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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

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.- PressProgress points out that a large number of Canadians are justifiably concerned about our economy, with a particular desire to rein in income and wealth inequality. And Guy Caron notes that there’s no reason for … . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Northern Reflections: No Reason To Reject The System Outright

As Canada moves towards proportional representation, the Cassandras are wailing loudly. Andrew Coyne gives two examples — from opposite ends of the political spectrum:Here, for example, is Bill Tieleman, B.C. NDP strategist, writing in The Tyee: “H… . . . → Read More: Northern Reflections: No Reason To Reject The System Outright

Northern Reflections: No Reason To Reject The System Outright

As Canada moves towards proportional representation, the Cassandras are wailing loudly. Andrew Coyne gives two examples — from opposite ends of the political spectrum:

Here, for example, is Bill Tieleman, B.C. NDP strategist, writing in The Tyee: “How would you like an anti-immigrant, racist, anti-abortion or fundamentalist religious political party holding the balance of power in Canada? … Welcome to the proportional representation electoral system, where extreme, minority and just plain bizarre views get to rule the roost.”

At the other ideological pole, here’s columnist Lorne Gunter, writing in The Sun newspapers: “PR breaks the local bond between constituents and MPs … In a strict PR system, party leaders at national headquarters select who their candidates will be, or at least in what order they will make it into Parliament …” 

To the sceptics, Coyne writes, look at the countries where PR has been adopted:

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, all of whose parliaments are wholly or partially elected by proportional representation. 

We can at least describe accurately how their political system actually works, rather than rely on caricatures born of half-remembered newspaper clippings.

At one end, you have countries such as Austria, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Sweden, all with six to eight parties represented in their legislatures — or about one to three more than Canada’s, with five. At the other, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, with 10 to 12. 

Virtually all of these countries have some element of local representation: only the Netherlands, whose total area is less than that of some Canadian ridings, elects MPs at large. And none uses the “strict” form of PR Gunter describes, known as “closed list.” Rather, voters can generally choose which of a party’s candidates they prefer, so-called “open lists.”

How unstable are these systems? Since 1945, Canada has held 22 elections. In only one of the PR countries mentioned has there been more: Denmark, with 26. The average is 20. It is true that the governments that result are rarely, if ever, one-party majorities. But, as you may have noticed, that is not unknown here. Nine of Canada’s 22 federal elections since 1945 have resulted in minority parliaments. 

The sceptics like to point to two countries — Israel and Italy. But both countries are outliers:

The Israeli parliament has 12 parties, Italy’s eight. By comparison, France, which uses a two-round system, has 14, while the United Kingdom — yes, Mother Britain — now has 11. More to the point, there are circumstances unique to each, not only in their parliamentary systems — Israel uses an extreme form of PR, while Italy’s, which has gone through several, defies description — but in their histories and political cultures. 

So, yes, it’s important that the system be designed with care. But the fact that two countries have designed their systems poorly is no reason to reject the system outright.

Image: canadians.org . . . → Read More: Northern Reflections: No Reason To Reject The System Outright

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

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

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.- Rick Salutin argues that we need to say no to any more trade agreements designed to privilege corporations at the expense of the public. Will Martin reports on the IMF’s long-overdue recognition of the failures of ne… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Afternoon Links

The Canadian Progressive: NDP forces Liberals to surrender electoral reform committee majority

The Liberals will no longer exercise majority control over the special parliamentary committee tasked with liberating Canada from its 149-year old anti-democratic first-past-the-post electoral system. The post NDP forces Liberals to surrender electoral… . . . → Read More: The Canadian Progressive: NDP forces Liberals to surrender electoral reform committee majority

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

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how Justin Trudeau’s control over the federal electoral reform committee looks to extend a familiar pattern of top-down government into the design of our electoral system. (And I’ll add one point here which didn’t make it into the column: the … . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Northern Reflections: The Fat Is In The Fire

In a superb piece for the Globe and Mail, Ed Broadbent, Alex Himelfarb and Hugh Segal argue that Canada needs true proportional representation. Nothing else will do:The central problem with our winner-take-all system is that the composition of our ele… . . . → Read More: Northern Reflections: The Fat Is In The Fire

wmtc: 39% is not a majority: fair voting now

Will you sign a declaration to make Canada more democratic?Declaration of Voters’ RightsAnd some myth-busting about proportional representation:A ranked ballot is not a voting system.How will anything get done?Is proportional representation constitutio… . . . → Read More: wmtc: 39% is not a majority: fair voting now

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- Carol Goar summarizes the Institute for Research on Public Policy’s review of the steps needed to rein in inequality in the long term, while pointing out the one factor which will determine whether any… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Northern Reflections: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

                                          … . . . → Read More: Northern Reflections: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, expanding on this post as to Nathan Cullen’s proposal to make sure the outcomes of all plausible electoral systems are taken into account in designing a new one. For further reading…- Again, Cullen’s proposal was reported on here, and discussed… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.- Heather Stewart discusses the possibility of a 20-hour work week to better distribute both work and income. And without going that far, Andrew Jackson suggests that our public policy priorities should include a n… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: On double majorities

Nathan Cullen’s proposal for party representation on the Parliamentary committee reviewing electoral reform has received plenty of attention. But it might actually go much further than advertised to validate the results of the committee’s work and legi… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: On double majorities

Accidental Deliberations: On strategic choices

Christopher Kam’s series of posts on political parties’ strategy surrounding electoral reform is definitely worth a read. But I’ll stand by the view that there’s another alternative interpretation of the likely outcomes – particularly based on the like… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: On strategic choices

Accidental Deliberations: On standards for reform

Others have duly criticized the Star’s editorial on electoral reform. But I’ll argue that it can be brought in line with reasonable expectations with one important change.Simply put, it’s not a problem to insist upon “broad consensus” on a new electora… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: On standards for reform

BigCityLib Strikes Back: FPTP Or Not FPTP?

I don’t mind the Cullen/Coyne option, where we adopt a new system, have one election under it to see how we like it, and then have a referendum, where going back to pure FPTP is one of the options. Personally, I like better the idea of ratifying a newl… . . . → Read More: BigCityLib Strikes Back: FPTP Or Not FPTP?

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.- Nicholas Fitz observes that inequality is far worse than the U.S. public believes – even as it already wants to see significant action. And Thomas Piketty updates his policy prescriptions arising out of Capital:… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.- Paul Krugman discusses the connection between concentrated wealth and extreme anti-social political behaviour:Wealth can be bad for your soul. That’s not just a hoary piece of folk wisdom; it’s a conclusi… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.- Owen Jones writes that the UK’s flooding is just one example of what happens when the public sector which is supposed to look out for the common good is slashed out of short-term political calculation. And J. B… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

Bill Longstaff: Why a referendum on electoral reform would be a very bad idea

The need for electoral reform in Canada has never been more stark. We have just endured nine years of government by a political party that over sixty per cent of us opposed. That is simply not democratic. We have an electoral system, but we don’t have … . . . → Read More: Bill Longstaff: Why a referendum on electoral reform would be a very bad idea

Accidental Deliberations: On failed diversions

Not surprisingly given my previous comments on the Libs’ electoral reform promise, it’s a plus that they’re sticking with it rather than giving in to any demand for a referendum. And hopefully the temporary diversion raised by the Cons will lead the pa… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: On failed diversions