Friday, July 8, 2011

July 2011 Fair Vote Canada Newsletter

July 2011

In this issue:

Canadians cheated again by voting system
FVC AGM focuses on member development
FVC elects new Executive Committee
Harper government “modernizes” Senate – into the 11th Century
Democracy Week - September 12th-18th

Canadians cheated again by voting system

As usual, federal election results from May 2 did not accurately reflect the way Canadians voted.

The Conservative party increased their vote percentage by less than two points, but this allowed them to win 23 more seats than in 2008, when they were already over-represented. Stephen Harper calls this a ‘decisive endorsement’, but we call it a rip-off.

These were the actual seats won by each party:

CON 166, NDP 103, LIB 34, BQ 4, GREEN 1

If the seats were won in proportion to the votes that were cast, the numbers would look more like this:

CON 126, NDP 94, LIB 59, BQ 18, GREEN 11

The Conservatives have won 53.9% of the seats with only 39.6% of the votes, one of the least legitimate majorities in Canadian history.

The NDP, historically under-represented by Canada’s winner-take-all voting system, is now over-represented by about nine seats, thanks to the “orange wave” that vaulted them into second place.

The Liberal Party, on the other hand, traditionally over-represented to the degree that they were regarded as Canada’s “natural governing party”, is now the chief victim of the voting system. While their vote percentage fell by less than 8%, they lost more than half their seats.

The Bloc Québécois, which has always previously been over-represented because their votes are concentrated in one region, has been decimated. Although their vote percentage has collapsed, they should still be entitled to 18 seats, but they won only four seats.

The Green Party is ecstatic to have finally won a single seat, but they actually received enough votes across the country to win about 11 seats.

Once again, our antiquated voting system has given us a “majority” government that most of us voted against.

Following the election, in which thousands of Canadians discovered for the first time that a political party can win a "majority" government with less than 40% of the votes cast (never mind the 40% of Canadians who don't even bother to vote) there has been a tidal wave of interest in electoral reform. On election day in 2008, we had about 3000 hits at http://FairVote.Ca. On election day in 2011, we received over 43,000 hits!

FVC AGM focuses on members and the new political environment

Fair Vote Canada held its 10th Annual General Meeting on June 10 and 11 in Ottawa.

On Friday evening, a panel discussion was held at the Fox & Feather Pub on the deliberately vague topic “Where are we, how did we get here, and where do we go from here?” It was a chance to look back on the past ten years of Fair Vote Canada, and to look ahead to new developments in a changed political environment.

The distinguished panel included Larry Gordon, founding Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada, who recently stepped down to found Canadians for Tax Fairness, a new organization to promote progressive tax reform; Ed Broadbent, former leader of the NDP and a champion of proportional representation since he entered grad school in 1954, Bruce Hallsor, former Chair of the Conservative Party in British Columbia, former Vice-President of FVC, and former President of Fair Voting BC; and Johan Hamels, Executive Director of the Green Party of Canada and a former provincial member of parliament in Belgium.

Larry pointed out that electoral reform needs political champions, and called upon political parties in Canada to produce “a Tommy Douglas of democracy”. Ed Broadbent thanked Larry for his contribution in making Fair Vote Canada a highly respected and effective citizens’ organization for political change. Bruce Hallsor pointed out that proportional voting in Europe leads to political stability, rather than the kind of “policy lurch” we see under winner-take-all voting. Johan Hamels pointed out that European countries did not require a referendum to adopt proportional voting, and described the inability of his nine-year-old daughter, immersed from birth in European politics, to believe that in Canada, a party with less than forty percent of the votes can form a “majority” government.

Saturday morning the official AGM convened at the Desmarais Building, University of Ottawa. The brief formal AGM was followed by a member-centred day of workshops and seminars, starting with reports from FVC chapters across the country and various campaigns in which FVC is involved, including a charter challenge against the voting system which is headed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Spokespersons from various parties participated in a political panel to give their point of view on how to move forward on electoral reform in the new political landscape. Tyler Crosby, Legislative Assistant to David Christopherson, the NDP critic for electoral reform, announced that the NDP would introduce a motion on proportional representation in the House in the next session.

The afternoon was taken up with workshops on chapter organizing, social media, dealing with media and effective communication, and an introduction to voting systems.

The results of the National Council elections were announced in the morning. Each year, FVC elects five councillors to our board of directors for a three year term. Congratulations to returning councillors Andy Blair (Ottawa) and Doug Bailie (Edmonton), and new councillors Anita Nickerson (Waterloo), Diane Searle (Victoria), and Kelsey Wagner (Ottawa).

Fair Vote Canada extends thanks to departing councillors John Deverell, Bob Mackie and Gary Dale for their numerous contributions to the cause.

FVC elects new Executive Committee

Fair Vote Canada's National Council (board of directors) held its annual face-to-face meeting in Ottawa on Sunday, June 12, following the Annual General Meeting.

The new board discussed a variety of exciting plans for upgrading the operations of the organization and moving forward on the campaign for electoral reform, capitalizing on this surge of interest.

One important order of business was to elect the new Executive Committee. The Council decided to elect both a President, who will deal with policy, communications, and fundraising, and a Chair, who will be responsible for internal organization.

Here is the new Executive Committee:

President: Shoni Field
Vice President: Andy Blair
Chair: Sean Geobey
Treasurer: Bronwen Bruch
Secretary: Wilf Day
At large: Kelsey Wagner

Harper government “modernizes” Senate – into the 11th Century!

Minister of State for Democratic Reforms Tim Uppal introduced legislation into the House on June 21 to provide a “voluntary framework” for provinces to elect nominees to the Senate. The nominees named by the provinces would then be appointed to the Senate by the Prime Minister.

Astonishingly, the legislation specifies the same antiquated voting system that has a history of delivering false majority governments, including the current one. Although the Conservatives received less than forty percent of the votes cast in the recent election, Minister Uppal describes this as a “strong mandate” for Senate reform.

Fair Vote Canada has no policy on whether the Senate should be abolished or retained. The first and most urgent priority at the federal level is to give Canadians a truly representative House of Commons. Consideration of Senate reform or abolition should be addressed after citizens have chosen a fair and modern system to elect their MPs.

But if the Senate is to be elected, then surely it must be elected using a modern, fair, proportional system.

It used to be Conservative policy that the Senate should be elected by proportional representation. It is extremely disappointing that they have abandoned fairness in favour of winner-take-all.

A winner-take-all Senate will not provide any check or balance on the unlimited power of a majority government. It will be just an expensive rubber stamp for the Government, and that’s what we already have now. This bill must be amended to specify that provinces have to use a proportional voting system to elect their Senate nominees.

Democracy Week - September 12th-18th

Fair Vote Canada, reflecting the United Nations’ 2007 declaration of September 15th as International Day of Democracy, will be hosting Democracy Week events from September 12th-18th in communities across Canada. If you are interested in getting involved please contact your local chapter, or our national office if you live in a community without a local chapter. More details to come...

Fair Vote Canada
3 Macdonell Avenue #302
Toronto, ON M6R 2A3
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