Democracy Week 2013 Continues

25,000 signatures!

Fair Vote Canada Executive Director Anita Nickerson addresses the crowd in Waterloo Public Square on Monday
Fair Vote Canada Executive Director Anita Nickerson addresses the crowd in Waterloo Public Square on Monday

On September 16th 2013, Fair Vote Canada‘s “Declaration of Voter’s Rights” reached 25,000 signatures!

Fair Vote Canada will be holding a press conference and campaign launch event on Parliament Hill on Thursday, where Executive Director Anita Nickerson will proudly display a giant copy of the Declaration this Thursday ~ September 19th, 2013 ~ on Parliament Hill. Standing alongside FVC will be NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, Stephane Dion (former Liberal Leader), Georges Laraque, Joyce Murray, Paul Dewar, Leadnow, Greenpeace and more! They hope to reach 100,000 signatures by 2015!

Watch the video at Craig Scott on the Principle of Electoral Reform

(editor’s note: I originally had the video embedded, but it was doing weird things so I removed it after the fact,)

My parents were born and raised in Canada, yet they couldn't vote till after WWII because they were of Japanese extraction, so I value the right to vote. I have voted in every federal election since I reached adulthood and have never voted for the party that formed the government. We desperately need Proportional Representation so that a diversity of values and perspectives may be elected." ~David Suzuki
“We desperately need Proportional Representation so that a diversity of values and perspectives may be elected.” ~ David Suzuki
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Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medals for Fair Vote Canada Members

Anita Nickerson
Anita Nickerson

Yesterday long-time advocate of political participation Anita Nickerson was presented with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal at the Cooperate for Canada concert in Waterloo. Anita was recognized for her work with Fair Vote Canada locally and nationally to achieve proportional representation. The medal was presented by Narine Sookram, a well-known community activist and Caribbean community leader, himself a recipient of Waterloo’s top civic honour, the Waterloo Award in 2012.

If anyone deserves such recognition, it is Anita.

Anita has been the driving force behind Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region Chapter initiatives like ParticipateNuclear Energy Debate, The People’s Summit on Democracy, Democracy Week, Movie Nights, and many other events I’ve attended over the last few years.

I’m certainly not the only Canadian to have learned a thing or two from Anita’s unflagging efforts to educate and inform Canadians about electoral reform. In addition to the debates, discussions and film and information nights she’s helped present to the public to further the cause of democracy and proportional representation in Canada, Anita developed and presents an information program on democracy for students in Ontario schools. The amount and the calibre of Anita’s work never ceases to amaze me.

Fair Voting elects more women naturally Button

One wasn’t enough . . .

A second Fair Vote National Council member, Margaret Hoff, has also been honoured with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal  medal for her work on women’s issues and electoral reform in London, Ontario.

Such awards are a tangible governmental acknowledgement of the importance and legitimacy of the issue of electoral reform.  Awarding two awards to FVC National Council members confers a measure of “establishment” credibility on the grassroots Fair Vote Canada organization.  Bravo!

So many people labor long and hard to make the world a better place, neither expecting nor receiving kudos or even acknowledgement for their efforts.   Which makes it especially nice when good people like Anita Nickerson and Margaret Hoff are recognized for the good work they do to benefit the rest of us.

Congratulations to them both.

“And the Winner is….”

Heads up Waterloo Region: Tonight Fairvote WRC & CAPP are putting on what looks to be a pretty interesting meeting.
(I hope to make it out, even though I haven’t managed to finish proofreading my novel, Inconstant Moon)

CAPP/Fair Vote

“Making Democracy Work” event, Thursday April 28, 7 PM

at the Adult Recreation Centre 185 King St. S, Waterloo

In the meantime, since I’m working on my novel, I thought it might be the perfect time to publish Anita Nickerson’s article about one of the alternate voting methods to Canada’s inequitable first-past-the-post that has recently been the subject of a fair bit of discussion. If you attend the “Making Democracy Work” event you’ll have a chance to meet Ms. Nickerson.

Canadian flags fly

The Alternative Vote

by Anita Nickerson, FairVote, Waterloo Region

Alternative Vote – also called “preferential voting”, “ranked voting”, “run off voting” or “priority voting” – is another “winner take all” system, very similar to our current system of First Past the Post.

Proponents of Alternative Vote like to claim that it is more democratic than our present system because the riding winner would have to achieve “more than 50% support”. It gives voters the illusion of having more say, because now we get to “rank the list of candidates” or “rank our preferences.”

Well, I like to rank things. I like to be asked what I think, especially about important issues. So do many Canadians. Marketing companies know this: that’s why consumer surveys and polls are so popular.

In reality, in exchange for making more marks on a piece of paper, research on how Alternative Vote would work in Canada shows that with AV we get will get:
The Alternative Vote

  • a) Exactly the same winner as we get now with First Past the Post in most ridings.

and

  • b) An even more distorted overall result, in which the number of seats a party wins is even further out of alignment with the percentage of the popular vote they earned. In the ridings where second choice rankings do influence the winner, this system would only help the Liberal Party pick up even more seats compared to their percentage of the popular vote, and form even phonier “majorities” in future.

AV does nothing to help smaller parties win any seats to reflect their percentage of the popular vote. Votes for smaller national parties are eliminated early on with AV. It would hurt the NDP. As with our current system, most voters in a riding will still be left represented by someone they don’t want.

How can this be? Didn’t all those check marks and X’s somehow influence the outcome for the better? Well, no.

Let’s take a hypothetical example scenario. Suppose my current riding is held by a Liberal candidate who won the race last time with 39% of the vote and has been entrenched for years. I rate my preferences #1: Green, #2: NDP, #3 Independent, #4, Liberal, #5 Conservative. (You could change the order of my higher preferences and it wouldn’t matter).

Imagine piles on a table – each candidate has a pile of votes. First step in an Alternative Vote system is to eliminate the candidate with the lowest percentage of the popular vote from the race entirely. Bye, bye, Independent. Those votes are then transferred to the piles of the candidates representing the second choices of those voters. Now we repeat the process. Bye, bye, Greens. Those votes are then transferred to the piles of the candidates representing the second choices of those voters.

The process continues and continues until one candidate accumulates more than 50% of the pieces of paper in his pile and is declared the winner. Surprise, surprise! It’s the Liberal. And now, instead of taking the riding with 39% of the vote, he can publicly claim to have “more than 50% public support.”

“Preferential voting” is a wee stretch of the meaning of the word “preference.” In the scenario above, my fourth or fifth choice, which I would characterize as “bad” or “very bad”, is hardly “preferred”. But I am now being told I somehow had more say in the outcome.

Again, Alternative Vote delivers us up largely the same results, with most voters in a riding being represented by someone they don’t want. It entrenches strategic voting, as voters try to place their “lesser evil” choice somewhere prominent in the mix to avoid a worse outcome.

In Australia, parties coach their supporters who can’t figure it out how to strategically rank the choices by giving them cards with ranked lists to take to the polling station.

AV simply reinforces a two party system, giving undeserved bonuses to the Liberal party, as they would be the second and strategic choice of many more voters than the others. Of course, the Liberals know this, and that’s why they are pushing it.

There have been many independent commissions and non-partisan citizen’s assemblies which have studied Canada’s democracy in depth and recommended reform. The most notable of these was the Law Commission of Canada’s Report, “Voting Counts, Electoral Reform for Canada”, which recommended a mixed member proportional system with open lists. Not a single commission or citizen’s assembly has recommended AV. Of the 103 members of the impartial Citizen’s Assembly in Ontario, an honest process where ordinary citizens spent months learning about electoral systems, only 3 citizens chose Alternative Vote.

In trying to explain to voters what AV really means, we are up against a marketing machine with more cash and a big audience. We must tell our friends and neighbours:

Don’t be fooled by convincing sound bites. For the sake of Canada’s democracy, we can do better.

tattered flags



More info: http://s.fairvote.ca/files/AV-backgrounder-august2009_1.pdf?q=files/AV-backgrounder-august2009_1.pdf