An excellent tool to keep track of whether or not the Trudeau Government is fulfilling the promises made in its election platform is the non-partisan collaborative citizen initiative website called the “TrudeauMeter.” We are reminded
“Change the House of Commons Standing Orders to end practice of using inappropriate omnibus bills to reduce scrutiny of legislative measures.”
So far there has been absolutely no movement to keep this promise.
Instead, what we are seeing here is that the Trudeau Government has chosen to use an inappropriate omnibus motion to change the House of Commons Standing Orders, reducing what little power opposition parties in phony majority governments (eg Mr. Trudeau’s Government, which he likes so much he’s disavowed his clear electoral reform promise to replace our unfair winner-take-all voting system).
“We’re filibustering to protect the right to filibuster. Who would have thought it would be this government, under this prime minister” to try to use its majority to make changes to the Standing Orders without all-party backing, he said. “It’s not your House… we have rights, too.”
Rather than making Parliament more transparent, this is yet another attempt to make it more efficient for a party with a phony majority to undemocratically impose its will on our nation. Promising one thing and not doing it is bad enough, doing the opposite of what you’ve promised is unacceptable. In a democracy, that is.
Although CPAC is not covering this, @Kady is LiveTweeting, so Canadians can follow along and watch this unfold…
[CORRECTION NOTE: In the original version of this article I incorrectly described the “Omnibus Motion” as an “Omnibus Bill,” which I have corrected in this version. ~ LLR]
The 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.)
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 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.”
Highly 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.“
“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:
From the Order Paper we learn the Canadian Government has announced the electoral reform committee:
— May 10, 2016
— The Minister of Democratic Institutions —
That a Special Committee on electoral reform be appointed to identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems, such as preferential ballots and proportional representation, to replace the first-past-the-post system, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting, and to assess the extent to which the options identified could advance the following principles for electoral reform:
(a) Effectiveness and legitimacy: that the proposed measure would increase public confidence among Canadians that their democratic will, as expressed by their votes, will be fairly translated and that the proposed measure reduces distortion and strengthens the link between voter intention and the election of representatives;
(b) Engagement: that the proposed measure would encourage voting and participation in the democratic process, foster greater civility and collaboration in politics, enhance social cohesion and offer opportunities for inclusion of underrepresented groups in the political process;
(c) Accessibility and inclusiveness: that the proposed measure would avoid undue complexity in the voting process, while respecting the other principles, and that it would support access by all eligible voters regardless of physical or social condition;
(d) Integrity: that the proposed measure can be implemented while safeguarding public trust in the election process, by ensuring reliable and verifiable results obtained through an effective and objective process that is secure and preserves vote secrecy for individual Canadians;
(e) Local representation: that the proposed measure would ensure accountability and recognize the value that Canadians attach to community, to Members of Parliament understanding local conditions and advancing local needs at the national level, and to having access to Members of Parliament to facilitate resolution of their concerns and participation in the democratic process;
that the Committee be directed to issue an invitation to each Member of Parliament to conduct a town hall in their respective constituencies and provide the Committee with a written report of the input from their constituents to be filed with the Clerk of the Committee no later than October 1, 2016;
that the Committee be directed to take into account the applicable constitutional, legal and implementation parameters in the development of its recommendations; accordingly, the Committee should seek out expert testimony on these matters;
that the Committee be directed to consult broadly with relevant experts and organizations, take into consideration consultations that have been undertaken on the issue, examine relevant research studies and literature, and review models being used or developed in other jurisdictions;
that the Committee be directed to develop its consultation agenda, working methods, and recommendations on electoral reform with the goal of strengthening the inclusion of all Canadians in our diverse society, including women, Indigenous Peoples, youth, seniors, Canadians with disabilities, new Canadians and residents of rural and remote communities;
that the Committee be directed to conduct a national engagement process that includes a comprehensive and inclusive consultation with Canadians through written submissions and online engagement tools;
that the Committee be composed of ten (10) members of which six (6) shall be government members, three (3) shall be from the Official Opposition, and one (1) shall be from the New Democratic Party; and that one (1) member from the Bloc Québécois, and the Member for Saanich-Gulf Islands also be members of the Committee but without the right to vote or move any motion;
that changes in the membership of the Committee be effective immediately after notification by the Whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;
that membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);
that, with the exception of the Member for Saanich-Gulf Islands, all other members shall be named by their respective Whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the Committee no later than ten (10) sitting days following the adoption of this motion;
that the Committee be chaired by a member of the government party; that, in addition to the Chair, there be one (1) Vice-Chair from the Official Opposition and one (1) Vice-Chair from the New Democratic Party, and that, notwithstanding Standing Order 106(3), all candidates for the position of Chair or Vice-Chair from the Official Opposition shall be elected by secret ballot, and that each candidate be permitted to address the Committee for not more than three (3) minutes;
that the quorum of the Committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118, provided that at least four members are present and provided that one (1) member from the government party and one (1) member from an opposition party are present;
that the Committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee, as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada;
that the Committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings; and
that the Committee present its final report no later than December 1, 2016.
“Let’s be clear, the Conservatives are proposing to limit what topics Canadians are allowed to debate. That’s not the role of government. This goes against our fundamental freedoms and the NDP will be voting against it.”
— Tom Mulcair
There is less chance Mr. Harper will form even a minority government than there was Tim Hudak would in Ontario. The Harper Government’s heavy handed governance in combination with the proliferation of scandals has seen to that. Even with the media soft pedalling the worst of it, even remaining Conservative supporters have an inkling.
The Harper Government has angered Canadians, including many of their own supporters across the board (from Rex Murphy to veterans). I could make a long list, but the internet is awash in such things.
There is no doubt in my mind we will have a new government tomorrow.
The only real question is: who will form government?
The polls tell us the three biggest parties are neck in neck in neck, but as the election approaches, they all favor Mr. Trudeau. Is this surprising? Not when you consider the upholders of the status quo … the corporatocracy, multinationals, the elite, the rich, the 1% … whoever they are — will only support the two parties that can be trusted to uphold the status quo. In other words, the Conservative and Liberal parties.
When every Canadian on the street knows we are going to heave steve and stop harper, the two media giants that control the mainstream media have come out in favor of the Conservative Government. Even they say we should Heave Steve… but keep his government. Seriously.
The “political class” on the other hand, much prefer Liberal status quo defenders. They want to return to the Liberal glory days, and hope to re-establish the supremacy of the Liberal brand through the installation of Canada’s answer to George W. Bush, our own second generation political royalty, Justin Trudeau. Never mind that Justin Trudeau had no track record at all before being anointed. Before he became Party leader, his only claim to fame was his name. Whenever the media needed a mild mannered soundbite, they would go to the non-threatening MP who happened to be the son of Pierre Trudeau. And while it is true Mr. Trudeau has knuckled down and shown his commitment to getting the job throughout the campaign, he has made some serious errors, the most egregious being his steadfast support for Bill C-51, a law that makes a mockery of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When you consider the Charter is probably the single most important thing the Liberal Party has ever done for Canada — the thing every Liberal could point to with pride — it is unsurprising so many life long Liberals chopped up their cards and abandoned ship.
The NDP will scrap the so-called Anti-Terror law (formerly known as Bill C-51) and restore the Charter. The NDP has also firmly committed to Proportional Representation. These two things are essential if Canada is to have any hope of being a free country. Don’t vote for anyone who will not commit to both of these.
Not taxing big business and the rich has certainly contributed to the fact Canada is the only OECD country still in a recession. (Mainstream media propaganda has tried to foster the idea this is the second recession on Harper’s watch, but the reality is that we never really got out of the first one.)
What has become apparent to those of us online is that most of the Liberal policies effectively continue the Conservative policies of the last decade. The Modus Operandi if both the LPC and CPC is to “give big business everything.” As Canada ha signed Trade Agreement after Trade Agreement, the lot of Canadians has increasingly plummeted. Canada has yet to come out ahead on any of them. And these secret agreements keep getting worse, with provisions that allow foreign corporations to overrule local governments on issues like protecting the environment. Maybe a multinational doesn’t care about clean water, but we humans can’t live without it. The China deal is set to run more than 30 years, and now the TPP doesn’t end, ever.
Both Liberals and Conservatives are on board with these agreements, but the NDP promises to scrap TPP. Yay.
And while the NDP is offering some good social programs, they are tippy toeing. $15 minimum wage sounds great, but if I’m not mistaken, that wouldn’t be applied across the board; but only for FEDERAL employees, and it will be phased in over time. When $15 an hour isn’t a wage large enough to lift Canadians out of poverty today, that is just too little too late.
Then, too, that $15 a day day care sounds good, but it too is going to be phased in, and will only help a limited number of Canadians.
The Fear Factor
The problem is that Mr. Harper, (like Mr. Hudak), makes a good boogeyman. It is easy to scare people into voting for *your* candidate when you can fan the flames of fear. That’s how strategic voting works. Has anyone selling strategic voting ever offered to support your candidate instead of their own?
Although strategic voting is always sold as the way you have to vote to make sure the boogeyman doesn’t win, if such strategies work, why is there always a worse boogeyman the next time?
There are plenty of good reasons to fear another Harper government, but there just isn’t going to be one. And everyone knows it, including Mr. Harper. When I was young, Brian Mulroney’s government was so reviled that after he passed the reins to Kim Campbell, the party was destroyed — reduced from a crushing majority to only TWO seats — by an election. But compared to Mr. Harper, Brian Mulroney was loved.
Kim Campbell was an unfortunate first female Prime Minister, but we could make up for that by installing Ms. May. Everyone likes Elizabeth May, even people who would never vote for her want to hear what she has to say. They say 80% of Canadians wanted to see her in the debates. But it was worth it to the “big boys” to keep her out anyway, because when Elizabeth may talks, people listen. Not just because she’s smart, or the best parliamentarian. People listen because what she says makes sense. It is, after all, easier to pretend the Green Party only cares about the environment if people don’t ever get to hear from the Green Party.
But Elizabeth May is hands down the best of the major party leaders, so you would thing that the Canadians who vote for the leader (which I am told is most of us) would be voting Green.
But people don’t vote Green. Not because they don’t think she would make an excellent Prime Minister, but because they don’t think she could get elected. And yet, the Green Party runs candidates across the country, so the possibility exists that she could become Prime Minister. All it will take is for enough eligible voters to vote for enough Green Party Candidates.
This year my husband has been running as a Green party Candidate here in Kitchener-Conestoga. Throughout the campaign I have had the opportunity to meet a great many Green party candidates, and I have been very impressed; the overall calibre of the Green Party Candidates I’ve met has been staggering. It may be because so many Canadians are engaging in politics like never before, simply because it is starting to come home to us how fragile our democracy is. Any of the Green Candidates I’ve met would be a credit to their constituents, and I believe many of them are exceptional.
Green Party policy is based on a solid bedrock of fiscal conservatism, even as it appears to be pie in the sky stuff. After all, none of the other major parties even mention poverty as a rule, let along roll out a plan to eliminate it. The problem isn’t so much that Canadians like poverty, but that people don’t believe eradicating it is possible. Even though there was a successful Liberal pilot project decades ago that demonstrated it can be done in a way that would make society stronger in many many ways. But none of the other major parties are selling it, so we think it can’t be possible. But the truth is, Canada is a rich country that could easily afford to eliminate poverty by implementing a Guaranteed Livable Income.
If it was such a good idea, you might wonder why we didn’t adopt Mincome in the 1970’s. That’s easy: for the same reason so many good things don’t get done in Canada: our unstable uncooperative electoral system. When your electoral system consists of alternating dictatorships, thinking tends to be very short term. In a winner-take-all electoral system the new king of the castle never implements the old king’s policies, so when the Liberals were voted out mincome was shelved. And no subsequent Liberal Government even considered revisiting it.
What nobody tells us is that the cost of implementing the Guaranteed Livable Income would be a tiny fraction of what we spend waging war. Maybe the cost of a single helicopter. But we all have our priorities, right?
All it takes is the political will.
So long as we believe we can’t vote for what we want, we will never get what we want.
The Real Way to Change
People have the idea that the only way to make sure we don’t elect Mr. Harper is by giving one party a majority government. That is simply not true. Although the NDP and Liberal Parties are happy we think this because people who might otherwise vote for what they want will be voting for the big party they think could win. The truth is that majority government is always the worst possible result for Canadians.
But we don’t need to replace a majority government with another majority government. All we have to do to move Mr. Harper out of 24 Sussex Frive is to unseat enough of the MPs in his party. There is even much less chance the Marxist-Leninist Party will form even a minority government than the Greens will. But if the Kitchener Centre ML Candidate defeats Stephen Woodworth, that’s one less Conservative seat in Parliament. Vote for the person or party that offers what you think is most important.
If you haven’t yet, please vote today. (And bring a friend.) Only you can decide who will best represent you in parliament. That’s who you should vote for.
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.
Fair Vote Canada will be holding a press conference and campaign launch event on Parliament Hill on Thursday, where Executive Director Anita Nickerson will proudly display a giant copy of the Declaration this Thursday ~ September 19th, 2013 ~ on Parliament Hill. Standing alongside FVC will be NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, Stephane Dion (former Liberal Leader), Georges Laraque, Joyce Murray, Paul Dewar, Leadnow, Greenpeace and more! They hope to reach 100,000 signatures by 2015!
One of the most compelling reasons Canada needs an electoral system that will produce an outcome of Proportional Representation is our diversity. One size does not fit all.
Some Canadians support the political party they’ve chosen with the fervour of a hockey fan supporting their favorite team ~ no matter what. Others try to support the party that seems to best reflect the voter’s own ideology. Others, like me, don’t support any one party, but vote for the individual candidate that we hope will best represent our interests on an election by election basis.
As a small Ontario school child I was taught Canada is a democracy. It seemed the only fair way to govern a free country, so I was pretty pleased to be a Canadian. As I grew up and learned more about how our political system actually works, I discovered that what we here in Canada call democracy isn’t what I thought it was. Representation in government is a privilege only enjoyed by a few, denying most citizens an equal say in the decisions that affect our lives.
The disproportionate outcome of our Winner-Take-All electoral system infects our entire political system with inequity. Here in Canada 30% of the vote can deliver a majority, because all our votes are not created equal. Some votes count more than others, but most votes don’t count at all. Besides polarizing Canadians into “winners” and “losers”, this deprives us of democracy, a sad situation that can only be corrected through Proportional Representation.
Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) platform has supported Proportional Representation for a long time. But how strong is the NDP’s commitment to PR?
Julien Lamarche, President of the NCR chapter of Fair Vote Canada writes:
As parties approach power, they have a natural tendency to drop the commitment to Proportional Represemtation.
It is important that we show to NDP leadership that the membership still cares about this issue.
If you are an NDP member, please:
0. Call Craig Scott at 613-992-9381 or 416-405-8914, tell them you’re an NDP member and you support resolution 5-40-13, 5-42-13, and 5-37-13 for proportional representation.
AND / OR
1. phone someone on your EDA (local riding) executive,
2. find out who is going to the convention from your electoral district (riding),
3. call the delegates, see if one of them is willing to go to Panel 5 (Governing in an Inclusive and Fair Canada) on Friday morning,
4. ask that delegate to support the three resolutions making PR a fundamental plank of the next NDP election platform.
When I originally posted this I misquoted Julien as saying:
“tell your NDP member you support resolution”
when it should have said:
… “tell them you’re an NDP member and you support resolution” …
My error has now been corrected in the above text. ~ Laurel L. Russwurm
But parties are entrenched in our current system and are unlikely to go away any time soon.
So why would I sign up as a Liberal Party of Canada supporter?
I’ve known good people across the spectrum of Canadian Political Parties. The very existence of so many political parties speaks to the fact that a mere two parties is woefully inadequate to the task of representing us.
Canadians are quite a diverse bunch ~ one size does not fit all.
Like many Canadians, I want to see Canada redefined into a real democracy that actually seeks to represent all of us. But the only way to achieve that is through meaningful electoral reform. I think we deserve democracy.
“Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows eligible citizens to participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.”
Canadians have been led to believe that the ability to vote our government out of office makes our electoral system democratic. We’re supposed to have a representative democracy, but our electoral system is so unfair our “representatives” are virtually unaccountable.
The majority have learned that casting votes is futile in a system where some votes count more than others, and some count not at all. Since voting is disheartening; it’s hard to get out and vote, knowing the chance of actually being represented is slim to none. In fact, it’s not very democratic at all.
Worse, when we elect a majority government it’s effectively a dictatorship for the length of the term. And like any Winner-Take-All electoral system, ours is adversarial by nature, which guarantees that competition will trump consensus every time.
So candidates win or lose.
And parties win or lose.
But worst of all, citizens win or lose.
That may be a fine way to run a dictatorship, but a democracy? Not at all.
“The idea that someone whom you didn’t vote for, who does not agree with you on the issue you are concerned about can be an effective representative for you is ludicrous. “Representation” is not about removing uncertainty about which phone number to call to report potholes; it is about being connected to someone who shares your politics who can advocate for things you believe in in a legislative context.”
Political parties are the chief beneficiaries of the unfairness in the electoral system that put them in power. It’s no wonder they are unlikely to make a change. As more Canadians have come to understand the unfairness inherent in our electoral system, the support for Proportional Representation has grown. Even though growing numbers of Canadians want to see a change to a more democratic system of Proportional Representation, it hasn’t happened.
If we’re to have any chance of Proportional Representation, it’s important for Canadians to convince Political Parties (and Party Leaders) to support Proportional Representation while they still struggle at a disadvantage.
where will we find electoral reform
The New Democratic Party has long included electoral reform as an important policy plank. Yet there has been no move toward electoral reform since forming a majority government in Nova Scotia, or in Manitoba, where the NDP has formed four consecutive Provincial Governments.
Federally, in 2011 the New Democratic Party became Canada’s Official Opposition Party for the first time in history. While you might think this means adoption of Proportional Representation will naturally follow in the event of a federal win next time, I’m not so sure.
You can see from the party’s recent choice of Party Leader that now it’s all about winning. After reading about the autocratic way Mulcair muzzled NDP MPs, I’m wondering if he was not chosen as the candidate most like Jack Layton, but rather as the one most like Stephen Harper.
Because our adversarial electoral system is all about choosing a boss, the perception is that we need an autocrat, someone capable of running the show, someone comfortable bossing everyone else around. Like a king.
And of course, Winner-Take-All electoral systems favors the ruthless. The man who would be king. Dictator. Führer. Bully. We’ve been sold the idea that Candidates who can work cooperatively are not “leadership material.”
What is the right kind of leader for a democracy?
Ontario’s Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals were returned to power for the third consecutive term in 2011. But for the first time, their mandate was one seat shy of a majority. Heads turned a few months into the term when the Premier gave a plum position Conservative Elizabeth Witmer, enticing her to vacate the seat she’d held in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario since 1990. In the ensuing by-election, NDP candidate Catharine Fife won Witmer’s vacant seat by asking citizens to deny Mr. McGuinty a majority.
After two previous majority wins, Premier Dalton McGuinty resigned, apparently unequal to the task of governing democratically.
feudalism vs. democracy
Although ostensibly democratic, our political system has actually been slipping further into a kind of nouveau feudalism, as the checks and balances we may have had have been eroded and stripped away over time, and power centralized into fewer and fewer hands.
The difference between Winner-Take-All and an electoral system with an outcome of Proportional Representation is apparent in the resulting style of governance. Where Winner-Take-All produces bosses who tell citizens what to do, Proportional Representation encourages consensus, and a government that doesn’t just give the appearance of listening to constituents but actually governs for the public good. But this requires leaders capable of listening and working well with others, rather than simply issuing commands and bullying citizens.
The closest Canada has ever come to this ideal has been with minority governments, without which we would never have produced one of the policies Canadians value most, universal health care.
Today, of course, Canadians are struggling under the majority Conservative government produced by our Winner-Take-All electoral system. More than ever before, backbench MPs themselves have little if any say, and are often effectively prevented from actually representing constituents.
reinventing the Liberal party
Although both Parties have undergone great upheavals, Canada has been alternately governed by two parties over the course of our history. Yet for the first time since the founding of Canada, the federal Liberal Party has fallen to third place, and so is trying to reinvent itself.
Political parties do that kind of thing when they lose power; some people think Parties exist for ideological reasons, but ideology is simply the “product.” The real reason political parties exist is to get and hold power. If the product doesn’t sell, the party can’t get or hold power, and so it must change.
The most dramatic change the Liberal Party did was to open up voting in their leadership race to anyone who is not a supporter of another political party.
Although I am still unconvinced that Cooperate for Canada is the right way for Canada to go, I decided to sign up as a Liberal Party supporter after meeting and talking to one of the original Cooperate Liberal Leadership candidates, B.C.’s David Merner. David impressed me as an intelligent and grounded individual concerned with actually solving Canada’s problems, but devoid of the self importance Canadians are used to from traditional FPTP Party Leaders. The purpose behind Cooperate is a one time strategic cooperation for the express purpose of implementing electoral reform to a multiple winner system that will have an outcome of Proportional Representation, so I was sorry to see David drop out. Even so, I have continued to follow the leaderdhip race. Because so long as Canada has political parties, the public interest will be best served if those parties have the best leaders.
Apparently former Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion suggested electoral reform would be a good start, and to that end, he floated an idea for a system the Liberal Party has since adopted as “Preferential Ballot” to reform our electoral system.
But as it turns out, what the Liberal Party calls “Preferential Ballot” is more accurately known as “Alternative Vote.” At first blush this might seem to be a reasonable interim step toward proportional representation, especially because AV is thought advantageous to centrist parties like the Liberals.
Whether you call the system “Preferential Ballot” or “Alternative Vote,” a closer look reveals it to be another Winner-Take-All system very much like the First Past the Post we’re presemtly saddled with.
Switching to “Liberal Style Preferential Ballot” wouldn’t really change anything much for Canadians, since AV isn’t much different from what we have. Some Liberals have latched onto this system because of the perception that it could return their party to the catbird seat. Yet electoral system scholars paint a very different picture, harking back to the near destruction of the Provincial Liberal Party following adoption of AV out west.
Incredibly, since the Liberal adoption of Preferential Voting, Stéphane Dion has proven himself to be of that rare breed who would rather get it right than pretend infallability. His own genuine concern for the public good led him to continue to investigate electoral reform, and his research brought him to the realization that Proportional Representation would be much better for Canada. He’s since been promoting his own plan for Proportional Representation he calls P3.
voting for a Liberal Leader
The Liberal Leadership Race voting began yesterday. Liberal Party Members and registered Liberal Party Supporters (like myself) can now cast our votes for the next Liberal Party Leader.
The candidates are down to a handful: Deborah Coyne, Martha Hall Findlay, Martin Cauchon, Karen McCrimmon, Justin Trudeau and Joyce Murray.
Joyce Murray is the only remaining Cooperate for Canada candidate.
Justin Trudeau’s famous name catapulted the young geography-drama-teacher-cum-MP into the lead the moment he threw his hat into the ring. He’s personable, good looking, well spoken and the son of a legendary Liberal leader.
Still, It’s hard to know what, if anything, he actually stands for, beyond riding his father’s coat tails. Of all the candidates he’s said the least, presumably so as not to put his foot in it.
The one subject Trudeau has taken a firm stand on is electoral reform. On his website he states in no uncertain terms that:
“I do not support proportional representation because I believe deeply that every Member of Parliament should represent actual Canadians and Canadian communities, not just political parties.”
Trudeau is doggedly hanging onto the Liberal version of AV as the way back to Liberal Glory. He says he’s “listening” but when asked why he brushed off the Canadians asking for Proportional Representation, he said he knew better. Clearly, Justin has inhereited his father’s arrogance along with his mother’s looks. It seems Justin expects Liberals to blindly place their trust in him, policy unseen, not because he’s has a stellar record in the House of Commons… or anywhere else… because he hasn’t. His only real claim to fame is his parentage. But wouldn’t someone planning a career in politics study law, or at the very least, history… but drama?
If the Party chooses the young Trudeau as their leader, it could very well spell the end of the Liberal party as we know it. Although we Canadians try not to speak ill of the dead, and Pierre Trudeau was a Liberal icon, he was not revered by all Canadians.
Our electoral system was just as inequitable in his father’s time, so I’m guessing the advantage his name confers in Liberal circles will become a disavantage out in the wider world. It might be different if he had done something, or stood for something, but he hasn’t.
Further, Justin’s decision to slag Proportional Representation using nonsensical arguments doesn’t win him any points with me.
Liberal leadership candidates do their party no favours by trying to fool their membership into thinking Alternate Vote would provide meaningful reform, since it is simply another flavour of Winner-Take-All. Fortunately for the Liberals, those seeking to reclaim power at all costs are just one faction. There are principled Liberal Party members who are eager to restore their party to greatness, but through honesty and fair voting. Liberals For Fair Voting queried all the candidates about Proportional Representation, and even made up a nice little chart that shows clearly where the candidates stand.
my only choice
Since a majority of Canadians support Proportional Representation, the only reasonable Liberal Leadership contender is Joyce Murray. Whether or not she decides to cooperate, she is the only candidate solidly committed to Proportional Representation.
“I’m talking about winning the next election for a purpose. To reform Canada’s ailing electoral system to create a more representative and more collaborative Parliament; to harness all our talents for a sustainable society for the next seven generations.”
— Joyce Murray
As a Liberal Supporter, I will be casting my vote for Joyce Murray today.
With Ms. Murray at the helm pushing for Proportional Representation, I may very well end up casting my first vote for the LPC in 2015.