ERRE: The All Party Electoral Reform Committee

The Special Committee on Electoral Reform has been meeting this week.

COMMITTEE CHAIR

Francis Scarpaleggia ~ Liberal
M.P./député Lac-Saint-Louis Chair Liberal Caucus/président caucus libéral
@ScarpaleggiaLSL

MEMBERS

John Aldag ~ Liberal
Member of Parliament for Cloverdale – Langley City
@jwaldag

Matt DeCourcey ~ Liberal
Member of Parliament for Fredericton / Député de Fredericton
@MattDeCourcey

Ruby Sahota ~ Liberal
MP – Brampton North
@MPRubySahota

Sherry Romanado ~ Liberal
Députée féderale pour Longueuil-Charles-Lemoyne / Member of Parliament for Longueuil-Charles-LeMoyne
@SherryRomanado

VICE CHAIR
Scott Reid ~ Conservative
MP for Lanark – Frontenac – Kingston
@ScottReidCPC

Gérard Deltell ~ Conservative
Député de Louis-Saint-Laurent à la Chambre des communes
@gerarddeltell

Hon. Jason Kenney ~ Conservative
Member of Parliament for Calgary Midnapore
@jkenney

VICE CHAIR

Nathan Cullen ~ NDP critic for Democratic Reform and Environment & Climate Change
Member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley
@nathancullen

Alexandre Boulerice ~ NDP
Député de Rosemont La Petite-Patrie
@alexboulerice

For the ERRE Committee Meetings I’ve seen,
Daniel Blaikie has been sitting in for Alexandre Boulerice
but I’m not sure if this is temporary or permanent.

Daniel Blaikie ~ NDP
Member of Parliament for Elmwood — Transcona
@Daniel_Blaikie

Elizabeth May ~ Leader of Green Party,
Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands
@ElizabethMay

Luc Thériault ~ Bloc Québécois
Député de Montcalm et leader parlementaire du Bloc Québécois
@LucTerjo1


The Committee will present its findings to the MINISTER of Democratic Institutions 
Maryam Monsef ~ Liberal
Member of Parliament for Peterborough—Kawartha
@MaryamMonsef


ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform meetings in Ottawa that had been broadcast live by CPAC (on local cable station, Parlvu and still available to watch on CPAC) and some #ERRE #Q questions posed on Twitter by WRGreens by @SamNabi and @laurelrusswurm.  If you use twitter, use the #ERRE #Q hashtag for anything you want the committee to consider.

The Committee will also be travelling throughout Canada to meet with Canadians during the consultation period.  All MPs are encouraged to hold Town Hall meetings with citizens in their respective ridings.  I’ve heard the ERRE Committee will be making a Consultation stop once in Waterloo Region in the third week in August, but as yet nothing official. But should be 5 Electoral Reform Town Halls scheduled in the WRGreens Electoral Districts:

Everyone should contact their local MPs constituency office for details of these events.  Because the time line is so tight, it is important these be scheduled very soon.

We have begun planning a #WRAwesome #PR4PR event to help raise awareness and answer questions about Proportional Representation for people in Waterloo Region.

Mo, David, Sam, Julia, Richard, Bob (and Laurel behind the camera)
Mo, David, Sam, Julia, Richard, Bob (with Laurel behind the camera)

If your MP is not making any move to hold a town hall, or if you are concerned that your MP may not support Proportional Representation, please visit our Push for Proportional Representation Action page.  If you are outside Waterloo Region, please feel free to use our ideas.

[For more info check out PR 4 Canada Resources]

Open Streets ~ July 24, 2016

OpenStreets June 2016-1

OpenStreets June 2016-2
Open Streets Table June 2016
Even with the LRT construction, OPEN STREETS Waterloo is going ahead! And we’re glad, too, because we had a great time at our first Open Streets in June!

AND we’re expecting an even better time tomorrow in July (July 24th, 2016).

Drop by and say “hi,” sign the petition, and talk to us about Green issues, including electoral reform!

It’s going to be a hot day so dress appropriately, wear sunscreen and bring a refillable water bottle!

Open Streets_2nd

Tweet A Question #ERRE

The Electoral Reform Committee Meetings are to be broadcast on CPAC, which we can watch online at http://www.cpac.ca/en/ or on your local cable tv broadcast [find your CPAC channel here]

Every time the Electoral Reform Committee meets they are inviting the public to submit questions on Twitter at #ERRE #Q.
One way we can participate in the process is to tweet questions or comments during the committee meetings.

The #ERRE Committee Schedule for the last week in July

Monday, July 25, 2016 

AFTERNOON: 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. (EDT)

As individuals
R. Kenneth Carty, Professor Emeritus, The University of British Colombia
Brian Tanguay, Professor, Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University
Nelson Wiseman, Director, Canadian Studies Program, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

MORNING: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (EDT)

As individuals
Michael Marsh, Emeritus Professor, Trinity College Dublin
(by videoconference: Dublin, Ireland)
Michael Gallagher, Professor of Comparative Politics, Trinity College Dublin
(by videoconference: Dublin, Ireland)

AFTERNOON: 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. (EDT)

As individuals
Patrice Dutil, Professor, Ryerson University  [https://twitter.com/ryersonresearch/status/746402644311347204]
Peter Russell, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science,University of Toronto

EVENING: 7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (EDT)

As individual
Tom Rogers, Electoral Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission (by videoconference: Canberra, Australia)

New Zealand Electoral Commission
Robert Peden, Chief Electoral Officer (by videoconference: Wellington, New Zealand)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

MORNING: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (EDT)

As individuals
Henry Milner, Senior Researcher, Chair in Electoral Studies, Université de Montréal
Alex Himelfarb, Clerk of the Privy Council, 2002-2006
André Blais, Professor, Department of Political Science, Université de Montréal

AFTERNOON 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Institute for Research on Public Policy
Leslie Seidle, Research Director, Canada’s Changing Federal Community

As individuals
Larry LeDuc, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
Hugo Cyr, Dean, Faculty of Political Science and Law, Université du Québec à Montréal

Thursday, July 28, 2016

MORNING: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (EDT)

As individuals
Dennis Pilon, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, York University

Jonathan Rose, Associate Professor, Department of Policital Studies, Queen’s University

Institute on Governance
Maryantonett Flumian, President

To confirm the schedule and find out when future meetings will be held:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/ERRE/Meetings

WRGREENS ACTION PORTAL

And it doesn’t stop there.  The first WRGreens Action Campaign is the Push for Proportional Representation.  Help us work more effectively together to convince our Members of Parliament of the importance of Proportional Representation.

Our 2015 Kitchener—Conestoga candidate Bob Jonkman (who also happens to be the Fair Vote Waterloo Co-Chair) was so informative during the Electoral Reform Debate during the election, I assembled it into this 7 minute short video:

Since meaningful electoral reform is not a partisan issue, but one of fairness for voters, this information is important for all Canadians, no matter which way their politics lean, so I’ve un-branded this video to make it more universally sharable.

 

GPC Proportional Representation Toolbox

GPC Proportional Representation Toolbox graphic 39% vote = 55% seats = 100% power

If you’ve read the previous article, Why the Green Party Supports Proportional Representation, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of why adopting a fair voting system is so important.

"The vast majority of modern democracies   —including the five most prosperous countries in the world— use one form or another of  Proportional Representation.   PR gets higher voter turnout,  higher levels of women in political office,  more diverse ethnicity within Parliaments. "  — Elizabeth May  Green Party Leader MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands

In order for this to happen, we need to be sure that the Special Committee on Electoral Reform hears us, and that the Government knows Canadians really want this change. And not just the government: MPs from every political party need to hear us.  This is why the Green Party has an excellent array of tools you can use to help encourage the adoption of Proportional Representation!

One of reasons New Zealand was able to replace its First Past The Post system with Mixed Member Proportional Representation was that their main stream media properly informed voters. That is not happening here. Instead, one of our biggest obstacles is that our mainstream media doesn’t really want this change because it benefits from the status quo. This is why it is so important that we understand the issue so we can help others understand it.

And because we don’t have fair representation in Parliament, we will need to be as loud as we can, both online and off.

The GPC Toolbox includes examples of the kind of letter you might send to your local newspaper. If you’re looking for additional examples, our Fair Vote Waterloo Chapter (co-chaired by our own Bob Jonkman) has been keeping track of all the letters they have had published and posted them online.

There are also tips for using social media effectively, and graphics you can use. Since I’ve been learning and writing about the importance of Proportional Representation I’ve been creating graphics you can use as well.

There are plenty of things we can do to pitch in, check them out at the GPC Toolbox
Proportional Representation in 5 points

Why the Green Party Supports Proportional Representation

This article is largely reprinted from the “Entitlement” article in my Whoa!Canada Proportional Representation series.   


The electoral reform process in Canada has begun.

The Green Party has long supported meaningful electoral reform to Proportional Representation, and I’ll do my best to explain why here.

Any Proportional system Canada might adopt will be a huge improvement to our democratic process. This is because it will produce a Parliament that truly represents Canadians. As our Fair Vote friends are fond of saying, 39% of the votes will achieve 39% of the power.

Around the world, nobody switches to a First Past The Post system because it is not only antiquated, it doesn’t work very well. In fact, more than 85% of OECD countries use Proportional Representation, and some progressive countries have been using PR for well over a century.

But it is really hard to replace a First Past The Post electoral system, because the politicians who benefit disproportionately are generally not inclined to adopt a fairer system, because it will limit their own power to what they earn in votes. It is a credit to Mr. Trudeau’s government that they are going through the promised reform even after winning a majority government.

disproportional representation

Canada’s current electoral system results in disproportional representation.  This is breathtakingly apparent when you look at the back to back “majority” governments we’ve had.  The thing that hits the eye with these two election result graphs is the almost identical consecutive wins achieved by different parties.  The 2011 Conservatives won a phony majority with 39% of the vote, just as the 2015 Liberals won a phony majority with 39% of the vote.  This is a winner take all system, so that’s the only part of the graph that matters.
Election Results: 2011 and 2015But looking at the details, you can see a clear picture of the unfairness in the system.

POPVOTE≠SEATS-bloc-green-2011

In 2011 the Bloc Québécois won 4 seats with 6% of the vote.  In 2015 the Bloc Québécois won 10 seats with only 4.7% of the vote.

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t get my mind around the idea that fewer votes can more than double a party’s seats in Parliament.

In these two elections, the Green Party outcome was consistent, winning 1 seat with approximately 3 percent of the vote. 

While the Green Party’s 3-4% of the vote only won a single seat in Parliament, the Bloc’s 6% and 4.76% won four and ten seats respectively.   Such crazy math in the “easy to understand” First Past The Post is one of the reasons Canadians are likely to say “I don’t understand politics.”

There is a reason for the disparity between the two small parties.  While both parties suffer from the inequity in our Winner-Take-All system, the Green Party’s support is spread out across Canada but Bloc voters are concentrated in the same geographic region.  With more Bloc voters in a riding, the party has a much better chance to win seats.  Even so, the Bloc still gets less than half as many seats as their votes warrant.

POPVOTE≠SEATS-bloc-green-2015

With our single member plurality electoral system, the party that wins a majority of seats wins a disproportional amount of power.  This gives the candidate (and party) with the most votes the win.

Not just any win, THE win.

For a candidate, that means s/he is the only representative — and the only voice — for the electoral district where s/he was elected.  For a political party, that means a majority of seats, even though that party failed to win a majority of the votes cast.  And whenever anyone talks about electoral reform, that’s pretty much what everyone looks at: how our system works for political parties.

Too often forgotten in discussions of electoral reform is how our system works — or doesn’t — for the Canadian people.

Politics isn’t a job creation program for politicians, it is supposed to provide citizens with representation in Parliament so our laws and policy reflects what citizens want and need.

Our representatives are elected in single member electoral districts: that means each district elects only a single Member of Parliament who is expected to represent everyone in the electoral district.  That’s what Canadians are used to, and I (like most of us, I suspect) have long thought this is how it has to be because this is how it’s always been.  And yet lately I’ve been learning Canada has used a variety of different voting methods in different parts of Canada over the years.

Although our MP can help us all equally if we bring them an administrative problem that requires cutting through bureaucratic red tape, or sometimes find a compromise on a contentious issue that will satisfy most citizens, when it comes to policy, none of us can realistically expect an MP who campaigns in favour of one issue to fight against it after they have been elected.

As you can imagine, it isn’t often we’ll hear any sitting MP talking about this problem in public; so it was pretty impressive to hear former Guelph MP, Frank Valeriote admit this publicly during his last term of office.

What ordinary people expect from democracy — what we are told to expect — is that our MP will represent us. But the reality is that one person can’t possibly represent the opposing views of a hundred thousand constituents.

This is why multi-member districts — larger electoral districts which elect multiple MPs — are a great idea.  When more than one MP is elected in a district, more than one view from the district can be represented in Parliament. And after all, isn’t that the point of democracy?

Electoral Reform for Greens

How many votes does it take to get a seat in Parliament?
How many votes does it take to get a seat in Parliament?

Small parties almost always favour Proportional Representation because small parties and independent candidates are the most disadvantaged by winner-take-all systems.  The graph shows us just how badly the Green Party of Canada fared in 2015.  We all know that it was even worse in 2008 when almost a million votes failed to elect any Green candidates at all.  From the outside it looks as though the Green Party is doing badly… worse, in fact, than 2008.  Although I haven’t done a scientific study, or even conducted a public opinion poll, I don’t believe that for a minute.

Green supporters don’t often stop thinking green thoughts or wanting a sustainable future or believing green policy.  But in the face of an electoral system that makes it nearly impossible to get candidates elected, intelligent people very often switch to other parties in desperation.  Although we are all very much aware of the bigger parties appropriating Green policies, we don’t often realize this is often because Green supporters bring them along.

This is not just a Canadian problem; this is a feature of the First Past the Post electoral system.  If we look across the pond we can see the UK has the same problems with FPTP as we do.  In some ways even worse, as it took four million votes to elect a single UKIP MP in their most recent election.

Politics is not simply a numbers game.  Even though most Canadians haven’t really understood why our political system fails to work the way we think it should (by providing us with representation), most of us have known the system is badly broken for a very long time.  And since the system has not been working for us, so many Canadians have fallen under the spell of strategic voting in vain hopes of gaming the system to make it work for us.

I can’t tell you how many times during the campaign that people told Bob how much they wanted to vote for him but felt they couldn’t.  One of the very worst things about all this strategic voting is that because so many Canadians are not voting for who/what they want, the reality is there is no way to tell what most Canadians actually do want.  It’s kind of like not having accurate census data: in the absence of fact, the government is free to do whatever it likes.  Especially when a single party holds a majority.   It is worse still when it’s a phony majority, as most of ours are.   Since 1945 there have only been 2 majority governments a majority of Canadians voted for, and before that, only 4 Canadian “majority” governments in Canada were actually elected by more than 50% of the vote.  And defenders of the status quo try to paint coalition government as undemocratic!

Proportional Representation for Canada will mean larger electoral districts which have more than a single MP, and they will almost always result in coalition governments. Far from being undemocratic, majority coalition governments are elected by an actual majority of voters!

Some people think the political parties advocating for electoral reform to Proportional Representation are doing it because it will give them an advantage.  This is simply not true.  Proportional Representation would most certainly improve the lot of the smaller parties, but not by giving them an unfair advantage, but by removing the unfair advantage the winning party gets under our winner-take-all system.  Proportional Representation is intended to ensure the votes each candidate and/or party earns is reflected in the power they get in Parliament.

Institutional Discrimination

Small parties suffer systemic discrimination in the Canadian system.  Even with sitting MPs, the Green Party of Canada and the Bloc Québécois parties are not treated equally.   The argument in support of this discrimination is that neither party has enough seats in the House of Commons to be counted as an official party.

But political parties are required to jump through bureaucratic government hoops to get registered by the government before any candidate is allowed to compete in an election under the party banner.  Federal Registration is how a political party gets on the ballot and becomes a real party.   Why isn’t a “Registered Party” an “Official Party”?

Where did this crazy idea that a party with a sitting MP is not a real party until X number of candidates have been elected come from?  If there was ever any doubt about the fact “X” is a purely arbitrary construct designed to privilege the two largest parties, it was dispelled in the aftermath of the 1993 Canadian election when the Progressive Conservative Party was reduced to two seats.  At that point an exception was made to allow the Progressive Conservative Party to retain the special perks of “official party” status even though it had only 2 seats.  In spite of the fact the Canadian electorate had unambiguously indicated that party should no longer be so entitled.

So while the Progressive Conservative Party whose governance angered an overwhelming number of Canadians was allowed to retain its privilege, a Green Party with 2 sitting MPs was not an “Official Party,” any more than the Bloc Québécois is today with 10 sitting MPs.

But Official Party status delivers financial perks.  It isn’t enough that our Winner-Take-All system gives the winning party an unfair advantage in seats, the “official parties” get extra funding for party leaders, party whips, cabinet positions, parliamentary secretaries etc.   All paid for by taxpayers, including Green taxpayers — while our party is denied the funds intended to aid a party in representing its constituents.  Elizabeth May is not only an Independent candidate doing a phenomenal job for her constituents in , she represents the interests of more than 600,000 voters — including those of us waaaaaay over here in Waterloo Region.

The Parliament Buildings

If the number of votes needed to elect a Member of Parliament was consistent, if 38,000 votes translated into one MP, as it did on average for the Liberals, the Green Party would have earned enough votes to elect 16 MPs in 2015.  Which ought to be more than enough to achieve official party status even in our Winner-Take-All world.  But the system we have in place is not about fairness for Canadians, it’s about keeping the real power in the hands of the two most powerful parties.

The idea that any candidate who wins an election and goes to Ottawa to sit as a Member of Parliament should be denied the same rights and respect as any other MP is not only ludicrous, it is undemocratic.  

The problem is not so much that the candidate or the party is discriminated against, although that certainly isn’t fair.  The real trouble is that the citizens who elected these MPs are discriminated against.  Our winner-take-all system has allowed the deck to be stacked against small parties and independent candidates, but worst of all, against citizens.  Seems to me all Canadian voters ought to be entitled to representation.  Even in our terribly unrepresentative  representative democracy, all votes should be effective because all voters should be equal.

Proportional Representation will benefit the Green Party

If the votes cast in past elections are anything to go by, Green voters are likely to benefit most from Proportional Representation.  Some might suggest this is unfair, but the opposite is true.  The disproportional election results we get now give the winning party an advantage it hasn’t earned at the expense of the other parties.  As the Green Party is the most disadvantaged by our disproportional Winner-Take-All system, getting the seats in Parliament it deserves might look like a windfall, but the truth is the Green Party will only get the seats it has earned in votes, making it better able to represent its constituents in Parliament..

The way Green voters benefit is by actually getting the representation in Parliament we voted for.

Cambridge Greens Avatar

KitCenAvatarKitConAvatarKitSHAvatarWaterloo Green Party

WRGREENS FINALavatar

 

 

 


For more information, my Whoa!Canada series is intended to demystify Proportional Representation. This is the series so far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement

There are also a PR4Canada Resources

which includes links to Proportional Representation source material and articles, as well as helpful videos.

[Truth be told it was John Cleese who convinced me.]

A Day in the Park

Nonviolence Festival Booth at the Multicultural Festival

This year our own Bob Jonkman (Kitchener—Conestoga) has been involved in organizing the annual Nonviolence Festival Day In the Park.  This family friendly free festival is held in the cool shade of the Victoria Park island.

Building New Relations

The world is built through our relationships – each of us affecting the other, and being affected by our surroundings.

Building New Understanding

The way we understand the world (our personal values, beliefs, philosophies, etc.) guide what we do in the world.

A change in consciousness equals a change in the world.

Building New Strengths

As we continue to act in the spirit of nonviolence, we grow internally, developing new skills and comprehensions.

By working together in new ways we open the future to new personal and social possibilities.

History

The first Nonviolence Fair and Concert was held in 2005, in Waterloo Park. It was organized by volunteers to highlight the many positive activities in Waterloo region.

— Nonviolence Festival

Drop by and say “hi” to the folk at the Green Party information booth!
And don’t forget to sign Elizabeth’s electoral reform petition!

Nonviolence Festival Day in the Park

Clothes Swap

clothing stall at 2016 KW Multicultural FestivalWednesday, 6 July 2016 from 6 PM – 8 PM Trusted Clothes is hosting a clothing swap at 283 Duke Street West, Kitchener, Ontario
Click here for a Map

Bring good quality clothes that you don’t want anymore and leave with the same amount of new stuff!

Event is completely free and is to raise awareness about textile waste and the environment.

Men’s, women’s, kid’s, baby’s, accessories and shoes – all are welcome.

We have partnered with the Kidney Foundation to collect any leftover clothes with proceeds going to research. Please feel free to bring any clothing you wish to donate as well.
Trusted Clothes facebook event page

Although this is not a Green Party event, Trusted Clothes commitment to ethical, sustainable environmentally friendly (and health conscious!) endeavours will very likely appeal to green folk.

Have a Green Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day There’s lots to do to celebrate Canada Day locally today.

Did you know Cambridge Green Candidate Michele Braniff is CreateWaterloo’s Artist in Residence?  You can spot some of her work inside Grand River Transit buses.

Michele Braniff
Michele Braniff

To celebrate Canada Day, join Michele this afternoon between 1 – 3 for Drop in urban sketching at the old  Waterloo Train Station 10 Father David Bauer Dr, Waterloo, ON N2L 6M3 [directions here]

Michele promises a fun experience using pens on blank paper to produce your own highly personal & creative record of summer street scenes in Uptown Waterloo. There will be tips & coaching on selecting drawing sites, framing the sketch and using lines and shapes to suggest people, buildings and perspective. Bring your own tools and chair.

Then at 4:00pm Michele will be hosting a Story Telling Concert

In the tradition of campfires and listening together, Michele invites you to a storytelling event at the train station where she will use voice, expression and imagination to re-create the ancient tradition of storytelling. In celebration of Canada Day, Michele has created and collected stories to celebrate Waterloo County and Canada.

Michele Braniff sketches Bob Jonkman at the KW Multicultural Festival
Artist At Work: Michele Braniff sketches Bob Jonkman at the KW Multicultural Festival