Does this Canadian Election Matter?

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Tractor parade at the Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese Festival, 2015. Coincidence? I think not.

Last week Canadian farmers drove their  tractors to Ottawa in a protest against the TPP. There are wide-spread fears this agreement will allow Multinationals to be able to dictate laws, suppress citizen rights and dispense with environmental protections if any of these things interfere with the pursuit of profit.

Much of the ground work has been laid for the unprecedented abdication of Canadian sovereignty through many of the laws pushed through by the Harper Government in previous years.

In spite of the fact Canada is undergoing a federal election, the Harper Government has made the unprecedented decision to continue with business as usual   Under the Canadian political system, government is prorogued — stopped — when an election is called.  Any draft legislation which has not completed the process is thrown out. Instead of pursuing new business, the Government has always gone into “caretaker” mode.  After all, there will be a new government after the election; new decisions will be up to the them.   If anyone in the new government is still interested after the election, they have to start over then.

But not now.

This is why it is bizarre — and disturbing — that the Harper Government has continued  with its secret trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, (TPP).  Although we know this exists, whatever it is that is being negotiated is secret.   Still, there have been enough hints of what we might expect that many Canadians are very much concerned, and many are very much opposed.

Instead of behaving the way Canadians rightfully expect, Mr. Harper has chosen to act as though the election doesn’t matter.  As though he is Prime Minister for life.  And in spite of mounting protest against the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, they announce

Canada has successfully concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Even now, the content of the agreement is secret, and the New York Times reports that

“Its full 30-chapter text will not be available for perhaps a month, but labor unions, environmentalists and liberal activists are poised to argue that the agreement favors big business over workers and environmental protection.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Is Reached, New York Times

So Canadians will have no facts — beyond the fact the Harper Government has signed it — until long after this election.

Over the years we’ve seen our democratic processes chipped away, but most Canadians have insisted that  because we hold elections (no matter how unfair), Canada is still a democracy.

But it seems Mr. Harper doesn’t think there is any reason to stop what he’s doing just because we are having an election.  [A election he himself called.]   Apparently elections are meaningless to Mr. Harper.  Perhaps he thinks it is in the bag.  After all, he has the money to outspend all the competition in TV ads.   Is that all it takes?

Is this what we have come to?

40% of Canadians didn’t vote last time.

Everyone has theories to explain why more people didn’t than voted conservative.  If we had a “non-of-the-above” option, it would have prevailed.  But we don’t.

I myself think there are many reason why so many eligible Canadian voters don’t vote.  Where I live, I know old order Mennonites don’t vote.  And I know there is a lot of conflict among First Nations about whether or not to vote.  And a lot of young people reject the idea of voting in a system that is so corrupt.  Personally I am inclined to think the biggest demographic are voters who gave up after they realized their vote would never count.  But like everyone else’s theories, that is just a guess.

Frankly, I don’t care why we don’t vote.  We all have our own reasons, and that’s fine.  What I do hope is that many of these Canadians can see their way to voting this time in spite of everything.  As someone whose vote has never counted, I know my vote isn’t likely to count again this time.  But that would change if my vote is joined by some of theirs.

If even half of the 40% who don’t customarily vote would vote, we will see change.

Does this Canadian election matter?

You betcha!  This one is the most important election of my life. Its outcome will have a profound impact on our world, and on our future.

I have spent my life being non-partisan.  Every election I have chosen who to vote for on the issues as I see them.  With a better system my vote might have counted once or twice.   But this year, I am partisan because my husband decided he had to run for the Green Party, and since he is one of the smartest and most honorable men I have ever known in my life, I am supporting him to the best of my ability.  And along the way I seem to agree with most of the Green platform, so that works out.  And while we very much hope you vote Green, what is most important is that you vote.  Vote for the candidate that will best represent your interests.

Vote. Vote for the candidate who will best represent your interests. I hope that's a Green, but vote regardless.

It may be pretty thin, but Canada is still a democracy.  We can still vote.  And if enough of us vote, it will make a difference.  But it’s time to use it, or lose it.

VOTE.

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42nd Canadian Election #elxn42

X marks the ballotThe long awaited 2015 federal election has been called, so Canadians are now being treated to one of the longest Federal Elections in Canadian History.  Because of strict spending caps, the standard election period has traditionally been half as long as the one we are having now.  Since the passage of the Harper Government’s Orwellianly titled “Fair Elections Act,” any party with an absurdly large budget (like, say, the Conservative Party of Canada) has an even better chance to outspend the other parties.  Will they be able to effectively “buy” an election win in this way?  I hope not.

Right now all the parties are scrambling to put on their game faces, but I have no doubt election fever will slow down a good bit until we get closer to the election.  We have time to catch our breath.  More important, we have time to start conversations about the Canada we want to have.  About the future we want for ourselves, and for our kids.

British SuffragetteThey call it “voter apathy” but I believe that’s a misnomer: we ought to call it “Voter Disillusionment.”  Although our electoral system is not only antiquated but unfair, a great many Canadians — on the order of 40% in 2011 — have become disillusioned or have other reasons for not getting out to vote.  The fewer Canadians who vote, the weaker our representation in Parliament, as we can see from much of the legislation pushed through with little or no scrutiny by our current majority government.

Originally, our First Past The Post electoral system was designed to serve rich white men.  It was only well into the 20th century that all Canadian citizens of legal age finally achieved the right to vote, but still, the system adopted before confederation wasn’t never intended to serve all Canadians.   No one knows better than I — after 30+ years of voting in every election without ever sending a representative to Parliament — just how unfair our winner-take-all electoral system actually is.  However, this year, meaningful electoral reform to Proportional Representation is indeed on the table.  The Harper Government has a majority government– and 100% of the power — based on less than 40% of the vote.  In the last election, more eligible Canadian voters did not vote than those who voted for the Harper Government’s majority.   If all the disillusioned Canadian voters were to vote this year, things would indeed change.

Canada’s fortunes will certainly improve with a switch to a better form of representative democracy, so I encourage everyone reading this to do your best to engage any other eligible voters you know who might ordinarily not vote to go to the polls this fall.  We see enough attack ads on tv… it is time for civil discussion about politics in our real lives.  My own strong hope is that the disillusioned voters will cast their votes for candidates who support Proportional Representation, but just voting for what you want is just as important.  Please consider: it is the Canadians who don’t vote who have the least representation in Ottawa.

It may help to direct any such potential voters to the many valuable online resources (here’s a borrowed list) to help them get informed, but please try not to influence their decision.  People who don’t believe they can vote for what they want are much less likely to vote at all, so please try to encourage them to vote for the candidate they believe will best represent them in Ottawa. Canada Flag Banner

 

 

 

 

voting for a Liberal leader

banner at the front of the room at the electoral reform debate

Step #1: Sign Up

Remember when I encouraged you to sign up to vote for the Liberal leader? Well, if you did, now it’s time for the next part: Now you need to register.   [I’ll have “Why I’m a “Liberal Party of Canada” Supporter” online by tomorrow.]

Step #2: Register

If you haven’t registered by March 21st, you don’t get to vote.  [The deadline to register was Thursday, March 15th but there has been a one time only extension to Thursday March 21st, 2013.]  Good thing, too, considering I’m only writing this now.

If you’ve signed up, you should have received an email from the Liberal Party’s Matt Certosimo telling you how to register, and providing you with the specific link to the online registration form. It wouldn’t help for me to share my  link I got, it was only good for me.

If you haven’t received an email, check your spam bucket. If your let your email provider decide what is spam for you, chances are the email has been blocked. What you can do instead is go to http://www.liberal.ca/leadership-2013/registration-help/ and ask for another one.

When you register you confirm:

  • Your wish to participate in the vote for the new Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada;
  • Your proper contact information so we can send you your ballot; and
  • That you meet the requirements to participate, and that the information you provide is true.

Confirmation

I tried regiistering on March 15th, (the original deadline) but the online form didn’t work.

I filled in all the information, it got to “submit” but there was no confirmation.

I sent an email to the link provided but got no reply.  I thought it might be a problem because I use free software, or perhaps something was hung up by AdBlock or NoScript. Perhaps their website was overwhelmed by the volume of last minute responses.  Whatever the problem was, the submit swirlie kept swirling, but didn’t give any conformation that it went through or not.

I tried again and again but nothing worked, so I left my computer on and went to bed. When it was still trying to submit the next morning I was afraid I’d blown my opportunity to register to vote.

Then I got an email about the deadline extension, so I gave it another try. This time I used the Chromium browser instead of Firefox and it worked immediately. It would have been super annoying if it hadn’t.

Your registration was received. Thank you. No further action is required from you at this time. After your registration is approved:     You will receive a voting PIN between March 25 and April 6, 2013.     You will be able to vote online or by telephone beginning at 12:01am ET on Sunday, April 7, 2013, until 3pm ET on Sunday April 14, 2013. Voting instructions will arrive with your PIN.     The Leader will be elected through a preferential ballot (meaning that you only vote once so you indicate all the candidates you support in order of preference on a single ballot) based on a points system that gives every riding in the country an equal voice. Click here to watch a video on the preferential vote and points system.

Step #3: Vote

Once you’re registered, you will receive a voting PIN between March 25 and April 6, 2013.  You will be able to vote online or by telephone starting at 12:01am ET on Sunday, April 7, 2013, until 3pm ET on Sunday April 14, 2013. Voting instructions will arrive with your PIN.

The Liberal Party Leader will be elected through a preferential ballot (meaning that you only vote once so you indicate all the candidates you support in order of preference on a single ballot) based on a points system that gives every riding in the country an equal voice.

Click here to watch their  video on the preferential vote and points system.

You won’t be able to vote if  you don’t register.

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Canadians: Sign Up If You Can

Today is the last day to sign up as a Liberal Party Supporter.

If you sign up,  you can vote in the Liberal Party Leadership race next month — you can help select the new Liberal Leader.

You don’t have to pay anything.  There are only two rules:

  • You must be a Canadian.
  • You can’t be a member of any other Political Party. [If you are, it is acceptable to temporarily resign your other Party membership in order to vote.]

If you’re new to the idea, and have no idea who you might want to vote for, here’s the thing: you don’t have to actually vote today, this is just the last day to register as a “supporter” so you can participate in the vote.

The actual voting will be held on April 14, 2013.

Why?

I am writing an article explaining why I — a proud life long member of NO party — think this is a good idea, but its taking longer than I thought, and I won’t be done until later tonight… in the meantime there is an:

upside

It’s easy to do, and even if you aren’t likely to actually vote Liberal, wouldn’t it be better for you to have a say in who the new LPC leader is — especially if that leader becomes Canada’s next Prime Minister?

downside

I know one dedicated member of another party who is suspending her membership to vote here, and another who can’t see his way clear to doing this. Beyond these considerations, the only downside I can see is a privacy consideration: you have to give up your email address. Still, if that is a concern, sign up for a disposable free Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail free email address.

Today is the last day to register, so if you decide you want to tomorrow, it will be too late. If you sign up today, you don’t actually have to vote when the time comes. So, why not?

Do It

http://www.liberal.ca/supporter/


Joyce Murray, Liberal Leadership Candidate
Joyce Murray, Liberal Leadership Candidate

Because Canada needs Proportional Representation, the Liberal Leadership Candidate I will probably vote for is Joyce Murray,  the “Cooperate For Canada” candidate.   Although I am not entirely sure about Cooperate,  Joyce is the only candidate I know of who has come out in support of Proportional Representation, which I am sure about.  Some of the others may yet rethink the issue between now and voting day.

Here are a few of her endorsements:

And don’t miss Joyce Murray’s son’s rap video:  Baba Brinkman’s rap video


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What’s Wrong With Strategic Voting

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

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

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

true or false

We are told that majority government is good for Canada.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A weather forecast is more accurate.

Mumbles about the New Democratic Party.

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

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

Then there is misinformation about the Green Party.

false

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

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

they tell us to vote strategically

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

Fairvote Canada logo

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

Because strategic voting does not solve the problem.

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

don’t vote “strategically”

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

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

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

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

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

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

all Canadian votes should be equal but they are not…

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

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

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

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

This is a new day. A new election day.

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

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



The only Canadian political parties opposed to electoral reform are the Conservative and Liberal parties. Canada has other choices.

Visit the Elections Canada site to see what choices are available in your riding.

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