A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Electoral Reform – Choosing the Committee Members

This week the government has announced the structure of the all party parliamentary committee that will study what electoral system reforms will be put before parliament. Unfortunately they did not accept suggestions that said committee should not have a majority members from any political party (in this instance the Liberals). As several commentators have said, myself included, this leaves them wide open to being accused of swaying the outcome to their own particular preference. Indeed such accusations are already being made before the actual members of said committee have even been selected, true a member of the Bloc and Ms May representing the greens are to be included BUT as ex-officio members with no voting rights. We have yet to see exactly who will be on said committee or how they will be selected.

It seems to me that given these two ex-officio members a say in the actual outcome would even thing out by giving the committee with three Tories and a single NDP MP versus 6 Liberal members a more even and less partisan appearance. I will say here that I personally prefer the ranked ballot favoured by the Libs and, despite being a Green Party member do not agree with their stance as preferring “proportional representation” (although that term is meaningless without also saying what method of obtaining that outcome you favour), I do trust Ms May to make decisions and recommendations only after fully reviewing all the options. I just feel that such an important decision must not only be free of partisan interference but must be seen and perceived as such.

Whilst the actual voting system is getting all the attention thus far it must be remembered that the committee is also charged will examining several other aspects of our voting system including the physical manner in which we vote and identification of voters. In that regard I note that Ontario has said its trial of using modern technology to improve the process has been deemed a success and be recommended for adoption for future elections in Ontario.

If Elections Ontario has its way it will require 41 per cent fewer staff when the province goes to the polls in 2018 — yet voters will cast ballots faster and get results more quickly.
A substantial investment in new technology is the key to delivering these efficiencies, and Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa is urging Queen’s Park to spend $36 million on new gear. This represents a solid investment in democracy, one that should be undertaken soon since it will take about two years to put the proposed new system in place.
Rather than having voters line up at tables while polling station workers look up each name on a paper record, staff would use electronic poll books in the form of a laptop or computer tablet. These can instantly scan a voter’s notice of registration card, significantly speeding up the process.
Furthermore, instead of marking a conventional ballot, electors would indicate their choice on a sheet that would then be electronically scanned by a vote tabulator. It’s a fast and highly accurate system. With this, Elections Ontario estimates it could report 90 per cent of results within about half an hour of polls closing.
Whilst I would love to be able to vote electronically either at the voting booth of from home via the internet there is one seemingly insurmountable problem with getting such a system – veryfiability – both at the time and after the fact so the above system seems like a good compromise.

One issue that I hope both Ontario and the Committee will consider closely is the design of the paper (card?) ballot bearing in mind that it should be both simple to understand and mark and machine readable, the ballots used in the past where tabulating machines were used were far from ideal and depending upon the system selected for federal elections could become much more complex.

The Government's main objective is to replace first-past-the-post with a system that will deliver better governments for all Canadians and asks the committee to focus on five key principles to get this done:
  1. The link between voter intention and election results;
    ii) How to foster civility in politics and increase voter participation;
    iii) Steps to strengthen inclusiveness and accessibility;
    iv) Ways to safeguard the integrity of our voting system; and,
    v) Taking into account local representation.

They also have said they have several other objectives on this file but its unclear if they will be included in the committees study!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

When is our raise coming?

Members of Parliament and senators will get a $3,000 increase Friday in their base salary, while cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will receive a larger raise – at a time when Canadians are struggling with stagnant wages and rising unemployment.
The wage hike of 1.8 per cent for MPs and 2.1 per cent for senators is about four times what the federal government has offered public sector unions and executives in the federal public service.................
Federal legislation automatically gives MPs an annual pay hike on April 1 that’s equal to the average percentage increase negotiated by unions with 500 or more employees in the private sector. The data are published by Employment and Social Development Canada.
The pay hike for MPs is nearly double the average increase of one per cent that public sector unions negotiated in jurisdictions across Canada in 2015.
MPs have the option of freezing their own salaries through federal legislation, but the government has decided not to do so. Salaries for MPs were frozen at 2009-10 levels until the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year under legislation introduced and passed by the former Conservative government...............
Since the MP wage freeze was lifted in 2013, the base salary of members of Parliament has increased eight per cent, from $157,731.
Taxpayers will cough up an extra $25.4 million for an increase of 20 per cent to office budgets for MPs and House of Commons officers that also takes effect Friday.

I don’t think most Canadians have much sympathy for the notion that MPs need a pay hike, considering they already earn far more than the average Canadian.” said Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

And he would be right about that, why is it that their compensation is based upon average PRIVATE sector UNION wages when by far the greatest number of taxpayers are paid far less than union rates and rarely if ever see raises of any amount. Next thing you know they will want to be paid for two weeks of sick days just like or poor hard done by teachers .....oh wait, they get paid whether they show up or not don’t they Mr Harper?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Summer Break Starts Now

Over the past 5 years or more that I have been writing about our Canadian Democracy I have only taken a couple of very brief breaks from my self imposed weekly posting schedule before some outrageous action (by the former Harper Regime) has had me once again back shedding some light and opinion upon the state of said democracy. I now feel it is time for me to step away from such activities for a while and enjoy the summer months of my 70th year without worrying about such things. That is not to say that I will not continue to keep up to date with the goings on in Ottawa and across the country but I now feel mush more confident that the steady slip into dictatorship has been halted and is in fact headed back to where it should be. It is of course far from a done deal and promises do not legislation make, but at least (thus far) our new government is making the right noises and trying to undo the damage done over the past several years. Its early days yet but I do hope that they manage to bring in a more non partisan and cooperative attitude to both The House and The Senate and return our environmental and social safeguards to their previous (or better) values..

I will not be totally abandoning the blog, just writing myself a little less. I will probably, on occasion, be re-posting articles from other bloggers and news media that focuses upon democratic issues and deserve further attention, and occasionally having my say on things as and when the mood strikes me. I simply will not be writing weekly for the foreseeable future.

This blog remains open to those who do not have a forum of their own to express their views, concerns and aspirations for and about our Canadian Democracy and those who wish may submit articles for publication via email to democracyunderfire@gmail.com. Please see our “Submitting Articles” guidelines in that regard.

May this summer and the years beyond continue to bring us 'Sunny Days'.