FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRE

back to The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRE

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

[Guest Post by Fair Vote Canada]

Fair Vote Waterloo Community Dialogues #1The all-party committee on electoral reform (ERRÉ) has just finished four months of expert and public consultations. They will make their recommendation to Government by December 1st.

Of the ERRÉ witnesses with a position on voting systems, 88% recommended Proportional Representation. This reinforces the findings from decades of research from around the world and of 13 previous electoral reform processes in Canada, including two thorough and impartial citizens assemblies.

When the Government launched the process without a mechanism for collecting empirical data, Fair Vote Canada, a multi-partisan advocacy group, started tracking the process very closely. We are releasing the results of our work to the media because we believe the process needs to be transparent and accountable.

(You can find key a list of results below with links our spreadsheets.)

Fair Vote Waterloo Community Dialogues #@Despite a strong call for proportional representation across all of the consultative platforms, we believe reforming the electoral system could be in serious trouble based on recent comments from Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Monsef.

President Réal Lavergne expressed Fair Vote Canada’s concerns “We are worried that the Minister and the Prime Minister are saying that we cannot count on the government keeping its promise to make every vote count. Yet experts and Canadians have clearly expressed themselves in favour of proportional representation, which is what it really means to “make every vote count.”.

David Merner, Vice-President of Fair Vote Canada , 2015 LPC candidate
David Merner, Vice-President of Fair Vote Canada and former LPC candidate (2015)

David Merner, Vice-President of Fair Vote Canada and a Liberal candidate in last year’s federal election adds “This is not the time for back-tracking. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Democratic Institutions have personally created a sense of hope in Canadians, building on the 2015 Liberal campaign promise of Real Change. Millions of voters believed that the government intended to keep its promises. We believed the political cynicism of the Harper years was behind us, and thousands of us participated in the government’s consultations in good faith.”

Merner says “Now is the time for the government to deliver on its promises.

Fair Vote Waterloo Community Dialogue ERRÉ in CambridgeHighly regarded Conservative strategist and spokesperson for the Every Voter Counts Alliance, Guy Giorno, adds that “committee members must endorse what’s right for Canadians, not what benefits any particular party. Given the weight of the evidence before the committee, the only legitimate option is a recommendation for proportional representation. Let’s also remember that electoral reform was a major issue at the last election, and voters overwhelmingly supported parties promising change.”

The weight of expert testimony in favour of PR was echoed across the country in hundreds of town halls and public dialogues.

ERRE Info Session at Ayr Branch Library

Over the next few days the ERRÉ will negotiate a recommendation for a new electoral system for Canada. The final report is due on December 1.

Fair Vote Canada’s President Réal Lavergne explains that “Once that recommendation has been made, it will be incumbent on the minister to carry it forward and for the government to act on it. Leadership will be required to educate both the public and parliamentarians, and to champion the proposed reform.”

“Based on all the results of the expert and citizen consultations, the committee’s only legitimate option is to recommend in favour of proportional representation.”

Key indicators from ERRÉ hearings

Canadian Electoral System expert Dennis Pilon testified before the ERRE Committee.
Canadian Electoral System expert Dennis Pilon testified before the ERRE Committee.

88% of expert witnesses who expressed a preference called for proportional representation

4% supported the Alternative Vote
(majoritarian ranked ballot systems tend to evolve towards a two-party system, often favour centrist parties and could further entrench the distortions brought about by our existing majoritarian system. )

67% thought a referendum was undesirable or unnecessary.

Detailed analysis can be found here in our Synthesis of witness statements and views.

Open Mic-sessions

From coast to coast, Canadians lined up at the ERRÉ open-mic sessions asking that the committee keep the promise and deliver PR.

According to data released this week by the NDP, out of 428 participants who spoke up, 374 (87.38%) called for proportional representation.

MP town halls

PR in the Back YardTotal number of town halls reporting: 174

The following indicates the level of support observed for proportional representation in MP town halls.

69.5% (121 town halls) – Majority of speakers calling for proportional representation.

8.6%% (15 town halls) – Majority for electoral reform, but no clear majority specifically for proportional representation

Brantford-Brant Community Dialogue

5.2%  (9 town halls) – Support divided between majoritarian system and proportional representation

5.7%   (10 town halls) – Majority for the status quo

8.0% (14 town halls) – Report does not allow any majority view to be identified

2.9%   (5 town halls) – Majority support for the Alternative Vote

Detailed analysis can be found here in our
Synthesis of witness statements and views.

New Hamburg Branch info sessions

Citizen Community Dialogues & EventsWaterloo Region Greens Community Dialogue

Here are basic indicators from the 27 dialogues or town halls hosted by citizens and community groups posted on the ERRÉ site or for which we have directly obtained the information so far:

Total number of participants: 1,058

88% (22 events) – A majority of speakers calling for proportional representation

8% (2 events ) – A majority for change but no majority for any one option

12% (3 events) – Report does not allow any majority view to be identified.

We are aware of at least 15-20 other community dialogues that are not yet posted on the ERRÉ site.

Detailed analysis can be found here.

Minister Monsef’s Townhalls

Minister Monsef organized two types of town hall consultations: ones in her own riding, and others as part of a cross-country tour. Here is an extract from the report submitted to the ERRÉ on town halls held by Minister Monsef in her Riding of Peterborough:

“It is clear that there is an appetite for thoughtful change to the electoral system. While opinions on the various electoral systems did vary, most participants indicated their support for a more proportional electoral process that still respected the need for local representation and simplicity of the ballot.”

Although Minister Monsef routinely conducted straw polls on issues such as mandatory voting and online voting in town halls on the road, she did not do the same regarding support for proportional representation. FVC volunteers attended these events across the country and shared their opinions. Here are a few quotes from participants:

Toronto:
 “PR was clearly the main issue for most. With respect to PR, many attendees spoke passionately and eloquently in favour, and if anyone present opposed it, he or she was not bold enough to express that view.”

Vancouver: “It seemed that 90% of the audience… did want some form of PR.”

Edmonton: “ It seemed most people were in support of some sort of proportional representation.”

Yellowknife: “She asked whether the participants liked FPTP to remain, or Ranked system or STV or MMP or Proportional Representation implemented. One voted for FPTP. Many voted for MMP and a few voted for PR.”

Yukon: “Some Yukoners came in support of our current electoral system (First Past the Post); more were on the side of moving towards proportional representation.”

Halifax: “The feedback from the groups certainly favoured PR.”

Montreal: “There was an overwhelming support for PR in the room.”

Thunder Bay: “Of the dozens who rose to spoke, everyone spoke in favour of PR.”

Gatineau: “ Participants spoke to PR at every opportunity they had… However, the format made this difficult… Taking into consideration those interventions that spoke to the issue of PR vs FPTP or AV, the overwhelming majority of interventions – in the order of 70% or more – were in favour of PR.”

Waterloo: From the report of 4 MPs: “Every group discussed the need for our new electoral system to feature some degree of proportionality.”

Charlottetown: “ About 90% of the people there were pro-PR.”

Winnipeg: After noting that three people were for FPTP because they feared losing local representation. The rest of the comments I heard were mostly just preferences for the different PR systems.”

Happy Valley-Goose Bay: “What we said was that we wanted PR  BUT, it had to be a hybrid type that considered the lack of population and massive land mass of not only Labrador but 60 % of Canada, i.e. the North.”

Calgary: “There was overwhelming support for getting rid of the current system, with different groups mentioning STV or MMP as their top choice.”

The Hon. Maryam Monsef addresses the crowd in Waterloo Region.A concluding note

And, to conclude, this eloquent quote from a Fair Vote Canada volunteer at the Victoria town hall where the Minister said she “can’t promise you that I’ll be advocating for PR because I haven’t heard that from an overwhelming majority across the country.“

Victoria:

“The wheels were skidding out of control as we tried to combat the spin we received at last night’s town hall on Electoral Reform. Maryam Monsef, the Minister of Democratic Institutions hosted the gathering in Victoria billed as “the last chance” to give your input. But the tone of the meeting was quite acrimonious. They were clearly managing the message while backpedaling from an election commitment about changing the electoral system. Not only did she defend Trudeau’s recent comments about no longer needing this reform because we voted for HIM.”

“After months of hearing expert witness by the proportionally cross-partisan panel, and while MPs held public consultations with thousands of Canadians across the country, are we now to believe there is no appetite for Proportional Representation? Monsef said that she has not yet made up her mind but the implication of her words was troubling. Will the government diminish the committee’s well-researched, democratic report in December by championing their predetermined preference? For many of us who attended last night the so-called consultation felt like a sham.”



PS from Laurel:

I’ve chosen to used my own photographs, here, not only because they are free culture photos (licensed to share under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License) but because the number of electoral reform events in and around Waterloo Region has been staggering, and I wanted to share some of them with you, but there were so many local ERRÉ events that I attended (and I didn’t attend them all)  that there isn’t enough room here to use photos from them all!

There was a time not long ago when I knew nothing about electoral reform.  It was only when I was asked to take photos at local Fair Vote Waterloo events that I found myself listening to what the Fair Vote folks had to say, and after a while I even started understanding it.   This was not an easy process, nor was it fast.  It can take a while to really gain an understanding of something completely different from what we’re used to.  

That’s why every electoral reform event must incorporate an education piece.  The thing that I have seen over and over again is that even though Canadians may not know the words for it, or how to fix it, we know something is wrong with our voting system that needs to be fixed.

That is why Mr. Trudeau’s “We will make every vote count” resonated with so many people.  

And what I have learned from every discussion and every ERRÉ event I’ve attended is that when Canadians have a chance to understand the difference between winner-take-all and Proportional Representation, we almost always want some form of PR.    I think that’s because most Canadians value fairness, and the only way to get to a point where the votes of most Canadians actually count will require some form of Proportional Representation.  

Fair Vote Canada suggests Canadians who want to see the implementation of some form of Proportional Representation would do well to let the ERRÉ Committee know about it, and to make it easier for us, they have an automated tool to help us send a letter urging the committee to recommend PR here:

http://fairvotecanada.good.do/thankyou/keepthepromise

back to #The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRE

Proportional Representation Series So Far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
Sign the Petition e-616
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
• International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD
• An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

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Proportionality #ERRE #Q

back to #ERRE #Q Meetings & TranscriptsAhead to The Poll’s The ThingCanadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the sixteenth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

Not so long ago I had no idea there was any other way for Canadians to elect our government than the system we use now.  When I began getting frustrated that no one I ever voted for ever got elected (no matter which candidate or party) it never even occurred to me the solution to my problem could lay in our voting system.  All I knew was that the time I invested in Canada’s democracy ~ time spent learning about the candidates and issues and then voting for the candidate I thought would best represent me ~ the whole process had proven to be a futile exercise.  In more than 30 years of voting, no one I had ever voted for got the chance to represent me in Ottawa.  Or Queen’s Park, for that matter.   It got even worse when I moved back to my home town to raise my family, because it was a “safe seat.”

Since there didn’t seem to be any point to voting, I began wondering why I should keep doing it. Every time an election rolled around, there was a lot of talk about how awful our low voter turnout.  But maybe all those Canadians who weren’t wasting their time casting ineffective votes were smarter than I.

The lightbulb only went on over my head when I found myself listening to what people were saying at local Fair Vote events.  They talked about why 39% of the votes shouldn’t equal 100% of the power.  That made more sense than what happens when 39% of the voters elect a majority government.  I learned that the only reason we use this system is because it was the same system England had been using… a system forged in the middle ages.  Nor did I realize that a large part of the problem with our Westminster plurality electoral system had not even been designed to be democratic until I heard Canadian electoral system expert Dennis Pilon tell this to the ERRE Committee.

The reason is that the system was not designed to be democratic. Its origins are in the pre-democratic era, and it has been kept in place for electoral self-interest. Canadians have struggled to make their system democratic despite these institutional barriers. Proportional representation systems, by contrast, were designed to represent voters effectively, even if the motives of reformers were not always democratic.”

Dennis Pilon, speaking at the Thursday, July 28, 2016 Erre Committee

At first I felt pretty silly for not having figured it out myself.  But the more I learned, the less foolish I felt. The first time I saw the John Cleese on Proprotional Representation video (yes, that John Cleese), I was a little jealous that our British friends found out about Proportional Representation decades ago.  But I have to tell you, I was shocked when I discovered they hadn’t adopted it for UK General Elections in spite of the clarity Mr. Cleese brought to the subject.  Although the new voting systems established for Scotland and Wales are proportional.  Just as Ireland uses Proportional Representation.

The more I’ve learned about proportional Representation the more flabbergasted I am to realize more than ninety countries around the world have adopted Proportional Representation systems but Canada has not.  But not for want of trying.  Most Canadian electoral reformers date the need for Proportional Representation to the 1920’s, when Canada shifted from being a two party system to a multiparty system.  The reason for this is that when you have a 2 party system, whoever wins a First Past The Post election will have has done so with an actual majority of votes.  But because FPTP is a plurality system, the winner needn’t have a majority.

Still, even before we had more than 2 parties, not everyone was happy with our system.

History

There have been Canadians looking for electoral reform since before Confederation when the British government decided to pass The Act of Union amalgamating Upper Canada (Quebec) and Lower Canada (Ontario) in 1840.  Each province received 42 seats in legislature.  Unsurprisingly French Canada got the short end of the stick because of it’s larger population of 697,084.  This meant on average 16,597 French citizens shared a representative, while an average of only 10,849 English Canadians shared a representative.  Naturally the French Canadians protested this, clamouring instead for Representation by Population or “Rep By Pop”… or at least until the English population began outstripping the French when the tables turned.

In the late 19th Century, noted Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming offered a thousand dollar reward for anyone who could come up with a better way to elect our parliamentarians in An appeal to the Canadian Institute on the rectification of Parliament (1892)  So there have always been Canadians dissatisfied with the inequities inherent in our system.  And over the years there have been changes made, it took a while, but we finally managed to achieve universal that allowed every adult Canadian, regardless of race or gender to have a vote.  Bur even so, Canada’s democratic deficit has been growing.  In recent decades, our system more and more Canadians have disengaged from politics, leaving the job of voting up to only about 60% of the eligible voters.  Even more alarming has been the fact a growing number of Canadians have largely stopped voting for what they actually want because they know there is little or no chance of getting it.  After all, we live with a system in which a party seeking the dismantlement of Canada managed to become our Official Opposition Party decades before the NDP could.  The fact is that voting “strategically” — not for the candidate who will best represent us, but for the candidate we think is the least worst.  So many Canadians feel compelled to try to game the system that doesn’t work for us is a sure sign we are not getting the representation we want and we dare not even try.

ERRE

The main reason for all of this is that our FPTP system does not deliver the results most Canadians want.  When a party with a 39% plurality wins the election, that means 61% of eligible voters didn’t vote for that party.  But the way our system works, that party can walk away with 100% of the power, because the winner only needs to get more votes than the others  to get majority power.  (And that is without factoring in the uncast votes of the 40% of eligible voters a constituency comprised of more eligible voters than those who voted in a 39% majority Liberal Government in 2015 or a 39% majority Conservative Government in 2011.   In our multi-party FTTP system, we get far more phony majorities than actual majority governments.  As the Liberal Party did in 2015, and the Conservative Party did in 2011.

The problem with disproportional results is too many voters don’t get representation in Parliament.  And the problem with phony majorities is that a Majority Government without the support of a majority of voters has the power to make policy and law without the support of a broad base of Canadians.  That’s why proportionality is important.

Nathan Cullen's proposed committee

The Liberal Party promised electoral reform during the 2015 election, and the system we have gives them the power to deliver.  And they have.  The LPC Government has gone so far as to accede to the NDP request to restructure the composition of the Parliamentary Committee studying electoral reform to be proportional.  These are good signs.

The ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform has been tasked with consulting with Canadians to find out what we want out of Electoral Reform.  The ERRE Committee is reaching out to Canadians in a variety of ways, both online and off.  One of the most important pieces of the process ought to be the ERRE Committee’s Cross Canada tour so they can consult with ordinary Canadians face to face.
Bardish Chagger in Waterloo
This is a natural part of any consultation process.  Earlier in the year I was the photographer for all 5 Fair Vote Waterloo delegations to the Waterloo Region MPs elected in 2015.  Fair Vote asked each Liberal MP to do what they could to bring the Electoral Reform Committee to Waterloo Region.  So I was surprised when I saw that Waterloo Region was not included on the itinerary the ERRE Committee had set out for the real world part of the consultation.

Some of my Fair Vote friends have suggested Waterloo Region might have been omitted because their group is so active here.  After all, Waterloo Region might even be considered responsible for the fact the Federal Government is holding an Electoral Reform Consultation at all.

As the Honorable Bardish Chagger wrote,

The Liberal Party electoral reform policy plank, which received wide spread support from Liberals across the nation, originated right here in the Waterloo Region as a grass roots initiative within the Liberal Party Membership. It was one of my proudest accomplishments, as the past president of the Waterloo Federal Liberal Association, to work with a team of fellow volunteers dedicated to electoral reform.

I can understand why the ERRE Committee wishes to to seek out and consult with Canadians who are not as well informed about electoral reform issues as some Waterloo Region residents are, but I see no good reason for the ERRE Committe to avoid ordinary Canadians who do have some understanding of the issue.  Isn’t the point of a Parliamentary Consultation to consult with all Canadians, to find out what Canadians might want from electoral reform — even those who might already know what they hope for from electoral reform?

That is worrisome.

But even more worrisome is the proposed ERRE Committee Itinerary.

ERRE Cross Canada Consultation

Ontario Population: 13.6 million (January 1, 2014)
1. Toronto

Québec
Population: 8.215 million  (July 1st, 2014)
1. Québec, Québec
2. Joliette, Québec
3.  Montréal, Québec

British Columbia
Population: 4.631 million  (Jul 1, 2014)
1. Victoria, British Columbia
2. Vancouver, British Columbia

Alberta
Population: 4.146 million  (Oct 1, 2014)
1. Leduc, Alberta

Manitoba
Population: 1.282 million  (Jul 1, 2014)
1. St-Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba
2. Winnipeg, Manitoba

Saskatchewan
Population: 1.13  million  (Oct 1, 2014)
1. Regina, Saskatchewan

Nova Scotia
Population: 942,926 (Apr 1, 2015)
1. Halifax, Nova Scotia

New Brunswick
Population: 753,914       (July 1st, 2014)
Fredericton, New Brunswick

Newfoundland and Labrador
Population: 526,977       (July 1st, 2014)
1. St. John’s, Newfoundland

Prince Edward Island
Population: 146,283        (July 1st, 2014)
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Nunavut
Population: 37,174    (est Jan. 1, 2016)
1. Iqaluit, Nunavut

Northwest  Territories
Population: 44,291   (est Jan. 1, 2016)
1. Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Yukon
Population: 37,193   (est Jan. 1, 2016)
1. Whitehorse, Yukon

Fairness

I have no problem at all with this Parliamentary cross Canada Consultation stopping once in Nunavut, twice in B.C and Manitoba, or even 3 times in Québec. The point is to consult with Canadians across the country.

What I simply can not understand is how the ERRE committee can limit its itinerary to a single stop in the most populous province, Ontario.


back to #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts

Ahead to The Poll’s The Thing

Proportional Representation Series So Far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
Sign the Petition e-616
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
• International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD
• An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Casseroles Night In Canada

Today is Day 108 of the Quebec Student strike.

I am impressed.  These young people are standing up for what they believe in ~ and what I think they should be entitled to ~ in a rich country like Canada.

Regardless of what our intrepid leaders would like to believe, the recession in Canada is not anywhere near over.  Jobs are thin on the ground.  Wouldn’t it be clever to have citizens actively engaged in getting higher education with government assistance rather than collecting welfare until they can luck into some unskilled work that probably won’t even cover the rent?

Even if reducing education funding was a good idea, (and I don’t think it is), the time to do such a thing is not in this economic climate. This policy is not just ill advised, it’s stupid.  Quebec wants to raise  education costs at a time when people can least afford it.

This is their lives, we are talking about here. Why would these kids blow off half a year of university?  The alternative for many is that dramatically increased higher education will no longer be an option.  Many are certainly just barely managing the financial load now.  The first increase will bump many students.  And that is certainly worth striking for.

Our kids are our most important resource.

Isn’t it interesting that the Quebec is raising the student cost of higher education at a time when Ontario is lowering it?

Instead of negotiating, or even simply *listening* to these young people — whose lives will be trashed by this law — the Quebec government simply passed a law — Bill 78 —  thought by many to be unconstitutional — in an attempt to stop the strike.

Has it worked?  No.

A pot over crossed spoons on a field of red with the legend Keep Calm and bang On
download the poster to wave

Has it helped?  No.

The latest strategy is the participative ephemeral 15-minute roving #casserole protests documented in Xopher’s blog: Nightly ‘Casseroles’ (pots and pans) Protest.

These light hearted brief happenings are occur around 8:00pm every evening across Montreal.

This is to show citizen dissatisfaction with the government’s actions and policies.  In a nice way.

Maybe it’s time the rest of Canada joined in and did a little pot banging of our own for

It’s something we all know how to do, one of the things every child has done at some point in their lives.  And if you haven’t, no experience is required.  Lets get out there and do a little banging in communities all across Canada.

All ages welcome . . . it only takes 15 minutes.  Oh… and bring your own pot…

black and white photograph of citizens of all ages banging on casseroles

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Image Credits

Une banderolle géante, à la hauteur de la taille de la foule under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license by Robin Dumont

Casseroles Night Poster  under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license by Juan Madrigal

Casseroles 26 mai, Place Emilie Gamellin under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license by scottmontreal

Student Strike: Have Quebeckers have taken leave of their senses?

It is beneath contempt for the government to play fast and loose with our civil rights and liberties in order to deal with the results of its own abject failure to govern.”

— Daniel Weinstock

When I went to college in Ontario in the ’80’s, anyone could access higher education. Ontario provided loans and grants to qualified students. If you (or your family) were wealthy, it might be all loans; if you and your family were of low income, it might be entirely grants. The difference is that grants don’t have to be paid back, ever.

This seemed reasonable.  Among other things, that system ensured that people  best suited to being doctors don’t end up driving cab. My friend Malcolm says “50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class.”   That is even worse when the pool of potential doctors is reduced as it has been.   How many Canadians right now are putting up with bad doctors because they dare not complain and risk going doctorless?

Back in the ’80’s, I went on a demonstration at Queens Park to protest the round of education cuts Ontario was starting, just as I was just finishing.  But the government didn’t listen, and over time went on to entirely abolish grants in the years since.  Ironically, Ontario is just now reintroducing grants.

There are countries in the world that make higher education entirely free to citizens.  I think that’s not only civilized, but smart policy.  It’s good for any society, because it means that citizens can be fully engaged.  It means that society is making best use of resources, because the most important resource is our citizens.  You can probably tell that’s what I think that’s what we should be doing. [Yes, I know, they always say there is no money; but that is hogwash. They can find the money if they want to, since they can always find it for stupid things.]

I do, however, believe in democracy.   And even if Canada doesn’t go that route, it is something that should be decided by Canadians, not dictated by government.  So what is happening in Quebec is very disturbing.

I’ve heard that most Quebecers disagree with the strike, but of course, that is information obtained by polls, and polls can be gamed. And the mainstream media has descended into entertainment, so “the news” needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  I myself look to the Internet for my news.  The following open letter I share with you here was referenced by @ryanweal in a conversation on Identi.ca

An open letter to my English-Canadian friends. Please circulate in your networks as you see fit.

“You may have heard that there has been some turmoil in Quebec in recent weeks. There have been demonstrations in the streets of Montreal every night for almost a month now, and a massive demonstration will be happening tomorrow, which I will be attending, along with my wife, Elizabeth Elbourne, and my eldest daughter Emma.

“Reading the Anglo-Canadian press, it strikes me that you have been getting a very fragmented and biased picture of what is going on. Given the gulf that has already emerged between Quebec and the rest of Canada in the wake of the 2011 election, it is important that the issues under discussion here at least be represented clearly. You may decide at the end of the day that we are crazy, but at least you should reach that decision on the basis of the facts, rather than of the distortions that have been served up by the G&M and other outlets.

“First, the matter of the tuition hikes, which touched off this mess. The rest of the country seems to have reached the conclusion that the students are spoiled, selfish brats, who would still be paying the lowest tuition fees even if the whole of the proposed increase went through.

“The first thing to say is that this is an odd conception of selfishness. Students have been sticking with the strikes even knowing that they may suffer deleterious consequences, both financial and academic. They have been marching every night despite the threat of beatings, tear-gas, rubber bullets, and arrests. It is, of course, easier for the right-wing media to dismiss them if they can be portrayed as selfish kids to whom no -one has ever said “no”. But there is clearly an issue of principle here.

“OK, then. But maybe the principle is the wrong one. Free tuition may just be a pie-in-the sky idea that mature people give up on when they put away childish things. And besides, why should other people pay for the students’ “free” tuition? There is no such thing as “free” education. Someone, somewhere, has to pay. And the students, the criticism continues, are simply refusing to pay their “fair share”.

“Why is that criticism simplistic? Because the students’ claim has never been that they should not pay for education. The question is whether they should do so up front, before they have income, or later, as taxpayers in a progressive taxation scheme. Another question has to do with the degree to which Universities should be funded by everyone, or primarily by those who attend them. So the issue of how to fund Universities justly is complicated. We have to figure out at what point in people’s lives they should be paying for their education, and we also have to figure out how much of the bill should be footed by those who do not attend, but who benefit from a University-educated work force of doctors, lawyers, etc. The students’ answer to this question may not be the best, but then it does not strike me that the government’s is all that thought out either.

“And at least the students have been trying to make ARGUMENTS and to engage the government and the rest of society in debate, whereas the government’s attitude, other than to invoke the in-this-context-meaningless “everyone pays their faire share” argument like a mantra, has been to say “Shut up, and obey”.

“What strikes the balance in the students’ favour in the Quebec context is that the ideal of no up-front financial hurdles to University access is enshrined in some of the most foundational documents of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, in particular the Parent Commission Report, which wrested control of schools from the Church and created the modern Quebec education system, a cornerstone of the kind of society that many Quebeckers see themselves as aspiring to. Now, it could be that that ideal is no longer viable, or that we may no longer want to subscribe to it. But moving away from it, as Charest’s measures have done, at least requires a debate, analogous to the debate that would have to be had if the Feds proposed to scrap the Canada Health Act. It is clearly not just an administrative measure. It is political through and through. Indeed it strikes at fundamental questions about the kind of society we want to live in. If this isn’t the sort of thing that requires democratic debate, I don’t know what is.

“The government has met the very reasonable request that this issue, and broader issues of University governance, be at least addressed in some suitably open and democratic manner with silence, then derision, then injunctions, and now, with the most odious “law” that I have seen voted by the Quebec National Assembly in my adult memory. It places the right of all Quebec citizens to assemble, but also to talk and discuss about these issues, under severe limitations. It includes that most odious of categories: crimes of omission, as in, you can get fined for omitting to attempt to prevent someone from taking part in an act judged illegal by the law. In principle, the simple wearing of the by-now iconic red square can be subject to a fine. The government has also made the student leaders absurdly and ruinously responsible for any action that is ostensibly carried out under the banners of their organizations. The students groups can be fined $125000 whenever someone claiming to be “part” of the movement throws a rock through a window. And so on. It is truly a thing to behold.

“The government is clearly aware that this “law” would not withstand a millisecond of Charter scrutiny. It actually expires in July 2013, well before challenges could actually wind their way through the Courts. The intention is thus clearly just to bring down the hammer on this particular movement by using methods that the government knows to be contrary to basic liberal-democratic rule-of-law principles. The cynicism is jaw-dropping. It is beneath contempt for the government to play fast and loose with our civil rights and liberties in order to deal with the results of its own abject failure to govern.

“So that is why tomorrow I will be taking a walk in downtown Montreal with (hopefully!) hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens. Again, you are all free to disagree, but at least don’t let it be because of the completely distorted picture of what is going on here that you have been getting from media outlets, including some from which we might have expected more.”

— Daniel Weinstock An Open Letter to English-Canadians, who might be feeling that Quebeckers have taken leave of their senses.

“An addendum: one of the more egregious aspects of the law, which penalized omissions to deter, has been removed from the final version. That is better, which is not to say that it is any good, because vast tracts of discourse are still at least potentially under the microscope. Many have responded by saying that law-enforcers and judges will be prudent in applying these broad-reaching provisions. Perhaps. In Madisonian spirit, I say that it is best to economize on virtue, that is to make laws and institutions that do not depend on relevant actors rescinding from doing what the law actually allows them to do.”

Further reading: Resisting Bill 78 in 15 points: Concordia Full-Time Faculty Member

Winnipeg Free Press: Protesters defy new Quebec law; Event marks 100th day of student-led strikes

Personally, I’m proud of the students and their supporters for standing up for their beliefs ~ and what’s right.  I hope these young citizens remain involved and continue to work for electoral reform in the future, and maybe we can have a more democratic Canada.

Jean Charest’s government ought to be ashamed of themselves.
a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

National Day of Action – Saturday May 14

Note:The information has been updated: any red strikethough text is deleted; Green underlined text is Additional information. This Day of Action is a near spontaneous event put together over the last few days by students across Canada.

Canadian Flag through the Trees

As might be expected, the non partisan FairVote Canada is not terribly pleased with the outcome of our recent Federal Election:

Fairvote Canada logo
Fairvote Canada

This blatantly distorted election outcome has generated a spontaneous reaction in the electorate. Saturday, May 14 has been designated a national Day of Action for Electoral Reform, and protest rallies are being planned in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Charlottetown and Kelowna, all at 2:00 pm local time.”

“Fair Vote Canada (FVC) is participating in these events, and will supply speakers in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver.”

Fairvote Canada will be participating in the NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR ELECTORAL REFORM / MANIFESTATION PAN-CANADIENNE POUR LA RÉFORME ÉLECTORALE

Non partisan multi-striped maple leaf logo with text: National Day of Action for electoral Reform Saturday May 14, 2011 ... MANIFESTATION PAN-CANADIENNE POUR LA RÉFORME ÉLECTORALE, Samedi Le 14 Mai 2011

@dayofaction2011The blue Twitter bird mascot #dayofaction2011 The blue Twitter bird mascot#electoralreform The blue Twitter bird mascot #fairvote

All demonstrations to be held at

2pm local time:

The Maple Leaf part of a Canadian Flag

Montreal — Berri Sq. — Amir Khadir will be speaking here [@amirkhadir ]


Ottawa — Parliament Hill specific location of #ottawa #dayofaction: War Monument at the corner of Elgin and Wellington…. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May [@ElizabethMay] will be speaking here.


Vancouver — Vancouver Art Gallery …. Fairvote Canada’s Adrian Carr will be speaking here Vancouver Central Library


Calgary — Harry Hays Building – 220 4 Avenue Southeast Calgary, AB T2G 4X3 Calgary, AB


Halifax — Province House at Halifax Public Library – Spring Garden Road – Halifax, NS


Charlottetown — Province House


Kelowna — The Sails, Central Park


Whitehorse — Elijah Smith Building

new additions:

Province House, Charlottetown, PEI Silent Protest for Electoral Reform
Saturday, May 14 · 2:00pm – 3:00pm


There is something being planned for St. John’s Newfoundland as well, but I have no information on it.

The Toronto rally time has been changed to 3pm local time

Toronto — Queen’s Park

aerial view of Queens Park in autumn.

60% did not vote for our current government

Demand Reform

We need an electoral process in which everybody’s vote counts. We need a government that represents us.”

http://nationaldayofaction.ca/



Photo Credit:
Queen’s Park, Toronto photo by Donald Morrison under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License

Flags CC-by laurelrusswurm

digEcon scandals

[I’m breaking some of my digEcon issues down into a three part series across my blogs. The first part is published in the wind where I usually look at copyright issues as a content consumer and a writer. This second part here in Oh! Canada and the final part in StopUBB. When all three are complete I’ll add link arrows.]

Canadian Flag

One thing we all seem to love about the Internet is the opportunities we have to “Like” things. A simple mouse click bestows or withdraws our approval on comments or news stories on the Internet. It gives us the power to be heard.

Voting in the Digital Economy Consultation

classic thumbs up hand

The Canadian Government recognized our liking for “Liking” and gave us the means to do so on the Digital Economy Consultation website. The top three ideas appeared on the home page, right under Industry Minister Tony Clement’s video opening. Every time I logged in to the DigEcon site the same three ideas were on the front page. If you wanted to participate in the consultation you had to be registered and logged in to vote for an idea.

Classic thumbs down image

I’m not entirely sure how these ideas got there although I think they originated in the online discussion forums.

digEcon Voting Scandal?

One idea did really well, one which sought to Reinstate our Census Long Form aka Questionnaire 2B based on the understanding that in a digital world information is vitally important, especially for Government’s long term digital economy planning. A great many visitors to the digEcon site agreed with this idea and it quickly rose through the ranks.

Apparently the Government didn’t like this.

So the Government relocated it.

‘Reinstate our Census Long Form’ was pulled and tucked in an out of the way corner. Even after being pulled, at the end of the day it still held second place, having received +389 votes.

I learned about this from

But “officially” it didn’t count. As far as the Government was concerned, only the three ideas on the home page were the “winners”.

To Compete You Must Compute with +463 votes
A discourse on the importance of Supercomputers, it also appears to be an advertisement for Compute Canada

The idea to provide Open Access to Canada’s Public Sector Information and Data called for the creation of “a data.gc.ca for Canada’s public sector information” garnered +338 votes.

Finally in third position a proposal for improved access to publicly-funded data
with +197 votes.

The Census idea was removed July 9th, a day after Compete/Compute arrived onsite.

The Census idea was unfairly treated, but in all fairness you could still vote for it– if you could find it.

The Government claims the subject matter was outside the guideline, which clearly was not the case. Even if it had been true, it should have been taken down much sooner. It sat on the front page for a very long time to get that many votes.

The sad thing is that it has been well proven that this type of “voting” system can be easily “gamed”. The fact that it was done so heavy handedly is bad. I have to wonder about the appropriateness of Compute Canada’s vote getting campaign. Clearly the only concern is getting votes. I would hope that the Canadian government isn’t planning policy based on such flimsy data.

From the Compute Canada Website:

screenshot from the Compute Canada web page above a photo of Industry Minister Tony Clement, text  which reads Consultation on Canada's Digital Economy  Please vote for the Compute Canada submission "To Compete You Must Compute" at http://de-en.gc.ca/home/ . Instructions are:  1. Click the "Log in" link along the left hand side just under "Home" 2. Click register to get an account. The standard email confirmation process then occurs. 3. After you have an account, log in. 4. Click Idea Forum along left hand side of home page. 5. Click "Digital Infrastructure" in main window 6. Search for "To Compete You Must Compute" 7. Read and Vote. Or just vote a thumbs up.
Compute Canada's website campaign

Does Canada really want our future decided on the basis of an advertising campaign?

As amazing and important as supercomputers may be, in the real world there are very few Canadian Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) that would actually need supercomputer access. Certainly there are a few specialized cases where it would be ideal, but I suspect that most SMEs don’t use the PCs and equipment that they have now to the fullest. Everything changes so quickly, just keeping up is both cost and labor intensive.   It would be a lot of fun to play around with a Supercomputer, but as a writer all I actually need to write novels is my ancient laptop.

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"

digEcon Canadian Content Scandal?

I didn’t have time to be active in the forums, but something about the Digital Economy Consultation website disturbed me a little at the time. The more I’ve thought about it the more irritated I’ve become. The blue Twitter bird mascot

White lowercase letter F on a blue field is the FaceBook logo

The site gave you the option to share your submission, and probably your forum ideas as well via email, Twitter or FaceBook.

And of course there were problems with the Twitter partnership, most likely because of Twitter’s extremely proprietary nature. Although it is the kind of thing that frequently happens with proprietary software and digital locks…

Digital Economy forum entry about software conflict between Twitter and the Canadian Government websites causing users to be blocked from sharing
digitaleconomy.gc.ca

So often ordinary users aren’t aware that the technical difficulties they are experiencing are DRM side effects.

red maple leaf graphic

What bothered me is that the Government of Canada has chosen to include both Twitter and FaceBook here on an official Canadian Government website. This is effectively an advertisement and a government endorsement of these two American corporations.

I am well aware that Canadians use these services, as I myself do.

That’s not my problem. I am wondering where the Canadian Content was. Hmmmmm… isn’t that one of the things that our current Heritage Minister James Moore is in charge of watching over?

In particular, I’m wondering why the Canadian Government chose not to give equal time to Identi.ca?

an Identi.ca page
My Identi.ca account

Why wasn’t Identi.ca included along with Twitter and FaceBook? Identi.ca is a Canadian Micro-blogging service. Like Twitter, only better in a lot of ways. I do almost ALL my “Tweeting” as “Dents” on Identi.ca

Like a lot of people, I have Identi.ca and Twitter connected for the best of both worlds.

using Twitter online
My Twitter account

Identi.ca runs on open source Status.Net software. Which isn’t at all surprising since both are part of the same Canadian company from Montréal. People and corporations all over the world are creating their own Status.Net sites. A corporation can easily run Status.Net software  on their own LAN.  It can be contained as an internal system or interconnect with other systems (without  FaceBook type privacy issues) because it isn’t proprietary software. I know individuals who run their own Status.net domain they then connect to Identi.ca

Status.net logo

I am not saying we can’t use American services like Twitter or Facebook. I’m writing this blog post on a blog on the American WordPress site.

But Status.Net is a Canadian digital economy success story.

I would have thought it elementary that the prime directive of the Canadian Government’s Digital Economy strategy would be
promotion of the Canadian businesses who are out there building Canada’s Digital Economy.

At the very least I would expected our Government to give equal time to Canadian Digital Enterprises.



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Image Credits

“Thumbs Up” by David Benbennick, Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons Share-alike 3.0 License
Image Credit “Thumbs Down” by Joe Goldberg under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generc

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves