Showing posts with label proportional representation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label proportional representation. Show all posts

6.10.2014

why i'm voting liberal on june 12 and why i feel so crappy about it

Need it even be said? The rightward shift of the NDP is a colossal disappointment for me.

I'm part of the NDP's natural constituency. The NDP has historically been a social democrat party, a party of the working class, a party not tied to corporate interests. The existence of the NDP, a credible, viable party on the left, is part of what made Canada such an appealing choice for me.

Despite the right-leaning leadership of the NDP at both the provincial and federal levels, I still have hope for Canada. Every NDP voter I speak to, and everything I read, tells me that my disappointment is shared and echoed throughout the land. There is still hope that the NDP will reconstitute itself as a party on the left.

But not if we dutifully vote for them no matter what platform they put forth. When 34 prominent NDP supporters wrote to Andrea Horwath to express their disappointment, we got a glimpse of the NDP's future. They collapse at the polls, Horwath is turfed, and party is re-formed from the grassroots up.

The alternative is what liberal Democrat voters did in the US. In election after election, left-leaning Democrat voters believed they had to vote for the party under any and all circumstances, as the party gradually became almost indistinguishable from the Republicans in all but its rhetoric. The Democrats could take for granted the liberal (in the US sense) vote, so they continued to court the so-called swing vote... and you know the rest of the story. If I vote ONDP, I'm repeating that exercise.

Many of my leftist comrades see this very differently. In articles and analysis such as this, they argue against the Liberals, who instituted most of the Drummond austerity recommendations, and whose leader, Kathleen Wynne, voted in favour of then-Premier Dalton McGuinty's anti-union Bill 115. They argue in favour of supporting the only party not tied to corporate interests, the party that (theoretically) is tied to the working class.

I can't successfully relate the arguments in favour of voting for Horwath's ONDP, because they don't make a lot of sense to me. I understand everything that's wrong with the Liberals, that's why this has been such a difficult decision for me. But I can't see talking about class interests during an election. Elections are not about class interests. Elections are not a revolutionary tool; they are a small-c conservative tool. Elections are about squeezing the most reform we can out of an unjust system. Sometimes - not all the time, each situation is different - elections are about doing the least harm.

It's uncomfortable for me to say this, the more I read IS analysis of the provincial election, the more clarity I found on voting Liberal to vote anti-Hudak. The arguments in favour of voting NDP in this provincial election are, to me, theoretical gymnastics.

Tim Hudak will demolish public services, eliminate tens of thousands of good jobs, and make life harder for all of us. Kathleen Wynne's Liberals are clearly not my preference to govern this province. But I believe they will be less worse. And until we get rid of the first-past-the-post electoral system, this is what I'm stuck with.

In my riding, the NDP has no chance. But there's a very real chance of the riding going Conservative. I have to do my small part to prevent that. Then I have to hound the Liberal government day and night to keep them from doing the same things the Conservatives would have done.

2.17.2012

dear leadnow: i'm not sure i want to cooperate

Like many Canadian activists, I am currently being bombarded with emails from Leadnow and Avaaz, pushing their "Cooperate for Canada" campaign. We are being urged to join the political party of our choice, then to encourage the parties to "cooperate" in the next election, in order to defeat the Conservatives. This would supposedly be a one-time deal, after which the parties would work together for meaningful electoral reform.

I'm keeping an open mind, but I'm highly skeptical.

The Leadnow FAQ claims this is not strategic voting (which actually works in very few ridings), not a merger, and not a step towards a two-party system. I am skeptical about each of those claims. I fear that "cooperation" is a slippery slope, and at the bottom lies an even more broken system with fewer choices.

There's something else very wrong with this picture: the Liberal Party. Stories about the "cooperation" idea, such as this one in the Vancouver Sun, refer to Canada's "three left-of-centre" parties. But there aren't three left-of-centre parties. The Liberals are "left" only if the Conservatives are the perceived centre. Or to put it another way, only the reactionary nature of the Harper Conservatives make the Liberals appear to be left-of-centre. In reality, the Liberals are a party of war, corporate capitalism and neoliberal social austerity.

It's true that I initially thought I should vote Liberal in the last election in order to stop the Conservatives. But I hated the Liberals and I hated Ignatieff, and I eventually realized that voting for a party I didn't want in government was ridiculous. I support the NDP and I should register that support at the polls.

I want an electoral system that more accurately represents the politics of Canada. Certainly a majority based on 39% does not. But is cooperation with the Liberals really so much different than cooperation with the Conservatives?



[A small postscript. One of the emails from Leadnow said that "72% of Canadians strongly support" this idea. I'm sure the good folks at Leadnow know that a poll taken through their own email and Facebook list cannot claim to represent what Canadians want, only what Leadnow members want. I'm not saying that the majority of Canadians don't want this. Indeed they might. But Leadnow's own poll cannot demonstrate that.]

9.30.2011

ontario, vote three ways and pass it on

There's an excellent new democratic voting tool designed to show us what the upcoming Ontario election would look like under different voting systems.

Although we can reconfigure actual election results using different electoral systems, those "what might have been" scenarios are never fully accurate, as people might vote differently under a different system. Strategic voting, for example, might not feel necessary to many voters.

On the other hand, the pitfall here is that people who favour FPTP may not use this tool. Still, it's a useful exercise and the results may be enlightening.

Three Ontario Votes allows you to vote in the upcoming Ontario election under three different systems: first past the post, proportional representation, and the alternative vote. There's information about each system, descriptions of the voting system in Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, and a short questionnaire.

If you live in Ontario, please visit Ontario Three Votes. Vote three ways and share widely! Many thanks to Imp Strump.

5.10.2011

we are a majority / nous sommes la majorité

Canadian readers, if you have not already done so, I hope you will send a message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper through this excellent campaign by Leadnow.
A clear majority of Canadians voted for change.

9 million voters cast their ballots for parties that share much in common. 9 million voted to strengthen our democracy, protect our environment and increase our equality.

Yet, because these parties split the vote in riding after riding, Prime Minister Harper has gained near total control of our government with the support of less than 6 million voters. The only thing that can check his power is the shared voices of Canadians like you.

Right now, we need to send Prime Minister Harper a clear message that although he has a majority of seats, he does not enjoy majority support. In his acceptance speech, he said “…we must be the government of all Canadians, including those who did not vote for us.” We expect him to follow through with this commitment, and we will be here, growing stronger every day to hold him to account to the agenda of a majority of voters:

The Conservatives now have control of the House of Commons, with free reign to appoint individuals to key posts and pass laws. Public opinion is the most powerful force to keep Prime Minister Harper in check. However big the majority, no government that disregards public opinion will govern for long.

We need to build a movement that can bring Canadians together to hold Prime Minister Harper accountable, build support to fix our democracy, and achieve progress on the major challenges facing our country through all levels of government.
This statement cites vote-splitting between the New Democrat Party and the Liberal Party as the reason for the Conservative majority. I would two other culprits: the first-past-the-post voting system and the lack of leadership and ideas of the Liberal Party.

Progressive people may disagree on why a Conservative majority has been elected, but we should all agree on what needs to be done. Leadnow.ca has the right idea. Please start with sending your message and sharing the link as widely as you can.

And don't stop there.

4.01.2011

elections are not decided by polls, and other thoughts on fair elections

I'm starting to think that in order to have fair elections, we not only have to ban all paid political advertising - an obvious improvement I've been running on about for years - but we must ban political polling too.

Maybe as soon as the writ drops, all pollsters should a mandatory six-week vacation. They could work privately for the parties and whoever else commissions them, but they would be embargoed from releasing results to media, and parties would be similarly prohibited. If we are concerned with the integrity of elections, this daily barrage of poll numbers has got to stop.

This country is insane for polls. We are constantly bombarded with the percentage of Canadians who have done this, haven't done that, bought something, ate something, thought about buying something, thought about trying something... it never ends. But daily polling during an election campaign is not only annoying and unnecessary. It's potentially damaging to democracy.

In a perfect world, voter turnout would always be high. Citizens would understand that there are substantial differences between the major political parties, and that decisions made in Parliament have profound and permanent effects. Everyone would understand that voting is the bare minimum of political participation, and they would take their voting rights and responsibilities seriously.

But, much to the joy of the corporate rulers of our world, and whichever black cat or white cat is currently in power, masses of people in North America who are eligible to vote, don't. Like most measures of quality of life and health of democracy, things are a bit better in Canada than the US. The 2008 federal elections in Canada showed the lowest turnout in Canadian history, yet that exceeded turnout in every US presidential election except three (1960, 1964, 1968, all in the low 60% range). (Sources: here, here, here.)

When it comes to US elections, turnout may be the least important problem. Elections are fraudulent in many respects: political parties control voter registration, voter rolls, vote counting, and a host of other shenanigans. There is no US equivalent of Elections Canada - a fact many Canadians are amazed to learn. It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that both the 2000 and 2004 US presidential elections were fixed. And of course, there are only two parties, and they differ only in rhetoric.

Both countries use an undemocratic first-past-the-post system, but at least in Canada the units are much smaller. Imagine if every Ontario vote went to one party! And at least in Canada there's hope that we may one day have a proportional representation election system. I think.

So, returning from my digression... turnout is low all around. There are many reasons for this - lack of trust in the system, learned helplessness (the belief that one's actions cannot affect outcomes), ignorance, fear, and probably many other complex reasons that are poorly understood. It's often called "apathy", but that's a broad term that explains very little. People do care about their own lives, and they do care about issues. But they may not understand how what happens in government actually affects those issues they care about. Or they may not believe they have any choice.

But given that so many people don't vote, isn't it likely that constant predictions on the outcome of an election - especially that one particular outcome is all but certain - only serve to further suppress voting?

I suppose there's an argument that certain poll results might stimulate voting. For example, we recently heard that 74% of Canadians do not want a Harper majority government. If polls show the Conservatives on the verge of a majority, perhaps more people will vote in order to prevent it. It's a weak argument, at best. It applies only to very specific situations, and it's based mainly on wishful thinking. Rather than try to calculate which poll results might increase turnout and which may decrease it, why not just wait until the people have their say?

We're all so accustomed to this constant polling that we accept it as a natural fixture of the political landscape. But if you stand back and think about it, what good do polls serve? Not to the parties and the candidates - to the public. If we had absolutely no idea what was going to happen on election day, or if we are constantly being told what will happen, what difference does it make?

I can think of only one difference this constant polling might reasonably make: people thinking they already know the outcome of the election - so why vote.

10.02.2010

canada for the people, not the conservative party

This was originally supposed to appear at The Mark, as part of a series called "Who Owns Canada?" I ran into a few editorial snags, so I'm posting it here instead.

The Mark asked for short pieces answering the question, "Who Owns Canada? Which person, organization, or idea wields more influence than any other?"

Here's my answer.

* * * *

When The Mark asked "Who owns Canada?" I immediately considered the question in reverse: "Who doesn't own Canada?" The answer: Canadians.

A democracy should reflect the will of the people, but current Canadian policy reflects only the will of the Conservative government and its supporters. A majority of Canadians did not vote for Stephen Harper's Conservatives. Yet we are held hostage to his anti-democratic agenda because he has so successfully exploited an antiquated, first-past-the-post electoral system and a pitifully weak opposition.

The majority of Canadians do not support the war in Afghanistan, but the Harper government extended Canada's military involvement past its original deadline and hints at continuing it even after next year's planned withdrawal date.

The majority of Canadians want to protect our magnificent environment, but the Harper government continues to stand with climate-change deniers and industrial polluters. This is, after all, a government that tried to let polluters reclassify tar-sands tailing ponds as "lakes". (What is it about the Conservatives and fake lakes?)

Canadians want fairness in all things, including the treatment of immigrants, war resisters and refugee claimants. The Harper government continues to defy two motions passed in Parliament by harassing and deporting US war resisters. It has interfered in the process of the supposedly independent Immigration and Refugee Board and demanded that immigration officials conform to government ideology.

Fairness is, at bottom, the reason Canadians want to retain the long-form census – so this country’s policies reflect reality, not ideology. Fairness is why Canadians want a fully funded court-challenges program, so that all Canadians can defend their Charter rights. Fairness is why Canadians want the government to repatriate and defend all Canadians – including those accused of terrorism and those on death row in every country. And while it's not a life-or-death issue, the government denying a Member of the British Parliament entry into Canada because of his political opinions is not only unfair – it's downright embarrassing.

Canadians care about their country's standing abroad. By aligning Canada with US military policies, and by putting corporate oil interests ahead of action on climate change, the Harper government has sullied Canada's international reputation and tainted the country's moral authority. And it could be much worse: if Stephen Harper had been Prime Minister in 2003, Canadian soldiers would have been dying in Iraq for the last seven years.

Canadians want to live in a democracy – a real democracy. They don't want the Prime Minister to shut down Parliament to avoid losing power, to fire civil servants whose politics he doesn't like, to instruct MPs on how to disrupt Parliament, and to refuse to open the military record to the highest elected body in the land. They don't want dissent criminalized by pre-emptive arrests, jailing of peaceful protesters and tactics more suited to a police state than "the True North strong and free".

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have hijacked this country and we want it back.

5.11.2009

come on bc, show us what democracy looks like

Tomorrow, people in British Columbia have an historic opportunity to expand their democracy. For all the info, see BC-STV: Single Transferable Vote.

Ontario voters didn't move things forward when they had the chance in 2007, likely confused and misled by the entrenched interests who want to maintain the status quo. You out there on the west coast, show us how it's done!

Power Up Your Vote!.

4.08.2009

prorogation was "fundamental abuse of power". but you already knew that.

This is making the rounds through the Canadian blogosphere, and worth reading:
Canada cannot be both a parliamentary and a populist democracy.

Parliamentary Democracy In Crisis, an explosive new book analyzing December's constitutional showdown, written by 15 of Canada's leading parliamentary experts, says Canada must bridge its two largely irreconcilable democratic cultures or face an uncertain future.

Canada's two solitudes are no longer Quebec and English Canada. Today, the two solitudes are Historic Canada and The West.

Polls taken during the crisis found that Historic Canada -- Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes -- backed parliamentary democracy and the Liberal-NDP coalition supported by the Bloc Quebecois. Under parliamentary democracy, the government of the day must win and maintain the confidence of a majority of the members of parliament to retain power.

The West overwhelmingly supported the populist outcome -- a two-month prorogation allowing the minority Conservative government to avoid defeat on a confidence vote. Populist democracy, as promulgated by Reform Party leader Preston Manning, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his former chief strategist Tom Flanagan, favours the American presidential model of one directly elected leader not responsible to the legislature but answerable only to the people.

. . . .

Simon Fraser University professor Andrew Heard says Harper's prorogation was "unconstitutional... (T)his type of manoeuvre is simply unheard of among modern established democracies. It is a fundamental abuse of power to shut down a newly elected parliament at the moment when it is poised to vote non-confidence in the incumbent government."

The University of Toronto's Peter Russell says the crisis has "left a legacy that could be the basis of a serious constitutional crisis in the near future: a country dangerously divided over the fundamental principles and the rules of its parliamentary democracy."

The most damning indictment comes from David Cameron, chair of the University of Toronto's political science department. "Stephen Harper demonstrated that there was no bridge he would not burn, no low road he would not take, to stay in power. Beyond the deceit and the intentional obfuscation, what could not be forgiven was the prime minister's willingness to conjure up our national-unity demons...

"Successive prime ministers have seen it as their duty to manage the national unity file with prudence and care; to light a match near a can of gasoline -- to set east against west... simply for the sake of personal political survival was to scatter this primordial leadership obligation to the four winds."

Read the Winnipeg Free Press column here.

12.02.2008

"people don't vote for coalition governments"

Our furnace was shut down because of carbon monoxide danger, our dogwalker quit with no notice, Allan is sick and I'm a bundle of fibromyalgia symptoms. But who cares? All we want to do is watch CPAC all day.

Did you watch Question Period today? "Separatist coalition... proud to be democratically elected... sponsorship scandal..." Yes, they're still bringing up the sponsorship scandal. What else ya got? "Separatist coalition" is hilarious. The way the Bloc is bad-mouthed drives me to their defence. My Canada includes Quebec, but it includes democracy and tolerance, too.

Many of the Liberals were excellent, especially John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood). Several NDPers highlighted what Parliament would look like if we had proportional representation, which was great to hear. We hit the mute button for the stacks of emails Conservative MPs are receiving - but it does show us the value of sending them. Keep those calls and letters coming, folks.

I'm also glued to Idealistic Pragmatist. Look to her for your response to this Conservative Quip: "Zero: the percent of Canadians who voted for a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition." The correct answer is:
Nobody voted for this coalition government, because people don't vote for coalition governments. Nor do they vote for single-party governments. They vote for their MP, and that's all.

No, really. It's true. Look it up if you don't believe me.

Also, go to Make Parliament Work for info on pro-coalition rallies in your area. Signed on so far: St. John's, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton, Regina, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa.

11.30.2008

i leave the country for five days and democracy breaks out

Wow! Is this really happening? Did I actually see the words "negotiations for a coalition government" in a news story??

I have to laugh at how out of the news loop I've been. We were very busy with family and friends, and only seeing stories the New York Times considers front-page. You can be sure Harper's tottering Government wasn't one of them! We had internet access at both my mom's and my brother's houses, but when I'm having a great time with people I see only once a year, I figure the news can wait a few days. After all, it's probably the same old thing.

Yesterday, after driving for ten hours on very little sleep, I had no intentions of spending any time online. But imagine my surprise when I was blind-copied on emails to both the NDP and the Liberals about their negotiations for a coalition government! I ran downstairs to shout the news to Allan: the Harper Government is teetering on the brink, had to execute an about-face to survive, and is only guaranteed for another week. Be still my beating heart!

One hilarious - but scary - angle has Canadian wingnuts all over the internet using words like "palace coup" and "treason," apparently taking their marching orders from their fearless leader, now out of his sweater vest.

Can it be these Canadians don't understand the basics of Parliamentary democracy? Apparently so. In comments at several news stories, I've seen numerous claims that Stephen Harper was elected Prime Minister, and neither Stéphane Dion nor anyone else has the right to "overturn that election".

Excuse me? Are you confusing one recent election with another? Do these people think they actually voted on a ballot showing Stephen Harper running for Prime Minister?

Earth to Conservatives: you voted for your party of choice by voting for a Member of Parliament. Whatever MP was elected in your riding is still sitting in Parliament. Your vote has not been changed; your MP has not been recalled; no election has been overturned.

The party that won the most seats was charged with the task of forming the Government. If that party can't maintain the Government, they lose that opportunity and become the Opposition.

Do you seriously not understand that? Or do you think continually repeating utter bullshit magically transforms it into truth?

* * * *

I've had a half-written post sitting in drafts for several weeks, expressing my frustrations - not unknown to you, I'm sure - at the political climate in Canada. We see the centre-right-very-right firmly holding together despite significant differences, and the centre-left-leaning-actual-left fracturing ever further.

I am utterly and completely opposed to any suggestion that this situation is the fault of the New Democrats, and that the NDP should simply disappear and leave the field to the Liberals.

But the prospect of successive Governments run by a party whose views represent a minority of Canadians is teeth-grittingly, fist-clenchingly maddening.

I've been obsessing on the idea of a coalition, but when I mention it to most Canadian-born Canadians I know, they give me one of several one-word answers. Never. Impossible. Unthinkable.

In this half-written post - now irrelevant?? - I quote my favourite political blogger, Idealistic Pragmatist. Here's a bit from that draft.

[In addition to being a keen political observer, she's lived under at least two other systems, so she brings a broader perspective to the table. When liberal Canadians talk about "uniting the left," I am ready with the broken two-almost-one-party system to the south as an example of what would likely happen. Idealistic Pragmatist has that, too, but she also has experienced a system that is more democratic and more representative than either the US or Canada.
Running to form government on their own may be the best the NDP can do within the current political culture, but Dymaxion World's axiom applies here as well as it ever has: Basic politics in a democracy: If you want to change the behaviour, don't change the actors, change the rules. Until we have proportional representation and the political culture that would result from it, partisan politics in Canada is always going to be more about how to get a bigger and bigger piece of the pie than it is about promoting good people and good ideas. And that's always going to limit the level at which I'm willing to get involved with my party of choice, no matter how good their candidates and their ideas are.

I'm familiar with the IP's basic themes, but now, having lived in Canada through two elections, I understand them in a deeper way.

Right now, as Canada faces a united front on the right, a weakened centrist party that abdicated its responsibility as the Opposition, and a party on the left trying to broaden its appeal to a wider sector of voters, we need these ideas more than ever.]

Now I can hardly believe that what I've been wishing for may come to fruition. Canada, you beautiful country you, make us all proud.

Meanwhile, while we await the outcome of these negotiations, we can do more than hold our collective progressive breath. Please go to the Progressive Coalition website and tell your MPs and the party leaders how you feel.
In 2008 the majority of Canadians voted for a prosperous, fair, and green Canada. Over 60% of voters cast their ballots for parties with progressive platforms. With 37% of the vote the Conservatives will effectively hold 100% of the power.

The Conservatives received 170,000 fewer votes than the last election, yet they won more seats. The Greens, who received 940,747 votes, are not represented at all.

Politics as usual is not working: the progressive majority in Canada is now ruled by a right-wing minority. If Canadians do not act we are going to watch Canada become more unequal, more irresponsible, and more out of step with a changing world.

We can change this. The Conservatives only secured 143 seats in Parliament while the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois secured a combined 165 seats. These seats give the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois the ability to form a coalition government. You don't have to give up your vision of Canada. The parties can work together to find common ground.

Canadians for a Progressive Coalition are asking the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois to form a coalition government that includes counsel from the Greens.

First, sign a petition calling for a coalition government.

Then contact your MP, the NDP, the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party. Tell them all that that you strongly support this idea.

The people at Progressive Coalition have many ideas of how you can get involved. Go here to find out more.

10.15.2008

further notes on last night's results

In addition to the analysis from Fair Vote Canada (which I hope you will read), I received this from a key Campaigner. Thank you!

+ + + +

PUTTING THIS FEDERAL ELECTION IN PERSPECTIVE:

2008 Voter Turnout:
59.1% of registered electors (or about 41% of all Canadians)
- one of the lowest in recent history

Total Conservative vote percentage:
2006 - 36.3%
2008 - 37.6%
- A 1.3% increase after governing moderately for 2 years
- From 127 to 143 seats (gained 16 seats)

Percentage of Canadians who did not vote for Harper's Conservatives: 62.4% (that's right, 62% of Canadians - who voted!)

Times Stephen Harper has attempted to get a majority and failed: Three times (in 2004, 2006, and 2008)

Harper's MAJOR advantages in September 2008:
- Dion as leader; perceived as weak, unable to communicate
- divided, indebted Liberal Party
- early triggering of election before U.S. election and possible recession (Harper broke his own fixed date election law)
- well financed corporate party with backing of Bay Street, Washington, defence, gas and oil industries, etc.
- Green Shift policy failure for Liberals during campaign

Harper's lost opportunities this time:
- best opportunity to win majority - but did not achieve it
- did not expand support in Quebec due to unpopular policy and Bloc
- no seats in Newfoundland thanks to successful "Anything But Conservative (ABC)" campaign

* * *

OVERALL SEAT COUNTS 2008:

Conservatives: 143
Opposition - Parties Supportive of War Resisters: 163

* * *

WAR RESISTER SUPPORTIVE PARTIES:

Liberal vote percentage:
2006 - 30.2%
2008 - 26.2%
From 95 to 76 seats

NDP vote percentage:
2006 - 17.5%
2008 - 18.2%
From 30 to 37 seats

Bloc Québécois
2006 - 10.5% (Canada-wide)
2008 - 10% (Canada-wide)
From 48 to 50 seats

Green vote percentage:
2006 - 4.5%
2008 - 6.8%
No seats

Note:
All of this is possible due to our multi-party first-past-the-post (FPTP) system which is not proportional and allows a numerical non-majority to rule as if they had majority support. Therefore, candidates and a party can win with less than 40% and can rule as if they have support of the majority of Canadians, even if they clearly do not.

from fair vote canada: electoral dysfunction again

This morning's email from Fair Vote Canada. (Emphasis mine.)
Electoral dysfunction, yet again

Greens deserved more than 20 seats - voting system also punished New Democrats, western Liberals and urban Conservatives

Once again, Canada's antiquated first-past-the-post system wasted millions of votes, distorted results, severely punished large blocks of voters, exaggerated regional differences, created an unrepresentative Parliament and contributed to a record low voter turnout.

[Note: The following commentary is based on returns at 2am ET.]

The chief victims of the October 14 federal election were:

  • Green Party: 940,000 voters supporting the Green Party sent no one to Parliament, setting a new record for the most votes cast for any party that gained no parliamentary representation. By comparison, 813,000 Conservative voters in Alberta alone were able to elect 27 MPs.

  • Prairie Liberals and New Democrats: In the prairie provinces, Conservatives received roughly twice the vote of the Liberals and NDP, but took seven times as many seats.

  • Urban Conservatives: Similar to the last election, a quarter-million Conservative voters in Toronto elected no one and neither did Conservative voters in Montreal.

  • New Democrats: The NDP attracted 1.1 million more votes than the Bloc, but the voting system gave the Bloc 50 seats, the NDP 37.

    "How can anyone consider this democratic representation?" asked Barbara Odenwald, President of Fair Vote Canada.

    Had the votes on October 14 been cast under a fair and proportional voting system, Fair Vote Canada projected that the seats allocation would have been approximately as follows:

  • Conservatives - 38% of the popular vote: 117 seats (not 143)

  • Liberals - 26% of the popular vote: 81 seats (not 76)

  • NDP - 18% of the popular vote: 57 seats (not 37)

  • Bloc - 10% of the popular vote: 28 seats (not 50)

  • Greens - 7% of the popular vote: 23 seats (not 0)

    Fair Vote Canada also has data for each province on the number of seats won and number of seats actually deserved by each party.

    Odenwald emphasized that any projection on the use of other voting systems must be qualified, as specific system features would affect the exact seat allocations.

    "With a different voting system, people would also have voted differently," said Larry Gordon, Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada. "There would have been no need for strategic voting. We would likely have seen higher voter turnout. We would have had different candidates - more women, and more diversity of all kinds. We would have had more real choices."
  • today we need to quote joe hill

    You know who Joe Hill was, right? He was a worker, a labour activist, a Wobblie. In 1915, he was framed for a murder, and sentenced to death. His last words were to the firing squad: "Fire!"

    But Hill's most famous words were written in a letter to his fellow activist, the IWW leader Bill Haywood. Hill said: "Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize."

    Those trenchant words are usually shortened even further: "Don't mourn. Organize!" They have echoed through people's movements ever since.

    And that's what we have to do. We have to recommit ourselves to keeping Canada Canada. The majority of Canadians did not vote for the Conservatives, and as the majority, we have to make our voice heard. We have to oppose their policies and their legislation, and urge the Opposition to live up to its name.

    And we have to work for proportional representation. I'm thinking that as progressives, that's where our main fight should be.

    While I'm here, I'd be remiss if I didn't say the standard things about last night's results. Don't want to be the only progressive blog in town without them!

    - Thank [something] is wasn't a majority.

    - Excellent showing for the NDP.

    - The Liberals were a disaster and Dion will clearly be ousted - and soon.

    * * * *

    Of course, I'm worried about the war resisters. This case-by-case, deportation-order-court-stay dance is exhausting organizationally, financially and politically. Tonight's meeting will be interesting. I expect to come home with a new strategy and renewed hope.

    See the interesting Joe Hill Project for more info.

    PS: Last night was a disaster for the Red Sox, too. But unlike the Liberals, we're still alive. Backs to the wall, this is our moment.

    10.14.2008

    election day jitters

    As if I weren't nervous enough about this election, the Red Sox play a crucial playoff game tonight. If we can get CBC without the cable box, we can set up two TVs next to each other, put them both on mute, and watch the game and election returns at the same time. We'll find out shortly if this is possible.

    This whole election thing is so scary. If Canada had proportional representation, we could know that the will of the people was reflected in the House of Commons. As it stands now, it all depends on who lives where. That's no way to run a democracy.

    * * * *

    Update. It doesn't work. No TV without a cable box. So we'll put the game on a laptop and election returns on TV.

    10.10.2008

    peace is much less expensive

    Imagine what Canada could do with 18 billion dollars.

    What would you do for the country with $18 billion? Buy some stocks?

    Meanwhile, all the Harper Conservatives can do is ridicule Stéphane Dion's hearing loss. I am hoping Canadians will be smarter - and kinder - than that. If all you have to offer is a dig at another man's physical disability - which doesn't affect his intelligence, his ideas or his integrity - you are not fit for public office.

    * * * *

    Readers are bombarding me with links about strategic voting and proportional representation. They've all been mentioned here, either in posts or in comments, and I'm sure most wmtc readers in Canada have seen them, here and elsewhere. The folks at Orphan Voters are now bordering on spam. Even in the service of democracy, it's bad blogging.

    Here you go:

    Vote For Environment

    Pair Vote

    And of course, why strategic voting shouldn't be necessary: Fair Vote Canada, which sponsors Orphan Voters.

    10.08.2008

    an open letter from fair vote canada

    From the good folks at Fair Vote Canada:
    Open letter from Fair Vote Canada to strategic voters and vote-swappers

    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result." - Albert Einstein

    Another federal election and another disaster for democracy.

    On October 14, millions of Canadians – possibly eight million – will become orphan voters, casting ballots that send no one to Ottawa. As usual, the election results will be wildly distorted.

    Some parties will get a portion of seats far exceeding their portion of the popular vote, while others will get too little or none at all.

    We may even see a party opposed by six voters in every ten take majority control in the House of Commons.

    Why we call this exercise "democracy" is a continuing mystery.

    During every election in recent memory the frustration created by an undemocratic electoral system leads some to conclude that voters should try to "game" the system. Instead of marking the ballot for a party you support, they say, be "smart" and vote for a party you do not support in order block another party that you despise.

    A recent poll by the Toronto Star indicated that about half of those supporting the Liberals, NDP and Green Party would consider casting a negative or "strategic" vote, abandoning the party they actually prefer, to vote for another party in the hope of stopping a candidate from the front-running Conservatives.

    In addition to 40% of the eligible voters who choose not to vote we could now have another large group of people who have given up on sincere voting and genuine democratic representation.

    This is no way to nourish pride of citizenship or public respect for the laws that emanate from an unrepresentative Parliament.

    Citizens in most major democracies take for granted their right to cast a vote that elects the representation they want. In the upcoming election, the majority of Canadian voters will all but certainly be denied that right.

    Fair Vote Canada cannot advise voters whether to cast negative votes or to participate in vote-swapping schemes on October 14. It's rarely a clear or easy choice.

    What we can advise is that all Canadians should be coming together to demand reform of our country’s undemocratic election process.

    If you have not already done so, join and support Fair Vote Canada. Sign the Fair Vote Canada petition calling for a national referendum on electoral reform. Urge other organizations to make active citizenship, equal votes and proportional representation for all Canadians a part of their basic mission.

    Together we can win.

    British Columbians showed the way in 2005 when 58% voted by referendum for proportional representation, only to be frustrated – in the short-term – by an undemocratic government-imposed threshold of 60%. On May 12, 2009, British Columbians will vote again in an electoral reform referendum. With our encouragement and help, they can lead Canada on the path of democratic renewal.

    The electoral system has orphaned many of us. We must refuse to be silenced. Democracy has been long delayed, but if democrats are steadfast, democracy will not be forever denied.

    Fair Vote Canada

    . . . .

    While Fair Vote Canada does not endorse strategic voting or vote-swapping, those wishing to learn more may wish to visit these non-partisan sites: democraticSPACE.com – strategic voting guide and Votepair.ca.

    9.29.2008

    democratic space, still making me feel slightly better

    Two days ago I wrote:
    Last week, when I started gluing myself to DemocraticSpace, their seat projections had the Conservatives at 150 seats, five shy of a majority. Two days later, that was down to 145. Two days after that, it was 144. Today they have the Conservatives at 142.

    So everything's moving in the right direction. Now if we can just get the election postponed until December.

    Today they are showing the Conservatives at 140 seats. Please move faster! Please!