Canada should not be supporting a military coup in Venezuela


[guest post by Michael Nabert]

Venezuela’s electoral system has been widely praised. Until, of course, it became convenient for foreign powers to proclaim a result invalid.

Forbes: Venezuela’s Election System Holds Up As A Model For The World

Nicolás Maduro’s government actually requested that the UN send election observers to monitor the election and ensure a fair and honest vote. It was the faction that Canada and the US now support who opposed having UN observers present.

Reuters: Venezuela opposition asks U.N. not to send observers to May vote

Backing a coup in Venezuela is a violation of international law.  Ask yourself how you would feel if a foreign nation proclaimed that they would decide for you who runs your country and ignore the results of your own elections.

Democracy Now: Former U.N. Expert: The U.S. Is Violating International Law by Attempting a Coup in Venezuela

For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents.

The following open letter—signed by 70 scholars on Latin America, political science, and history as well as filmmakers, civil society leaders, and other experts—was issued on Thursday, January 24, 2019 in opposition to ongoing intervention by the United States in Venezuela.

The United States government must cease interfering in Venezuela’s internal politics, especially for the purpose of overthrowing the country’s government. Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability.

Venezuela’s political polarization is not new; the country has long been divided along racial and socioeconomic lines. But the polarization has deepened in recent years. This is partly due to US support for an opposition strategy aimed at removing the government of Nicolás Maduro through extra-electoral means. While the opposition has been divided on this strategy, US support has backed hardline opposition sectors in their goal of ousting the Maduro government through often violent protests, a military coup d’etat, or other avenues that sidestep the ballot box.

“Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability.”

Under the Trump administration, aggressive rhetoric against the Venezuelan government has ratcheted up to a more extreme and threatening level, with Trump administration officials talking of “military action” and condemning Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, as part of a “troika of tyranny.” Problems resulting from Venezuelan government policy have been worsened  by US economic sanctions, illegal under the Organization of American States and the United Nations ― as well as US law and other international treaties and conventions. These sanctions have cut off the means by which the Venezuelan government could escape from its economic recession, while causing a dramatic falloff in oil production and worsening the economic crisis, and causing many people to die because they can’t get access to life-saving medicines. Meanwhile, the US and other governments continue to blame the Venezuelan government ― solely ― for the economic damage, even that caused by the US sanctions.

Now the US and its allies, including Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro and Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, have pushed Venezuela to the precipice. By recognizing National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the new president of Venezuela ― something illegal under the OAS Charter ― the Trump administration has sharply accelerated Venezuela’s political crisis in the hopes of dividing the Venezuelan military and further polarizing the populace, forcing them to choose sides. The obvious, and sometimes stated goal, is to force Maduro out via a coup d’etat.

The reality is that despite hyperinflation, shortages, and a deep depression, Venezuela remains a politically polarized country. The US and its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change. If the Trump administration and its allies continue to pursue their reckless course in Venezuela, the most likely result will be bloodshed, chaos, and instability. The US should have learned something from its regime change ventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and its long, violent history of sponsoring regime change in Latin America.

Neither side in Venezuela can simply vanquish the other. The military, for example, has at least 235,000 frontline members, and there are at least 1.6 million in militias. Many of these people will fight, not only on the basis of a belief in national sovereignty that is widely held in Latin America ― in the face of what increasingly appears to be a US-led intervention ― but also to protect themselves from likely repression if the opposition topples the government by force.

In such situations, the only solution is a negotiated settlement, as has happened in the past in Latin American countries when politically polarized societies were unable to resolve their differences through elections. There have been efforts, such as those led by the Vatican in the fall of 2016, that had potential, but they received no support from Washington and its allies who favored regime change. This strategy must change if there is to be any viable solution to the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents that will allow the country to finally emerge from its political and economic crisis.

Signed:

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, MIT and Laureate Professor, University of Arizona
Laura Carlsen, Director, Americas Program, Center for International Policy
Greg Grandin, Professor of History, New York University
Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of Latin American History and Chicano/a Latino/a Studies at Pomona College
Sujatha Fernandes, Professor of Political Economy and Sociology, University of Sydney
Steve Ellner, Associate Managing Editor of Latin American Perspectives
Alfred de Zayas, former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order and only UN rapporteur to have visited Venezuela in 21 years
Boots Riley, Writer/Director of Sorry to Bother You, Musician
John Pilger, Journalist & Film-Maker
Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Jared Abbott, PhD Candidate, Department of Government, Harvard University
Dr. Tim Anderson, Director, Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies
Elisabeth Armstrong, Professor of the Study of Women and Gender, Smith College
Alexander Aviña, PhD, Associate Professor of History, Arizona State University
Marc Becker, Professor of History, Truman State University
Medea Benjamin, Cofounder, CODEPINK
Phyllis Bennis, Program Director, New Internationalism, Institute for Policy Studies
Dr. Robert E. Birt, Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University
Aviva Chomsky, Professor of History, Salem State University
James Cohen, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Associate Professor, George Mason University
Benjamin Dangl, PhD, Editor of Toward Freedom
Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Faculty of Professional and Social Sciences, Middlesex University, UK
Alex Dupuy, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Wesleyan University
Jodie Evans, Cofounder, CODEPINK
Vanessa Freije, Assistant Professor of International Studies, University of Washington
Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor in International Development Studies, St. Mary’s University
Evelyn Gonzalez, Counselor, Montgomery College
Jeffrey L. Gould, Rudy Professor of History, Indiana University
Bret Gustafson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis
Peter Hallward, Professor of Philosophy, Kingston University
John L. Hammond, Professor of Sociology, CUNY
Mark Healey, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut
Gabriel Hetland, Assistant Professor of Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies, University of Albany
Forrest Hylton, Associate Professor of History, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Medellín
Daniel James, Bernardo Mendel Chair of Latin American History
Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice
Daniel Kovalik, Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh
Winnie Lem, Professor, International Development Studies, Trent University
Dr. Gilberto López y Rivas, Professor-Researcher, National University of Anthropology and History, Morelos, Mexico
Mary Ann Mahony, Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University
Jorge Mancini, Vice President, Foundation for Latin American Integration (FILA)
Luís Martin-Cabrera, Associate Professor of Literature and Latin American Studies, University of California San Diego
Teresa A. Meade, Florence B. Sherwood Professor of History and Culture, Union College
Frederick Mills, Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University
Stephen Morris, Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Middle Tennessee State University
Liisa L. North, Professor Emeritus, York University
Paul Ortiz, Associate Professor of History, University of Florida
Christian Parenti, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, John Jay College CUNY
Nicole Phillips, Law Professor at the Université de la Foundation Dr. Aristide Faculté des Sciences Juridiques et Politiques and Adjunct Law Professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law
Beatrice Pita, Lecturer, Department of Literature, University of California San Diego
Margaret Power, Professor of History, Illinois Institute of Technology
Vijay Prashad, Editor, The TriContinental
Eleanora Quijada Cervoni FHEA, Staff Education Facilitator & EFS Mentor, Centre for Higher Education, Learning & Teaching at The Australian National University
Walter Riley, Attorney and Activist
William I. Robinson, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara
Mary Roldan, Dorothy Epstein Professor of Latin American History, Hunter College/ CUNY Graduate Center
Karin Rosemblatt, Professor of History, University of Maryland
Emir Sader, Professor of Sociology, University of the State of Rio de Janeiro
Rosaura Sanchez, Professor of Latin American Literature and Chicano Literature, University of California, San Diego
T.M. Scruggs Jr., Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa
Victor Silverman, Professor of History, Pomona College
Brad Simpson, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut
Jeb Sprague, Lecturer, University of Virginia
Kent Spriggs, International human rights lawyer
Christy Thornton, Assistant Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University
Sinclair S. Thomson, Associate Professor of History, New York University
Steven Topik, Professor of History, University of California, Irvine
Stephen Volk, Professor of History Emeritus, Oberlin College
Kirsten Weld, John. L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of History, Harvard University
Kevin Young, Assistant Professor of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Patricio Zamorano, Academic of Latin American Studies; Executive Director, InfoAmericas

Common Dreams:  Open Letter by Over 70 Scholars and Experts Condemns US-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

For context, we can look at all of the other relevant examples of this sort of thing in the region, which have harmed democracy and cost many thousands of lives just to support corporate imperialism. Pretending that this time will be different is ludicrous.

I highly recommend making time to watch John Pilger’s excellent documentary about decades of US assaults on democracy in South America, “The War on Democracy” which can be watched for free on Vimeo here:  https://vimeo.com/16724719

By restricting Venezuelans in Canada from casting their votes through the Venezuelan embassy, the Canadian government effectively deemed Venezuelan elections fraudulent before they even took place. This is not how international law works.

Venezuelan Analysis: Who Needs Elections? Ask the US About the Government Your Country Should Have

Guatemala’s President, Jimmy Morales, dismantled a United Nations anti-corruption group and barred its head from entering the country.

Honduras’s President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, took power in 2014 after a dubious election and violent crackdown on dissent, then ignored his country’s constitution to win re-election in 2017.

Brazil’s new President, Jair Bolsonaro, has not only publicly attacked women, gay people, immigrants and people of colour, he has also expressed support for torture and his country’s military dictatorship.

“Colombia has witnessed the execution of 120 human-rights leaders in the past two years.

Is Ms. Freeland promoting democracy in those countries?

Globe and Mail: Canada’s leadership on Venezuela is misguided, misdirected – and a mistake

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Read more:
TruthDig: The U.S. Is Orchestrating a Venezuelan Coup in Plain Sight
National Post: NDP leader Jagmeet Singh sows confusion on ‘sensitive’ Venezuela issue, contradicting party line
Green Party of Canada:  Statement on the Situation in Venezuela
venezuelanalysis.com: Why is the CBC Lying About Venezuela? Anna Maria Tremonti Manufactures Dissent

Canadian Dog Whistle Politics or #ProportionalRepresentation?

 

quebec_conference_1943framed

For those who don’t know, at the end of Second World War the victorious Allies governments imposed Mixed Member Proportional Representation on West Germany.

They did this specifically to prevent the rise of another Hitler.   Although these powerful government leaders clearly understood this, they chose not to follow the same path for their own nations. Presumably they believed such limitation on their own power wasn’t necessary.   Just as Canada’s current Prime Minister doesn’t feel his power needs limitation.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if there is a good Prime Minister or a bad one.  It doesn’t matter if there’s a bad government in place or not.

What matters in a representative democracy is that voters secure representation in Parliament.  All Canadians need representation, period.  Just as Canadians need the Charter, in times of good or bad.   Like the Charter, representation provides citizens with security.

Had Harry Truman implemented such a change on the USA, the likelihood of a Trump presidency would be nil.

Had Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King implemented some form of Proportional Representation in Canada, Canadians would not see be seeing a rise in dog whistle politics. My brother wrote about this phenomenon before either of us knew the term.

Winston Churchill knew Proportional Representation was a defence against fascism.

Here’s the thing: fear and dog whistle politics are a powerful tools used over and over again in winner-take-all systems because they work.  One of the things so dreadfully wrong with winner-take-all politics is that the governments we elect are so unaccountable to voters, it isn’t a question of whether they will keep all their promises, it is a question of which promises they will keep.  And, incredibly, we accept that.  We have been conditioned to understand they won’t keep all their promises.  No doubt this is a major reason the young and the idealistic don’t engage in politics: they see it for a sham, and choose to invest their energies elsewhere.

Dog Whistling Islamaphobia

MP Iqra Khalid’s Private Member’s Motion is not the first to reference House of Commons e-petition (e-411).

The Canadian MSM is now reminding us that all the MPs in Parliament — including those Conservative Leadership Candidates seeking to ride a wave of prejudice to 100% power in Parliament — voted in support of Mr. Mulcair’s October Petition.  This was long before 6 Quebec Muslims were murdered at prayer.

Mr. Speaker, following discussions with all parties in the House, I hope you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the House join the 69,742 Canadian supporters of House of Commons e-petition (e-411) in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.

The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Hansard, House of Commons, October 26th, 2016

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's Islamaphobia motion received unanimous assent in the House of Commons on Oct. 26, 2016
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s Islamaphobia motion received unanimous assent in the House of Commons on Oct. 26, 2016

So what has happened?  Do these Conservative Leadership Candidates feel a majority of their constituents approve of gunning down Muslims at prayer?

I don’t believe that for a minute.

But our winner-take-all political system allows for the distribution of a disproportional amount of power.

In a winner-take-all system like ours, Ms. Leitch doesn’t need a majority of Conservative Party Members to support Islamaphobia in order to win her party’s leadership crown.  Nor does she even need to attract a majority of voters to become the Prime Minister of Canada.

So long as we continue to use this First Past the Post Electoral System, the right dog whistle can win a 39% (or less) majority.

It doesn’t matter if we have a few women or minority MPs in the House of Commons.

We are staring in the face of the polarization inherent in FPTP.  This whole hullaballoo starkly contrasts what happens when a powerful old white male MP puts forward a Motion condemning Islamaphobia with what happens when a young ethnic woman MP does.

And it is a not pretty picture.

But it happens. And it will keep on happening so long as we retain an electoral system that rewards dog whistle politicians with more than their fair share of power.

Canada needs real Real Change.

It does not have to be this way.  In spite of his totally specious arguments to the contrary, Prime Minister Trudeau’s disavowal of his electoral reform promise not only paves the way for institutional racism, it fuels Islamaphobia.  If Ms. Khalid (and other Liberal MPs) want to change this dreadful FPTP side effect, it is time they told their leader he must restore the Electoral Reform process and show leadership to get Proportional Representation legislation through Parliament by October.

Because if Canada wants to be a healthy multicultural democracy, we must have Proportional Representation.

Now.

Sign The Electoral Reform Petition

At this time of writing, Petition e-616 is up to 120,651 signatures. If everyone who has already signed it can convince 2 Canadians to sign it our chance of having Proportional Representation implemented by 2019 will be greatly improved.

 

 

 

 

Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation

back to FVC: There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRE

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag background
This is the twenty-eighth article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

During the 2015 election, Mr. Trudeau unequivocally promised to make 2015 the last First Past The Post election.  If elected,

“We will make every vote count.”

It’s no secret Fair Vote Canada has been using the catchphrase “make every vote count” to describe Proportional Representation for years.  In fact, they launched their “Make Every Vote Count Campaign” in 2013.  If you follow the link you’ll see the Hon. Stéphane Dion on the podium for the announcement.  Another LPC cabinet minister, the Hon. Carolyn Bennett is on the Fair Vote Canada Board. Certainly my Liberals For Fair Voting friends were aware of this when I helped them make a little video we called “The Foundation” to help them sell Resolution 31 at their 2014 Policy Convention.  Resolution 31 was duly adopted by the Liberal Party and in fact formed the basis of Mr. Trudeau’s electoral reform campaign promise.

Mr. Trudeau confirmed his electoral reform promise in the Throne Speech, and (although it took a little nudging) an all party Electoral Reform Parliamentary Committee was formed. Because of the tight time frame, the committee worked through the summer, taking evidence from experts in Canada and around the world. And the Committee, like Minister Monsef, travelled across Canada in a whirlwind tour.

No doubt because the ERRE Consultation was woefully underfunded, the Committee only managed a single stop in Ontario. No money was spent on advertising, and there was little advance notice, but in spite of the main stream media’s absolute failure to cover it, all the Electoral Reform events were full of citizens. A preponderance of citizens and experts supported some form of Proportional Representation. Then the ERRE Committee submitted a consensus report calling for some form of Proportional Representation and a Referendum. But the government was not wildly happy to see such an impossible outcome.

And so mydemocracy.ca was born. Do you know, the government spent more money sending postcards telling people to participate in a seriously problematic survey that inspired more parody than response than it did on the entire #ERRE Consultation?   While the Honourable Ms. Gould’s talking points are intended to make us believe the postcard survey was a big success, the reality is that a return of 360,000 Canadians is a ridiculously low response rate for a country with upward of 15 million voters.

But the Liberal Party holds a majority in Parliament, and we all know a majority government can pass (or kill) any law it wants. No consensus is required, even when the “majority” is based on the votes of only 39%. That is, after all, how the system we currently use works.  (Part of why it so badly needs modernization.)

The Liberal Party hasn’t managed to articulate a single good reason for a Prime Minister elected on promises of transparency and more democratic governance to squash the promised democratic process this way.   Even if Prime Minister Trudeau decided he doesn’t want electoral reform, he could still have allowed the process to run its democratic course to the finish.   The same power that allows the plug to be pulled prematurely now could have been used to whip the vote the way he wanted at the eleventh hour.

The only reason for breaking this promise in such an odious way that I can imagine is that the Prime Minister (and the Liberal powers that be) have noticed the growing interest, support and commitment Canadians are developing in electoral reform, in spite of everything.

I understand the PM was grilled about electoral reform at every single stop on his recent cross country tour.  Were those in the Liberal power structure getting nervous that enough public backing might just get Proportional Representation legislation through Parliament and into Law?

For those Canadians who value fairness and democracy, now is not the time to give up on Electoral Reform.

With all the Liberal talk of values for electoral reform, the one value that never seemed to come up was fairness.

No system that assigns 100% of the power to a party winning 39% (or less) votes can be considered fair.

And in my experience, Canadians value fairness.  My Liberals for Fair Voting friends know know very well they benefit from the proportionality inherent in our existing winner-take-all system.  Yet they don’t think it’s fair that so many other Canadians get little or no democratic representation.

There is still time to draft electoral reform legislation (the ERRE Committee could surely manage it) and get it through with enough time for Elections Canada to implement a new system in 2019.  Canadians don’t need to understand the electoral math to know our First Past The Post system is not working for a majority of Canadians.  How can a nation that prides itself on fairness continue to cling to a winner-take-all system that’s inherently unfair?

What We Can Do?

EVENTS

Sunday February 5th, 2017
GUELPH Rally for Proportional Representation
Guelph City Hall   1PM

Rally organised by Fair Vote Guelph
https://www.facebook.com/events/1852627561618419/
MP Longfield acknowledges that recent poll results in Guelph in support of
Proportional Representation are valid.
We need visible support at the rally to show our government that we want PR.
Please come to the Rally for PR  on Sunday at Guelph City Hall at to support  a fair open and transparent Democratic process .

National Week of Action on Electoral Reform

https://www.facebook.com/events/885031191552272/

Sunday February 5th, 2017
Parliament Hill Protest and Photo-Stunt
12:00 – 1:00pm

  • Ottawa residents to gather on Parliament Hill for Rally
  • Canvassing Materials distributed, Photo-stunt for social media presence

Wednesday February 8th, 2017
Call-Blitz and Tweet-Storm
* All Day *

Contact:

  • your local MP,
  • the Prime Minister’s Office and
  • Karina Gould

Respectfully express your opinion, tell them we’ll #seeyousaturday


Saturday February 11, 2017
NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION
Canada Wide Protest
Be LOUD ~ Be HEARD.

Cross Canada Protest Times

Atlantic           15:00
Eastern           14:00
Central           13:00
Mountain/SK 12:00
Pacific           11:00
@JustinTrudeau and the #LPC promised that 2015 would be our last #FPTP election. #PerformOnReform
https://www.facebook.com/events/885031191552272/



Sign Government of Canada Electoral Reform petitions

e-600 (Electoral system) 
Lower the voting age to 16
The Petition is open for signature until February 8, 2017, at 12:34 p.m. (EDT)

e-613 (Electoral system)
Achieving gender balance in Parliament
The Petition is open for signature until February 16, 2017, at 11:34 a.m. (EDT)

e-616 (Electoral system)
Encouraging the Liberal Government to get ERRE back on track (Nathan Cullen)
The Petition is open for signature until March 2, 2017, at 11:20 a.m. (EDT)

e-678 (Electoral system)
Implement Mixed Member Proportional Representation (Kennedy Stewart)
The Petition is open for signature until March 24, 2017, at 9:26 a.m. (EDT)

Use the Green Party of Canada tool to send a message:
A Broken Promise to Canada

Change.org: Open Letter to Liberal MPs Re: Electoral Reform


Read More:

STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY IN CANADA: PRINCIPLES, PROCESS AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT FOR ELECTORAL REFORM: Report of the Standing Committee on Electoral Reform
Read the ERRE Report online here, or download the PDF

Read the Liberal Electoral Reform Report from 1921:
SPECIAL COMMITTEE APPOINTED TO CONSIDER THE SUBJECT OF
Proportional Representation AND THE SUBJECT OF THE SINGLE TRANSFERABLE OR PREFERENTIAL VOTE (pdf)


Write Letters to:

your Member of Parliament
Mailing letters via postal mail to our MPs is free, and these days they are getting used to receiving email from us as well. You can find your representative:

Cabinet Ministers (members of the Privy Council)
Prime Minister Trudeau


Local & national newspapers, Magazines, MSM news websites

Get an idea of what you might right from perusing these published Letters

Independent Media

404 System Error
APTN
Behind The Numbers
Canadaland
Canadian Civil Liberties Assoc
Canadian Privacy Blog
Canadian SIGINT Summaries
Canadian Tribune
Christopher Parsons
Council of Canadians
Desmog Canada
Digital Copyright Canada
The Dominion
Dr. Dawg’s Blawg
The Elmira Advocate ….Woolwich Enviro-News
Excess Copyright
Huffington Post
The Independent
iPolitics
Island Tides
Jason Koblovsky ….. Digital Policy
Knet
The Media Co-op
Michael Geist  …..Law & Technology
Michael Harris …..Canadian Politics
Narrative Resistence
National Security Law
Nunatsiaq Online
Paul Beckwith …..climate
Press Progress
The Public Record …..Joey Coleman – Hamilton
rabble
The Georgia Straight
This Magazine
The Tyee
Vancouver Observer
Wilf Day …..electoral reform
ZeroPaid

Mainstream (MSM)
Canadian Press
CBC
CTV
Globe and Mail
The Hill Times
National Post
Toronto Star

News Directories
enewspaper Canada list
independent media.ca
Online Newspapers: Canada

Press Release & Media Distribution Service
Wire Service Media

back to There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRE

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!

2 minutes on the TPP

[This is a guest post by Verna Brunet, an ordinary Canadian with serious concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.]


TPP Rally in Ottawa cc by SumOfUs
Yesterday I went to Windsor, Ontario to join the protest against the TPP outside the hotel where the Trudeau Liberal government was holding consultations on this treasonous trade agreement.

My sign read:

TPP is Oligarchy
Oligarchy is a corruption of Democracy

I was told that we could speak to the government for maximum 2 minutes between 2pm and 3pm, if we signed up.

The problem with me has never been how to get me to shoot off my mouth. The usual issue is how in the world to shut me up once I get started.

Didn’t have anything prepared. Had to scramble some notes.

Here’s what I said:

The people of Canada elected your party to administer our DEMOCRACY.
The TPP destroys our democracy, replacing it with OLIGARCHY.
We the people have never given you the authority to do that.
The TPP makes the Trudeau Liberals, like the Harper Conservatives before them, a rogue government.

Secret ISDS courts are a swift kick I’m the face of
Democracy
and a sucker punch to the gut of
Justice

The only right protected by this sickening trade agreement is the insane, irrational right of millionaires to make a profit.

We elected you to govern in a manner that protects our economic rights.
Instead you have sold our economic rights to the elite 1%.
You are a rogue government.

The TPP allows the pathologically greedy millionaires to erase the last shreds of our cherished and democratic environmental protection laws.

These are the same environmental laws we elected you to protect and enforce.

With these toxic trade agreements you have become a rogue government like the Harper Conservative government before you.

The TPP allows pathologically greedy millionaires to erase the last frail shreds of our civil rights — the same rights we elected you to restore.

You have betrayed us.
You are a rogue government.

You campaigned on CHANGE
You have failed to change:
the TPP
the ISDS courts.

As a Democratic government you are a failure.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves
Image Credit
TPP rally. Ottawa, Canada, June 10 2014 by SumOfUs was released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Democracy Primer

What’s So Bad About First Past The Post?

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the third in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

Lets start with the basics.

Sometimes human beings are loners, hermits who shun other humans. But that is rare.

Most human beings are social in nature.  We want to be together, to live in proximity to other humans.  We want to play together and we learn to work together.   In order for people to co-exist, human society requires some sort of boundaries. Rules.

Individual humans start out as part of a family unit.  The family unit fits into human society as part of some kind of tribe. In the modern world collections of tribes have come together to form countries. Each nation establishes its character in the style and form of policy and the framework of rules— laws— set down by its government.

There are two basic paths human beings have taken in our approach government.

Authoritarianism

Autocracy, OligarchyTotalitarianism, Dictatorship, Monarchy, Empire, Fascism… there are many different systems in which the government is all powerful and citizens are powerless.  Such governments might choose to treat citizens benevolently.  Or not.  The government decides and the citizens have no choice but to comply.

British Library illuminated medieval manuscript image of King Phillip Coronation

Democracy

Citizens very often prefer to have a say in their own governance, and this can be achieved with a democratic system of government.

According to political scientist Larry Diamond, it consists of four key elements: (a) A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; (b) The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; (c) Protection of the human rights of all citizens, and (d) A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.[3]

The term originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) “rule of the people”,[4] which was found from δῆμος (dêmos) “people” and κράτος (krátos) “power” or “rule”, in the 5th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city-states, notably Athens; the term is an antonym to ἀριστοκρατία (aristokratía) “rule of an elite”.

Wikipedia: Democracy

Democracy draws its power and legitimacy from the support and consent of its citizens.  There are two basic ways of achieving democracy.

Democracy

Direct Democracy

All qualified citizens have the right to represent their own interests in government.  In ancient Greece, each citizen spoke for themselves, making laws by “decree of the plebs” or plebiscite.

plebiscite (noun)

  1. a direct vote of the qualified voters of a state in regard to some important public question.
  2. the vote by which the people of a political unit determine autonomy or affiliation with another country.

In a country where qualified voters number in the millions, the closest we can get to direct democracy is through holding a special plebiscite in which all qualified citizens of a state can vote on an important issue.  As digital technology progresses, there may come a time when all Canadian voters will be both qualified and able to vote electronically on every issue directly. But in today’s world, the closest we come to this is through the difficult and expensive mechanism known as a referendum.

referendum (noun)

  1. the principle or practice of referring measures proposed or passed by a legislative body to the vote of the electorate for approval or rejection.
  2. a measure thus referred.
  3. a vote on such a measure.

Representative Democracy

Since it would be hard to fit millions of people into the Parliament Buildings, like most modern democracies, Canada uses a form of Representative Democracy.  Instead of speaking for ourselves, all qualified citizens have the right to elect a representative we believe will best represent our interests in Parliament.  Although some Canadians wish it were different, referendums are not a feature of the Canadian political system.  In nearly a century and a half, our government has had only three referendums: on prohibition (in 1898), conscription (World War II) and whether to accept the Charlottetown Accord (Constitutional Amendments).  Certainly our choice of voting system was not made through this mechanism.

The procedure by which qualified voters determine who our representative will be is called an electoral system.  The different elements that go together to make up an electoral system determine:

  • the structure of the ballot
  • how votes are cast
  • the way votes are counted, and
  • the criteria needed to win

Although I have been breaking this down for simplicity, there are many ways to design electoral systems.  Most (if not all) of the electoral systems in use around the world are hybrids, as ours here in Canada is.  Our representative democracy is part of a constitutional monarchy; we share England’s monarch. In understanding our options, the most crucial distinction between types of electoral systems comes down to which family they are in.

Representative Democracy can be broken down into two main families: Winner-take-all or Proportional Representation.

Winner-take-all

Just as it sounds, a winner-take-all election is an “all or nothing” proposition.  A election which can only have a single winner necessarily ends up with the single winner getting all the power.

And when elections can only produce a single winner, unless that winner achieved 100% of the votes, there will be losers, too.  The candidate(s) who fails to win loses.  Naturally, the citizens who didn’t vote for winner end up without any representation at all.  They’re losers too.

In Canada we use a winner-take-all single member plurality system better known as First Past The Post.  Although many Canadians believe this system produces majority government it doesn’t.

A majority is defined as 50% + 1.  If there are more than 2 candidates competing for a single seat, with First Past The Post the candidate doesn’t needs to win 50% + 1 ~ s/he just needs to win more votes than any of the others.

Because Canadians aren’t happy with only two political parties, very often we elect MPs with far fewer than 50% of the votes.  In the 2015 Canadian Federal Election, 28.99% of the votes cast were enough to elect Bernard Généreux Member of Parliament for the Montmagny—L’Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.  That’s a long way from 50% + 1.

But even 50% + 1 can leave as many as 49.9% of voters without representation at all.  That’s why I’ve become a fan of:

Proportional Representation

Vote_iconXProportional Representation isn’t the name of any single electoral system, it is a phrase that describes an electoral outcome where 39% of the vote can’t win 100% of the seats in Parliament.  Proportional Representation ensures 39% of the votes wins 39% of the seats.

Instead of polarizing citizens into winners and losers, a proportional system seeks to elect a government that reflects all citizens, by providing representation to all eligible voters.   More than 90 countries around the world (85% of OECD countries) use some form of Proportional Representation, so there is a great deal of information about how such systems work.

In Canada, over the last decade or so, Ten Canadian Commissions, Assemblies and Reports have recommended proportional representation for Canada.  In addition, Liberal MP Stéphane Dion developed his own P3 system, and later this year the Province of Prince Edward Island will consider adopting another newly devised proportional system, Sean Graham‘s Dual Member Mixed Proportional.

As this series progresses, I’ll look at the different electoral systems that have been or might reasonably be on offer for Canada.  If you aren’t already overwhelmed, I’ve provided links throughout the article so you can find out more detail from the supporting on your own.

And you might be interested in what Craig Scott had to say about Proportional Representation:

The great resource is the grass roots multi-partisan organization that advocates for meaningful Canadian electoral reform: Fair Vote Canada. You can check out their website, but you’ll also find chapters across Canada.  My local is the very active Fair Vote Waterloo Region Chapter.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Image Credits:

Medievalart on Tumblr led me to the gorgeous public domain image Detail of a miniature of the coronation ceremonies of Philip (Coronation of King Phillip).   This artwork is part of the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts the British Library generously makes available to the public online.

Found in Wikimedia Commons, Vote icon is an original artwork dedicated to the Public Domain by its creator openclipart.org.

My Families of Electoral Systems mini poster & Democracy Flags are original artwork dedicated to the Public Domain

What’s So Bad About First Past The Post?

Proportional Representation For Canada 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!

Voters can use Talking Points too

Harold Albrecht, my MP
Harold Albrecht

When a candidate (or her canvasser) shows up at your door, or when you get an opportunity to chat at the local Canada Day celebration, or maybe at a Fund Raiser, or on social media, or at the debates, isn’t it high time we start letting them know what is really important to us?  This is supposed to be a democracy, right?  That means they are supposed to be working for us.

But instead of actually conversing with us, very often candidates or elected representative use well rehearsed “talking points,” which are really just a prearranged script provided by the party to inform us of their party line.  Isn’t it hight time we turned the tables?

If my MP were to appear at my door, I might ask Harold, “Why are you sending your advertisements monthly when we both know you are only allowed to mail out 4 a year?”

The trick is to take a few minutes and think of what you want to ask before you actually see them.  Or maybe wait until you are inspired by their political ads.  Write your concerns down in point form and you’ll have your own set of “talking points.”

You might want to ask, “What do you think about outlawing political ads and giving Elections Canada the teeth to enforce it?”

The single most important issue for me is meaningful electoral reform.  I think the growing list of unsolved problems facing us are largely unsolved because there is no incentive to actually solve our problems under a winner-take-all system.  And I don’t think any party should have 100% of the power unless 100% of the population voted for it.  If even 51% voted for them, that still means 49% didn’t.  In 2011 14,720,580 Canadians voted. But the reality is that a mere 6,201 votes in 14 hotly contested electoral districts gave the Harper Government a majority.  So my own talking points are all about PR.

The thing to remember is that you don’t have to be a Proportional Representation expert to ask:

  • Should elections be about a few swing voters in a few swing ridings leaving most voters unrepresented or ignored?
  • Do you think a party gets 39% of the vote should get 39% of the seats?
  • Do you think some votes should be worth more than others, while some are worth nothing at all?
  • What will you do to make every vote will count, and count equally?
Fair Vote booth at the Kitchener Multicultural Festival
Fair Vote Canada’s Bob Jonkman and Sharon Sommerville discuss Proportional Representation at the Kitchener Multicultural Festival.

I want 2015 to be the last unfair election.  Don’t you?

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

(Maybe we should all be writing to CBC to encourage them to air the Danish political series “Borgen” a political series like “House of Cards” set in a nation that successfully uses Proportional Representation.   But then, we should also be writing to tell them to air the “The Secret Trial 5” too.)

Image Credit:

Photos by me released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License