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Democracy Under Fire: No Consensus without Referendum say Conservatives.

“There will be no consensus that includes the Conservative party that does not include a referendum” “there is simply no flexibility of any form.” Conservative MP Scott Reid the party’s senior member on the electoral reform committee. Well Mr Reid how one can achieve consensus by setting preconditions, particularly ones that are all but . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: No Consensus without Referendum say Conservatives.

Democracy Under Fire: An Electoral Framework for the 21st Century

Marc Mayrand, the outgoing chief electoral officer, has apparently put together a number of suggested changes that he would like to see made to our electoral system. I can only say thet the eight highlighted by Kady in the Ottawa Citizen look pretty good to me……..

“While it’s well worth perusing the full . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: An Electoral Framework for the 21st Century

Democracy Under Fire: A Farce of a Electoral “Consultation”?

Last week I posted the details of out local Mp’s (Larry Miller) upcoming Telephone Town Hall re Electoral Reform not to promote him but to promote discussion about this important initiative. Well said teleconference is now history and the reports are in and they are not good. I had said in my previous post . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: A Farce of a Electoral “Consultation”?

Politics, Re-Spun: Get Uppity, BC, or Get Screwed Again

I’ve written about being “uppity” many times before. It’s a controversial word. It’s been used to insult women and people of colour who don’t know their place. Who don’t know they should keep quiet and not try to cut back on white male entitlement. Don’t ya know. The fear of being uppity creates a chill … Continue reading Get Uppity, BC, or Get Screwed Again

People who read this page, also read:

. . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: Get Uppity, BC, or Get Screwed Again

Saskboy's Abandoned Stuff: #ERRE Electoral Reform Committee in Regina

First Expert guests I watched presenting to the committee were unable to understand French question fired at them because they were not equipped with translation headphones. Nathan Cullen leaped up and got the headsets for them. CLC points out they are a political org and that is why they are interested in this subject of […] . . . → Read More: Saskboy's Abandoned Stuff: #ERRE Electoral Reform Committee in Regina

Democracy Under Fire: Special Committee on Electoral Reform to travel across Canada

With a mandate to broadly consult Canadians from all walks of life, the Special Committee on Electoral Reform will criss-cross Canada this coming September and October. The Committee will use this opportunity to hold formal hearings and public sessions where members of the public may share their views on electoral reform, online voting and mandatory voting. For the open-mic sessions, it will be first come, first served. The format for these public sessions and the specific locations for the sessions remain to be determined. A press release providing further details will be issued at a later date.

The Committee’s mandate was set out in the motionadopted by the House of Commons on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The Committee must present its report to the House of Commons no later than December 1, 2016.

Committee’s Travel Schedule (Tentative)
Monday, September 19 Regina, Saskatchewan
Tuesday, September 20 St-Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Wednesday, September 21 Toronto, Ontario
Thursday, September 22 Québec, Québec
Friday, September 23 Joliette, Québec
Monday, September 26 Whitehorse, Yukon
Tuesday, September 27 Site visit (to be determined)
Victoria, British Columbia
Wednesday, September 28 Vancouver, British Columbia
Thursday, September 29 Leduc, Alberta
Friday, September 30 Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Monday, October 3 Montréal, Québec
Tuesday, October 4 Halifax, Nova Scotia
Wednesday, October 5 St. John’s, Newfoundland
Thursday, October 6 Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Friday, October 7 Fredericton, New Brunswick
To be determined Iqaluit, Nunavut

Those wishing to contribute to the Committee’s discussions may find out how do so by reading the full news release on the Parliament of Canada website..

We wonder exactly how useful these few meetings where the committee members will hear a few opinions from a limited number of people on a first come first heard basis, I would suggest a written submission would be to the committal to be much easier and more effective for most folks. I also wonder about the above proposed schedule which details one meeting per province or territory EXCEPT Quebec where 3 are scheduled and BC where 2 are on the list, I wonder what criteria such inequality was based upon?

We know that each MP is expected to hold a ‘Town Hall’ to permit some of their constituents to express their views on electoral reform and many have done so already and been reported upon in various local news media. It will be interesting to see how closely the subsequent reports from those MP’s match the actual general tone of said meetings and how much of the various ‘party lines’ colour these synopsis of the meetings!

Finally for those not following such thing closely one of the Conservative members of the committee has withdrawn, it is unclear if a replacement has been named or if he or she will be equally wasting the committee’s time bellyaching about having a referendum!

According to the Hill Times’s report, Mr. Kenney “quietly gave up his spot on the key federal reform committee in the middle of August.” How quietly? According to the publication, his resignation was “unbeknownst to journalists who at the time were covering testimony” to the committee on Aug. 22, and also “even unknown to at least two MPs on the busy panel” until last week.
No loss I would say given his confrontational style both in this instance and elsewhere.

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Special Committee on Electoral Reform to travel across Canada

Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Online Survey Available

The Special Committee on Electoral Reform began witness hearings in July and this week, launched an electronic consultation to probe citizen views on electoral systems and other vital aspects of voting. The introduction to that multiple choice sur… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Online Survey Available

Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Online Survey Available

The Special Committee on Electoral Reform began witness hearings in July and this week, launched an electronic consultation to probe citizen views on electoral systems and other vital aspects of voting.

The introduction to that multiple choice survey says in part:-
The House of Commons has created a Special Committee on Electoral Reform to identify viable alternative federal voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system and to conduct a study of them, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting. As part of its mandate, the Committee is using various tools and methods to consult with Canadians. This e-consultation is one such consultation tool intended to solicit Canadians’ views both on voting and on the election of Members of Parliament. The Committee’s report to the House of Commons will take into consideration the results of this consultation.
What to Expect
Before completing the e-consultation, you will have the opportunity to familiarize yourself with background material on electoral systems.
If you consent to participate in this e-consultation, you can expect to complete the questionnaire within approximately 30 minutes. (or less)
You do not need to complete the questionnaire in one sitting. You can interrupt the e-consultation at any question, save your work, and return to it at a later time. If you plan to complete the e-consultation in more than one sitting, it is recommended that you bookmark the webpage.
Find the survey Here

Those with a greater understanding of the issues than the average citizen may find themselves wishing for the ability to further define their answers, there is however a comment section at the very end. As noted in a previous post those with more to say can send their commentsvia this web form or via email to

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Online Survey Available

Democracy Under Fire: Irish PR-STV system

In my last post I promised to take a harder look at the Irish electoral system of Open List PR-STV which is, as I said before a combination of a multi riding STV and Preferred Ballot system. I will start by covering some of the remarks made by Michae… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Irish PR-STV system

Democracy Under Fire: Irish PR-STV system

In my last post I promised to take a harder look at the Irish electoral system of Open List PR-STV which is, as I said before a combination of a multi riding STV and Preferred Ballot system. I will start by covering some of the remarks made by Michael Gallagher, Professor of Comparative Politics, Trinity College Dublin and Michael Marsh, Emeritus Professor, Trinity College Dublin in their presentation to the Electoral Reform Committee.

“Nothing comes without problems, and there are two problems in particular that might be identifiable. One is that constituencies as we call them, ridings, would have to be much larger, both in geographical size and in population because proportional representation necessitates multi-member constituencies, so ridings would be much larger, and they already are huge in some cases. In addition, government formation becomes a much more complicated process because single party government would be very unlikely. It’s very hard for any party under a really proportional system to win an overall majority.”
I note that whilst STV systems produce more proportionality than FPTP they are NOT a proportional system in and of itself.

“To expect an electoral system change to transform the whole nature of politics and make it more civil and so on, I think, is probably unrealistic. Generally we shouldn’t try to over-explain things through the electoral system. A lot of people do look at countries, including Ireland, and say that Irish politics works this way, and it’s got that electoral system, so it must be cause and effect. Very often it’s not. “
I have said before in these pages that expecting a change in our voting system to cure all the problems in our system of governance and expect parliament to suddenly become more ‘functional’ is dreaming in technicolour!

“When voters go to vote, they see a ballot paper with all the candidates in the constituency listed. In Ireland they’re listed in alphabetical order. That’s not necessary, but that’s the way it’s done in Ireland. Votes are cast for their favourite candidate, their second favourite, their third favourite, and so on. They don’t have to vote for any more than the favourite. They might vote for the favourite and then quit and not give a second preference. Or they might go from their favourite right down to the bottom of the ballot paper and cast number 17 for their least favourite.
This part is much the same as in Preferred Ballot systems except for the inclusion of candidates from 3 or more ridings.

“As to the counting process, if we went over a detailed, stage-by-stage, blow-by-blow explanation, it would all sound rather more complicated than it really is.”
I disagree with this statement, it not only sounds complicated but is VERY complex. See the fuller explanation of the counting system later in this post.

“The surplus distribution is the most complex part of (this system of) STV. What’s more straightforward is that if a candidate fares very poorly, and gets only a few hundred votes, those votes are not wasted. The candidate is eliminated from the count and the votes are transferred to other candidates in accordance with the second preference marked. If that candidate in turn is later eliminated, the votes are transferred on in accordance to the third preference marked, and so on. The aim is that even if a voter votes for someone who doesn’t do very well, this vote is not wasted as it is under the first past the post system. “
He makes it sound simple but in their particular system it is NOT.

“The counting is a multi-staged process. It takes much longer than a first past the post count. ……… Counting is not an instantaneous process—it can be several days before the full result emerges……….

When it comes to counting, the system that’s used in Scotland, for instance, in local elections, is electronic, so it’s instant. “

If this system were adopted electronic counting of the ballots and calculation of the results would, in my opinion, be essential. Recounts could still be assured by having the ballots both human and machine readable.

“A few thoughts on how PR-STV might work in Canada. At the moment you’ve got 338 MPs, so if Canada had PR-STV there might be around 70 to 90 multi-seat ridings, each returning anything from maybe three to seven MPs, or it could be more. Just looking at a few particular provinces, we see that Newfoundland and Labrador currently has seven single-seat ridings that might become one three-seat riding and one four-seat riding, for example. Prince Edward Island currently has four single-seat ridings that would become one four-seat riding. New Brunswick currently has 10 single-seat ridings that could become two five-seat ridings. It could be that really large geographical areas like Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon would remain as single-seat ridings. I see that Labrador is a single-seat riding. Labrador is about three times as big as the entire island of Ireland, so to us it’s unbelievable that this would be just one— “
Can you imagine a ballot with 4 (ridings) x up to 5 (parties) or up to 20 candidates to rate? Can you imagine the line ups waiting for folks to figure in what order to rate them?

Is there a preference built into the system for causing the more rural, more lightly populated areas to have a smaller number of TDs in order to keep the districts within a reasonable geographic size, and then do the opposite when it comes to the urban districts? That tends to have been the discussion in Canada, when we’ve debated this kind of system, that we would have larger numbers of members per district in the urban areas and fewer in the rural areas. Is it the same thing there, or is there a different logic? “


No, not really. In a word, there isn’t. That would create a potential unfairness. The parties that were stronger in the cities would kind of lose out because they might not get their fair share of seats in the smaller rural constituencies, whereas the big parties would do better in the rural ones and only get their fair share in the urban ones.
This whole question of making our already large (rural) ridings even bigger (even with several Mps representing the area) leaves me shuddering with the thought of the possibility of ALL those chosen living hundreds of miles away from those the purport to represent.


The riding I represent in British Columbia is four times the size of the entire country of Ireland. My people come from Longford (Ireland) and I looked it up and my riding is 330 times the size of Longford. The notion we’re looking at is to create even larger constituencies in the rural communities. You’re designated by the constitution in Ireland. We’re not limited that way here in Canada, I don’t believe. The notion of having even larger rural constituencies, as you can imagine, gives some pause. There’s been a notion to have a hybrid in which we had an STV or some sort of proportionality within the more dense urban populations, yet leave the rural constituencies as they are. Has anyone mused about that in Ireland, or are you simply constrained by your constitutional requirements to keep
 We are constrained by the constitutional requirements. In fact, there was a referendum back in the 1960s on allowing for a higher level of representation in rural areas, thinly populated areas, than in urban ones.”


I’ve always wondered how it is that STV can be proportional, given, as you say, that there’s no proportionality that is privileged by the way the seats are organized; there’s no separate set of seats to represent the imbalance that’s created by voting at the constituency level.
 Within each constituency there’s a reasonable degree of proportionality, especially in the larger ones, such as the five-seat constituencies. In three-seat ones, in particular, you might not get such proportional results, but what nearly always happens is that, simply on the law of averages, if a party loses out in one place they’ll win out on another occasion.
I simply do not believe this would produce such results in Canada in part due to those huge districts and in part due to our greater number of political partys as compared with Ireland. I also note that the professors said that the more combined riding’s in a district the more proportional the results become the less number the less proportional. Thus this system and STV as a whole can be said to be more proportional than FPTP but is NOT fully proportional and should not, in my view, be called such.

Some member of the committee had difficulty understanding the counting system which as I said above is NOT simple. I have tried to assemble the concise explanation below gleaned from an official outlinethat left my head spinning.

In the Irish system of counting the Preferential part of the PR-STV voting system is totally opposite from the normal method where the bottom candidates are eliminated and the second choices are added to the previous count.

In that in this system they are electing several individuals per district they first count the number of ballots and then calculate the minimum number of votes required to be elected (in a 3 riding district a quarter of the votes plus one). Any candidate receiving more votes than this ‘threshold’ is deemed elected. Any excess votes for elected candidates over this threshold are distributed as per the second choice on the ballot, because the number of transferable votes may be more than the remaining ballots the votes are distributed in proportion to the number of selected secondary choices. With the removal of these ballots from any ‘elected’ candidate the ‘excess’ votes are recalculated and further votes removed over the elected threshold from any elected candidates for the next round.
Very, very complicated counting system that few would fully understand and takes several days to complete when done by hand as it is in Ireland……… !!

A complete explanation can be found here

Transcripts and submissions (briefs and witnesses) including my own submission can be found here-

Evidence (which can be found under the individual meetings listing at is the edited transcript of what is said before a Committee and includes both remarks made by Members of the Committee and those made by the witnesses. Please note that the Evidence is only published for public meetings and may take approximately 1-2 weeks to be posted to the Committee web page.

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Irish PR-STV system

The Progressive Economics Forum: Central Agencies in Canada

Do you ever sit in bed late at night wondering what it is that Finance Canada, the Privy Council Office and Treasury Board Secretariat actually do? Well, wonder no more my friends! Over at the web site of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, I’ve written a blog post titled “Ten things to know about central agencies […] . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Central Agencies in Canada

Parchment in the Fire: Neoliberalism and De-democratization in Greece

Public discourse of neoliberalism often fails to appreciate the extent to which it entails not a simple process of de-regulation, but rather, a process of pro-market re-regulation. In many cases, constraints are removed from the organizational capacities of capital while more constraints are imposed upon organized labour. For example, the neoliberal era has witnessed increasing… More Neoliberalism and De-democratization in Greece . . . → Read More: Parchment in the Fire: Neoliberalism and De-democratization in Greece

Song of the Watermelon: National Post Letter

You will find a letter of mine in today’s National Post enumerating the many benefits of proportional representation. In order to read it, please click here and scroll down to the second last entry (or see the last entry in … Continue reading . . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: National Post Letter

Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Committee Hearings Continue

The meetings of the Parliamentary committee studying Electoral Reform resumed this week with presentations from a series of “expert” witnesses. In the first of these meetings the call for a referendum once again came to the fore and was quickly shot down by all three experts! This after Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef told the committee on July 6 that referenda are divisive and not the best way of seeking clarity on the issue,and Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand earlier having estimated the price tag would be around $300 million.

After having reviewed the synopsis of the weeks proceedings as presented by that long suffering reporter Kady O’Mally in her live blogging (as apparently the only reporter actually viewing and reporting live from the meetings, as opposed to watching on parl-view, she is to be congratulated for her perseverance and deserves our thanks) I was struck by a number of things. Firstly how much time was wasted discussing the need / possibility a referendum, mostly in response to questions from the conservative contingent. The committees mandate, so far as I can tell, was to study and recommend to parliament a system of selecting our parliamentary representatives NOT to decide upon how such a system would be implemented. The choices are complex enough without bringing up this issue which most of the expert witnesses dismissed as “not particularly good at resolving complex issues” or otherwise inadvisable.
I also noted that with a few notable exceptions the presentations and discussions were very general in nature rarely getting into the ‘mechanics’ of any of the options discussed. One presenter even went so far as to say that such details were unimportant. I beg to strongly disagree, the details of the chosen system, particularly should that choice be some form of MMP, is fundamental to both the outcome and the acceptance of such a system.
The discussions of STV systems seemed to get a fair bit of attention perhaps in view of the early presentation by two Irish professors promoting their system of Open List PRSTV which as I understand it combines STV with Ranked Ballot in muti-constituentcy districts. (I must dig deeper into that system!). Despite what has been touted as the liberals preferred system Ranked Ballot seems to have received very little attention from either the presenters or the committee members. Finally before I attempt to summarize Kadys summary I note that the evening video conference with the Australian and New Zealand Electoral Commission commissioners was not covered by Kady which given that their systems are one the most often referred to in discussing MMP systems is a shame. ( no shame to Kady as she had already sat through two sessions that day). I may view the video and comment if / when I get time!

Here then are a few extracts from what reporting there is on the proceedings (my bold and italics), the meeting are all available on parl-view via the committee web site at no transcripts are available so far as I can tell.

Day one (Momday) the committee heard from:-
• R. Kenneth Carty, Professor Emeritus, The University of British Colombia
• Brian Tanguay, Professor, Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University
• Nelson Wiseman, Director, Canadian Studies Program, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

Ipolitics reports that:-
Ken Carty (professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia), who served as the director of research for the B.C. Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, said the evidence from that referendum suggested a large majority of the people who cast ballots in that referendum knew nothing about the issue on which they were voting. And that evidence from Ontario’s referendum suggests the same.
Nelson Wiseman (professor at the University of Toronto) said “I would not put the issue of an alternative voting system to a referendum. It’s unnecessary; it’s a waste of money; and it will almost certainly fail. You may as well recommend not changing the system and save Canadians the cost.”
When asked about his preferred electoral system for Canada, Wiseman suggested the hybrid system used in Alberta and Manitoba between the 1920s and 1950s — with a single transferable vote system used in the cities (Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg) and an alternative ballot in the rural areas. (As a rural resident I have previously pointed out in these pages how unsuited STV is in rural and remote areas of Canada)
“If you live in a large metropolitan area, it doesn’t matter if the MP represents Davenport or Spadina Fort-York — the issues are similar. However, if you live outside of those cities it’s very vital,”
A heated exchange of Monday’s meeting took place between Brian Tanguay (professor at Wilfred Laurier University) and Conservative MP Jason Kenney, who has remained a federal MP and member of the committee despite having announced his intention to become leader of a united Wildrose and Progressive Conservative party in Alberta. Tanguay arguing for proportional representation and Jason saying that “some of the most dysfunctional democracies in the world are in the consensual category”

Day two (Tuesday) the committee heard from:-
• Michael Marsh, Emeritus Professor, Trinity College Dublin
• Michael Gallagher, Professor of Comparative Politics, Trinity College Dublin
• Patrice Dutil, Professor, Ryerson University
• Peter Russell, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto
• Tom Rogers, Electoral Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission
• Robert Peden, Chief Electoral Officer New Zealand Electoral Commission

Extracts from Kadys live blogging follow, see

The Irish electoral system uses (a version of) the Single Transferable Vote, which, Gallagher tells MPs, does lead to a closer relationship between share of the vote and the composition of the Parliament itself.
It does, however, require much larger ridings, he notes – –  as multi-member constituencies are needed — and it does indeed make it distinctly less likely that one party can command a majority.
“You mustn’t expect too much from electoral system change,” he warns the committee — it won”t “transform” the basic nature of politics by instantly rendering it more civil and collaborate. Expecting that from a change to the vote count formula would be “unrealistic,” he notes.
Marsh makes a pretty good pitch for the extended, 24-36 hour vote counting process, which, by his account, turns into a marathon political reality show to which the entire country is riveted.
Kenny still banging on about referendum as per Irish changes (as he and his fellow conservatives did throughout the entire week) Marsh warns that it would take a whole lot of resources to ensure there was enough information and awareness out there.
Peter Russel:-
Minorities, he reminds MPs, can often make Parliament more meaningful. (Minority *parliaments*, that is.)
As for “false majority” , his explanation is surprisingly simple: He just gets irked when governments and leaders claim a mandate from “the people,” an assertion he describes — with preemptive apologies to the public — as “BS” .
Russell also predicts that, in a post-FPTP minority, there likely wouldn’t be constant confidence votes, simply because there would be no incentive to do so in order to force an election and win a majority for your own party. 
Kady notes that Dutil is, indeed, very pro-referendum. (One of the few)
NOTE (A third session took place in the evening with the Aussi and NZ presenters which is not covered here)

Day three (Wednesday) the committee heard from:-
• Henry Milner, Senior Researcher, Chair in Electoral Studies, Université de Montréal
• Alex Himelfarb, Clerk of the Privy Council, 2002-2006
• André Blais, Professor, Department of Political Science, Université de Montréal
• Leslie Seidle, Research Director, Institute for Research on Public Policy
• Larry LeDuc, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
• Hugo Cyr, Dean, Faculty of Political Science and Law, Université du Québec à Montréal

Kady reports (in part) see
Henry Milner gives a quick(ish) rundown of the arguments included in the much more extensive written brief he provided in advance, (which as with other similar documents does not seem to be available on line)
Kady – In his view, MMP is the only alternate to First Past The Post that ensures every voter has a person in the House to represent them, while still making every vote count.

Using Ottawa as an example. There would be six districts, he estimates, which might be larger than the existing ridings. That would mean six MPs, who would be voted for directly by the electors, and then another four seats that are divvied up according to vote share, from a list. So, everyone has their own MP, and there are four other members hanging around as at-range extras. 

Milner does not seem to be prepared to go into the details of how those lists would be assembled, which is, of course, a fairly critical element of any such system. (Exactly Kady!)
Himelfarb notes that, while he’s not going to endorse any one system, he believes that any option must ensure the voters, not the party, chooses the names on a list, which may or may not involve preferential weighting.  He confesses to a fondness for multi-member and single transferable vote systems, but he very much opposes lists created by parties — this is, he says, supposed to be about voters, not parties, so it should be open list or no list.  He also reminds MPs that “design matters.” (As I said at the top the ‘mechanics’ of the system chosen the details of the resign do indeed matter)
Blaikie then gives Milner the opportunity to outline the different models for putting together a list — should it be the party? Or the voters through second-round voting? Milner is actually fine with a closed-list, which is a courageous stance in this context, as noted earlier. But he’s also not opposed to the idea of having voters go through that list, although he worries that some might it find it difficult to do so.
Himelfarb, however, is very much in favour of an open list, which, he says, also makes it clear to the *candidate* that if they don’t make a special effort to “win the hearts and minds” of the voters, they may pay the price.

Following Kenney’s lead, Theriault, too, tries to get the witnesses to agree to the need for a referendum. (Nothing new here!)
Next up: Larry LeDuc, who says look at New Zealand it took three elections, two referendums and nine years, but they did *eventually* do it. (change their voting system). He seems to be a fan of process and principles over practical recommendation, and cautions the committee against delving too deeply into the details of any one possible option. (Say what!)

In conclusion, he sides with Peter Russell: the main job of an electoral system is to reflect the will of the voters. That, he says, is why he believes in list-based PR, as it both achieves that goal and is, after all, the most widely used in the world, unlike STV which is used only in Ireland and Malta. 

Ruby Sahota askes his thoughts on referendum,s he’s not implicitly opposed to the very idea of such a vote, but sees many, many, many shortcomings, including the ‘disinformation campaign’ that can result during a short, “chaotic” campaign.

Day four (Thursday) the committee heard from:-
• Dennis Pilon, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, York University
• Jonathan Rose, Associate Professor, Department of Policital Studies, Queen’s University
• Maryantonett Flumian, President, Institute on Governance,

And Kady had this to report (in part) see

First up: Dennis Pilon, who like the vast majority of witnesses to appear before the committee this week, he seems to be pretty keen on proportional representation; he also finds the arguments that insist the constitution requires a referendum to be ridiculous, and laments the increasing proliferation of such “internally inconsistent” logic appearing in the media, courtesy of the “right wing think tanks”  behind the funding.

Rose doesn’t believe it’s up to Canadians to design a new electoral system: That, he thinks, is the job of this committee. What Canadians must do is let the committee — and presumably the House and the government — what principles they believe are critical.  If the desired output is proportional representation, we must then go back to the principles to determine how to make that happen, which means asking questions about local representation and the potential tradeoffs that might have to be made.
(Kady says – Over the course of these hearings, it’s becoming clear that no one really wants to discuss tradeoffs that may occur under their preferred voting system, but that probably shouldn’t come as a surprise.)  (And yet each and every system will involve such ‘trade offs’ and it will be important for the committee to understand such shortcomings)
Flumian thinks that turnout could be boosted by making it less of a hassle to register — and to cast a ballot — particularly, although not exclusively, for youth.  She brings up the Conservative-initiated limits on vouching – –  allowing an elector to vouch for just one other voter — and suggests that might have had a dampening effect. On online voting, Flumian enthusiastically clicks yes
“Selling a voting system is like selling a car,” Pilon observes — voters want to know the basics, not the mechanics underlying it.and most voters don’t need to have the counting system explained to the point that they could serve as an  emergency deputy returning officer in a pinch, (but you do if you wish to actually understand the system and comment upon it with any authority!)
Apparently,it’s also we-the-media who are responsible for convincing everyone that if you can’t explain the voting system in 15 seconds or fewer, it’s a write-off. (In point of fact it take many hours of study to fully understand many of the systems being proposed as I have personalty found out!)

On referendum, (more wasted time) Flumian agrees that it tends to be “a very blunt instrument,” and one that has, at least for those in the generation that currently dominates this table, been divisive and not particularly good at resolving complex issues. 
Pilon — that in the Irish system, voters get very good local representation, and can even choose between *different* representatives from the same party.  (Still have to do more research on that one)
Reid, – Given the sheer size of this country, will it not be very hard to ensure that ridings don’t become even more vast, or sacrifice true proportionality by putting a cap on the number of members?  Rose doesn’t disagree that this is one of those tradeoffs.

Thats it, I am sure it hardly touches the approximately 20 hours of presentations and discussions, for that you will have to go to watch the video of each session. I do note that one “expert” has summarized his initial presentation on his blog at which may be worth viewing. Also see Kadys brief overview of the week.

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Committee Hearings Continue

Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Committee Hearings Continue

The meetings of the Parliamentary committee studying Electoral Reform resumed this week with presentations from a series of “expert” witnesses. In the fist of these meetings the call for a referendum once again came to the fore and was quickly shot… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Committee Hearings Continue

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Brexit Madness: Propaganda and Hyperbole

The media and the politicians are screaming that the world will end if Britain really does leave the EU. The absurdity of this now-standard narrative should be clear from the outset to anyone of sound mind. But in case it is not, let us say this. The E… . . . → Read More: Writings of J. Todd Ring: Brexit Madness: Propaganda and Hyperbole

Politics and its Discontents: Democracy’s Shortcomings*

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”― Winston S. ChurchillThe above is clearly not in accord with the thinking of our ‘betters,’ aka the corporate elite, who are now lamenting the terrible things that democracy … . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Democracy’s Shortcomings*

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Feeling the Bern-Out? Feel the Movement

To put it briefly, it’s the movement that matters. The office of the President is secondary to the movement, and almost, but not quite, peripheral. Winning the presidency is significant. It can be a rallying point which inspires the people to further… . . . → Read More: Writings of J. Todd Ring: Feeling the Bern-Out? Feel the Movement

Writings of J. Todd Ring: The Death of the Democratic Party

  Let’s start with some basic facts about Hillary Clinton, the darling of Wall Street and the Democratic party establishment, and why her credibility is both threadbare, and also collapsing. From there, after establishing a basic reality check, … . . . → Read More: Writings of J. Todd Ring: The Death of the Democratic Party

Writings of J. Todd Ring: In or Out? Democracy, the EU, and the Fate of the Earth

The people of Britain have now voted to leave the EU. That vote has deeper and more far-ranging consequences than many people realize. Among other things, it means the beginning of the dissolution and death of the EU. And I would say that is a very goo… . . . → Read More: Writings of J. Todd Ring: In or Out? Democracy, the EU, and the Fate of the Earth

Saskboy's Abandoned Stuff: Clinton Lied But No Consequence. It’s Like It’s the 1990s Still

“Here, for the record, is Clinton saying, on March 10, 2015, “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email.”” I’m particularly offended by this oligarchy-outcome because Clinton is guilty of doing what she persecutes American hero Ed Snowden for doing – “mishandling classified information”. Yet he lives in exile in Russia, […] . . . → Read More: Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff: Clinton Lied But No Consequence. It’s Like It’s the 1990s Still

Saskboy's Abandoned Stuff: Leave Or Remain In? The Former UK Chooses Out And About Does Itself In

Brexit: It’s a term I first heard months ago on Twitter in relation to people mostly angry with immigration in the UK. It means “British Exit from the European Union”. The country narrowly voted to leave the EU, and the economy/currency Pound Sterling soon crashed from the uncertainty of the Prime Minister resigning, the opposition […] . . . → Read More: Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff: Leave Or Remain In? The Former UK Chooses Out And About Does Itself In

Democracy Under Fire: Democratic Reform Committee Members Named

Although Minister Maryam Monsef has nothing about the makeup or members of the Electoral Reform Committee on the Democratic Institutions web site it seems that the MPs to serve on this important committee have been named. according to the CBC they are :-
Conservatives: Jason Kenney, Scott Reid and Gérard Deltell
Liberals: John Aldag, Matt DeCourcey, Sherry Romanado, Ruby Sahota and Francis Scarpaleggia
NDP; Nathan Cullen and Alexandre Boulerice
Bloc Québecois: Luc Thériault
Greens: Elizabeth May.

The committee will elect its chair on Tuesday and is expected to hold hearings through the summer. The next few months will also include what is being described as “a series of national outreach engagements” with the minister of democratic institutions, Maryam Monsef, and her parliamentary secretary, Mark Holland.”

I presume the committee will have its own web site and that citizens will be able to submit their views directly to the committee in the very near future. I do hope they will be more forth coming than what appears to be a lack of communications from the Minister and her staff who at this time do not even have a direct contact email on their web page but mail must go through the PCO?

I am rooting for Ms May as chair but its liable to be one of the liberals!
Note: The committee elected Francis Scarpaleggia as chair and Nathan Cullen and Scott Reid as vice chairs.

A reader has provided a link to the Committee Web Site, it is :-

Contact them at

The Mandate of the Committee

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(16), the House proceeded to the putting of the question on the main motion, as amended, of Mr. Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley), seconded by Mr. Dubé (Beloeil—Chambly), — That a Special Committee on electoral reform be appointed to identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems 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:
1) 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;
2) 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;
3) 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;
4) 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;
5) 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 14, 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, including through written submissions and online engagement tools;
that the Committee be directed to study and advise on additional methods for obtaining the views of Canadians;
that the Committee be composed of twelve (12) members of which five (5) shall be government members, three (3) shall be from the Official Opposition, two (2) shall be from the New Democratic Party, one (1) member shall be from the Bloc Québécois, and the Member for Saanich—Gulf Islands;
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 all candidates for the position of Chair or Vice-Chair 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 (4) 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.

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Democratic Reform Committee Members Named

Democracy Under Fire: Democratic Reform Committee Members Named

Although Minister Maryam Monsef has nothing about the makeup or members of the Electoral Reform Committee on the Democratic Institutions web site it seems that the MPs to sever on this important committee have been named. according to the CBC they are… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Democratic Reform Committee Members Named

Democracy Under Fire: When The Senate Works As It Should…..

After years of the Conservative dominated Senate rubber stamping legislation and blocking amendments in committee we now have a situation where they are doing their job and proposing changes to a clearly flawed bill. Despite the Liberals using their majority to turn down all of the many amendments propped in the House to the Assisted dieing legislation it is fairly well established that as written it will not pass the constitutional test and the Senate has proposed a change to correct this, the reaction is perhaps predictable.
Both the Conservatives and some others are screaming that this is going to produce a parliamentary deadlock in that the minister responsible continues to defend the bill as written and shows no indication of accepting the senates recommendations. It has yet to be seen in both sides dig their heels in and compromise cannot be found bur the rhetoric that says the Senate is interfering with the process of passing this legislation is pure bloody nonsense! Their job is to study legislation in depth, including the constitutionality of it, and propose corrections to it for the House to consider, that in the past when the majority party numbers in the House and the Senate have coincided and flawed bills have not been properly examined or changed does not mean that such actions are correct or desirable. I am sure that there have also be periods when the majorities did not coincide and bills have been “held up” in the Senate before.
Although the number of “independent” senators in the chamber is not substantive (yet) the general tone of the place seems to be improving and the partisanship reducing, now if we can get the Liberals in the HoC to stop “acting like the previous government” and be more accepting of amendments to proposed legislation be it from their fellow MPs or from the Senate we might have something going right for a change. This has also happened to another bill before the Senate, the RCMP Union legislation!

Let us wait and see how the changes are dealt with when the bills are returned to to the House, it will be another definitive test of whether the election promises and rhetoric were meaningful or just that, promises and rhetoric! Step one, a totally free vote by all partys on this important issue when it gets back to the House.

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: When The Senate Works As It Should…..