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, October 30, 2016

Electoral News

For the last few months I have been focusing on Electoral Reform here at Democracy Under Fire and in order to 'keep up' have a Google Alert set to give me the headlines on this subject each day. Generally they are just 'more of the same' with one side whining about having a referendum and the other saying there can be no choice but a 'proportional' system. Yesterday there were a couple of items with a little different spin that got my attention, I am not going to attempt to summarize them here or comment (much) on them but simply provide a brief clip and a link to the original articles for your interest.

First up this one from the Owen Sound Sun Times perhaps highlights the partisan nature of some MPs 'reports' to the committee..
OWEN SOUND - A clear majority of people favoured federal electoral reform at an information meeting held Wednesday in Owen Sound.
That's a different message than Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Conservative MP Larry Miller heard in his recent phone-in discussion, in emails and calls on the issue. He said he found there's no appetite among most people for electoral reform.
But at the meeting held at the Harmony Centre, organized by the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Liberals, 79 people attended, and 71 filled out survey forms with the following results: 63 supported the need for electoral reform, four liked the current first-past-the-post system and four were undecided.

This one I found rather inspirational in its non partisan approach about a meeting on a small west coast island.
When I opened the door of my Saturna Island home earlier this fall, I found a petite young woman wearing black stretch jeans, boots and a jacket standing in my leaf-littered carport. Startled, I recognized Maryam Monsef, the 31-year-old Afghan refugee who is now Canada’s Minister for Democratic Institutions, responsible for changing how Canadians choose their MP’s before the next federal election.

Finally Elizabeth Mays description of the efforts of the Electoral Committee to get at least some direct public input (whilst some MPs did not even bother to consult with their constituents at all) gives me some hope that they will find some middle ground in their final report.
.......And our road trip was intense. Every day for three weeks, we flew (or bused) to a new province or town. We were ready for witnesses by 1:30 p.m. and heard the last witnesses at 9:30 p.m. The next morning, we were on an early flight to do the whole thing again. We held hearings in 19 locations, in every province and territory. We have heard from hundreds of expert witnesses in political science, constitutional law and electoral systems as well as those with expertise in the challenges of voting for persons with disabilities, the poor and groups underrepresented in Parliament: women, minorities, indigenous persons.
Of course, none of this got us any media notice. For reasons beyond my comprehension, journalists seem to think this issue is boring.  Fortunately, Canadians don’t agree. We began to feel like rock stars arriving at airports where hard-core “democro-geeks,” as Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef has dubbed those of us for whom this is a passion, were waiting to cheer us on arrival.

As we approach the best before date of this report I suspect the rhetoric from all sides will increase, but that will be just a whisper of the opinionating that will happen AFTER its release. Let the games begin!

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

No Consensus without Referendum say Conservatives.

There will be no consensus that includes the Conservative party that does not include a referendum” “there is simply no flexibility of any form.”
Conservative MP Scott Reid the party’s senior member on the electoral reform committee.

Well Mr Reid how one can achieve consensus by setting preconditions, particularly ones that are all but impossible to achieve in the time frame available is beyond me. Then you have the gall to say:- “The Conservative party does not have a position,” “Our goal is to achieve a consensus, and by a consensus, I want to be clear, it would be all five parties onside, that would be the ideal,”
Mr. Reid issued the ultimatum after revealing the results of a vote Conservative MPs conducted through mailings to every household in their respective electoral districts over the summer that found 90-per-cent support for a referendum among the 81,000 voting-age constituents who participated.

Perhaps that should read 81,000 CONSERVATIVE constituents (of 5,600,000 + who voted for them last year).......
The mail-outs that went to each riding allowed for up to four votes per household.
The Conservative caucus organized the surveying of households after most of its MPs declined to take part in a town hall-style survey of citizen opinion on electoral reform.
As with the telephone town hall held by my local Conservative MP (does this count as one of the 60% of Conservative MPs who condescended to actually 'survey' their riding’s.) those surveyed seem to been carefully selected to get the results wanted.

Given the current legislation regarding referendums one can only assume that their aim is to totally destroy the process and any chance of change happening and thus remain with the status quo, which despite their assertions to the contrary is what they seem to want.

Appearing before the standing committee on procedure and house affairs
, Chief Electoral Officer Mayrand was asked by Conservative democratic reform critic Scott Reid to elaborate on a risk highlighted in the agency’s 2016-17 report on plan and priorities (RPP).
In the RPP, the agency states that it isn’t currently prepared to hold a referendum.“In order to conduct a referendum, the agency would require a minimum of six months following legislative changes,”
Note - Following legislative changes”!

The Referendum Act is outdated — it has not been changed since 1992, which is the last time we had a national referendum. In that regard, it’s very much out of sync with the Elections Act — particularly around political financing,”
There’s no limit on contribution by any entities, so this might come as a shock.”
No kidding, a shock hardly covers it, can you just imagine the advertising promoting one system or another by the various Partys, their supporters and the various 'citizen' groups that have sprung up if there were NO limits on spending. May as well turn off your TV for six months!

I would put before the committee that legislation enacting reform should be there at least 24 months before the election…There’s all sort of hypotheses — I don’t know exactly what the reform will be — but if it involves a (boundary) redistribution exercise, which PR (proportional representation) does by definition — this is a significant undertaking,”
Whilst I note that not all PR systems require riding boundary changes certainly Elections Canada would need considerable time to set up the practical aspects of any new system, including educating the public as to how it works. If legislative changes have to be made to the Referendum Act, which in and of itself would open a whole new can of worms, then it would seem that electoral reform would be all but imposable before the next election. Perhaps this is exactly what the CPC wants?

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Sunday, October 9, 2016

An Electoral Framework for the 21st Century

Marc Mayrand, the outgoing chief electoral officer, has apparently put together a number of suggested changes that he would like to see made to our electoral system. I can only say thet the eight highlighted by Kady in the Ottawa Citizen look pretty good to me........

“While it’s well worth perusing the full document when/if you have time, here’s a quick overview of the chief electoral officer’s most (seemingly) commonsensical recommendations, several of which, it’s worth noting, can also be found in Team Trudeau’s 2015 campaign platform, but have thus far failed to materialize in the House in legislative form:
  • Reverse the ban on using the Voter Information Card as as identification at the polls and loosen the new restrictions on attesting for electors without sufficient ID that were brought in under the Fair Elections Act.
  • Re-empower the chief electoral officer to launch public outreach and education programs, including those that specifically target “persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights,” as well as groups with a lower rate of voter registration than the general population.
  • Give the Commissioner of Elections the power to compel testimony – a recommendation that, the report notes, was first made in 2013 – as well as the authority to lay charges without the go-ahead from the director of public prosecutions.
  • Set a maximum length for an election period – the CEO suggests “45 or 50 days, for example,” and “consider” adding a new provision specifying that the writ be issued on September 1.
  • Look at switching from a weekday to a weekend polling day, which would allow the vote to take place on Saturday or Sunday
  • Give the agency the power to impose fines – or “administrative monetary penalties” – for certain violations of the rules – specifically, those relating to financing and communications – rather than rely on criminal sanctions
  • Give Elections Canada the authority to initiate “pre-registration” campaigns targeting 16 and 17 year olds “with a view to eventually including them” in the permanent electors list, as well as verify citizenship status of potential electors with the citizenship and immigration department.
  • Allow in-home and “curbside” voting for those who are unable to vote at their assigned polling station, whether due to mobility challenges or any other mental or physical disability that restricts their ability to enter a polling station (like, for instance, extreme scent sensitivity).
These suggestions have nothing to do with the way we vote but more to do with how elections are conducted and the role of Elections Canada in conducting said elections, something which after Harpers “Fair” Elections act we all know need updating desperately.

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Farce of a Electoral “Consultation”?

Last week I posted the details of out local Mp's (Larry Miller) upcoming Telephone Town Hall re Electoral Reform not to promote him but to promote discussion about this important initiative. Well said teleconference is now history and the reports are in and they are not good. I had said in my previous post that I had little faith in Mr Miller accurately forwarding the broad range of opinion that could well ensue and that the number of folks actually getting to express their view would be limited.
Apparently that will not be a problem in that allegedly those that wished to express a view that did not coincide with Mr Millers FPTP and referendum views did not get a chance to speak and thus 100% of the callers did in fact, as Mr Miller previously alleged did the callers to his office, “support the current first-past-the-post voting system.”

This from our local news blog “The Hub”
Anyone who listened in on Larry Miller's tele-forum Tuesday evening, Sept. 27, was treated to a Miller kiss fest and a merry orgy of misinformation. Larry got what he wanted. Sure enough, one hundred percent of his constituents were opposed to proportional representation. No doubt we'll hear him trumpeting this "fact" soon enough.
Perhaps all the supporters of PR were smarter than I was and just stayed away knowing it would be a farce. Or they were, like me evidently, screened out by Larry's operators, with only clapping seals who wouldn't challenge him being let through.
I was waiting in the queue for 40 minutes. At one point toward the end, we heard him say, "I see another call has come in," and he took the other person. What about the queue? My call was already in. Why wasn't I next? Was it because his operator had earlier asked me what I intend to say and I foolishly blurted out the truth that I wanted to provide some information about proportional representation?
Fortunately the results are so lopsided that they shoot him in his own foot. That not one person was heard to support PR advertises the lack of credibility of the whole vain exercise. Like those third world despots hated by their people who are elected with 99 per cent of the vote every time.............
Read more

Interestingly, it not being a 'live' meeting there is no direct report from any other local media for comparison, we wonder if this was a deliberate move by Mr Miller to avoid such reporting? Mr Miller however continues to defend his 'no change' position and says the 30 or so people who did get to express their views were not 'filtered'!

As previously posted at The Rural Canadian

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