Tag Archives: electoral reform

Politics, Re-Spun on Coop Radio, September 5, 2011

Spending Labour Day with Imtiaz Popat on “The Rational” on Vancouver’s COOP Radio, talking about Christy Clark’s revocation of a pre-2013 election date [coup, not really a premier, perhaps a “notional premier”], the end of the HST, the BCTF negotiations and how the courts noted how the government yanked almost $3 billion from BC’s K-12 system over the last 10 years, the federal NDP leadership race and the Canucks riot report as it relates to Vancouver’s municipal political scene.

Apologies for the abrupt ending: technical difficulties.

And a note on the BCTF strike action in Kelowna: it sounded ambiguous that the teachers were the ones who canceled recess. The teachers are going to start the school year not supervising at recess. The school board decided to cancel recess. This way, administrators don’t have to supervise that 15 minute chunk of time each year. See here.

The Landslide Election Victory That Isn’t

I initially had a vague plan for this post but have decided to go with whatever comes to mind to create an election commentary medley of sorts. Actually, it more resembles a rather large balloon filled with statistics and cynicism and it keeps growing!

The Conservatives have won a majority government and this ensures their fixed and uninterrupted rule until 2015. (Yes, I chose my words carefully in writing “rule” versus governance). Majority government and popular rule ring with a rather peculiar tone in this country. The Conservative party gets to do what they want during the next four years and have the mandate to do so with 39.6% of the popular vote. The notion that 60% of Canadians did not vote for the Conservatives, and get stuck with their whim and fancy for the next four years, seems an egregious prospect to many and it is.

However, the fact that we persistently elect governments whose share of seats in the House of Commons is not proportionate to votes actually cast is a staple feature of Canadian democracy. Take note of the trend as it is the norm under our first past the post electoral system and this election simply provides redundant confirmation of this.

The Liberals secured a majority government in 1993 with 41.3% of the popular vote, in 1997 with 38.4% of the popular vote and in 2000 with 40.8% of the popular vote. Irrespective of who gets a majority in parliament our first past the post electoral system, and rates of electoral participation, are going to produce perplexing results and it is worth examining the particulars of this election in some detail.

While the Conservatives received 39.6% of the popular vote, or the support of 5,832,401 Canadians, they picked up 54.2% of the seats in the House of Commons. There were 2,783,175 Liberal voters in this election or 18.9% of the popular vote and yet the Liberals received only 34 seats (11% of the total). In B.C., the Liberals received the support of 13.4% of the popular vote, that’s 251,081 electors, and yet held on to only 2 of the available 34 seats. Our first past the post electoral system worked well for the Liberals when they were enjoying majority governments in the 1990s but not so much anymore.

In 2008, the Bloc received the support of 1,379,991 voters and elected 49 members to the House of Commons. In 2011, the Bloc received the support of 889,788 voters but elected only 4 members. Thus while Bloc seats have been reduced by 92%, 1 in 4 Quebecers did vote for the BQ.

The Orange tide! The NDP is now the official opposition with 102 seats and the support of 4,508,474 voters or 30.6% of the popular vote. In 2008, the NDP had the support of 18.2% of the popular vote but 37 seats. The overarching support for the NDP across this country in this election is both historic and inspiring.

However, in some provinces the orange surge did not translate into actual members elected. In Saskatchewan, the NDP earned the support of a third of the electorate but no seats! That’s right, 32.32% of voters or 147,084 people voted NDP but elected none. The Conservative party received the support of 256,004 voters or 56.26% of the popular vote in Saskatchewan and yet they secured 13 seats out of 14 seats in that fair province.

In Manitoba, while popular support for the NDP increased in this election, the number of NDP members elected actually decreased. Thanks to our electoral system, an increase in popular support for a party can function in an inverse relationship to those actually elected. In 2008, 112,247 Manitobans voted for the NDP, representing 24.04% of the popular vote, which translated to 4 out of the available 14 seats in that province. In the 2011 election, the NDP received the support of 126, 716 Manitobans, or 25.8% of the popular vote and yet only 2 NDP MP’s were elected. The NDP secured 42.9% of the popular vote in Quebec, that’s 1,628,483 electors but picked up 77.3% of the seats or 58 in total.

The Liberals did nothing to push for electoral reform when they governed and I don’t expect the Conservatives to engage this issue considering they are the current beneficiaries of our first past the post electoral system. The NDP and the Greens have been the only parties that have actually in any meaningful way embraced the prospect of electoral reform and some form of proportional representation. Awesome! Let’s get more of them elected.

Another major feature of this election has to be the non–voter. While voter turnout did increase somewhat from 58.8% to 61.4% in this election, the largest bloc of voters in Canada continues to be people who do not vote at all in federal elections. As a case in point, look at Alberta. When I look at the CBC Canada Votes map of the province it appears as a sea of blue with an orange island dead centre. Closer examination of the election results reveals that the province may not be the bastion of Conservative support that it is made out to be in most media reports.

The Conservatives in Alberta won 27 out of the available 28 seats but received only 66.8% of the popular vote. This result becomes even stranger when considering electoral turnout in Alberta is just 56.4%. What this means is that 1,080,057 electors did not cast a ballot at all while 933,201 Conservative voters decided the fate of the entire province. (Save for that island of orange in Edmonton Strathcona). Oh yes and 73,770 Albertans did vote Green in 2011. There are 3,361,426 people in Ontario alone that did not cast a ballot in this election and yet the 2,455,900 electors in Ontario that supported the Conservative party picked up 73 seats in Ontario, that’s 68.9% of seats, with 44.4% of the popular vote.

This commentary is not a blame manifesto against people who choose not to vote but a call to seriously examine this issue. Why are so many Canadians choosing not to vote? Why are so many people disaffected? How do we fix this? Does it matter? Would our election results be markedly different if we had higher rates of electoral participation?

I am going to argue that really, we have not yet fully experienced what living under a Conservative government looks like. Here’s a small preview of what we can expect. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives provides you with a helpful link to a site where you can see how much you will be paying towards those shiny F-35 Jets, new prisons and oil company subsidies here: http://contactyourmp.ca/harpercost.

Somehow I never imagined I would be subsidizing companies whose operational fall out includes flammable carcinogenic tap water but evidently the scope of my imagination needs to expand into realms of hereto uncharted fantasy. Why again are we discontinuing anti-gang and community programs for youth, that offer educational, social, employment and mental health support, in favour of tougher young offender laws, mandatory minimum sentencing and limited use of conditional sentencing? Evidently youth will grow up to be healthy members of communities through time spent in jail; it will be an educational experience indeed. What happened to evidence based public policy? My goodness, can we get climate change back on the issue agenda sometime soon?

We will keep seeing these types of elections results until some form of electoral reform is seriously contemplated in this country? For the 60% of Canadians that did not vote Conservative, buckle your seat belts you’re along for the ride! Actually everyone is along for the ride, whether you voted or not.

Understandably some of us may feel dejected but there are sprinkles of hope that abound including the Orange tide. I am inspired by the perseverance, political principles, and passion of Elizabeth May, her dedicated volunteers and the voters of Saanich Gulf Islands who chose Green. We now have the first Green elected MP in North America and under a first past the post electoral system. (It’s my post, so I don’t have to pretend to be objective and conceal that I think this is wonderful.) You heard right, 75.2% of the electorate came out to vote in Saanich-Gulf Islands. This gives me great hope as to what can happen if more of us did.

PoliticsRespun.org Election Night Liveblog, maybe

Tonight’s the night many of us have been waiting for – whether it be because we trudged to a poll today, stood in line with credit card bills, drivers licenses, and other sundry pieces of identification, were handed a ballot, and promptly marked a little “x” next to the least offensive candidate, and now the results come in, or because we may be able to go to sleep early and wake up tomorrow and see if anything has changed.

Either way – or more – PoliticsRespun.org is bringing you an election night liveblog.  We have contributors spread across the country – from the Atlantic Provinces, to BC transplants in Toronto, to real, live BC folks all ready to contribute their thoughts to the evening.  Alex and I are just back from Montréal, where we witnessed the “orange crush” first hand, with a preponderance of NDP signs, people voting NDP who have never thought of it before, and even poor Gilles Duceppe apparently in a touch of a fight for his own riding.

Our liveblog may be sporadic at times, with updates rolling in occasionally, and as we figure out what to do about the ban of publishing results before the polls close in BC.  Two of us may wander over to the NDP victory party at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, if we can find it.  Regardless, stick with PoliticsRespun.org for potentially irreverent coverage of what may be democracy, perhaps inaction.


A Compendium of My Prime Minister Layton Posts

I’ve enjoyed writing four pieces about the Prime Minster Layton concept in the last 2.5 years.

Originally, it was a wishful thinking hyper long-shot in a prorogation crisis at a time when the Liberals had no firm leader.

Then in June 2010 it was a curiosity when polling indicated a Jack Layton-led coalition with the Liberals would defeat the Conservatives 43-37.

Then it was an analysis last week after the first few days of the NDP surge, spurred by gains in Quebec, but still too early to truly see how Layton could overtake the Liberals to be the leading force in a coalition or voting arrangement with the Liberals and the Bloc.

Finally, it was a review of a week of NDP surge polling moving through the advanced voting days. It was still unclear that the NDP would get more seats than the Liberals.

Here are these previous pieces:

  1. November 28, 2008: Prime Minister Layton and Proportional Representation
  2. June 2, 2010: Prime Minister Layton, Redux
  3. April 21, 2011: Prime Minister Layton
  4. April 23, 2011: The Democratic Rebirth of Canada

And where are we today, four days before the general election? The NDP is closer to the leading Conservatives that they are to the third place Liberals. Jack Layton has pulled ahead of Stephen Harper in composite leadership polling, not just in the trust category. There are worries that vote splitting between the NDP and the Bloc in Quebec and the NDP and the Liberals in the ROC [Rest of Canada] will allow the Conservatives to steal a majority.

Personally, I think with the continued softness of some of the NDP support [vote parkers], and with the abundance of strategic voting discussion and websites designed to prevent a Harper majority, I suspect enough NDP supporters will slide back to the Liberals and the Bloc in critical seats to ensure vote splitting doesn’t lead to a Harper majority.

The only question is which party comes in second place: the NDP or Liberals. If the NDP does, it will be Jack Layton leading a delegation to Rideau Hall soon after May 2, or after the House of Commons fires Harper for a second time in two months, to form a coalition or government with explicit voting support. Then it will be Prime Minister Layton.

I’ve sat in that seat in the House. It has a great view–not as good as the speaker’s chair, but hey, it has its perks. And through all this, Ignatieff will lose his caucus support as leader of a humiliated “natural governing party.” Then we will see Goodale, Rae, Kennedy and some others go after the leadership position. And we’ll see a similar surgical removal of Steve Harper as Conservative leader and likely Gilles Duceppe as Bloc leader.

If the Liberals win more seats than the NDP, we’ll see Prime Minister Ignatieff, despite how many sharpened knives are hidden in the desks of Liberal MPs. In that case, we’d still see Harper and Duceppe leaving their positions, and possibly Layton depending on his attitude and health.

In the end, living in Twitter and musing over every national poll released every day is living in an echo chamber of pseudo-scientific attempts to predict the behaviour of the electorate. Last night, Chretien played a card. The attack ads from the Liberals and Conservatives against the NDP will have some traction to mobilize their base. The impending election day will also affect some voter intentions.

May 2 is unpredictable. And while no national poll will be correct in predicting popular vote support or seat distribution, they’re all competing to be the closest since profound notoriety comes with winning the closest to the bulls eye.

What we also know is that BC seat results will definitely determine which of three aging white men will become prime minister.

But as the final days of the campaign settle upon us, we see the final power plays. The Globe and Mail embraces deluded lunacy in its explanation of its endorsement of Stephen Harper with phrases like the Conservatives being the “only truly national party” despite it being the Alberta reform party, and how “he has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic.” That’s just bats.

This absurd endorsement should mobilize voters to be strategic in their voting. While the idealist in me thinks no one should ever vote strategically, the pragmatist in me recognizes that with a patently unjust electoral system like first-past-the-post, strategic voting is morally legitimate and can be deemed quite useful. Luckily, I live in Vancouver Kingsway where the strategic vote is also the principled vote: I already voted for the NDP’s Don Davies on Monday.

But we also see Crawford Killian’s interesting inclusion of some poll analysis of the Prime Minister Layton meme/concept/possibility in the context of what the governor-general ought to do if the Conservatives “win” another minority, according to the people of Canada:

  • 43% say the leader of the opposition should be invited to form a government [after all, the House already fired Harper last month]
  • 19%, a relatively dwarfish percentage, think Harper should have another chance [which would be pointless since he said he’ll submit the same budget as in March and he’ll be fired again by the House]
  • 38% undecided [after all, this is a complicated thing with very little constitutional convention to lean on and 2.5 years of Harper’s disinformation campaign about legal/valid/credible forms of non-majority governments in parliamentary systems]

Then Killiian quotes EKOS on the Prime Minister Layton concept:

If anyone had trotted this scenario out as a likely outcome at the outset of this campaign, they would have been dismissed as a lunatic. Yet this unimaginable outcome is arguably the most likely outcome of the current political landscape.

I think if not the most likely outcome Monday night, it is the second most likely outcome. Either  way, I would welcome being dismissed as a lunatic for having written about this 2.5 years ago.

In the end, democracy wins and Canadians will get even more used to more effective and participatory political debate and dialogue in the country. Unless Harper eeks out a majority. Unlikely.

So. Make sure you vote on Monday. Something is afoot. Your vote will be part of it.

I’m voting for the least offensive candidate to try and avoid the most offensive government. I wish.

All right everyone, we’ve got an election.  Let’s get our democracy on?

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll roll out of bed on May 2 (though I’ll likely sleep in), trudge over to the local school or church basement, wait in line behind everyone, argue with the poll clerk that I actually live where I claim to live (Ontario doesn’t issue identification cards with addresses that aren’t drivers’ licenses, so I’ll have to try to prove my identity with a credit card bill, passport, and a smile), I’ll be handed a little piece of paper with names on it and directed to a folded piece of cardboard with a tiny pencil behind it and I’ll have the chance to vote.

In all likelihood, while I’ll have a limited number of choices as to who I can gift with my little pencil-scratched ‘x’, I’ll likely end up voting for the least offensive candidate in order to try and avoid the most offensive government.  It’s the Canadian way!

I suppose my biggest difference here, as compared to my colleague Jasmin, is that I’ll likely be arsed enough to get out of bed and trudge over to the ‘democracy’-fulfillment station.  That being said, I agree with the vast majority of what he writes when he says that the election is “a spectacle provided for the masses, a circus.”

So… if I agree with the vast majority of what he writes, why would I be arsed enough to get up on May 2 and actually vote?  Who knows.  Maybe I’m hopelessly optimistic.  Maybe I’m deluded.  But I’ll probably be voting.

I just won’t be overly happy with what I’m doing.  But I’ll still likely be doing it.

Why? Because I really don’t want Stephen Harper to get a majority government, because I’m genuinely concerned about the havoc he could wreak with an unchecked hold on power.  Because a Harper majority government could crack down on our already circumscribed ‘freedoms’ and ‘rights’ even more than they already have.  And because this would severely challenge everyone’s ability to organize and create a better world.

Sure, Harper is a boogeyman (full of boogers, I might add) and Ignatieff is the leader of the party that did most of what Harper is currently doing, but they did it with a red tinge instead of the blues.  Layton, who looks like Lenin but certainly doesn’t act like him, can promise the world (but not socialism) because he certainly won’t be prime minister, and Gilles Duceppe (maintenant et toujours mon politicien préféré!) can act as both a comic relief and actually cutting critique of the whole charade at the same time.

But this doesn’t change the fact that the election will have very real outcomes that impact each and every one of us, whether we like the system or not.  Admittedly, these outcomes will happen no matter who is in charge, but with any luck, they may not be as bad with Harper out of power and someone else – by default, Ignatieff, I suppose – in.  Though I’m relatively confident that’s just wishful thinking.  But I’m reluctant to simply not vote even though I know the system is broken and won’t get better any time soon.

So why is Jasmin not voting? He says:

There are three very simple reasons why I will not be voting, and they are as follows:
1. Our electoral system is broken, as such, my vote is meaningless.
2. The parties running are inept and/or disingenuous.
3. Continued electoral turnout on the part of voters is making matters worse, rather than better.

Right, right, and mostly right.  So why vote?  Because, in the system that we’re currently cursed with, that is, representative parliamentary democracy, the election is effectively the only time that we officially get to participate in democracy in the formal Canadian system.  And while the system is broken, mostly because the parties are inept and disingenuous, it’s what we’re stuck with for now.

For now.

We can be – and we should be – working towards a better system.  Towards a better democracy.  Quite obviously, as we saw in British Columbia during the single-transferable-vote referendum, and in Ontario during their referendum on electoral reform, the system that we currently have is structured in such a way as to prevent this kind of change.  The parties themselves oppose voting reform that would try to fix the worst problems of the electoral system.  The parties themselves are broken, reduced from articulating demands and engaging people in governance to cultivating and grouping together acolytes who thoughtlessly repeat party lines and foam at the mouth at the sight of someone wearing another team’s colours.  And while I’ll tentatively agree that turning out to vote does legitimize the system that we’re cursed with, I worry that if all of us who actually care about progressive ideas stayed home and didn’t vote that we’d get the worst possible outcome.  But sure, like the Marxists say, maybe we just need to progress through even more bitter times before we get to that whole revolution bit…

Okay. We’re not going to be getting a better system through simple voting and electoral and parliamentary charades.  But we’re absolutely not going to be getting there if we ignore the only fleeting moments of democracy that most of the people around us know, whether or not they like, approve of, or participate in them.

Most people reading this website will acknowledge that elections aren’t the only instances of actually existing democracy and politics in the world.  A lot of people here are actively involved in their unions, in community groups, in student associations, in trying to make the world a better place.  All of that is politics.  All of that is democracy. of the opinion that democracy ought to be how we collectively discuss and decide how we’ll live together and work towards the future.

But this isn’t how everyone else sees these things.  A lot of people out there see politics as starting on March 25th and stopping on May 2nd.  Democracy is the process of scratching that little ‘x’ next to the least offensive candidate.  This is their lived experience.  And I question how much we’re contributing to the betterment of things when we dismiss this.

How many times have we gone to a protest rally and had handfuls of people on the sidewalks wonder why we’re doing what we’re doing?  Wondering why we don’t join a party and change things from the inside?  Sure, it’s pointless to actually do that – but maybe we can seize the opportunity of a general election as momentum towards building the communities of change that we want to see.  People may not be more engaged in politics at the moment, but they’re at least aware that something is happening.

Might not we make Jamsin’s three-pointed argument about protest politics in Canadian democracy? They very rarely make any changes for the better, though they certainly try their most.  Often, under state-sponsored and often precipitated conditions of ‘violence’ they legitimate state repression.  They’re often insular.  And continued efforts to block a street and smash a window sometimes – though certainly not always – seem to alienate more and more of the population from people who protest for very good and very important reasons.

I’ll take Jasmin’s point about needing to build communities of change.  That is what we need to be doing.  We cannot and should not be focusing  on reactionary politics.  We need to be creating the world that we wish to see.  But how do we do this?  Just as I think that politics is something that encompasses all aspects of collectively self-determining how we live together and go forward, I think that activism can encompass the full range of what we might think is political – from elections to anything.

Voting and actually effective political organizing and activism are not exclusive activities.  We can do both.  And perhaps we should.  I can understand the logic behind boycotting elections because they’re relatively pointless, they mere change the colour of the people who rule us, and so on – but I don’t think that it’s hypocritical of me to desire substantive and progressive change in the political realities of where I live and to vote.

So, on May 2nd, I’ll trudge over to the church basement, credit card bill and passport in hand, smile on face, and I’ll go behind that little bit of folded cardboard and I’ll take that little pencil and I’ll scratch and ‘x’ on the ballot paper.

I’ll vote for the least offensive candidate in my riding, in the hopes of avoiding the most offensive government.

And I’ll continue working with my friends, my colleagues, and my comrades in activism, towards social change, towards political progress.

Because voting will only take 15 minutes of my day.  And even though I live in a ‘safe’ riding, there are people out there who don’t.  And if enough of us scratch that little ‘x’, then maybe we won’t have to spend months getting back to where we are now in terms of ‘rights’ and so forth. Or spend months defending the next right that Harper wants to take away from us – even though Iggy may well do the same thing.  Regardless, fifteen minutes to vote isn’t much, and if it gives me more time to work for change, maybe it’s better.  And if you’re particularly inclined, you can always spoil or reject your ballot, using the system to make a statement.

And then we can all go out and keep building communities for change.  Sure, we’ve all got a raging election on.  But it’s not our only political moment, nor is it a monolithic instance of democracy.  And it’s not mutually exclusive with other forms of activism.

Another, better, fairer, more just world is needed. And we need to work for it, with it, with each other, in as many ways as we can.

Why Are We Still Squabbling About Electoral Reform?

Why are we still squabbling about electoral reform when a majority of Canadians already want it?

Political parties often have several ballots to come up with a leader who has more than 50% support from members/delegates/whoever.

The BC Liberal party just went through a leadership race where party members voted for at least two candidates in preferred order. Their votes were weighted so each of 85 ridings had identical influence.

Next month the BC NDP will have a preferential ballot leadership vote as well.

Then both parties will fight a first-past-the-post provincial election some time in the next 2 years or so.


A plurality of support for a party leader is insufficient. But it is ok for general elections?

This simply has to stop.

Last month the federal NDP introduced a motion to create a House of Commons committee to “engage with Canadians, and make recommendations to the House, on how best to achieve a House of Commons that more accurately reflects the votes of Canadians by combining direct election by electoral district and proportional representation” because we have “a House of Commons that does not accurately reflect the political preferences of Canadians.”

The first-past-the-post stopped being really useful around the end of the 19th century once more than two parties starting fielding candidates.

Those who blame non-FPTP systems as being inherently unstable need to see that the earth hasn’t stopped spinning for the almost 7 years that Canada has been without a majority government. While some don’t like the lack of ease of legislation, I like how parliamentary committees mean something now and that debate and votes suddenly matter like never before in recent memory.

But then again, people wonder if the time isn’t yet right for Canada’s political culture to accept a change in our electoral system. If only a majority were already interested in a change. If only 62% of Canadians and almost 70% of decided Canadians supported a system of proportional representation. Maybe then I’d really have an argument here. It turns out that 62% of Canadians already support a PR system. Harper’s two proroguements helped cement that support. And CuriosityCat has already done the heavy lifting on the poll numbers to show a reasonably likely scenario of how this could play out in the next election.

Democracy is a muscle. We’ve been exercising it for most of this last decade and we’re starting to get good at it. I think we need more practice. And I think parties need to start entrenching progressive, democratic and truly representative electoral systems so our whole democracy gets a boost of efficacy.

Our declining voter turnout certainly indicates the need.

It’s time for leaders to act.

The “Harper Government,” Soft Fascism, Coalitions and ProRep

We mock and joke about Harper changing the “Government of Canada” to the “Harper Government”, and that’s fine, but we need to remember he’s not kidding and he needs to be stopped.

Heather Mallick hit the right balance of ridicule and warning in her piece yesterday:

Harper has always been a spiteful man, a yeller at work who was forced to tone it down in public.

But he cannot help himself. The terrorizing of officials and the rewriting of language are revealing the malevolence that lies beneath Harper’s hair. It is ungood, to use Orwell’s Newspeak. It is crimethink.

via Mallick: Harper re-brands the government out of spite – thestar.com.

I remember way back when Harper was first elected. He wouldn’t speak to the press. He buttoned up his ministers and their civil servants. He centralized and micro-managed words and power. He was the “Harper Government.”

He even changed the name of the government from the “Government of Canada” to “Canada’s New Government” and declared that the servants of his new government use his newspeak. Except when a GSC scientist emeritus named Dr. Andrew Okulitch called the phrase an “idiotic buzzword” he was informed that doing so was his de facto resignation from the emeritus program.

These aren’t acts of rhetoric in the fascist vein, but they do stray into soft fascist territory because they disrespect and negate the icons of democracy for personal, partisan gain.

But if you think Harper is a champion of democracy and not just a champion of his base, read up on some more extensive research into how much he has undermined democracy in Canada here: Harper’s Hitlist: Power, Process and the Assault on Democracy.

Then last summer he killed the long-form census after helping kill Copenhagen and public respect for other sciency and truthiness things like the evidence supported by thousands of scientists around the world on climate change.

Then he helped kill Cancun.

I’ve been hearing about the federal NDP and Liberals possibly talking about non-competition pacts to ensure no Harper majority. I’ve been thinking for many years about proportional representation.

We’re already somewhat past the tyranny of 19th century majority parliaments, having had minority federal governments for almost 7 years now without the earth stopping spinning.

All I know is that Harper has governed like he had a majority, enacting his ideology with a gun to everyone’s head by threatening an election through confidence motions on all sorts of things, thereby triggering a [perhaps] reluctant Liberal coalition.

I’m tired of the Conservative-Liberal coalition. And with almost 7 years of minority governments, it’s time reasonable Canadians started seriously investigating something more effective than the obviously useless first-past-the-post electoral system.

Tomorrow? Some of why electoral reform should be obvious now.

Clueless, Ida Chong Spins and Begs For Her Political Life

Welcome to December, Ida Chong! This will be a hard month for you.

MLA Chong has been given an opportunity to trot out Gordon Campbell’s HST spin in a Georgia Straight piece published online yesterday. In it, she essentially begs for her political future.

The reality, though, is that her tired explanations betray an ignorance, disregard or contempt for the current political climate and expectations of democracy in BC. This is no surprise because the Liberal government has pursued an anti-social, neoliberal agenda since before being elected. That agenda explicitly rejects the value of social cohesion. So it comes as no surprise that Campbell’s natural successor, Kevin Falcon, credits inspiration from the neoliberal Olympians Thatcher and Reagan.

Below are Ida Chong’s hollow pleas for her skin.

I understand that the decision to implement the HST, coming so soon after the last election angered many people. They are frustrated and upset that this significant change in taxation was introduced in this manner, and more importantly that our government did a poor job of communicating why we feel the HST is necessary. For that, I certainly apologize.

via Ida Chong: Recall campaign is not about HST but refighting last election | Vancouver, Canada | Straight.com.

This is the extent that the government will ever acknowledge wrongdoing. This ignores how they released FOI records to the media on the HST deliberations while claiming to the NDP in response to their FOI request that there were no records.

It also parrots out the “coming so soon after the last election” spin that it began after the votes were counted.

The Liberal party is choosing to define the anger of half a million British Columbians as bad PR. That’s easy to apologize for. That way they can ignore the need to apologize for claiming before the election that the HST wasn’t on the radar when it clearly was. That’s lying. That’s a calculated lie because to tell the truth about even considering the HST before the election may have been enough to destroy them. Fudge-it budget, meet your sibling: HST.

However, the recall campaign currently underway is not about the HST. Recalling your MLA will not eliminate the HST—the September 2011 referendum will determine that. So why recall, and why now? Quite frankly, I believe recall is being used as a political means to extract a political benefit for the NDP and for fringe right-wing parties. Unfortunately, recall is being used to refight the last election by creating a byelection. The recall campaign in my riding is being organized by someone who lives in NDP MLA Carole James’s riding, and many of the campaign’s volunteers and canvassers are not constituents of Oak Bay-Gordon Head but come from as far away as the Comox Valley. If people who live in Oak Bay-Gordon Head wish to speak with me or recall me, they can, but I do not believe we should accept outsiders coming in to our community, telling us what to do.

She’s right that recall won’t get rid of the HST. This, however, is irrelevant to people’s current sense of democracy. People wish to recall Liberal MLAs, especially vulnerable ones like Chong, because the party lied about the HST before the election. Because the Liberals choose to ignore that, they need an alternate story. The above paragraph is that: spin and deflection.

Also, while the NDP and other parties may happen to benefit from recall, painting this battle as merely refighting an election the opposition lost is an over-simplification that inflames the ire of the half million verified signatures on the initiative petition.

The fact that people from all over Vancouver Island are gleefully volunteering to remove a member of a political party which is perceived to have lied about a regressive tax to avoid losing an impending election demonstrates the breadth of opposition, assuming the initiative’s success in all 85 ridings was not enough.

Further, chatter from the Liberal leadership candidates about reducing the HST or moving up the referendum debate reflects that the party acknowledges their error, so Chong should not be surprised that the party is being targeted.

Her argument about non-riding volunteers is pale. It only works if the political culture around the province, even between regional ridings, is so wildly different that the presence of volunteers from outside the riding is merely manipulation. But the initiative passed in all 85 ridings, so there is nothing special about her riding beyond the zeal to fire her.

Recall legislation was implemented so that the public had recourse against an MLA who broke the law or committed serious ethical violations. It was designed to remove an MLA who has committed wrongdoing, and was never intended to be used as retribution against MLAs for an unpopular vote in the legislature. In September, NDP president Moe Sihota told members of his party that “the law forbids organizations from being proponents for recall; it has to be done by individuals. Below the surface though, it’s a partisan effort.” Recall legislation is being used, explicitly and admittedly, as a political, partisan tool to bully MLAs and to try to push British Columbia into political instability, by former MLAs like Bill Vander Zalm (who was forced to resign due to a conflict-of-interest scandal) and Sihota (who would like to effect a byelection for the NDP).

She is correct about why recall was implemented originally. It was designed to remove someone who broke the law or violated ethics. What kind of broken law is sufficient to justify recall? Fraud, assault, speeding, drunk driving, shoplifting, attempted murder? Those are not spelled out in the legislation so that the political community could decide. The public, bathing in the contemporary political culture will decide. I’m certain the premier would have been recalled almost 8 years ago if he didn’t represent a riding so incredibly enamoured with neoliberalism, greed and tax cuts.

What about ethics, then? Littering, leaving lights on in empty rooms, not recycling, watching an NC-17 movie, spanking a child, having an affair? Is lying ethical? The Liberal Party lied about selling BC Rail and ripping up public sector contracts. They were vulnerable to recall this whole decade if people think lying is unethical. Ida Chong would have us believe that it takes more than lying for a recall-worthy ethical violation.

But she is wrong.

She has been deluded to think her party is untouchable because BC’s political culture did not embrace recall as an option before now. That is just sad. The political culture of BC has evolved under the tyrannical rule of the Liberals to the point where, again, 85 ridings all passed the HST initiative.

Chong or her speech writers again attempt to spin the issue into recall as punishment for her voting for a bill. She was wrong about this being about refighting the last election, though there are some who have that as an added bonus, and she is equally wrong about this being about a legislative vote. It is about the substantial evidence indicating the party lied before the election.

The fact that the NDP and other parties and organizations contain as members some individuals who will gleefully attempt to recall lying Liberals, minus Blair Lekstrom of course, is merely a reality of life. Membership in an organization cannot be justified as an impediment for a citizen to participate in recall. The NDP was unlucky that their president’s words were publicized, but I guarantee you, the fringe right wing parties that Chong refers to have said the exact same thing.

But it is in this paragraph that I am personally offended by her use of the word “bully.” Leaving out Bill Bennett’s characterization of Gordon Campbell as a bully, the Liberal party has spent almost a decade bullying the vulnerable in BC. It is the height of disrespect for Ida Chong to claim she is being bullied by people who feel she should lose her job because she committed the ethical violation of lying before an election. Bullying implies an innocent victim. She is not.

It is no wonder political cynicism is so high and voter turnout dropped below 50%.

Everyone, even my political opponents in the NDP, acknowledge that I am one of the hardest-working constituency-focused MLAs in this province. I have worked extremely hard for my community, and the evidence of this is clear throughout Oak Bay-Gordon Head, from a new $350-million hospital, expansions and renovations at the University of Victoria, Camosun College, as well as the public schools that have been seismically upgraded. The investment in parks, bike lanes, and many other projects I have supported and advocated for over 14 years as MLA are achievements I am very proud of. I have always conducted myself in a professional and ethical manner and have considered the diverse opinions of the constituents of Oak Bay-Gordon Head in performing my duties as MLA.

On the surface, I have a hard time caring much for how hard an MLA works in their constituency when their party has lost its moral mandate to govern.

Honestly, if Ida Chong were actually such a star MLA in her riding, I wonder why she was reelected by only 561 votes 18 months ago. Maybe that perception just isn’t getting through to the people.

It further shows the disconnectedness of her party from the reality of British Columbians. She champions seismic upgrading of her riding’s schools. By next year, over 200 schools in BC will have been closed from the Liberal party defunding public education. That was an unfortunate example in her letter. Let’s make sure she lives with it.

While she may claim to conduct herself ethically as a riding representative, she is a member of a political party that lied about a new regressive tax to avoid an electoral defeat. She needs to realize that the populace of BC does not consider that to be an ethical action. Hence, the recall.

Our government has made tough, sometimes unpopular choices to ensure the fiscal stability and economic prosperity of our province into the future. Whether you agree with some, all, or none of the things our government has done, whether you support or oppose the HST, I hope you agree that there are appropriate forums to have these debates, including elections and the upcoming referendum. Recall is not one of them.

Ida Chong is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

The Liberal party rhetoric that they have made tough choices is tired. Upon first getting elected they embarked on the Thatcher/Reagan/Shock Doctrine tactic of a massive tax cut that reduced government revenues, thereby forcing themselves into having to be the tough love parent who has to make tough choices about what social services to gouge.

This is tired, insulting rhetoric.

Ultimately, her assertion that recall is not a venue for the public to deal with politicians’ ethical violations is just desperate, clueless, cynical, or all three.

I, for one, am among hundreds of thousands who are mad as hell and simply won’t take the abuse anymore.

I doubt Ida Chong or her party will be able to come up with any better spin to attempt to stave off the recall of a healthy portion of Liberal MLAs.

The always tenuous moral legitimacy of the BC Liberal party has run out of lives.

The Corporate Media Ignores Ignatieff Is Already In A Coalition

The corporate media is taking Stephen Harper’s lead in demonizing the opposition coalition possibilities while ignoring that the Conservative-Liberal coalition has been governing Canada for years already.

The only possible way out of this box is for Mr. Ignatieff to say categorically that he will not form a coalition with either the NDP or the Bloc, before or after an election

via Ignatieff needs to rule out coalition.

Most of the focus in corporate media about coalitions is either in the context of the spectre of a coalition government before Harper’s first proroguement two years ago or in a future coalition that will continue to rightly check Harper’s minority government.

The Liberals have been effectively in coalition with the Conservatives by ensuring enough of their MPs do not show up to votes which would threaten the current government. That’s a coalition. A quiet, awkward one, but still a coalition.

We also have another coalition at work in parliament. We saw it defeat the Conservative attempt to kill the long-gun registry and yesterday it started its campaign to reverse the blindly ideological removal of the long-form census.

While coalitions are not proportional representation, they are solid manifestation of more healthy debate in parliament and better representation as the opposition parties, who represent the vast majority of Canadian voters, attempt to pursue policies.

All of this is good.

It is training Canadians in the attractive possibilities of better political behaviour, debate and leadership that can happen when we do not have the tyranny of majority governments that are capable of being elected and whipping legislation through with the support of only 25% of eligible voters.

I Think GG Jean Supports Electoral Reform

I think the soon to be former GG Michaëlle Jean supports electoral reform.

I can’t prove it, but I think there is room in some of her outgoing remarks that indicate her deep understanding of the malaise in Canadian democracy.

But the Governor General has remained tight-lipped about that cold Dec. 4, 2008 morning at Rideau Hall, which some have suggested was a power move by Jean to show her interests were different than that of the PMO.

“In those hours, all of a sudden, people were frozen, time was frozen and everyone was wondering, ‘Hey, what might happen here? And why are they taking so long?’” Jean recalled. “History will decide . . . but I believe that, collectively, we participated together in something that will take us a step forward, maybe, in the necessity of understanding our institutional realities . . . and our political system.”

via Outgoing GG sought to ‘send message’ before proroguing Parliament.

What does it mean to understand our institutional realities? I think it means that we’ve had 6 years of minority governments [4 years as of that sleet day at Rideau] and a handcuffed Westminster parliamentary system that may have succeeded best in a 19th century reality of two motherhood political parties.

Today? The two motherhood big tent parties are not adequately representative of Canada. We have the Bloc, we have the Greens and NDP. We also have the Conservative party being the current manifestation of the Reform/Alliance party with its marginalized ideology.

Our electoral system, our political system, all the assumptions upon which our political institutions rest are variables now.

I like it this way.

We have actual debate and dialogue in the House. We have opposition parties uniting on an issue, right or wrong, to save the long gun registry. We have the same group of outnumbering MPs starting the process of endorsing the long-form census. [There is a joke about the word “long” here, but someone funnier than me will have to make it.]

We are seeing de facto electoral reform because we have been spared for over half a decade the tyranny of a majority government. In time, Canadians will expect more engagement from politicians since majority whipped votes no longer guarantee anything.

When the GG sat around pondering for two hours, making the prime minister waste his time worrying about being WLM King, we were all wondering if she’d pull a Bing and shock the system.

It turns out that with almost two years of history to reflect upon, a bit of melodrama stalling let us know that the GG is not a rubber stamp and that there was reason to pause and reflect. Personally, I was hoping that she was going to deny proroguing parliament and Harper had to actually convince her, over that long time, to do it.

It also turns out that the stalling was all she needed to do to play her hand. It sanctioned the uncertainty in our current political institutions. It thereby empowered all the rest of us to explore new expectations of our public servants.

And we’ve seen that in recent months.

And we’re not alone as the UK, USA and Australia are caught in electoral parity that cripples traditional power arrangements.

Everything is on the table now, and while GG Jean may never speak another word about her era and that sleet day in 2008, she has said enough already to make us all wonder the legacy of her two hour metaphorical walk in the snow.

Those two hours may end up being an historical trigger for great electoral reform to manifest.

I certainly hope so.