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.
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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Participative Democracy in Canada

A few weeks ago I became aware of the Online Party of Canada, a new political party which attempts to introduce 'Participative Democracy'.to Canada. Their mission is “to create a viable alternative to the traditional political system, using internet technology. Online Voting, Participative Democracy, Competence, Transparency and Accountability”, by “re-posting daily all the Bills being discussed in the Parliament along with the positions expressed by other political parties on every Bill. Then we allow you, the Canadian voter, to express your opinions and vote as if you were an MP!”

They also say “We believe voters should vote on: individual issues instead of ‘packaged’ platforms, true leaders instead of ‘voting machine’ politicians, and policies instead of parties. The political process must be freed of money and interest groups influence, and the voters should be truly represented by their MPs.”. Its pretty hard to argue with that however it is not as simple as they seem to make out, as they say “On one hand we want to guarantee that everyone has a chance to vote and to be elected - we're not 'elitists'. On the other hand, we want to make sure that we entrust the decision making process to competent, informed individuals, so we would ask all Members to go through an introductory course in governance, and certify those who pass a test.” To that end they propose to have several 'levels' of membership with different voting privileges, that alone seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

It is unclear exactly how said 'participation' would work in guiding an elected member on how to vote, the 'membership' seemingly would be voting upon an ever changing 'policy' and proposed bills (depending upon the voting results) but how this translates into guiding an elected MP is a whole different ball game. How for instance would a member respond to an omnibus bill, and if only selected member are allowed to vote upon the policy what then of all the other citizens of that riding that this MP 'represents', is this so much different from any other political party?
I note that at least one other political party allows all of their members members to propose and vote upon 'policy' and internal 'governance' online, if only annually, that being the Green Party of Canada and even that exercise can result in some 'interesting' conflicts with previous or current policy.
This is an interesting proposal however and any move towards our MPs being more responsive to to the citizens that they represent is a good thing, however I am not convinced that this will work on a practical level. It at first glance seems too complex to work on a practical level and whilst 'members' may well be able to influence 'policy' on an ongoing basis this in itself creates a moving target for representatives to follow. Perhaps I have not fully grasped the way it works, and I invite Michael Nicula, the leader of this new party to address some of these concerns either in the comments below or in a longer submission for future publication.

I note that they say they “re-post daily all the Bills being discussed in the Parliament along with the positions expressed by other political parties on every Bill. Then we allow you, the Canadian voter, to express your opinions and vote as if you were an MP! And we've introduced cool new feature that allows you to connect and 'Tell your (actual) MP' what you and your fellow Canadian voters have to say.” They call this the AGORA project where “Our own editorial team collects and posts all Parliamentary Bills in raw format.” and “You have the opportunity to study the Bill, check out parties’ positions and express your own position via comments and vote.”, it is now online at https://www.onlineparty.ca/category.php?CATID=74 . This initiative alone is a great first move and may well become a much easier way to access the text of various bills than the less than friendly government site.

Do take a look at their efforts, its good to see someone trying to “to create a viable alternative to the traditional political system, using internet technology” and I will be watching to see how this develops..



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2 comments:

Ben Odynski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben Odynski said...

I am the Ethics Officer of the Online Party of Canada.

As it turns out, the majority of our members agree that requiring training to vote on select issues isnt a good idea.

And, like all internal policies of this sort, this policy was put to a vote: https://www.onlineparty.ca/issue.php?ISSUEID=666

So we don't actually restrict votes at all, save for guests). But I do see the source of the confusion and have it noted.

As for our elected officials acting in parliament, our MPs swear an oath to resign if they vote contrary to the majority.

In the end we hope to have many of our party's MPs in parliament directly representing the Canadian public at large. Anyone can register on our site and vote -- as long as they verify their account for security purposes.

We want to give Canadians the option to have a direct say in parliament -- by putting our own MPs in there, we hope to do just that.

I hope this clears up the confusion. Let me know if you have any further questions.