This is the fifth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
For years I didn’t understand that mysterious phrase “The Popular Vote.” The popular vote numbers never seemed to have any connection to the number of seats a political party won. I just assumed the numbers seemed like gobbledegook since I’ve always been something of a mathphobe. So imagine my surprise when I learned it was the system that was skewed, not my grasp of the numbers.
The popular vote is the number of valid votes Canadians cast. If we look at the results of the 2015 election, we see
6,943,276 votes translated to 184 seats for the Liberal Party, 39.5% of the votes won 54.4% of the seats in parliament while
5,613,614 votes translated to 99 seats for the Conservative Party, whose 31.9% of the votes only won 29.3% of the seats.
The Liberal Party formed government by winning a much larger percentage of seats than it earned in votes, while the Conservatives won fewer seats. This is disproportional representation. As you can see from looking at the percentages across the entire election, with the Liberal Party being the biggest beneficiary of the disproportional results. Every other party won a substantially higher percentage of votes than seats.
When most Canadians first stumble into discussions about electoral reform, the incomprehensible jargon makes it hard to understand what people are talking about. But it gets worse. Not only are there are many different voting systems we’ve never even heard of, some have more than one name. And worse still, most of the people talking about it use acronyms, so it is a considerable challenge just to follow the conversation. It isn’t that electoral reformers are intending to confuse us, it’s just that many electoral reformers have been thinking and talking about the intricacies of electoral reform for years.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand electoral systems, but nobody can keep up without some idea of what the words in this specialized language mean. Since Canadians have been promised electoral reform, it is important for us to have a basic understanding of the choices available so we can let our representatives know which we prefer. As I’ve had a few years head start, I’ve been working on a basic Electoral Reform Glossary.
This is the fourth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series
Canada’s government is chosen with a “First Past the Post” electoral system where some votes are worth more than others, but most don’t count at all. This effectively divides Canadians into those that have representation and those who have none.
With such disproportionate representation, the best hope for in such a polarized electorate is a minority government, because no laws can be passed without the support of more than one party. Unfortunately there is no “minority government” box to mark on the ballot. This is especially difficult for citizens when our winner-take-all electoral system delivers a majority government to a single party that earned far less than a majority of votes.
Our current Liberal majority government was elected by just 39.5% of the voters, excluding a majority of Canadians from representation in Government. When a “majority” government (like most First Past the Post (FPTP) governments) is elected by a minority of voters, the majority of voters are unrepresented. The idea is that whoever is elected, is expected to represent the interests of all their constituents. This sounds good in theory, but hasn’t worked so well in practice.
What citizens are left with is a serious democratic deficit. The problem becomes even bigger when well funded corporate and ideological special interest groups can successfully lobby for what their employers want. Powerful insiders and professional lobbyists know how the system works and they how to get what their employers want. Not only do these people know who to talk to, they have access to the decision makers ordinary citizens don’t. These pros can make backroom deals and convince the right people to put forth legislation and trade agreements beneficial to the special interests groups who hire them — even when it’s detrimental to the public good.
Since we are saddled with a system that usually leaves most voters without representatives who will speak for us in Parliament, the only recourse left to the majority of Canadians without representation is to lobby the government ourselves when our MPs consider issues important to us. If we don’t, we have no hope of discouraging our MPs from supporting:
legislation, policy or dangerous trade agreements Canadians oppose,
making and voting for laws that undermine the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and/or
otherwise jeopardize the public good,
That’s why the majority of voters have to work very hard just to get the government’s attention. We must try to educate the government about the issues that are important to us, and work even harder to try to convince the government not to pass laws or make policy detrimental to our interests.
If we used a different kind of electoral system — one that provided citizens with some form of Proportional Representation — we wouldn’t have to work so hard because we would actually have representation in Ottawa.
But we aren’t there yet. In the here and now, it is very important you let your MP know where you stand on issues that matter to you.
It doesn’t matter which party your MP is in, if you oppose Canada’s ratification of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) you need to let your MP know you do not want the TPP.
Or Bill C-51.
Or even a motion to condemning the BSD movement (our right to dissent!).
Whenever the government is going to do things we don’t want it to, it’s up to us to let the government know or the only side they will hear is the other one. If you can’t convince your MP and/or their party disagrees with you, s/he isn’t likely to do you much good at all. So our only hope is that a lot of other Canadians will contact their MPs about the issues that matter to you as well.
We would be much better off with Proportional Representation, but even without it, if enough of us speak up, (strongly enough, loudly enough) there is a slim chance we might persuade the Government to back away from bad policy. Public opinion didn’t seem to have much weight with the previous Government, but public opinion does matter to the Liberal Government. Our chance of being heard is better than it was with 39.6% majority government the Liberals replaced.
You can contact your MP in a variety of ways:
by meeting with your MP in person,
speaking to your MP on the phone,
sending your MP postal mail (Mail may be sent postage-free to any Member of Parliament)
writing your MP an email,
sending your MP a fax
speaking to your MP on social media, or
Meeting with your MP in person is probably the single most effective strategy while signing a petition (especially a digital petition) is probably the least effective. To make it easier for the folks in the Waterloo Region area to contact your MP, I’ve put together contact information for our new crop of Members of Parliament.
MP Raj Saini (Liberal)
209 Frederick Street (Main Office)
This part of the website seems a little bit broken just now, as I’m finding it is providing links to incomplete draft contact pages. It might be easier to simply type in the correct URL by typing it into the URL address bar (or search bar) in your browser:
The long awaited 2015 federal election has been called, so Canadians are now being treated to one of the longest Federal Elections in Canadian History. Because of strict spending caps, the standard election period has traditionally been half as long as the one we are having now. Since the passage of the Harper Government’s Orwellianly titled “Fair Elections Act,” any party with an absurdly large budget (like, say, the Conservative Party of Canada) has an even better chance to outspend the other parties. Will they be able to effectively “buy” an election win in this way? I hope not.
Right now all the parties are scrambling to put on their game faces, but I have no doubt election fever will slow down a good bit until we get closer to the election. We have time to catch our breath. More important, we have time to start conversations about the Canada we want to have. About the future we want for ourselves, and for our kids.
They call it “voter apathy” but I believe that’s a misnomer: we ought to call it “Voter Disillusionment.” Although our electoral system is not only antiquated but unfair, a great many Canadians — on the order of 40% in 2011 — have become disillusioned or have other reasons for not getting out to vote. The fewer Canadians who vote, the weaker our representation in Parliament, as we can see from much of the legislation pushed through with little or no scrutiny by our current majority government.
Originally, our First Past The Post electoral system was designed to serve rich white men. It was only well into the 20th century that all Canadian citizens of legal age finally achieved the right to vote, but still, the system adopted before confederation wasn’t never intended to serve all Canadians. No one knows better than I — after 30+ years of voting in every election without ever sending a representative to Parliament — just how unfair our winner-take-all electoral system actually is. However, this year, meaningful electoral reform to Proportional Representation is indeed on the table. The Harper Government has a majority government– and 100% of the power — based on less than 40% of the vote. In the last election, more eligible Canadian voters did not vote than those who voted for the Harper Government’s majority. If all the disillusioned Canadian voters were to vote this year, things would indeed change.
Canada’s fortunes will certainly improve with a switch to a better form of representative democracy, so I encourage everyone reading this to do your best to engage any other eligible voters you know who might ordinarily not vote to go to the polls this fall. We see enough attack ads on tv… it is time for civil discussion about politics in our real lives. My own strong hope is that the disillusioned voters will cast their votes for candidates who support Proportional Representation, but just voting for what you want is just as important. Please consider: it is the Canadians who don’t vote who have the least representation in Ottawa.
It may help to direct any such potential voters to the many valuable online resources (here’s a borrowed list) to help them get informed, but please try not to influence their decision. People who don’t believe they can vote for what they want are much less likely to vote at all, so please try to encourage them to vote for the candidate they believe will best represent them in Ottawa.
“The economy is in good shape, so why is support for the Conservatives slumping?”
I’m making Mother’s Day cards right now so I don’t have time to read the article, but even having only read the blurb, I find myself disagreeing with Andrew Coyne’s conclusion.
The Tories have not gone out of their way to alienate anyone. They are simply doing the job they were elected to do.
The Harper governmenr is doing an excellent job of serving the only constituents they represent. Their party is legally empowered to govern in this way because our inequitable winner-take-all electoral system gives all of the power to the party that secures more seats than any other.
Ours is not a democratic system.
The problem with a winner-take-all system like ours is that a majority government is a dictatorship.
The rest of us don’t count any more than our votes do.
That is the reality built into Canada’s winner-take-all electoral system.
Only the elite whose votes elect the government secure representation in government.
The electoral reform Andrew Coyne supports is called “Alternative Vote” ~ although various spin doctors have rebranded it “Preferential Voting” (Liberal Party) or “IRV” (RaBIT). Some people like this alternate winner-take-all electoral system because they believe it will game the system so their party will get the dictatorial power currently enjoyed by the ruling party.
No matter how good the intentions, no matter how benevolent, a dictatorship is not democratic. Every time I hear people slamming Canadians for our low voter turnout it makes my blood boil. It isn’t that Canadians don’t care, it’s that each generation has learned that our elections are as meaningless as the elections in any banana republic.
When most votes don’t count, what you’re left with is really only democracy theatre.
I don’t think we can afford to pay the price demanded by anyone’s defacto dictatorship.
On this Mother’s Day, I reflect on why I write this blog: as a mother, I believe all of our kids deserve to live in a real democracy. But that will only happen with meaningful electoral reform to Proportional Representation.
All Canadians should be represented by our government.
[Note: The CIDA page was taken down, so the above link goes to the article in the Google cache ]
Although Canada currently has a government formed by the Conservative Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party has enough elected Members of Parliament to form the Official Opposition, which is also a part of the Canadian Government. Even if the NDP did not, as a duly registered political party representing any number of Canadian citizens, members of the NDP are certainly entitled to their own opinions and policies. Even when such opinions are published in the Huffington Post.
If Minister Fantino wished to respond to MP Helen Laverdière’s piece, he could have done so with his own submission to the Huffington Post. Or he could have submitted such a rebuttal elsewhere. Surely the Globe and Mail or the National Post would have been happy to oblige. Had he preferred to dispense with editorial oversight, he could have instead posted this diatribe under his own byline on his own blog. Or on any Conservative Party of Canada website or blog.
Minister Fantino’s ill advised decision to publish this partisan attack on a Federal Government website is clearly inappropriate.
Canadian Government websites are ultimately the property of Canadians, who come in many different shapes, sizes and ideologies. In order to properly serve our multifaceted, multicultural, multipartisan nation, Canadian Government websites must remain politically nonpartisan if they are to retain any credibility.
Minister Fantino has given the Canadian Government a black eye through this self serving overreach of authority. And Canada’s Minister for International Cooperation seems incapable of cooperating with his peers.
Generally 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Going into the election yesterday we had a Conservative minority government based on 5,209,069 votes, and today we have a Conservative majority government with 5,832,401 votes. That’s a difference of 623,332 votes. It is also a difference of 24 seats.
The 41st Canadian Federal Election has resulted in a Conservative Party of Canada majority government.
My son, who cast his first vote last night, asked me how it could have happened? Even with the tame “news” media [the watchdog press is indeed dead] he was under the impression that there was strong opposition to the Conservative government.
And of course the polls conducted throughout the term of the 40th Parliament always seemed to hover in the mid 30% range.
[No, I don’t believe in polls… that’s for all the people who tried to convince me of the accuracy of public opinion polls.]
As my friend Sheila said,
“Majority? Well, 24.1% of Canadians have spoken.”
Because Canadian voter turnout was less than stellar. Only 61.4% of registered voters voted yesterday, up slightly from 2008’s all time low of 59.1%.
My Bahamian friend Drew forwarded me this Voter turnout data for Bahamas. Can you imagine? They have a 92.13% voter turnout! I guess it really is better in the Bahamas.
comparing the results
So, lets look at what happened in Canada, eh? Possibly the easiest way to see what happened is to compare the results of the 41st election with the results of the 40th in 2008.
2008: Minority Government
The Conservative Party of Canada
5,209,069 votes, which was 37.65% of the popular vote and gave them 143 seats
The Liberal Party of Canada
3,633,185 votes, which was 26.26% of the popular vote and gave them 77 seats
The Bloc Québécois
1,379,991 votes, which was 9.98% of the popular vote and gave them 49 seats
The New Democratic Party of Canada
2,515,288 votes, which was 18.18% of the popular vote and gave them 37 seats
The Green Party of Canada
937,613 votes, which was 6.78% of the popular vote and gave them 0 seats
I’m no math genius, but even I can see that the numbers don’t add up.
In the last election the Green Party had 937,613 votes and zero seats. After yesterday’s election, the Green Party has 576,221 votes and no seats. So now they’ve lost a few hundred thousand votes they have a seat. Although the Green Party lost votes, they probably haven’t lost any support. Because people concerned for the environment don’t suddenly going to stop caring. It isn’t as though there were any scandals in the Green Party. The only way the Green Party let their supporters down was in not getting elected.
Without an elected representative, the people who vote have no voice in parliament. We also saw the consortium’s exclusion of Elizabeth May from the televised Leadership debates.
The upshot is that the near million voters who voted Green across Canada had no representation in government. It is reasonable to assume that the lost votes went somewhere “strategic.” It can be hard voting for a party that can’t seem to win, no matter how much you believe in them.
The single biggest problem in a first past the post electoral system is that you only get parliamentary representation if the candidate you vote for is elected. And even then, if the candidate’s party doesn’t form the government, your representation is second class.
The main business of government is making laws. This is the other place where the numbers really count.
A majority government controls more than half the available seats in the House of Commons.
Which means a majority government can pass any law they want.
The Conservative Party of Canada got 5,832,401 votes, or 39.6%.
All the other parties together received 8,888,179 votes, or 60.4%
Because of the way our system weights votes, less than 40% of the votes cast means a majority government.
More than 60% of the votes cast don’t count. This is what they mean when they talk about wasted votes.
Add to that another 9,251,160 registered voters who didn’t vote at all.
This majority government actually represents a minority of voters. The 5,832,401 votes cast for the Conservative Party of Canada count.
The other 18,139,339 votes do not. Is it any wonder why people get frustrated? In a democracy, every vote should count.
Canada needs electoral reform. I have been learning a lot about the different types of government that are possible from the non-partisan electoral reform group Fairvote Canada. Everyone who is concerned with this extraordinary inequity should get involved.
Because Canada deserves electoral reform.
Photographs released by laurelrusswurm under a Creative Commons Attribution Only License.
Many Canadians had strong suspicions about the similarity between the Liberal Bill C-60 and the Conservative Bill C-61.
The overwhelming response from the vast majority of Copyright Consultation respondents indicated Canadians were opposed to TPM/DRM (Technical Protection Measures/Digital Rights Management) or “digitial locks”. Digital locks prevent users from using the media and devices the way they want to.
In spite of that, when Bill C-32 was tabled, TPM or “digital locks” was the most over-riding element, and made circumventing digital locks illegal. Even of we are legally entitled to access the content, under C-32 we would be breaking the law to bypass the digital lock.
This is the part that most upset me, as a writer, because this could remove my right as an author to distribute my creative work as I see fit. TPM/DRM places control of digital distribution in the hands of corporations. This law would have allowed manufacturers to use TPM to prevent consumers from accessing free material we are legally entitled to access on our laptops, dvds, cell phones and ipads etc.
If Bill C-32 had passed as is, Canada would most certainly have seen digital locks added to all digital devices, allowing corporate control of our culture.
A cable originating in the office of the U.S. Secretary of State is a blueprint for the copyright legislation the Canadian Government was expected to pass:
Prohibition of manufacturing and trafficking in technological
protection measure (TPM) circumvention devices as an offense
separate from copyright infringement;
Prohibition of circumvention of TPMs that control access to
works (quote access controls unquote);
Deterrent penalties against unauthorized circumvention —
both civil and criminal;
If there are any exceptions to TPM or rights management
information (RMI) liability, the exceptions should be clearly
enumerated and narrow in scope;
A system of protections and obligations for ISPs that
shelters them from certain liability, reduces and prevents
copyright infringement on the Internet and provides
incentives for ISPs to work cooperatively with copyright
Well, would you look at that. The most contentious issues — the issues objected to by Canadians — all come from the United States. And all the while, our government insisted that Bill C-32 was a “made-in-Canada” solution.
So, what would be Canada’s reward for making copyright law beneficial to the US at the expense of the Canadian public interest?
— (If needed) As Ambassador Kirk indicated in April, USTR is
prepared to reopen the USG interagency process to reassess
Canada,s placement on the Special 301 list if Canada enacts
The “prize” Canada might receive for suborning Canadian Sovereignty in favor of American demands is that if we enact “adequate” legislation – legislation that suits American needs over our own – the “USTR is prepared to reopen the USG interagency process to reassess Canada,s placement on the Special 301 list.”
Or, in other words, all Canada has to do is make the laws the United States tells us to make, and then the USTR might stop lying about Canada, by placing Canada on the spurious USTR Watch List.
(And where was the “watchdog press”?)
Other cables recently released by WikiLeaks have clearly shown that Canada was only placed on the USTR Watch List in order to bully us into passing copyright law favorable to US special interests.
Ironically, Canada’s specious inclusion on the USTR Watch List has been a huge contributing factor in exposing the USTR Watch List for the fraud it is. Since the American record of copyright infringement is worse than ours, the United States should be listed there before Canada. The WatchList has been used against other countries around the world in just this way.
their willingness to make copyright law harmful to Canadian interests
to appease our American neighbors.
Oh! Canada, indeed.
Please vote on Monday in the Federal Election.
Don’t vote strategically if there is a candidate you believe in. If we don’t start voting for what we want, we will never get it.
The only Canadian political parties opposed to electoral reform are the Conservative and Liberal parties. Canada has other choices. Visit the Elections Canada site to see what choices are available in your riding.
Although M. Duceppe is quite correct in stating that he can not hope to be Prime Minister of Canada, it is because thus far his party exists only in La Province du Québec. Even winning every possible riding in La Belle Province can not garner enough seats to form a Canadian Federal Government. If Mr Duceppe wishes to be Prime Minister of Canada, he first needs to extend his base of support beyond Quebec’s borders.
The New Democratic Party of Canada has fielded Candidates across the country. This means that enough NDP MPs could be elected to form a federal government. Which would transform Jack Layton into the Prime Minster of Canada. Not impossible.
The same is true for Elizabeth May. The Green Party of Canada (GPC) has fielded candidates all across Canada. If enough Green Party candidates are elected, as the leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth may would become our Prime Minister.
This is why the televised Leadership Debate was such a travesty. The arbitrary rules set by the consortium are in fact meaningless. In a first-past-the-post democracy, it does not matter who formed the last government. That’s old news. Just because they have been elected in the past doesn’t mean they will be elected again. That’s history. All the leaders of all registered parties should have been included.
Every election is a fresh start, as Anne of Green Gables would say, “with no mistakes in it.”
Because no one has been elected, all the candidates are supposed to start on a level playing field.
Canadians have been under the apparently mistaken impression that the Elections Canada mandate was to ensure a fair election. To ensure as level a field as possible. Yet it seems Elections Canada was powerless over the televised Leadership Debates. The way the “debates” were conducted was left entirely in the hands of “the consortium.” This utterly unaccountable media consortium decided that the only leaders allowed on the televised debates would be the ones with elected representatives.
Previous governments have written laws allowing these unaccountable media corporations to define the terms of election broadcasts. This places the broadcast media in control of what the electorate is allowed to see.
More than ever before, this election is being held at a time when the unaccountable consortium of broadcasters is a special interest group.
Who is in charge of Canada’s mainstream media “consortium”?
Ahem. Bell Canada Enterprises just happens to own the CTV Network, The Globe And Mail, much of Canada’s land and cell phone networks, as well as a huge chunk of the Internet backbone. The supposedly arms length CRTC has failed Canadians by granting the gigantic Bell more and more control over the Canadian media when in fact a good regulator would be breaking it down into smaller parts to diminish the unhealthy stranglehold this corporation has over the Canadian digital economy. Usage Based Billing is just one of the perks that Bell has attempted with the assistance of the CRTC.
Suffice it to say that Elections Canada should be calling the shots, not media special interest groups.
The deliberate exclusion of Green Party candidates by the media in the supposedly non-partisan meetings seems the recurring theme for this election. The media supposedly “covering” these all candidates meetings and debates is actually controlling them.
Then there was the “Kitchener Centre Forum” put on by the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce at Kitchener City Hall on April 21st. This forum only invited four of the seven candidates registered to run in this riding. Stephen Woodworth (Conservative Party of Canada), Karen Redman (Liberal Party of Canada), Peter Thurley (New Democratic Party), and Byron Williston (Green Party of Canada) were allowed to attend while Mark Corbiere (Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada), Alan Rimmer (Independent), and Martin Suter (Communist Party of Canada) were excluded.
Canadian media coverage used to be equitable to all the candidates.
Instead of fair election coverage, Canadians are getting scripted debates and reality TV.
up close and personal: local level debates
I missed the first Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meeting in my riding since it conflicted with the televised leadership debate.
What I heard went on revealed it to have been something of a travesty. Albert Ashley, the Green Candidate was absent altogether (out of the country), making the “All Candidate” meeting short one candidate. Like the televised “Leadership Debate”, this local debate was rigidly controlled by the media companies, in this case, Rogers Cable and The Record newspaper. Apparently candidate answers were limited to 30 second sound bites, making the answers, for the most part, shorter than the questions.
The published Record story downplays the fact that the incumbent Albrecht’s ‘office’ had been caught out for registering his opponent’s domain name and putting spurious content online.
What would have been a major scandal back when we still had a watch-dog press, instead came out in the Record as a partisan whitewash. The characterized this breach of ethics (if not law ) as “website pranks.” In fact it is very close to Identity theft, and may well constitute libel or fraud in the business world.
Apparently Harold Albrecht laid off the responsibility for this attack on “an overzealous volunteer,” named by the Record as “his former chief of staff Jeff Chatterton.” Apparently Albrecht offered to sell the domain names to Liberal Candidate Bob Rosehart.
A closer look reveals Jeff Chatterton is no eager innocent, but rather a former journalist who hung out a public relations shingle and cut his teeth in damage control for the City of Walkerton during the Walkerton water crisis. Chatterton’s bio indicates he has made a career of characterizing scientific findings in opposition to his corporate client’s interests as “junk science.” According to Chatterton’s Facebook Page, the tag line for his company, Checkmate Public Affairs, is “Keeping clients OUT of the news – and doing it alarmingly well.”
Which makes me wonder what other improprieties are conducted in Mr. Albrecht’s office that can be blamed on underlings.
What ever happened to personal responsibility?
Possibly the most disturbing thing about the article is the Record implication that the Green Party candidate’s absence is spurious. Scheduling an all candidates meeting for a date when one of the four candidates is out of the country, and then blaming that candidate for the absence is masterful politicking.
But it is not what one would expect from an unbiased media.
The Elmira All Candidates Meeting
Put on by the “Greater KW Chamber of Commerce,” and again run by the media, this time the local 570 News Radio station. There were perhaps 200 to 300 seats, all filled, with an additional 50 or so standing room only attendees.
This indicates a far larger turnout than expected. (Interestingly, I also heard that Tuesday’s Kitchener-Waterloo All Candidates meeting was also standing room only, but their reported overages were in the hundreds.)
The format of the meeting was to pose a series of questions, which each candidate had the opportunity to answer. And at the end, “if time permits” they said they ‘might’ take questions from the audience. In other words, the corporate radio station decided the questions to be asked, while the citizens in attendance would only be allowed to pose questions on sufferance.
[They did, in fact, take audience questions at the end, and the moderator made a bee line to a young man in a suit whose first question exposed him as an embarrassingly blatant conservative shill.]
While it is may be reasonable to applaud a panel of candidates when introduced at the outset of such a meeting, it is wholly inappropriate to applaud each answer.
Since time was supposedly an issue, no applause should have been allowed. Interestingly, the applause was loudest and absurdly long for the only professional candidate, the Conservative incumbent, Harold Albrecht.
The applause reminded me of those talent programs where the loudest cheering section, not talent, decides the winner. It doesn’t matter how talented or not the participant is, the contest is won by how many friends they can bring. This bit of showmanship is important only as a demonstration of political power.
Which is, of course, precisely why applause should not be allowed at an ostensibly non-partisan political meeting held during an election. I wonder how much that influenced the trickle of attendees who walked out though out the show…
The theme of all answers given by both the Conservative Party incumbent and the Liberal Party challenger was to attack each other’s ruling party record. Of course the Conservative cheering section applauded Harold Albrecht’s Liberal attack-answers just as the Liberal cheering section applauded Bob Rosehart’s Conservative attack-answers.
The worst of it is, both cheering sections were right. Every bad Liberal deed that Albrecht pointed out was true, just as every bad Conservative deed Rosehart mentioned was. The problem is that the partisan cheering section doesn’t seem to care that the team they cheer … er their party … has done bad stuff, too.
Many who blindly pick a leader and a party will follow them no matter what bad deeds they have done or are going to continue to do. They have made a choice to allow someone else to decide what to think and who to vote for, and are not going to change. And that’s their right. Where it becomes a problem is when they pack a hall and engage in an “applause battle” in an attempt to exert peer pressure, itself a form of bullying, to pressure others to vote for your team… er, party.
Since the NDP and Green Party haven’t ever had the opportunity to rule, they weren’t included in the slagging match, and had no choice but to answer the questions. The Green Party’s Albert Ashley made it clear that his candidacy was last minute, so he was really just getting up to speed, and clearly not as conversant with his party’s platform as the other candidates. He did manage to crack up the audience with the observation that no one had hijacked his domain name. NDP candidate Lorne Bruce answered all the questions posed concisely and well, something not often seen in a campaign.
Ironically, one of the key topics was the decisions that lay ahead for the Region in regard to the expansion of public transit. The implication was that these decisions for the region would be made at rarefied stratas by the rich and powerful who do not have to actually use public transit. Which may explain why both Conservative Harold Albrecht and Liberal challenger Bob Rosehart champion the sexy LRT expansion option, rather than the more prosaic NDP intention to expand bus service to ensure citizen access before adding luxury bells and whistles.
But clearly, any citizens actually needing public transit have been excluded from the Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meetings.
As it turns out, a third All Candidates meeting was added for the Kitchener-Conestoga riding tonight. When I first heard, I thought it would provide an opportunity to allow citizens reliant to transit access to the electoral process. Silly me. This one was held in New Hamburg, and again without and public transit access. I didn’t attend this one.
Since all four candidates are on Facebook, yesterday I asked them all this question:
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?
I do understand that time is short, and social networking is anything but universally adopted. It takes time to master, and there is an election to run. So I don’t hold it against the two candidates who have not yet responded. Still, the responses I did receive were interesting.
First, I need to mention that I included the link to my Voter Apathy article with the question, as I felt it provided background on the disenfranchisement of voters. And three of the four candidate facebook pages allowed the link to be posted.
The only one that didn’t was Harold Albrecht’s. His Facebook page is also the only one that does not allow visitors/fans to initiate content. So the only way to post my question was to attach it to an existing Harold Albrecht status as a comment. So I did.
Imagine my surprise when someone other than Harold Albrecht responded for Mr. Albrecht. This is the exchange:
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?
Laurel – Harold is no more to blame for All-Candidates Meeting locations than you or I. He simply goes where the meeting is held, he doesn’t organize them.
I asked what he will do to compensate for the fact no “All Candidates Meetings” are being held in transit accessible venues. How is he reaching out to the citizens that rely on public transit?
Harold, your re-election office is less than 2km’s to my neighbourhood. Haven’t seen you or any or your team door-knocking.. how come?
@Laurel, I’m reaching out to citizens with or without access to public transit the same ways: advertising, doorknocking, a website, this facebook page, and participating in All-Candidates’ Meetings. As was noted above, I do not control w…ho invites me to attend ACM’s.
@ Greg, it may be that we’ve knocked on your door and missed you, or it may be that we haven’t reached your neighborhood yet. It’s physically impossible for me to meet in person at the doorstep with the 100,000+ citizens I’m privileged to represent, but as the thousands of people I’ve had the privilege to meet during this campaign will attest, I’m trying my best.
At the time I received the defensive answer from Jeff Chatterton I had no idea who he was. Possibly a zealous Albrecht booster, but more likely a staffer. Having discovered he was Harold Albrecht’s “former campaign manager,” the speed and firmness of his defensive response makes me seriously wonder how “former” his association with Harold Albrecht really is.
The other response I got was from the NDP candidate, Lorne Bruce.
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?
Laurel, I understand how you feel about this issue. Many of my campaign staff use transit as well. Because we do not plan these all candidates meetings we have very little say in where they are held. The best we can and have been doing is organizing car pools for those who do not drive. There is one debate left in New Hamburg on Tuesday. If you would like us to try and arrange a carpool give us a call or email @ 519-569-4040 email@example.com and we will do our best.
It was refreshing to hear someone wasn’t making excuses, but putting an effort into addressing the inequity.
All in all, I am left feeling quite disturbed about the way this election is being run.
Why are business associations and media special interests allowed to dictate the course of the election process?
It is disturbing that previous governments have granted so much unaccountable power to corporations. They have put in place election rules and legislation that allows this undemocratic manipulation. If these practices continue, we are likely to end up with some new form of corporate feudalism. Personally, I’d rather see a restoration of democracy.
The Conservatives and Liberals are more concerned with attacking each other than Canada’s problems.
Perhaps because they are responsible for many of them.
Four Canadian political parties have fielded enough candidates to form the 41st Federal Government. I think it is time for a change.
[note: Public figures and their staff are fair dealing to quote particularly during an election; private citizens, however, are not. I have included Greg McLean’s permission to include his question, which I thought particularly germane to the Voter Apathy issue.]