Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hey, feedback!

The youth vote

though I've only had a few minutes to read over your /Wayne's blog--I'm heading out the door right now--I think the idea is funny and really good. My super-fast-teenage-kinda-internet-savvy constructive criticism, though, is this:

visually, the neon green and gray kind of clash, and the dark green doesn't really go with your fvc logo. Don't cast this aside as silly aesthetic superficial stuff; to me, when I'm reading, it actually makes a lot of difference. Also, the combination of gothic (Times New Roman) font with ...whatever the other one is--Verdana or something?-- is a bit distracting, especially because the FVC logo is in a totally different font. Maybe keep the "Democracy" and "Election Canada 2006--President's Blog" title the same font as the text? It would actually make a lot of difference in terms of how professional the site looks. Sorry if this is harsh, it's just a thought, and of course don't take offense because it has nothing to do with content!

Rakael Deverell

Only speak and ye shall receive! I wouldn't presume to argue with a sixteen-year-old on these matters. - Wayne

Hi Wayne, I'm running here in Oxford for the Marijuana Party

Just thought I'd tell you that you guys do a great job advancing the cause of fair and proportional representation.

I'd just like to add that the whole electoral process is such a scam. The appointed returning officers often have little related experience, and certainly are patronage appointments in all respects. Disgusting...

Anyways, thanks for producing such good information...I will go armed into my campaign with this, and hopefully, if anything, will help to make more people aware of the fragility of our democracy.

Jim Bender

Thanks for carrying the torch for fair voting! - Wayne

Dear FVC

I have been following the dialogue provided by the nice folks at Fair Vote Canada since joining the BC chapter following our last provincial election and would like to share my thoughts on electoral reform.

One of the biggest reasons I ran in the last provincial election was to sell the BC-STV electoral system created by BC's Citizens Assembly. Two people from each riding, one man and one woman, plus participation from our First Nations People.

I was quite proud of the fact that the riding I ran in finished with the fifth highest support in favour of electoral change. While it was disappointing that the referendum failed to meet the required "super majority" of sixty percent, I'm glad the BC Liberal Government is going to give the voters another chance in the fall of 2008.

My biggest reason for supporting electoral change comes from the work I have done over the years as an advocate for people with special needs and developmental disabilities.

It's no secret that the federal government and all provincial governments across this great country have reduced people with special needs to nothing more than second class citizens. I have read this in at least a half a dozen papers from various institutions and think tanks over the years and have no reason to dispute their findings. The inaction of government agencies provides enough proof.

I feel the only way we are ever going to demarginalize people who have special needs or those who are developmentally delayed is by changing the way we select the people who represent us. This will allow special interest groups to gain a stronger voice in our legislatures.

The best example I used in the last provincial election was the plight of the Green Party. Now I've never voted for the Greens even though I care a great deal about environmental issues, but the fact that this political organization goes out and in election after election garners a decent chunk of the popular vote, and never a seat to show for it, is distressing.

I don't expect the so-called mainstream political parties to discuss electoral reform during the 2006 federal campaign, only because it was front and centre as a referendum in our last provincial election and both the BC Liberals and NDP avoided any discussion on the issue. Why? Because it didn't serve their party's interests.

With voter turnout on the decline in election after election it seems obvious that something has to change in order to revive our democracy. I felt strongly that the Citizens Assembly was the solution to help rescue our democratic system and will continue to push their recommendations for BC-STV.

Jim McDermott
Victoria B.C.

Careful, Jim, "special interest groups" is a dirty word. But don't we all have special interests? And aren't the people who control our politics now "special interest groups" too? - Wayne

Harper & Quebec

I think that John Deverell's piece a couple of days ago does a disservice to both Stephen Harper and electoral reform. It ill serves electoral reform to introduce obvious political partisanship into a debate about a non-partisan program promoting democratic reforms. Does Mr. Deverell truly not remember Liz Frulla and the statement that her Quebec counterpart could speak for Canada at a UNESCO meeting? How about Quebec's participation at La Francophonie? There are many more examples but I am struggling to hold to non-partisanship.

With regard to Harper "preparing to dismantle the federal government", this smacks of the usual Ontario-centric claptrap. At least from the time of Quebec's Révolution tranquille there has been an understanding in some western circles that the natural national alliance is between Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia. The former province wants to make our federation work the way it believes it was intended to, the latter two provinces just want to make it work, period.

As for the prospects of electoral reform without the partisan baggage, those familiar with Fair Vote Canada's discussion board may remember that I have always had high hopes for a "bottom-up" success. That is, I expect that success will come at the provincial level, to be followed later by some sort of federal reform. I say some sort because I must say again that we live in a federation; what might work in New Zealand or the Netherlands may not work in Canada.

Patrick Brabazon

Fair Vote Canada is a "multi-partisan" organization, rather than "non-partisan". Many of our members are engaged in politics, and we have members in all the parties in Parliament, and in all the parties not in Parliament.

You may have detected a hint of the frustration we feel trying to get some right-of-centre politicians to understand that it is conservative parties, and conservative voters, who are the chief patsies of our current voting system. In fact, historically and statistically, the greatest victim of our voting system has been the late lamented Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, may it rest in peace. - Wayne

(Preston Manning may disagree. The "wall" that the Reform Party used to hit at the Ontario border was entirely an artefact of the voting system. They would get a quarter of the votes in Ontario and no seats.)

All right, I don't want to see this discussion degenerate into an argument over semantics. So, "multi-partisan" it shall be. That said, does it not behove this partisan member of the multi-partisan community to be very careful in my choice of language while making an argument for electoral reform? Does it serve "the cause" to ridicule or imply motives to politicians or political parties. If we wish to be truly multi-partisan we have to guard against insulting others in our community, whether directly or indirectly through their political allegiances.

As for the "frustration we feel" regarding "right-of-centre politicians" I can only suggest that you are in the wrong province, dealing with the wrong politicians. In B.C. it is those very "right-of-centre politicians" who have placed electoral reform front and centre on the public agenda. Oh yes, they stumbled, but the issue is still in play, and the NDP and the Green leader are being dragged into the game. I say leader, because failure to do so will result in a storm of protest from party members who will remind me that the leader's negative position on STV was not that of the membership.

A personal note: I too am a politician, albeit a minor one. I sit on a local government and I have to remember that I work for all of my constituents. They include federal Liberals, provincial Liberals [not the same as the others], Conservatives, NDPers, Greens, and a whole host of others. All get the same reception, all deserve the same respect.

Patrick Brabazon

This is a fair point. Here in Ontario, PR tends to be seen as a left-wing plot. Out west it is often seen as a right-wing plot.

The truth is that our current system is bad for all parties, even the winners. PR is not about what is good for parties. It's about what is good for voters!

Note that in his latest post, John has harsh words for the NDP. We'll try to insult all parties equally!


Attention Mr. Wayne Smith

I am reading (and enjoying for the most part) your thoughts as posted on the 'blog' site.

However, I think there is an error in your Dec 12th 'Perils of Strategic Voting' paragraph 5. It is my understanding that only parties which receive more than 5% of the vote are eligible for the $1.75 . This basically excludes many of the smaller parties, and reinforces the status quo. This unfair 'taxation' must be stopped since it is wrong for any government to use my tax dollars to fund parties which I may be in complete disagreement with.

I think it is important for Canadians to vote positively FOR a party/candidate rather than negatively AGAINST a party/candidate. People are unduly influenced by polls, and this encourages strategic voting. It bothers me that the major media report as if there are only 4 parties in Canada, while in fact there are at least 14. As long as the current situation continues, we will have the unfair results and that is why I am in favour of electoral reform. That is why I joined Fair Vote Canada!! Keep up the good work!!

yours truly, Louis (Luke) Kwantes, Smithers, BC

Actually, Luke, I think the threshold for campaign financing is 2%. No doubt someone will correct me.

Fair Vote Canada has no policy on campaign financing, but the small party people I've talked to are pretty happy about the new rules, although they'd like to see the threshold eliminated altogether. They weren't getting any financing from the corporations or unions under the old rules. The Green Party now has about a million bucks a year, and the Communist Party is ecstatic that they can actually have an office and a telephone! - Wayne

Hi Wayne,

I'm responding to your invitation for comments for your blog. How about doing a piece on what fair voting means? It seems to me it means different things to different people.

I've observed that those on the left -- who generally want proportional representation -- are concerned about something the vast majority of people aren't concerned about and might well find offensive: "fairness" for political parties and politicians. PR is all about parties and whether they get what is mistakenly called their "fair" share of seats in an election, as if that ought to be be determined by some mathematical relationship between votes and seats won.

To me this seems ridiculously out of touch with what makes people cynical about politics. People aren't cynical or turned off because parties aren't getting a mathematically proportionate share of seats, but because politicians are often aloof and unaccountable to the people they're supposed to serve.

Elections aren't about parties, they're about the people deciding who will be entrusted with the responsibility and authority of government. Representative government rests on the concept that the government serves the people, not the other way around. When politicians are aloof and unaccountable they're not doing the job they're elected to do, and the people need a mechanism to replace them.

Preston Manning understood this. Remember the Reform TV ad that was shot in Parliament? The message was "These seats are yours. On election day, take them back." Manning didn't talk about mathematical formulas, but about making politicians accountable. He led a new party into second place and official opposition status by connecting with disaffected people's desire for government to be accountable.

I don't see a connection between PR and making politicians accountable, in fact some PR systems make accountability less likely than first past the post. MMP comes to mind in that respect, since voters can turf out an MP they've lost confidence in only to see that same person get back in by being high enough up on a party list. Nuts to that!!

What we need is not PR but accountability in government. Electoral reform advocates need to understand that to make any serious headway. I suggest the reason STV almost made it in BC is that it makes government accountable in a way list PR doesn't.

Bill Frampton

To me, and to Fair Vote Canada, "fair voting" means you get what you vote for. The largest group of Canadians votes on the basis of which party they want to form the government. The next largest group votes on the basis of which leader they want to be the Prime Minister, which amounts to the same thing. If the party that gets 40% of the votes gets 60% of the seats (and 100% of the power), and the party that gets 20% of the vote gets 10% of the seats, and the party that gets 10% of the vote gets diddlysquat, how can that be fair?

When millions of us - usually most of us - cast votes that don't affect the outcome of the election, and end up unrepresented, how can that be fair?

But you're right, elections aren't about parties, they're about people, and so is proportional representation. PR is about electing more women, and Aboriginal people, and minorities of all sorts. It's about making sure that every voice is heard, and everybody gets a seat at the table.

Proportional representation is about sending a clear message to the government by accurately translating the votes we cast into power in the legislature. Without that, there is no accountability. - Wayne

Dear Wayne Smith,

I enjoyed your Video and Roy MacGregor as mentioned in your E-mail Dec 21, 2005.

The problem (Fair Vote) is not unlike that of the environmental movement. A bunch of informed people talking to each other --we have to enlarge the circle.

With this in mind I suggested to my Alumni of the Citizen Assembly that some brilliant and talented fellow write a comic opera and get it out into the public.

People did it 300 years ago why not now? Just look at all the material out there.

Besides, the public is really wired for entertainment.

So, seeing Ferguson I'm encouraged.

Joe Trippi was the man behind Howard Dean promoting chatter and raising a lot of money. If you have not read his book I would recommend it.

Last point, reformers have to get their act together.

What specifically are we replacing First Past the Post with?

My answer of course--

Vox Populi, Vox Dei--STV

All other systems are a neat way of staying off the MESSAGE---------DEMOCRACY!

Merry Xmas

Fritz Zens

What specifically we are replacing First Past the Post with is up to the Citizens' Assembly or other citizen-driven process we come up with, and finally up to the people in a binding referendum. Fair Vote Canada doesn't design or endorse specific voting systems, although we do evaluate voting reform proposals according to the principles and objectives laid out in our Statement of Purpose.

We really do believe in democracy, and we believe that an informed and aroused public will usually make the best decisions.

Merry Christmas to you too, and God bless us, every one! - Wayne


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