What WE Can Do for ERRE

back to DIY Electoral Reform Info SessionsCanadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the nineteenth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

erre-you-r-hereAlthough you’d hardly know it from our friends in the Main Stream Media, there is an Electoral Reform Consultation going on right now.

I’ve been trying to raise awareness of Proportional Representation because that is the only way we will get the *real* real change Canada so desperately needs.  Like most Canadians, I used to think Government Consultations were just for experts.  It never occurred to me that a consultation was meant to consult with all Canadians until I was found myself involved in the 2009 Canadian Copyright Consultation in 2009. More than eight thousand Canadians submitted written submissions, and my understanding is that was the best response any Canadian consultation has ever had until then.

The ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform wants facts from the experts, but they also want to find out what ordinary Canadians want.

Even though most Canadians lack the requisite background in electoral systems, we don’t need to be experts to know the system we’ve been using isn’t working.  I don’t understand how my car’s engine actually works, but I certainly know when it doesn’t.  At this time, Canadians need to make sure the Special Committee on Electoral Reform knows that we do want Proportional Representation.

Stand Up For Proportional Representation.

The government needs to know Canadians are not satisfied with our electoral system and that we want Proportional Representation because we care about our democracy.   Since a petition requires so little effort, although helpful, especially with many signatures) your signature on a petition is not given as much weight as a form letter.  The most weight is given to personal contact.  Talking to your MP on the phone ore in person has a lot of weight: it demonstrates how important the issue is to you.

Even if you don’t say a word, even if you are just there to learn, attending any Electoral Reform discussion night or town hall near you is very important, because your presence demonstrates your commitment to electoral reform.

If your MP hasn’t announced a town hall, call them up or send them an email.  All our MPs are all supposed to have a Town Hall. Conservative MPs seem to be avoiding holding Town Halls.  If your MP is Conservative, tell them Conservative voters deserve to be consulted too.

Attend a Community Dialogue, or even set up your own Canadian  Community Dialogue

@WR_Greens hosts a Community Dialogue on Electoral ReformFairvote Waterloo folks are hosting one every Tuesday in a local cafe. They have a list of questions (5 or 6) that a table of participants discus, the facilitator guides them through a list of questions & takes notes; at the end of the night the participants all sign the sheet which is then sent to the ERRE folks.  The Waterloo Region Greens will be doing this on a larger scale with a Waterloo Region Community Dialogue on Electoral Reform on September 17th, 2016.

You can do this yourself on any scale, with a few friends at a picnic table in the park, around your kitchen table, the cafeteria or anywhere.

You can start with the ERRE suggested Potential Canadian federal electoral reform event dialogue topics and questions here.

Get the Canadian federal electoral reform dialogue hosting guide here.

3. Catch up on what the Committee has done in the meetings so far… I’ve included links to the video, as well as the evidence transcripts and the witness briefs that have been posted to find out what experts have been saying in their submissions.

Participate on Twitter

—TWITTER: The Committee monitored the Twitter feed #ERRE #Q for comments and questions from Canadians during the committee meetings, some Twitter questions were posed to the witnesses in real time.

Other hashtags:

#ERRE
#ERRE #Q
#ProportionalRepresentation
#VoterEquality
#ProportionalPlease
#Referendum
#CDNpoli

Even though the Ottawa Committee Meetings are over (I am not sure if there will be another round later) you can continue to follow the committee members on Twitter (links to members twitter handles here) and continue to tweet about #ERRE #Q.  It seemed to me the most active on Twitter were @nathancullen@MPRubySahota@SherryRomanado and @ElizabethMay

Unfortunately, instead of helping inform their constituents, the Conservative members of the committee @ScottReidCPC@BlakeRichardsMP are working hard to delay or derail the Electoral Reform Consultation by concentrating their greatest efforts in demanding an Electoral Reform Referendum.  Proportional Representation isn’t a partisan issue; all it means is that voters will get better representation in Parliament.

The more we can share information through our social media accounts the greater the public awareness.

Make your own presentation to the ERRE Committee in person

—Requests to appear may be sent to the Committee by email (erre@parl.gc.ca) or by using the appropriate button on the Committee’s website. Please note that the Committee clerks will contact only those who are selected by the Committee members to appear. Requests to appear must be submitted to the Committee no later than October 7, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. (EDT).

If you keep an eye out you may get a chance to jointhe Honourable Maryam Monsef and/or #ERRE Committee on their Electoral Reform Road Trip.

Online Questionaire

Anyone can fill out the online questionaire as a submission here:
Special Committee on Electoral Reform E-CONSULTATION ON ELECTORAL REFORM 

Make your own Written Submission

—WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS: Any person or organization can submit a brief to the Committee. To be accepted, the brief must be no more than 3,000 words in length (including the summary and footnotes) and be submitted to the Committee no later than October 7, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. (EDT). The Committee recommends highlighting any recommendations to support the principles set out in the motion mentioned above. Briefs may be sent to the Committee by email (erre@parl.gc.ca) or by using the appropriate button on the Committee’s website. Once they are translated, briefs will be distributed to the Committee members and posted on the Committee’s website.

It is probably best to begin with the principles defined by the Government:

 

Guiding principles for Canadian federal electoral reform

The following five guiding principles may help you think about what you want from federal elections, your Member of Parliament (MP) and your federal government. They can help you decide what is important to you when it comes to potential changes to our democracy at the federal level by considering how any proposed reforms might:

  • Restore the effectiveness and legitimacy of voting, such as by reducing distortions and strengthening the link between voter intention and the electoral result
  • Encourage greater engagement and participation in the democratic process, including by underrepresented groups
  • Support accessibility and inclusiveness of all eligible voters, and avoiding undue complexity in the voting process
  • Safeguard the integrity of our voting process
  • Preserve the accountability of local representation

Why are these principles important?

The principles were identified as a means to encourage a thoughtful, substantive dialogue about what Canadians expect from their electoral system. Potential changes to Canada’s federal electoral system can be assessed through questions such as:

  • How could any proposed reforms strengthen effectiveness and legitimacy by better reflecting the democratic will of Canadians?
  • How could any proposed reforms foster civility, cohesion and openness in politics that will help encourage Canadians to take part?
  • How could any proposed reforms enhance the sense among Canadians that they can contribute to, participate in and influence politics?
  • How could any proposed reforms support accessibility and inclusiveness for all Canadians in our diverse society?
  • How could any proposed reforms ensure that Canadians can trust election results?
  • How could any proposed reforms affect MPs’ accountability to citizens?

Then it might be an idea to take a look at some of the written submissions other Canadians have posted here.  (Unfortunately the submissions from the experts and ordinary Canadians are jumbled together.  Some people who submit are experts but this is a way for all Canadians to be heard. Although I have absorbed far more than I ever wanted to know about this, I am not an expert.  And I will be writing my own sumbission, which I will post here in Whoa!Canada so you will be able to read it (and maybe borrow some of my ideas for your own submission).    The idea is to let the Government (through the ERRE Committee) know what you want them to do.

Your written submission does NOT have to be a scholarly essay (although it can be if you want it to be).  The maximum size is 3,000 words.

This isn’t a test, there are no wrong answers, the government is only asking for our opinions if we have them, and if we do, this is a chance for us to be heard.  This process is really for us.

Your submission is entirely up to you; it can be as detailed or not as you like.  If you have only one thing to say, it might just as easily be a single sentence.  Maybe something like:

I want Canada to adopt some form of Proportional Representation.

or

Proportional representation please!

or

No referendum! Proportional Representation.

or

Canada should adopt   (fill in favourite electoral system here)   [Summaries of the different systems can be found here]

TALK

Talk to your FAMILY and FRIENDS about this. At home, on social media, at work, at school, wherever you go.  You don’t need to be an expert, share links.

Canadians who wish to follow the Committee’s work may do so by visiting its website (http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/ERRE).

If the ERRE Committee is appearing anywhere near you, go, and bring as many friends & family as possible.

VIDEOS

Movies work better for many people, including me. This is my YouTube Electoral Reform playlist.  Share the list and/or specific videos.  I hope to make a few more soon.

More Information

This article is part of my Proportional Representation for Canada series to help demystify electoral reform.  More info is available on my PR 4 Canada Resources page, and I keep adding material as I find it.  Please share any articles and materials about electoral reform you may find helpful.  If I haven’t answered your questions yet, ask in a comment or send me an email.


I hope you will participate in one way or another.

Just being part of the process — even if it is just quietly listening at an Electoral Reform Town Hall — is a help because your participation will give them an idea whether we care about electoral reform.

Oh, and I almost forgot… the Ontario portion of the ERRE road show will be coming to Toronto on September 21st, 2016.

ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform comes to Toronto - Wednesday September 21st, 2016 Chelsea Hotel Churchill Ballroom 33 Gerrard St W, Toronto, ON → map ← 1:30—4:15 pm Witness Panel(s) √ 13 h 30—16 h 15 Panel(s) de témoins 4:15—5:00 pm Open mic √ 16 h 15—17 h 00* séance micro ouvert 6:30—9:30 pm Open mic √ 18 h 30—21 h 30* séance micro ouvert *Please note that the end time for the open mic sessions are approximate

back to DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions

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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Democracy Primer

What’s So Bad About First Past The Post?

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the third in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

Lets start with the basics.

Sometimes human beings are loners, hermits who shun other humans. But that is rare.

Most human beings are social in nature.  We want to be together, to live in proximity to other humans.  We want to play together and we learn to work together.   In order for people to co-exist, human society requires some sort of boundaries. Rules.

Individual humans start out as part of a family unit.  The family unit fits into human society as part of some kind of tribe. In the modern world collections of tribes have come together to form countries. Each nation establishes its character in the style and form of policy and the framework of rules— laws— set down by its government.

There are two basic paths human beings have taken in our approach government.

Authoritarianism

Autocracy, OligarchyTotalitarianism, Dictatorship, Monarchy, Empire, Fascism… there are many different systems in which the government is all powerful and citizens are powerless.  Such governments might choose to treat citizens benevolently.  Or not.  The government decides and the citizens have no choice but to comply.

British Library illuminated medieval manuscript image of King Phillip Coronation

Democracy

Citizens very often prefer to have a say in their own governance, and this can be achieved with a democratic system of government.

According to political scientist Larry Diamond, it consists of four key elements: (a) A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; (b) The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; (c) Protection of the human rights of all citizens, and (d) A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.[3]

The term originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) “rule of the people”,[4] which was found from δῆμος (dêmos) “people” and κράτος (krátos) “power” or “rule”, in the 5th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city-states, notably Athens; the term is an antonym to ἀριστοκρατία (aristokratía) “rule of an elite”.

Wikipedia: Democracy

Democracy draws its power and legitimacy from the support and consent of its citizens.  There are two basic ways of achieving democracy.

Democracy

Direct Democracy

All qualified citizens have the right to represent their own interests in government.  In ancient Greece, each citizen spoke for themselves, making laws by “decree of the plebs” or plebiscite.

plebiscite (noun)

  1. a direct vote of the qualified voters of a state in regard to some important public question.
  2. the vote by which the people of a political unit determine autonomy or affiliation with another country.

In a country where qualified voters number in the millions, the closest we can get to direct democracy is through holding a special plebiscite in which all qualified citizens of a state can vote on an important issue.  As digital technology progresses, there may come a time when all Canadian voters will be both qualified and able to vote electronically on every issue directly. But in today’s world, the closest we come to this is through the difficult and expensive mechanism known as a referendum.

referendum (noun)

  1. the principle or practice of referring measures proposed or passed by a legislative body to the vote of the electorate for approval or rejection.
  2. a measure thus referred.
  3. a vote on such a measure.

Representative Democracy

Since it would be hard to fit millions of people into the Parliament Buildings, like most modern democracies, Canada uses a form of Representative Democracy.  Instead of speaking for ourselves, all qualified citizens have the right to elect a representative we believe will best represent our interests in Parliament.  Although some Canadians wish it were different, referendums are not a feature of the Canadian political system.  In nearly a century and a half, our government has had only three referendums: on prohibition (in 1898), conscription (World War II) and whether to accept the Charlottetown Accord (Constitutional Amendments).  Certainly our choice of voting system was not made through this mechanism.

The procedure by which qualified voters determine who our representative will be is called an electoral system.  The different elements that go together to make up an electoral system determine:

  • the structure of the ballot
  • how votes are cast
  • the way votes are counted, and
  • the criteria needed to win

Although I have been breaking this down for simplicity, there are many ways to design electoral systems.  Most (if not all) of the electoral systems in use around the world are hybrids, as ours here in Canada is.  Our representative democracy is part of a constitutional monarchy; we share England’s monarch. In understanding our options, the most crucial distinction between types of electoral systems comes down to which family they are in.

Representative Democracy can be broken down into two main families: Winner-take-all or Proportional Representation.

Winner-take-all

Just as it sounds, a winner-take-all election is an “all or nothing” proposition.  A election which can only have a single winner necessarily ends up with the single winner getting all the power.

And when elections can only produce a single winner, unless that winner achieved 100% of the votes, there will be losers, too.  The candidate(s) who fails to win loses.  Naturally, the citizens who didn’t vote for winner end up without any representation at all.  They’re losers too.

In Canada we use a winner-take-all single member plurality system better known as First Past The Post.  Although many Canadians believe this system produces majority government it doesn’t.

A majority is defined as 50% + 1.  If there are more than 2 candidates competing for a single seat, with First Past The Post the candidate doesn’t needs to win 50% + 1 ~ s/he just needs to win more votes than any of the others.

Because Canadians aren’t happy with only two political parties, very often we elect MPs with far fewer than 50% of the votes.  In the 2015 Canadian Federal Election, 28.99% of the votes cast were enough to elect Bernard Généreux Member of Parliament for the Montmagny—L’Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.  That’s a long way from 50% + 1.

But even 50% + 1 can leave as many as 49.9% of voters without representation at all.  That’s why I’ve become a fan of:

Proportional Representation

Vote_iconXProportional Representation isn’t the name of any single electoral system, it is a phrase that describes an electoral outcome where 39% of the vote can’t win 100% of the seats in Parliament.  Proportional Representation ensures 39% of the votes wins 39% of the seats.

Instead of polarizing citizens into winners and losers, a proportional system seeks to elect a government that reflects all citizens, by providing representation to all eligible voters.   More than 90 countries around the world (85% of OECD countries) use some form of Proportional Representation, so there is a great deal of information about how such systems work.

In Canada, over the last decade or so, Ten Canadian Commissions, Assemblies and Reports have recommended proportional representation for Canada.  In addition, Liberal MP Stéphane Dion developed his own P3 system, and later this year the Province of Prince Edward Island will consider adopting another newly devised proportional system, Sean Graham‘s Dual Member Mixed Proportional.

As this series progresses, I’ll look at the different electoral systems that have been or might reasonably be on offer for Canada.  If you aren’t already overwhelmed, I’ve provided links throughout the article so you can find out more detail from the supporting on your own.

And you might be interested in what Craig Scott had to say about Proportional Representation:

The great resource is the grass roots multi-partisan organization that advocates for meaningful Canadian electoral reform: Fair Vote Canada. You can check out their website, but you’ll also find chapters across Canada.  My local is the very active Fair Vote Waterloo Region Chapter.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Image Credits:

Medievalart on Tumblr led me to the gorgeous public domain image Detail of a miniature of the coronation ceremonies of Philip (Coronation of King Phillip).   This artwork is part of the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts the British Library generously makes available to the public online.

Found in Wikimedia Commons, Vote icon is an original artwork dedicated to the Public Domain by its creator openclipart.org.

My Families of Electoral Systems mini poster & Democracy Flags are original artwork dedicated to the Public Domain

What’s So Bad About First Past The Post?

Proportional Representation For Canada 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!

Fair Vote Canada’s Referendum

“A democratic voting system must encourage citizens to exercise positive choice by voting for the candidate or party they prefer. They should not find it necessary to embrace negative or strategic voting – to vote for a less-preferred candidate to block the election of one even less preferred.”

Fair Vote Canada Statement of Purpose

Fair Vote Canada display

Anyone who reads this blog probably knows I support Fair Vote Canada, because it promotes electoral reform to proportional representation.

In response to pressure from a special interest group, Fair Vote Canada is currently holding a nation wide referendum to determine if its membership wishes to break away from its original purpose and instead support a non-proportional “Alternative Vote” electoral system known as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV).

On the face of it, this is an internal issue. If you aren’t already a paid up member, you won’t be able to vote. But that doesn’t mean it won’t impact on the rest of Canada. Over the next few days I’ll be wading through the mailing list discussion that has been taking place around the referendum issues so I can write about what impact this may have.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves