Our American friends are debating whether Health Care is a human right, but Canadians decided that it was long ago. Which is why it is bizarre that, of all the countries with Universal Health Care, Canada is the only country that doesn’t have Universal Pharmacare!
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 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:
Both The Globe and Mail and the National Post have come out and endorsed Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Both newspapers claim to be Canada’s newspaper, but you can see from this whose agenda they actually serve. (And it sure isn’t yours or mine, Gracie.)
I have to endorse the Green Party, because it is the only party with a sensible platform this time out. The mainstream media is pretending the Green Party doesn’t exist, but the fact is that there are Green Candidates running in EVERY Ontario riding. If you don’t know who yours is, you can find her/him here: http://www.gpo.ca/candidates
Kitchener-Conestoga is fortunate to have the excellent first time candidate David Weber running for the Green Party. You can see what a great MPP David would make by watching the 4 videos made from the Kitchener-Conestoga Chamber of Commerce debate at the Woolwich Memorial Centre in Elmira.
David Weber on Responsible Government ~ Kitchener Conestoga (2 minutes)
David Weber on Natural Resources (2 minutes)
Kitchener Conestoga Debate: Taxes, Jobs & CETA (10 minutes)
All reports indicate that the NDP is doing very well in Southern Ontario in spite of the incumbent Premier’s best efforts to frighten NDP supporters into voting her a Liberal majority. Even with this dirty pool, I expect the excellent NDP incumbent Catherine Fife to be handily re-elected in her Kitchener-Waterloo riding. Needless to say I would be equally happy to see the Green Party’s Stacey Danckert win the seat. Both women are eminently qualified, and if Ontario was lucky enough to have Proportional Representation, I have no doubt both would win seats in the legislature.
Don’t fall for strategic voting (have you ever noticed when somebody wants you to vote strategically they tell you to vote for their candidate? Funny how they never volunteer to vote for mine.
If you’re looking for political pictures you might find what you need among my political photo albums on Flickr. Some mini posters for this election can be found in my #voteON album. All my images are licensed to share; and I’ll waive attribution for any that you use during this election.
Although I hope you don’t vote Liberal or Conservative for this one (after all, these parties between them are on the hook for what ails Ontario today) but the decision of where you cast your voter is entirely up to you.
Vote for the candidate/party/policy that suits you on June 12th, 2014.
While Ontario was poised to discover whether or not our provincial minority government would be converted to a majority in today’s By-Election, we looked at TV news to see what was happening. It’s been years since I’ve had television; normally I get me news online, but I was away from home so we tried it out.
CTV has a 24 hour news channel. Unfortunately it wasn’t running anything about the election.
Granted, By-elections usually don’t change the status quo, but this was different. One seat could make a huge difference to all Ontarians, by transforming a Liberal minority government into a majority.
With our winner-take-all electoral system, minority government is the closest we get to democracy.
The results of this By-Election will impact on the whole province. So there is a lot of interest in this one. So why wasn’t CTV’s news channel covering it? Maybe they think Canadians aren’t interested in politics?
Okay, there was one little factoid squib floating across the ticker along the bottom periodically, but the news they were covering? Well, they kept cutting back to Jo Biden droning on and on live from the American Democratic Convention. This wasn’t news, this was filler. Although the outcome of the American Democratic convention will likely have impact on the rest of the world, this wasn’t it.
And it certainly wasn’t more important than the actual breaking news of an important Ontario election in Ontario.
CBC has a news channel too. Although they had a piece on the Quebec provincial election, they weren’t actually covering the breaking news of the Ontario election results ~ they were cutting back to the American convention as well.
Maybe they think we aren’t interested in Canadian politics?
Poppycock. Maybe the “news media” isn’t doing the job we think it is.
Breaking out my computer I popped into Twitter and lo and behold, breaking news.
Turns out that the Liberal Candidate Steven Del Duca won in Vaughan as expected.
But the Kitchener-Waterloo riding was a different story: NDP Candidate, Catherine Fife won big. Here are the unofficial results
The television part of the mainstream media has certainly failed us; it is, at best, entertainment, not news. Real news lives online.
Just as our antiquated 18th Century electoral system fails us every time.
Although I am quite pleased with Catherine Fife’s win in Kitchener-Waterloo, the disturbing reality is that, although she won the vote handily, 59% of Kitchener-Waterloo voters did not vote for her.
In spite of all that, I’m sure she’ll do an excellent job, so I’d like to congratulate Catherine Fife, Kitchener-Waterloo’s new NDP MPP.
Currently two Ontario electoral ridings are in the grip of By-Elections. In the riding of Vaughan everyone seems to assume the Liberal candidate will be a shoe-in. Although predictions are made in every election, we wouldn’t need to bother with the expense of elections if any poll or prediction’s outcome was guaranteed.
No such assumption has been made in Elizabeth Witmer’s Kitchener-Waterloo riding, where Witmer has reigned under Progressive-Conservative colours for decades. The only reason her staunch conservative seat is up for grabs is because she’s resigned to accept a plum job offered by Premier McGuinty. Nice to see such consensus in government, eh?
Governments can do whatever they want when they hold a majority of seats. Which is why it is important to the rest of us as well. After all, minority government is the closest we get to democracy in these parts.
My favorite, multipartisan, grass roots, electoral reform group, Fair Vote Canada, is hoping to change all that. Fair Vote WRC hosts events and seminars throughout the year so citizens can learn and discuss the issue of how to re-inject democracy into our political system.
Politics On The Patio Goes Underground
Last year during Democracy Week they held a “Politics on The Patio” event which happened to occur in the midst of the Ontario election. It was a relaxing change from the tightly managed election events, instead providing a forums so candidates could mix informally with the public and actually get an opportunity to meet one another.
Since this By-Election will be over by Democracy week, Fair Vote Waterloo Region held a “Meet The Candidate” event in the Huether Hotel’s basement Malt Room Museum. Almost all the candidates managed to attend, so it was an excellent opportunity to meet candidates in a relaxed setting — in this case, the Lion Brewery Museum and Dining Lounge, located in the depths of Waterloo’s Huether Hotel.
There was an excellent turn out of candidates. Here they are in alphabetical order (by first name):
In these days of copyright maximalism, it is important to have accessible photographs of people in public life available to citizen journalists and bloggers. I’ve been taking every opportunity to photograph local politicians; all these blog photos are by laurelrusswurm and licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Although Conservative Candidate Tracy Weiller did not attend the Fair Vote “meet the Candidate” event, I can share this photograph of the candidate for tomorrow’s election.
The byelections are being held tomorrow, Thursday September 6th, 2012. I can’t vote in either riding, but I can hope the Ontarians who can don’t lock Ontario into an unfortunate majority. Fingers crossed!
Either way, get out there and vote!
Oh yeah, this *is* Canada, after all … if any stranger ~ human or robot ~ should happen to call you up to tell you you need to go somehere different to cast your vote, please check it with the official information available at Elections Ontario.