Friday, January 20, 2006

Keep at 'em, team

More news from Fair Vote Canada volunteers at the all-candidates' debates, on the streets, and in the media.

Durham Chapter Update - Oshawa Riding Debate on The Sunday Edition Jan. 22

We had three members attend the Oshawa riding debate last night at GL Roberts CVI. This debate was hosted by Michael Enright and CBC radio. It will be broadcast this Sunday starting at 9:05 AM. We handed out flyers and had lots of support and interest.

The Green Party candidate brought up electoral reform early on during questioning from Michael Enright. This brought a roar of approval from the crowd!

During the questions from the audience section, I was able to ask the other three candidates whether they thought our electoral system was fair and if they would support a review and a process to possibly change our current system. The Liberal candidate, Louise Parkes, said she thought that our current system is OK and then talked about an elected senate.

The NDP candidate, Sid Ryan, feels that we need a change to a PR system and quoted some numbers on past elections. The Conservative candidate, Colin Carrie, said he would support a review of our system but was not familar with proportional representation and would like to get more information. Needless to say I made sure he got some of our literature after the debate.

I hope that my question makes it to national radio on Sunday. It should be in the first part of the second hour.

Thats all for now from the Durham Chapter.

Geoff Daw

Two things I went to yesterday:

Demonstration outside of the CBC and the environmental debate at City Hall suggested by David-Paul Sip.

The demonstration was prior to the taping of the Harper interview by the National last night. My fliers were taken by most people – good discussions. One guy who worked with Don Ferguson took several fliers to distribute since he had not heard of the video.

Environmental debate: I went to this primarily since Alan Tonks was slated to be there and of course I wanted to tackle him on PR especially with an environmental focus. But Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River) was pinch hitting for him, I thought to myself this is going to be good. I remember someone else questioning Lee on PR about a year ago and getting really weird response—totally uninformed. I was curious if he had learned anything. Rob Rishchynski (Green) and Pauline Courtlet (NDP) were also on the panel.

I stood up to ask the question and identified myself as being from FVC and was taken aback by applause! Now many of these folks are very aware of us and I had seen many before but there were some new but very nice response. I sold a membership to one of the new people.

If Lee had learned anything in the intervening time, he was not telling. Basically, he was touting not breaking the link of representatives with their riding and not having unelected people from the lists in the parliament. Hands shot up to challenge him but the moderator wanted to keep an environmental focus.

I talked to him after and pointed out about mixed system in NZ, Germany, Scotland and Wales. Also that people on the list are elected and riding and list members are often interchanged. Wendy Devine told him that PR gives better representation to women. He sees the representative as the major player in politics not the party. It appears he sees the party as interfering in a way so I can see PR as threatening to this type of politician.

He had no knowledge of the law commission report—(same thing I learned about John Godfrey—best kept secret on Parliament Hill, it seems). I offered to send him the link to get the report. He said not to bother he probably has it in his office.

I will probably send him the link anyway—also Godfrey—can’t hurt and they probably tossed it long ago.


June Macdonald

The Fair Vote Canada National Capital Region Chapter gets busy!

All Candidates Meeting Report - Carleton-Mississippi Mills (Jan 18)

Report on All Candidates Meeting
Organized by The Stittsville Village Association
at the Goulbourne Town Hall
on Wednesday evening, January 18, 2006
from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Candidates: Gordon O'Connor (Conservative Party), Isabel Metcalfe (Liberal Party), Tasha Bridgen ( N.D.P), Tracy Parsons (Progressive Canadian Party) and Jake Cole (Green Party).

· There were 119 attendees at the meeting and the hall was packed.

· Candidates represented the Liberal, Green, NDP, Conservative and Progressive Canadian Parties

· Peter Black and Alex Campbell representing Fair Vote Canada were present.

· The organizers didn’t allow distribution of FVC fliers and literature inside the hall, but did give us a table in the foyer on which we displayed FVC material. Peter stood outside the halls’ entrance on the very narrow and slippery path and distributed fliers to people as they entered. Alex remained at the table and spoke to folk there. No memberships were sold but at least three people showed interest in joining.

· As people entered the hall they were asked if they desired to ask a question and if they said they did they were given half an “entrance ticket” for the draw for questioners.

· Alex drew the very first question of the evening, Unfortunately, Peter’s “number never came up”!

· Alex’s question: “Good evening. My name is Alex Campbell. I am a member of the Fair Vote Canada Movement and I am very concerned about the increasing number of Canadians who are apathetic about the political process and who feel cheated because their votes don’t count. For example, in the last federal election it took an average of 31,000 voters to elect one representative of the Bloc Quebecois, 111,000 to elect one member of the NDP and the Green Party, which drew 580,000 votes, didn’t elect one member. In the light of this blatant unfairness I ask all candidates for your personal views on and your Parties platform on reforming the electoral system by some form of proportional representation.”

· Responses: Greens and NDP candidates personally support PR as do their parties’ platforms. The Liberal and Conservative candidates are against PR and do not support PR. They both held, too, that their parties do not support PR. The Conservative candidate said that “members must be tied to their ridings so they can be voted out.” As a reason for not supporting PR. (I don’t remember the response of the Progressive Canadian candidate.)

· After the candidates’ responses, Alex, before leaving the microphone, thanked them for their responses and commented that it was obvious from the responses of some candidates that they didn’t know or understand what PR was all about. Alex urged the candidates to visit the Fair Vote Canada table after the meeting and take the literature to study. The Liberal candidate did this after the meeting.

Peter Black

Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington

All Candidates Meeting, Civitan Hall, Lanark, ON - Tuesday Jan 17

This meeting was sponsored by the Lanark Landowners' Association. About 175 people attended - very good turnout, since the village of Lanark has less than 1,000 residents and the surrounding township of Lanark Highlands has a population of about 5,000.

Candidates present were Scott Reid, Conservative, Ernest Rathwell, Marijuana Party, Mike Nickerson, Greens, Helen Forsey, NDP, Jerry Ackerman, Canadian Action Party, and Jeff Bryant, Progressive Canadian Party. The Liberal candidate, Jeff Turner, had declined and did not attend.

Helen Forsey (NDP) was the only candidate to mention proportional representation (in favour) in her opening statement.

Question on PR was the first to come up after the opening questions from the Landowners' Association.

Jeff Bryant, Progressive Canadian Party: In favour, also favours a fixed term for elections.

Scott Reid, Conservative Party - he is the party's critic for Democratic Reform. Cited an article outlining the Conservative Party's proposals that he wrote and that appeared in Parliamentary Review last summer. Also the dissenting report on electoral reform that the Conservative MPs wrote - believe last fall, he didn’t give date.

Believes federal government should adopt a citizen assembly model similar to that used in BC, have the assembly draft a new electoral system without politicians being involved. This should be followed by a national referendum on adoption of a new electoral system. Notes that in BC, 57% of those voting in the referendum supported the BC Assembly's proposals for electoral reform.

Mike Nickerson, Green Party. Definitely in support of PR. Among other reasons, because it would have given the Greens 12 seats in the last Parliament. Adoption of PR would help create a cooperative collaboration between the parties, make people's votes more relevant, ensure that legislation and policy took into account different points of view.

Helen Forsey, NDP: Agrees with PR. Expresses concern about bringing in a fixed term of office, could change the way that responsible government is meant to work in a parliamentary system. Should still allow for elections if a government is defeated on a major vote of confidence such as a government money bill.

Jerry Ackerman, Canadian Action Party. Seems to favour a system of consensual decision making, notes the practice of the Iroquois Confederacy in which the governing council was chosen/elected by women and representatives were subject to recall. Regrets that this element of Iroquois governance was not taken up by Benjamin Franklin when he studied the Iroquois system and drew on its ideas for the American constitution.

Patricia Marsden-Dole

What was Ben thinking?

Scott Reid is in favour of a national citizens' assembly on electoral reform, and bless him for that! Next week, if he is the Minister for Democratic Renewal, will that be the policy of his party and his leader?

All Candidate Meeting Report - Ottawa Vanier (Jan 17)

Sponsored by Lowertown West Community Association, Byward Market Improvement Association and Centre de Jour Guiges.

Present: Mauril Bélanger (Lib.), Paul Benoit (Cons.), Ric Dagenais (NDP) and Raphaël Thierrin (Green).

Absent: Marxist-Leninist Party and Marijuana Party candidates.

Fair Vote Canada: Stephen Woollcombe, Charles Osborne.

Audience: about 120 people.

Before the meeting began Steven and I handed out FVC material and briefly (and not so briefly) talked to members of the audience.

The meeting began with opening remarks of the four candidates present. None of them mentioned PR in their remarks.

Questions from the audience were chosen by people getting a number from one of the organizers before the meeting started. Steven and I had agreed before the meeting started that he would ask the question he had prepared (I had already prepared a question myself as well). He was number 4 and he therefore got to ask it early enough in the meeting before the audience got either bored or restless. Steven asked the candidate for "their" opinions on electoral reform as opposed to their parties’ platforms. The candidates seemed to disregard that and gave more or less their party platform answers.

The Conservative candidate said that he was "open to electoral reform" but not at the cost of weakened ties to the constituents and large electoral districts. He did not want it to be subject to the undue influence of political parties and felt it should be submitted to the electorate.

The Liberal member responded that the government accepted the essence of the Parliamentary report on electoral reform. It objected to the timeline-- there was simply not enough time to set up a wide consultation with the electorate (especially youth). He agreed to the need for an element of proportionality.

The NDP candidate said that electoral reform had been an issue with the NDP for 10 years now. Also that Ed Broadbent was disappointed with the results. He also said that any talk of electoral reform should go to the people for consultation.

The Green Party candidate said that a referendum on electoral reform should go to the whole electorate. As for any future problems of minority governments and elections caused by them-- they would only cause a short interruption in the work of the government (Note: as I was making notes on this candidate's response I was interrupted by a Green Party volunteer handing out Party brochures in the row I was sitting in so I am not certain that I got the gist of his remarks correctly!)

Further in the evening, in response to a question from the audience on what all the candidates felt was the most critical issue facing Canada at this time, the Green Party candidate said that it was electoral reform ("truly accountable governments"). The NDP candidate said health issues, the Liberal member said children (especially health and education) and the Conservative candidate rambled on with some sort of vague generalities.

There were a total of 22 varied questions from the audience. In the final remarks by the candidates, Mauril Bélanger did make a passing comment about "planted" questions (I think it was the a question from a member of the audience about the Haiti coup coming from somebody with an orange toque!)

Charles Osborne


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