Federal Election 2011

A Missing Voice at the Leaders' Debates in 2011

To make an informed decision on who we want to represent us, we need to hear all voices, and not just the ones we like or think we might agree with.

By Simon Geoghegan
Published April 12, 2011

You have heard and read much by now in regards to the decision by the consortium of Canadian broadcasters to exclude Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, from the televised Leaders' Debates this week. Regardless of whether you support the Green Party or not, this decision is bad for Canada and highlights the shortcomings of our electoral system.

Although the consortium of broadcasters have published no official criteria for inclusion in the debates, the general assumption is that Greens are being shut out due to lack of representation in the House of Commons. (In 2008, there was a sitting Green MP, Blair Wilson, who had been kicked out of the Liberal Caucus, sat as an independent and then joined the Green Party just in time for the election.)

The thinking goes: If May is in the debate, how could they turn down the Communist Party, Pirate Party, Marijuana Party or any of the dozen or more 'fringe parties' that are registered in this election?

However, from an electoral perspective the Greens have much more in common with the four main parties in the House than any of the other registered parties.

National, Mainstream, Popular

The Green Party, like the other mainstream parties, is publicly funded. Any party that captures two percent of the vote nationally is eligible to have 50 percent of their expenses paid by Elections Canada, as well as a quarterly allowance.

The Green Party received 6.8 percent of the vote (just under a million votes) in 2008, and no seats. The next nearest party (excluding independents) in 2008 was the Christian Heritage Party, which received 0.2 percent of the vote (24,745 votes) and ran in under 50 ridings.

The Green Party runs candidates in all 308 ridings across the country. It is not a regional party, nor a party running on a single issue or narrow platform.

As a contrast to the Green Party numbers in '08, the Bloc received just more than 300,000 more votes. They only run candidates in Quebec. However, because of the vagaries of our First-Past-the-Post voting system, they captured 49 seats in the House of Commons and a seat at our national debates. These numbers should be taken more as an indicator of the shortcomings of our electoral system than as a signal to marginalize the Green Party.

So the Green Party looks and sounds like a national, mainstream, publicly-funded political party. Yet despite the outcry of many Canadians, including three former Prime Ministers and the CBC Ombudsman, the broadcasters continue to shut out Ms. May.

Unfortunately, we are all the losers in this game. Elections are the main way we all get to participate in our democratic system. To make an informed decision on who we want to represent us, we need to hear all voices, and not just the ones we like or think we might agree with.

An open exchange of ideas is how we move forward and develop new solutions and policies.

Plenty of Blame

It is easy to vilify the consortium for this debate, but there is plenty of blame to go around on this issue. The leaders of the other parties have had an opportunity to stand up and demand that the Green Party be included.

In 2008, Stephen Harper and Jack Layton initially said they would not participate in a debate if May was invited. They quickly backed down when they saw the backlash.

This time around, the leaders are saying they would debate May if only she were invited, but it's not their decision. To say this is a weak and disingenuous response is an understatement. If even one leader made a strong stand and demanded that the Greens be included, other leaders would follow and the consortium would back down.

They are not only closing out a Green voice at the Leaders' Debate, but also denying us an opportunity to have a female voice participate in the national debate for the first time since Audrey McLaughlin stepped down as NDP leader over 15 years ago.

The Green Party looks like, behaves like and is funded like a national, mainstream party in Canada. It represents a growing movement in our country that captured almost a million votes in 2008. (And who knows how many more votes Green candidates would receive if not for strategic voting!)

The exclusion of the Green Party from the Leaders' Debates is not just a loss for the Green supporters, but for all Canadians. We lose an opportunity to hear their ideas, and see how they stand up against the other four parties and their leaders.

Ironies

Let me close by sharing two ironies of this situation.

First, if the primary and only criteria for inclusion in the leaders' debates are a seat in the House of Commons, why not have Independents in the debate (there were two in the last session)?

Second, by excluding the Green Party, the Consortium of Broadcasters has insured that the Green Party has and will receive much more coverage in this election than they would otherwise.

The decision to exclude the Greens and the ensuing (and failed) legal challenge has been front page news and trending topics on Twitter. As is often the lesson, the more you resist something the more it will persist.

Simon Geoghegan lives in Hamilton with his wife and three sons. In addition to being active in the community with Hamilton CarShare and Hamilton Out of the Cold, Simon is also a Leadership Coach and Partner in Epiphany Coaches Inc. He is also a member and volunteer with the Green Party of Canada.

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By roborious (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 15:05:32

After reading the Green parties platform I can only see them as a fringe party. They built their platform as a pie in the sky platform under the assumption that they are a fringe party. If they make their numbers look great to uninformed people they would get more votes but still wouldn't get a seat. You cannot have a serious debate when someone at the table is talking gibberish.

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By Oldman (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 08:06:00 in reply to Comment 62110

I dont claim to know politic's, but at 64 years old and disabled, I do know what the Fibral's and The Bluebirds, (sounds like some kind of old fasioned band) have done to this country over my lifespan. And I will say this , our country, and's it's people have been left behind by ALL of the above. All they seem to be able to do, is squeeze us harder. We need a fresh new voice, with the ability and the REAL drive, to get this country turned around and back to where the Gov, worked for us, THE PEOPLE, not big buissness and their Wall Street friends.

By the way, I will be voting, which way, not sure.

Comment edited by Oldman on 2011-04-13 08:17:03

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 21:36:28 in reply to Comment 62110

Um, care to provide an example?

I'm not enamoured of the platform but it's very responsible.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 16:32:12 in reply to Comment 62110

Did you really read their platform? I don't see it as pie in the sky.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 15:06:07 in reply to Comment 62122

I have and it is.

They have some very good ideas (and a couple awful ones) but as a whole I see it as a recipe for disaster. The notion that a bunch of first time MPs are going to be able to pull off what is in their platform (and there is very little explanation of "How?" in their platform) is pure fantasy.

They think we can drastically and simultaneously change our infrastructure, economy and our roll in international affairs. I simply can't agree. We can become a sustainable eco-friendly economy OR we can maintain our roll in the global economy. They seem to think we can pull a borderline Chavez and still have a seat at the G20... good luck with that.

If they said - We can nationalize our resources, become a sustainable eco-friendly self sufficient country and outside of some humanitarian efforts have minimal to no involvement in international affairs (i.e., no more NAFTA, no more NATO, no more UN peace keeping) then I might believe them.

What they are proposing is that we can continue to have our cake and eat it too as long as the icing is green. That is hogwash.

But if they do come to power I will put my name in for their "National Treasures Program" : )

http://kiely-flashpoint.blogspot.com/201...

Comment edited by Kiely on 2011-04-13 15:07:30

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 16:17:43 in reply to Comment 62208

You obviously haven't comprehended what you read. The green party firmly supports UN peace keeping missions.

What you propose in your "OR" paragraph is a false choice.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 16:37:48 in reply to Comment 62212

"You obviously haven't comprehended what you read."

Right back at you.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 15:08:09

They have my vote ..... it is time for a change. The green hold 9 (?) seats in the Australian parliament (sentate?) but hold the swing votes.

We deserve better as a nation than what the 'big 3 ' are offering .. we may not get it this election but there is always the next one ( as long as harper doesn't get his majority) and slasshes political parties funding..

Comment edited by rednic on 2011-04-12 15:10:14

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By roborious (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 15:12:21

How is a vote for green a vote for change? If you seriously just want "change" you should vote for the leading non conservative party in your riding. From someone who wants change a vote for the greens is a vote for conservatives because its a "change" vote that is not giving to a party that has a serious chance of winning.

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By crhayes (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 13:08:40 in reply to Comment 62112

I disagree that it's "throwing away a vote". Voting for a particular party (when you don't believe in their platform) in spite of a different party is a waste of a vote.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 21:39:55 in reply to Comment 62112

Couldn't disagree more with this; first, it's not about just wanting "change" of any description, it's about making fundamental changes to how government operates. Long overdue ones to my mind. I support it whether or not others do.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 16:33:36 in reply to Comment 62112

We want positive change. Not negative change. That is why the Greens have my vote as well.

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By Bwahhahahaha (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 17:22:23 in reply to Comment 62123

insult spam deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-04-12 17:28:39

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 15:21:41 in reply to Comment 62112

Spoken like a Liberal, they want to suck up all the non-Conservative votes without actually being much different than the Conservatives. Sorry but I'm not falling for the fake-progressive Liberal party any more.

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 17:13:15 in reply to Comment 62115

really nuanced political discourse here.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 15:26:46

My point is that in hamilton the Crappers (conservatives ) have very little chance of winning any seats so a vote for the green party is vote for their future funding ... winning a seat would just be extra gravy ( so to speak)

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 15:41:04

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 16:34:59 in reply to Comment 62117

She will be missed by me and many others. I won't be watching as a result of her not being there.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 16:44:04 in reply to Comment 62124

Oh NO ! watch ... with steve paiken moderating harper will not be allowed to ramble and take up time ... I would assume he'll be wearing a diaper tonight so no one can tell when he soils himself !

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By MattM (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 16:22:30 in reply to Comment 62117

Funny, I didn't know democracy had to be "deserved".

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 12, 2011 at 16:52:30

I always find it entertaining how defenders of our parliamentary system always fall back on the existence of "fringe" parties to prove that it's democratic, yet can't seem to stomach giving them any chance of winning actual influence.

It's all about setting the terms of debate, and defining what's "practical". Public will has very little to do with it.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 10:04:12 in reply to Comment 62127

Public will has everything to do with it. Green party is a fringe party. When they start to win a few seats and climb out of the fringe they will get more recognition.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 10:41:48 in reply to Comment 62182

And how are they supposed to win any seats and get recognition when the news media refuse to cover them?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 12:00:23 in reply to Comment 62188

And how are they supposed to win any seats and get recognition when the news media refuse to cover them?

Did the BQ or the Reform Party come to prominence with or without "recognition" from the media?

That is not a rhetorical question - because I really don't know. Though I think that the answer is "without": they got seats, then the national media was all, like, "whoa...."

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By RightSaidFred (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 09:41:55 in reply to Comment 62127

I would certainly call the Bloc Party a fringe party, yet they get a voice talking only about what Quebec wants/needs and the rest of us are forced to listen to it. It would be like Bratina going on there and talking nothing but want Hamilton wants/needs - what would be the difference?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 09:38:20 in reply to Comment 62127

Except of course that several one-time fringe parties went on to become significant players in national politics ...

  • the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation
  • the Progressive Party
  • the Reform Party
  • the Bloc Quebecois

Political parties and movements can and do and really must rise from - media-wise - nothing.

The problem of the Green Party is that they are in a grey area, a no-man's land between obscurity and significance and so it's not clear what sort of coverage they should get.

The consensus seems to be they need a seat in Parliament to get a voice. It might be considered an arbitrary cutoff, but then so would any particular percentage of the national vote.

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By FTLOG (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 17:23:28 in reply to Comment 62127

insult spam deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-04-12 17:26:33

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By FTLOG (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 17:30:51 in reply to Comment 62130

insult spam deleted

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-04-12 17:32:12

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 18:01:43

May's "debate" workaround starts in about an hour, if my math is correct.

http://www.vancouversun.com/Greens+join+debate+vancouversun/4601789/story.html

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 19:39:37 in reply to Comment 62137

Has anyone tried to watch Elizabeth May via the Vancouver Sun?

I'm trying... all I see is the TV debate taking place. Did they mess up? or am I doing something wrong?

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted April 12, 2011 at 19:17:35 in reply to Comment 62137

Brilliant workaround.

This is a hint of how 'politics' might just be capable of becoming more humane.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 19:39:52 in reply to Comment 62141

Is it working for you StoneyCreek?

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 19:47:12 in reply to Comment 62143

It's working for me now

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By Obama (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 20:13:42

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By mike_sak (registered) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 20:45:17

i know this is a terrible example, but hitler and his national socialists were a fringe party....look what happened there.

my point is...don't discount the fringe.

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By Art +Tax (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2011 at 21:16:43

Proportional Representation Now! Enough of this fake democracy!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 08:58:07 in reply to Comment 62151

This. I'm constantly disappointed by the fact that the NDP doesn't make this a major platform issue. Every election they get almost twice the votes of the Bloc and end up with almost half the seats.

The Bloc and the Cs get far, far more seats than they have votes, the Liberals lose a point or two percentagewise in the translation (but they'd doubtless lose far more if voters weren't scared off of the alternatives by FPTP) and the NDPs and the Greens get utterly ripped off.

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By Greens are good for you! (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 00:08:25

Vision Green is a very comprehensive, forward-looking platform (www.greenparty.ca. Apparently, they are the only party to have submitted a multi-year costed platform showing revenues and expenditures to the Parliamentary Budget Officer during this campaign. They continue to impress. No wonder they are making sure and steady progress around the world.

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By Mikkel Paulson (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 02:42:39

The Green Party was in fact invited (along with 18 other parties) to the televised all-party discussion to take place on April 23. 13 parties are currently committed to attend the event. The Greens declined.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 06:23:16 in reply to Comment 62161

That sounds about as informative as Hamilton's last round of Ward 2 debates – 19 speakers means whatever audience can be arsed to listen will probably leave with an earful of beige noise. Even the national leaders' debates with five participants (1993, 2008) already seem watered down. The goal is presumably to foster focused and fulsome debate that delineates the choices available to voters, not simply the oracular equivalent of a WWF cage match.

As well, if memory serves, the Greens declined on the grounds that this is a discussion in which the Tories, Grits, NDP and Bloc were not participating... a fringe ghetto, essentially. That is a label the Greens have been studiously trying to avoid.

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By Mark (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 08:18:04

"Second, by excluding the Green Party, the Consortium of Broadcasters has insured that the Green Party has and will receive much more coverage in this election than they would otherwise."

I believe this is called the Streisand effect.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 10:29:58

http://blog.decisioncanada.ca/conservatives/the-english-debate-just-the-words/

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 11:04:22

The Green Party has continued to make the fatal error of attempting to be "a national" party and running candidates across the country. Its a fools errand. Elizabeth May has exacerbated the problem and slit her own throat by running in different ridings in successive elections. Last time she was an East Coaster, this time she's off to Lotus Land. Which is it Liz?

If the Greens wish to have any influence in parliament, have any voice that anyone will listen too in this country, they need to concentrate their efforts. Their base is clearly urban left of center voters who feel disenfranchised by the NDP, and LIberals. So go after those voters. Center on Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal. ELECT SOMEONE.

The Reform Party was a "fringe party" until ole Preston actually went out and got some people elected. People tend to take you a little more seriously in the political arena if you actually hold some seats in parliament.

As for the current "independents" in the house. They are both cast out members of established parties. So that argument doesn't wash.

Ms May should.... instead of pissing and moaning about not being included in the debate, get her message out.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 13:12:51

It's not the Green Party's fault that our electoral system has deep systemic flaws. And it isn't the fault of the Canadian public either. There's a near-total unwillingness to address this with any of the established parties, because it keeps them in power.

The Reform Party got popular because it offered systemic changes to the voting system itself. Since joining with the Progressive Conservatives, these policies have all but vanished (much like most of the better policies of the PCs).

Choosing between two or three people/parties/colours just doesn't convey any real options. Especially when other options aren't allowed in.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 14:32:11 in reply to Comment 62203

Choosing between two or three people/parties/colours just doesn't convey any real options. Especially when other options aren't allowed in.

Except ... change happens; alternatives come to the fore and become the new norm. The Canada of 2011 is not the Canada of 1981 or the Canada of 1971 or 1871. It's not as if change and improvement (progress, if you will) can't happen in a two- or three- party system.

Is there something different about 2011 that the system which brought us change for two hundred years (I'm going back to the emergence of modernish parliamentary democracy) can no longer bring about a new and better society? And if there is, what is it?

Again - I should emphasize that I'm not asking rhetorical questions. Nor am I assuming that our system is static, because we have an evolving political system. But I am looking for some historical perspective instead of a view that seems take take the past five years as some sort of immutable problem.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-04-13 14:33:36

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 19:53:44 in reply to Comment 62204

I never said the Government can't change. It does, all the time. We're jut not in control. Our parliamentary system, however, really hasn't changed all that much in over a century. The House of Commons was created as a way to minimize public input into the affairs of government, under the Senate and GG. And though the Governor General is now largely symbolic (the British Empire is gone, and today's empires are more subtle), and the Senate inactive, I'd still argue that the purpose it serves is to give us a very minimal form of token representation.

As for the specifics...what Ryan said. About FTPT at least. It's one of the least representative parliaments in the industrialized world (along with America's Electoral College). And our voter turnout suffers greatly as a result.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 20:12:47 in reply to Comment 62217

today's empires are more subtle

Really Undustrial?

Still gave ya' an up vote though, good comment... that part just raised my eyebrow (it's a reflex now).

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By Mountain Dweller (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 14:45:56

After watching Elizabeth May's unencumbered televised question period on CHCH, I was truly impressed with her and her parties stances on the issues and have changed my vote for the Green's. It was rather disgusting how the Sun reporter rolled her eyes and Mached Ms. May. Even asked questions she just answered as if she never answered. Well done Ms. May. Well played CHCH.

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By Strategic Voting (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 14:48:45

After watching the debate last night, I fear harper may get his majority. to stop him, we must vote strategically. I like the NDP but they can't win. I love the Greens but they can win even less. Let's vote for the Libs and toss the tories out.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 16:30:59 in reply to Comment 62206

No thanks. Let's vote for what we WANT.

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By Clyde_Cope (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 16:09:25

One of the most interesting things during an election is how other people in the world view us and our problem. The link leads to a very interesting article on the erosion of democracy during the Harper Government's time - a good read: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/wor...

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 18:49:46

Proportional Representation is not a panacea. Our Parliamentary democracy is not perfect. It doesn't lend itself well to minority government situations, (its incredible that we have essentially had one for what....five years in two different stints), and it results in situations like we have now with the Bloc weilding a hammer in Quebec. However for almost 150 years it has served us well and Canada is still envied the world over for the democracy that it is and that we enjoy.

However the answer does not lie in forming niche issue political parties and then clamoring for proportional representation when your niche party can't win a seat in parliament. So the Green Party won 930,000 some odd votes in the last election. Big deal it was spread out across over 300 ridings. That means not enough people in any one riding in the country cared enough about the Green message or had that message resonate enough to vote for them in sufficient numbers to elect a Member of Parliament.

You want to get rid of the Bloc? End the per vote subsidy. You want representation in Parliament? Abandon your "I don't like your game so I'm making my own" attitude, join a party that most closely represents your views and work from within to change it, and have your voice and the voices of like minded people heard. You don't like the the election results? VOTE. Help get the vote that you want to see out.

I'm tired of the whining and moaning and cynicism from people of all political perspectives that their vote doesn't count, that their vote gets thrown out, that their candidate can't win. I live in a riding where my candidate of choice has a snowballs chance in hell of winning. It doesn't change my vote or my views and I am not going to piss and moan about it. I keep voting, I stay active, I try to promote views and policies in my riding and city and province and country that eventually may see that result change. THATS WHY ITS CALLED AN ELECTION. Not everybody gets in. It's not an attendance check, or a dinner resevation. It's a competition.

We live in a diposable world where instant gratification rules and it seems that that sentiment has blossomed in the political arena. You just don't throw out a system that at its root is over 1000 years old and for all intent and purpose still works very well.

Its very evident that its not good enough for some people. Largely people I bet whose political views represent a small minority in this country. They would happily scrap what we have so that the Green, Rhino, Cannabis, Polygamist, Anarchist, White Power, Hamas, parties et al, would all have seats in the House of Commons just because they garnered some votes.

You think Parliament is unproductive now?

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2011-04-13 18:56:13

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 21:58:49 in reply to Comment 62216

You just don't throw out a system that at its root is over 1000 years old and for all intent and purpose still works very well.

I'm sure the same thing was said, back in the day, about the facts below. Just because it "works very well" for you and those in power, doesn't mean it's the best idea.

"When the Canadian colonies confederated in 1867, the electoral tradition in all provinces was in some respects a very conservative one. Not only was it accepted by many people, and established in law, that the majority of adults had no say in public affairs; there was little resistance to the idea that the franchise and the electoral process itself could be manipulated to assure that the right people participated -- and of course, that the right people won".

"The Dominion Electoral Act allowed racial exclusions already existing in a given province to stand. This meant that British Columbia was able to keep people of Japanese, Chinese, or "Hindu" (East Indian) origin from participating in federal elections, and Saskatchewan likewise was able to prohibit voting by "Chinese." Aboriginal people in all provinces were not allowed to vote federally unless they gave up all rights they might possess as members of a band".

"The institutional, legal, and cultural commitment to an open political process was capped by the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. Included in its provisions was an article guaranteeing the rights of Canadian citizens to vote in federal and provincial elections and to stand for office in them".

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 21:43:00 in reply to Comment 62216

I'm tired of the whining and moaning

I'm tired of your whining about the whining

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 22:11:48

"there was little resistance to the idea that the franchise and the electoral process itself could be manipulated to assure that the right people participated -- and of course, that the right people won".

Is that from one of Pierre Berton's works or did you Wiki it?

So now Parliamentary democracy is a big conspiracy theory? Democracies across the globe have evolved and grown over time. The Canadian experience is no different. Trying to prop up racial exclusions that occurred 100 years ago as equal to The Green Party not being included in a leaders debate is a crock.

It doesn't just work well for me. It works for all of us if you bother to get involved in a meaninful way and participate. Rather than pretend to be clever and progressive and shout we must tear this house down.

Proponents of PR like to spout off about the European nations experience with it. How many of those countries are going bankrupt? How much of the reasons for those unsustainable nations are attributable to untenable economic and monetary policies foisted on citizens by untenable and unmanageable governments with patchwork quilt PR governments with tens of different political parties all pulling in different directions?

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2011-04-13 22:14:23

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 08:54:32 in reply to Comment 62221

Proponents of PR like to spout off about the European nations experience with it. How many of those countries are going bankrupt? How much of the reasons for those unsustainable nations are attributable to untenable economic and monetary policies foisted on citizens by untenable and unmanageable governments with patchwork quilt PR governments with tens of different political parties all pulling in different directions?

Are you suggesting that a "majority" with only 40% of the popular vote is better than a majority with 50+%?

Why do people seem to fail to understand the idea that politics is the art of compromise? You push policies as close to your principles as you can but you have to acknowledge that since not everyone feels the way you do, your pure ideals will never be implemented.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 10:13:33 in reply to Comment 62236

Are you suggesting that a "majority" with only 40% of the popular vote is better than a majority with 50+%?

I'm now lost and no longer know who's arguing for what. So ... which system gives us majorities of > 50%?

Why do people seem to fail to understand the idea that politics is the art of compromise? You push policies as close to your principles as you can but you have to acknowledge that since not everyone feels the way you do, your pure ideals will never be implemented.

I agree with you entirely. But I can read this as in favour of PR, FPTP or even SIJMA.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 13, 2011 at 22:26:33 in reply to Comment 62221

Shempatolla, Try to follow along and not make stuff up. I didn't (and don't think anyone else did) suggest anything about a conspiracy theory nor did I try to compare racism to the green party. I didn't even mention either of them.
What do you love so much about FPTP anyway?

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2011 at 23:58:44

It's not about love or like or hate or dislike. It's the system of electoral execution that we use. It works. Often the results get trashed because a certain group or groups don't like the outcome. My contention is the exercise itself is what is important. If you don't like the results, work to change them at your next opportunity.

To me, PR is no different than telling our kids that winning in sports doesn't matter and handing out trophies for participation. It's not supposed to work that way. Parties put out platforms, candidates stump that platform in their riding, if the constituents buy into that vision in enough numbers, that candidate goes to Parliament, whether he/she is in goverment or opposition. If he/she is in government, there is an opportunity to represent the riding from within government. If in opposition, the MP now must work for the riding through committee work, while at the same time participating as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. (Read keeping the government honest). It works. That's why governments change. If the party a person happens to support has never formed a government, maybe it needs to rexamine its vision, its message and how it delivers it.

I live in a riding that I don't think ever.... (maybe John Munro) has had an MP in government and regularly elects a person I have never and would never vote for. Not because he isn't a good guy or a dedicated MP, but because his views and his party's views don't represent mine or my interest or my priorities. I'm not moving. I'm not going to stop voting, and I don't think my vote is wasted.

Our system isn't broken. It's neglected, and ignored by the people that are supposed to be its guardians. Us. Don't tell me FPTP is broken when less than 60% of people vote. I don't believe for one minute that they don't vote because of any large scale exasperation, or frustration with government or a sense that democracy is a lie or it doesn't matter how they vote. People don't vote because they take the right for granted and they can't be bothered. Those of us that care can point our fingers at the politicians all we want for the failings or grievous wrong that is being done or perceived to be being done depending on your point of view. The electorate bears as much or more responsibility for it.

Moving to a PR system in the current climate of voter apathy isn't going to change a thing. It will in fact IMO make things worse. Niche parties may gain some seats, core established party voters won't change, so we end up with a Baskin Robins Parliament where no one can get anything of any import accomplished. But we've achieved some facade that we are more democratic, or our political system is more fair. Fair has nothing to do with it. Politics is warfare with words and strategies and alliances of convenience and practicality. It involves debate, discourse, compromise, and sometimes means standing on principle. But it is anything but fair.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2011-04-14 00:10:45

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 06:33:12 in reply to Comment 62225

Politics is warfare with words and strategies and alliances of convenience and practicality. It involves debate, discourse, compromise, and sometimes means standing on principle.

Aye, therein lies the rub.

At the heart of all discussion about 'government' is the oft-ignored truth that there is a difference between 'politics' and 'governance'.

You may accuse me of splitting hairs, of performing semantical gymnastics. But when a word becomes so loaded that every time it's mentioned there is a decidedly biased reaction, then we've got a problem on our hands.

Don't you think there's something wrong with our construct when so many people see 'politics' and 'politicians' in so negative a light, even when a controversy isn't in question?

Think about it: can you imagine if teachers were seen the same way? That the knee-jerk, visceral reaction most people had at the word was one of distrust or anger or revulsion? Don't you think we'd want to actually do something about the situation, instead of merely shrugging and continuing the tradition endlessly without finding some remedies? Or at the least, how we frame our perspective?

'Politics' has become a sport. A partisan, no-holds-barred sport...played for the self-absorbed, self-involved, self-referential participants, not the spectators. (My apologies for the weaknesses of my analogy.) It has very little to do with governance these days.

http://mystoneycreek.blogspot.com/2011/0...

As I have been yammering on about for a long time now, I believe we need a better relationship of engagement between residents and representatives. But maybe before we can accomplish this, we need to rethink the very references involved. Such as the word 'politics'.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-04-14 06:36:57

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 00:50:15 in reply to Comment 62225

But does one party winning really mean people are being represented? Or simply that government is happening? Harper was supported by about a fifth of the actual Canadian population, and most voters by far voted against him. Despite this, because of the way votes are counted and the reluctance of those we did elect to step up and form a coalition, a minority was handed the country.

The system doesn't work. It's not just about how I feel about issues, it's the fact that the system discounts the views of most Canadians in the name of "effectiveness", then blames voters when results are anything but.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 08:00:47 in reply to Comment 62230

Harper was supported by about a fifth of the actual Canadian population, and most voters by far voted against him.

How is this less true of government leaders in PR / coalition-government systems? Berlusconi's party got only 38% of the popular vote in the last 2006 election in Italy - so most voters "voted against him." Yet he leads a coalition with almost 50% of the seats after their baffling (to me) system of rejigging from party lists.

I was just reviewing the list of countries with PR-elected national legislatures at Wikipedia. As a Canadian, I don't look longingly at many of those nations' politics or governance. Which ones do you think we would do well to emulate?

I'm not arguing for the merits of FPTP per se. But I am highly doubtful of the claims made for PR. Our system has its problems right now - some rather special to Canada, such as the disruptive effect of the BQ - and PR would be a change. But to change a flawed system is not necessarily to fix it.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 13:22:15 in reply to Comment 62233

There's lots of countries with disasters for parliaments which use PR (like Italy, with it's new-coalition-per-year record), but that has as much to do with the sheer number of countries which practice it.

The problem is that all of our decision-making power is confined to a vote in who will represent us, and nearly none involves what they do in power. Thus, even if public opinion is constant, we often swing between ruling parties because they simply aren't doing what we want. A term or two, when the "opposition" hasn't either, we swing back. We can vote more, and we can choose a better method for counting votes, but as long as we're voting for people not policies, we'll always be fundamentally disconnected from what the government does. All we can do is react, and we only get one reaction per term.

The enormous public apathy of which Mystoneycreek writes can't just be written off as apathy or cynicism. If 40% of the populace feels so unimpressed by our voting system that they don't even bother to vote, that's saying something.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 20:20:44 in reply to Comment 62263

If 40% of the populace feels so unimpressed by our voting system that they don't even bother to vote, that's saying something.

Your statement strongly implies that people who don't vote don't vote because they are unimpressed with the way that seats are awarded. That's a pretty big if.

But speaking of our voting system in the more literal sense of the "system we use to cast our votes", one thing I do love come election time is in fact our voting system. We all mark pieces of paper which are counted in a matter of hours by staff who are monitored by volunteer scrutineers. A simple, elegant, scalable, near-impossible-to-fudge (provided there are rival scrutineers) system.

Praise Jebuz that we've not fallen into the hands of technophiles and giant systems vendors.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-04-14 20:21:23

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 15, 2011 at 01:46:57 in reply to Comment 62301

Ever worked in a polling station for a local municipal election, with the old Diebold vote scanners? I've done both that and paper, and paper is far more efficient. Watching a vote count in action is certianly a little mesmerizing, but that doesn't mean the system of seat allocation is a good one.

As for those who don't vote, most I've talked to still tend to feel rather strongly (generally against), but don't feel that "it changes anything". It's just too large a group of people to write off. Abstaining from a vote has a proud history in most democratic traditions (Robert's Rules, Consensus etc), and quite often includes the opportunity for a person to state why they're doing so.

If we care about how the Canadian populace feels, the opinions of those who choose not to vote are relevant too.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 08:45:03

Look like they may well be missing from more than just the debate ... http://www.thespec.com/news/elections/ar...

ie the whole of hamilton center ... this is BAD

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 09:06:15 in reply to Comment 62234

Another riding lost for the Greens...

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/974569--green-party-candidate-resigns-over-rape-comment-on-facebook

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By J Walter Weatherman (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 09:18:53 in reply to Comment 62239

And that's why you ALWAYS carefully vet your candidates.

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By cmc (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 16:57:58

It’s not fashionable to say it but I support our first past the post system. Our political system has many serious flaws but I don’t think that first past the post is one of them. A significant minority of Canadians seem to believe that is undemocratic for parties to be denied representation in the House when their support is spread too thinly to win a seat but I believe that to have representation in the Commons your candidates should have to lead the vote in their ridings.

That doesn’t mean that I support the decision of the networks. As Mr. Geoghegan suggests, representation at the debates could be based upon electoral support in the previous election, like federal funding. The threshold might be higher than 6.8%, however. A single seat shouldn’t be enough either. What’s objectionable about the networks’ decision is that it is not based upon established rules known in advance of the election call. The decision is made ad hoc and behind closed doors.

I do wonder how people would regard the issue of access to the debate if, instead of the Greens, the party seeking to speak at the debates was a right-wing nationalist or anti-immigrant party like the ones that are a feature of European politics. The Greens arguably have an attractive brand and some appealing ideas in their platform. They have a smart and articulate leader and few people quarrel with their commitment to the environment. The question is whether no seats and 6.8% vote share qualifies them as a significant national party.

I hope that Elizabeth May wins her seat and has the opportunity to advance her party’s vision in the House. One of the things May could do from a position in House is bring forward a critique of the operation of the Commons, itself, especially the rules and practices that diminish the role and independence of MPs and give so much power to the Prime Minister’s office and those of the other party leaders.

I must confess that I was not unhappy when May was not permitted to participate in this round of debates. It would only have strengthened Stephen Harper’s hand to be opposed by a fourth opposition leader in the debates. One party bent upon defunding the state versus four parties four more or less committed to sustaining the powers of the federal government works for the Conservatives.

Whether the Greens deserved to be in the debate this year or in 2008, for that matter, can be debated but there ought to be established rules for participation. It shouldn’t be decided in private by the networks and it shouldn’t be a matter decided by lobbying either.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2011 at 15:06:48 in reply to Comment 62353

We do have an anti-immigration party, they're called the Conservatives.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcptS3RSv...

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 15:45:09

very interest report by Samara on former MP's perceptions of the political process. Turns out they don't think it works very well either.

http://www.samaracanada.com/Two_Main_Trends


It's an important thing to remember when you get caught up in your party brand that party politics are in some ways a corrosive, anti-democratic phenomenon. You go to a party for your beliefs but they keep you for more insidious purposes. I don't think proportional representation would be any magic ticket out of this, but it would add more flexibility, opportunities for expression, communication, and compromise between parties.

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