to be Canadian, instead of being excited about Canada Day on our nation’s 150th Anniversary, I was embarrassed to be a Canadian. Not because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes himself to be an all powerful autocrat with the right to over rule his own party’s overwhelmingly adopted policy and thumb his nose at the majority of Canadians who believe Canada ought to provide citizens with fair representation. That was bad, that was really, really bad, but that isn’t it.
The government argues that international trade agreements don’t allow it to restrict the competition for government contracts to Canadian companies or manufacturers — even when it comes to Canada 150 merchandise.
Its all the fault of those pesky “free trade” agreements, not the governments who negotiated these agreements in secret then sign & ratify them so they have no choice but to require massive changes to our domestic law (and now unaccountable international corporate trade tribunals to fine us if we fail) to comply. This excuse is a classic case of adding insult to injury.
Annoying as that is, that is not my problem.
Bingo! The problem is colonization, something that didn’t just happen hundreds of years ago, but a process continuing as Canadian government policy to this day.
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
Shortly after the ERRE Committee submitted its report, the Honourable Maryam Monsef was relieved of her position as Minister of Democratic Institutions in a cabinet shuffle. An even younger rookie MP was elevated to the Minister of Democratic Institutions position. Ms. Gould made the following statement… the words in green are my response.
Our electoral system is foundational to our democracy. At its core, is the question of how we, as Canadians, govern ourselves.
Our government believes that time was needed to consult Canadians about this complex issue. [Why, then, with such a clear timeline (18 months) established in Mr. Trudeau’s election promise, was so much time squandered before setting up the ERRE Committee?]
Our view has always been clear. Major reforms to the electoral system, changes of this magnitude, should not be made if they lack the broad support of Canadians. [No such caveat was mentioned at all during the election campaign; in fact Mr. Trudeau clearly promised that if elected, 2015 would be the last First Past the Post election.]
Public consultations came in many forms. Members of Parliament were encouraged to hold Town Halls, to hear the views of their constituents.
[Many Canadians had no access to any such consultation. Locally the last remaining Conservative MP declined to host a live consultation, instead limitinh his efforts to a mail out householder questionaire. There were regional events put on by the Greens and NDP, whose constituents currently have no representation in Parliament. Additionally Fair Vote Waterloo put on a number of events, and partnered with the Waterloo Region Library and Kitchener Library systems to host information events.]
My predecessor travelled throughout the country visiting every province and territory, to host similar Town Halls on behalf of the government.
[In Waterloo Region, where 4 of 5 Conservative MPs had been replaced by 4 Liberal MPs in the 2015 election, not one of the newly minted LPC MPs conducted their own Town Hall consultation. Instead, all four piggybacked with Ms. Monsef’s visit for a single rushed event. Had each MP held their own Town Hall prior to (or even after) Ms. Monsef’s Tour stop, a much better quality of consultation would have been possible.]
An All Party Special Committee of the House of Commons worked long hours and in December produced a thorough report that documents the many complexities of electoral reform.
[The All Party Committee achieved a consensus report recommending some form of Proportional Representation within specific parameters and a referendum.]
In recent weeks, more than 360,000 Canadians participated in mydemocracy.ca to provide their insight into our democratic values.
[It seemed to me the ERRE consultation was grossly underfunded. Not only were the itineraries of the cross Canada consultations undertaken by Minister Monsef and the ERRE Committee very last minute with very little lead time, and certainly no advertising to allow better attendance by citizens, apparently the budget didn’t allow very many consultation stops at all. Ontario, the most populous province in Canada got only a single ERRE Committee stop, and that in Toronto. Minister Monsef’s travels took up some of the slack, but large swathes of Canadians (notably those under-represented in sparsely populated areas like northern Ontario) were never consulted. Apparently the budget for the entire process, from weeks of expert testimony and cross country tours, was less than what was spent on the dubious MyDemocracy survey. Had postcards informing Canadians of the ERRE Consultation Tours been sent our, the real ERRE consultation would have benefited enormously.]
Now, following all of these consultations, it has become clear that Canadians have a range of views about whether to continue using the current First Past The Post system to elect MPs to the House of Commons.
[Anyone who participated in any of the public consultations will understand that an important component of each was the education piece. Many of those Canadians in attendance required a civics refresher to help understand the First Past The Post system we use now, as well as an introduction to other potential electoral systems of which most of us have no experience at all.]
We respect and thank all those who have come forward to participate in these discussions. It has informed our decision.
[The Liberal Party didn’t say anything about making a decision, you promised Canadians an electoral reform process. There is no need of any decision at this point in the electoral reform process Prime Minister Trudeau promised in the election. As yet there has been no electoral reform legislation drafted; neither MPs or Senators have had an opportunity to debate it. ]
And it has become evident the broad support needed among Canadians for a change of this magnitude does not exist. [In spite of the near invisibility of the un advertised underfunded cross country ERRE Consultation, Canadians came out, and more than 80% of the Canadians at Consultations expressed support for some form of Proportional Representation electoral reform — is a clear demonstration of broad support. Certainly more than the 39% of the votes that elevated the Liberal Party to majority government status.]
Therefore, my mandate letter states a clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged.
[Your mandate letter could state the Earth is flat, but that wouldn’t be right, either. Canadians — more than the 39% who voted Liberal — Canadians voting NDP, Bloc and Green — voted for a party supporting electoral reform. This has not changed.]
Furthermore, without a clear preference or clear question a referendum would not be in Canada’s Interest.
[A clear majority — 88% of expert witnesses at the ERRE committee hearings in Ottawa advocated for some form of Proportional Representation.]
Changing the electoral system is not in my mandate.
[So? The Liberals were elected on this promise. The promised electoral reform process was begun. We expect it to continue. This is a democracy, right?]
We have listened to all Canadians in this debate.
[And yet you have not heard the clear message we have sent. An overwhelming majority of expert witnesses and citizens who engaged in the process want some form of Proportional Representation.]
To Canadians who cherish their democracy and who value the direct connection they have with their Member of Parliament.
[You say that as though you believe Proportional Representration precludes a direct connection with our MP. This is not true, which suggests you need to do your homework. Maybe even read the ERRE report. Because the Canadians who cherish their democracy and who value the direct connection they have with their Member of Parliament are the ones who are telling you we want Proportional Representation.]
Canadians want their Parliamentarians to work with each other and to cooperate on policy.
[Absolutely. That is precisely why we want Proportional Representation. Such cooperation is, at best, a rarity with winner take all politics. You’ve watched Question Period, right? Oddly enough, now that your government holds a phony majority QP is as much a joke as it was under the previous administration.]
They want their government to be accountable.
[Absolutely. That is precisely why we want Proportional Representation. Accountable means you take responsibility for your words. That when you promise 2015 would be the last FPTP election that you actually go through with it. But you know what they say about absolute power. Canadians are tired of phony majority governments that flip us the bird.]
They want their MPs to act in the interest of their constituents.
[We want you to listen to us. We want you to represent us. Which means following through on your promises.]
[Then act like it.]
My job is to strengthen and protect our democratic institutions and ensure they represent the values of Canadians. We are moving to accomplish that mandate.
[No, you are not. The only way to strengthen and protect our democratic institutions is to implement Proportional Representation so our Parliament will actually represent as many of its constituents as possible. This isn’t that.]
— CPAC: Karina Gould, the new Minister of Democratic Institutions, announcing government decision to break its campaign pledge to change Canada’s voting system.
This is unacceptable.
Electoral reform it isn’t just going to go away. Too many ordinary Canadians just know too much about it. I think we’re at the tipping point.
This is the thirtieth 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
Unlike previous electoral reform referenda in Canada, the PEI process did a pretty good job of informing voters. If you watch the video below and those that follow, you’ll see the array of very nice explainer videos put out by Elections PEI
The tiny province of Prince Edward Island has taken the first step in leading Canada toward better democracy. Bravo!