Leader of a National Party
She is the leader of a nation wide political party. A party that fields candidates in every riding. Which means there is a possibility, no matter how slim, that she could become Prime Minister. All it would take would be enough Canadians voting to send enough Green Party Candidates to Ottawa.This is reason enough for her inclusion in every leadership debate.
A conservative estimate: 1 million supporters
The Green Party of Canada received almost a million votes in 2008. A great many people who would support a small party won’t if they think their vote won’t elect anyone, so if almost a million people were willing to vote for such a party, it is probable that a great many more did not.One of the biggest hurdles small parties face in our winner-take-all electoral system is that small parties (like Independents) find it almost impossible to get candidates elected. So it isn’t at all surprising that a great many supporters whose hopes for a Green MP were dashed would have been seduced into voting strategically in 2011.But things changed in 2011.The ineffectiveness of strategic voting was amply demonstrated by Mr. Harper’s majority government. Still, in any winner-take-all system the votes cast for any small party don’t accurately reflect its support, so there is little doubt that more Canadians would vote Green if there was a chance of electing GreenMPs.In a nation whose population is just shy of thirty seven million, Ms. May’s inclusion in the debates would still be warranted even if there are only a million or so Green supporters
House of Commons
When any country is saddled with an unfair winner-take-all electoral system, citizen’s find it a struggle to vote for any party that can’t elect a single MP. But in 2011 Elizabeth May was the first Green Party of Canada MP elected to Parliament. And since that time, Green MPs have been elected in Provincial ridings across Canada. Suddenly we’ve seen the Green Party is viable; supporting Green Party Candidates is no longer perceived to be a hopeless gesture. In fact, a Green Party member was elected to PEI’s provincial legislature where not a single NDP candidate won a seat.This suggests Green Party inclusion on the basis of party viability wouldn’t be amiss.
A stellar record
Elizabeth May’s parliamentary record has been staggering. Not only has she earned the respect of her fellow parliamentarians, she has shown Canadians the importance of a strong dissenting voiced in Ottawa. While her leadership on environmental issues has never been in doubt, Canadians have since learned she is equally passionate about many other issues, notably about necessary democratic reform to Proportional Representation as well as her relentless battle against the Canadian civil rights busting Bill C-51.This record should certainly entitle Ms. May to a seat at every debate.
A Real Party
Some people say she should be excluded because the Green Party isn’t a “real” party. After all, it has only 3 seats. But what constitutes a “real party” is decided by those who already hold the power. When Kim Campbell’s Progressive Conservatives were decimated – from a crushing majority to a mere 2 seats, the rules were changed to allow the PCs to retain Official Party status… and all the perks that went along with it. Just because they changed the rules again– expressly to further disadvantage small parties– doesn’t change the fact that this argument has been shown to be purely specious. Any party with even a half a million supporters is a real party.After all, shouldn’t half a million citizens count?
The Gender Gap
But there is more. Slightly more than half of Canada’s population is female. 50.4% of the total population to be exact. That is a larger share of the population than voted for any of Canada’s major parties in 2011. And yet the leaders of the other three major parties are all male. Any debate devoid of a female perspective would certainly fail a large segment of the population. This alone would be enough of a reason to include Ms. May.Shouldn’t Canadian women have a voice?
And if all of those things are not enough, poll after poll show that 80% of Canadians (or more) support Elizabeth’s May’s inclusion in the debates.Not because 80% of Canadians support the Green Party, but because the vast majority of Canadians believe in fairness.
Meaningful Electoral Reform
Without Ms. May’s inclusion in every debate, who will talk about meaningful electoral reform? Who will keep Proportional Representation on the table?
Elizabeth May must be included in every leadership debate.
Anyone who supports excluding the Green Party of Canada leader from the leadership debates does so only because they are afraid their team might not win if she does. And how fair is that?
I’m no expert, but I have been told by NDP friends that their party policy is dramatically “greener” than Green Party policy on environment issues. When the NDP’s Linda McQuaig spoke out, I thought …maybe… But as it turns out, I was wrong. Climate scientist Andrew Weaver is an environment expert. He is also the Green Party Member of the Legislative Assembly for Oak Bay-Gordon Head in BC, so I am very pleased to be able to present his much more informed perspective on the two environmental policies in this guest post.
Only the Federal Green Party has been honest about the need to keep oil sands production at two million barrels a day.
Federally, Mulcair is so twisted up in inconsistencies re: Kinder Morgan that it is stunning. He wants to wait until the NEB process is over. But that didn’t stop the NDP being against Northern Gateway before the NEB process was over. And the NEB process this time is so rigged it’s not funny. The reality is, it is entirely unsafe and completely irresponsible to be increasing our shipments of diluted bitumen threefold. Vancouver is trying to brand itself as the world’s greenest city by 2020. That can’t happen when it becomes one of the world’s great fossil fuel exporters.
And finally here is what Horgan, the BC NDP leader tells the Kids for Climate Action Group when asked if he would sign their pledge to keep BC’s 2020 targets. He called it a “shallow publicity stunt, saying the target won’t be met and he wouldn’t sign the document because it isn’t possible”. And not a single BC NDP MLA asked was willing to sign the Kids for Climate Action commitment to take steps to limit thermal coal. Why? It’s obvious. The BC NDP are more concerned about what taking such a position might look to their labour union puppet masters than they are about thinking of intergenerational equity.
So the evidence is clear, the NDP both provincially and federally are all over the map and completely unprincipled on actions to deal with climate change.
Rather than pretending they are something that they are not, they should be honest with people. I would actually have far more respect for them if they were.
Some will argue “Let’s give them a chance it will be better”. Frankly we only have to look at the about face of Notley’s climate campaigning once she got elected to know what we can expect. What happened to her talk about proportional representation? Sorry. It’s about trust and you have to earn that. NDP actions clearly demonstrate otherwise.
And as Ed Wiebe pointed out, what is the NDP GHG reduction plan? It doesn’t exist. The Climate Change Accountability Act was only a monitoring Act. They’ve offered absolutely nothing but have the audacity to pretend that we should “trust them”.
I remember too well when the NDP attacked Gordon Campbell’s carbon tax with their cynical “axe the tax” campaign. The federal NDP attacked Stéphane Dion’s green shift which was designed to put a price on carbon yet offered nothing of substance up in return.
To my NDP friends, take a look in the mirror and please stop kidding yourselves. The BC and Federal NDP will not put in place any substantive plan to deal with climate change. You can take that to the bank.
Bill C-51 will deepen and widen Canada’s democratic deficit into an abyss. Is it possible to stop it?
From the beginning, Green Party leader Elizabeth May has led the opposition against Bill C-51. Happily she has been joined by the NDP and every other party in voicing serious concerns, although the Liberal Party has fewer concerns than any other, and say they will actually vote for it. (No, I don’t get it, either.)
From the very beginning, the Harper Government made it clear it would fast track Bill C-51.
Bill C-51 was even presented to the Senate before it even cleared the House of Commons, something that is certainly unusual, and possibly even unprecedented. Even there, an MI5 intelligence expert (one of Canada’s “Five Eyes” intelligence ally) condemned Bill C-51 roundly before at the Senate hearings. In the past, Canadians have seen the Senate’s reluctance to provide sober second thought, so we really can’t expect anything more than it’s usual rubber stamp of Harper Government Policy.
The Parliamentary Committee meant to study Bill C-51 was severely limited in the number of submissions the Government would allow. An NDP filibuster made it possible to slightly expand the scope of the presentations, but it still fell very short of the mark. Nevertheless, most of the experts on the array of issues covered by this omnibus bill were not allowed to even speak to the committee.
Rather than silencing opposition, this policy had the opposite affect: the experts made an effort to wade through and dissect this law in a way seldom seen any more. Since the committee couldn’t hear their opposition on this incredibly important issue, the experts have presented their findings to us, the Canadian public.
Legal scholars Craig Forcese (University of Ottawa) and Kent Roach (University of Toronto) began by presenting their findings online, as they found them. Former Prime Ministers, Supreme Court Justices and finally the entire Canadian legal community rose up against this dreadful draft legislation. Canadian Privacy Commissioners — past and present — spoke strongly against Bill C-51. Civil Liberty groups, Conrad Black, Rex Murphy, the Communist Party of Canada and even a group of business owners have all come out against Bill C-51 in the strongest terms.
In the beginning, ordinary Canadians were told this law would make us safe from terrorism, when in fact this claim has failed to rise above the rhetoric. Instead of being supported with evidence, the expert evidence demonstrating that stripping Canadians of Charter protections will in fact make us less safe. As a result, ordinary Canadians held rallies and Days of Action across Canada to raise awareness. When Canadians learn the import of Bill C-51, we oppose it. Now that ordinary people have the facts, support for the bill has plummeted and the vast majority of Canadians are in opposition to this bill.
Because Bill C-51 is not a partisan issue, it’s a Canadian issue. This law would be un-Canadian.
And yet none of this seems to have dampened the Harper Government’s determination to fast-track the Bill. The deepest flaw in our electoral system is that a party with 39% of the vote can gain 100% of the power. When a party has 100% of the power, it can pass any law it likes. (This is why we need Proportional Representation.)
Rather than scrapping the bill outright, the Harper Government’s domination of the parliamentary committee instead flexed it’s dictatorial muscles by defeating every amendment presented by every other Canadian political party with representation in Parliament. The only amendments to the law have been the three 3 cosmetic changes in an unconvincing effort to demonstrate the Government had in fact noticed public opinion opposes the bill.
And yet The Harper Government continues to spread misinformation about this bill through its response made by the West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country MP. John Weston claimed Bill C-51 made “modest changes” which would “bring our government up to the level of other western democracies” without providing a scrap of substantiation. Then he attempted to discredit Ms. May with an ad hominem attack, then he concluded with a false claim that Bill C-51 would provide “judicial overview.”
This was Ms. May’s response.
Mr. Speaker, let’s be clear, this bill does not contain a single element of judicial oversight.
It does allow a CSIS agent to go to a judge and obtain a warrant– but does that judge have the overview and the oversight to continue to monitor the way that warrant is used?
And no other modern democracy — NONE — anywhere — would allow a judge in a secret hearing to give a warrant to violate the constitution.
Although I am not a lawyer, my reading of the Charter suggests this is all that will remain of our rights and freedoms if Bill C-51 becomes law.
For this reason, I sincerely hope that Bill C-51 is withdrawn by the Harper Government. To this end, I sincerely hope Canadians will continue to call or write or email our MPs (you can print your own post card here) — even Conservative MPs — or sign the petition or petitions of your choice, and encourage others to do so as well. If we keep silent, our Charter will become a ghost of itself, our civil rights a sham.
For this reason I lend my own voice to Ms. May’s plea that her colleagues in the House of Commons will reject this bad law.
I’m only an ordinary citizen, maybe I’ve gotten it wrong. But the experts have out the evidence out there. Because the experts know why Bill C-51 must be scrapped. Please watch the video (it’s only ten minutes) and hear for yourself.
My flag photo is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License;
Roger Duhamel‘s rendering of the Canadian Parliament Buildings is Public Domain. The image is from the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was originally under Crown Copyright, which expires 50 years after publication.
I’ve been trying to put my thoughts about the Ottawa shootings down, and then I happened upon Russell Brand’s energetic assessment, not only of the situation, but how it is being spun. Yes, it is terrible that a soldier died. And that another soldier died in a completely unrelated incident earlier. But there is no question in my mind that the murders of these two men is being “spun.”
Security professional Byron Sonne was arrested before the G20 Summit, an event on which the Canadian government lavished a great deal of money on security. Byron was concerned about the implications of the introduction of an influx of a host of new CCTV cameras in downtown Toronto, so he took a look at the security being provided by his tax dollars (and yours). Apparently citizens were supposed to keep their eyes closed. Police violated Byron’s Charter rights; he was arrested and punitively denied bail for almost a year. When he was finally released into his parents’ custody for almost another year, the draconian bail conditions obliged his parents to waive their own Charter privacy rights.
Byron lost his home, his business and his wife; and yet he was finally exonerated because, as hard as the authorities looked, there was no credible evidence. At one of the court proceedings I attended, a law enforcement expert witness explained that their inability to break the encryption on one of Byron’s computers meant that even if acquitted, Byron would always be considered a person of interest.
Apparently these days, Canadians are guilty until proven innocent.
And the G20 Summit? Well, that event was marked by a great deal of violence… but not violence perpetrated by peaceful protesters, this was violence perpetrated by the “security forces” against citizens, as citizen journalists posted masses of video of such incidents to YouTube. There were so many unlawful arrests and Charter violations that a great many voices called for a proper inquiry… which never actually happened. The government didn’t want to be bothered investigating abuses it was responsible for. Funny that.
(I kind of think Byron was held for so long because they needed a “bad guy” in jail to justify the ridiculous amount of tax dollars spent, and hopefully distract from the civil rights abuses…)
Canadian tax dollars paid for a whole year of an undercover officer’s infiltration of poverty activist Julian Ichim‘s life.
Even after they were unable to prove any wrong doing against him, (Julian is, after all, an activist, not a criminal), absent evidence the undercover agent tried to convict Mr. Ichim with character assassination and innuendo. No matter what you think about Mr. Ichim and his methods, there is no question he is sincere. And yet, law enforcement agencies continue to harass and try to intimidate the young man.
In well over a decade of activism, working in the trenches to fight poverty and injustice in constructive ways, it seems the only “violent” act Mr. Ichim has ever performed was the act of throwing milk at politician Stockwell Day in his student days. And yet law enforcement considers him a threat.
Omar Khadr‘s rights are still being denied. As a child put in harm’s way by a parent, maybe he was a child soldier, or maybe he was an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time; but either way he was a victim who should have been treated better. This 15 year old child certainly should not have been abandoned by the Canadian authorities after being dug out of the rubble nearly dead; nor should he have been delivered to the infamous Bagram then tortured and left to languish at Guantanamo Bay for years where he was convicted in what can only be described as a travesty of “justice.” Even back in Canada this young man is still being victimized. What happened to his Charter rights?
The Canadian Government, our government, has been chipping away at our civil rights since 9-11. Since we are now apparently all guilty until proven innocent, our “security services” are investigating all of us all of the time… okay, our Charter Rights aren’t being chipped away, they are being steam rollered and dismantled.
The awesome powers of the state are being deployed, not against terrorists, but against activists trying to make Canada a better place, which often means disagreeing with government policy. But peaceful protest and dissent are considered to be crucial elements of democracy, which is why these activities are enshrined in the Charter.
“Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms forms the first part of the Constitution Act, 1982. Here are some protections that the Charter guarantees:
freedom of religion, of thought, of expression, of the press and of peaceful assembly
the right to participate in political activities and the right to a democratic government
the freedom to move around and live within Canada, and to leave Canada
legal rights such as the right to life, liberty and security
How many of our Charter Rights have been violated in my examples? I am not a civil rights lawyer, I’m a suburban mom who writes novels– how do I know about these things? The Internet has made “citizen journalism” possible, so we are no longer limited to knowing what the mainstream “news media” decides we should know. And the mainstream media has been so quiet about these issues that I’m inclined to agree with Glenn Greenwald’s assertion that our “news media” mostly functions as the propaganda arm of our government.
The examples I have cited do not exist in a vacuum; they are the result of government policy.
Civil Rights exist to protect citizens. Removing or suppressing them doesn’t make us safe, it makes us unsafe.
It used to be that agents of law enforcement agents were not given permission to wiretap citizens, or to search people’s homes, or seize their goods without a warrant. A judge had to be convinced of a reasonable probability — “probable cause” — that there was credible evidence to suggest the subject of the warrant was engaged in criminal activity. There had to be good reason to invade anyone’s privacy.
Certainly, there would be some judges more inclined to sympathize with law enforcement agents than others, but even they wouldn’t sign warrants that could be ruled unconstitutional by higher courts. This system wasn’t perfect, but it struck a reasonable balance between the needs of the state to be secure and the needs of the citizens to not be harassed. Because such laws were in place to protect citizens, when an abuse did happen, the citizen had legal grounds for redress against state harassment (or worse).
Lawful Access quashes our civil rights
Since 9-11 the Canadian Government has been trying to pass “Lawful Access” legislation. This would allow the government to spy on Canadian citizens all the time for no reason, with no judicial oversight.
This would be a huge blow to our Charter Rights that protect citizens from abuse by the power of the state.
Initially Canadians were protected from such legislation by a string of minority governments, which is about as close to democracy as we can get under our unfair electoral system. In a minority, no party can unilaterally impose laws; laws can be passed without achieving enough consensus. Back then I think the alarm was raised by lawyers who understood what was being proposed. The unease spread through the tech communities, because people who understood how computers and the Internet worked could better understand how this technology could be made to work against personal freedom. By the time Vic Toews tried to sell the idea that government spying was a good thing, enough ordinary citizens had twigged to the problem to mount the #tellviceverything Twitter campaign. There was too much bad publicity; the Minister, and indeed the government looked ridiculous. So they backed down.
But they didn’t stop trying, because the legal authority to spy on all the citizens all the time is very powerful indeed. The most recent attempt has been Bill C-13, in which lawful access (aka unfettered spying on citizens) was dressed up as an anti-bullying measure inspired by the Amanda Todd tragedy.
“We should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety. We should not have to sacrifice our children’s privacy rights to make them safe from cyberbullying, ‘sextortion’ and revenge pornography.”
And, of course, Bill C-13 does in no way limit its invasion of privacy to children, or cyber bullies. In the light of the Snowden revelations, the pressure on the Harper Government to get this law passed (to make all the illegal spying on citizens that CSIS and CSEC seem to engage in, alone and/or in conjunction with Five Eyes partner agencies) must have been enormous.
Something no one ever seems to consider is that, even in the unlikely event that our government would not abuse such powers, how do we know that faceless government agents with lawful access to the recordings they make of so many aspects of our intimate personal lives— how do we know that agents with the right to spy on us and our children are not themselves voyeurs, pornographers and pedophiles?
The University of Ottawa’s Michael Geist discussed inadequacies in Bill C13 before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, concluding that:
“This kind of privacy harm can victimize anyone. We know that information from at least 750,000 Canadian user accounts are voluntarily disclosed every year. It is why we need to ensure that the law has appropriate safeguards against misuse of our personal information and why C-13 should be amended. I’ll stop there and welcome your questions.”
But now, under cover of the alleged “terrorist acts” of the last few days, Mr. Harper’s government seems to have quietly passed this most controversial of laws, which shreds much of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that Canadians depend on. According to the government website it may still need one more Senate vote before getting the Assent that will make it the law of the land.
Will this make Canadians more safe?
Without consulting with Canadians, our government squandered vast sums of money to build and equip the most expensive Canadian building in history to spy on us all the time. In spite of this, our security forces were caught flat footed by the Ottawa shooting.
In the old days, when Canadian civil rights ensured law enforcement agents had to provide reasonable grounds before a court would issue a warrant to violate anyone’s rights– they did a better job of providing national security. Instead of catching terrorists, the Harper Government is busy watching the birdwatchers who dare speak against current environmental policy. This doesn’t make Canada safe.
Nor will misidentifying disturbed individuals who “go postal” as “terrorists” keep Canadians safe. Addressing the root causes– making the appropriate medical help available to disturbed individuals, for instance, would do much much more to keep Canadians safe.
SWAT teams shouldn’t break into the homes of law abiding families enjoying Sunday dinner. It was acceptable and legal in Nazi Germany, but should it really be legal in Canada?
Spying on citizens was legal and accepted in Russia when the Tsar’s security forces did it. Oddly enough, it didn’t keep the Tsar and his family safe.
Later, it was still legal in the Soviet Union when the KGB did it. Material collected by such surveillance could lead to an ominous knock on the door in the middle of the night. People who dared express concern or disagreement with State policy were often dragged from their beds and whisked away to the Gulag for “preventative detention.” Not because they had done anything illegal, but because somebody decided that they might. Citizens were guilty until proven innocent, rather like medieval laws that put accused witches on trial by being tied to a chair and dropped in the lake– if she floated, she was a witch (who could then be burned at the stake) but if she sank and drowned she was proven innocent. Do we really want laws like this? In Canada?
“It is always stunning when a country that has brought violence and military force to numerous countries acts shocked and bewildered when someone brings a tiny fraction of that violence back to that country. Regardless of one’s views on the justifiability of Canada’s lengthy military actions, it’s not the slightest bit surprising or difficult to understand why people who identify with those on the other end of Canadian bombs and bullets would decide to attack the military responsible for that violence.”
And now that the Lawful Access bill has been passed by the House of Commons, the Conservative dominated Senate is the only thing standing in its way. Will it legitimize the government’s ability to spy on us all, all the time? .
And you know how the story goes, if you give a mouse a cookie… Apparently it works the same way for governments. Lawful Access is the foundation, but even that is not enough.
Mr. Harper envisions curtailing our rights even more. He is considering laws of ‘preventative detention‘ in wake of Ottawa attack.
Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the Commons that laws and police powers would “need to be strengthened in the area of surveillance, detention and arrest.” He pledged to bring forward legislation in an expedited fashion.”
My maternal grandparents escaped from Russia before the Iron Curtain slammed down. I’d always been grateful for their foresight in relocating to a better place. Movies like Gorky Park, or The Lives of Others have made me appreciate how important this was. And now it seems it was all for nought.
Isn’t the purpose of terrorism is to spread terror? Although there seems to be international disagreement on what terrorism actually is, the United nations seems to agree with me:
“Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”
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:
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
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.