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

back to #ERRE Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm

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

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

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

Our Electoral System Is Changing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MP Bryan May and the Honourable Maryam Monsef

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

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

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

The Honourable Maryam Monsef and the Honourable Bardish Chagger

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

Read the article in Le Devoir
or the English Translation

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

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


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

back to #ERRE Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm

Proportional Representation Series So Far:• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRE #Q Committee
• #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRE #Q
Proportionality #ERRE #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRE
• #ERRE today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday) 
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRE submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRE Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRE

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

 

Tom Mulcair on the BDS Motion

"Let's be clear, the Conservatives are proposing to limit what topics Canadians are allowed to debate. That's not the role of government. This goes against our fundamental freedoms and the NDP will be voting against it." — Tom Mulcair “Let’s be clear, the Conservatives are proposing to limit what topics Canadians are allowed to debate. That’s not the role of government. This goes against our fundamental freedoms and the NDP will be voting against it.”
— Tom Mulcair

Sounds like CBC is waking up ~ read the article Liberals denounce and agree with Tory motion condemning Israel boycotters

An afternoon with Michael Harris

I’ve heard it said that journalist Michael Harris* is one of the few Canadian journalists actually doing the job.

Last month Fair Vote Canada’s Waterloo Region Chapter and the awesome indie book seller Words Worth Books brought the iPolitics journalist and author of Party of One: Stephen Harper And Canada’s Radical Makeover to Waterloo Region for a talk about democracy in Canada.

Michael Harris consider's Jason Kenny's logic:  My goodness, Jason Kenny out there beating the

One of the topics Harris touched on in his talk at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener was the mainstream media.  He suggested there is a greater concern for protecting access to the government than reporting on it.

Although Michael has had a long and impressive career, I’d only begun reading his political commentary and reportage fairly recently. Like many Canadians, once I began to realize how unrepresentative Canadian government actually is, having been one of Canadians unrepresented on Parliament for my entire life, I’d pretty much given up on politics in frustration.

But that all changed when I began to learn about Proportional Representation.  Once I discovered there was a way Canada’s democratic deficit might finally be addressed, I started paying attention again.  Sadly, it seems I left it a little late.

But not Michael Harris.  He’s been in the political trenches for years, not just reporting on miscarriages of justice but writing books that work to fix the the things that are broken.  Michael’s clear eyed ability to get to the heart of things is a big part of why he does such a great job of illuminating the murky corners of the Canadian political system.   Not only does he provide valuable insight, he’s got a lot of “war stories” and flair for telling them.

I was able to record Michael’s talk, and today Michael Harris at the Registry Theatre is edited and online.  Those who were there and want to hear it again and those who weren’t able to attend on the day are in for a treat– enjoy.

Thanks so much, Michael.


*not to be confused with former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, or current Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris
a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves
Image Credit: Michael Harris on Bill C-51 by Laurel Russwurm is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License. You’ll find more images in the Flickr Album

Breaking The Cycle

Catherine Fife, NDP MPP
Catherine Fife, NDP MPP

One seat shy of a majority government after the 2011 Election, returning Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty enticed the undefeatable Conservative Elizabeth Witmer into resigning her provincial parliament seat and triggering a by-election.  Instead of gaining the extra seat needed to regain his majority, the Kitchener-Waterloo riding went handily to Catherine Fife.  During the campaign, Fife asked citizens to deny the Liberals another majority.  That was the first time in my life I heard any Canadian politician publicly take issue with the fallacy that majority rule  under our winner-take-all system is somehow a good thing.

After nearly a decade of a mind numbing Liberal Majority, Ontario voters were more than happy to hand the NDP’s Catherine Fife a resounding win in a riding that had been staunchly blue since Mike Harris devastated the province with his so-called “common sense revolution.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne, Liberal
Premier Kathleen Wynne, Liberal

Barely into the term, Dalton McGuinty stepped down from his position as leader of the Liberal Party and Premier of Ontario. Governing in a minority government is not at all like running the majority governments to which he was accustomed. He was succeeded by Kathleen Wynn, who became Ontario’s first female Premier.

In the year since, Premier Wynne took the job, the Liberal Party has lost a total of 5 seats. From my perspective, that’s a very good thing, because it widens the gap between minority and majority government quite nicely. Minority governments are the closest to democracy you ever get in a winner-take-all system. For years Canadian political propaganda has maintained the fallacy that majority government is a good thing, but voters are starting to appreciate we’ve been sold a bill of goods. The reality is that it’s not a good thing — for us.Sir Winston Churchill

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Sir Winston Churchill, addressing the British House of Commons, November 11, 1947.

Rhetoric vs Reality

They tell us our First Past The Post electoral system is a representative democracy… but is it?

We get to cast a vote, but some of our votes are worth more than others, because some votes elect an MPP, but most of them don’t. Who represents the majority of Ontarians that don’t elect anyone? Most of us have no representation in the Provincial Legislature.

They tell us majority government is efficient, and it is because it’s effectively a dictatorship.  A majority of seats translates to 100% of the power, which means the majority government can pass any law it likes.  The only thing that can stop it is public opinion.

At the Federal level we’ve been lately reminded just how undemocratic a majority government can be.  The Harper Government bundles together large numbers of disparate laws in so-called “Omnibus Bills.”   These massive documents are fast tracked though Parliament at such dizzying speed many of the MPs who vote for them haven’t actually even read them all the way through.  This is not a democratic process, it just gives the appearance of being one.  As a writer, I can’t believe any law that goes through our legislative process intact and becomes Law without so much as a change in punctuation can possibly have received proper scrutiny.

But that is why it’s efficient — because it is undemocratic.

Democracy requires hard work and negotiation, cooperation and consensus.     People have to actually listen to each other.   And it’s not easy to balance everyone’s needs and represent the whole constituency;  getting there takes time and effort.   Democracy is not efficient.

They tell us majority governments make for stability, but that simply isn’t true. While the Majority Party can make any law it likes, when it gets voted out the New Majority Party can change everything back to the way it wants things.  Far from being stable, this creates a policy pendulum swinging back and forth.

Although Ontario is wonderfully multicultural, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is not. Although two major Ontario political parties are led by women, there are far too few women sitting in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.   Like most Canadian winner take-all legislatures, the seats in the provincial legislature are predominantly filled by old white men.   Which leaves a great many citizens feeling excluded.

Unrepresentative government is unaccountable government.  When a government doesn’t represent all of its citizens, it’s the public good that suffers.

An inequitable electoral system makes for an unaccountable government. When all of our votes don’t count, and those that do don’t count equally, only a few citizens have the power to vote them out.   And that’s not fair.  Or democratic.

what happens next?

There will be a new provincial election in the next year or two.

Tim Hudak (cc by laurelrusswurm)
Tim Hudak, Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader

Tim Hudak, the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, has made it abundantly clear he won’t be happy unless he gets a majority.   Consensus doesn’t seem to be a word appearing in his vocabulary.  In the past, Ontario has been governed alternately by Conservative and Liberal Parties. Mr, Hudak doesn’t believe there is a need to work with other parties because he’s certain his turn is coming.

Is it?  Or is it time to break the pattern of unhealthy electoral mood swings?

Kathleen Wynne assumed the Liberal Leadership because, unlike Mr. McGuinty, she understands government by consensus is a good thing.  Andrea Horwath’s NDP is well aware of the inequity inherent in first past the post electoral systems. That’s certainly why NDP policy supports electoral reform to Proportional Representation. 

There is a way to make a meaningful change to how Ontario is governed.  A way to upgrade our inequitable 19th Century electoral system to a stable proportional system that would elect a government to represent all Ontarians.

Proportional Representation is both fair and democratic.  And there is no time like the present for Ms Wynne and Ms. Horwath to come together and give Ontario a solid proportional system fit for the 21st Century.  It can’t come too soon.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath
Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP Leader

Image Credits

Cathering Fife, Kitchener-Waterloo NDP MPP photograph by laurelrusswurm released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License

Kathleen Wynn photographed by Joseph Morris amd released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) License

Public Domain photograph of Sir Winston Churchill found in Wikimedia Commons

Tim Hudak  Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader, photograph by laurelrusswurm released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License

Andrea Horwath, Ontario New democratic Party Leader,  photographed by Ontario NDP and released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License

Winston Churchill on Proportional Representation

"Having to choose, as we shall have to choose if we are to redress the constitutional injustice between the Alternative Vote, the Second Ballot and Proportional Representation in the cities, I have no doubt whatever that the last is incomparably the fairest, the most scientific and, on the whole, the best in the public interest.” Winston Churchill, 2nd June, 1931
a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves
Image Credit:
This lovely photograph of young Winston Churchill is in the Public Domain

In Plain text:
“Having to choose, as we shall have to choose if we are to redress the constitutional injustice between the Alternative Vote, the Second Ballot and Proportional Representation in the cities, I have no doubt whatever that the last is incomparably the fairest, the most scientific and, on the whole, the best in the public interest.”
— Winston Churchill, 2nd June, 1931