Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote

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

PR v AV posterGetting up to speed on electoral reform can be difficult, so I’d like to share Fair Vote Waterloo’s timely and informative video, Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote.

Waterloo City Councillor Diane Freeman moderates a discussion between two of Canada’s leading experts on electoral reform, Barry Kay, Associate Professor of Political Science at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, and Dennis Pilon, Associate Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto.

In the hands of anyone else, this discussion might have not have been suitable for a general audience, but these professors kept it clear and were careful to explain things that might have become too technical.

The question and answer session at the end of the talk was equally informative.

Dennis Pilon
Dennis Pilon (2012)

When I was just starting to learn about electoral reform back in 2012, I heard Dennis Pilon speak at a Fair Vote Waterloo event at Wilfred Laurier University’s Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work in Kitchener.  Hearing Mr. Pilon again this year,  I was reminded that electoral reform isn’t really as complicated as defenders of the status quo would have us believe.  It’s really only confusing because we are unfamiliar with the alternatives.

Mr. Pilon also explains that different voting systems (including multi-member ridings, Proportional Representation and Alternative Vote) have indeed been employed in parts of Canada throughout our history.

No matter which electoral system we choose, the mechanics of voting for will not change dramatically for voters.  We’ll still go to the polling station, get our ballot, then go behind a privacy screen to mark our choice.

The mechanics of voting will hardly chance under a Proportional System.
The mechanics of voting will hardly change under a Proportional System.

Defenders of the Status Quo often tell us that Canadians understand the system we have now because it is easy.  They say adopting any new system would be more difficult for Canadians than what we have now.  And yet the reality is that we don’t actually understand it.

Many Canadians think when we vote, we’re voting for the Prime Minister.
The reality is that we don’t have presidential elections like our American friends.  We don’t have a say in who the leader will be because we don’t hold Primaries.  In Canada, the members of political parties choose their own leader. And the only Canadians who can actually vote for the Prime Minister are those who live in the presumptive PM’s riding.  The only Canadians who voted for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 live in the Quebec riding of Papineau.

Many think our votes are equal and effective.  But when 38,000 voters can elect a Liberal MP but it takes more than 600,000 voters to send a single Green MP to Ottawa, it is very clear that all our votes are not equal.

how many votes graph (sideways)
Some votes are worth more than others in Canada’s Winner-take-all electoral system.

An when 39% of the votes result in majority power, 61% of the voting electorate’s votes have not counted.

39% of the Vote = 100% of the power In 2011 and 2015 Canada
39% of the Vote = 100% of the power In 2011 and 2015 Canada

We don’t understand that our vote is supposed to result in our representation in Ottawa.

Sadly Canadian political parties have more control over Members of Parliament than voters do under our current system.

Waterloo voters picket ex-MP Peter Braid's Office
Canadian MPs frequently ignore the wishes of their constituents and vote the way the party dictates.

Many of us believe democracy is about winners and losers.  But it’s not.  It’s about representing us in Parliament.

“Democracy is NOT about picking winners and losers. You are thinking of sports, or perhaps capitalism. Democracy is about working together to accomplish more than we can do as individuals. It is about bringing all stakeholders to the table so everyone can get what they need. When democracy functions as it should, we are all winners. For that, you need a fair voting system” Wayne Smith, Executive Director, Fair Vote Canada

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Ahead to #ERRE #Q Committee


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!

National Day of Action to Stop Bill C-51 ~ March 14th, 2015

It's Time To STOP BILL C-51

There have been many complaints against legislation the Harper Government has pushed through since gaining it’s “majority*” in the House of Commons. Our antiquated inequitable electoral system allows any government that achieves a “majority” to do pretty much whatever it likes.

But Bill C-51 is a game changer.

Law Professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach (at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto respectively) have been raising the alarm in articles like“Bill C-51: the Good, the Bad . . . and the Truly Ugly” which outline many of the very disturbing elements of Bill C-51.  They’ve created a website where they have shared their findings about Bill C-51 in detail

Possibly the single most disturbing element for me is something Mr. Forcese says in one of his information videos:

…the whole thing is covert.

We just have never seen anything like this in Canada before. Personally I would expect judges to consider all this unconstitutional and they could never let CSIS breach the constitution. But you and I may never know because, as I’ve said, this legal question would likely be decided as part of secret proceedings.

— Craig Forcese, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

Fast Tracked

Although Bill C-51 makes sweeping changes to Canadian law (and life) the Harper Government is pushing this bill through at break neck speed.  Instead of thoroughly investigating every element carefully, only 9 witnesses will be allowed to speak at the hearings, which are scheduled to be wrapped up by March 31, 2015.

The thing is, a majority government can pass any law it wants to pass.  So why not give such a law a proper hearing, why not examine it to ensure there will be no unexpected consequences.  After all, shouldn’t every law within a democratic nation receive proper scrutiny?

On Saturday (that’s March 14, 2015) Canadians across the country will to join a scheduled National Day of Action to protest Bill C-51.

Many organisations and a whole lot of people from Privacy Commissioners to former Prime Ministers have spoken out against Bill C-51 because they believe its provisions should be of concern to all Canadians.  If Bill C-51 becomes law, it will clearly allow for the violation of our Charter Rights, destroy personal privacy and facilitate spying on innocent Canadians while it creates a new secret police force with little oversight or accountability.

Canadians need to tell our MPs how we feel about this.

You can write a letter and/or sign Leadnow’s Petition:

Tell them that attacks on civil liberties including the sweeping expansion of spy powers, criminalization of speech, and preventative arrest for those who have committed no crime are not acceptable.

Find out where a local Stop Bill C-51 rally may be taking place on Facebook or Twitter, or visit LeadNow’s webpage where they are trying to co-ordinate the whole thing. If there isn’t one scheduled in your neighbourhood, you can start your own, by setting up a Facebook Event and inviting your friends or by announcing it on Twitter.

In my own Waterloo Region we have three groups (so far) coming together to stand up for Canadian civil rights.

Waterloo Region National Day of Action Bill C-51 Events

11:00AM Waterloo Walk against Bill C-51

I love the idea of a protest march where the marchers pass out information.  The march will begin at the University of Waterloo, in the Davis Centre Quad

(the big ‘green’ space between Davis Centre, Mathematics/Computer and Chemisty buildings). Then we’ll walk down University Avenue, past Laurier, down King Street until Victoria Park and City Hall. There will already be a rally in progress at city hall, so if you want to stay at the rally you can meet up there and talk to some cool people. Otherwise, you can bus back or something.

NOON Kitchener-Waterloo Day of Action Against Bill C-51STOP

has merged with Julian Ichim’s Info Picket against Bill C 51 to create a single event at Kitchener City Hall.

Folks are welcome to meet up at Kitchener City Hall on March 14th at 12pm, 200 King St W. Federal Green party candidate Richard Walsh will be giving a short speech.

I have been told this is not a partisan event; Richard Walsh won’t be the only Federal Candidate for the 2015 Election slated to speak. I would certainly like to hear from candidates from all major Parties in Waterloo Region and sitting MPs on this very important subject.a

The weather is supposed to be lousy, but if they pass Bill C-51 this may be the last time anyone can attend a protest rally without risking 5 years in jail.

Stop Bill C-51

*”Majority” government in Canada does not mean a majority (which would be 50+%) it is a “plurality” — the winner only needs to get more votes than any other, not a majority of votes. Which means that a government that wins a majority of the seats in Parliament with only 39% of the vote (like Mr. Harper has) actually gains 100% of the power, which is effectively a dictatorship, not democracy.

Stand Up For Science: Heather Douglas, Ph.D.

Rally at Kitchener City Hall

Kitchener City Hall ~ “Stand Up For Science”

Interview: Scott Ramsay,Chair of Biology WLU

Heather Douglas, Ph.D.speaks to the crowd via megaphone


When I arrived at City Hall, I caught Rosie Del Campo‘s interview with a local scientist for CTV.  Scott Ramsay is the Chair of Biology at Wilfred Laurier University, explained why Canadian scientists feel the need to step out of the laboratory and into the political arena.

On Monday Kitchener was one of the 16 cities across Canada holding an Evidence For DemocracyStand Up For Science” rally.

Heather Douglas, the Balsillie School of International Affairs‘s Waterloo Chair of Science and Society at the spoke to the crowd about the Erosion Of Science In Canada, The Link Between Science And Democracy, And Why We Need To Increase Funding For Research In Both Basic And Applied Sciences.

I’ve posted two video clips from Ms Douglas’ talk on YouTube.

Heather Douglas

Standing up for Science

Heather Douglas Stand Up For Science ~ Kitchener

Organizer Terry Helm checks his camera

Terry Helm organized the  Kitchener “Stand Up For Science” rally.

Organizers Byron Weber Becker and Sharon Sommerville hold a "Proportional representation for a better democracy banner.

Fair Vote organizers, Byron Weber Becker and Sharon Sommerville
hold the “Proportional Representation for better democracy” banner.