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Democracy Under Fire: Meaningful Changes or Lipstick on the Pig?

In the unholy rush to jam their Unfair Elections Act through before the majority of Canadians realise just how bad and self-serving piece of legislation it is the Harper regieme has asked the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to “pre-study” it. In short order the Conservative-dominated committee has come back with a number of changes that it would like to see, remember this is just a “pre-study” not full hearings and that the House of Commons has yet to finish its initial study of this bill. The House Affairs Committee studying the bill will conduct one more day of (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: Stealing Our Democracy: Linda Frum, Talking Points and the Dumbf

*Dumbf = dumbfuckery – a condition that appears to be unique to the creation of Harper Government talking points regarding Bill C-23.

On Huffington Post this morning, I read Michael Bolen’s commentary on Bill C-23 which led me to Linda Frum’s more verbose op-ed defending her TWITter position from earlier this week.

Ms. Frum is a shadow of her brother when it comes to writing political polemics, and the Op-Ed which the Globe and Mail had the poor judgement to publish demonstrates that in spades.

According to Ms. Frum, there’s a conflict of interest in the mandated missions of Elections (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: Stealing Our Democracy: The Senate Takes A Swing

Okay, now the Senate is talking about wanting to see some amendments to the Harper Government’s bill to undermine Canada’s democracy.

The interim report recommends: 

— Removing a provision which would allow political parties to exempt from their election expenses any money spent to raise donations from anyone who has donated at least $20 over the previous five years. Experts have called this an unenforceable loophole that would allow rich, established parties with big donors’ lists to spend untold millions more during campaigns. 

— Requiring automated call service providers to retain records of campaign robocalls for three years, (Read more…)

Democracy Under Fire: Prerequisites for Democratic Legitimacy

Anita Vandenbeld author of an article called ‘Imposing Legitimacy: The Dilemma of International Democratic Development’for LawNow magazine and former director of parliamentary affairs for Jacques Saada, the first minister of Democratic Reform in 2004, recently wrote an article on the legitimacy of bill C23. In it, in contrast to her previous article where she raised the question of how democratic institutions become legitimate in the eyes of a population, she now asks how do democratic institutions losetheir legitimacy?

Here are some extracts, read the whole thing at Ipolitics:-

Basically, I argued there are five prerequisites for democratic legitimacy: (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: Bill C-23: Accountability for Thee Not For Me

It’s not exactly news that Harper has never liked Elections Canada.  In fact, it’s less than news.  His outraged utterances about Elections Canada when he was head of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC) in the 1990s set the tone for the content of Bill C-23.

“The jackasses at Elections Canada are out of control.” 

In 2001, Stephen Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition. That was his opening line in a fundraising letter. 

His loathing for the election overseers was almost pathological, recalls Gerry Nicholls, the conservative commentator who worked with Mr. Harper at the NCC. (Read more…)

Democracy Under Fire: Winning at All Costs.

I think we are all sick of the win at all cost mentality of our political parties and their leaders, this mentality is not restricted to just the Harper Regime, although it is certainly most prevalent with that group of oligarchs, but can be seen with very few exceptions in all parties and both provincial and federal politics. I recently came across a piece from Scott, a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in Political Studies who puts it like this:-

“Almost all of the political parties in today’s system seem to be more concerned (Read more…)

Bill Longstaff: The "mother of all accountants" flays election bill

Sheila Fraser was once one of Stephen Harper’s favourite people. When she, in her capacity of auditor-general, exposed the Chretien government’s sponsorship scandal, sewing the seeds that would bring down the Liberals, Mr. Harper praised her handsomely as the “mother of all accountants” and in a neat turn of phrase remarked she “did not say that she thought that something smelled fishy. She

Democracy Under Fire: Citizens Protest Unfair Election Act

Many of my reader will be aware that last Tuesday a number of citizens gathered in front of Conservative MP’s Offices across the country to show their opposition to the Unfair Elections Act that is being railroaded through the legislative process by the Harper Regime. One such non partisan gathering sponsored byLeadNow took place in front of my local MP’s office, that of Larry Miller, where folks from several opposition parties and local non partisan groups spoke to the crowd. Kimberly Love of the Liberals and Karen Gventer of the NDP spoke of the injustices – the removal of (Read more…)

Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Integrity of Act Questioned.

When 19 international Scholars from six democracy’s across the world add their voice to the over 150 Canadian scholars and almost universal condemnation of the Harper Regime’s attempt to introduce partisan bias into our election rules and to reduce the powers of the world respected Elections Canada then you know something is very wrong with the proposed legislation.Here is their open letter which clearly sets out SOME of the problems with this Bill:-

We, the undersigned, international scholars and political scientists, are concerned that Canada’s international reputation as one of the world’s guardians of democracy and human rights is (Read more…)

Democracy Under Fire: Undemocratic Democratic Reform

Are changes to an electoral system in a democracy valid if they are brought in by a less than democratic process, are they in fact valid if the very ‘independent’ body charged with overseeing said electoral system is excluded from the process? Are they valid if recommendations from said body are ignored, debate within our parliamentary system on such measures is curtailed, concerns by parliamentarians and democracy experts across a broad range of political and non partisan stripes fall upon deaf ears? Are they in fact actually antidemocratic if they are not generally accepted by those whos right to select (Read more…)

Progressive Proselytizing: The "Fair" Elections Act isn’t just bad, its being implemented in a bad way

Changes to our electoral system – changes, that is, to the very core of our democracy – are not to be taken lightly. Regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum, we should be able agree on process. We should be able to agree that such changes must be taken with an open and transparent process that engages a genuine debate in Canada.

I dislike many aspects of the proposed electoral reform bill. Pouring more money into elections – asymmetrically advantaging the Conservatives – is a terrible idea. Making it harder to vote – asymmetrically advantaging the Conservatives – (Read more…)

CuriosityCat: Canada: A Simple Election Law (“SEL”)

At the Montreal convention, the Liberal Party overwhelmingly agreed to Priority Resolution 31, Restoring Trust in Canada’s Democracy. An important part of that resolution is this: AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT immediately after the next election, an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve Canada better. Electoral reform has a bad record of success in Canada, with several referenda for modernizing our antiquated and undemocratic (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: On Voter Engagement

One of the purported panaceas for electoral disaffection, subscribed to by many, is some form of proportional representation, a subject upon which I admit to being poorly-schooled. Beyond some of the basic arguments both for and against PR, I know little. However, one of the most frequently-stated reasons for embracing it is that it would do much to remediate people’s oft-stated reason for not turning out at the polls: the belief that their vote doesn’t matter, certainly a perception that has been, I believe, promoted and exploited by the Harper regime to its advantage.

Although not considered a version of (Read more…)

Democracy Under Fire: The Undemocratic Election Act

“The things in it that are good could have been so much better, but the things that are bad are unforgivable in a democracy.”

Recently Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had an opportunity to speak to the Commons Committee considering Bill C23, The ‘Fair’ Elections Act. What follows are some extracts from that presentation, for a full transcript and audio of that speech please go the her MPs website.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to be able to speak to Bill C-23 today. I want to pause and say that when we have these rushed processes (Read more…)

CuriosityCat: Ontario Byelections: The change that really counts

It seems that the leaders of all three poltical parties in the province of Ontario sense that voters want change.  Premier Wynne, leading a minority Liberal government, was rejected by voters in the two byelections, but says change is wanted: Real Change Wynne?

After writing off the byelections as “skirmishes” that aren’t indicative of how things will go in a general election, Wynne vowed that the Liberals will do better whenever the campaign is held. “I know people are looking for change in this province,” she said. “Well I’m the change. My plan is the change. My team (Read more…)

Bill Longstaff: Electoral reform—PR is not a voting system

Observing debates about electoral reform online and elsewhere, I notice one error cropping up consistently: the notion that proportional representation, like first-past-the-post, is a voting system. It isn’t, of course. It is a goal, something you try to achieve with your voting system.

They are two different things and the difference is important because one frequently encounters the argument

Democracy Under Fire: The (UN)Fair Elections Act

As is usual with so many of the Bills proposed by the Harper Regime the ‘Fair’ Elections Act has so many changes buried in the fine print that it is almost impossible for all but the most dedicated and knowledgeable researchers to really understand the implications of it all. Whilst there is little doubt that some changes were needed (in particular in view of the robocall issue) I must question that our election Act was so problematic that it needed a 247 page rewrite, and that just for the CHANGES to it!

I intended to read the whole thing as (Read more…)

Democracy Under Fire: The Fair Elections Act

The Conservative government will introduce changes to the Elections Act this week that caucus members expect to restructure the office in charge of investigating violations. “It’s the Fair Elections Act,” Poilievre said.Given the Conservatives penchant for naming bills in an Orwellian fashion we had best keep an eye on this one. I suspect it will be more of a “Government Control of Election Investigations Act”.

It has been reported that “The bill would remove the Commissioner of Canada Elections, where the investigators work, from Elections Canada and set it up as separate office” Which of course is just about (Read more…)

Impolitical: Liberal reformers

A few thoughts here on today’s announcement by Justin Trudeau that Liberal Senators will no longer be part of the Liberal caucus and are now to sit independently.

One of Trudeau’s lines that stood out for me was this one: “At our best, Liberals are relentless reformers.” Recently, on the death of Jim Coutts, an opinion piece he wrote in 2004 was circulated, and in it, we found this: “The current policy markers of the Liberal party have evolved over time and are fairly familiar to many Canadians. The most crucial Liberal markers are these: Reform, which is so (Read more…)

Democracy Under Fire: Response to Minister of Democratic Reform

Just two days before Christmas the GPC received a letter requesting a response on their ideas for electoral reform to be received before Jan 4th. The timing of the letter and the requested response makes the genuineness of the request suspect. We wonder who else was or will be invited to respond and what their response was or will be. Despite the almost impossible time line Elizabeth May of the Greens did reply with several much needed suggestions. Here is her response in full:- Dear Mr. Minister,

The President of the Green Party of Canada, Paul Estrin, received a (Read more…)

Democracy Under Fire: 2014 – The year we ‘loose’ our democracy?

Whilst some say that it is already gone and that we are being subject to an Oligarchy well on its way to a Dictatorship, a view that I find it hard to argue against, there is still hope. The recent push back by a small number of Conservative MP’s gives me a little hope, Michael Chong’s introduction of a private members bill to limit leaders’ powers is one such small step, Bruce Hyer’s brave & principled step to quit the NDP caucus due to being forced to vote as dictated by the party whip and more recently to join the (Read more…)

Democracy Under Fire: A Gift of Democracy for Christmas

For those who may not know Leadnowis “an independent advocacy organization that brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy.” They are particularly focused upon building “a stronger democracy that protects our environment, creates economic opportunity while increasing equality” Leadnow has become THE organization for those concerned with these things, and who cannot be, to support and become involved with and their “plan’ is outlined below as distributed with their latest fund raising appeal. It is an unfortunate reality that it is going to take not only thousands of concerned citizens to spread the word to (Read more…)

A BCer in Toronto: My problems with Chong’s Reform Act and my own preferences for reform

Having finally gotten around to reading Michael Chong’smuch-ballyhooed Reform Act, which is being pushed by the media pundit class with a fervor that would make most partisans blush, I feel that, while well-intentioned, what the act proposes is flawed and suffers from a narrowness of view that has trouble looking south of the Queensway.

The act deals primarily with three things: the ability of the caucus to fire the leader, the nomination process (ending the ability of the leader to veto a candidacy by refusing to sign their nomination papers), the removal of MPs from caucus, and the election (Read more…)

The Progressive Right: #ReformAct Problem — Caucus Initiating Leadership Reviews (#cdnpoli)

There’s one part of the Reform Act that I’m really stumbling over. Specifically the notion that 15% of a party’s caucus can initiate a caucus review of the party’s leadership. If a majority of the members of a caucus agree then that the leader should be removed, the leader is removed and an immediate vote is held to name an interim leader so the party mechanism can be initiated to select a new leader.

Not all parties have the same mechanism to select a leader nor do all political parties leave leadership selection to members only – the Conservatives, and (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: Thought’s On Chong’s Reform Bill

Michael Chong’s Bill C-559 is a relatively short piece of work, but it has taken me a bit of time to go through it and start to understand the implications of the changes being proposed, mostly because it contains a series of small changes to much larger acts – in particular the Canada Elections Act, but also the Parliament of Canada Act.

As I read through the proposed changes (which required a lot of flipping back and forth to the current Acts to fully understand), I started to come to the conclusion that in some respects this bill (Read more…)