Monday, January 16, 2006

We write letters . . .

Fair Vote Canada volunteers have been successful in getting letters to the editor published during this election campaign, as well as calling in to local phone-in shows and getting coverage in local media. Here are a few examples.


From the Wellington Times (Prince Edward County):

TIME FOR A RENEWED ELECTORAL SYSTEM...HOW ABOUT PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION?

It is about time that our politicians began to recognize that the electoral system in Canada needs some change in order to better reflect the voting patterns across the country. People who don't vote for the winning candidate in a riding are effectively disenfranchised.

Although some federal funds are awarded on the basis of the percentage of votes that parties get nationally, no one is elected on the basis of these votes. We need to look beyond our borders to countries like New Zealand and Germany where different electoral systems are in place to recognize, at least in part, the votes of those who do not vote for the winning candidate in each riding. Adoption of some form of proportional representation would lead to parliaments that better reflect Canadians' electoral choices.

Consider, for example, some statistics about the last election in 2004. Thirteen Conservative MPs were elected in Saskatchewan, but none in Quebec, where almost twice as many people voted Conservative. Across the country, the NDP received far more votes overall than the Bloc Québecois, but the Bloc gained nearly three times as many seats and held the balance of power. In the prairie provinces, the Conservatives attracted twice as many votes as the Liberals but won seven times as many seats. A half-million Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada elected 22 MPs while more than half a million Green Party voters across Canada elected no one.

In recent decades, Canadians experienced only one legitimate majority government (Mulroney 1984). The remainder were phony majorities, including Jean Chretien’s 1997 government, elected by 38.5 per cent of the popular vote. In many provinces, when a party captures 50 to 55 per cent of the vote, that is enough to effectively wipe out representation for other parties. In 1997, half the voters in Ontario voted Liberal and elected 101 MPs, while the other half elected 2 MPs from other parties. PEI, Ontario and Alberta have had the most distorted federal election results over the past twenty-five years.

Among the provinces, Saskatchewan has the highest percentage of wasted votes, where voting has been a futile exercise for nearly six of ten voters.

In the last New Zealand election, 1% of the voters cast wasted votes that elected no one. In Germany, 4%, and Scotland, 6%. In the last Canadian election, 50% cast wasted votes. In 1984, 37% of eligible voters voted for the winning party, and 25% did not vote. In 2000, 25% of eligible voters voted for the winning party, and 39% did not vote.

Our political parties are beginning to understand that there are problems with our first-past-the-post voting system where the winner of the most votes wins the election, but they have been slow to realize how our dysfunctional electoral system subverts democratic values, drives wedges between regions, unfairly rewards and punishes various political parties and makes a mockery of representative democracy and government accountability. Given the way our system ignores many voters, it is not surprising that so many don't even bother to vote.

We could end up with a Conservative or Liberal government, majority or minority, on January 23. Unfortunately, neither party has developed a strong plan for reforming our electoral system and doesn't seem to be interested in consulting fairly with Canadians about a reformed voting system. It is about time they did. The NDP has some better ideas, but not much chance of forming a government.

Wayne McNulty


From Northumberland Today:

Candidates asked for opinions on voting reform

By Valerie MacDonald

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 - 09:00

Local News - A spokesperson for Fair Vote Canada’s Northumberland chapter won’t say which federal candidate comes closest to what the organization wants to see as Canada’s new voting system.

The local chapter is “pleased” all four answered the questions, Port Hope lawyer Wilf Day said during an interview yesterday, “but we’re not going to criticize anyone for answering the questionnaire.”

Fair Vote is a multi-partisan group, he stressed.

“I don’t want to be quoted as ranking them. The answers speak for themselves.”

Although all of the candidates “are prepared to seriously consider Canada adopting a new voting system they did not all agree on how it should be chosen or what it should look like,” the press release from the local Fair Vote Canada chapter stated.

Fair Vote promotes proportional representation, where the number of seats parties held in Parliament are in proportion to votes cast.

One of the questions put to the candidates asked if they supported an “independent, citizen-led process to allow Canadians to choose a fair voting system.”

Northumberland-Quinte West’s incumbent Liberal MP Paul Macklin did not reply, but Conservative candidate Rick Norlock, NDP candidate Russ Christianson and Pat Lawson of the local Green Party supported the idea.

“Yes,” Mr. Norlock stated. “But the citizen-led process must be made up of a genuine cross-section of the Canadian population.”

Mr. Macklin also declined to answer the question about whether he “personally support(ed) the principle that all voters are equal, no vote will be wasted, and every citizen will have a fair and equal voice,” states the media release.

All of the other candidates replied “yes” to the question.

All of the local candidates in the upcoming federal election said a new voting system should include accountable government, but only Mr. Christianson and Mrs. Lawson said it should accurately reflect the will of the voters, the media release continued.

The NDP and Green candidates supported these four objectives of a new voting system:

proportional representation so that parties should have “no more and no fewer seats than their popular support warrants”;

fair opportunity for women, and for minorities and aboriginals;

fair geographic representation; and

real voter choice.

Mr. Norlock and Mr. Macklin “did not commit themselves,” states the Fair Vote Canada summary of the candidates’ replies to the questionnaire.


From The Gateway (University of Alberta):

Andy Hladyshevsky, a lawyer who received a BSc, LLB and MBA from the University of Alberta, is running as the Liberal Party candidate in Edmonton Strathcona.

Q: What, if any, reforms need to be made to Canada's government structure (such as electoral or senate reform)?

A: I have real big issues with first-past-the-post; at the end of the day, if number one doesn’t get 50 per cent plus one, number one should go against number two, and a week after the election we do the whole thing again, and we elect somebody with at least 50 per cent of the vote. That also gets away from the vote-splitting issue that makes things a little more difficult for some of the parties. The Liberals and NDP together have always had more votes [in Edmonton Strathcona] than the Conservatives, so that tells us that we’re not a Conservative riding, but with the nature of the vote, people think, “You vote Conservative through and through, virtually consistently for 40 years.” I think Canadians are so frustrated that there needs to be that sort of watershed change in the system. In terms of senate reform, I think Canadians want to see federal-provincial discussions to move it to a different level. And I haven’t seen a proportional representation proposal that works on a federal level yet, but I’d be willing to see some put forward so we can at least have some logical discussion.

Mr. Hladyshevsky has identified the problem, but not the solution. What he proposes is not proportional representation -- but it's nice to see he's willing to talk about it. That's all Fair Vote Canada is asking for -- let the people decide!

Anne McLellan, the Deputy Prime Minister from Edmonton, is also talking more and more about PR.

- Wayne



Dear Fair Vote folks,

At page bottom are letters to the editors that I have been submitting to newspapers and magazines both locally and nationally.

I was able to get an interview with a local radio station (BKR - Kootenay broadcast radio), during which I outlined the importance of changing our voting system.

Volunteers have been assigned to attend most of the all-candidate meetings in our riding (BC southern interior), and I have made some outreach to other ridings in the province.

The basic question I am suggesting be asked is:

"Are you in favour of a fair voting system, where the number of seats held by the partys accurately reflects the popular vote (namely proportional representation)? And if so, what are you willing to do to achieve this and what public involvement would there be in this process?"

This puts the question in a format that explains itself without a lengthly preamble (most all candidate meetings specify questions only). It also defines proportional representation in laypersons terms. Many voters do not understand the terms "proportional representation" or "electoral reform". These are the very people we need to get onside. It also pins the candidate to defining an action plan and puts in a plug for public input.


LETTER # 1
What would Canadian politics look like if Canadians actually got what they voted for during our elections? If we had a fair voting system that matched the number of party seats to the popular vote, our government would be very different. For example, in the last federal election the Bloc would have won 38 seats instead of 54, the NDP would have 48 seats instead of 19 and the Green party would have 13 seats instead of none. Our current "winner take all" voting system misrepresents our votes unfairly to all parties. For example over 300,000 people in Quebec voted Conservative but did not win one seat while less than 180,000 Conservative voters in Saskatchewan won 13 seats.

Look at the results for yourself on the website for Fair Vote Canada www.fairvote.ca and Elections Canada. It is time for Canadians to join the majority of democracies in the world who have changed to a fair voting system (proportional representation). Become informed and demand change from the candidates running in this election.

LETTER # 2
The Canadian federal voting system is a mockery of democracy. It puts many voters in a dilemma of voting for a party they don't want in order to defeat one they despise.

Our votes are not fairly represented on the basis of popular vote to party seats held. Majority governments are often formed with a minority of the votes and political parties manipulate voters regionally to their advantage.

The time is overdue for us to trade in our outdated and highly unfair voting system and join the majority of democracies who have adopted some form of proportional representation.

It takes about one half hour for the average voter to understand how these systems work. On Rememberance Day we are reminded that our soldiers fought and died for our right to vote. One half hour is a small sacrifice in comparison. Become informed, visit Fair Vote Canada www.fairvote.ca and Elections Canada. If you are not satisfied with our current system, demand change from the candidates running in this election.

LETTER # 3
Our Canadian voting system is a joke. Here are some rib ticklers from the last federal election:

Over 300,000 Conservative voters in Quebec got no seats, while fewer than 180,000 Conservative voters in Saskatchewan won 13 seats.

Over 500,000 Green voters won no seats, while less than 500,000 Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada won 22 seats.

The NDP had more votes than the Bloc but the Bloc won nearly three times as many seats.

And here is a real side splitter: in past elections, majority governments are often formed with a minority of the votes.

The funniest thing is that no elected government has addressed this problem. Unfortunately, the joke has been on the Canadian voters.

Let's have the last laugh and demand a fair voting system (proportional voting) from the candidates in this election.

Check the figures stated at: Fair Vote Canada www.fairvote.ca and Elections Canada.

LETTER #4
The real threat to Canadian unity is not the Bloc, it is our outdated and highly unfair voting system. In the last federal election, if we elected our representatives to government factoring the popular vote, the Bloc would have won 38 seats instead of 54. As well, the 300,000 Conservative voters in Quebec would have elected six or seven MPs to speak for them, and the Quebec voters would have had real choice. The distorted election results we get do not serve anyone's best interest.

It is noteworthy that during the leadership debate, Mr Duceppe brushed off the question on electoral reform, saying that he did not invent the system we are using.

Fair proportional voting systems have been adopted by the majority of the world's democracies. It is time we joined them. To see how these systems work, visit www.fairvote.ca.

Become informed and demand a process with public involvement to reform our voting system, from the candidates running in this election.

All the best, Dave Carter


Wayne;

I plagiarized some of your blog material and sent this Letter to the Editor of our local daily rag, the Chronicle-Herald. Hope it's OK with you.

John Csutorka
Chair, Fair Vote Nova Scotia

That's what I'm here for, John!
- Wayne



Dear Editor

Are you as disgusted with the negative election ads as I am? Well think about this. The purpose of negative ads is not to attract votes, but to drive away the other guy's voters, and to discourage people from voting at all. It is a major contributor to the cynicism and apathy that permeate our politics.

What is not commonly understood is how all this is conditioned by our current, winner-take-all voting system. The object of the current game is to get 40% of the votes so you can get 60% of the seats and 100% of the power. There is no incentive to be reasonable, to negotiate, or to compromise. Every party takes the stance that "Everything we say is right, and everything they say is wrong." This kind of attitude and environment keeps a lot of reasonable people out of the political arena, and particularly women.

Proportional representation, on the other hand, tends to generate coalition governments. The sharing of power tends to lower the level of frustration and testosterone. It also means that politicians have to tone down their rhetoric a bit. It's dangerous to call somebody the devil's spawn when you might have to make a deal with them next week. Countries with proportional voting systems tend to have greater voter satisfaction with governments and politicians. They elect more women and minorities and, on the average, they get higher voter turnout. They also have good economic performance and superior environmental policies.

Negative advertising is terribly destructive, and a threat to democracy. It is time that Canada dumps the archaic winner-take-all voting system that is responsible for this disgusting practice.

John Csutorka, Chair,
Fair Vote Nova Scotia


Hi Larry and Wayne;

Chris Thomas, reporter at the Simcoe Reformer, took a press release which I brought to the paper's offices and expanded it into an interview with Wayne. As soon as I can, I will photocopy the article and mail it to you.

Stephana Johnston


Hi folks,

I made Letter of the Day in "The Record" weekend edition. They did do some minor editing, but the message is still loud and clear. Below is a copy of my published letter and the link to it on the Record site.

Cheers,
Andrew

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

from The (Kitchener) Record (subscriber only)

Electoral system produces unfair results

ANDREW TEICHROEB

(Jan 14, 2006)

True democracy means many things. It means that every vote counts and that every citizen matters.

It means that all regions are represented, that more women and ethnic minorities are elected, and that there is a high voter turnout. It means that your values are represented in Parliament and that voters are voting for something instead of against something. Finally, it means that the government is accountable to the people.

Sound too good to be true, like a dream? Wake up -- this is a reality.

This democratic system is called proportional representation and is used in 81 nations, including most major Western democracies.

Why are we still using an antiquated system that elects phoney majority governments without the majority of votes? Why do we continue to allow a system that breeds corruption and contempt for democracy?

The winds of change are blowing. Let's send a clear message in the days ahead and make this the last unfair election.

Andrew Teichroeb,
Fair Vote Ontario Council Member


from the Pickering News Advertiser

Ajax-Pickering candidates discuss representation

Jan 12, 2006
By Keith Gilligan Staff Writer

DURHAM -- With Conservative hopeful Rondo Thomas a no show, the zingers were missing as candidates in Ajax-Pickering Riding stuck to the issues during a debate Wednesday.

Mr. Thomas wasn't at the debate, held at the Pickering Recreation Complex, as he was attending a funeral. Around 300 people turned out for the event, sponsored by the News Advertiser, Rogers Television and Durham Radio. Questions came from a media panel and audience members.

Voter apathy could be addressed by implementing a form of proportional representation, according to Green Party hopeful Russell Korus.

"Wouldn't it be great to pick and choose the best ideas of each party. That's what proportional representation is," he said.

"Ask someone why they vote Conservative and they'll tell you all that's wrong with the Liberals. Ask a Liberal and they'll tell you all that's wrong with a Conservative. It's the lesser of two evils. Proportional representation will make people more excited. People will feel they really have a say in Parliament."

In the 2004 federal election, "we should have had 13 MPs and we had none. Proportional representation needs to be implemented. It's a great way of doing it. It would make our system more fair."

Kevin Modeste, the New Democratic Party candidate, said "both the NDP and myself support proportional representation.

"It's the way to go. With a 21st-century reality, it's time politics and government reflect our reality."

People have to be challenged. "Voting critically is the best way," Mr. Modeste noted.

In his closing remarks, he added, "Vote critically, not traditionally."

Christian Heritage Party hopeful Kevin Norng also supported proportional representation.

"Those opposed to it are those who stand to lose the most power," he said. "We need to look for a type that works. There are 14 types. We have to find the best one for Canada.

"If we encourage proportional representation, people would feel their vote really counts."

Liberal candidate Mark Holland said proportional representation "as a pure system isn't fair. As a mixed system, we have to look at that."

As an MP, he looked into lowering the voting age to 16, adding it's a "disturbing trend young people don't vote."

The key, he added, was "getting young people excited in the process."

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