Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Enough With the Vote Splitting!

There were three by-elections in Canada this week. Each riding was held by the party that had the seat prior to the by-elections.  The riding of Durham, Ontario was a majority win so there is no complaint there, but the other two races were very close with the “victors” only taking roughly 1/3rd of the votes cast.

But the biggie is the near upset in Calgary by the Liberal Candidate Harvey Locke who almost ousted the Harper Party Parachute Club member Joan Crockatt.  Crockatt took 36.9% of the votes cast, Locke took 32.7%

This is where the cries of vote splitting kick in.

There are people ranting and railing about how the Green Party candidate Chris Turner screwed the chances of a “progressive” party winning Calgary Centre by not throwing his support behind the Liberal cause.

My question to them is why should he have?

If Chris Turner believed that the Liberal Party was the best option for the residents of the riding, he should have run for the Liberals.

He didn’t, he opted to run for the Greens because he felt the Green Party was the better choice.  At least I hope that’s why he ran.

The people complaining about the vote split need to listen to the disenfranchised voters from the right side of the spectrum.  These are the former PC supporters who now have no party to represent them.  They have 3 choices (actually four).  Some, a fair number I suppose, vote for the vestiges of their party that rest in the Harper Party.  They aren’t that happy.  Look at Calgary Centre, the Harper Party only managed 37% of the vote in a lead pipe cinch riding.  The former MP for the riding took 55% of the votes in the 2011 election.

Some of them are willing to hold their nose and vote for the Liberal or other parties, the one that shares at least some of their former beliefs.  This would account for the surge in votes for both the Liberals and the Green Party.

And the rest stayed home.  That could in part explain why the turnout in Calgary Centre was so low.

The fourth option would be to vote for the Progressive Canadian Party, which is made up of former Progressive Conservative members and supporters who left their party rather than be part of the Harper Party.

Are you with me so far?  So let’s “Unite the Left”.

Let’s just say that the NDP, Liberal, and Green Parties sat down and decided that each would get a shot at a riding where it looked like they had a chance of winning and the others wouldn’t field a candidate in that riding.  So the NDP gets Victoria, the Liberals get Calgary Centre and the Greens get Durham.

So the results are a solid NDP win in BC, a solid Liberal win in Alberta, and a Green Party loss in Durham where the Harper Party carried just over 50% of the votes, right?

Maybe, maybe not.  This isn’t a case of 1+1+1=3.  If your riding was a targeted riding and your party was not running a candidate so that a progressive would have a better chance… would you vote for that candidate?  Would you vote for another candidate because you refuse to vote for the “chosen party”?  Would you bother to vote at all?

Be honest, if you are a card carrying Liberal or NDP member, would you happily vote for the other party?  Would you just stay home?

Listen, some churches have tried similar things.  Faced with declining numbers churches are combined in the hopes that 1200+1200=2400.  It doesn’t work that way for them.  Some people faced with the closure of their church would rather not go to church at all, or join other churches that are closer than their newly assigned church.

If it doesn’t work all that well for them, why should it work in politics?  I’ve seen people who agree on just about everything ready to come to blows simply because of the colour of their lawn signs in election season.

Political divisions aren’t like the lane divisions on the highway, where the NDP drive in the Left Lane and the Harper Party in the Right one.  It’s more like mixing water colours and where the two close colours blend is where the swing voters live.  The thing is that if you take colour from the one side of your spectrum, say the right side, then you risk alienating your supporters on the opposite side who may move away from your party or just stay home on Election Day.

In the last Federal Election, Ontario Liberals were knocked down badly.  I looked at the numbers comparing the 2011 Election with the previous election.  The increase in Harper Party votes roughly mirrored the increase in the NDP votes.  Apparently some Liberal supporters jumped to the right to prevent the left from sweeping into Ontario.  The other thing I noticed was that the number of votes that moved to the left and right did not match the drop in the Liberal numbers.  Liberal supporters stayed home.

From where I sit, the best thing for Canada right now is for the “progressive” parties to choose whoever they feel is the best leader for their party and to hammer out what they feel are the best policies for their party and for Canada and to sell it (the policies, not the country).

Part of the beauty of Canada is that we are not divided into two parties.  We have choice.

But beyond that, I would love to see the day when our candidates run under a given banner, but have the ability to stand up in caucus and in the House of Commons and say to their party “This law is not a good fit for my constituents.  I choose my constituency over the wishes of the party.” And not be penalized for that.

And banning all attack ads would be nice too.

Cheers, BC.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Some Musings on the Canada Elections Act

Imagine if you will a competition.  Before it starts, the referee explains the rules and sets the guide lines and then the competition begins.

The referee watches the competition but seems oblivious to what is going on.  He call no fouls, even when onlookers cry out about illegal moves.  He might occasionally give warnings about inappropriate actions during the competition, but those warnings can be denied and ignored.

At the end of the competition the referee declares the winner.

Sounds a bit like pro wrestling, doesn’t it?

Actually it sounds a lot like our election system in Canada.

Elections Canada seems to have very little power when it comes to the actual election campaigns.  They get to shout “Go!” at the beginning and count the votes at the end to declare the victor.

One, two, three.

More recently we had another vote.  It was in the House of Commons to see what would happen to Bill C-424, a Bill to amend the Elections Act of Canada.

A fellow in Liberal red trunks named Dominic LeBlanc, hailing from Beauséjour (New Brunswick) proposed this bill, which would raise the fines for infractions under the Act from $2000 and $5000 to $20,000 and $50,000 for breaking the rules.  For doing things like preventing people from voting, or causing a disturbance at a polling station to prevent people from voting, or intentionally overspending their limit during an election… It’s all in sections 481 through 499 of the Canada Election Act.

And it would allow the Chief Electoral Officer to contest the result of an election where questionable things happened.

Imagine that, people call Elections Canada about unscrupulous matters occurring in an election and Elections Canada can’t go to the court and say “Here’s what happened, review the results.”  Today, only a voter in that particular riding or a candidate for that riding can go to the courts if they feel that an election was unfairly won.

Some referee eh?  Here’s your striped shirt, but no whistle, not even a flag to throw.

Well on November 21st there was a vote to see if Bill C-424 would go to Committee and it was clearly a partisan vote.  The Opposition side all voted in favour of the Bill and the Harper Party voted against it. 

Goodbye to Bill C-424.

The system is broken.  We saw that when Borys Wrzesnewskyj contested the Etobicoke election results and initially won.  Borys spent a large amount of money in his efforts to show that the Etobicoke election was flawed and that a new election should be held.  Far more money than you or I would be able to spend if we believed the results of an election should be overturned.

The Chief Electoral Officer should be able to go to the courts and have the results reviewed if there is evidence of wrongdoing.  It shouldn’t be up to you or me to fight in court against a political party that is willing to spend the case into the Supreme Court of Canada like we saw in Borys’ case.

In the USA there were reports that the group anonymous may have interfered with the Republican Party’s get out the vote computer system.  There were concerns that they may have broken several federal election laws (in the US) not for interfering with the vote, or the voting machines, but for interfering with a political party’s computers.

Here we have Pierre Poutine and a number of other infractions under the Canada Election Act and nobody on the Harper Party side of the House seems to give a rat’s patoot about it.

We obviously need some reforms and Bill C-424 was a start, and yet Harper’s crew won’t have any of it. 

Isn’t funny how the self professed Law and Order party of Lord Stephen seems to have no concerns about electoral fraud and robocalls and overspending by candidates or candidates receiving illegal corporate donations, et cetera, et cetera…

If you smell what this cat…. Is cooking.

Apologies for the wrestling references, it’s a weakness ;o)
Cheers, BC

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thoughts on Remembrance Day 2012.

Recently I saw a picture of a large blue sign with a white maple leaf on it.  There was a number 1 in the centre of the maple leaf.  I’m assuming it was a sign for the Trans Canada Highway.

The sign was surrounded by a number of small white crosses with poppies attached.  I approve of this.  I believe in Remembrance Day and honouring those that gave their lives in our wars.

What I did not approve of was the sign advertising that this was the “Highway of Heroes”.

The Highway of Heroes was not an “action plan” nor has it anything to do with any level of government in Canada.

The Highway of Heroes was and still is a showing of respect by the people of Canada for those we lost in Afghanistan.  We were not told to do it.  There was no government initiative to do it.  We just did it.

I understand the original Highway of Heroes is a 150 km. stretch of Highway 401 between Trenton, Ontario and Toronto.  The route our fallen soldiers take when returning home.  People spontaneously lined the overpasses to show their respect… a nice thing to do.

I do not want nor do I need any government to tell me “this road” or “that road” is a Highway of Heroes, I know where they are.

And I know there are many of them.

Any highway or byway or street or lane that had one of these hearses travel on it is one.  Any road that passes the home of a veteran or their family is one.

This Sunday is Remembrance Day.  I hope you will take a minute to remember those who fought and especially those who did not return.  I also hope that you will wear a poppy to show others that you remember and that you care.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

I’ve Been Pondering Canadian Democracy Again.

I’ve been thinking about Democracy in Canada again.  With two Provincial Legislatures currently prorogued and yet another omnibus bill in Ottawa I’m thinking that Democracy in Canada is in very poor health and someone is stepping on the IV line.

If we ignore the Senate for the time being, our government systems are pretty simple.  Periodically we have a vote to determine who will represent our ridings in the Legislative House.  These candidates represent various political parties and the party with the most seats is declared the government.

Generally the party with the most seats in the Legislature becomes the ruling party in the House.  It has happened that the party with the most seats has lost the confidence of the majority of members and the second place party has taken over the reins, but that is not a common occurrence.

The leader of the governing party is given the title of Premier in the provinces and Prime Minister nationally and is considered to be the nominal Head of State for their jurisdiction.  Our actual Head of State is currently Queen Elizabeth II because that is the way our system works.

Basically the way it works is that the Power comes from the Crown and is utilized by the Government which is selected by the People.
Now the people should be very important in this because there are so many of us, but we’re not.  The only time politicians are interested in us is when they are trying to get us to vote for them.

Now I said that the party leaders are nominal Head of States because in our system they are only considered to be “First Among Equals”.  What this means is that Stephen Harper’s voice carries no more weight in the House of Commons than Tom Mulcair’s or Bob Rae’s or Elizabeth May’s or even Rob Anders’ voice.

But this is basic civics, your kids will probably know this stuff better than I.

But we don’t live in a Democracy.  We live in a benevolent dictatorship.

The Supreme Soviet Harper Inner Circle (HIC) decides on what laws should be proposed and tells the Head of State.  The Head of State tells the membership and they in turn vote according to the dictates of their leader.  Pretty much sums it up, at least in a Majority Government.

Now we try to pretty it up with Committees and Private Member’s Bills but nothing happens unless the leadership of the Governing Party decides that it should happen.

What do I mean? 

Well, the last time we had an omnibus bill foisted on us there were almost a thousand amendments proposed.  Not one of these amendments was acknowledged.  They were all shunted aside and the omnibus bill was passed in the same form that it was originally tabled. 

Not one word was changed.

That’s pretty darn good for a document consisting of hundreds of pages and dealing with God knows how many issues.  The guys who wrote it up must be super geniuses.  Maybe they have business cards that say Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius or Jim E. Flaherty, Super Genius?

Did I mention that this particular omnibus bill was a Budget Bill?  So is the current omnibus bill in Ottawa.

What is so special about Budget Bills you might ask, well they are indeed special.  Traditionally Budget Bill votes are “whipped” votes.  Members are not allowed to vote their conscience or their constituents’ wishes.  They must vote to support their party.  For a traditional Budget Bill this is not such a big deal, it’s mostly nuts and bolts and about how the taxes get divvied up between departments, but omnibus bills have a nasty tendency to have lots of other things in them as well.

Our current omnibus Budget Bill contains the delisting of many lakes in rivers in Canada that were listed as “Navigable Waters” before.  What does that mean?

The Act applies to any interference of navigation
– in, on, over, under, through or across
Canadian navigable waterways.

Among the rivers delisted is the Thames River in Ontario.  In Chatham there are docking facilities on the Thames right in the middle of the downtown area.  There are two draw bridges in Chatham to allow for tall masted sail boats to access this area.  Now the draw bridges will no longer have to be maintained and if someone owns property down river from Chatham they can build a bridge across and not have to worry if it impedes navigation as the Thames is no longer “navigable”.

Now the MP for Chatham Kent (Dave Van Kesteren) is a member of the Harper Party and he will have no choice but to vote in favour of this bill even though it is detrimental to his constituency.  There are other rivers in his riding that will be affected, but it matters not, he gets his marching orders and will do what the party says.

The irony here is that during the War of 1812, the Thames was an important battleground.  There was a going ship building industry in the area and the Thames was an important waterway, so important that the British tried to defend it.

The Indian leader Tecumseh died in one of these battles.  He’s mentioned in the 1812 ads we’re inundated with.

But since the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) is included in the Budget Bill for whatever reasons there will be no debate and no action.  No mere MP has a chance of standing up to the Party Leadership of his own party, especially not in the House of Commons.

In a Democratic country the Budget would include budget measures only.  Any changes to the NWPA would be handled in their own bill.  It could be discussed and debated and voted on, and if the local MP decided it was not in the interest of his constituency he could vote against it even if that vote would be cast against his own party’s bill.

You see, in a Democracy we would elect a candidate to represent us in the Legislature.  But that no longer happens.  Today we vote on which party gets to ruin run Canada for a few years and we get a party representative to tell us what a great job they are doing in Ottawa, or Toronto, or Edmonton or wherever.

It’s really too bad.  We have a pretty good country here and if we let the people run it we’d probably do okay.  Party politics is ruining our country and we are basically powerless to stop it.  Let’s face it, the government has always been run by parties and for the foreseeable future, they always will.  Only the government can change the way elections are run and they’re not going to kill the cow when they get the milk now are they?

Sorry about the civics lesson, if I messed it up let me know.  If you can see a solution to this morass, give me a hint.  A return to responsible government would really be refreshing…

Cheers! BC