The ERRE Committee’s Nathan Cullen (NDP) will be crossing Canada making stops in Liberal ridings to demonstrate how much support there actually is for electoral reform!
“There’s one last vote on electoral reform in Parliament before the May deadline. After that, it could be too late to set up a new voting system in time for the next election.
This spring, MPs will vote on whether to accept the recommendations of the Canada-wide consultation tour, including that the government hold a referendum where Canadians can choose between the current voting system and a proportional one.
We just need 20 Liberal MPs to keep their promise and vote YES to electoral reform.”
An excellent tool to keep track of whether or not the Trudeau Government is fulfilling the promises made in its election platform is the non-partisan collaborative citizen initiative website called the “TrudeauMeter.” We are reminded
“Change the House of Commons Standing Orders to end practice of using inappropriate omnibus bills to reduce scrutiny of legislative measures.”
So far there has been absolutely no movement to keep this promise.
Instead, what we are seeing here is that the Trudeau Government has chosen to use an inappropriate omnibus motion to change the House of Commons Standing Orders, reducing what little power opposition parties in phony majority governments (eg Mr. Trudeau’s Government, which he likes so much he’s disavowed his clear electoral reform promise to replace our unfair winner-take-all voting system).
“We’re filibustering to protect the right to filibuster. Who would have thought it would be this government, under this prime minister” to try to use its majority to make changes to the Standing Orders without all-party backing, he said. “It’s not your House… we have rights, too.”
Rather than making Parliament more transparent, this is yet another attempt to make it more efficient for a party with a phony majority to undemocratically impose its will on our nation. Promising one thing and not doing it is bad enough, doing the opposite of what you’ve promised is unacceptable. In a democracy, that is.
Although CPAC is not covering this, @Kady is LiveTweeting, so Canadians can follow along and watch this unfold…
[CORRECTION NOTE: In the original version of this article I incorrectly described the “Omnibus Motion” as an “Omnibus Bill,” which I have corrected in this version. ~ LLR]
They call it “the Red Chamber” but it sure seems like Canadians have been singing the Senate Blues for most of my life.
In the dying days of the Harper Government, the misadventures of Senator Mike Duffy proved to be a major embarrassment for the Canadian Government. By the time the dust settled, Duffy had resigned from the Conservative Caucus, the criminal charges against him were dropped, and Duffy, now an un-aligned independent, resumed his seat as Senator for PEI (even though he still doesn’t actually seem to live there). Then Prime Minister Stephen Harper was certainly mixed up in Mr. Duffy’s case, but was never properly investigated or held to account.
It has become increasingly clear that a code of conduct that hopes miscreants will quietly resign in the face of exposure is simply not sufficient. Real change requires a framework that allows for summary suspensions of Senators (and MPs) accused of impropriety and/or lawbreaking, removing them from office if such charges proven. Our Westminster System of government was designed for a feudal society that allowed the nobility to get away with a great deal. But in a society that aspires to citizen equality there is no place for such abuses of power.
I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports. Obviously, the negative issues must be addressed, but it is unfortunate that they are sometimes magnified and considered more newsworthy than the abundance of good.
Even the United Church had some strong words for the Hon. Ms. Beyak:
“Indigenous peoples and organizations have responded to Senator Beyak’s comments. As one of the parties responsible for the operation of residential schools, The United Church of Canada also feels a responsibility to respond.
“Senator Beyak spoke of the “good intentions” behind the residential schools system. Thirty years ago, The United Church of Canada apologized to First Nations Peoples for our role in colonization and the destruction of their cultures and spiritualties. In the process of preparing, delivering, and attempting to live out that Apology, we have learned that “good intentions” are never enough, and that to offer such words in explanation is damaging and hurtful.
“The United Church of Canada participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission not just as part of a legal agreement but also as part of a moral and ethical commitment to understand the impact of our role in the residential schools system, to atone for it, and to participate in healing and building of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.”
Not everyone is right for every job, and it’s pretty clear to everyone but Senator Beyak that she is not a good fit for the Senate of Canada. Again, there doesn’t seem to be any provision to remove her in spite of the growing outcry. The longer this goes on, the worse the Senate, and, indeed the Government of Canada looks.
Canadians need a government capable of governing itself with decorum and accountability.
As often happens in Canada’s unrepresentative democracy, there is a Petition:
It seems Canada’s unfair First Past The Post electoral system continues to engender a political culture of shameless entitlement even (especially?) in our un-elected Senate. A democratic government that fails to answer to its citizens is seriously dysfunctional.
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
The tribunal heard from 25 witnesses, including seven government officials, over 72 days of hearings held between February 2013 and October 2014. The historical significance of the hearings cannot be overstated. This is the first time I know of that a developed country was on trial for its contemporary treatment of Indigenous children before a body that could make enforceable orders. The evidence of the discrimination was overwhelming and shown most profoundly and poignantly by government documents. The federal government even pulled its own expert witness after its own report, conducted by KPMG, came within 1 percent of our calculations of the child welfare funding shortfall.
January 17, 2017
Ottawa was ordered to comply with the principle in January by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal after a nine-year battle led by Blackstock’s group, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, and the Assembly of First Nations.
In the documents, the government describes the various choices as a “menu of possible options” for abiding by the tribunal’s ruling, including the cost and policy ramifications of each.
For Blackstock, those choices add up to nothing short of discrimination.
“They are exploring ways to make a public relations gesture on Jordan’s principle but falling short on compliance,” she said in an interview.
There remains a chronic lack of mental health services for Indigenous youth across Canada, Blackstock said. She cited the example of Wapekeka First Nation, a remote northern Ontario reserve where two 12-year-old girls died by suicide earlier this month.
“These mental health services are available for every other kid and they are not available to First Nations kids,” she said. “The government knows about it and yet they are not paying for it, with tragic results.”
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has issued two noncompliance orders against the Canadian government.
Blackstock says that complying with the orders means an immediate investment of a minimum of $155 million for child welfare, “to give these kids a fighting chance to grow up in the families.”
“A second piece is they have to fully implement something called ‘Jordan’s principle’ which is to ensure that all First Nations children can access government services on the same terms as other kids.”
The ruling and subsequent contempt orders required an immediate injection of $155 million dollars for child welfare to make up the shortfall. The government was also ordered to immediately spend $120 million dollars implementing Jordan’s Principle which would give First Nations children living on reserve access to the same medical and therapeutic services and supports (things like wheelchairs and crutches) as non-Indigenous children.
The Liberal government and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) have spent over $500 thousand dollars fighting the issue in court, and continue, in the context of ongoing compliance hearings, to refuse mediation and contest the order. In the meantime Indigenous children as young as eight continue to die of suicide due to federal denial of adequate prevention funding and infants of rheumatic fever from lack of on-reserve medicine.
This example of racialized discrimination is far from singular. Rather it is evidence of the pernicious colonial fabric from which contemporary Canadian political-economy continues to be woven. The government’s ability to ensure and define property rights is dependent on the suspension of Indigenous territorial and jurisdictional authority, and this in turn is crucial to its ability to attract investment and generate resource revenues.
Canada’s is a national economy premised on access to contested lands and resources. And this (as Cindy Blackstock has well noted) is reinforced in fiscal policy. The government’s refusal to meet the terms of the HRT ruling reminds us that Canada’s economy systematically devalues Indigenous life.
In a recent interview on CBC Radio’s The Current, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett boasted that the federal government was spending “almost $200 million” on the well-being of Indigenous children.
Not only is there no evidence Canada is spending $200 million, but internal documents obtained through Access to Information by York University’s Anna Stanley and reviewed by PressProgress suggest money Bennett claims to be earmarked for the well-being of Indigenous children is being spent to “attract mining investment” instead.
In January 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the federal government discriminates against First Nations children on reserves by offering up to 38% less in spending for welfare programs.
Then last November, Liberal MPs voted unanimously in favour of an NDP motion to address the funding gap through an immediate injection of $155 million to make up for the shortfall.
Despite this, the government has continued to drag its feet while at the same time touting its record on indigenous rights.
According to the 2016 federal budget, the Liberals allocated $71 million towards “ensuring the safety and well-being of First Nations children” for 2016-2017 – only 54% of what’s required to close the gap…
Stephen Paquette, a member of the Anishinaabe from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, regularly meets with non-Indigenous individuals and groups to encourage truth and reconciliation between Aboriginal founding nations and Canadians. He’s co-chair of the Halton District School Board’s Indigenous Education Advisory Council. He sat on the Toronto Police Service’s Aboriginal Consultative Committee for 13 years.
In December, Paquette wrote to the prime minister and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, among others, on the language used by various levels of government to mark Canada 150 events.
In his letter, Paquette requests the word “celebrating” be replaced by the word “acknowledging.” He heard back from Wynne, but it was just to say that she has passed his letter along to David Zimmerman, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
“As an individual who goes into the school system on a regular basis to educate students and teachers about the realities of Canada’s last 150 years,” Paquette wrote, “it would be both an injustice and an insult to all First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples to suggest that we should ‘celebrate’ the last 150 years of Canada’s history.”
Surely Canada isn’t too poor to come up with $155 million? What can possibly be more important than the welfare of children? When children are denied the necessities of life due to the Federal government’s funding shortfall, money is most certainly the first step.
I can’t celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday when the Canadian government which supposedly represents me only pays lip service to Truth and Reconciliation while continuing it’s unrelenting policy of systemic and institutional racism toward First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.
The best I can do is acknowledge the last 150 years of Canada’s history.
And buy a t-shirt.
Since people are more inclined to look at short videos, on occasion I’ve been putting together video soundbites. The goal is to keep these under five minutes, but on rare occasions more is needed (as with “Four Questions”) so I’ve let them run a bit over. I’ve been scrambling to make these in hopes of helping boost the signatures, so each video has a petition plug at the end, and links in both the video and the YouTube info box below.
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