What WE Can Do for ERRE

back to DIY Electoral Reform Info SessionsCanadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the nineteenth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

erre-you-r-hereAlthough you’d hardly know it from our friends in the Main Stream Media, there is an Electoral Reform Consultation going on right now.

I’ve been trying to raise awareness of Proportional Representation because that is the only way we will get the *real* real change Canada so desperately needs.  Like most Canadians, I used to think Government Consultations were just for experts.  It never occurred to me that a consultation was meant to consult with all Canadians until I was found myself involved in the 2009 Canadian Copyright Consultation in 2009. More than eight thousand Canadians submitted written submissions, and my understanding is that was the best response any Canadian consultation has ever had until then.

The ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform wants facts from the experts, but they also want to find out what ordinary Canadians want.

Even though most Canadians lack the requisite background in electoral systems, we don’t need to be experts to know the system we’ve been using isn’t working.  I don’t understand how my car’s engine actually works, but I certainly know when it doesn’t.  At this time, Canadians need to make sure the Special Committee on Electoral Reform knows that we do want Proportional Representation.

Stand Up For Proportional Representation.

The government needs to know Canadians are not satisfied with our electoral system and that we want Proportional Representation because we care about our democracy.   Since a petition requires so little effort, although helpful, especially with many signatures) your signature on a petition is not given as much weight as a form letter.  The most weight is given to personal contact.  Talking to your MP on the phone ore in person has a lot of weight: it demonstrates how important the issue is to you.

Even if you don’t say a word, even if you are just there to learn, attending any Electoral Reform discussion night or town hall near you is very important, because your presence demonstrates your commitment to electoral reform.

If your MP hasn’t announced a town hall, call them up or send them an email.  All our MPs are all supposed to have a Town Hall. Conservative MPs seem to be avoiding holding Town Halls.  If your MP is Conservative, tell them Conservative voters deserve to be consulted too.

Attend a Community Dialogue, or even set up your own Canadian  Community Dialogue

@WR_Greens hosts a Community Dialogue on Electoral ReformFairvote Waterloo folks are hosting one every Tuesday in a local cafe. They have a list of questions (5 or 6) that a table of participants discus, the facilitator guides them through a list of questions & takes notes; at the end of the night the participants all sign the sheet which is then sent to the ERRE folks.  The Waterloo Region Greens will be doing this on a larger scale with a Waterloo Region Community Dialogue on Electoral Reform on September 17th, 2016.

You can do this yourself on any scale, with a few friends at a picnic table in the park, around your kitchen table, the cafeteria or anywhere.

You can start with the ERRE suggested Potential Canadian federal electoral reform event dialogue topics and questions here.

Get the Canadian federal electoral reform dialogue hosting guide here.

3. Catch up on what the Committee has done in the meetings so far… I’ve included links to the video, as well as the evidence transcripts and the witness briefs that have been posted to find out what experts have been saying in their submissions.

Participate on Twitter

—TWITTER: The Committee monitored the Twitter feed #ERRE #Q for comments and questions from Canadians during the committee meetings, some Twitter questions were posed to the witnesses in real time.

Other hashtags:

#ERRE
#ERRE #Q
#ProportionalRepresentation
#VoterEquality
#ProportionalPlease
#Referendum
#CDNpoli

Even though the Ottawa Committee Meetings are over (I am not sure if there will be another round later) you can continue to follow the committee members on Twitter (links to members twitter handles here) and continue to tweet about #ERRE #Q.  It seemed to me the most active on Twitter were @nathancullen@MPRubySahota@SherryRomanado and @ElizabethMay

Unfortunately, instead of helping inform their constituents, the Conservative members of the committee @ScottReidCPC@BlakeRichardsMP are working hard to delay or derail the Electoral Reform Consultation by concentrating their greatest efforts in demanding an Electoral Reform Referendum.  Proportional Representation isn’t a partisan issue; all it means is that voters will get better representation in Parliament.

The more we can share information through our social media accounts the greater the public awareness.

Make your own presentation to the ERRE Committee in person

—Requests to appear may be sent to the Committee by email (erre@parl.gc.ca) or by using the appropriate button on the Committee’s website. Please note that the Committee clerks will contact only those who are selected by the Committee members to appear. Requests to appear must be submitted to the Committee no later than October 7, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. (EDT).

If you keep an eye out you may get a chance to jointhe Honourable Maryam Monsef and/or #ERRE Committee on their Electoral Reform Road Trip.

Online Questionaire

Anyone can fill out the online questionaire as a submission here:
Special Committee on Electoral Reform E-CONSULTATION ON ELECTORAL REFORM 

Make your own Written Submission

—WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS: Any person or organization can submit a brief to the Committee. To be accepted, the brief must be no more than 3,000 words in length (including the summary and footnotes) and be submitted to the Committee no later than October 7, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. (EDT). The Committee recommends highlighting any recommendations to support the principles set out in the motion mentioned above. Briefs may be sent to the Committee by email (erre@parl.gc.ca) or by using the appropriate button on the Committee’s website. Once they are translated, briefs will be distributed to the Committee members and posted on the Committee’s website.

It is probably best to begin with the principles defined by the Government:

 

Guiding principles for Canadian federal electoral reform

The following five guiding principles may help you think about what you want from federal elections, your Member of Parliament (MP) and your federal government. They can help you decide what is important to you when it comes to potential changes to our democracy at the federal level by considering how any proposed reforms might:

  • Restore the effectiveness and legitimacy of voting, such as by reducing distortions and strengthening the link between voter intention and the electoral result
  • Encourage greater engagement and participation in the democratic process, including by underrepresented groups
  • Support accessibility and inclusiveness of all eligible voters, and avoiding undue complexity in the voting process
  • Safeguard the integrity of our voting process
  • Preserve the accountability of local representation

Why are these principles important?

The principles were identified as a means to encourage a thoughtful, substantive dialogue about what Canadians expect from their electoral system. Potential changes to Canada’s federal electoral system can be assessed through questions such as:

  • How could any proposed reforms strengthen effectiveness and legitimacy by better reflecting the democratic will of Canadians?
  • How could any proposed reforms foster civility, cohesion and openness in politics that will help encourage Canadians to take part?
  • How could any proposed reforms enhance the sense among Canadians that they can contribute to, participate in and influence politics?
  • How could any proposed reforms support accessibility and inclusiveness for all Canadians in our diverse society?
  • How could any proposed reforms ensure that Canadians can trust election results?
  • How could any proposed reforms affect MPs’ accountability to citizens?

Then it might be an idea to take a look at some of the written submissions other Canadians have posted here.  (Unfortunately the submissions from the experts and ordinary Canadians are jumbled together.  Some people who submit are experts but this is a way for all Canadians to be heard. Although I have absorbed far more than I ever wanted to know about this, I am not an expert.  And I will be writing my own sumbission, which I will post here in Whoa!Canada so you will be able to read it (and maybe borrow some of my ideas for your own submission).    The idea is to let the Government (through the ERRE Committee) know what you want them to do.

Your written submission does NOT have to be a scholarly essay (although it can be if you want it to be).  The maximum size is 3,000 words.

This isn’t a test, there are no wrong answers, the government is only asking for our opinions if we have them, and if we do, this is a chance for us to be heard.  This process is really for us.

Your submission is entirely up to you; it can be as detailed or not as you like.  If you have only one thing to say, it might just as easily be a single sentence.  Maybe something like:

I want Canada to adopt some form of Proportional Representation.

or

Proportional representation please!

or

No referendum! Proportional Representation.

or

Canada should adopt   (fill in favourite electoral system here)   [Summaries of the different systems can be found here]

TALK

Talk to your FAMILY and FRIENDS about this. At home, on social media, at work, at school, wherever you go.  You don’t need to be an expert, share links.

Canadians who wish to follow the Committee’s work may do so by visiting its website (http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/ERRE).

If the ERRE Committee is appearing anywhere near you, go, and bring as many friends & family as possible.

VIDEOS

Movies work better for many people, including me. This is my YouTube Electoral Reform playlist.  Share the list and/or specific videos.  I hope to make a few more soon.

More Information

This article is part of my Proportional Representation for Canada series to help demystify electoral reform.  More info is available on my PR 4 Canada Resources page, and I keep adding material as I find it.  Please share any articles and materials about electoral reform you may find helpful.  If I haven’t answered your questions yet, ask in a comment or send me an email.


I hope you will participate in one way or another.

Just being part of the process — even if it is just quietly listening at an Electoral Reform Town Hall — is a help because your participation will give them an idea whether we care about electoral reform.

Oh, and I almost forgot… the Ontario portion of the ERRE road show will be coming to Toronto on September 21st, 2016.

ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform comes to Toronto - Wednesday September 21st, 2016 Chelsea Hotel Churchill Ballroom 33 Gerrard St W, Toronto, ON → map ← 1:30—4:15 pm Witness Panel(s) √ 13 h 30—16 h 15 Panel(s) de témoins 4:15—5:00 pm Open mic √ 16 h 15—17 h 00* séance micro ouvert 6:30—9:30 pm Open mic √ 18 h 30—21 h 30* séance micro ouvert *Please note that the end time for the open mic sessions are approximate

back to DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions

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
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
Sign the Petition e-616
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
• International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD
• An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

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

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Canadian Politics

protester holding a sign in the 13 Heros protestGenerally speaking, I don’t like political parties.

What I don’t like is the idea of political parties in this land that is supposed to be a representative democracy.  The way a representative democracy is supposed to work, is that we vote for and elect the candidate we think will best represent us. We elect the candidate we believe will vote for or against proposed laws as we would.  So that our best interests will be represented within the halls of our democratic government.

The problem is, once elected, “our” elected representative is more likely to do the bidding of their party than they are to do what we want.  Which rather makes a mockery of our “representatation.”

The inequity of our “winner take all” political system means any party holding a majority of seats in parliament has absolute power to enact any legislation it wants.  For the entire term.

looking up at protesters and signs

Our political system is older than Canada.  Perhaps our flavour of representative democracy was good enough back in 1867, when communication and transportation were far from instantaneous, and governing a land mass the size of Canada was geographically challenging.  But with today’s connectivity and access to information, our political system is sorely outdated and hugely inequitable.  Worse, our “democracy” has few if any checks and balances to prevent abuse.  When we are cursed with a majority government, what we effectively have is a time limited dictatorship.

(The Senate is supposed to provide “sober second thought,” but partisan Senate padding has resulted in the upper chamber being transformed into a rubber stamp for the party that stacks it the most.)

Because our electoral system is so terribly broken,  when any such a majority government seeks to pass laws  we don’t approve — the only recourse open to Canadians is to apply the pressure of public opinion.  Citizens have to protest in any way we can.  All we can do is hope that our government will take heed of our concerns and correct or drop legislation that is not in the public good.

KW Voted 4 U

Last summer a great many Canadians were upset by the Conservative “Black Mark Budget”  Omnibus bill.   Under our woefully antiquated “democracy,” any majority government has the power to pass any law, no matter how unpopular.  And when many pieces of unrelated legislation are bundled together and called an “omnibus,” it means these laws are very nearly being passed in secret, because they receive only the most cursory public scrutiny and debate.  In a democratic state, at minimum legislation deserves examination and dissent must be heard, even if the system allows for bad law to be passed anyway in the end.  We deserve to know when bad law is made.

Because of the current Federal Conservative Majority, the only way to stop the Bill C-38 ominbudget from passing would have been for 13 Conservative MPs to vote against it.  An awful lot of ordinary Canadians took to the streets in protest.  People who had never lifted before lifted a picket sign in their lives waved them with gusto.   Grandparemts, parents, children.   A great deal of public pressure was in fact brought to bear.  In Waterloo Region, Peter Braid pretended not to have seen the protest outside his office, while Stephen Woodworth magnanimously offered his protesters coffee.  Still, in spite of the many protests made at Conservative MP constituency offices across Canada, not a single Conservative MP voted against Party dictates.

Not long afterward, I heard Stephen Woodworth defending his decision to vote against his constituents at the Kitchener Multicultural Festival.   In the few minutes I was there,  the Member of Parliament explained to two different constituents that he had been unable to vote against Bill C-38 as they wanted,  because it would have meant opposing the directives of his political party.  The orders issued by his party prevented him from representing the voters who elected him.

Omnibudget Protest 2012

Money Makes the World Go Around

twenty dollar bills
Things are pretty bad when a supposedly democratic government ignores the voters.  Our system wasn’t entirely fair back in 1867, but it has been gamed and fiddled with by succeeding governments in attempts to give the ruling party an unfair advantage ever since.  Is it any wonder that almost half of our eligible voters don’t even bother anymore? Canadians know all too well that all votes don’t count, nor are all votes equal.  The system is so badly broken that strategic voting is considered a legitimate option.  Something’s got to give.

The Canada that my child will inherit is much worse than the Canada I inherited. We no longer have the option of leaving politics to the politicians.  Canadians need to start talking and thinking about politics. We have to stand up for change now or things will keep getting worse.

Today’s political parties seem to spend more time fund raising than campaigning. Why do they need so much cash? Seems they all need oodles of money to pay the costs of television advertising, which gets more expensive all the time. Of course, print advertising and robocalls don’t come cheap either…

With the phasing out of the per vote subsidy, money becomes a much bigger issue, particularly for the smaller political parties.

It is always easier for the rich to bankroll their political party (and get the laws that benefit them passed) but the rest of us need some political representation too.  If you feel any political party has stood up for you, or the issues you feel are important maybe you ought to send them a donation.

Perhaps the Pirate Party stood up for privacy and Internet Freedom… or the Green Party fought for the environment… or the Liberal Party is changing the way a political party works… or the NDP is standing up for First Nations… or the Conservative Party put the abortion debate back to sleep.

If you happen to have any cash left on hand after the holidays and want to encourage the party of your choice to keep up the good work, now is the time to make a donation.  A $10.00 donation actually only costs you $2.50 after you get $7.50 back in tax credit.

This is how it works:

Canadian Political Donation Facts

Maximum political contribution limit: $1,200
Donations between 0 and $400 ~ a 75% tax credit
Donations between $400 and $750 ~ $300 tax credit plus 50% of any amount over $400;
Donations over $750 ~ $475 + 33.3% of amount over $750 (max $650 per year tax credit)
Any contributions must be made by Monday, December 31st to be eligible for 2012 tax credits.

Another thing to do is get involved. Find out when and where the local political parties meet, and go sit in. Look for your local Fair Vote chapter or Co-Operate for Canada. Read the news. Follow #CDNpoli on Twitter. Listen. Learn.

Canadians need to start talking about politics, and get involved to effect change in one way or another. We can’t afford not to anymore.

If we’re stuck with a party system, maybe it’s time to join the party.
Get involved.a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves