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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Democratic Reform Committee Members Named

Although Minister Maryam Monsef has nothing about the makeup or members of the Electoral Reform Committee on the Democratic Institutions web site it seems that the MPs to serve on this important committee have been named. according to the CBC they are :-
Conservatives: Jason Kenney, Scott Reid and Gérard Deltell
Liberals: John Aldag, Matt DeCourcey, Sherry Romanado, Ruby Sahota and Francis Scarpaleggia
NDP; Nathan Cullen and Alexandre Boulerice
Bloc Québecois: Luc Thériault
Greens: Elizabeth May.

The committee will elect its chair on Tuesday and is expected to hold hearings through the summer. The next few months will also include what is being described as "a series of national outreach engagements" with the minister of democratic institutions, Maryam Monsef, and her parliamentary secretary, Mark Holland.”

I presume the committee will have its own web site and that citizens will be able to submit their views directly to the committee in the very near future. I do hope they will be more forth coming than what appears to be a lack of communications from the Minister and her staff who at this time do not even have a direct contact email on their web page but mail must go through the PCO?

I am rooting for Ms May as chair but its liable to be one of the liberals!
Note: The committee elected Francis Scarpaleggia as chair and Nathan Cullen and Scott Reid as vice chairs.

A reader has provided a link to the Committee Web Site, it is :-

Contact them at  ERRE@parl.gc.ca

The Mandate of the Committee

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(16), the House proceeded to the putting of the question on the main motion, as amended, of Mr. Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley), seconded by Mr. Dubé (Beloeil—Chambly), — That a Special Committee on electoral reform be appointed to identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting, and to assess the extent to which the options identified could advance the following principles for electoral reform:
1) Effectiveness and legitimacy: that the proposed measure would increase public confidence among Canadians that their democratic will, as expressed by their votes, will be fairly translated and that the proposed measure reduces distortion and strengthens the link between voter intention and the election of representatives;
2) Engagement: that the proposed measure would encourage voting and participation in the democratic process, foster greater civility and collaboration in politics, enhance social cohesion and offer opportunities for inclusion of underrepresented groups in the political process;
3) Accessibility and inclusiveness: that the proposed measure would avoid undue complexity in the voting process, while respecting the other principles, and that it would support access by all eligible voters regardless of physical or social condition;
4) Integrity: that the proposed measure can be implemented while safeguarding public trust in the election process, by ensuring reliable and verifiable results obtained through an effective and objective process that is secure and preserves vote secrecy for individual Canadians;
5) Local representation: that the proposed measure would ensure accountability and recognize the value that Canadians attach to community, to Members of Parliament understanding local conditions and advancing local needs at the national level, and to having access to Members of Parliament to facilitate resolution of their concerns and participation in the democratic process;

that the Committee be directed to issue an invitation to each Member of Parliament to conduct a town hall in their respective constituencies and provide the Committee with a written report of the input from their constituents to be filed with the Clerk of the Committee no later than October 14, 2016;
that the Committee be directed to take into account the applicable constitutional, legal and implementation parameters in the development of its recommendations; accordingly, the Committee should seek out expert testimony on these matters;
that the Committee be directed to consult broadly with relevant experts and organizations, take into consideration consultations that have been undertaken on the issue, examine relevant research studies and literature, and review models being used or developed in other jurisdictions;
that the Committee be directed to develop its consultation agenda, working methods, and recommendations on electoral reform with the goal of strengthening the inclusion of all Canadians in our diverse society, including women, Indigenous Peoples, youth, seniors, Canadians with disabilities, new Canadians, and residents of rural and remote communities;
that the Committee be directed to conduct a national engagement process that includes a comprehensive and inclusive consultation with Canadians, including through written submissions and online engagement tools;
that the Committee be directed to study and advise on additional methods for obtaining the views of Canadians;
that the Committee be composed of twelve (12) members of which five (5) shall be government members, three (3) shall be from the Official Opposition, two (2) shall be from the New Democratic Party, one (1) member shall be from the Bloc Québécois, and the Member for Saanich—Gulf Islands;
that changes in the membership of the Committee be effective immediately after notification by the Whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;
that membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);
that, with the exception of the Member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, all other members shall be named by their respective Whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the Committee no later than ten (10) sitting days following the adoption of this motion;
that the Committee be chaired by a member of the government party; that, in addition to the Chair, there be one (1) Vice-Chair from the Official Opposition and one (1) Vice-Chair from the New Democratic Party, and that all candidates for the position of Chair or Vice-Chair shall be elected by secret ballot, and that each candidate be permitted to address the Committee for not more than three (3) minutes;
that the quorum of the Committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118, provided that at least four (4) members are present and provided that one (1) member from the government party and one (1) member from an opposition party are present;
that the Committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee, as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada;
that the Committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings; and that the Committee present its final report no later than December 1, 2016.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

When The Senate Works As It Should.....

After years of the Conservative dominated Senate rubber stamping legislation and blocking amendments in committee we now have a situation where they are doing their job and proposing changes to a clearly flawed bill. Despite the Liberals using their majority to turn down all of the many amendments propped in the House to the Assisted dieing legislation it is fairly well established that as written it will not pass the constitutional test and the Senate has proposed a change to correct this, the reaction is perhaps predictable.
Both the Conservatives and some others are screaming that this is going to produce a parliamentary deadlock in that the minister responsible continues to defend the bill as written and shows no indication of accepting the senates recommendations. It has yet to be seen in both sides dig their heels in and compromise cannot be found bur the rhetoric that says the Senate is interfering with the process of passing this legislation is pure bloody nonsense! Their job is to study legislation in depth, including the constitutionality of it, and propose corrections to it for the House to consider, that in the past when the majority party numbers in the House and the Senate have coincided and flawed bills have not been properly examined or changed does not mean that such actions are correct or desirable. I am sure that there have also be periods when the majorities did not coincide and bills have been “held up” in the Senate before.
Although the number of “independent” senators in the chamber is not substantive (yet) the general tone of the place seems to be improving and the partisanship reducing, now if we can get the Liberals in the HoC to stop “acting like the previous government” and be more accepting of amendments to proposed legislation be it from their fellow MPs or from the Senate we might have something going right for a change. This has also happened to another bill before the Senate, the RCMP Union legislation!

Let us wait and see how the changes are dealt with when the bills are returned to to the House, it will be another definitive test of whether the election promises and rhetoric were meaningful or just that, promises and rhetoric! Step one, a totally free vote by all partys on this important issue when it gets back to the House.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Electoral Reform Committee Now More Democratic

Liberal MPs will throw their support behind NDP MP Nathan Cullen’s counter-proposal to divvy up the seats around the committee table based on the share of the vote parties received in the last election.
That works out to five Liberals, three Conservatives, two New Democrats and one each for the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May, all of whom will have full voting rights.
That means the government will have to garner the support of at least one other party to win a vote at the committee table.”

I am very pleased to see that the Liberals have finaly seen the wisdom of NOT having a majority vote on the committee to recommend changes to our voting system. As I have said before it is important that any decision must not only be non partisan but must be seen to be non partisan, the new makeup of the committee goes a long way to ensuring that.

Perhaps now the committee can have a discussion about ALL the various systems available without the spurious allegations that this system or that flavors this party or that. There is little doubt that 'proportional systems will enhance the possibility of smaller partys (particularly the Greens) of getting more seats in The House but I believe that the more diverse make up of voting members will result in a much better outcome.

Now lets get the process started and not rush the public consultation part of the deliberations where almost everyone who has really studied the options is just as torn between the choices as will be the committee members. I do not envy then their work on this!

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