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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 .
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
This is a guest post by Verna Brunet, an ordinary Canadian with serious concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
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.
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:
This 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.
Autocracy, Oligarchy, Totalitarianism, 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.
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.
The term originates from the Greekδημοκρατία (dēmokratía) “rule of the people”, 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”.
a direct vote of the qualified voters of a state in regard to some important public question.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
I want 2015 to be the last unfair election. Don’t you?
(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.)
Deciding who will form the government is the province of eligible voters. In order to perform this duty, we must first have all the information we need to be able to make informed choices.
Leadership Debates are important because they are in essence a job interview. Just as employers are unlikely to hire someone without an interview, voters want to get a good look at the people in the running for the top job at Queen’s Park. Any leadership debate should include all the potential job applicants.
Anything less is a disservice to the citizens who will shortly be heading to the polls.
Yet the media Consortium formed to decide such things is considering excluding Ontario’s Green Party leader Mike Schreiner from participating in the televised Leadership Debate scheduled for June 3rd.
Although it doesn’t seem to be explicitly stated anywhere, the Consortium’s rule would appear to be that a party leader who has not been elected to the Legislature is prohibited from participating in the debate.
For previous leadership debates at the federal level we have seen Elizabeth May excluded on similar grounds. Yet the Green Party is known to field a full slate of Candidates across Canada. Meanwhile, recent federal leadership debates have included the leader of the Bloc Québécois. Gilles Duceppe actually stated the truth that he cound not become Prime Minister during one such televised debate. But just because the Bloc elects Members of Parliament, even if every Bloc candidate was elected unanimously, there is simply no way the leader of a regional party could become Prime Minister of Canada under our current electoral system. It certainly seems nonsensical for a leadership debate to exclude someone who might get the job while including one who can never get it.
The Green Party of Ontario isn’t just an an upstart fringe party that will be gone tomorrow, it is an established respected Provincial Party with a well thought out comprehensive political platform. Unlike the Bloc, the Green party could produce a Prime Minister or Premier. But the broadcast Consortium chooses to exclude a Party that has fielded enough MPP candidates that it could actually form a majority government.
There is no good reason not to include the Green’s Mike Schreiner in the Leadership Debate.
So I’ve written a letter:
Dear Mr. Weiers:
As you yourself pointed out in your article B.C. election proved campaigns matter more than ever, anything can happen in an election. The most important job for the news media is to ensure citizens have access to the best information. This is why any leadership debate must include any leader who might become Premier. This would certainly include the Green Party of Ontario leader, Mike Schreiner.
The argument that an unelected party leader should not be included simply doesn’t hold water. None of the party leaders thus far included in the debate have been elected to the 41st Ontario Parliament, nor is there any guarantee any of them will secure a seat. Perhaps you might want to think back to the last days of the Mike Harris or Mulroney governments. Anything can happen.
I believe maintaining TVO and CBC are important because impartial public broadcasters are an essential part of achieving balance in any modern democracy. If the consortium excludes the Green Party from the debate, Ontario citizens will not get the information we need to make informed choices. Such a decision would be anything but balanced, nor would it be good for democracy in Ontario.
We citizens need to hear from all the leaders. Now is the time for CBC to take a leadership position and ensure that Ontario gets a fair shake.
Laurel L. Russwurm
Even if the Ontario Green Party doesn’t form the next government, it certainly has enough support to deserve a voice in the debate. While wearing their broadcaster hats the members of the Consortium should remember that fresh minds bring new ideas and lead to lively discussion and good television.
Looking at the issue from a democratic standpoint, surely a consortium of corporate broadcasters have no business deciding which party leaders that citizens are allowed to hear during an election. Not very democratic, that.
It would only be fair for the Consortium to welcome Mike Schreiner, the Green party Leader, to the televised Leader’s Debate. Not just for Mike, but for all of us.
To lend your voice to the effort to bring the Green Party to the Leadership debate, you can Tweet directly to the media consortium head, @bobweiers (CBC’s Bob Weiers, the senior producer of CBC News for Elections & Live Events), and/or email the consortium members: