Categories

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

– Naomi Klein discusses how Canada’s longstanding – if far from inevitable – identity as a resource economy is standing in the way of both needed action on climate change and reconciliation with First Nations:

In Canada, cultivation and industrialization were secondary. First and foremost, this country was built on voraciously devouring wildness. Canada was an extractive company – the Hudson’s Bay Company – before it was a country. And that has shaped us in ways we have yet to begin to confront.
Because such enormous fortunes have been built purely on the extraction of wild animals, intact forest and interred metals and fossil fuels, our economic elites have grown accustomed to seeing the natural world as their God-given larder.
When someone or something – like climate science – comes along and says: Actually, there are limits, we have to take less from the Earth and keep more profit for the public good, it doesn’t feel like a difficult truth. It feels like an existential attack.
The trouble isn’t just the commodity roller coaster. It’s that the stakes grow larger with each boom-bust cycle. The frenzy for cod crashed a species; the frenzy for bitumen and fracked gas is helping to crash the planet.
Today, we have federal and provincial governments that talk a lot about reconciliation. But this will remain a cruel joke if non-Indigenous Canadians do not confront the why behind those human-rights abuses. And the why, as the Truth and Reconciliation report states, is simple enough: “The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources.”
The goal, in other words, was to remove all barriers to unrestrained resource extraction. This is not ancient history. Across the country, Indigenous land rights remain the single greatest barrier to planet-destabilizing resource extraction, from pipelines to clear-cut logging.
– Susan Delacourt highlights Charlie Angus’ frustration with the Libs’ Teletubbie political style, while Tony Burman notes that Middle East relations represent just one more area where Justin Trudeau’s actions couldn’t be much further from his rhetoric. 
– But Ethan Cox’ report on an Indigenous treaty alliance also signals what may the most effective response – as rather than allowing the Libs to feign friendship while pursuing another agenda, First Nations are presenting a united and direct contrast to Trudeau’s plans. And Doug Cuthand points out the widespread protest against the Dakota Access pipeline as the latest and largest example of that solidarity being put into action.

– Meanwhile, Marc Lee signals what we might expect from a federal climate change action plan based on the working groups currently reviewing the options.

– Laurie Monsebraaten reports on a needed push to ensure that child care funding is used to create not-for-profit spaces. And Ashifa Kassam points to Wellington’s loss of water rights to Nestle as a prime example of what happens when corporate dollars trump public needs.

– Finally, Alon Weinberg discusses why now is the time to implement a proportional electoral system in Canada. And Craig Scott makes the case for mixed-member proportional over the other options under consideration. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Democracy Under Fire: Local MP to hold Teleconference.

September 27th, 2016 – MP Larry Miller will be hosting a community TeleForum for residents in the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. 7pm-8pm. Residents will receive a phone call at approximately 7pm and will be given instructions on how to participate.

Larry Miller, Member of Parliament for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, will be hosting a telephone town hall meeting (teleforum) with residents of the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound on the topic of electoral reform. The teleforum will take place on Tuesday, September 27th from 7:00p.m. – 8:00p.m.
Residents will have the opportunity to listen to and join in a discussion with Mr. Miller on the topic of electoral reform including: whether a national referendum is required to change the voting system, alternative voting systems, mandatory voting and online voting. The discussion from the teleforum will inform a submission from Mr. Miller to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE).
Residents will receive an automated phone call shortly before 7:00p.m. on the 27th and will be prompted to remain on the line. Those wishing to participate must simply remain on the line. Those who miss the call but receive a message on their answering machine will be given instructions on how to participate.
“I am looking forward to hearing a number of different concerns, questions, and opinions on electoral reform,” said Miller. “It is my hope that a community teleforum will allow for the greatest number of participants possible. I hope that all will take the time to participate in this important discussion.”
Those with questions or concerns about how to participate are encouraged to contact Mr. Miller’s office.
The Sun Times reports that….
Miller said there should be a full national referendum before changes are made to the electoral system.
He said about 80 per cent of the people he has heard from share that view.
Miller said about two-thirds of the constituents who have contacted him or responded to a question that was sent in a recent mail-out from his office have said they support the current first-past-the-post voting system.”
Personalty I am not going to bother, I have made my views known directly to the committee and I have little faith that Mr Millers report to them will accurately represent the wide variety of opinions that will no doubt been pressed by those that manage to get a minute or two to speak in the hour allowed at his teleconference.
As for the majority contacting him “supporting the current first-past-the-post voting system.” that may well be true in that the Conservative mantra is just that however this does not reflect the general feeling a cording to a number of national polls. The only reason for supporting a referendum on any changes is to further support this position in that those that do not understand a new system will undoubtedly vote for the status quo, and make no mistake some of the options currently on the table are fully understood by very few citizens.

Cross posted at The Rural Canadian
. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Local MP to hold Teleconference.

The Canadian Progressive: Electoral Reform Committee Launches Cross-Canada Public Consultation Tour

On Monday September 19, 2016, the Special Committee on Electoral Reform launched its cross-Canada tour to consult Canadians on the best alternative to replace the current anti-democratic first-past-the-post system. The post Electoral Reform Committee … . . . → Read More: The Canadian Progressive: Electoral Reform Committee Launches Cross-Canada Public Consultation Tour

Pop The Stack: My Letter to my MP on Electoral Reform

Dear Mr. Saini, I am one of your constituents and I must say very happy you won your seat and your party won the recent election even though I am not always a Liberal voter. I was unable to attend your open house last night in Kitchener with Minister Monsef but I have a strong […] . . . → Read More: Pop The Stack: My Letter to my MP on Electoral Reform

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

– David Dayen and Ryan Grim write that “free trade” agreements are in fact turning into little more than cash cows for hedge funds and other big-money speculators:

Under this system, a corporation invested in a foreign country can appeal to arbitration panels, consisting of three corporate lawyers, if that country enacts a law or regulation that violates a trade agreement or discriminates against the company. The ISDS courts can then award billions of dollars to the corporation to compensate it for the loss of expected future profits.

The problem is that these courts can also be used by speculators, who buy up companies for the sole purpose of filing an ISDS claim, or who finance lawsuits from corporations for a piece of the claim award.

“ISDS allows a small group of ultra-rich investors to extract billions of dollars from taxpayers while they undermine financial, environmental and public health rules across the world,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), an early opponent of ISDS, told HuffPost. “Our trade deals should not include ISDS in any form.”

The use of ISDS as a moneymaking engine, rather than for its initial purpose ― to protect foreign investors from having their factories expropriated or their businesses nationalized ― raises the question of whether there’s a better system available.

“Why should hard-won sovereign advances, like rules against polluting or consumer protections, be at risk when the obvious solution is for the investors to put their skin, not ours, in the game?” wondered Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden and a critic of TPP. “The simple solution is to have them self-insure against investment losses.”

– Mike Balkwill highlights the need to stop consulting endlessly about poverty, and instead take action by ensuring people have enough resources to meet at least their basic needs. Ann Hui reports on the especially dire circumstances facing First Nations families in Northern Ontario who have to spend upwards of half of their income on overpriced food. And Miguel Sanchez criticizes the Wall government’s attack on benefits to people with disabilities in Saskatchewan.

– Nicole Thompson points out how the Libs’ changes to the temporary foreign worker program are actually making matters worse for caregivers by eliminating any right to apply for permanent resident status. And Martha Burk documents how workers can lose out when employers force them to accept payroll cards rather than paycheques.

– Erich Hartmann and Alexa Greig argue that it’s long past time for Canada’s federal government to provide stable funding for health care in partnership with the provinces, rather than contributing only as much as it wants to at any given point. And Tom Blackwell reports on the dangers of relying on private providers by highlighting how they inevitably leave the public system to deal with complications.

– Finally, Tom Parkin notes that we should base our discussion of electoral reform on the actual experience of similar countries, not the obviously-false claims of people wanting to fearmonger us into accepting the status quo. And Andrew Coyne draws a parallel to the census as an argument for mandatory voting. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

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 ERRE@parl.gc.ca

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

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

– David Dayen wonders whether the Obama administration’s decision to end the use of private prisons might represent the needed start of a movement away from relying on poor corporate services as a substitute for public action:

Private prisons experienced more safety and security incidents. They had higher rates of assaults, inadequate medical checkups and compliance, eight times as many incidents of contraband cell-phone smuggling, and often housed new inmates in solitary confinement units, seemingly for lack of space. The report also detailed several grisly incidents since 2008: three riots in one Reeves County, Texas facility in two months; the death of a corrections officer in a riot in Natchez, Mississippi; and the closure of the Willacy County (Texas) Correctional Center, after inmates burned it to the ground.

It’s not hard to figure out why this happens. Private companies win contracts to manage federal prisons by undercutting the Bureau of Prisons’ operational costs. Unlike the government, private prison companies must also take their profit margins out of their budgets. The only way to make that work is to massively drop labor costs, corresponding to a severe degradation of the quality of prison management.

That reflects the problem with privatization as a whole. Private companies must carry out a government function—be it water, parking meters, mass transit, or K-12 schools—at a lower cost than the government can provide it, while taking their profit off the top. Time and again, the results reveal that to be impossible, at least if you want to provide the same quality of service. Yet we keep privatizing. Whether it’s Republicans expanding Medicaid or cash-strapped cities handing over bus service to Uber and Lyft, eventually costs shift from taxpayers to the users of the services, oversight becomes impotent as officials grow reliant on outsourcing contracts, and attempts to maximize profits lead to service breakdowns.

– But CBC reports that the worst is yet to come in Saskatchewan as Brad Wall has publicly put SaskTel up for corporate raiding.

– Jacki Andre discusses the hidden costs of living with a disability – which make it particularly unconscionable for Wall’s Saskatchewan Party to be trying to squeeze pennies out of people who rely on already-inadequate disability benefits.

– Floyd Perras highlights the multiple factors that contribute to (and exacerbate) homelessness. And Rocca Perla comments on the need to include social determinants of health within medical treatment of patients.

– Pat Rich describes the Canadian Medical Association’s rude awakening in finding out that Lib Health Minister Jane Philpott has no interest in its key priorities for improved care. And Alison points out how the Libs are conspicuously trying to wriggle out of their promise to end the unfairness of first-past-the-post politics.

– Finally, Anna MacDonald makes the case for stronger transparency as a means of limiting the harm of global arms dealing. But if there was any doubt that the Trudeau Libs are firmly on the side of weapons proliferation, Helene Laverdiere points out their inexplicable decision to stand against nuclear disarmament. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Evening Links

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- David Dayen wonders whether the Obama administration’s decision to end the use of private prisons might represent the needed start of a movement away from relying on poor corporate services as a substi… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Evening Links

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?

Question
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? “

Answer

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.

Question

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.”

Answer

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 http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/LocalGovernment/Voting/FileDownLoad%2C1895%2Cen.pdf

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

http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/ERRE/StudyActivity?studyActivityId=9013025

Evidence (which can be found under the individual meetings listing at http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/ERRE/Meetings) 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

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.- Yanis Varoufakis makes the case for an international progressive political system to ensure that social progress doesn’t stop at national borders:(T)raditional political parties are fading into irrelevance, supp… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

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

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- Andrew Jackson discusses the challenge of ensuring that stable jobs are available in Canada:Good jobs are a central mechanism in the creation of shared prosperity.What matters for workers is not just b… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Montreal Simon: The Desperate Cons and the Referendum Obsession

It's the Con's worst nightmare. The spectre of electoral reform coming after them, and threatening to drive them from power forever. And since they know only a referendum can save them, they spend an incredible amount of time calling for scre… . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: The Desperate Cons and the Referendum Obsession

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- Lucy Shaddock offers a response to the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ report on poverty and inequality in the UK, while McKinsey finds that hundreds of millions of people in advanced economies are seein… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- Glenn Greenwald interviews Alex Cuadros about his new book on how Brazil has been warped politically and economically by the whims of its billionaire class. And PressProgress takes a look at the impact… . . . → Read More: Wednesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.- Noah Zon points out that while it’s impossible to avoid rhetoric about eliminating “red tape” for businesses, we’ve seen gratuitous barriers put in place to prevent people from accessing needed public support:It… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- Paul Willcocks discusses British Columbia’s two-tiered education system and the role it plays in exacerbating inequality – which is well worth keeping in mind as Saskatchewan deals with the fallout f… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

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: 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

Northern Reflections: No Referendum

There is a lot of chatter — particularly from the Conservatives — about holding a referendum on electoral reform. Gerry Caplan doesn’t think a referendum is a good idea. He writes:To raise issues related to democracy is to raise the question of refe… . . . → Read More: Northern Reflections: No Referendum