New Zealand offers solution to Canada’s electoral woes

“Either you believe in democracy or you don’t. Any electoral system that gives a political party a representation in parliament that is far higher, or far lower, than it deserves compared to the popular vote, cannot be regarded as truly democratic,” Steven Spencer of Pickering writes.

Six reasons to say ‘No’ to electoral reform, Hepburn, Oct. 31

Regrettably, Bob Hepburn spreads the usual misinformation about the idea of introducing some degree of proportionality to our electoral system.

Either you believe in democracy or you don’t. Any electoral system that gives a political party a representation in parliament that is far higher, or far lower, than it deserves compared to the popular vote, cannot be regarded as truly democratic.

It’s true that a purely proportional system, such as obtains in Israel and Italy, leads to disastrously splintered parliaments. But no one in Canada is recommending such a defective system. Most advocates of reform call for a mixed-member-proportional (MMP) system, such as exists in Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, Germany and many other countries.

In such systems, half or more of the seats represent constituencies, won by first-past-the-post (as in our current system), and the remaining, proportional seats are allocated to give the parties their correct representation in parliament.

New Zealand introduced its MMP system in 1996, amid predictions of disaster. Yet it has worked so well that a national referendum in 2011 handed it a healthy majority in favour of keeping it.

How curious that Hepburn neglected to mention New Zealand — a fellow Commonwealth country — in his column. SOURCE

Election result signals the need for continued grassroots activism

The interim House of Commons on January 16, 2019. Image: Leafsfan67/Wikimedia Commons

What are some of the observations that can be made about the results of this federal election from a grassroots activist perspective?

1. The electoral system is broken.

As we all know, the seat count would have looked very different under proportional representation. For instance, the NDP would have won 54 seats (rather than 24) and the Greens would have won 22 seats (rather than 3).

2. The Conservatives were stopped, but won the vote.

We’ll need to contend with the fact that the Conservatives beat the Liberals in terms of the popular share of the vote as well as winning almost 250,000 more votes than the Liberals.

3. It doesn’t spell the end of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Could the NDP and the Greens make cancelling the pipeline a condition of their support in the House? It doesn’t appear that way right now, plus as was pointed out by other observers, the Conservatives would likely back the Liberals in any vote that might come up in the House on this. We’ll need to be on the land to win this.

4. The SNC-Lavalin scandal isn’t going away.

Given that Jody Wilson-Raybould won her seat as an Independent and a minority government means the opposition parties control the standing committees (and call witnesses, etc.), this story is likely to continue.

5. Highs and lows.

It was great to see NDP candidate Leah Gazan elected in Manitoba and a new Green MP in New Brunswick. It was disappointing that Svend Robinson didn’t win in Burnaby and that (even had the NDP and Green votes been combined in Ottawa Centre) that Catherine McKenna still won even after she approved a tar sands pipeline.

6. Opportunities for a Green New Deal.

The outcome of the election doesn’t suggest that the stage has been set to win a bold Green New Deal, but hopefully the “balance of power” equation suggests we could maybe carve out a few important gains on this front, ideally pushing harder on the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies.

7. Colonial violence continues.

Just days before the election, Tiny House Warriors Kanahus Manuel and Isha Jules were arrested for defending Secwepemc territory against the Trans Mountain pipeline. Kanahus’ wrist was reportedly broken by the RCMP and she was transported 200 kilometres in the back of a police wagon without medical attention.

8. The average lifespan of a minority government.

The average lifespan of a minority government is generally 18 to 24 months. We’ll see how that pans out, but it is at least conceivable/likely that there will be another election within four years. How do we better prepare for that fight two years down the road as the climate crisis further intensifies?

In the meantime, here’s to continued activism!

As the great progressive Howard Zinn wrote, “Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.” SOURCE

What a Liberal minority government means for Canada’s environment

From the carbon tax to fossil fuel subsidies, here are eight things we can expect from a minority government

PM Trudeau arrives in Biarritz. August 22, 2019.

…The Liberals could work with either the NDP or the Bloc Quebecois (or some combination thereof) and remain in power.

Both the NDP and the Bloc have strong environmental platforms — arguably stronger than the Liberals — so if anything the Liberals can be expected to take a stronger stance on environmental issues.

There’s much we don’t know, but here are a few things we can reasonably expect to happen on the environment file.

1) The carbon tax will stay in place

An escalating price on carbon has been the cornerstone of the Liberals climate plan and they’ll have plenty of support to keep the carbon tax in place. The NDP also promised a carbon tax, but vowed to take it a step further by removing exemptions for heavy polluters.

Meanwhile, the Bloc Quebecois proposed that Ottawa impose a carbon tax in provinces where greenhouse gas emissions per capita are higher than average and that the proceeds be paid to provinces where emissions are lower, creating a form of green equalization. Trudeau will almost certainly be concerned about Albertan alienation, so he’ll avoid getting involved in that plan.

2) About those fossil fuel subsidies …

Back in 2015, the Liberals promised to phase out fossil fuel subsidies over the “medium term,” but Environmental Defence estimates the federal government is still handing out $3.3 billion a year to the fossil fuel industry. The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois campaigned on a promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, a policy that enjoys tremendous public support. Could they use their newfound power to push for this phase out to start sooner rather than later?

3) The Trans Mountain pipeline debate is unlikely to be re-opened in Parliament, unless …

While many of the opposition parties might want to re-open this debate, it’s hard to see an opening for them to do so given the pipeline is already approved. Even if the NDP, Greens and Bloc Quebecois wanted to force a confidence vote on it, the Conservatives would side with the Liberals on this one.

However, the Liberals still need to find $10 to $15 billion to build the pipeline.

“The public financing of the project does seem to present a bit of a pickle,” said Kai Nagata of Dogwood, a B.C. democracy group. “It doesn’t seem likely the NDP/Bloc/Greens could vote for a budget with pipeline construction funds, but the Conservative party probably couldn’t stomach voting for everything else.”

Nagata added: “Even the Conservatives should be philosophically uncomfortable with borrowing money, in a deficit, to spend on corporate welfare.”

4) Buh-buy single-use plastics

The Liberals promised to start phasing out single-use plastics starting around 2021. The NDP, meanwhile, wants to intensify that approach by straight-up banning single-use plastics by 2022. Any which way, single-use plastics such as bags and straws are likely going the way of the dodo.

5) Full steam ahead on conservation

The Trudeau government has made significant progress toward meeting its Aichi Biodiversity targets: it pledged to protect at least 17 per cent of terrestrial area and inland waters, and 10 per cent of its oceans, by 2020. A flurry of big new protected areas has moved that along.

The Liberals have also committed to conserving 25 per cent of Canada’s land, freshwater and ocean by 2025 and to working toward conserving 30 per cent by 2030. They also plan to advocate for countries around the world to set a 30 per cent conservation goal.

Additionally, the Liberals have identified the opportunity to reduce emissions by 30 megatonnes by 2030 using natural climate solutions that support efforts to better manage, conserve and restore forests, grasslands, agricultural lands, wetlands and coastal areas — as well ad by planting two billion trees.

The NDP and Greens have also committed to the goal of conserving 30 per cent of land, freshwater and oceans by 2030.

So, watch for more Indigenous protected areasnational parks and marine protected areas.

6) Expect more electric vehicles

The Liberals have set a target of 30 per cent of all light-duty vehicles on the road being electric by 2030. The Bloc Quebecois also support measures to require manufacturers to sell more electric vehicles. And the NDP support maintaining the $5,000 federal incentive for electric vehicle purchases while eliminating federal sales tax on them. One way or another, electric vehicle incentives are here to stay.

7) A lot of Albertans are going to be outraged

With Conservatives winning a higher percentage of the popular vote than the Liberals nationwide, and winning every seat in Alberta and Saskatchewan except for one, Westerners are rightly going to be upset about ending up with so little say in Ottawa. How that will manifest is yet to be seen, but I’d wager a bet it ain’t gonna be pretty.

8) Will electoral reform have its moment in the sun?

The NDP and Greens have long supported a move to proportional representation — an electoral system that would ensure the allocation of seats is more in line with the popular vote than our current first-past-the-post system. With the Conservatives being the latest losers under the first-past-the-post system, one has to wonder if there might be a cross-party push for a referendum on modernizing our electoral system.

Much more will become clear over the coming weeks and months, but for now what we know is that the Liberals will have to work with some combination of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois — and that means that if anything, they’ll have a stronger mandate to take bold action on the climate crisis.

Election 2019: You Can Help Elect MPs Who Will Fight for Proportional Representation!

No party with 39% of the vote should get 100% of the power.

The Trudeau Liberals promised to end first-past-the-post, and make every vote count. In February 2017, the Liberals announced they were breaking their promise. Trudeau stated, “It was my choice to make.” He stated that if you don’t agree with his decision, “That is what elections are for.”

We CAN get electoral reform back on the table. In the event of a minority government situation, we would like to see parties make action on electoral reform a condition of their support.

Watch “Crowded” – our video ad on Trudeau’s Broken Promise 

Find out which parties and candidates we’re endorsing in this election.

Learn about our target ridings this election – and how you can help.

Read the results of the Angus Reid national poll on electoral reform. Learn more about our call for a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.

Find out why a Green New Deal needs proportional representation and watch our video ad about why climate action needs PR


A National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform

Backed by evidence, powered by  people

Image result for A National Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform

Fair Vote Canada is pleased to announce a new website for Canadians to learn about our call for a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform! You can view the site at:

A new poll by Angus Reid in partnership with Fair Vote Canada shows 84% support a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform – and 79% say the next government elected in October should move on it!

This included 82% of those who voted Liberal in the last federal election and 69% of those who voted Conservative. At least 76% of respondents in every age group and province agreed.

You can view the full poll results here:

“Canadians clearly support the idea of citizen involvement in the analysis of our electoral system”, said Demetre Eliopoulos, SVP and Managing Director of Public Affairs at Angus Reid Global. “When Canadians are introduced to the idea of a citizen’s assembly, their reaction is to espouse the idea and its implementation.”

The new website contains information about how citizens’ assemblies work and a growing list of endorsers.

“Canadians have become rightly cynical towards politicians on this issue,” says Réal Lavergne, President of Fair Vote Canada. “They want a process they can trust. A National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform delivers that.”

Citizens’ assemblies are unique because they are independent, free of political interference and truly representative of ordinary Canadians. Experience shows that citizens without a vested interest in the outcome are able to set aside partisan considerations and produce outcomes that best reflect the public interest.

Citizens’ assemblies have recently been held in Ireland, Australia, Belgium and France, and one is planned next year in Scotland.

What is a Citizens’ Assembly?

A citizens’ assembly is a body of citizens formed to deliberate on an important policy issue. 

Citizens’ assemblies are built on the belief that when given the knowledge, resources and time, citizens can find solutions to complex and challenging issues, including those where politicians have reached an impasse.

Citizens’ assemblies empower citizens to develop in-depth understanding of an issue and to submit their recommendations free of partisan interference and considerations. Recommendations emerging from such a process are likely to be seen as highly legitimate expressions of the popular will.

Why a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform?

1. To give citizens a leadership role in electoral reform. 2. Meaningful deliberation by a representative group of citizens, free of partisan interest. 3. To build a consensus that enhances public trust in any decision-making process.


The federal NDP must stand tall in its commitment to a boldly progressive agenda


Image credit: Joshua Berson

In 2015, Libby Davies retired as deputy leader of the NDP and member of Parliament for Vancouver East, after four decades of work as a politician, community organizer and activist for progressive causes. Her recently published book, Outside In: A Political Memoir,recounts her career and the causes she has worked for, from the legalization of same-sex marriage to housing justice and access to safe injection sites on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. In the following excerpt, Davies diagnoses what went wrong for the NDP in the 2015 federal election and how the party can avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

Certainly, what happens in Parliament is enormously important. The terrible legislation passed by Harper’s government, his disregard for democracy, his secrecy, arrogance, and elitism, it was all part of a decade of darkness. Fighting the government in Parliament was our job, and we did it well.

But somewhere along the way we lost our bigger vision and connection with people, including some of our base, as we became focused on winning. We forgot how to be creative and bold outside of Parliament and bring people with us.

I know we face formidable double standards in the mainstream media. Regardless of how well we do, they would still find a way to trash or ignore us. On that I am cynical. All the more reason for us to be smarter than all of them, and find new ways to do politics with people who have a passion for social justice and a better world.

In these political times, the NDP is needed more than ever. The rise of right-wing populism even here in Canada and the underwhelming position of Trudeau’s Liberal government on crucial issues such as climate change, democratic electoral reform, income inequality, and more make it crucial for the federal NDP to stand tall and unwavering in its commitment to a boldly progressive agenda. We must embrace a post-fossil-fuel economy and lead the way on an economic and social transition to it, and demonstrate that retraining, good jobs, and social advances create a healthier economy and healthier society overall. MORE

B.C. MP looks to Quebec and PEI for electoral reform after referendum rebuff

NDP MP Nathan Cullen rises in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017.

Voters in British Columbia have given a decisive rebuff to electoral reform, but while the idea seems dead in that province, the prospect for new voting systems in Canada has not completely disappeared.

Quebec Premier François Legault campaigned on electoral reform before taking office last year. Electoral reform is also on the table in Prince Edward Island, where a referendum on the issue is scheduled to take place with the next provincial election in the fall of 2019.

“If electoral reform has a pulse anywhere, it’s in Quebec,” Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, said in an interview. MORE