Electoral Reform is probably the most called for item on the democratic reform agenda, and I suspect will be the most difficult to keep from being a very divisive promise given the strong opinions held by various individuals and citizen groups across the country. The promise is to:-
Form an all-party parliamentary committee to bring recommendations to Parliament on the way forward, to allow for action before the succeeding federal election. Ensure that electoral reform measures – such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting – are fully and fairly studied and considered. And within 18 monthsbring forward legislation to enact electoral reform.
I will cover the various possibilities regarding the types of voting systems in future posts, despite having written on that subject several time in the past I have some new thoughts as to the suitability of some of the proposals (in particular the much vaunted ‘proportional representation’). For now all I am going to say that I am very pleased that this proposal call for ALL systems to be “fully and fairly studied and considered” and that voting methods such as on line voting (and hopefully other ways of improving ways to vote) will be included in the committees deliberations. I hope that wide consultation will take place with all the ramifications of any proposed system considered, including the effect of more complex ballots upon the voting process.
Repeal the anti-democratic elements in the Fair Elections Act and scrap the Citizen Voting Act, restore the voter identification card as an acceptable form of identification. Work with provinces and territories, and support Elections Canada, to register young Canadians as a part of their high school curriculum. Support voter registration as part of a civic ceremony in high schools, support Elections Canada in proactively registering Canadians from groups that historically have lower voter turnout.
Given some of the problems identified by voters during the election its pretty clear that the entire voter identification system needs a major overall and modernization. Various government agencies both federal and provincial have multiple databases with our information in which they check our electability for various programs, make sure we pay our taxes etc etc but seem unable to maintain an accurate list of voters. Much of the problems encountered stem from the necessity to vote at a particular location, perhaps an updated system can eliminate that need. And YES, lets give our youth and other non voters the tools and information to get them involved in deciding their future governance.
Provide Elections Canada with the resources it needs to investigate matters that threaten the integrity of our electoral process. Ensure that the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Canada have the tools and mandate to encourage more Canadians to vote. Restore the independence of the Commissioner of Canada Elections so that they are freely able to prosecute electoral violations.
Even before the Conservatives removed much of their powers Elections Canasta was not doing a good job of identifying and prosecuting those (almost exclusively political operatives) who abused the system, whether this was from lack of power or lack of resources is hard to tell but we do indeed need a strong independent body with the power to fully investigate such fraud. Election Canada is such a body, let us give them the tools they need to do their job which should indeed include urging all Canadians to vote when given the opertunity.
Appoint an Advertising Commissioner to assist the Auditor General in providing oversight on government advertising. Proposed messages will be reviewed by the Advertising Commissioner to ensure they are non-partisan and related to actual government requirements. Review electoral spending limits, and also ensure that political party spending between elections is subject to limits.
Create a more inclusive, independent commission that will organize leaders’ debates during election campaigns, with a mandate to increase Canadians engagement and knowledge of the issues.
These three items are all part of the same thing in my view, the ability of those who would seek to represent up, both individuals and partys, to be able to place their point of view and proposals before the public with some measure of “fairness’ as compared with the incumbent partys and / or individuals or partys with resources far in excess of some of their oponents. Elections have become far to much about who can spend the most in ‘advertising’ (although it does not always result in the expected result as we have just seen) and as a result alternative views are all but unheard in the ensuing media war. We know that the Harper regime was using public money to toot its own horn for years prior to the election and this tenancy now seems to be spilling over into provincial governments (at least here in Ontario) so any oversight to check this practice is a good thing. The practice of excluding this or that leader of an established party from national debates is part and parcel of the ever increasing tilt to that “playing field” and must be corrected.
Its hard to say how all this will shake out but each of the proposals are a step in the right direction IMHO, at this point I remain optimistic that our new government and our parliamentarian’s will work together to bring many of these reforms into being. I truly hope that our MPs will put partisan rhetoric aside and agree to strengthen our democratic systems for as we have seen it can so quickly and easily go the other way however we are already seeing some rhetoric that this system or that will benefit this party or that. I do not envy the “committee” on this one!
. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Promises- Electoral Reform, spending & advertising.