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 

 

 

How Voting Systems Work

Elections Canada Ballot Box at EDSS

I plan to attend this lecture today even though I’m something of a mathphobe, since the point of the Bridges Lectures is to demystify math to make it accessible to arts folks like myself.

[reblogged from Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region Chapter]

Hi Waterloo Fair Voters: This coming Friday, 27 February 2015 there’s an interesting lecture on “Mathematics and Democracy” at the University of Waterloo that may interest some of you.

Sometimes I get carried away, and pay more attention to the mechanics of voting systems than the political change we’re trying to effect. I think this lecture will satisfy that craving!

Please note that this is NOT a Fair Vote event.

Here’s the blurb from the University of Waterloo website:

Bridges Lecture – Mathematics and Democracy

Friday, February 27, 2015 – 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm

Bridges lectures aim to overcome the gap between Mathematics and the Arts. Join Steven J. Brams (Politics) and D. Marc Kilgour (Math) for “Mathematics and Democracy.”

A multitude of election systems have been proposed for choosing both single winners (for mayor, governor, or president) or multiple winners (to a council or committee). Those based on approval voting, which allows voters to vote for more than one candidate or party, are especially appealing. We look at the mathematics behind these systems, and how well they satisfy properties considered important in a democracy. We also analyze the usage of approval voting in electing, among other officials, Catholic popes and UN secretaries general. More recently, approval voting has been adopted by several major professional societies to elect their presidents and advisory councils. Based on this experience, we offer several recommendations for the use of approval voting in public elections.

Steven J. Brams is Professor of Politics at New York University and the author, co-author, or co-editor of 18 books and about 300 articles. His most recent book is Game Theory and the Humanities: Bridging Two Worlds (MIT, 2011).

Brams has applied game theory and social-choice theory to voting and elections, bargaining and fairness, international relations, and the Bible, theology, and literature. He is a former president of the Peace Science Society (1990-91) and of the Public Choice Society (2004-2006). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1986), a Guggenheim Fellow (1986-87), and was a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation (1998-99).

Affiliation: Department of Politics, NYU

D. Marc Kilgour is Professor of Mathematics at Wilfrid Laurier University, Research Director: Conflict Analysis for the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies, and Adjunct Professor of Systems Design Engineering at University of Waterloo. His publications include 6 books and nearly 400 articles in journals, conference proceedings, and edited books.

Kilgour’s research lies at the intersection of mathematics, engineering, and social science. He has contributed in arms control, environmental management, negotiation, arbitration, voting, fair division, and coalition formation, and pioneered decision support systems for strategic conflict. President of the Peace Science Society in 2012-13, he is now President of the INFORMS Section on Group Decision and Negotiation.

Affiliation: Department of Mathematics, Wilfrid Laurier

Everyone is welcome to this free public lecture, followed by a reception. Free parking will be available at St. Paul’s. Host

St. Jerome’s University Event website Bridges Lecture- Mathematics and Democracy Cost

Free Location

STJ – St. Jerome’s University Siegfried Hall 290 Westmount Road North Waterloo, ON N2L 3G3 Canada

More info: Bridges Lecture – Mathematics and Democracy: http://sju.ca/news-events/public-events/bridges-lecture-series/mathematics-and-democracy

Ballot Box and Voting Booths at EDSS
High Schools employ props like these official Elections Canada voting booths and ballot box in mock elections to teach our young people about our electoral system.  As it turns out, young people aren’t the only ones who need to learn more about the way politics work in Canada. This photograph was taken in a history classroom at Elmira District Secondary School’s 75th Anniversary reunion last year.

Fair Elections Act

“In Canada, our problem isn't people voting more than once, it's people voting less than once.”

Elections Canada is the independent, non-partisan agency responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums. Once appointed by the House of Commons, the Chief Electoral Officer reports directly to Parliament and serves until retirement at age 65 or until he or she resigns.  She can only be removed from the position by the Governor General of Canada for cause in a process requiring a joint motion and majority vote in both the House of Commons and the Senate.

Elections Canada is charged with running fair elections. It provides the public with information about our election system, ensures eligible voters are registered and can vote, registers political parties, monitors election spending and helping adjust federal riding boundaries, and enforces election legislation.

Well, that’s what it did until now.

Yesterday, February 4th, 2014, was a bad day for Canada, when the Harper Government unveiled Bill C-23, the so-called “Fair Elections Act.”

Appointed in 2007, our current Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was unanimously approved by the House of Commons in 2007.  [post script: every single Member of Parliament in every party, including Mr. Harper during the last Harper Government minority, supported the choice of Mark Mayrand. ] Throughout Mayrand’s term of office, there have been what seems an never ending list of electoral scandals, ranging from creative financing all the way up to the Robocalls.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Conservative Minister for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre was quoted as saying, “The referee should not be wearing a team jersey,” a clear indication the Harper Government feels Elections Canada has been unfairly targeting Conservatives.

And while Prime Minister Harper can’t remove Marc Mayrand from his job, it seems he can remove half of Elections Canada. It certainly looks like revenge to me.  My own opinion is that Elections Canada’s has been treating the Harper Government with kid gloves.

“The reason I doubt anything the Conservatives say on electoral matters is they have a proven track record of consistently cheating in elections,” NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said outside the Commons

“Huffington Post, Fair Elections Act: Changes Will Register Robocalls, Raise Spending Caps by Bruce Cheadle.

This law aims to crack down on voter fraud by making it harder for Canadians to vote. There are many good reasons for citizens eligible to vote to lack sufficient credentials. Not everyone has photo ID.  Wallets are stolen, people who have just moved often lack proof of residence. In the past, such situations could be overcome by having a voter with the correct credentials vouch for you. It is estimated that this change will prevent thousands of Canadians from voting. This change will hit the young and the homeless hardest.

There have been suggestions that this Law will create an independent Electoral Commissioner, but in reality, the Independent Commissioner exists already; they are simply moving him.  [post script: The current system protects the Election Commissioner and the process of policing the Elections Act from partisan interference.  Placing the Commissioner of Elections under the authority of the Public Prosecutor, who is himself a political party appointee, would appear to remove such protection.  If I am correct, this law will effectively remove any accountability in Canadian electoral law.]

The idea is supposed to be to hold those responsible for electoral fraud accountable.  But how are they planning to find these frauds? Well, it seems political parties engaging in Robocalls will be required to register and submit their scripts to the CRTC. This is voluntary registration is supposed to protect citizens from being deliberately disenfranchised by fraudulent robocalls that send them to non-existent polling stations.

If someone wants to commit robocall fraud, are they really going to turn themselves in to the CRTC ahead of time?   I think not.

The Green Party’s Democratic Reform Critic, Bruce Hyer, said,

If the Conservatives were serious about electoral reform, we would be talking about ending First Past the Post and introducing Proportional Representation, reforming our unelected and unaccountable Senate, and ending the practice of having party leaders sign off on candidates’ nomination forms.  Unlike Michael Chong’s important Reform Act, this is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.


Image Credit
Elizabeth May by Mike Gifford released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license
Plain Text: “In Canada, our problem isn’t people voting more than once, it’s people voting less than once.” ` Elizabeth May

First Past The Post Election Blues

The Maple Leaf part of a Canadian Flag

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


Voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian election history, as only 59.1% of the electorate cast a ballot.
Wikipedia: Canadian federal election, 2008



2011 Majority government

The Conservative Party of Canada

5,832,401 votes, which was 39.6% of the popular vote and gave them 167 seats (54%)

The New Democratic Party of Canada

4,508,474 votes, which was 30.6% of the popular vote and gave them 102 seats (33.1%)

The Liberal Party of Canada

2,783,175 votes, which was 18.9% of the popular vote and gave them 34 seats (11.0%)

The Bloc Québécois

889,788 votes, which was 6% of the popular vote and gave them 4 seats (1.3%)

Green Party of Canada

576,221 votes, which was 3.9% of the popular vote and gave them 1 seat (0.3%)


Voter turnout: 14,720,580 of 23,971,740 registered electors (61.4%)
source: Elections Canada: 2011 General Election: Preliminary Results



all votes are not created equal

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.

A Canadian flag flying above Kitchener Clock Tower

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.

legislation

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.

Democracy

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.



Image Credits
Photographs released by laurelrusswurm under a Creative Commons Attribution Only License.

What’s Wrong With Strategic Voting

Our electoral process is badly broken. Some Canadian electoral ridings can be “won” with as little as 29% of the vote.

Every vote is not equal.  Under our current system, some votes count more than others, and others not at all.

Which means that only a small proportion of Canadians are represented by the candidates who are elected to Parliament.   Because of this, many Canadians feel disenfranchised and have stopped voting altogether.

true or false

We are told that majority government is good for Canada.

letter FBut the truth is that majority government is a very bad thing for everyone except the party holding the majority.  And of course, all of their friends. (You know, the ones who get all those lovely patronage plums.)

Under our current system, without electoral reform, the only time our government is at all accountable is during a minority government.   So although a majority government is easier for the politicians, minority government is actually better for Canadians.

We are told that our only real choices are Conservative or Liberal.
false
They have experience.
The polls say they have [insert latest poll figure here] support.
They are more fiscally responsible.

trueIn this campaign, the Liberals and Conservatives spent most of their time and money attacking one another on the past record. [experience?] Televised attack ads cost a lot of money, so the requests for donations have seemed unending. [fiscally responsible?]

The other parties can’t get a majority because of [insert latest poll figure here] or they can’t form a government because they only have [insert latest poll figure here] support.

In this election, there are actually four political parties who could have enough candidates elected to form a Canada wide majority government. Polls are at best an educated guess.   At worst, a poll is marketing propaganda.

A weather forecast is more accurate.

Mumbles about the New Democratic Party.

trueThe NDP are reputed to have “socialist” leanings. Of course, without these socialists Canada wouldn’t have social programs. What’s wrong with social programs? Aren’t they a good thing?

Isn’t it ironic that Michael Ignatieff is offering to save Canadian Health Care when the reason our prized Universal Health Care System is in crisis is thanks to massive cuts to Federal transfer payments made by a previous Liberal government? Fiscal responsibility seems to mean providing corporate welfare (bail-outs) at the expense of human needs.

Then there is misinformation about the Green Party.

false

The Green Party is only concerned with the environment – they have only a one plank platform.   That was true when they started, but has not been the case for years.

Today’s Green Party of Canada has a well rounded platform, with a better grasp of technology issues than most of our former Conservative government. The Green Party’s exclusion from the televised leadership debates also feeds into the erroneous assumption that the Green Party could not form a government.  Unlike the Bloc Québécois the  Green Party is running enough candidates across Canada to be able to form a government.

they tell us to vote strategically

For a long time now, with every election we hear renewed calls for strategic voting.
When I first heard of it it didn’t sound so bad; after all, my vote didn’t count for much.
The biggest part of the problem, the thing that prompts even smart people to consider strategic voting is that around a third of the votes can result in a majority government.

Fairvote Canada logo

The problem is that it doesn’t solve the problem, We need to fix the system. Anyone even thinking about strategic voting should find their local Fairvote Canada chapter and get involved.

Because strategic voting does not solve the problem.

It might seem to be a “work-around” but in practice it has entrenched the Conservative/Liberal two-step.

don’t vote “strategically”

The strategy is to convince us to vote for candidates we don’t want elected.

We are told that if Harper were elected Prime Minister in this election he will do all sorts of dreadful things.

A:  But anyone elected Prime Minister might do dreadful things. We KNOW previous Liberal and Conservative governments have done dreadful things.

Opinion polls say that [insert name of the political party you support here] can’t possibly win, it is important to vote for [insert name of the political party the ‘strategic voting advocate’ supports] instead so that ‘we’ can defeat Harper.

A: Opinion polls can be manipulated, their accuracy is speculative at best. If they were accurate, we wouldn’t need to bother with elections. There are different voters on the rolls this time. Many Canadians will be voting for the first time.

Last time was last time. We have no idea who will win the election because it has not yet been held.  No one has been elected ∗ yet ∗

all Canadian votes should be equal but they are not…

… which makes my devalued vote even more important.  If I don’t vote, my voice would count even less than it does now.

If I don’t vote for the party I support, the party I support won’t know that I support them.

If I don’t vote for the good person I think will best represent me in parliament, that person may not feel supported enough to continue in public service.  That candidate may decide not to run again.

Strategic voting doesn’t just cast your vote for a candidate you don’t support, but against the candidate you do.  If I vote for a candidate I don’t support, I deserve what I get.

This is a new day. A new election day.

Don’t vote strategically – especially if there is a candidate you believe in.

If we don’t start voting for the candidates we believe in, we will never get the government we want.



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.

P.S. Just found this great article: The perils of strategic voting



whose election is it anyway? #elxn41

Elected Members of Parliament from the previous session of parliament are by no means guaranteed a seat in the next Parliament.

The clearest example of the change that can take place in the course of a single election can be seen by comparing the 34th Canadian Parliament and the 35th Canadian Parliament.

Every registered political party running candidates in the election should be treated the same. Because NO ONE has been elected yet.

Gilles Duceppe on the Campaign Trail with Berard Bigras

During the televised “Leadership Debate” Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe stated:

“Mr. Layton, you know this just as much as I do.   I, say it, will never be prime minister. And you know, you won’t be prime minister either,”

—Gilles Duceppe, “Duceppe says he has saved Canada from a Harper majority

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.

This is not true of Jack Layton’s NDP.

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.

Jack Layton at rally, standing in front of flag.
Prime Minister Layton?

Particularly considering the ideological bankruptcy of both the CPC (Conservative Party of Canada) and the LPC (Liberal Party of Canada).

Prime Minster May?

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.

Elections Canada lacks any authority to mandate any rules of fairness.

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.

democracy #fail

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.

The Renfrew Conservative candidate walked out of a debate that had excluded the local Green Party candidate.

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.

What the Record would call it if someone were to register the http://www.thekwrecord.com/ domain name and load it with spurious content?

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.

looking over a creek at a very nice neighborhood in winter

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.]

Applause

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.
hands clapping

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…
er, meeting.

Party Platforms

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.

IXpress bus driving in urban area

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:

Laurel Russwurm
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:

Laurel Russwurm
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?

Jeff Chatterton
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.

Laurel Russwurm
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?

Greg McLean
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?

Harold Albrecht
‎@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.

Thank you both for your questions.

Harold Albrecht’s Facebook Page

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.

Laurel Russwurm
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?

Lorne Bruce
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 ndp@kcndp.ca and we will do our best.

Lorne Bruce Facebook Page

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.

Don’t you?

Conservative NDP Green and Liberal logos



[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.]

Image Credits
Gilles Duceppe on the Campaign Trail with Berard Bigras photo by davehuehn under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License

Jack Layton photo by Matt Jiggins

Elizabeth May photo by Grant Neufeld, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5) License

“Applause” cc by laurelrusswurm

All political logos reproduced as fair dealing.