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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 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

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 http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/ERRE/Meetings 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 http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/kady-liveblog-mps-talk-irish-electoral-reform-experience-with-dublin-professors

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 http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/kady-liveblog-mps-talk-electoral-reform-with-former-pco-clerk-alex-himelfarb
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 http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/kady-liveblog-mps-talk-electoral-reform-with-political-science-professors-former-deputy-minister

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 http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/ERRE/Meetingsand watch the video of each session. I do note that one “expert” has summarized his initial presentation on his blog at https://afhimelfarb.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/proportional-representation-fairness-representativeness-and-accountability/ which may be worth viewing. Also see Kadys brief overview of the week.

. . . → 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 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: 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.

UPDATE
A reader has provided a link to the Committee Web Site, it is :-
  http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/ERRE

Contact them at  ERRE@parl.gc.ca

UPDATE #2
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: 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 … . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: When The Senate Works As It Should…..

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…..

Saskboy's Abandoned Stuff: #RoboCon: Revisiting the 2008 Election Fraud

In light of this news from Elizabeth May, it may be worth re-reading these blog entries from 2012 and 2009. Duffy’s trial raised some damning information about the first infamous robocalls used to steal an election for the Conservatives in B.C. And read Alison’s more recent recap. I certainly think that Duffy’s testimony should be […] . . . → Read More: Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff: #RoboCon: Revisiting the 2008 Election Fraud

Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Committee Now More Democratic

“Liberal MPs will throw their support behind NDP MP Nathan Cullen’s counter-proposal to divvy up the seats around the committee table based on the share of the vote parties received in the last election.That works out to five Liberals, three Conser… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Committee Now More Democratic

Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Committee Now More Democratic

Liberal MPs will throw their support behind NDP MP Nathan Cullen’s counter-proposal to divvy up the seats around the committee table based on the share of the vote parties received in the last election.
That works out to five Liberals, three Conservatives, two New Democrats and one each for the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May, all of whom will have full voting rights.
That means the government will have to garner the support of at least one other party to win a vote at the committee table.”

I am very pleased to see that the Liberals have finaly seen the wisdom of NOT having a majority vote on the committee to recommend changes to our voting system. As I have said before it is important that any decision must not only be non partisan but must be seen to be non partisan, the new makeup of the committee goes a long way to ensuring that.

Perhaps now the committee can have a discussion about ALL the various systems available without the spurious allegations that this system or that flavors this party or that. There is little doubt that ‘proportional systems will enhance the possibility of smaller partys (particularly the Greens) of getting more seats in The House but I believe that the more diverse make up of voting members will result in a much better outcome.

Now lets get the process started and not rush the public consultation part of the deliberations where almost everyone who has really studied the options is just as torn between the choices as will be the committee members. I do not envy then their work on this!

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Committee Now More Democratic

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Responsible Government #nlpoli

Many of you may not have heard of Jerry Dean until this past week.Jerry is from Botwood. Last fall the people on Exploits district elected him as their member in the House of Assembly.  He’s been a around the block a bit.  His official biogra… . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Responsible Government #nlpoli

Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform – Choosing the Committee Members

This week the government has announced the structure of the all party parliamentary committee that will study what electoral system reforms will be put before parliament. Unfortunately they did not accept suggestions that said committee should not have a majority members from any political party (in this instance the Liberals). As several commentators have said, myself included, this leaves them wide open to being accused of swaying the outcome to their own particular preference. Indeed such accusations are already being made before the actual members of said committee have even been selected, true a member of the Bloc and Ms May representing the greens are to be included BUT as ex-officio members with no voting rights. We have yet to see exactly who will be on said committee or how they will be selected.

It seems to me that given these two ex-officio members a say in the actual outcome would even thing out by giving the committee with three Tories and a single NDP MP versus 6 Liberal members a more even and less partisan appearance. I will say here that I personally prefer the ranked ballot favoured by the Libs and, despite being a Green Party member do not agree with their stance as preferring “proportional representation” (although that term is meaningless without also saying what method of obtaining that outcome you favour), I do trust Ms May to make decisions and recommendations only after fully reviewing all the options. I just feel that such an important decision must not only be free of partisan interference but must be seen and perceived as such.

Whilst the actual voting system is getting all the attention thus far it must be remembered that the committee is also charged will examining several other aspects of our voting system including the physical manner in which we vote and identification of voters. In that regard I note that Ontario has said its trial of using modern technology to improve the process has been deemed a success and be recommended for adoption for future elections in Ontario.

If Elections Ontario has its way it will require 41 per cent fewerstaff when the province goes to the polls in 2018 — yet voters will cast ballots faster and get results more quickly.
A substantial investment in new technology is the key to delivering these efficiencies, and Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa is urging Queen’s Park to spend $36 million on new gear. This represents a solid investment in democracy, one that should be undertaken soon since it will take about two years to put the proposed new system in place.
Rather than having voters line up at tables while polling station workers look up each name on a paper record, staff would use electronic poll books in the form of a laptop or computer tablet. These can instantly scan a voter’s notice of registration card, significantly speeding up the process.
Furthermore, instead of marking a conventional ballot, electors would indicate their choice on a sheet that would then be electronically scanned by a vote tabulator. It’s a fast and highly accurate system. With this, Elections Ontario estimates it could report 90 per cent of results within about half an hour of polls closing.
Whilst I would love to be able to vote electronically either at the voting booth of from home via the internet there is one seemingly insurmountable problem with getting such a system – veryfiability – both at the time and after the fact so the above system seems like a good compromise.

One issue that I hope both Ontario and the Committee will consider closely is the design of the paper (card?) ballot bearing in mind that it should be both simple to understand and mark and machine readable, the ballots used in the past where tabulating machines were used were far from ideal and depending upon the system selected for federal elections could become much more complex.

The Government’s main objective is to replace first-past-the-post with a system that will deliver better governments for all Canadians and asks the committee to focus on five key principles to get this done:

  1. The link between voter intention and election results;
    ii) How to foster civility in politics and increase voter participation;
    iii) Steps to strengthen inclusiveness and accessibility;
    iv) Ways to safeguard the integrity of our voting system; and,
    v) Taking into account local representation.

They also have said they haveseveral other objectives on this file but its unclear if they will be included in the committees study! . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform – Choosing the Committee Members

Alex's Blog: Alex’s Blog 2016-05-12 18:36:30

A couple of days back, Ed Broadbent, Hugh Segal and I published an op-ed making the case for some form of proportional representation. Yesterday the government announced its process for assessing a range of options, making 2015 the last federal election under our first past the post system. And today the editorial pages are awash … Continue reading . . . → Read More: Alex’s Blog: Alex’s Blog 2016-05-12 18:36:30

Politics, Re-Spun: Parlez-Vous Contempt?

Comment? Conservative contempt for democracy, representation, culture, and people not like themselves [really really white!] does not end with Harper or #TheNewHarper. This new francophone minister, the anglophone Squires, not only clings to her talking points as if her political life depends on it [which it does], but she also waxes unironically about herself, showing … Continue reading Parlez-Vous Contempt?

. . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: Parlez-Vous Contempt?

Politics, Re-Spun: Parlez-Vous Contempt?

Comment? Conservative contempt for democracy, representation, culture, and people not like themselves [really really white!] does not end with Harper or #TheNewHarper. This new francophone minister, the anglophone Squires, not only clings to her talking points as if her political life depends on it [which it does], but she also waxes unironically about herself, showing … Continue reading Parlez-Vous Contempt?

. . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: Parlez-Vous Contempt?

Saskboy's Abandoned Stuff: It’s Saskatchewan’s Election Day

I basically stopped writing about the Saskatchewan election on my blog following the hair pulling, anti-democratic decision by CBC and its consortium of TV broadcasters to block most party leaders from debating with Wall and Broten. So we’ll go another 4 years not knowing how those two shouty leaders behave when there are adults in […] . . . → Read More: Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff: It’s Saskatchewan’s Election Day

Democracy Under Fire: When is our raise coming?

Members of Parliament and senators will get a $3,000 increase Friday in their base salary, while cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will receive a larger raise – at a time when Canadians are struggling with stagnant wages and rising unemployment.
The wage hike of 1.8 per cent for MPs and 2.1 per cent for senators is about four times what the federal government has offered public sector unions and executives in the federal public service……………..
Federal legislation automatically gives MPs an annual pay hike on April 1 that’s equal to the average percentage increase negotiated by unions with 500 or more employees in the private sector. The data are published by Employment and Social Development Canada.
The pay hike for MPs is nearly double the average increase of one per cent that public sector unions negotiated in jurisdictions across Canada in 2015.
MPs have the option of freezing their own salaries through federal legislation, but the government has decided not to do so. Salaries for MPs were frozen at 2009-10 levels until the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year under legislation introduced and passed by the former Conservative government……………
Since the MP wage freeze was lifted in 2013, the base salary of members of Parliament has increased eight per cent, from $157,731.
Taxpayers will cough up an extra $25.4 million for an increase of 20 per cent to office budgets for MPs and House of Commons officers that also takes effect Friday.

I don’t think most Canadians have much sympathy for the notion that MPs need a pay hike, considering they already earn far more than the average Canadian.” said Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

And he would be right about that, why is it that their compensation is based upon average PRIVATE sector UNION wages when by far the greatest number of taxpayers are paid far less than union rates and rarely if ever see raises of any amount. Next thing you know they will want to be paid for two weeks of sick days just like or poor hard done by teachers …..oh wait, they get paid whether they show up or not don’t they Mr Harper?

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: When is our raise coming?

Democracy Under Fire: When is our raise coming?

Members of Parliament and senators will get a $3,000 increase Friday in their base salary, while cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will receive a larger raise – at a time when Canadians are struggling with stag… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: When is our raise coming?