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, November 26, 2019

The Platform Web

Platforms are more like shopping malls than town squares — public to an extent, but ultimately managed according to private interests.” Taylor Owen in an article titled Why Platform Governance?
Not having heard the term 'Platform Governance' when I saw this link in reading some of Mr Owens recent posts via Progressive Bloggers and having written much about our democracy in the past I decided to find out more about it. There is a LOT of information about such ideas by various authors on the CIGI site but I will just highlight a few words from Owens post that caught my interest.
The social costs of the platform economy are manifesting themselves in the increasingly toxic nature of the digital public sphere, the amplification of misinformation and disinformation, the declining reliability of information, heightened polarization and the broad mental health repercussions of technologies designed around addictive models.
The economic costs are grounded in the market distortion created by increased monopolistic behaviour. The vast scale of the digital platform economy not only affords near-unassailable competitive advantages, but also invites abuses of monopoly power in ways that raise barriers to market entry (Wu 2018). Moreover, the ubiquity of the platform companies in the consumer marketplace creates special vulnerabilities because of the amount of control they wield over data, advertising and the curation of information.
The costs to our democracy are grounded not only in the decline of reliable information needed for citizens to be informed actors in the democratic process and the undermining of public democratic institutions, but in threats to the integrity of the electoral system itself. 
As someone who is deeply concerned about the effect that 'social media' is having upon rational discussion as clearly shown by the cluster fk that is Trumpisim in the U.S. I am pleased that much brighter minds than my own are writing of their concerns as to where digital platforms are leading us. The first paragraph in the above article highlights my main concern.
Ultimately, the platform web is made up of privately owned public spaces, largely governed by the commercial incentives of private actors, rather than the collective good of the broader society. Platforms are more like shopping malls than town squares — public to an extent, but ultimately managed according to private interests.
When 'shopping' on social media remember that such 'platforms' whilst purporting to 'serve' the public their bottom line is to make money.

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Sunday, November 3, 2019

Is it all about the $$$?

Regular readers, all two or three of you, will know that I have had little to say here at Democracy Under Fire during the recent election period, the manure being spread was simply too deep for this old fellow to wade through. Now that the BS is gradually subsiding I thought I would return to examining our voting system based upon the results from this recent attempt to bring us 'fair' representation to the House of Commons.

First lets dissect the results and the campaign funding involved in that....

Liberals 157 seats, 5,915,950 votes, 33.1 per cent of the popular vote
Conservative 121 seats, 6,155,662 votes, 34.4 per cent of the popular vote
Bloc Québécois 32 seats, 1,376,135 votes (7.7 per cent)
New Democrats 24 seats, 2,849,214 votes (15.9 per cent)
Greens 3 seats, 1,162,361 votes (6.5 per cent)
Others 1 seat, 383,373 votes (2.1%)

It can be clearly seen that the Block is strongly over represented and both the Greens and the NDP are under represented if representation by popular vote is taken into consideration. Clearly there is a strong influence to national results by the regional concentration of votes in any particular region, this is further reinforced by the Conservative sweep of Alberta and Saskatchewan (100% representation from 55% of votes in Alberta)

There will be no doubt a number of folks saying if this were proportional voting the results would be this xx, but I will not do that here because I believe that if folks knew that their vote for a particular candidate would not be 'wasted' by the first past the post system they may well vote differently.

Moving on to the influence of 'funding' upon any particular individual or their party its much more difficult to pin down, clearly the various political partys believe it has a great deal to do with the results or why else would some of them be spending millions of (partly refundable) dollars on (often questionable) advertising. This in addition the the substantial refund they get at the riding level.

Here are some of the numbers on that (just from April 1 to June 30 of this year).....
Conservatives raised $8.5 million from 53,000 donors.
Liberals raised $5 million from 41,500 donors
NDP raised $2.65 million from 21,000 donors
Greens raised 2.15 million from 21,000 donors.

The final numbers not yet available obviously will be much more revealing but I suspect that the amount of money spent has far less influence on the results than the fundraising gurus would have us, and their partys, believe. Obviously those running for election must have the ability to let the public know about their 'platform' but spending millions on political advertising much of which is spent slagging the opposition rather than outlining their own beliefs, is but BS no matter who's paying for it.

The election expenses reimbursement subsidizes 50% of the national campaign expenses of any party that obtains at least 2 per cent support, or at least 5 per cent in the ridings (electoral districts) in which they presented candidates.
Riding organizations are also reimbursed 60% of all expenses incurred by their candidates in each riding where they obtained at least 10% of the votes, plus 100% of allowable "personal expenses". There does not seem to be any restrictions on how those 'returned' funds are then used.

A final thought here on this, I believe that the previous per vote subsidy of $1.53–$2.04 previously paid to every registered federal political party based upon their previous election results prior to 2015 when Harper discontinued it was a much fairer way of ensuring that partys had a way of getting the word out. Those electors who were not inclined to send thousands to the party of their choice still got to support the electoral process where unfortunately the almighty dollar has far too much influence.
Having looked at some of the various voting systems over the past few years some of which I have explored in detail on these pages I still dont know if any of the proposed alternatives are a step forward or an invitation to further problems. I suspect there will be further discussion about this in the coming couple of years based upon the results outlined above.

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