Sunday, January 15, 2006

News from the campaign trail

Fair Vote Canada volunteers are hitting the candidates' meetings here in Toronto and all across the country, and asking them, "What about a fair voting system for Canada?" Here are a few of their reports.

Yesterday I reluctantly got up at 7 am on a Sunday morning to attend a St Paul’s all-candidates meeting at Beth Tzedec congregation with Joyce Hall, a member of the Fair Vote Canada Toronto Chapter executive. And it was damn cold to boot.

The auditorium was huge, and it was the first all-candidates meeting where I had to have my bag checked at the door by a heavily armed, hulking big security guard!

No matter, they had coffee and cookies, and it turned out to be a great event for us.

The moderator was Janice Gross Stein of the Munk Institute, who we see on TV all the time. They had only three people on the platform, Carolyn Bennett (the incumbent Liberal), Peter Kent (Conservative), and Paul Summerville (NDP). They would not let the Green candidate on the panel!

The questions were to be written down and would be selected by Janice Stein. I hate these since I never seem to get picked.

My question was too long to boot:

"Canada has 21% women representatives. We stand at number 42 in the world in women’s representation. Most countries with proportional representation have increased numbers of women in parliament. If elected, would you support a process whereby Canadians will be given an opportunity to vote on a new voting system?"

I was bowled over when this question was the first asked. She said something like this question was important to her and proceeded to read it, but changed the last sentence to “Do you support moving to proportional representation?”.

The answers were positive on the whole, but waffling, as politicians are hard wired to do.

Carolyn Bennett said it was hugely important, parliament is not an attractive place for women -- basically a locker room of winners and losers. We have to support a different way of voting.

After they had finished, the moderator asked point blank: do you support PR in parliament?

Summerville (NDP): yes
Bennett (LIB): yes
Kent (CON): Yes with some modifications.

June Macdonald

I was at the King Edward Hotel All-Candidates' meeting last night (Jan.11th) in Toronto Centre.

There was a PR question. Bill Graham essentially says he is having a change of heart, and that the Liberals need to study it more. (They have been 'studying' it ever since the 1970's of course, that did not come out.) The Conservative, Reford, was unsupportive. (Sorry I forget exactly what he said, it was that memorable.) Shapcott, NDP, gave extensive support and filled in the audience on the NDP progress of this file. (He gave all credit to Ed Broadbent.) The Green candidate, Chris Tindal, gave an impeccable performance. Bill Graham had complimented him -- 6 times -- throughout the evening. One of those compliments was in his closing speech. Chris stated that PR is the Green's NUMBER ONE priority. Many people approached him after the debate and gave him 'heck' for running Green and not Conservative or NDP -- they really like him. The Communist candidate, Johan Boyden, gave a powerful speech, especially in his closing statements. He cited PR as a priority and also, he was the last to speak, talked a little about how the vote will be wasted in this election among the candidates that spoke before him.

The most interesting aspect of the evening was the level of awareness of PR in the public! PR was on the tip of the tongue of at least 50% of those present.

Kevin Peck

I attended the all-candidates meeting in Don Valley East last night.

In contrast to the the two all-candidates meetings I've attended in St. Paul's riding, I was reminded that we still have a lot of work to do outside the downtown area.

As supposed counter-arguments to PR, Israel and Italy were once again trotted out. The highly partisan charge that PR is only good for small parties was raised. The concern about "endless minority governments" was also brought up -- however, interestingly, that brought forth guffaws from the audience, who appeared skeptical about false majorities. Unlike St. Paul's, where all candidates agreed that PR was worthy of consideration, the Conservative candidate in Don Valley East was staunchly opposed. Of the three candidates in favour of considering PR, none gave arguments that were convincing to the audience. Unfortunately, they mostly spoke in partisan terms, and in doing so, lost credibility.

Glen MacDonald

Hi all,

June, David-Paul Sip, and I were at the meeting at the Lawrence Heights Community Centre on Wednesday night.

The discussion focused heavily on black issues and I personally didn't feel comfortable or appropriate asking a question about fair voting in this venue when so many people in the crowd were more concerned with their friends and relatives dying and being poor. It crossed my mind though, when the chair of the meeting mentioned the numbers in the black community in Toronto and I was tempted to point out that a PR voting system would make it unnecessary for them to unite in pockets to put black people in Parliament, and would allow sheer numbers to accomplish their goal, but as I said above...not the point of the meeting.

Anyway, I personally got a lot out of a long discussion with a young black woman there. I accomplished my goal for the evening of learning more about the black community, but PR wasn't mentioned in the actual debate. However, we did pass out a fair number of flyers and people were reasonably receptive.

Charlene Sutherland

Hi all,

Tonight I attended the all-candidates debate on poverty held at the Royal Ontario Museum. An excellent debate.

This was another pointed debate for which a specific question on voting systems didn't seem appropriate, but without me having to ask, PR came up anyway. A woman asked about including more women in government, and the NDP candidate mentioned a "new system including some type of PR" to accomplish this. I plan to email him to say that I was there and heard him, and to thank him for supporting it.

For anyone interested, this debate will be broadcast on CPAC at 2:00 for 2 hours on Friday, January 13th. Included in the panelists was Stephen Lewis, former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations and, well, really noted guy on African issues.

Charlene Sutherland

Hi everyone,

I went to the Wednesday event at Temple Sinai in North York with the Eglinton-Lawrence candidates as well - these guys must be getting tired!

Peter Coy (C) said that he was in favour of PR, Patrick Metzger (G) and Maurganne Mooney (NDP) were both obviously in favour, but Joe Volpe (L) seemed opposed, and when my question was asked he pulled out the losses in BC and PEI as examples that the public didn't want PR.

Darn...there was no way to let the audience know why those referenda did not succeed (super-majority requirements, low awareness, etc.). Just so you know his stock response.

Anyway, I handed out loads of flyers, and two other Fair Vote volunteers were there and handing out newspapers as well. There were probably over 200 people in the audience - totally packed big room.

Here's the question I submitted - it was read as the last question:

"Canada is one of the last major Western democracies still using a winner-takes-all voting system. More than 80 other nations moved to proportional representation electoral systems many years ago, where every citizen's vote counts and the resulting governments are stable, cooperative, and representative of the diversity of the country's citizens.

"What are each of your views on electoral reform, particularly in the current climate of voter dissatisfaction with politics and low youth turnout in elections, and what will you personally do to promote a referendum process that would allow Canadians to select the voting system they wish to have?"

While the question got murmurs of 'good question' from some in the audience, the answers were pretty bland in general, although Patrick Metzger for the Green Party was very funny answering why he was obviously in favour, and Peter Coy pulled out the Kim Campbell 'landslide' in 1993, when the PC Party got two million votes and elected two MPs, as why it was in the Conservatives' interest.

Good luck Saturday Alice! Maybe explain to Joe Volpe before the debate the reasons why the BC and PEI referenda failed, so he might not go telling the whole audience the public doesn't want this.


Hi Alice,

Just to let you know, I spoke with Peter Coy (Conservative candidate) at the North York event this past Monday. It was a pretty good conversation. He had some concerns but overall seemed interested in the idea of electoral reform and PR.

Brian Hoessler

Hi Wayne,

I attended the Brampton West candidates debate tonight. Since it was held at a high school, most of the questions were posed by students, read by a panel of them. (However, the audience was made up of adult voters in this riding.) Since I am a member of the community association who was co-hosting this event, my question got asked. (Electoral reform - PR). The candidates who answered they were for PR, were, as expected, the Green Party's candidate Japal Massey-Singh, and the NDP's Jagtar Shergill. The Libs and Conservatives were rather noncomittal.

These candidates are not in my riding (mine is Brampton-Springdale). My riding's candidates Anna Mather (NDP) and Ian Chicchio (Green Party) also support PR, and both these parties said they have voting reform on their agendas.

However, after the debates, I circulated the room, talked about PR, and passed out some Fair Vote Canada flyers (about 50).

Quite a few of the more informed people with whom I talked were aware of PR and were for it (even some of the conservative-leaning ones). One guy who'd studied political science and had travelled throughout Europe said it was a good thing, but said that "we have to educate our Canadian public before we can make serious headway". Similar opinions were voiced by several people.

Best regards & Peace,


Hello everyone:

I wanted to report (albeit very belatedly) on a successful fundraiser that took place last Saturday in Victoria. Preston Manning, who was in Victoria to act as "Governor-General" of the student model parliament, agreed to appear at an electoral reform event jointly organized by Fair Voting BC and the Fair Vote Canada Victoria Chapter.

The event was a great success - the room was full, a number of federal candidates (from 3 different parties) were in attendance and the (not insignificant) profits were split between the FVC Victoria Chapter and Fair Voting BC. Congratulations to all the organizers: Alastair Murdoch, Derek Simon, Diane Perry, Orion Carrier, Wendy Bergerud and especially Bruce Hallsor, who secured the participation of Mr. Manning and spearheaded the organization of the event. It was a truly multi-partisan event both in terms of organization and attendance. My apologies if I have omitted any of the event organizers.

Now the onus is on us in Vancouver to stage a similarly successful event!

Stephen Broscoe
Chair, Fair Vote Canada Greater Vancouver Chapter

Hi everyone,

I attended the "All candidates meeting" for Chatham-Kent-Essex last night in Leamington. I was able to give everyone in attendance a "Make Elections Make Sense" brochure (approx. 150). People were very interested and I observed many people taking the time to read the entire brochure.

I also was able to ask a question. I asked Conservative candidate Dave VanKestren if he would urgently press for electoral reform, and more specifically PR. His response was pathetic. He claimed that there was nothing wrong with our electoral system.

Jim Comisky, the Liberal candidate, agreed. Funny how those who benefit from the system seem to think it works.

Kathleen Kevany, NDP candidate, was very well spoken and passionate in her response in support of PR. She made reference to "Ed Broadbent's 7 Point Plan" who's 4th point is:

4: Electoral reform - Introduce PR.

Jim Bell, Green Party candidate, was also enthusiastic and supportive of PR.

I plan to attend more meetings. I could use more brochures. I paid for the other brochures and have approx. 50 left. I can get more printed but if you can get 100-200 to me I will get them into peoples hands.


Luc Leger

Hi Larry and Wayne

Our first all-candidates' meeting in Haldimand - Norfolk riding was held last night and managed to spark some excitement, with a verbal sparring match between Diane Finley, Conservative Agriculture Critic and former Lib Agriculture Minister Bob Speller. I met Graeme Dunn who was also delivering FVC brochures there.

In response to my question "If you are elected by 32% of Haldimand - Norfolk voters, how will you make sure that the different values and points of view of the 68% who did not vote for you are represented in parliament?", Finley and Speller gave the trite and tired reply that they will visit all parts of the riding and listen to everyone. I was very heartened to see the NDP's Roberts pick up on the implied dysfunction of the system, and she pointed out her party's commitment to PR, as did the Christian Heritage Party's Elgersma and the Green Party's van Nort.

There are two more all-candidates' meetings next week. I'll be there with new questions. Will let you know how it goes.

Stephana Johnston

Subject: Update from Durham

Hi Larry, we have been busy here in Durham. We have attended at least one debate in each of the five ridings in Durham. We were able to ask questions at two of them and here are the answers we received.

Green Russel Korus - Supports PR (although he described a system that sounded like preferential voting)
NDP Kevin Modeste - Supports PR
CHP - Supports PR
Liberal Mark Holland - Supports a review. Talked about a lower voting age which has been one of his pet projects.
Conservative - Rondo Thomas - Was not there

Green - Supports PR
NDP Maret Sadem-Thompson - Supports PR
Liberal Judi Longfield - Supports PR
Conservative - Jim Flaherty - Danced around the question and talked about an elected senate

Geoff Daw

I was at the debate in Ottawa-Orleans on Wednesday night.

The question that I asked was as follows: "I'm a member of Fair Vote Canada, which is a national movement fighting to improve our voting system so that for once we can get the government we actually vote for. In Monday night's leaders debate all the candidates supported reforming our election system. Mr. Harper said the current system has 'serious problems', and Mr. Martin admitted that it absolutely needs fixing. Yet, last year the government was supposed to begin a report on election reform. It didn't happen. In the next parliament, will your party publicly commit to immediately start the process of consulting Canadians, so that by the next election our votes will really count?"

Somewhat surprisingly, the Liberal (Godbout), Conservative (Galipeau) and NDP (Leahy) all said 'Yes'. Apart from making a commitment to examine reform, Godbout mentioned that the process had started and will continue; Galipeau blamed delays on Mauril Belanger (Liberal in Ottawa-Vanier and former Minister for Democratic Renewal); while Leahy expressed his full support for reform and as usual mentioned Ed Broadbent.

Some other notes:

- I found that a lot of people who were interested in reform really liked the the fold-out pamphlet. These brochures were also quite popular among NDP and Green supporters.

- We managed to place some fliers on most of the candidates' tables. After the debate, I spoke with a few Green and NDP party members about FVC. They were quite interested in having a FVCer come to a party meeting and give a presentation.

- I wasn't able to talk to some of the candidates to clarify our position on electoral reform (some seemed under the impression that we were pushing for pure PR). I'm planning to email them so that they better understand what FVC is trying to accomplish.

- In reference to the debate at Ottawa U, I found that while a number of students were not very interested in our handouts, many of the NDP and Green Youth were very enthusiastic about electoral reform. I agree that the problem with younger people is that they are less likely to know much about our current voting system, let alone alternatives. But, I think, that once they realize there's a problem, they become very interested in pushing for change.

Darryl, Ottawa

Well, the last week was a busy one for us, we attended six debates. On Wednesday we had five members at the Ajax-Pickering debate. Cara MacDonald was able to ask a question of the candidates. We received mostly favourable responses from all candidates although the conservative candidate was not present.

The Pickering-Scarborough East debate was right after the Ajax-Pickering debate and we handed out flyers at the start of the debate.

On Thursday morning we handed out several hundred of the electoral dysfunction flyers at the Oshawa GO station.

Thursday evening we again had five members at the Whitby-Oshawa and Oshawa debates. I was able to ask a question of the candidates. We received positive responses from all of the candidates except the Conservative candidate, Jim Flaherty, who waffled and talked about an elected senate. I was also interviewed after the debate by a local radio station.

We stayed for the Oshawa debate and handed out flyers. We had a member in the question line but she was not able to ask her question. In the closing remarks the Conservative candidate said not to waste your vote on a 4th place party (the Greens). Oshawa is a tight, three-way race, and the Greens took several thousand votes in the last election.

On Friday we had two members at another Whitby-Oshawa debate. They were not able to ask a question, but another audience member did ask a question on electoral reform and received the same response as in Thursday's debate.

This coming week we plan to distribute flyers at the Whitby GO station on Wednesday morning. On Thursday evening there is another all-candidates debate in Oshawa at G.L. Roberts Collegiate. This will be moderated by Michael Enright of the CBC and will be broadcast on Sunday morning on the Sunday Edition. We plan to be out in force!!!

That's all for now,

Geoff Daw
Fair Vote Canada Durham Region Chapter

Margo and I also attended the Whitby-Oshawa debate on Friday night. We had a table set up - just like the candidates - and handed out a lot of literature, but did not ask a question. Never mind, someone else in the audience, a young woman, got up and asked a question about electoral reform and each of the candidates answered in much the same way as they had on the Rogers cable debate. Glad there aren't many debates next week. Each of the candidates seem to have their lines rehearsed, so I've heard their speeches and answers to questions at least twice.

James McAllister

A question was asked at an All-Candidates meeting in Burlington on whether the candidates would support a fairer proportional representation system.

Candidate responses were as follows:

Mike Wallace, Conservative Candidate – is opposed to proportional representation.

Paddy Torsney, Liberal incumbent – is opposed to proportional representation – but might consider a mixed system if the “list MP’s had diminished roles?!?

David Laird, NDP Candidate – supports PR – especially mixed system as proposed by NDP.

Rick Goldring, Green Party Candidate – supports PR

In other words, the two parties that are over-represented in our unfair first-past-the-post system are not interested in changing this system. Let’s hope for a minority!

Doug Brown


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