Archive for May, 2012

Dialogue on Canada’s last monarch.

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Bob Hepburn at the Toronto Star is one of the good guys. A veteran reporter, an astute observer of the political scene and a solid thinker, Bob had an opinion column in the Star today about the end of the monarchy in Canada. It is an excellent opportunity to carry on the dialogue.

It was surprising last week that readers of this blog peaked at the highest point in several years. What was really surprising was that a large number of the new readers were accessing a column we wrote two years ago about Queen Victoria. You can find it through Google by searching for ‘Babel, the queen’s birthday.’ The conclusion of that entry was that fairy story time of kings and queens, princes and princesses is over. Canada needs to strike out boldly to create a new future. It is good to know that Bob agrees with this.

But it is not just the agreement that is needed. There is no point in one writer having a dialogue with himself. We need the rationale, the thoughts, the ideas, the hopes, the suggestions that each of us brings to the discussion. We need friendly commentaries, learned polemics, passionate concern and open discussion. The more who get involved, the better will be our conclusions. Let us have at it:

Bob’s column makes some good points about how out of date and out of touch the monarchy is in the 21st Century. He sees the royals as little more than a soap opera, ‘a Royal Coronation Street, if you like.’ He quibbles a bit too much though when he complains about Canadian women having to comply with the ridiculous custom of the curtsy, when being introduced to the Queen. There are many Canadian women who have met the Queen who would have stood on their heads and showed off their knickers to be introduced to her.

It is only after you have met some of the royals that you wonder what was so important about it.

Bob agrees with retired University of Toronto history professor, Michael Bliss, that we should be laying the groundwork for a dignified phasing out of the monarchy, the last relic of our colonialism. The only possible error in his recommendations might be that he could have the steps backwards.

Bob wants to start with a referendum. That is a wrong move. That is setting us up for failure and heartache. It is too easy to say ‘no’ when you do not know the alternatives.

And if you are unaware of some of the other glaring problems in how our country is governed, you have not been paying attention. This country is going to be 150 years old in five years and it is bloody well about time, Canadians had a say about how they are  governed. We need to have a constitutional conference of people elected to that purpose.

The findings of a constitutional assembly can be the subject of a referendum.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Ten reasons to support first-past-the-post voting.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

THE DEMOCRACY PAPERS #10- Revised  This is now the tenth and final of The Democracy Papers that were originally written in 2007 to make the case for our first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting in North America.

First-past-the-post (FPTP) voting is an awkward name for simple, single-member constituency plurality voting. It is almost too simple: you just go to the polls, vote for one person, the votes are counted and the person with the most votes wins.

And that gives you reason number one in favour of FPTP: There is no confusion. What you vote for is what you get–if enough of your neighbours agree with you. If your candidate loses, you tried and you have nothing of which to be ashamed. Your vote was counted and you made a contribution to democracy.

It is the matter of democracy that gives us reason number two for FPTP: it is the most democratic method of electing members to government. Whether there are two candidates on the ballot or 20, FPTP means that in your constituency you elect the person preferred by the most voters.   If it is fair when there are two candidates, why would it not be fair with 20?   If you would prefer that the person be the choice of more than 50 per cent of the voters, it is a simple matter to have a run-off election or, to save money, even easier to have voters indicate a second, third or fourth choice in a preferential vote.

But ideally, we want to keep the voting simple, which is reason number three for FPTP: it is very easy to keep honest.   There are no complicated formulas, no mathematical manipulations, just a plain simple, easy to understand, count of ballots for candidate ‘A,’ candidate ‘B’ and so forth.   The one with the most votes wins.   No questions.   An occasional recount is needed when the vote is close but that can be as much fun to watch as a close horse race.

We cannot compare our politicians to horses but if we learn one thing at the racetrack, it is that training and past performance are critical factors to consider before we place a bet.   And people need to find out something about the people on the ballot before placing their trust in them as politicians.   There is far more than money at stake.

That is reason number four to support FPTP: You are putting your trust in people. You do not have to vote for a party. You can vote for a person, a person you trust, one who works on behalf of the people in your riding.   Parties do not have to keep their word.   It is difficult to hold a party accountable.   A person, your MPP, comes back for re-election and is accountable to the voters.

When you think about it, politics is about people.   That is reason number five to support FPTP: It serves people.   Elections are not about political parties, or party platforms or any of the parties’ broken promises (or, even worse, promises they kept that they should not have kept).   To put parties ahead of the people we choose in our constituencies is to give political parties control of our lives.   Political parties deal with ideology, broad solutions and power.   It is people who can deal with our concerns as individuals.

In that vein, you have reason number six to support FPTP:   It gets things done.   An election is a call to action.   It is when we sum the activities on our behalf of the previous government and our member and consider our collective needs for the coming term.   It is a time for change or a time to consolidate and it is the voters’ decision to make.

That leads us to reason number seven to support FPTP: It gives the voters control.   It means, the voters can quickly remove a government that becomes so convinced its ideology is right that it ignores the needs of the voters.   Both left and right wing parties have felt the wrath of voters inOntarioover the years.   The ability to change governments is one of the most important capabilities of FPTP.

When our votes are counted, we have reason number eight to support FPTP: We know who to call.   Your politicians are there to represent all the voters in their riding.   They can ignore you, if they dare.   They can even disagree with your ideas.   They might have to tell you why they cannot support your ideas, but, if they are good at their job, they might have an explanation that satisfies you.

That is reason number nine for FPTP: Our politicians are accountable.   They cannot get away with an answer such as ‘my party leader said I had to vote for it, so I did.’   There are no excuses.   The record of our politicians is there for us to examine.   They have to meet our expectations.

And, finally, reason number ten for FPTP:   It is hard to get elected and hard to stay elected. To be the first past the post in an election is no easy task.   The voters are demanding and ruthless with those who think there are shortcuts to earning our trust.   Should we ever ask for less?

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

A Conservative MP speaks honestly: that’s news.

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

David Wilks, MP for Kootenay, BC made news the other day. He spoke honestly and openly with some of his riding people. It was another win for having cameras in cell phones. He was commenting on the omnibus budget bill now being pushed through parliament by the Harper Conservatives. This Conservative MP admitted that he was unable to examine the bill properly.

It appears that Stephen Harper took his wayward MP to the woodshed when it was learned that Mr. Wilks’ comments were on the Internet. He had broken the rules. Back bench MPs are there to vote and say nothing other than they are told to say. Canada’s parliament is no longer a place for debate.

We are, of course, quite safe from any such shenanigans in Babel. The MP for Babel is not elected to think. He is elected as a Conservative nebbish who does what he is told. He accepts the pay and the perquisites of office without ever having to care, to think, to plan or to worry about anything other than re-election.

The MP for Babel is the king of the ten-percenters, the obnoxious grey, self promotion government mailers that come so often in our mail. He has never met a charity that he could not use to promote himself. You can always count on him to rush to his riding if there is another picture opportunity. He has become a master at inserting his name into government news releases without caring or understanding what they are about.

But this pathetic person should not be allotted all the blame. Who picked him to represent the Conservative Party in Babel? Are these Babel party members proud of what they have done? Does he really represent them?

And what does this say about the voters of Babel? Does this person represent them? Did they bother to ask him of his understanding or position on the issues of the day? Did they care to find out if this person could make any contribution at all to our country? Did the person for whom they voted have any qualifications to be a Member of Parliament?

Two years ago, we engaged in a thorough study of voting patterns and attitudes in Babel. With the electoral maps for Babel, municipally, provincially and federally being almost the same, we were able to use voter turn-out and voting tendencies from all levels to conduct the study. The information gathered was used to considerable advantage in the municipal election that year. It also told us who would win in the subsequent provincial and federal elections.

You have to recognize that Babel is made up of various communities. It is not a cohesive entity. It has no identity as a city. The traditional east end (north of the bay) still thinks it runs Babel. The larger numbers of younger homeowners in the south end do not even know the east end exists. Communications in the city is a fascinating challenge. There are no simple solutions.

But what we do know is that there is a strong and shared devotion to this country. If a city ever needed leadership, it is Babel. It needs people who can speak up for it in Ottawa. It also needs people who can speak up for it at Queen’s Park.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Police Chief Blair gets a pulpit.

Monday, May 28th, 2012

It has been almost two years since Police Chief Bill Blair’s people ran roughshod over human rights at the G20 event in Toronto. Canadians watching the news at that time were horrified at the failure of the Toronto Police, augmented by police from across Canada, to rein in a group of anarchists on a rampage and the following day taking their revenge on helpless bystanders by kettling them in one instance and brutally attacking them in others. We finally had an opportunity to hear Chief Blair’s side this past Sunday on Global Television’s Focus Ontario.

This program is considered a pulpit because it is speaker-friendly. Hosted by John Tory, a former leader of the Ontario Conservative Party and news reader Leslie Roberts, the public affairs program is not known for sand-bagging guests or being particularly tough in its questioning. Chief Blair was allowed to use this friendly venue to go on at some length about how his police are so good at facilitating peaceful protests for our citizens.

It is more than a week since Gerry McNeilly of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director issued his 300-page report condemning police actions at the Toronto G20. The report states that ‘It is fortunate that, in all the confusion, there were no deaths.’

For all the anguish caused and the 1100 people whose rights were ignored when illegally detained by police, the report only recommends that 35 police officers be disciplined. What the report lacks is a condemnation of Blair. He should have been fired immediately after the event. He asked the Attorney General of Ontario under what law he could keep citizens away from the G20 meeting site. He was given the wrong law, he had to know it was wrong and he did not question it.

And then he allowed inaccurate information to be spread about the law supposedly protecting the summit.

The event itself was a failure in intelligence in more ways than one. With combined resources from national, provincial and municipal police forces across Canada, Blair was unable to place sufficient police among the crowds to keep track of what was happening. He was blind-sided by some anarchists who could have been stopped. He left them to their rampage. They did it when he was responsible.

The anarchists were used as an excuse to come down hard on the gawkers and bystanders. The mass arrests were a disgrace for Canada. They were also a disgrace for the politicians who made no protests.

Prime Minister Harper was to blame for wasting our money on a summit in a stupid location. Tony Clement had spent enough on Huntsville for a dozen G20 events.

Premier McGuinty and his Attorney General were to blame. We never saw them when the police were trampling on citizens’ rights.

And since Chief Blair did not have the grace to resign for his part in this, he should be fired. He disgraced Toronto, our province and our country.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Leading with your left.

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

(This blog entry was first run on May 20, 2010. It is still a valid premise. It has been modified to reflect the changes of the past two years.)

They used to say that the Liberal Party campaigned on the left and governed on the right. It used to be true. When it failed was during the short tenure of Paul Martin as Canada’s Prime Minister. After the damage done to Canada’s social programs when Martin was Jean Chrétien’s finance minister and his so obvious ties to the business community, he had no credibility with which to campaign effectively from the left of the political spectrum. The voters did not buy it.

Since the days of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Liberal Party has tried to sit broadly across the middle of the political spectrum. It enables the party to attract both left and right wing candidates, supporters and voters. The party tries to be all things to meet the wants of the voters but slow enough to implement change to please the most stolid of the right wing. As a provincial party leader once explained to a group of unhappy left wing members of the party, no policy was going to happen unless both the right and left wings of the party could flap in unison.

For a left-wing thinker such as Herb Gray, who gave 40 years of his life to Canada’s Parliament, the rate of change was glacial but he never lost his humour or his belief that the party could meet its commitments to people. The same could be said about another long-serving left-wing Liberal, Lloyd Axworthy. Lloyd did much to meet the needs of the people in his riding and across Manitoba. These parliamentarians believed in the promises of the left.

But where does the Liberal Party stand today? There seems to be a question mark. And it falls on all Liberals to clarify the question. They have to stand to be counted.

Despite the voices calling for a merger with the New Democratic Party, there is no clear movement in that direction. When Stéphane Dion tried to form a coalition with the NDP, along with the support of the Bloc Québécois, it was never clear whether Michael Ignatieff rejected the coalition because he was more concerned about being seen out and about with the NDP or taking help from the Bloc.

Michael never stated his intentions. He ran a campaign on the right and lost to Stephen Harper. He ran on the right so badly that he lost to the NDP.

We never said that a merger with the NDP is the only answer. The Liberal Party could lose two right wing supporters for every NDPer being dragged kicking and screaming into the den of the enemy Liberals. What such a merger can do is return credibility to the Liberal Party. Social solutions can be promised by a clearly left of centre party and social solutions can be implemented by the party when in power.

We can have a national daycare program. We can strengthen Medicare. We can work towards a guaranteed income for all Canadians. We can make things happen.

It is up to all Liberals to speak up and be heard. If you want to fight Stephen Harper on the right of the political spectrum, he will laugh his way back to the Prime Minister’s office with a clear majority for the rest of his life. Fight him on the left—with the NDP on side—and you will have an opportunity to lead Canada into a greater future.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Be careful what you wish for.

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

THE DEMOCRACY PAPERS #9- Revised  It was in 2007 that The Democracy Papers were written to make the case for our first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting in North America. Despite changes being rejected firmly in Ontario and twice in British Columbia, people still complain. The complaints are understandable. No system is perfect. Neither is democracy but it is better than the alternatives.

There are many assumptions made about proportional voting. It is a panacea to some people to solve the ills of our society. It is a harmless change according to others. For people who know Canadian politics though it is neither a panacea nor harmless. It can send Canadian politics into a spiral from which it might never recover.

In Canada, we use first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting that we imported from England more than 200 years ago. Proportional voting has been used in many other societies that allow voting for almost as long. The basic difference between the two voting approaches is that FPTP is considered idealistic. It attempts to create a government of our best and brightest. It is designed to select the people whom we believe best represent us. It means we select the people to govern who are preferred by the largest number of voters.

The option proposed to Ontario voters in 2007 was mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting. It is a form of proportional voting that allows some members of the legislature to be elected in enlarged FPTP constituencies and others to be selected from party lists based on the votes for each party. An even simpler explanation is that FPTP voting is based on individual candidates and proportional voting is based on political parties.

The proportional part of the voting process seeks to represent society as it exists. In that sense, it is more realistic. It seeks to try to create an image of society in government by reflecting the make-up of the society. The proportional system allocates seats to the various parties according to the votes for each party.

But the problem with this attempt at mirroring of society is that it is being done with political parties. Political parties in Canadado not all try to mirror segments of their society. Parties such as the Conservatives and Liberals had some of their roots in demographics in the past but today are based more on ideology.

Federally, the two best known parties with demographic bases are the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party. The Bloc is regional and tribal, based on the threat of separation from Canada. The NDP is socialist and union based and originated from an earlier class struggle in what has become a mainly class-free society.

Factions such as the Green Party see proportional representation as their only entrée into Government and make it their cause. Proportional representation is also supported by some unionists who see it as an opportunity for short-term gains for the NDP. The requirement for a minimum of three per cent of the popular vote before seats are allocated would probably keep out parties such as the Communists and Libertarians.

Most political observers see one result in the long-term of proportional representation as a potential splintering of the right-of-centre parties.   They expect with proportional voting, the hard-line religious right will give up on the Conservatives and Liberals and form their own parties. With the dominance of Roman Catholics in the Right-to-Life movement, this could mean a separate party being formed by the Protestant religious right.   A growth in this factionalism could also lead to religious parties for the more extreme Muslim, Jewish and Eastern Orthodox sects that would put an entirely new complexion on Canadian politics.

While demographically based parties on religious or tribal lines are common in the rest of the world, this is not a road that most Canadians want to travel. Despite the bad example of ethnic infighting over riding nominations in the Toronto area in the last 20 years, Canada’s political parties have tried to stay away from ethnic or religious manipulation.   A recent lapse in this regard was Conservative Leader John Tory’s ill-conceived offer to support non-Catholic parochial schools in 2007.

Much is made of the desire of some people to have gender equalization in the Ontario Legislature. The NDP have promoted this by trying to have equal numbers of male and female NDP candidates. Nobody expects the results in the election will be gender equal. Hopefully, we will be represented by people of both genders, chosen for their abilities.

In a speech by a one-time political pundit many years ago, he made the point that political parties needed to make room in their ranks for all segments of Canadian society. To illustrate this, he made a somewhat tongue-in-cheek plea to have more stupid people in politics. His case was that there are likely to be some stupid people in Canada and they deserved to be represented just as much as anyone else. His entire argument fell apart when it was pointed out that the stupid faction was already well represented. For proof, one just had to sit through a late-night session of the Ontario legislature after some of the members had enjoyed their dinner hour in the press gallery bar.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

And the Star thinks OLG is hypocritical!

Friday, May 25th, 2012

If Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) Corporation is hypocritical about a casino in Toronto, what do you call the Toronto Star’s position? Will the Toronto Star state categorically that it will never accept advertising from OLG or any of its casinos or lotteries? Provincial affairs writer Martin Regg Cohn drew the line in the sand the other day for the Star editors by stating that OLG wants to create a moral stain on Toronto.

What claptrap! For a corporation in the business of disseminating news, opinion and advertising, the Toronto Star needs a good shrink. If the Star thinks it will decide the moral issues for Torontonians while maintaining credibility as an impartial disseminator of the day’s news, it needs counselling.

What the Star editors do not seem to realize is that it is legal to buy lottery tickets or go to a gambling casino in Ontario.  For Cohn to insinuate that there is something insidious about OLG encouraging Ontario citizens to gamble at its facilities is quite ridiculous. He says that the request to locate a casino on the Toronto Lakeshore is using location to legitimatize gambling. Would Mr. Cohn be surprised to learn that gambling has already been legitimatized? No matter where the Toronto area casino venture is located, it will be legitimate. And, if the casino venture is planned properly, it can be very successful.

Mr. Cohn is also appalled that OLG would use loyalty programs to endear itself to its gambling customers. Was he not aware that the Liquor Control Board of Ontario uses a loyalty program called ‘Air Miles’ to encourage drinkers to purchase more alcoholic products? Why, even Highway 407 uses a loyalty program to encourage the electronic toll road users to drive on it more often. What is Mr. Cohn’s problem?

Mr. Cohn says that these loyalty programs are insidious. He believes that alcohol drinkers drink more, Highway 407 drivers drive more and gamblers gamble more because of the temptations of free rewards and give-backs.

Maybe Mr. Cohn has been on the political beat too long. He should broaden his horizons.

But, in the interests of full disclosure, we did admit in a recent blog entry that we had an excellent dinner at Casino Rama, early in May, courtesy of that casino’s loyalty program. The evening continued with a spectacular sound and light show by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, courtesy of the casino’s loyalty program. We capped the evening by winning a few dollars at the craps table. This additional largess was not courtesy of the loyalty program. It was more the result of understanding the odds of the game and knowing when to take your chips to the cashier.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Comparing country’s capitols.

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

It was most interesting. After being in Ottawa earlier this month, we just returned from a week in Washington, D.C. We enjoyed both cities in ideal weather. Ottawa was in bloom and the Washington spring was teetering towards the grinding heat and humidity of the wetland’s summer.

You can be assured that casual breakfasts and fine dining still exist in both cities. Just take lots of money. Suspicions are easily confirmed that neither city represents its country. Neither city looks to its country for guidance. They are insular. They stand separate and apart.

The major difference is that the District of Columbia is America’s Mecca. It is a city of Ka’abas for the devout to circle and to worship. It is where Americans come for their Hajj. Washington is monuments, memorials, tributes, honours and shrines. It is America’s past and its future. It sits low in its architecture, kneeling to the Gods of the Capitol. Recognizing the power of the White House and the enormity of the Pentagon, the city lays before the hill rising to Arlington with its dead. It is the escape of the Beltway and the pleasures of Georgetown. It is one massive traffic jam.

Ottawa, regrettably, gets a bum rap. It is where Canadians come to stone the devil, not to worship. The city lacks the monuments, the tributes, the marble halls of history. The Parliament Buildings are a façade. The Senate is somnambulant. The peanut gallery in the House of Commons offers a tiresome theatre of the absurd. Debate is questionable, even in Question Period.

There is not even a marble memorial in Ottawa to John A. Macdonald, the man who imagined Canada. He is buried in a simple weed-infested family plot in Cataraqui, a town swallowed by Kingston, Ontario. His place of honour is Canada’s ten dollar bill.

Ottawa revels in its natural beauty, its restaurants, its museums, its parks and canal, its tiny lake and the majesty of its river. It is a city of pleasant summers and that thrives on the challenges of winter.

In that, it lords it over Washington, a city that has to shut down for a few inches of snow. Ottawa also lacks Washington’s pretentions. If you want to stay out of traffic jams in Ottawa, just stay out of the way of the civil servants on the Queensway in rush hour.

Ottawa might be all we have for a nation’s capital until Prime Minister Harper decides to move it to Calgary. We should enjoy it while we can.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Ontario could have done better.

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

THE DEMOCRACY PAPERS #8- Revised  It was in 2007 that The Democracy Papers were written to make the case for our first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting in North America. Despite changes being rejected firmly in Ontario and twice in British Columbia, people still complain. The complaints are understandable. No system is perfect. Neither is democracy but it is better than the alternatives.

Suppose a decision needs to be made about something important to you. And that decision is being made for you. Who do you want to make that decision? Do you want people whom you know and trust to make it? Do you want people who are experts in that field to help? Do you want extensive public discussion on the issues? Do you want to consider all the options? Or would you, in some wild state of insanity, decide to get a bunch of lottery winners to make the decision for you? That is what happened in Ontario running up to the 2007 election.

And what is worse, most Ontario citizens were not aware of it. Surveys, in August that year, showed that less than 30 per cent of the population knew of Ontario’s citizens’ assembly on electoral reform and the referendum to be put before the voters during the October election. Ontario citizens were mugged.

In one of the most capricious acts of government in Ontario since the Harris Conservatives decided we did not need to be so rigid about checking the safety of our drinking water, the McGuinty Liberals set a group of lottery winners to play with our electoral system.

Not that there is anything wrong with examining our electoral system.   First-past-the-post (FPTP) voting is no sacred cow. Examine it all you like. It took centuries to develop. Nobody thinks it is perfect.

But would it not be better to have such things studied by people who know what they are doing? What is wrong with learned discussion? Why could we not consider the pros and cons with people who understood voting systems and the political scene? Why were we instead being force-fed a single option? It was wrong.

The McGuinty government picked one voter from each of 103 ridings in the province and said ‘you decide.’ They turned this befuddled group of citizens loose without even a leader who knew about the question. Judge George Thomson had presided over family court before going to work for Ontario’s civil service at Queen’s Park.   He was on the same learning curve as his flock. The results show how little they knew.

The lottery winners voted for a system called mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting. This is a somewhat confusing system of voting where political party appointees can be appointed to the legislature to ‘top up’ party representation. Their job done, the lottery winners went home to their ridings.   It was the voters who were left to sort it out in the referendum that came with the October provincial election.

And they did not get much help.   Elections Ontario had been told by the government to spend what was necessary to educate Ontario voters. Luckily, Elections Ontario decided to spend less than $7 million on the task. They left the educational job to the various groups organizing pro-MMP/pro-FPTP campaigns and the news media.

The battleground turned out to be the Internet. The news media were slow getting into the fray, relying mainly on their own political columnists and talking heads. The one thing for sure is that nobody showed off their expertise. One newspaper column solicited from an assistant professor inVictoria, B.C. gave a glowing report on MMP, mentioning how it has been used in Germany with excellent results. The academic needed to extend his research a bit and he would have also found that MMP was a reluctant compromise in 1949 because of how Hitler’s Brown Shirts took advantage of proportional voting in the Wiemar Republic.

But then everyone needs to improve their research on this question. Platitudes such as ‘MMP will help more women and minorities get in the legislature’ are all very nice but nobody has offered any proof of that statement.

Proportional representation is the most common voting system in the world. The reason is because it is easier for illiterate voters to vote for a party symbol than a name. Mixed-member proportional is not as common. Mixed member means that some people are elected directly and some are appointed by their political parties. The pro-MMP people are usually selective in their examples.   Using New Zealand is a guarantee that not many Ontario voters would know much about that country’s politics. Far more Ontario residents would be familiar with the results of MMP voting in Mexico. Now why does nobody mention the Mexico experience?

The most vigorous pro-MMP campaigns was by the Green Party and NDP. These parties are under the impression that they will benefit the most from MMP. The pro-FPTP campaigns were slower to emerge because of the ease with which the pro-MMP groups label you as reactionary. Hopefully, more and more informed people will join in on the discussion.  We need to protect our democracy.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Thinking on a new Canadian Constitution.

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Victoria Day is a day set aside to recognize the foolishness of having a foreign queen as our head of state. It is a day set aside to thinking of how we can do things better.

And we can. One of the most serious weaknesses in our representative form of government is that some people vote for a local representative just to show their choice of the person they prefer as Prime Minister. That means we often elect some very useless people just to get a particular party leader. In Babel, this tendency is downright embarrassing.

We should think of ways to get the Prime Minister (President or Lord High Potentate or whatever) we want and still elect qualified, competent people to the House of Commons. Looking at presidential systems is one way to do it. Judging by our American neighbours, the main problem with separating the executive branch of government from the legislative branch it that they sometimes work at cross purposes and do not play nice. You can end up with constipated government rather than effective government.

Another way is to have the legislative branch of government nominate the chief executive. Maybe they could propose more than one and the populace could then vote on their choice. That idea needs more thought.

Many Canadians would probably like to stay with a more ceremonial form of head of state. That is a possibility but we would certainly want the person do more to earn their keep than the Queen and the current Governor General. There has to be more to the job than cutting ribbons, welcoming foreign dignitaries and signing bills. If you are going to sign things into law, you should have to take some responsibility for them.

As you can see, we have many questions about our head of state. And that is only a start.

And what are we going to do about the Senate? Is it worthwhile to have a House of Sober Second Thought? Should we make it a House of the Provinces to give a bit more influence to the country’s regions? There is no question but that Stephen Harper has destroyed the Senate as a serious opportunity to improve on House of Commons laws. He has created a Senate that just does as it is told.

House of Commons committees need to be less partisan, better staffed and given more time to do a proper job. We need to examine their relationship to the responsible cabinet ministers. And should we look beyond the House of Commons for our cabinet ministers? There is a serious imbalance in workload and authority of ministers today that needs to be considered. We need to go through the entire process, listen carefully to former members, ministers and staff on ways to make our government more responsible and effective.

We also have to stop thinking idly on the possible changes and start planning seriously.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me