Monday, December 20, 2010

Response to James Bow's "The Forgotten Bloc"

Fellow non-partisan James Bow writes an important article on The Forgotten Bloc - the 40 percent of the electorate who are non-voters in this country. I wrote the following response in the comments section:

James Bow’s comments are bang on, including the one to Robert McClelland.

[To Bow's question "Why is no party leader or policy maker going out and talking to the 9.5 million Canadians to ask them why they don’t vote?," McClelland responded: "Because non voters are generally imbeciles that are impossible to placate. So it’s simply not worth the effort."]

After voting at municipal, provincial and federal elections throughout my eligible years, the last straw for me federally was the election of Oct 2008 and provincially, the May 2009 election and failed referendum for electoral reform in BC.

I declared myself [at 58 years of age] henceforth to be a non-voter until substantive democratic reform took place. Having done so, I was surprised and sadly gratified to discover others coming out of the woodwork.

Let’s face it, if you’re a non-voter, the arrogance, derision and hostility of many members of the still voting public do nothing to encourage non-voters to self-identify. Attempts to explain why we don’t vote are brushed off as irrelevant because “if you don’t vote, you have no right to be heard or complain.”

We are labelled ‘apathetic’ when, for the majority of us, apathy is the antithesis of what we feel in terms of the state of politics in this country or the options provided at ballot box.

Many non-voters, including those among youth, are more, not less, involved in their communities and globally, working to effect change, than are most voters. This participation and engagement is discounted, yet is more meaningful given the state of our politics than a 15-minute act every four years. For some voters, that act may be the only participation in civil life they engage in. Yet it is non-voters who, as a bloc, are labelled ‘lazy’.

With all this and media types perpetuating the myths, no wonder this huge minority - which threatens to become the majority - remains largely silent.

[Cross-posted at Challenging the Commonplace]

Monday, July 5, 2010

Missing Story: Voter Turnout Plummets Among Eligible Voters Aged 45-74

Much focus - and blame - has been attached to the low voter turnout among young people.

I've written before regarding that misplaced blame. My point then was to shift it to where it squarely belongs, with Canada's politicians and their puppet-masters who work to maintain Canada's provincial and federal voting systems. The Single Member Plurality majoritarian system we have works very well for the two major parties, given it was designed in the 11th century, back when there were only two parties.

Times change and voters in democratic countries demand greater choice, as is their right; which means, in systems where there are political parties, voters end up with more of them to choose from. All countries but three - among the laggards being Canada -, have updated their voting systems accordingly; whilst Canadians get delivered majority governments - or 'minority' governments propped up by the other major party, which forms a complicit 'Official Opposition' - at the behest of the less than 40 percent, or a minority, of the electorate.

But let's put all that aside, shall we? Let's instead look at the numbers for voter turnout, as taken from Elections Canada's Estimation of Voter Turnout by Age Group reports for the 2004, 2006 and 2008 federal elections.

Jun 200437.0%44.0%54.5%66.0%72.9%75.5%63.9%
Jan 200643.8%49.8%61.6%70.0%75.4%77.5%61.6%
Oct 200837.4%48.0%53.9%59.7%65.6%68.4%67.3%

In terms of percentage points, there has been a much greater decline in voting among members of the electorate between the ages of 45 and 74 than among those between 18 and 34.

But far be it from me to suggest that anyone let these numbers get in the way of their blame-the-youth campaign!

[Cross-posted at Challenging the Commonplace]

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why Canadian Politicians won't Emulate Brits

Taylor Owen scores a hit regarding why Canadians are unlikely to see a coalition government anytime in the near future.

To summarize:

1. The NDP's joined-at-the-hip relationship with labour unions.
2. The Green Party's devotion to a poor election strategy.
3. Reform's influence on the Conservative Party.
4. The uncomfortable marriage of red and blue Liberals. We need the old Progressive Conservatives back or a new, similar party that will bring in like elements from the Greens, Liberals and Conservatives.
5. The immaturity of Canada's politicians, particularly that of the power brokers. Self-interest appears to be their goal, not service in a parliamentary democracy.

UPDATE: Oh, well done, guys! You continue to prove point 5.

ETA: First link in post has been corrected.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Liberals Face Dilemma of Own Making

If Canadians voted for their Members of Parliament by means of an electoral system of proportional representation, then the Leader of the Official Opposition wouldn't be faced with a dilemma forced upon him by our existing single member plurality voting system.

To whit, in a minority government situation - which is more, not less, likely as time goes by - the Official Opposition wouldn't be pushed into a position of simultaneously deriding the government's budget whilst declaring its MPs won't vote against it, the latter to avoid an election.

In governments formed by proportional representation, when the existing coalition government fails to satisfy the House, then a new coalition government is typically formed without forcing an election.

And yes, almost always with proportional representation, the government is formed of a coalition. Because any halfway decent pro-rep system ensures that the government must be represented by 50 percent or more of the MPs. Rare is it that a single party in Canada has been able to garner such a true majority.

Had the Liberals, whilst in government, advanced our voting system into the modern era, they'd not be in the pickle they are in now. And should Conservatives and their supporters be snickering at the Liberals' plight, your turn will come; at which point you'll be demanding as you've done in the past (including one Stephen Harper), reform of our electoral system to one of proportional representation.

Canadians are in for a long run of minority governments, with the rare (false) majority government added into the mix.

Get used to it. If politicians want to effect change in the House, then they must change the damn system that elects them. Or perhaps all they care about are their lucrative pensions - 'earned' after only six years of 'service'.

[Cross-posted at Challenging the Commonplace]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Harper Government Doesn't Govern for You

Did you know that, that the Harper government, CANADA's government, isn't here to govern for you?

James Bow caught something in Tony Clement's comments about elites and "chattering classes" that I'd not noticed. Here's Clement:

"I know [Harper's use of prorogation] is a big issue with the Ottawa media elite and some of the elites in our country, but I got to tell you if reaction in my constituency is any indication, I've had maybe three dozen emails. It may not be what the chattering classes want, but we're not here to govern on behalf of the chattering classes."

Consider these numbers:

  • 42 percent of Canadians are members of Facebook.
  • 75 percent of Canadians were eligible to vote on October 2008.
  • 207,000 people are members of the Facebook group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament.
  • Approximately 156,000 members of CAPP are eligible voters.
  • 156,000 distributes 506 voters to each of the 308 federal ridings.

I don't have the numbers but I suspect that, in the last few elections, several ridings were decided by less than 500 votes.

Tony Clement supposes that the people against Harper's ill use of prorogation are members of the elite and chattering classes. The Facebook numbers are indicators only of the extent of Canadians' anger against the erosion of our democracy and our Parliamentary system. If our system can be abused in this way, something is terribly wrong.

Despite the numbers above, Clement states that his government isn't "here to govern on behalf of the chattering classes" - of which he deems anyone who is against prorogation to be a member. Which means Clement doesn't think that a MINIMUM 506 voters in each of 308 federal ridings are anything to worry about. Silly man!

More numbers to think about.

[Cross-posted at Challenging the Commonplace.]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Strongly-Worded Letters to PM, Opposition Leaders

On January 12, Fair Vote Canada sent an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and another to the leaders of the Liberal, New Democrat and Green parties. I've not seen such strong words from this organization before.

From the letter to Stephen Harper:

You have granted yourself and your party two unsupervised months to correct course...

Your party represents fewer than 40 per cent of Canadian voters. You can’t square that minority support, and the unilateral shutdown of Parliament, with any reasonable concept of legitimate and representative democratic government.

I do not accuse you of violating democracy itself only because the Canadian political system as it stands is intrinsically undemocratic. If you are leading a party of democrats, then surely it is time for you to abandon the shamocracy and make the House of Commons democratic.

And from the letter to the opposition leaders:

There is no sign that elimination of the democratic deficit in the House of Commons is on Stephen Harper’s agenda. It should be on yours...

At present the House of Commons embodies and projects a series of ridiculous untruths. Judging from the current “representation” most Quebecois want to quit the federation; most Canadians are reluctant to elect women; there are no Conservative supporters in Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto; there are no Liberal supporters in Alberta. There are no New Democrat supporters in Saskatchewan and remarkably few elsewhere, and no Green supporters anywhere in Canada...

Each of you should now be asking: does my party really want democratic representation for all Canadians, and what will my party risk or sacrifice, now, to achieve it?

I look forward to your individual written replies – and to your unequivocal commitments to seize the moment and do what is needed to make the House of Commons democratic.

I urge Canadians to read the letters in full.

It's long past time that individuals and organizations promoting democracy took their gloves off. By the tone of these letters, it sounds like Fair Vote Canada has taken the lead, in addition to the 1 out of every 160 Canadians who are members of Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Numbers to Make You Ill

Did YOU vote for Stephen Harper to be Prime Minister of Canada? In theory, no one did. But in practice, given Canada's democratic system that elevates parties to the detriment of voters' interests and preferences, that's what a few rare number of us did do:

Total votes in the riding of Calgary-Southwest on October 14, 2008: 52,996
Total votes cast for Stephen Harper: 38,548
Total votes cast in the general election: 13,834,294
Total number of people eligible to vote: 23,677,639 

Because Stephen Harper is leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, he ipso facto became the Prime Minister of the country, which means...

On October 14, 2008, 1 out of every 359 voters determined who would be Canada's next Prime Minister. Worse, that's 1 out of every 614 registered voters. How warm and fuzzy those rare few people must feel, to have chosen who would dictatorially preside over us all!

Some more numbers:

Voter turnout in Calgary-Southwest: 58.4 percent
Voter turnout in the general election: 58.8 percent

Voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian history.

Does anyone wonder why?

Don't blame non-voters. That is the typical knee-jerk reaction to such numbers.

There's no reason to think that voting patterns among non-voters would be dissimilar to those among voters. That is, there's no reason to suppose that the percentages of votes by party and hence votes to individual party candidates, wouldn't break down as they do now. It would still be the case that with our multiple political parties the results of elections under our antiquated single member plurality voting system do not fairly represent the choices of the electorate.

That's one reason why people are turning away in droves from the polls on election day. They may not be able to articulate it as the reason, but they know deep in their guts that something is terribly wrong.

[Cross-posted at Challenging the Commonplace]