So This Is Democracy, Eh?

Ok I am officially annoyed. Elizabeth May the Green Party of Canada leader has be blocked from entering the leaders debate for the 2008 general election.

First off let me be fully open, I am a Green Party of Canada member.  So I am biased.  Besides being a GPC member I am strong believer in voting and getting people to make informed decisions when doing so. This is the part of me that is so angry about this decision.

Backroom deals and incumbent political parties blocking another from participating in a debate, reads like the news out of some failed democracy around the world. This fact that this is being mentioned in conjunction with Canada should shame us all.

Every year the broadcast consortium has met behind closed doors to decide who is in and who is out of the debates.  Every year a party has been excluded for some new reason and while others that would have not passed the same test are included.  Every year the rules seem to change at the whim of these titans of our airwaves.

Here is the solution I propose.  The main broadcasters in the country or Elections Canada conducts a poll shortly after the start of the election.  Every party that meets a predefined and consistent threshold is included in the debates.  I don’t really care what threshold is used but only that it is applied the same every election, without exception.  I can suggest that 2% be used which is the same used for parties to receive federal financing. It would give every political party a goal to achieve – while treating them all fairly.

I was shocked to hear that one of the reasons for not allowing May into the debates was because 3 of the other parties refused to show up if she was there.  Maybe they are scared of breaking up the sausage party! In this case I find it hard to believe that the three parties would have dropped out of the debate leaving the Liberals and Greens with 2 hours of free air time!

The refusal of incumbents to show up to debates has also been used at the local riding level.  Last election the Liberal incumbent in my riding said he could not make it to a debate on poverty in the riding.  So the organizers canceled the debate, which played right into the hands of a MP who didn’t want this issue discussed.

Steve and the Conservatives – I guess I am not totally surprised about this one.  For a guy, that ran during the last election on a platform of making government more open and accountable, he has spent a lot of effort at doing the opposite.  The man has shunned the national media, only holding White House style press conferences – predetermined questions from approved reporters.  He refuses to scrum with reporters.  I can only imagine because he is scared of what might slip out!

Gilles and the Bloc Quebecois – I find it hard to believe that a national party would be excluded but a separatist regional party would be allowed to join in.  Crazy!

Jack and the NDP – I think this was the most disappointing of them all.  A party that has proportional representation as part of its platform and claims to fight for the little guys, has got to make you wonder when they pull something like this.  Layton has lost a whole lot of credibility in my book.

If you are still reading this then I ask you to go to the website below to sign the petition. Ask your friends to do the same.  You are not supporting the Green Party but supporting  a fair and open democracy.

Thanks Jamas

Let Elizabeth Speak

GO VOTE! – 2007 Election

Another election and another “go vote” plea from me. But wait this time there is a difference. You get to vote twice this time.

So like always I advise you to get out to vote on October 10th in the provincial general election. I won’t rehash all the reasons why you need to do this. (57% voter turnout last time, sooo sad!)

On October 10th you will also be given a second ballot. For the first time in 200+ years Ontario will get to pick how it elects members of the legislator. You will be given two choices: the existing first-past-the-post (FPTP) system and a new system, that was chosen by the Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform, called Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP). I think the members of the assembly did a great job. They spent 8 months studying all the different systems that are in use around the world. MMP is their choice for the future of voting in Ontario. You can see more about their work at: TVO

I encourage you to consider the new system. To me the best test of any electoral system is how closely the results reflect the will of the voters. By this test the MMP system is far better then our current system, FPTP.

FPTP is a great system for a country or province with only has two parties, this was the case when the system was first picked. I don’t feel that the diversity of ideas in Ontario can be well represented by just two political parties, and thus the FPTP system does a disservice to this diversity.

Remember that no electoral system is perfect. I encourage you to use the links below to find out more about your two choices. Figure what priorities are important to you and pick the system that best matches. (some are clearly for or against one system, it is worth reading both sides (minus the scare tactics))

I hope they help!

Reply to anti-MMP forwarded email

I got an email from my mom that looked a lot like another I had seen making a lot of arguments against the MMP system. Some of the concerns were valid but a lot of it was simple scare tactics with not much to backup what was being said. So here is my reply.

First, blame for the lack of education on this referendum falls clearly on the shoulders of the current government. I agree that education on the issue has been very poor. Given that the Liberals do not want the MMP side to win I would take the argument about people not knowing and turn it around. I think they are hoping that most people do not understand the question so vote to keep the current system.

A change in electoral system has been asked for. Many groups have raised this issue with the government asking for them to take a look at a change. B.C. faced the same question. I expect other provinces and the federal government will also be looking at the issue. Our current system is old (215 years) and outdated when it comes to the diversity that Canada and especially Ontario have. It is an important cornerstone of our democracy and is probably worth reviewing every 100+ years or so!

I don’t believe in the conspiracy theories about the Citizen’s Assembly. This was done by a Liberal majority government that does not support the proposed system. Take a look at this to see what these people did in 8 months time. TVO Doc. They have done their work. Now it is up to you to take the time to understand what they are proposing and go vote.

I totally disagree with assessment that the shift in power away from the people of Ontario. In 2003 the Liberals received only 46% of the vote yet got 70% of the seats. In a parliamentary system that translates into a huge majority and 100% of the power. So with FPTP 46% of the voters got all the power while the 54% (a majority) were left with opposition representation or in a lot of cases no representation at all. How can a system that creates false majorities be considered good for giving power to the people.

The FPTP system also attracts a lot of strategic voting. Voters end up voting for a candidate not because of the party platform or candidate but because they think they have the best chance of beating someone they like less. In the MMP system this can still happen in the local riding races but not in the party vote. It will provide a much closer result to what people in the province think the priorities should be.

In response to the party hacks making up the list, this would be political suicide for a party. Each party will have to choose how their lists are made up. Call it a judgment of each parties character. Will some parties just have lists made by the leader, possibly yes. If that happens I highly encourage the voters to vote against that party to send a message that this is not acceptable. This is however no different then how parties choose to nominate local candidates. Some will hold a local candidate nomination so that local members of the party get to pick the local candidate to represent the party. However there are cases of the party leader picking candidates to run in specific ridings, sometimes with the strong objection of the local members. Neither FPTP or MMP systems are responsible for this, hold the parties in either system accountable for how a local candidate is selected and how a list candidate is selected.

I encourage you to get involved in a party and make sure they select candidates in a fair manner. I can describe how several parties in New Zealand will pick the list members. Two lists will be created one of potential male candidates and one of female candidates. The party membership will be asked to look at each person on the two lists and rank the candidates on each list from 1 to XX. The party list will then take two lists sort by the overall ranking of the candidates and merge them together, zipper merge. This means the party list will have an equal number of male and female representation, interleaved.

Women are horribly underrepresented in the legislator. Currently only making up 24%! Check out links below for the reason why.

Given that Ontario has the highest MPP to voter ratio, 1:110,000, in all of Canada maybe it is time to add a few more seats. This will increase representation not decrease. We have supported much more seats in the legislator, this was reduced in 1999. Yes there is added cost but nothing that is going to break the bank. Currently the cost of salaries and benefits is less then 1% of the budget. Is extra representation worth the cost?

I think there is a myth that list members will do nothing at the local level. This is not true. In New Zealand most list members will setup an office in the area they live or in a riding that their party did not win the local seat. The idea is to give people in that riding another member to contact to have their ideas heard and have local issues addressed. Also there are so many issues that are not local to a specific riding, for example think of this election so far: environment and education funding.

With FPTP you get one representative. My riding has been Liberal both provincially (since 1971) and federally (since 1933) since I have lived there. I don’t feel that I have someone representing issues I feel are important at either level of government. Try send a letter asking for support on an issue that is against your MPP’s party’s platform and you will see what I mean. The MMP system in this case would provide you with an alternative to having to go through your local candidate. You would be able to contact any list candidate from a party that supports your views and ask them to represent your opinion a the legislator.

FPTP is a great system when you only have two parties. I don’t believe the diversity of ideas in Ontario would be well represented by just two parties (think United States) and thus FPTP does a disservice to this diversity.

I feel that the best test of an electoral system is how well it represents the will of the electorate. In this respect I believe that MMP does a much better job then our current system. I see it is a good balance between a pure PR system and maintaining some riding based representation.

There is no such thing as a perfect electoral system. I really encourage you to do some research about the two systems. Figure out what is important to you (fair results, local representation, …) and pick the system that best fits.

Here are bunch of links that you should take a look at:
(some are clearly for or against one system, it is worth reading both sides)

2007 Election: Voting begins in two days!

The advance polls in Ontario will open in two days. I really encourage you to go vote. It is one of the most important roles we play a citizens.

You will also be given a ballot on the referendum question, which asks if the system for voting in Ontario should be changed. You will have two choices: the current system called first-past-the-post (FPTP) and a new system proposed be the Ontario Citizens Assembly called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). You need to understand what is being asked and what the two systems will produce for the province of Ontario in future elections.

I really encourage you to vote for the new MMP system. A group of 103 people from every riding in the province spent over 8 months studying the voting systems in countries all over the world. The looked at our current system and the problems that are inherent in a system that was designed for two party politics. MMP is a great compromise between various systems. Ridings still maintain a locally elected representative. The big improvement in the new system is that it produces results that are closer to the will of the voters. No longer would a party receive less then half of the votes cast and end up with over 60% of the seats and 100% of the power.

If you have questions or comments then please post them or email me. I am more then happy to convince you to vote for MMP.