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Pop The Stack: Don’t Throw Away Our Shot

For the first time, we find ourselves not as a reflection of another power. Our politics is not a derivation of Westminster or Washington anymore. Our politics is specific to us, not a derivation from a distant metropolis. — “Canada in the Age of Donald Trump” — Stephen Marche, The Walrus

Hello Prime Minister Trudeau, . . . → Read More: Pop The Stack: Don’t Throw Away Our Shot

Babel-on-the-Bay: Welcome to FPTP-Central.

It was never of our choosing. First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) voting was just something we were used to. We never thought we would be an advocate for it. It was more of a coincidence that travelling in Europe over the years, we were interested in how people voted and why they used different systems of voting. And . . . → Read More: Babel-on-the-Bay: Welcome to FPTP-Central.

Dead Wild Roses: Canada’s Election Day – I’d usually say, “Just go vote!”. Not this year.

Go vote! Or don’t! The FPP system will probably scuttle your intentions anyways. I hear spitting into the wind or pissing up a rope are fine substitutes for exercising the barest of minimums required for participatory democracy.

The getting out the vote campaigns are heroic and all that stuff, encouraging all those young . . . → Read More: Dead Wild Roses: Canada’s Election Day – I’d usually say, “Just go vote!”. Not this year.

Dead Wild Roses: Canada’s Election Day – I’d usually say, “Just go vote!”. Not this year.

Go vote! Or don’t! The FPP system will probably scuttle your intentions anyways. I hear spitting into the wind or pissing up a rope are fine substitutes for exercising the barest of minimums required for participatory democracy.

The getting out the vote campaigns are heroic and all that stuff, encouraging all those young . . . → Read More: Dead Wild Roses: Canada’s Election Day – I’d usually say, “Just go vote!”. Not this year.

Trashy's World: PSA – make sure you are registered to vote!

Due to their tinfoil hattedness fear of widespread voter fraud, the Harperites may have made it more difficult for many Canadians to vote in the upcoming election. So, I encourage everyone to share through the hills and dales, the highlands and the lowlands, yadda-yadda-yadda, the address for the Elections Canada site where one can verify . . . → Read More: Trashy’s World: PSA – make sure you are registered to vote!

Pop The Stack: If an election falls in the forest and nothing changes…ever, is it still a democracy?

I’m an outsider to Alberta politics so I will attempt to refrain from making any statement about who I think should win or what the important issues are in the election. But there are some disturbing, anti-democratic threads in the wave of editorial endorsements for the ruling PC party in Alberta that I want to . . . → Read More: Pop The Stack: If an election falls in the forest and nothing changes…ever, is it still a democracy?

The Liberal Scarf: Many Canadians aren’t voting, particularly young Canadians. Why? Because politics moves slowly.

This article on the ongoing decline in Canadian voter participation, particularly by youth in the Globe today by Michael Adams, President of the Environics Institute for Survey Research and  Maryantonett Flumian, President of the Institute on Governance  has been shared by more than a few people I know on Facebook, so I thought I would share my thought on the subject and some of the ideas the article raises.

One reason for declining turnout is a deep shift in social values away from deference to institutional authority. It used to be that if society’s leaders told us to do something, we did as we were told. Now people are more likely to make personal calculations about whether voting is worth the effort. Canadians are also less driven by a sense of duty than they once were. Eighty-three per cent of Canadians over 60 say voting is a duty; 48 per cent of those 18 to 39 agree.”

The decline in voter turnout over the past several decades is an inarguable fact, in large part driven by the continuing low turnout of Canadians under the age of 40. An interesting idea, however, is that while Canadians have turned away from voting as duty that must be done in service, Canadians do seem to still be engaged in voluntary civic activity that could be described as informal activism, compared to the “hard” activism of casting a ballot:

Indeed, recent research conducted by the Environics Institute as part of the biennial Americas Barometer survey, supported by the Ottawa-headquartered Institute on Governance, found Canadians expressing civic engagement in a number of ways besides voting. These included signing petitions, sharing political information online, and participating in demonstrations and protests.”

A couple of thoughts: One, I think the relationship between these two sets of data (declining voter turnout but a continuing level of engagement in politics and public affairs being expressed through other, more informal activity) is a point against mandatory voting, a potential idea the authors float in the piece. Introducing mandatory voting would be a way to bootstrap voter turn out for sure, but given that Canadians are turning away from voluntary voting when cast as a duty, I have serious doubts it would improve the actual character of Canadian politics. (I’m also going to take this opportunity to shameless promote improving civic education, an issue I have heavily advocated for and engaged with as readers of this space would know).

The other thought that I have related to casual vs formal political engagement, particularly as it relates to youth. When you sign a petition, go to a rally, share something on Facebook, re-tweet something, or yes, write a blog, you get an immediate result, some emotional fulfillment that you have done something. People might like the post, re-tweet it to others, post a photo of going to a rally, etc. It gives you an immediate return on the emotional investment you put into it. It feels good to do these things, and they are relatively simple and time effective ways to help promote a cause you feel inclined towards.

If you are effective enough, or the enough people are a part of the same cause, you can even get some pretty tangible results from casual activism, particularly since online activism happens in real time and can snowball pretty quickly. We’ve seen this happen enough times that I don’t have to link a particular example even; a person, brand, company etc sends out an insensitive tweet, says something discriminatory, etc. It gets publicized, hundreds of thousands of people tweet, Facebook, blog or something else the dismay and condemnation towards this, and the offending party issues an apologize, removes a social media manager, or announces a change in policy. I’m honestly not demeaning those who engage in a lot of political activity and activism online, since it can in fact have a pretty quick result. You see something you don’t like, you share a message publicizing the offending content or spreading a message, which lets you feel like even as an individual you are part of a greater cause, and not infrequently, you actually get a tangible reaction.

Compare that to the relatively more glacial pace of “hard” activism in politics and government. Bills go through multiple readings, go to committee, and can take years to be fully implemented, and that’s just on the government side. Within political parties, ideas can take years to gain popular support and become politically acceptable enough to become official party policy.

Right now, I have plenty of things that I’m annoyed at about the Harper government. Using the traditional tools of formal political engagement, what are my options. Well, I’m helping out my local Liberal candidate, encouraging people to read up on him, and consider voting for him…in an election that is scheduled to happen 8 months from now. And even if I do manage to change to minds of a lot of people at the doors, we have a majority government federally right now, so if the Conservatives just want to try and ride out the storm and push whatever issue and policy forward, they’re fully capable and entitled to under out parliamentary system. 

Sure, occasionally we’ve seen public opposition ferment to the degree that the Conservatives have had to back track or change course on a handful of initiatives such as the Fair Elections Act and potentially Veterans Affairs, but by and large in a majority government, the ruling party can do whatever they please as long as they keep at least a certain segment of the electorate onside, regardless of how loud those who are in opposition howl, or tweet, or blog, protest or petition. (I’m using the Conservatives as a punching bag, but I’m take my partisan hat off as the core concept remains the same regardless of which party holds power.)

So with that in mind, what can political parties and “traditional” political activists like myself do?

I think blending the ideas of formal and informal activism, through use of national days of action to train volunteers outside of an election period, but also things like internal petitions and social media teams are important. These are both ideas that have been developed in large part from the Obama campaign and brought north. While constant emails from parties can get annoying sometimes, you wouldn’t get them so constantly if they weren’t effective at engaging you in between elections.

I also think this should be a lesson to parties and activists to push to make sure they are responsive and relevant to the issues that people care about, as opposed to scandal mongering whatever happens to be the issue of the day. This is something that, to be frank, in the run up to the last federal election I think the opposition did too much, and it allowed Harper is position himself as “the only leader focused on jobs and the economy”, with a similar scenario I think playing out in Ontario with Hudak’s relentless focus on smearing the government when people had in large part moved on and wanted to hear what parties said on other issues. 

Ensuring parties themselves are open is also important to make sure people’s itch of engagement is scratched. The introduction of the supporter category during the federal Liberal leadership was a good first step, but personally I wouldn’t be opposed to going a step further and letting supporters vote in nomination meetings.

If we are, as Susan Delacourt suggests in Shopping for Votes, that Canadians are taking a more consumer based approach to politics, Canadian political parties can’t afford to overlook the importance of instant gratification in appealing to both the population as a whole and potential volunteers and activists. 

. . . → Read More: The Liberal Scarf: Many Canadians aren’t voting, particularly young Canadians. Why? Because politics moves slowly.

The Liberal Scarf: Many Canadians aren’t voting, particularly young Canadians. Why? Because politics moves slowly.

This article on the ongoing decline in Canadian voter participation, particularly by youth in the Globe today by Michael Adams, President of the Environics Institute for Survey Research and  Maryantonett Flumian, President of the Institute on Governance  has been shared by more than a few people I know on Facebook, so I thought I would share my . . . → Read More: The Liberal Scarf: Many Canadians aren’t voting, particularly young Canadians. Why? Because politics moves slowly.

atypicalalbertan: MY MLA? OL’ WHAZHIZFACE?

I have a question for you, dear reader. What factor was the biggest factor that drove your voting decision in the 2012 Alberta election? Did you base your vote on a platform, a leader, a party, a local candidate or was it a combination of two or more factors? The 2011 Canadian Election Study asked … Continue reading MY MLA? OL’ WHAZHIZFACE? . . . → Read More: atypicalalbertan: MY MLA? OL’ WHAZHIZFACE?

atypicalalbertan.ca: My MLA? Ol’ Whazhizface?

I have a question for you, dear reader. What factor was the biggest factor that drove your voting decision in the 2012 Alberta election? Did you base your vote on a platform, a leader, a party, a local candidate or was it a combination of two or more factors?

The 2011 Canadian Election Study asked . . . → Read More: atypicalalbertan.ca: My MLA? Ol’ Whazhizface?

The Liberal Scarf: CBC article on Ontario budget mentions my youth voter registration policy

Yes, this is shameless self-promotion on my part, but hey, my Mom thought it was cool:”The Liberals also plan to revamp the Grade 10 Civics curriculum to get students more involved in their communities and introduce voter registration in high schools.” . . . → Read More: The Liberal Scarf: CBC article on Ontario budget mentions my youth voter registration policy

The Liberal Scarf: CBC article on Ontario budget mentions my youth voter registration policy

Yes, this is shameless self-promotion on my part, but hey, my Mom thought it was cool:

“The Liberals also plan to revamp the Grade 10 Civics curriculum to get students more involved in their communities and introduce voter registration in high schools.”

. . . → Read More: The Liberal Scarf: CBC article on Ontario budget mentions my youth voter registration policy

Progressive Proselytizing: The effect on strategic voting of Wynne ruling out a coalition

Unfortunately, for those of us who think that some form of Liberal-NDP election deal or coalition would be vastly superior to the PCs forming a government with the largest minority, Kathleen Wynne has said that she won’t form a coalition with the NDP. Unsurprisingly, as this move changes the possible outcomes, it also has an . . . → Read More: Progressive Proselytizing: The effect on strategic voting of Wynne ruling out a coalition

Progressive Proselytizing: The NDP email on "strategic voting" is largely nonsense

The NDP has sent several emails to supporters before and during the campaign premised on the idea that the best way to stop the Conservatives is to vote for the NDP. Here is the latest: “This election, there is one simple trick you can use to stop a Conservative majority: vote strategically. 

We’ve heard about . . . → Read More: Progressive Proselytizing: The NDP email on "strategic voting" is largely nonsense

Progressive Proselytizing: Riding by riding strategic voting in the 2014 Ontario Election

I’ve always advocated for strategic voting on this blog where we vote based on promoting certain goals given the constraints of both our local riding and the broader election. This can take many forms; for instance, in “safe” ridings where the outcome is all but determined I often advocate voting for third parties that . . . → Read More: Progressive Proselytizing: Riding by riding strategic voting in the 2014 Ontario Election

Bill Longstaff: Voting—the opiate of the people?

A letter to the Deseret News, a Salt Lake City, Utah, daily paper, suggested rather unkindly that the rite of voting in the U.S. is nothing more than “the opiate of the masses.” I was rather surprised to find a quote from Marx in a newspaper owned by the Mormon Church.

The author of the . . . → Read More: Bill Longstaff: Voting—the opiate of the people?

Progressive Proselytizing: Quebec’s Highly Questionable Voting Eligibility Rules

Students who come to Quebec to study at universities like McGill – as my brother has done – are in a rather uncomfortable position when it comes to voting in the upcoming provincial election. Whether they will be able to vote at all is not easily determined. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest there . . . → Read More: Progressive Proselytizing: Quebec’s Highly Questionable Voting Eligibility Rules

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

Progressive Proselytizing: How to get involved in politics

Politics can be a deeply disenfranchising experience for many people. For an individual, it seems like we have no power, no way of influencing what is going on. So we can grumble around the dinner table about what the politicos are doing in Ottawa and Washington, or we can ignore it all, but either way . . . → Read More: Progressive Proselytizing: How to get involved in politics

The Liberal Scarf: Common Ground voting is closing soon, support my policy on Encouraging Youth Voter Participation and Improving Civic Education!

http://commonground.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Encouraging-Youth-Voter-Participation-Improving-Civic-Education/13731-25935

It’s on a Liberal website, but I think it’s a good non partisan idea that could have a positive impact on youth participation in the electoral process.

Many American states allow for youth voter pre-registration, so this isn’t a radical idea – it works in other places, why not Ontario? The Chief Electoral Office . . . → Read More: The Liberal Scarf: Common Ground voting is closing soon, support my policy on Encouraging Youth Voter Participation and Improving Civic Education!

Pop The Stack: Conservative Party Does Not Believe in Equality of Voters

This fascinating and scary post just showed up on the FairVote Canada Facebook page:

The Conservative version of equality. Bigger picture below.

A couple of things to notice here and I’ll just leave it at that.

They’re Worried

The Conservative party is worried about what the NDP and Green Party have to say about . . . → Read More: Pop The Stack: Conservative Party Does Not Believe in Equality of Voters

Pop The Stack: Conservative Party Does Not Believe in Equality of Voters

This fascinating and scary post just showed up on the FairVote Canada Facebook page:

The Conservative version of equality. Bigger picture below.

A couple of things to notice here and I’ll just leave it at that.

They’re Worried

The Conservative party is worried about what the NDP and Green Party have to say about . . . → Read More: Pop The Stack: Conservative Party Does Not Believe in Equality of Voters

Left Over: The Revolution will Start, With or Without Me….

Russell Brand’s Epic Interview With BBC’s Jeremy Paxman Just Might Start A Revolution (VIDEO) The Huffington Post | By Ryan GrenoblePosted: 10/25/2013 4:11 pm EDT

Many have seen Russel Brand’s remarkable interview with Jeremy Paxman, either on TV or YouTube..if not please go to the HuffPo article cited here and see it..the best ten minutes . . . → Read More: Left Over: The Revolution will Start, With or Without Me….

The Liberal Scarf: Haven’t had a chance to vote for my idea on Common Ground? Take just a minute to support youth engagement and better civic education!

My idea is ranked 40th out of over 1000 ideas suggested, and is in the top 10 for the education section. To vote, simply sign up and agree with the idea!

The Liberal Scarf: Brush up on my youth democratic participation and civic education policy in time for provincial council!

With provincial council coming up this weekend, here’s a brush up on my policy that got prioritized by the Ontario Young Liberals at Summer Fling back in August. Here is a blog post I wrote outlining some of the stats and evidence behind this policy, and why I think it would work for Ontario.

ENCOURAGING . . . → Read More: The Liberal Scarf: Brush up on my youth democratic participation and civic education policy in time for provincial council!