Declaration of Voter's Rights

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Thanks to co-spokesperson Lee Ward, Saskatchewan Chapter of Fair Vote Canada was part of the University of Regina Students’ Union "Get Out and Vote" campaign. The goal of the campaign is to encourage young people to vote by talking to them rather than at them. I feel our "Mock Vote/Go Vote" session achieved this goal. Having learned my lesson, I did the simplest of mixed-member proportional (MMP) vote. This was the ballot.


After my FVC presentation, analyzing the results from our mock vote, and Dennis Pilon's video, the group discussion was encouraging as no one opposed proportional representation and the questions focused on logistics and which type to implement.


Lee Ward with students at mock vote.

I was pleased that someone in the crowd said it before I did.
  • First, go vote.
  • Second, on October 19th please vote for a candidate committed to PR so that hopefully in future elections all votes will count.
Nancy Carswell, Co-spokesperson Fair Vote Canada Saskatchewan Chapter

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Right to Proportional Volume

This Letter to the Editor was inspired by a comment in The Right to be Cold:

When asked by the late Jack Layton to enter federal politics, renowned Inuk environmental activist Shelia Watt-Cloutier's declined because she "couldn't possibly survive the loud and uncivil manner in which the House of Commons conducts itself." Where does this loud and uncivil manner originate from? It is from our winner-take-all first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system that produces phony majorities.

FPTP works well in a two party system. With more than two parties there is always the potential that more people will vote against the winners than for them. Our 2011 federal election gave 54% of the seats to a party that won 40% of the popular vote. Then, 40% of the people didn't vote (perhaps because they recognize it is as futile), so the Conservative mandate was from 25% of the eligible voters. Conversely, FPTP gave 100% of the power to a party not mandated by 75% of the eligible voters.

As soon as a party forms the government, the goal becomes to win the next election by competing with the other parties—not collaborating, so we have a "loud and uncivil" House.

FPTP has to go. Insist your candidate commit to proportional representation (PR). PR is designed to produce a House that shares out its seats in proportion to the way voters vote so that the volume of each party's voice is genuine, not phony.

Let's make 2015 the last time a party wins a phony majority. If your candidate commits to electoral reform through PR, then Go Vote.

Nancy Carswell
Co-spokesperson Saskatchewan Chapter Fair Vote Canada

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spring 2015 Refresh of Executive

Two individuals committed to proportional representation stepped up offering to serve on our executive.  Lee Ward is now co-spokesperson with me releasing Rick Sawa to be a member-at-large.
I teach political science at Campion College at the University of Regina.  My research and teaching interests include the history of political thought and democratic theory.  I have long been concerned by the inequities in Canada’s First-Past-the-Post or Single-Member Plurality (SMP) electoral system, which tends to greatly over represent parties that win a bare plurality of votes and effectively marginalizes, even disenfranchises, the majority of Canadian voters who typically do not vote for the party that forms government and often not for the winning candidate in their own riding.

Like many Canadians, I am alarmed to see how prevalent political apathy has become in this country as voter turnout in federal and provincial elections has plummeted to levels below any other advanced democracy.  This signifies a crisis of legitimacy in Canadian government and I am convinced that serious electoral reform is the single most important measure that we can take in order to revive Canadian democracy.  I have watched with interest, and disappointment, as major electoral reform initiatives in Ontario and British Columbia emerged and finally stalled in recent years.  With a general election scheduled for later in 2015, now is the time to reignite the movement for electoral reform at the federal level.

My preferred options for electoral reform are a proportional representation (PR) model, or alternatively a mixed PR-SMP model, either of which would ensure that representation in Parliament reflects as accurately as possible the real choice of Canadian voters.
The second change is Mike Bray contacted us suggesting that we would benefit from a Facebook page.  We agreed and after a short email discussion Mike is now on the executive as Social Media.  Stealing from another advertisement, "You don't have to love us, just like us" at https://www.facebook.com/fairvotesask.

I would like to recognize and thank Rick Sawa for his years of support and wisdom and thank him for remaining on the executive to continue his commitment to proportional representation. 
Nancy Carswell, Co-spokesperson Fair Vote Canada Saskatchewan Chapter
Shellbrook, Saskatchewan

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Democracy Primer

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” ― Winston Churchill "
A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it." ― George W. Bush
“Democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.” ― Ronald Reagan

Authority figures in the Western World speak glowingly of democracy, usually in a self-congratulatory kind of way, as a way to distinguish our countries from the less virtuous dictatorships or monarchies that still exist. The word is taken very seriously, and as Reagan points out, “is worth dying for”. We are constantly reminded that every war, on some level, was fought to ensure a continuing freedom and democracy around the world. This is profound stuff.

But what do they really mean when they’re talking about democracy? What do we think of when we hear the word?

“Democracy” first became known as a political concept in Ancient Greece, when Athenians adopted a system of government that gave the people (demos) the power to rule (kratia) for themselves.

“Democracy” is defined in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary as “a form of government in which the power resides in the people and is exercised by them either directly or by means of elected representatives”.

It would seem, at least semantically, the single most significant principle of “democracy” is that the will of the masses should determine a country’s fate; not a single, charismatic authoritarian, not a cabal of corporate elites, not the military, not the church. I think most people who live in a democracy would agree; that it is the participation and power wielded by each citizen is what defines democracy as unique.

Most people would also agree that this is the most legitimate system of government that we know of. I’m not going to suggest that democracy is a bad thing.

Unfortunately, I am going to propose that our current version of democracy is broken. It does NOT reflect the true essence of the Athenian concept, and in fact the word has become little more than a rhetorical tool used by cynics to conjure an ideal that no longer exists, if it ever did.

Why do I say that?

Canada uses a “winner-take-all” or “first-past-the-post” electoral system, where the candidate with the most votes wins the entire constituency. In a multi-candidate race (the norm in Canada), this often means a winner with less than 40% of the total votes cast, the other 60% are wasted ballots. The same numbers are common when an entire region or nation is involved.


The most recent example of this was the Ontario provincial election about two weeks ago, in which Kathleen Wynne of the Liberal party formed a majority government with 38.65% of the popular vote. If participation is valued in a democracy, one can only wonder how 61.35% of Ontario voters feel. Their votes, and voices, are essentially rendered meaningless.

Think of Reagan right now: would he advocate dying for a system of government that could allow for complete control by 38.65% of the population?

Imagine the FPTP kind of logic in a different context: A simple analogy would be a school of 100 students, each of whom votes on the cafeteria menu that will make one of three choices that day: One block of 40 children favors the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, one block of 30 votes for salad, and another block of 30 votes for fish and chips. With our current “winner-take-all” electoral scenario, 40 students would decide 100% of the menu, and everyone would eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Never mind that the other students have peanut and gluten allergies, with this system, their voices don’t count for anything.

To me, this seems almost like the opposite of democracy. Instead of a broad based majority deciding its fate, we have a narrow minority controlling decisions for everyone, with no obligation to address the needs of the many.

People will quickly point out that in complex societies, with literally millions of voices, someone has to be “the loser” in elections - not everyone gets what they want. We can’t give 100 students 100 custom made lunches. Fair enough. However, what is important to recognize is that governments, in theory at least, don’t exist to give everyone exactly what they want. They exist to address and balance the needs of an entire collective, be it municipal, provincial, or federal and find acceptable ways for disparate viewpoints and ideas to co-exist as best they can. And to do this properly, every vote has to be given some weight, some power. Every citizens’ participation in the electoral process must have meaning; if it is merely a vote that carries no influence whatsoever, then the entire system suffers accordingly. What good is a democratic process that offers no kratias to the demos?

This is why we need proportional representation. It is the mechanism that allows democracy to function as it is intentioned: with rule by the people exercising their fair and proper share of power.

Guest Blogger Jason Hanson

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Keep PR Simple Sweetheart

Truly, my motto is “Fools go where angels fear to tread.”  With great support from Lynn Oliphant in Saskatoon, I prepared a mock vote to demonstrate both single transferable vote and mixed member proportional.  I proposed to use (Single Transferable Vote) STV to elect the local candidates and (Mixed Member Proportional) MMP to fill in members-at-large.  Jumping ahead to the end, we were all fairly convinced that a larger number of voters would be needed to see how these two systems worked but I had trouble wrapping my head around the logistics of STV. (It seems so simple in videos like Grey's STV  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8XOZJkozfI).


Fortunately, we had a participant who had used STV and he assured us that the formulas to transfer the votes work well and are understandable. I believe they do but in addition to discussions at the evernt, there was an email conversation I was having with someone in favour of PR. 

In an email, he waved a red flag when he learned I intended to demonstrate STV.  He is adamant that as long as we have to explain both MMP and STV, people will not embrace proportional representation.  He thinks it is a mistake to pitch PR and then say we will pick a form afterwards.  His belief was duplicated by a participant at the event.  The participant would not endorse PR alone-- he would need to know which form he was getting.

In my email conversation, I asked if the BC electoral reform movement referendum had proposed MMP instead of STV, would they have won.  His answer was strong "yes" because MMP is easily explainable—the members-at-large are added to the legislature so its proportions reflect the proportions of voter preferences.  For myself, I know that people hate change and abhor uncertain change.  While I'm confident that Canadians have the ability to understand STV, MMP is simpler to explain.

My next mock vote will follow my dad's KISS motto—"Keep it simple sweetheart."  I will use only MMP.  To the participants in Saskatoon, I thank you again for my learning opportunity. 
Nancy Carswell, Co-spokesperson Fair Vote Canada Saskatchewan Chapter
Shellbrook, Saskatchewan