Declaration of Voter's Rights

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Will 2015 Be Our Last Unfair Election?


December 6, 2013
How many times do you vote for someone who doesn't sit in parliament? Would you like to see your vote reflected in the members that form our national government?
Nancy Carswell, from Fair Vote Canada, spoke to the Quill Plains Chapter of Council of Canadians in Wynyard on November 30, 2013.
Canadians believe that they live in a democratic country. The whole purpose of democracy is to ensure that government represents and is accountable to – must answer to – the people it governs. In a representative democracy, the voting system actually creates the foundation for the entire political system.
And what happens when you have a system that ignores such a large portion of votes?  Not surprisingly – the overall election results become quite distorted. Millions of voters are saying one thing with their ballots, and the voting system is giving them something very different – distorted results. A party can get as little as 35% of the votes, gain a majority of seats and wield 100% of the power with no representation from the other 65% of voters. Ms Carswell gave the classic provincial case in New Brunswick in 1987. Frank McKenna’s Liberals won 60% of the votes, and captured 100% of the seats. The voting system denied any representation whatsoever for the other 40% of the voters.
The other thing that happens in our current system is that voters lose interest – don't vote because “it won't make a difference” and young people don't even get started.
The question is: how do we fix it? Where do we start?
We can use a fair voting system – or what is usually called proportional representation (PR) - any voting system designed to produce a representative body (like a parliament, legislature, or council) where voters elect representatives in proportion to our votes.
Did you know that proportional representation is used by far more countries than our current “first-past-the-post” method? It is not a wild and crazy political experiment – taking us into unexplored territory. More than eighty countries use PR; it works for Germany, for example, one of the most progressive and most stable economies in the world.
In a democracy, parliamentary representation is a fundamental right of all citizens. And it is not a prize that we win or lose in a contest – that contest being an election where we elect our MPs. That second point is critically important – because Canada uses a voting system for parliamentary elections that divides voters into those who win parliamentary representation and those who lose that right.
A number of changes would have to occur; ridings would become larger and ballots would be larger and more complicated. When we entered the polling booth, a ballot would allow us to choose our party, and choose from a list the candidates that we wanted to represent ourselves. New Zealand tried PR for a “trial period” over a decade ago and liked it so well that they kept it.
There are many ways to design PR: Closed lists: voters vote for a party, candidates elected in the order presented on the ballot; Open lists: voters can indicate their choices for individual candidates within their preferred party; Single Transferrable Vote (STV): voters rank candidates from any party; Mixed system: voters elect a single MP from their local riding (like we do now) plus also elect at-large MPs from party lists  - both of which will fill seats to ensure each party has a fair portion of seats in parliament.
It is important to understand these things: Voter equality means that each MP should be elected by and represent roughly the same number of people – e.g., one MP for every 100,000 people. But that doesn’t mean every electoral district has to be the same size and have the same number of MPs. For example, in rural and remote areas where voters are scattered over a large region, an electoral district might have 300,000 people and elect 3 MPs. In densely-populated, urban centres, you might have a district with 500,000 people who elect 5 MPs, or 700,000 who elect 7 MPs.
Ms Carswell closed her presentation with the words of Swiss philosopher, Ernest Naville, who, in 1865, summarized it this way: “The right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.”
 

“Make electoral reform a key issue in the 2015 federal election!” Ms Carswell says. Fair Vote Canada is a national multi‐partisan citizens’ organization pressing for the adoption of fair and proportional voting systems at all levels of government.
More information is at:  www.fairvote.ca .
Written by Elaine Hughes, Chairperson, on behalf of the members of the Quill Plains Chapter of the Council of Canadians.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Saskatoon Stop to Stop FPTP

A goodly number of people attended Craig Scott's NDP’s National Electoral Reform Tour stop in Saskatoon at the France Morrison Library Auditorium on October 2.  From a show of hands an encouraging 25 percent were unfamiliar with proportional representation.  
The event was co-hosted by FVC Saskatchewan Chapter and I had the pleasure of being emcee.  In my welcome I explained that three years ago if you had told me that I would be engaged in politics and electoral reform I would have laughed and declared I am a tree hugger not a glad hander.  The problem was every time I went to hug a tree or a river or a cloud, there was a wage slave preventing me.  After learning about proportional representation (PR), I am convinced that proportional representation can mitigate corporate-government cronyism that forces individuals to become wage slaves.
Scott's presentation was interactive with survey questions interspersed.  After asking baseline questions Scott used videos, charts, and graphs to illustrate why first-past-the-post (FPTP) has to stop.  His chart of the 2011 election showed that FPTP's distortion of the popular vote gave the Conservatives an undeserved 44 seats in the House of Commons; under PR their share of seats would have been 122 and under FPTP they claimed 166.  Scott stressed that the NDP have also been awarded false majorities. For example in Ontario in 1990 the NDP claimed 74 of the 130 seats when under PR they would have had only 49 seats.  Scott listed wasted votes, unfair allocation of seats, and the differing number of votes to elect a single MP* as unacceptable flaws in our current FPTP system and elaborated on the connected consequences like adversarialism, strategic voting, diminished diversity, etc.  (*Election disparities such as 30,000 votes for each Liberal seat and 131,000 votes for each Conservative seat in a 2000 election.)

In his case for mixed member plurality (MMP), Scott shared visuals of ballots for both a closed list ballot and an open list ballot.  The ballots show that you vote for a constituent candidate and you vote for a party.  The open list party ballot gives you a third possible vote in the party's ranking of "top-up" MPs.  Much of the discussion afterwards was focused on the pros and cons of choosing between closed and open lists.
In a closed list system the party ranks all its candidates.  This ranking determines who becomes a member-at-large in the legislature.  If the popular vote gives the party 40 seats and they have 35 winning candidates they would fill the 5 seats with the top 5 candidates on their closed list.  In an open system, voters can influence the party ranking of the candidates.  While open lists might be perceived as giving voters more control, there is evidence that suggests that closed lists produce more diversity as parties take the macro rather than the micro view.
Proportional representation is seen as confusing and the status quo has tremendous inertia.  Scott's comment about Canadians being at least as smart as Germans, Scots, and New Zealanders and he trusted Canadians could figure MMP out elicited some laughter.  I have recommend to Scott, and I recommend to you, that as we promote PR we switch the word confusing with unfamiliar.  It seems trivial but confusing may give people an excuse to avoid PR whereas unfamiliar suggests it can become familiar.
There are many decisions to be made and I commend Scott for his dedication to gathering input and contributing momentum to making 2015 the last unfair election.
Thanks to Adam for being my boots on the ground.
Blogger Nancy Carswell

Monday, September 23, 2013

FPTP Short Circuits Democracy

How did you celebrate September's Democracy Week?  Elections Canada's 2013 theme "Connect with Democracy" was "about connecting with people, places and information that help broaden your understanding of why democracy and voting are so important."  While connecting is important, our electoral system is short circuiting us. 
Canada is one of the few remaining democracies wired with First-Past-the-Post (FPTP). When we had only two parties, FPTP did deliver the power to a majority winner but we now have more than two parties.  Over 80 democracies utilize proportional representation (PR) to send power along multiple party circuits fairly. 
The difference between FPTP and PR can be illustrated with a chocolate bar election featuring Aero, Crunchie, Mars, and Snickers on the ballot.  Imagine we have 9 seats and 100 votes.  In FPTP as few as 33 voters would make Mars the winner of all 9 seats leaving 67 voters—Aero 32, Snickers 22, and Crunchie 13, without even a taste of power.  With PR, the number of seats for each party would be in proportion to the number of votes received—Mars and Aero 3 each, Snickers 2, and Crunchie 1. 
Civilizations rise with equality and fairness and fall when inequality and unfairness become unbearable.  This pattern continues because we appear unaware that fairness and inequality are never secure and need vigilance.  It is time to rewire our electoral system.  Make the next federal election our last unfair election.  Please find and support a candidate committed to proportional representation. 
Blogger Nancy Carswell

Let’s work together to make every vote count!
Craig Scott, MP and Fair Vote Canada
invite you to the
NDP’s National Electoral Reform
Tour Stop in Saskatoon
Tuesday October 1st, 2013
7:00pm–9:00pm
Frances Morrison Central Library (Auditorium)
311- 23rd St East 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Democracy Week in Canada-- Connecting to Power

It is Democracy Week in Canada. Elections Canada's theme "Connect with Democracy" is "about connecting with people, places and information that help broaden your understanding of why democracy and voting are so important." While connecting is important, First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) is short circuiting us. The winner of FPTP is the one parallel circuit receiving all the power and all other loser circuits are powerless.
The Honourable Craig Scott, Official Opposition Critic for Democratic and Parliamentary Reform, is touring Canada. He writes, "Indeed, the current electoral system does not reflect the will of the popular vote. It has contributed to the needless polarization of our parliamentary and broader politics, to the detriment of our democratic discourse." He would like to hear from you. Scott and Fair Vote Canada invite you to the NDP’s National Electoral Reform Tour Stop in Saskatoon on Tuesday October 1st from 7:00pm–9:00pm at the Frances Morrison Central Library Auditorium (311- 23rd St East). Scott starts in Regina early in the day with details to be announced.
Blogger Nancy Carswell

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Openness to Electoral Reform

Fair Vote Canada Saskatchewan Chapter's participation in the Prince Albert Street Fair was inspiring. Also thrilled that we were selected as a focus by Matt Gardner of the Prince Albert Daily Herald. Read his article "Fair Vote Canada Talks Electoral Reform at Street Fair".
To generalize, there were three reactions. One, individuals who had heard of proportional representation would walk up, smile, and sign the petition. Two, individuals who had not heard or proportional representation and thought it sounded better than the current system who were comfortable signing. Three, individuals who had not heard of proportional representation and thought it sounded better but who wanted to learn more before signing.  
I appreciated the pre-voter who was very interested and inspired a lively conversation by asking if proportional representation gives us an opportunity to have a say in who becomes Prime Minister. Even the one nay-sayer was not against proportional representation but appeared more disillusioned that any reform would suffice. What really made my day was the individual whose eyes lit up at having found another reason to hope that others were actively working on a shift towards a better democracy.  
Caption for photo: Even fools know to support proportional representation.
I also encouraged everyone to check out the "edutaining" videos at FairVote.ca contest to learn the basics.  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE0dYpVCw9bYWQIuI1pr0L-ptCk5EpWYn
Nancy Carswell
Co-spokesperson FVC Saskatchewan Chapter

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why FPTP Does the Robocallers’ Job for Them

The 2011 Federal election left many Canadians stunned. The scandal’s epicentre was Guelph, Ontario - a city with an active left-of-centre political consciousness. Progressive Conservative (PC) party members besieged voters loyal to other parties with an extensive voter suppression initiative – the Robocall scandal.
A group of eight individuals backed by the Council of Canadians has brought the 2011 election fraud case to the Federal Court. In a ruling just two weeks ago, Justice Richard Mosley concluded that, “electoral fraud occurred.” In light of these realities, the Council of Canadians is amping up its pro-democracy campaign. On May 31 the Council launched a national petition to increase support for (1) a public inquiry into election fraud and, (2) a comprehensive electoral reform project. Sign the petition here: http://canadians.org/election/petition.html
As a first time voter in the 2011 election, I voted for the Liberals. My allegiance was to the NDP but I didn’t want to split the vote. I felt like a phony participant – a cog in a wheel that didn’t look like democracy. The first-past-the-post (FPTP) system corrupts partisan alignment for those just entering the fold of civic engagement. There is little point having convictions or even becoming informed when you feel the need to vote strategically.
Robocaller members of the PC party did themselves a double disservice. They committed election fraud, but they also wasted their time. The FPTP electoral system continues to do their “progressive-voter-deterring” job for them… and in fact discourages any political expression departing from “Liberal” and “Conservative” partisan ideologies.
Guest Blogger Emma Wilson, Guelph, Ontario

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Make 2015 Our Last Unfair Election

Here is the text of an email sent to our contact list to generate awareness and support for our cause:
MAKE 2015 OUR LAST UNFAIR ELECTION—The Saskatchewan Chapter of Fair Vote Canada (FVC) is on the go! We aim to move MPs and MP candidates to take a shared public pledge, prior to the federal 2015 election campaign, to bring in proportional representation in the next parliament. We invite you to help us make 2015 the last unfair federal election.
How? FVC has already made progress within the national parties. We will add to this effort a considerable number of Saskatchewan voices through local petition drives using Fair Vote's "Petition to the House of Commons." Moose Jaw's drive is already underway, with 200+ signatures demonstrating Saskatchewan voters' openness to electoral reform.
Help us add to a steady flow of Saskatchewan petitions to be read out in Commons by MPs to drive our message home.


To be contacted by a petition volunteer in your area, email fairvotesask@gmail.com . If you are not near a volunteer, there will be a petition form mailed to you as part of an info packet (or you can print one from here). So they can continue to collect signatures before being submitted to MPs, any petition forms with less than the three-signature minimum must be MAILED to Fair Vote Saskatchewan Chapter c/o 510 Main St. North Apt 305 Moose Jaw SK S6H 3K3.
Share the petition with others so they have a chance to support the adoption of a truly democratic and representative voting system! Every little bit of effort helps. Visit a neighbour petition in hand, invite an FVC speaker to your group, write letters to MPs, set up a signing table at a mall….
Above all, share your ideas with us at fairvotesask@gmail.com! Let's strengthen our democracy and usher in parliaments that express all Canadians' hopes for our children's future.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Propose a Saskatchewan Stop for the NDP Democratic Reform Tour


Fair Vote Canada welcomed the news that the NDP's MPs Craig Scott and Alexandrine Latendresse will be touring this spring and in the fall to consult with Canadians about proportional representation.  At the Montreal convention, the NDP confirmed their longstanding commitment to voting reform, in particular, the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system.  In a MMP system, a voter usually has two ballots, one for the seat in their riding, and another ballot for a political party.  The second ballot is used to fill at-large seats so the number of seats for each party reflects the popular vote.

On Twitter, Scott reported a super start of the 2 year tour.  In this video, Scott says, "We must be committed to fixing this incredibly broken electoral system. A system that, with less than 40% of the vote, produced a government that has a non-mandate to dismantle this country, but nonetheless is going about exactly that. Ever since the late 1970s when Ed Broadbent began the process of convincing this party that we needed to change the first-past-the-post system, to Tom Mulcair who was adamant during the leadership race that we also had to change this, the NDP has stood for fixing our electoral system. We have to start with the next election. We have to begin the consultations now.”

We encourage you to email us if you would like to propose a Saskatchewan stop on the tour.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Help Make 2015 Canada's Last Unfair Election" FVC Video Contest


A mind, like a book, works best when it is open.  A recent Environics poll by LeadNow asked "Some people favor bringing in a form of proportional representation. This means that the total number of seats held by each party in Parliament would be roughly equivalent to their percentage of the national popular vote. Would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose moving towards a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections?"  Even with this brief description of proportional representation, it appears Canadian minds are open. 


Fair Vote Canada (FVC) believes opening minds through education is critical.  As well as print and visual resources for teachers and the public, it is looking to leverage the power of video.  In particular, it is looking for a video that will go viral—a video that will inspire action and unite Canadians.  After the deadline of May 30, the FVC YouTube channel will share the videos and start the process of voting for the Viewer's Choice Award.  There is also the Judged Panel Award.   If you are a videographer or know one, here is a chance:
http://www.fairvote.ca/en/FVC-news/fair-vote-canada-video-contest
to help make 2015 the last unfair election in Canada.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Saskatchewan Leads

On March 8, this Saskatchewan NDP resolution was passed unanimously at their 2013 convention, "WHEREAS there is little democracy in our current electoral system, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the NDP work towards establishing a transparent proportional electoral system."  John Bidochka adds, "This resolution was passed unanimously by delegates from all 58 provincial constituencies across Saskatchewan. This represents the first time such a resolution has passed at the provincial level, effectively ending a longstanding contradiction between federal and provincial branches of the NDP."

While Fair Vote Canada is non-partisan, the Saskatchewan Chapter applauds the Saskatchewan's NDP recognition that there is "little democracy" in our first-past-the-post system and we encourage their willingness to direct energy to a "transparent proportional electoral system".

When asked, Ryan Meili, who was in the NDP leadership race, said, "I am supportive of moving toward a democratic system that is more representative of diverse views, be it proportional representation, preferential balloting, or another mechanism. The current winner-take-all system leads to democratic exclusion and lopsided decision-making."

In the book, Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell identified "The Law of the Few"; to tip an idea you do not need to convince the masses, you need only connect with the special few who are connected to the masses.
Gladwell examined Milgram's famous "Six Degrees of Separation" experiment and concluded, "Six degrees of separation doesn't mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps.  It means a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few."

While Gladwell's Law appears true, proportional representation may be easier to tip than other ideas.  The NDP unanimous vote supports this hypothesis.  People sense that first-past-the-post offers "little democracy" and immediately recognize that proportional representation offers "big democracy".  So whether talking to the masses or the few, every opened mind counts.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Free Our MPs

Do you hear the federal election clock ticking?  Members of FVC Saskatchewan Chapter hear it loud and clear.  The Chapter is acutely aware that the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system leaves the winner's circle open to a majority government voted in by a minority in any election.  If the winner's circle was claimed by a minority in 2011, it can happen again and again.  We urgently need to reform our election system.

While some chastise the 40% of Canadians who did not bother to vote, we have to ask ourselves how many of us have tried strategic voting in the hopes of making our votes count?  Strategic voting is undemocratic.  You are not voting for someone who represents your voice but for the voice of a lesser evil.  This graph shows the past elections as seats (white bars) and what our House of Commons would look like if we had proportional representation (red bars).


The FPTP system makes parties more concerned with beating the competition than engaging in cooperation for a better Canada.  While the majority of us are wage slaves, it appears that the majority of MPs have become party slaves.  Like our scientists, our MPs may be kept in line with an economic whip.  Next election, let's free our MPs and elect a party committed to immediately implementing proportional representation. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

FVC Saskatchewan Meets Online

After a failed Skype meeting, FVC Saskatchewan members were open to trying an online meeting room and are enthusiastic about its potential.  In the meeting room, in addition to audio, there is a whiteboard to collaborate on documents or show presentations, chat, emot icons, web tours, and file transfer.  The online room has video capabilities as well but that it is typically used briefly during an introduction as it demands band width.  As wonderful as its features are though, the best thing it does is remove the tyranny of Saskatchewan geography.  Members can join from the comfort of their own home—no travel required so if is environmentally friendly.

In the February 11 meeting, a new executive was assembled.  Nancy Carswell and Rick Sawa accepted nominations to be co-spokespersons and Dave Walther is treasurer-organizer. Many thanks to past members, especially Past President Gord Hunter for carrying the torch of democracy.


Walther is eager to capitalize on the grassroots momentum in Moose Jaw.  While FVC is currently offering three petitions, Walther urged the group to focus on the "FairElectoral Representation: Petition to the House of Commons

An educator, Carswell is very interested in the power of video to help people understand how proportional representation is better than Canada's first-past-the-post system.  She hopes to have a video done in time to meet FVC Video Contest deadline of April 11.  Contest details available at http://www.fairvote.ca/en/FVC-news/fair-vote-canada-video-contest.

Interested in a democracy where every vote counts.  Join us.  Our email is fairvotesask@gmail.com