Sunday, January 22, 2006

More news about the campaign for fair voting reform!

Just thought I would pass along that I got some provincial coverage on CBC Alberta's Wildrose Forum this afternoon. The call in topic was issues that you felt hadn't received enough attention during this election. I was able to give some fairly good examples around the democratic deficit created by FPTP and the value PR can have in addressing the regional polarities and impressions that Alberta is all Conservative and Quebec is all Bloc. I was able to include some ideas around how PR might address things like low voter turnout and the strategic voting issues that have plagued the campaigns recently.

Unfortunately, the political scientist guest host gave the typical "It's the marginal parties position," response, and before I could address the benefit to the major parties and introduce the audience to Fair Vote Canada, I was moved on. Part of the struggle, I guess. I was happy to at least have gotten a few good licks of airplay out of it anyway. With any luck at all Monday will give us the minority government that can help us really work this over the next few years.

Happy election watching!


Scott MacDougall
St. Paul, Alberta

I thought I should report on what I was able to do for PR in the election since the Wayne mentioned "reports" in his email.

Doug Bailie was a big help and gave me a box full of information. I spoke about PR in all of my classes at U of A and handed out the different kinds of material to the students. In one class, the professor actually made the point of working PR into the overall topic of the day which was great! I also left some pamphlets at the GSA office. Being in poli sci, everyone I talked to favoured PR, and I hope that some will join Fair Vote Canada.

If I could suggest one thing is to make small posters so that I could post some info around campus. A poster that has a little box for pamphlets would also be good because I could post it on my door in the dept. I made a make-shift one for now.

That's it. I wish I could have done more for Fair Vote Canada in this election!

John Douglas Crookshanks


Here is an article that made our local paper.

We had a meeting today and somebody new attended based on seeing in the paper that Fair Vote Canada hosted an All Candidates Meeting, and then also seeing a listing in the community update about our meeting today. We always are very happy to see a new face.

Everybody has been very happy with how the Fair Vote Campaign during the election has been going. In Halton, all 2000 Ferguson flyers have been delivered to residential households and/or senior residences; brochures and tabloids were given out to all attendees at 6 All Candidates meetings ; we sponsored an All Candidates Meeting in the Halton Riding (which made CH News) ; and we were interviewed by the Oakville Beaver (below). And that was with only 8 of our members participating in the campaign. I would like to thank you and Larry for leading a fantastic campaign. We believe that we have made inroads and hope the rest of the chapters feel the same.

Bronwen Bruch
Fair Vote Canada - Halton Chapter

Youth opting out of vote is symptomatic

Howard Mozel
Jan 14, 2006
Oakville Beaver

Simply exhorting disenfranchised young people to vote as part of the current flawed electoral system is pointless, says Ernie Kuechmeister - the system itself desperately needs to be changed.

After all, says the Fair Vote Canada Halton Chapter member, youth opting out is not the problem, but is instead symptomatic of a widespread dissatisfaction with the present way of electing Canada's leaders. Rather than chastise young people for not caring, said Kuechmeister, we need to determine exactly why they don't care, why they don't feel voting is important.

A deficient election system is only one factor contributing to their malaise of course, but in his role with Fair Vote Kuechmeister maintains he has a real axe to grind with any process in which people feel as though they don't play an important part.

"A voice unheard is a defect in the body politic," he said.

Case in point: Canada, the UK and the US are the last democracies clinging to the current "first-past-the-post" system that allows, as it did in Canada in 1997, a party with 39 per cent of the vote to form a majority government.

The purpose of Fair Vote Canada is to gain broad, multi-partisan support for an independent, citizen-driven process to allow Canadians to choose a fair voting system based on the principles that all voters are equal and that every vote counts.

To accomplish this, the current voting system must be designed to achieve several objectives, not the least of which is proportional representation, a system through which every citizen wins the right to representation and the majority wins the right to make decisions.

In the last federal election, for example, more than a half-million Green Party voters across the country elected no one. Meanwhile, fewer than a half-million Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada alone elected 22 MPs. Saskatchewan voters elected 13 Conservative MPs and Quebec elected none, even though almost twice as many voted Conservative in Quebec. In the prairie provinces, Liberals cast half as many votes as Conservatives but elected only one-seventh as many MPs.

The bottom line? Canadians are usually ruled by majority governments that the majority voted against and that, says Kuechmeister, has to end.

When young people are no longer interested in the way they're governed, he continued, they rebel. This manifests itself in Parisian youths burning cars and gang culture to simply dropping out of the electoral process.

"Young people have a way of showing their disappointment," he said.

An election - which Kuechmeister calls a "catharsis" - is a meaningful way the population airs its concerns and chooses those people it feels can best address those needs. When a large chunk of voters doesn't participate, leaders don't know what's important to the electorate. When only one minority or another wins under the current system, Kuechmeister continued, disillusionment simply deepens - especially when leaders say they speak for a country that didn't want them in power in the first place.

"We need to structure a selection process so there is more choice and when people make a choice, it matters," said Kuechmeister.

In Quebec, for example, there are plenty of voices other than those of the Bloc and the Liberals, but as far as the current system is concerned, they basically don't exist. Even the Green Party was excluded from the national leadership debates.

Although Fair Vote Canada is pushing hard for some version of proportional representation, Kuechmeister is the first admit this system may not be perfect. It would, however, finally set in motion a fairer process in which more voices can be heard and could evolve as time goes by. The organization simply wants to start change, then the country, together, can decide on what kind of change it will be.

The basic element in all forms of proportional representation is that a political party will win the percentage of seats in Ottawa that corresponds with the percentage of votes it received nationwide.

So, if the NDP gets 20 per cent of the votes, they will have 20 per cent of the seats.

"Proportional representation can be a vehicle for effecting change," said Kuechmeister, characterizing this system as a valuable tool, not the end in itself.

After all, he continued, a craftsman's value is not measured by the tools he uses, but by his creations.

Kuechmeister furthered this analogy by recalling the time he toured an English cathedral and saw the personal mark of a stonemason scratched into the foundation.

Similar marks on subsequent portions of the edifice revealed the contributions of successive generations of artisans, most of whom never lived to see the crowning bell tower.

Each, however, believed strongly in what they were building - exactly like the proponents of proportional representation.

Today, instead of compromise, consensus-building and admitting that other parties do have valid ideas, Kuechmeister believes we endure a system of politics as warfare in which the winner takes all.

This is foolish, he says, in a country like Canada that is so diverse (geographically, linguistically, historically) and one in which people should hash out the issues in a spirited, but dignified, way. Instead, we have leaders who slavishly adhere to party lines while trying to be everything to everyone.

"This is an adversarial view of problem-solving. We have to co-operate, have dialogue instead of debate," he said. "We should not reduce everything to competition."

Instead, Canada should opt for a new way of thinking, both in how we elect our leaders and how they conduct themselves when campaigning and governing.

Maybe then, says Kuechmeister, young voters will at last glimpse the bell tower.


(Ottawa) The Canadian People’s Parliament opened today on the snowbound lawn of Parliament Hill. It advocates Democratic Reform via a referendum on Proportional Representation (PR), and seeks a fair election for the 40th Canadian Parliament. Critics of the current electoral system complain that the lack of real voter choice leads to government by large party machines that have little inclination to respond to voters - and even less desire to change the system that put them in power. The People’s Parliament aims to change this – by presenting an example of how PR would make representation fairer.

A group of 130- People’s MPs were elected in an online voting process (unlike the "real Parliament" candidate "People’s MPs" can run at any time in the Canadian Open Politics forum Citizens gathered on the Hill to attend the first plenary in-person session of the People’s Parliament (PP) were also able to elect MPs by forming groups on the spot and electing representatives to speak for them.

Fair Vote Canada is not the only organization working for fair voting reform. Best of luck to this project!

Every Vote Counts! - or not

To the editors of the Oakville Beaver;

"Every vote Counts!" says your Guest Columnist, Mayor Ann Mulvale (Beaver, January 21, 2006). If only it were true! Sadly, the reality is that, under our current first-past-the-post system, most of us vote for people who don't get elected, and so we end up with a government that most of us didn't vote for.

If we had a modern, proportional voting system, most of us would be represented in Parliament by people who we actually voted for. Government policy would likely be better in tune with the public will, and perhaps our cities could get adequate funding.

Fortunately, voting system reform is a topic of discussion at every all-candidates' meeting this election. We are on our way to a fair voting system for Canada!

Wayne Smith, President
Fair Vote Canada

from The Richmond Review

On electoral reform:

[Richmond NDP candidate Neil] Smith said the NDP would deliver an ethics package that includes electoral reform.

“It’s long overdue. we have so many anomalies in our system. The Bloc Quebecois is probably going to get fewer votes than the NDP again this time, but will have maybe 10 maybe 20 seats more than us.”

[Richmond Conservative candidate Darrel] Reid said government needs to look at a “more direct way” of electing MPs.

“Things like proportional representation, I think that’s an excellent idea.” Reform also needs to happen within Parliament, said Reid, adding Canada needs to get on with the process of electing senators and instituting fixed election dates.

[Richmond Green candidate Richard] Mathias said youth are disenfranchised because of the current electoral system.

“The chances that your vote is going to count for something in this election are distressingly low,” he said. “We need to reform our electoral system so that all of the voices count. Then I think we will find youth will become engaged.”


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home