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The Mess => Canadian Politics => Topic started by: MCG on June 30, 2004, 22:57:06

Title: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on June 30, 2004, 22:57:06
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Electoral reform moves higher on agenda (http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=4fb5b099-9464-4206-8745-5573c34d3275)
The Edmonton Journal

Ottawa - The minority government that emerged from Monday's federal election may actually lead to long-awaited changes to the way Canadians elect their representatives, says the head of a citizens' group.

"I think the issue is a little higher up the issues ladder now than it was a couple of days ago," Larry Gordon, executive director of Fair Vote Canada, said.

Under proportional representation based on popular vote, according to Fair Vote, the 135-seat Liberal minority would have been reduced to about 113 seats. The Conservatives would have won 91 seats rather than 99, the Bloc Quebecois would have been reduced from 54 seats to about 38 and the NDP would have won about 48 seats instead of 19.

I hope this is wrong.   I have heard several spins on what the Commons could look like under proportional representation and I don't like any of them.   In all cases the responsibility of the MP to a given constituency is reduced.   True Proportional representation would remove constituencies all together and MPs would be solely responsible to the parties that appoint them to fill seats earned.   This system would bring about an end to any independent MPs.

Compromises suggest 1/3 to 1/2 the house be filled by proportional representation while the remainder be constituency based.   This sounds nice, but again my voice gets obscured in a constituency that may now be four times larger (as constituencies will be merged to reduce thier numbers to a fraction of the house).   The MPs obligation to the individual is comparatively reduced as he is compelled to spread his time over so many more individuals with so many more concerns.

I think Canada would be much better served by an elected Senate.   I propose a Senate which is elected every 5 years & seats are awarded by proportional representation within provinces/regions.   The current seat distribution (by province/region) in the Senate does not need to change (but it would not hurt to give each province an equal number of Senators).   The effect of this would be that MPs are still just as responsible to their constituents while those people who are best represented by smaller parties can still have their voices heard through the proportional Senate.   This could even result in more independent & small party MPs as people would be less concerned with "strategic voting."

     :cdn:     


Note:   I refer to Senate "region" as I see the territories voting as a single block.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on July 01, 2004, 00:18:48
I am tempted to post something a little more indepth, but I simply don't have the energy.

I don't want to see any form of Proportional Represention in the House of Commons.  Even a mixed form, which has both representatives and members elected proportionally, creates a two-tiered system that still strengthens party politics.  The representatives of the ridings have to ensure they have the confidence of a plurality of their riding, or they will lose their seats.  Not so for PR elected members, who have to keep in the good graces of their respective party machinery.  Who decides how the PR elected senators are appointed?  Depart from the democratic vote to party infighting for higher spots on the list?

I think you are quite right on a better solution being in the form of Senate Reform.  I firmly believe in a Triple E senate; Equal, Effective, and Elected.  What is the point of leaving senate seat distribution the way it is (Ontario 24, Quebec 24, NS 10, NB 10, PEI 4, Manitoba 6, Sask 6, Alberta 6, BC 6, NF 6, Yuk 1, NWT 1, and Nun 1), this only leads to Ottawa and Quebec having to much clout in a federal system.  Australia has a Senate in which each of the six states send 12 Senators and each of the three territories sends 2.

I propose Canada's ailing federation be served by two House's of Parliament.  The upper house, the Senate, is the bedrock for support for regional issues.  Like the US Senate, each province of Canada would be alotted the same amount of Senators, regardless of population.  Some sort of inclusion of the territories is important as well.  The Senate would be elected for 6 year set terms, and would have independant legislative duties, acting as a check on the Commons.  I could see PR fitting a little better into provincial senatorial votes, but I still oppose it for the reasons highlighted earlier.  A mixed form of PR could be better, perhaps a preferrential ballot throughout the Province would insure a better mix and allow for independents.

Canada's lower House, the Commons, will remain as it is today as a representative of population groups.  We complain of the undue influence of Ontario and Quebec in elections, but we must remember that half the population lives here; they are the Majority.  With an effective senate we can remove rules prohibiting reduction of Commons seats; we can find a reasonable number that can define a riding a set the number of seats according to that.  I would advocate that the House of Commons would be elected on fixed 4 or 5 year terms (5 year terms could ensure that Senate elections and Commons election never fall on the same year, pros and cons?).  The Prime Minister would be from the leading Party in the Commons and select his Cabinet, on approval by the Senate, from other members of Commons.  As well, any appointments made by the Prime Minister (Supreme Court, Governor General, Auditor General) would have to be approved by the Senate.  As well, non-confidence votes (not even law, just convention) would be abolished, allowing for more free debate and free voting on the floor of both Houses

This Senatorial power of approval can do much to reduce the power that is highly concentrated in the office of the Prime Minister (our head of government has the most power out of any industrialized democracy, look what happens when assholes like Trudeau or Cretin get in).  I think a layout like this could place the proper checks and balances upon Majority governments and maintain the principles of Peace, Order, and Good Government that our Founding Lawyers...err Fathers built Confederation upon.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on July 01, 2004, 01:30:03
Thanks McG for posting a more productive thread.  Too many raw surfaces today.

Infanteer.  I agree with you.  :salute:

The direct representation of the House of Commons needs to be kept at all costs.  Maybe the first past the post system could be swapped out for the single vote transferrable.  (Rank the candidates 1 to umpty ump, last candidate dropped and votes assigned to the remainder - conservative leadership convention). At least that way the actual representative has some claim to a degree of support from the majority of their constituents and the constituents have an elected, directly accountable and responsible representative.

Likewise I think the Senate is the place for some form of proportional representation with elections being conducted by provinces and territories definitely but possibly also by natives, interest groups, and maybe even the federal government. If the idea is to get a house of "Sober Second Thought" and supply as many qualified viewpoints as possible.

But with two authoritative houses, do we need a tie-breaker?  Do we need to, as I suggested elsewhere, elect the Governor-General?  As we have all been reminded lately she is not without power.  She only lacks authority - the moral authority that comes from popular support measured in an election.

And again I will apologize for my comments on the other threads - but I will not withdraw them.

Cheers....
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on July 01, 2004, 02:20:16
I'm all for an elected Governor General (appointed by the Queen on the recomendation of the People of Canada) but I would keep the executive powers with the PM & Cabinet.  There are other ways of breaking a deadlock between the houses.  The UK has a system in which the commons can pass legislation that is opposed in the House of Lords by passing the act under three consecutive governments (or something to that effect).
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on July 01, 2004, 13:28:35
You are right McG.

PM and the government should be in the house.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Yard Ape on July 14, 2004, 14:05:15
You should make this a poll.
I'll go for an elected senate & GG.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Ryoshi on July 14, 2004, 15:39:51
I am certainly for Senate reform (the current version is effectivly useless), but at the same time, I do have some minor worries about too many changes to align the Canadian system with the US system. I'm not an expert in political science or the government systems, but to me, the US system is built on checks and balances with and overall purpose to block legislation and action. Each branch of the government checks and balances another, and unless you please a lot of people in a few different places/houses, your proposed legislation would be tied up for eons, if not flat out rejected.

On the other hand, the current Canadian system grants far greater power to the ruling party and especially PM, it seems to allow for far speedier change and action. While a lot of this has to do with getting elected with a majority government... Canadians on the whole seem to like majority governments. I like the idea of a government that is able to get things done, in terms of not being tied up by a million and one checks and balances to their power. Of course, the trade off is if the standing government or PM pushes through bad bills and policies.

Still.. I'm hesitant about placing too many barriers to a speedy and effective government. Even though it may not be particularly fast now, I don't see how adding more checks and balances would help speed up the process.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on July 14, 2004, 17:14:58
As has been pointed out on several political blogs, the whole "party representation" issue is a red herring.  Political parties don't really have any particular constitutional standing.  Parliament is composed of riding representatives who are directly chosen by riding electors (voters).  Party affiliations are an afterthought which helps to simplify governance (ie. figuring out which clique can control Parliament or the balance of power in Parliament), and there are some institutional characteristics that have been grafted on over the years (eg. funding based on party status).

No form of proportional representation based on party affiliation is necessary or appropriate.

As for transferable vote schemes to ensure each MP's tally is a majority rather than plurality, I am unconvinced that the sum of, for example, "first + second place" votes should be given greater weight than "first place only" votes.  Electors have a choice of voting for the best representative, or one who will be a proxy for the party leader of preference.  If an elector is lucky, both qualities reside in the same person.  Caveat emptor.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on July 14, 2004, 19:37:21
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I am certainly for Senate reform (the current version is effectivly useless), but at the same time, I do have some minor worries about too many changes to align the Canadian system with the US system. I'm not an expert in political science or the government systems, but to me, the US system is built on checks and balances with and overall purpose to block legislation and action. Each branch of the government checks and balances another, and unless you please a lot of people in a few different places/houses, your proposed legislation would be tied up for eons, if not flat out rejected.

Perhaps we can look to a "check and balance" system like the US and take what is best from there.   The very fact that 60% of the electorate that voted did not want the ruling parties means there should be some checks and balances to deter the near fiat rule we have today.

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On the other hand, the current Canadian system grants far greater power to the ruling party and especially PM, it seems to allow for far speedier change and action. While a lot of this has to do with getting elected with a majority government... Canadians on the whole seem to like majority governments. I like the idea of a government that is able to get things done, in terms of not being tied up by a million and one checks and balances to their power.   Of course, the trade off is if the standing government or PM pushes through bad bills and policies.

We seem to have had a lot of that recently.
-----

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As has been pointed out on several political blogs, the whole "party representation" issue is a red herring.   Political parties don't really have any particular constitutional standing.   Parliament is composed of riding representatives who are directly chosen by riding electors (voters).   Party affiliations are an afterthought which helps to simplify governance (ie. figuring out which clique can control Parliament or the balance of power in Parliament), and there are some institutional characteristics that have been grafted on over the years (eg. funding based on party status).

Isn't unwritten convention part of our Constitutional process.   Even the layout of the House of Commons, with a side for the ruling party and a side for the official opposition, lends itself to party solidarity (who wants to "cross the floor"?).   Even if Parties are not written into the formula of leadership that we use, we must give recognition to the de facto ruling nature of them when contemplating reform.   Perhaps we need to change the seating arrangement to one of a semi-circle or something more conducive to the notion of Edmund Burke's "deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole" as opposed to the factionalized groupthink we have now.

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No form of proportional representation based on party affiliation is necessary or appropriate.

At least someone agrees with me.

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As for transferable vote schemes to ensure each MP's tally is a majority rather than plurality, I am unconvinced that the sum of, for example, "first + second place" votes should be given greater weight than "first place only" votes.   Electors have a choice of voting for the best representative, or one who will be a proxy for the party leader of preference.   If an elector is lucky, both qualities reside in the same person.   Caveat emptor.

Too true.   We should look to improving the quality and abilities of our individual Parliamentarians rather than changing the way they are given their position.   Sending an idiot to represent you will not change if you give him or her a plurality, a majority, a majority of "frist and second" place votes, etc.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on July 14, 2004, 22:20:05
If the aim of reform were to achieve the good of the whole, we would be best advised to energetically pursue means of impoverishing (rather than empowering) parties.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Yard Ape on July 14, 2004, 23:07:48
Might an elected Senate do that?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on July 14, 2004, 23:13:23
I think measures to strengthen the role of the individual Parliamentarian are needed.  Eliminate the non-confidence vote, and make all members able to propose legislation, even that which deals with public funding.  As we have it now, too much power is centralized in the Cabinet and the Prime Ministers Office.  I would like to be able to go to my MP and have him effectively heard, rather then him being the frontman for those who yank the party strings.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on August 02, 2004, 19:06:23
You should make this a poll.
I'll go for an elected senate & GG.
Done.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on August 02, 2004, 19:53:25
I think the biggest advantage of splitting our executive and legislative branches would be to raise the profile of parliamentary votes.

We all say we vote for our MP based on his or her good qualities, but does that really matter?   In the end, we are voting for the party and its leader, who will form government on some sort of ad-hoc "electoral college" (the 308 seats in the house).   Traditional measures prohibit an MP from having any real effect on governence, unless your fortunate enough to have a Cabinet Minister in your riding.   Party discipline and solidarity can muffle even the best of Representatives.   You could lobby your MP until you're blue in the face to increase defence spending, but he/she is powerless to propose anything due to restrictions on backbenchers proposing bills that deal with the public purse.  

If we had seperate elections for for Parliamentarians and Senators, then there would be no need to get caught up in "national debates" and "leadership profiles", that could be reserved for the election of the Governor General (Head of Government, representing the Head of State); where he or she gets their Cabinet from is another can of worms.   Issues would filter down to a more local level, with Parliamentarians having a real voice in representing their seat (of course, some restrictions would have to be removed, as I stated above).

In between the local MP's and the national Governor General would be the regional Senators, who would probably do a better job in representing us then the superfluous Provincial Governments.   They would be the force of Federalism, ensuring that regional issues are properly addressed in a Triple-E Senate.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on August 03, 2004, 02:31:08
Are you suggesting a US style executive in which the Ministers/Secretaries are not elected officials?

While we have had cabinet ministers that were not members of either house, they are rare.  Even the unelected Senators rarely find themselves in Cabinet.  Because the executive generally is mixed into the House of Commons, opposition members have the ability to question decisions/actions of the executive directly.  I think this is good.  At election time, citizens also have the power to punish Cabinet Ministers that have done a particularly unsatisfying job.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on August 03, 2004, 03:27:20
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Are you suggesting a US style executive in which the Ministers/Secretaries are not elected officials?

Possibly; that's why I said it was another can of worms.

Obviously their are pros and cons to having a civilian appointment vs a Parliamentary appointment.

     I might say I am a little more inclined towards having a "US Style" system of civilian appointment followed by Parliamentary confirmation.   You could avoid conflict of interest issues in that a MP happens to be at both times a representative of his riding and of his Ministry.   If I am a citizen of riding X, I want my minister to focus on the local issues and dealing with pertinent legislation, not trying to manage the budget and deal with the nightmare bureaucracy that is the Department of National Defence.  
     As well, I do not like the fact that Cabinet appointments from the House of Commons creates a "two-tiered" system of MP's.   If you are lucky enough to have an MP who is an influential Cabinet Minister (Say you live in Edmonton Central), the issues of your riding have a better chance of being voiced, as opposed to if you are one of the other 270 or so ridings that are represented by backbenchers (even more pronounced if your MP is NDP or Conservative).  
     Finally, the 308 MP's and 100 or so Senators may not be the best choices for Minister of National Defence, whereas there may be someone who is not a legislator that would be excellent choice as a minister.   General Lew MacKenzie seems to be the popular choice for Defence Minister; an elected Governor General, regardless of party affiliation, could seek him out for the job figuring his credentials are more important then his appeal to his local electorate.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ags281 on August 03, 2004, 08:00:59
I have to say I'm not too keen on going the US route. Get a republican executive but a democrat legislative branch (or vice versa) and you will have the same difficulties as with minority government, except the deals are even more likely to happen behind closed doors. Not to mention the joys of dipolar politics   ::).

You'd likely be hard pressed to find strong support for switching cold turkey from our current system to a version of the American one among people versed in comparative politics - not because such a system couldn't work, but because it's chances of working HERE are not all that great. Turning things upside down may eventually be successful, but it would require a long period of working out the kinks, with at very best - and I'm talking fluke extended good luck streak here - equal chance of success as less drastic changes to the current system. Why accept greater risk of failure for no better chance of success? We're better served using countries with political backgrounds closer to ours as case studies (e.g. Aussies and Kiwis).

I think we should be looking at reform to our electoral system and electing the senate within our current basic framework. For the Commons I'd take either a MIXED proportional system or transferable vote, but dislike the current system and am dead set against a straight up proportional one. For the senate, a mixed proportional system would work well I think, though I could tolerate pure proportional, with provinces or regions as multi-member districts in either case.

Actually, now that I consider the two together, I'd say a single transferable vote for the Commons and mixed proportional elected Senate is probably my preferred option. This would cut down on wasted and strategic votes for local MP's, but satisfies the need for a more representative dimension in government with the senate, thus still keeping majorities in the Commons, well... common (no pun intended).  

An elected GG would be kind of nice, but the vote would probably have to be limited to a list of 4 or 5. While an elected GG could recover some of the position's former significance, such a change is irrelevant by comparison to the others.


ADD version:
- single transferable vote Commons
- mixed PR Senate in multimember districts
- don't care too much about GG by comparison, but elected would be nice
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on August 03, 2004, 12:48:56
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While an elected GG could recover some of the position's former significance, such a change is irrelevant by comparison to the others.

Actually I think you are wrong there.  The elected Governor-General is the most significant of all.  The G-G has many powers in law.  The holder of the position is only constrained by the lack of popular support.  A situation that would be remediedd if the G-G were elected.

Keep in mind that all bills are signed by the G-G, the G-G can dissolve parliament and choose the PM.  As well all of those "Prime Ministerial Appointments" to the Courts, Crown Corporations, Commissions, Civil Service, RCMP, DND, Senate, etc  .... all of those are at the PM's "recommendation" the appointment is actually in the "gift" of the Governor-General.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: hoser on August 03, 2004, 14:36:12
Have there been any (recent) instances where the GG has refused any of the "recommendations" of the PM?  What would happen in that situation?

I'm the one that chose option 3, but mostly out of a lack of understanding of the matter.  I'm not saying we should not have an elected GG, but I'm not so sure how it would work.  If the GG does have real power, and as you say, power over much of what the PM does, could there not be a problem if the GG had a conservative agenda, and the Liberals were in power (unlikely, sure, but what if)?  I'd like to think a GG could remain impartial to any party ties, but at the very least they're going to have a bias one way or another.  At least it seems to me, because they would have to campaign on some kind of issues.

Also, what length of term would the GG have, if elected?  If its too long, and there's a change in government, the GG could force a stalemate in government.  Too short, and you'd run the same risk, if the people elect a GG with vastly different views during the middle of the PM's term, because they don't like the way things are going. Maybe a system where if the GG refuses to make an appointment or sign a bill, there's an automatic recall and an election for his/her job.  Then again, that would make it beneficial for the GG to play kiss-*** to keep their job, and remove any sort of power that the accountability of an elected position would provide. 

If I'm missing the boat on something, please let me know.  I'm typing as I think here, so my ideas are more than likely full of holes.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RCA on August 03, 2004, 15:20:24
My feelings are the Executive branch must remain elective. In this way they are accountable to the House of Commons through having a seat there.

Leave the House of Commons as the status quo (except possibly a fixed term), and move to an elected Senate, based on equal number per province and based on a proportional system, and a fixed elective schedule staggered from the House of Commons.

 The Senate would then have final voice for all appointments from Crown Corporations, The Supreme Court, Bank of Canada, the Governor General etc. The Cabinet would not fall under this, because this is the PMs prerogative. The Senate has veto power, but can be overtunred by a 60-75% re vote in the House.

The GG remains the Head of State, but only has rubberstamp powers as she has now.

This only works if the Senate can be kept non-partisan. Once moving to an elected body, some form of hierarchy must be set up. For example who leads etc. Once this starts, it is very difficult to keep party politics out. The check is the staggered voting schedule for each entity. Other then that, I don't know how to keep The Senate above it.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on August 03, 2004, 17:54:13
I've come to completely oppose any form of proportional system of representation as it only serves to further entrench party politics.  I'd like to see each politician elected on his own merits.

RCA, you worry about the Senate being overtaken by political parties; don't you feel that a proportional system, which makes gives senate seats right to a party to decide on who to fill it with, will do exactly this.  Perhaps some sort of dual seat system could work.  For example, a province has 10 seats.  Each senatorial riding within the province has two seats.  The top two vote getters will get the two seats, giving you a senior and a junior senator from each riding; 5 senior and 5 junior senators go to Parliament.  I bet you about 70% of the electorate would have their voices heard if you could work something like this out.

As for an executive/legislative split, I'd say it is more in the realm of idea then Senatorial reform, which I believe is very necessary for the health of our democracy.  However, when we speak of this split do we necessarily have to draw immediate comparisons to the system the United States uses?  I know France and Germany both have systems with a President and a Prime Minister/Chancellor.  I believe in France, the President has more power, while in Germany the Chancellor seems to be the leading figure, but either way both countries have functional heads of state and government.  Could Canada function with an elected Governor General and an elected Prime Minister, each position with its own respective powers?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on August 03, 2004, 18:35:23
If memory serves and without checking fact, in the original US system senate members were to be elected by the respective state legislatures.  Should provincial senators be elected for two-year terms (staggered one in each year) by provincial legislatures, from nominations submitted by the public at large?

Note that the point of a short (two year) term would be to both discourage career politicians from entering senate life and encourage citizens to consider a two year hiatus in their private careers to serve in the senior legislative body of the nation.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on August 03, 2004, 18:51:47
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If memory serves and without checking fact, in the original US system senate members were to be elected by the respective state legislatures.  Should provincial senators be elected for two-year terms (staggered one in each year) by provincial legislatures, from nominations submitted by the public at large?

I am not sure if they were appointed by state governors or elected by state legislatures.  Either way, I don't like the idea for two reasons:

1)  I am not a big fan of provincial politics all together.  I think we would be better off without wasting time and energy on Provincial governments (ie: what do they do that the Federal Government can't?)

2)  If a Canadian Senate was composed of an equal amount of senators from each province, then you wouldn't see much variation among provincial "Blocs".  For example, using 10 as our magical number; what is to stop a province with an NDP majority from sending 10 NDP senators to Parliament, whether they are appointed or elected by the provincial government.  Seems to open up the Senate to cronyism and patronage, exactly what we are trying to eliminate with Senatorial reform proposals.  I'd prefer Senators to be held directly accountable to an electorate.

Quote
Note that the point of a short (two year) term would be to both discourage career politicians from entering senate life and encourage citizens to consider a two year hiatus in their private careers to serve in the senior legislative body of the nation.

Although I can see pros and cons to both long and short terms, I would err to the longer terms.  Short terms are not necessarily going to deter the career politician (look at the US House of Representatives).  I would like to see a longer term so that officials can properly enact and follow through with their proposals.  To counter this, perhaps more accountibility through a system of recall is neccesary?  The revolving door of officials in 2 year terms would make voting seem to be more of a chore, where we could never really get to know our representative.

If I were to peg elections and terms, I would work it like this:

Elected Senate and Elected House: Senate elections on fixed date in spring; 6 year term.  House elections on fixed date in autumn; 4 year term.

Elected Senate, Elected House, and Elected Executive (G-G): Senate and House elected on fixed date in spring; 6 and 4 year terms.  G-G election on fixed date in autumn; 5 year term.



Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RCA on August 03, 2004, 20:06:22
What I actually said was become partisan. This is the biggest problem, and  I can't think of a solution. Other then to mitigate its effects. Therefore the proportional system (I not a great fan either) would counter the "first past the post. Your MP is accountable to you, the constituent. The Senate would be accountable to something else [province (?)]. The province would pick from the slate of candidates based on the portion of the vote, so an NDP  province couldn't select 10 NDPers unless they had 100% of the vote. Or you break the province into areas, broken how ever, as long as the # of Senators are even and don't go over 10 (or 12 or 15 whatever). Example, Manitoba  - 5 from Winnipeg, 5 from the rest of MB, Ontario - 5 for Southern On, and 5 from Northern On.

You have a strong dislike for provincial governments (my guess an extra layer) but they are necessary in a country our size, because we are regional by nature. A solution that works in the Maritimes, won't necessarily work on the Paraires.
And I'm a strong federalist.

 In France, the President is head of sate and the executive, while the Prime Minister is head of government. In Germany, the chancellor is head of the executive and government, and the President is head of state.

Recalls won't work because antone with an axe to grind can play that card. Witness Arnold and California. Over the years our politics has become much more polarizing with parties doing anything to stay in power. Recalls would be just another tool for them to play.

For a Head of State, all we need some one to sign the bills, accept dissolution of gov'ts (not necessary on fixed elective terms), and show the flag. Therefore this person can be appointed, and confirmed by the Senate. An elected one, probably would be preferable, but it is a non-partisan post, and do we need another election and expense that will go with it (on top of elected Senators and MPs.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ags281 on August 03, 2004, 22:12:34
I am not a big fan of provincial politics all together.   I think we would be better off without wasting time and energy on Provincial governments (ie: what do they do that the Federal Government can't?)
Out of curiosity Infanteer, are you from Ontario?   :blotto:

Seriously though, the provincial governments are there to prevent people in one region from being screwed over because a federal government is more interested in the other side of the country (note that unfortunately this does nothing to prevent people from being screwed over in general). Feelings of alienation (e.g. Quebec and western provinces) would go through the roof if there was only a federal level.

I'd like to address a few more things brought up by people here, but have to run. I'll get to it later.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on August 03, 2004, 22:33:41
>ie: what do they [provincial governments] do that the Federal Government can't?)

Except for defending and securing the nation and promoting its interests abroad, everything - if efficiency is a consideration.  If we can spare no expense, then we are free to indulge in federally crafted one-size-fits-all solutions; no community need worry, for example, about deciding between whether to employ finite financial resources to build schools or roads.

But financial resources are finite, you say?  Well, then let's devolve the decision-making power down to the lowest level: province before nation, regional district before province, municipality or community before regional district, and family before community.  That way each group can decide at its respective level of responsibility how to meet its most pressing needs instead of its peers' most pressing needs.  If my community needs a walk-in family clinic rather than a MRI clinic, we aren't likely to be well-served if big government buys us a MRI clinic.

Everyone has problems they believe they could solve if only they had enough money and power.  Unfortunately the problems are different.  So, it is best to let people solve problems at the lowest possible levels.

The number of senators need not be identical for each province.  Unless the Senate has legislative power of its own, short terms should suffice for a role as a watchdog of legislation passed by Parliament.  Even with party cronyism, I would expect the Senate to have a more interesting and useful balance of ideological representation than Parliament.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on August 04, 2004, 05:15:25
Yeesh, I sure opened a can of worms with this one.

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Other then to mitigate its effects. Therefore the proportional system (I not a great fan either) would counter the "first past the post. Your MP is accountable to you, the constituent. The Senate would be accountable to something else [province (?)]. The province would pick from the slate of candidates based on the portion of the vote, so an NDP   province couldn't select 10 NDPers unless they had 100% of the vote.

What would happen if I wanted to run for the Senate as an Independent because I felt the NDP was to socialistic, the Liberals had too much entrenched cronyism, and the Conservatives had too many regressive skeletons in the closet?   Should I be denied my chance to represent my province in the Senate because don't want to submit myself to party politics?

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Or you break the province into areas, broken how ever, as long as the # of Senators are even and don't go over 10 (or 12 or 15 whatever). Example, Manitoba   - 5 from Winnipeg, 5 from the rest of MB, Ontario - 5 for Southern On, and 5 from Northern On.

That might be necessary.   Take BC for example.   How is a senator supposed to express regional interests as defined by someone living in downtown Vancouver (multiculturalism, environmental issues) as opposed to regional issues as defined by someone in a small Northern forestry town (International trade, health of the forestry industry).   Although I would argue that this may fall upon the Member of Parliament in the House to deal with, we probably wouldn't go wrong by giving "areas of responsibility" for Senators elected from a province.

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You have a strong dislike for provincial governments (my guess an extra layer) but they are necessary in a country our size, because we are regional by nature. A solution that works in the Maritimes, won't necessarily work on the Paraires.

As for doing away with provincial governments, the main line of my reasoning is that I think they are no different then the Federal government in the sense that they are macro-political identities.   My MLA, in far away Victoria, does about as good of a job as my MP, far away in Ottawa.   The fact that I need a representative to manage my political matters at two distinct levels is redundant.   I would prefer to see Canada built upon a dual system, a macro-political level where representatives work as part of the greater whole for national issues, and a micro-political level where citizens take a more direct role in determining local politics.

I'm looking at provincial roles, and I just don't see how giving them to a provincial government, with its own codes and laws, makes things more efficient or democratic.   For example:

Health Care:   Government management of Health Care has proved to be a farce, no matter what large bureaucracy manages it.   If health care was given to the local level to manage (starting with the individual citizen managing his own universal health care dollars with a Medical Service Account system), solutions could be tailored to meet local health care needs, rather than some large government bureaucracy deciding what is best.

Highways and Motor Vehicles:   Do the laws of physics change from province to province, requiring different laws and driving standards, as well as different requirements for road maintenance?

Education:   As with Health Care, does giving the responsibility to one big bureaucracy or another really affect the quality of education that a young Canadian can receive?   Do the provinces hold a monopoly on the truth that the Federal government could never exercise?   Let's face it, we need to increase the level of education for all Canadians.   All my provincially specialized education really taught me is that the Royal Engineers and Judge Begbie hung a few Natives in the mid 1800's and that White people suck for coming to Canada and oppressing the Metis pursuit for freedom....

Other trivial things: I find it absurd that an 18 year old Canadian soldier can drink in his mess in Alberta, but if is on exercise in BC, he is considered a minor.   Is important for the Province of Quebec that they avoid a "one-size-fits-all" Legal Age and go with 18, despite what the people of Ontario have across the river?   This is just an example of the many little silly discrepancies that divide the nation and exacerbate provincial differences, rather then promoting the notion of a Canadian standard.

I recognize that many of these functions may be to placate Quebec Nationalists and the like.   I would argue that the job of the Government is to ensure that we have efficient and good government, not to placate separatists and other sorts of regional chauvinism's.

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Seriously though, the provincial governments are there to prevent people in one region from being screwed over because a federal government is more interested in the other side of the country (note that unfortunately this does nothing to prevent people from being screwed over in general). Feelings of alienation (e.g. Quebec and western provinces) would go through the roof if there was only a federal level.

You don't think people feel screwed by the federal government for overrepresenting certain regions right now under the current system?   We suffer from a antiquated federal system that does no effort in attempting to alleviate regional tensions and provincial governments that are too busy trying to fight for their piece of the pie to really offer any solution.   When is the last time you ever heard of Provincial and Federal governments working together?

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Except for defending and securing the nation and promoting its interests abroad, everything - if efficiency is a consideration.   If we can spare no expense, then we are free to indulge in federally crafted one-size-fits-all solutions; no community need worry, for example, about deciding between whether to employ finite financial resources to build schools or roads.

I would argue that "one-size-fits-all" solutions are the only results of federally directed programs.   Perhaps we may need to tweek things to ensure that they run well, but I think the principle can work.   Take policing for example.   Rather then have a hodge-podge of different provincial and municipal police forces, with varying levels of capabilities and resources, why don't we better organize the RCMP to operate with the regional or municipal governments (which seems to be a big complaint these days), ensuring that local needs are just as prominant as national directives.

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But financial resources are finite, you say?   Well, then let's devolve the decision-making power down to the lowest level: province before nation, regional district before province, municipality or community before regional district, and family before community.   That way each group can decide at its respective level of responsibility how to meet its most pressing needs instead of its peers' most pressing needs.   If my community needs a walk-in family clinic rather than a MRI clinic, we aren't likely to be well-served if big government buys us a MRI clinic.

I totally agree.   Let the micro-political level handle the requisite issues, sending large scale stuff up to the macro level.   Why have two jurisdictions to fight over who gets what part of the macro-political pie, only increasing the level of duplication and redundancy?

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Everyone has problems they believe they could solve if only they had enough money and power.   Unfortunately the problems are different.   So, it is best to let people solve problems at the lowest possible levels.

My bottom line is that provincial governments are no better then the Federal governments at delivering services.   Either one just gobbles up public funds in the massive bureaucracies they span.   I'd rather have 1 massive bureaucracy in Canada then the current 11.   If effective regional representation could be found in the federal government (a Triple E Senate seems to be one method of moving towards this goal) I just don't see how keeping a provincial government with a hundred or so politicians and a couple tens of thousand additional bureaucrats would be necessary.

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The number of senators need not be identical for each province.   Unless the Senate has legislative power of its own, short terms should suffice for a role as a watchdog of legislation passed by Parliament.   Even with party cronyism, I would expect the Senate to have a more interesting and useful balance of ideological representation than Parliament.

Back to the topic of senators, I would demand that each province be given an equal number of Senate seats.   If we don't, we are in danger of lapsing the Upper House back towards a representative of population-based constituencies (ie: like the House of Commons), rather then a representative of regional issues.   Sadly this is how it is today; how can a province such as Nova Scotia or British Columbia expect any effective regional representation when Ontario and Quebec possess over 50% of the Commons seats and a little under 50% of the Senate seats?


----


Well, anyways, it's getting late and I'm starting to ramble on.
Hopefully some of this will get filtered out into a more coherent set of ideas in the ensuing scrum.

Cheers,
Infanteer
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on August 04, 2004, 14:19:54
You are not missing the boat on anything Hoser.

The G-G has real powers.  The only thing constraining the G-G is that in a P*ssing contest with the PM she would lose because he can always say "I have the support of my cabinet and/or my caucus and/or my party and/or the House of Commons and/or my constituents".  The one thing he can never actually claim is the support of the people of Canada because they never vote for him/her directly.  The G-G has no such backing.  If she were elected (by anybody - general vote, provincial legislatures, premiers, the Privy Council) then she could challenge the PM on decisions.

Welcome to the US.

Personally I like the notion of a one-term G-G (about 7 years) so that they are not tempted to run for re-election.  Also I like the notion of the G-G essentially being an arbiter deciding if the government should fall or if the opposition should be given a chance to govern.  She shouldn't be involved in executive decisions, I like the PM for that job.

However, the G-G as figurehead for the country, the Commander in Chief, head of the Civil Service and the Privy Council, I like that notion.  Something that attempts to set those agencies outside of Party Politics.

I also like the notion of a Provincial/Regional Senate for I believe, like many on this board apparently, and like Tip O'Neill that "All politics are local".   Or put another way my loyalties run outward, from my family, through my friends and communities to the world at large.  The farther you get away from me and mine the less claim you have to my charity.

As to representation in the Senate, I think that equal weighting for the provinces and territories is possible.  The Council of the Provinces? set up by the premiers gives one premier one vote.  All provinces and territories equal. The have thus already recognized the inherent equality of province. The council is effective - the premiers have powers - and the council is elected - all the premiers are elected.
 
A triple E council.   A model for the senate.

Keep the commons the way it is, although single vote transferrable might be better than first past the post.  You are still electing an individual to represent you and your rights, not a party.

Cheers.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on August 04, 2004, 16:35:17
>How is a senator supposed to express regional interests

The question is: whose interests should the senators serve and represent?  If elected by the people at large, they are simply another form of parliament with a slightly different balance of power (in my view only marginally useful).  If appointed by the PM or Parliament, they evolve to serve Parliament (an unnecessary function).  If appointed or elected by provincial legislatures, they serve provincial governments.

Having the senators serve the provincial governments as a check above Parliament suits my view.

The idea that all-powerful federal government should exist to set equal standards everywhere is seductive to people who believe their ideas are sensible and would, or should, be embraced by everyone else.  That is quite a conceit, isn't it?  I certainly do not believe that what I would like is what everyone else would like, or should have imposed upon them.  That is why I prefer a system under which people can - if they wish - agree collectively on different standards in different parts of the country, different communities, etc.  Rather than worry about what a majority might impose on a minority, I would severely restrict the power of the majority to impose in the first place.  That eastern Canadians can impose their social views on western Canadians, or that urban Canadians can impose their social views on rural Canadians merely contributes to alienation and frustration.  It is possible, and I think for the long-term political and social stability of a country necessary, to elect governments democratically while restricting the scope of power of governments.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on August 04, 2004, 18:11:11
I'd be agreeing with you Brad.  I like the idea of Senators as creatures of the provinces and in particular the legislatures.  Having terms that outlast the legislatures would, I think, tend to mellow out some of the more partisan aspects.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on August 04, 2004, 20:40:32
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The question is: whose interests should the senators serve and represent?   If elected by the people at large, they are simply another form of parliament with a slightly different balance of power (in my view only marginally useful).   If appointed by the PM or Parliament, they evolve to serve Parliament (an unnecessary function).   If appointed or elected by provincial legislatures, they serve provincial governments.

This is an issue that we can see-saw over.   I just happen to feel that the provincial governments don't properly represent the issues of their provincial constituants enough; they are at too large of a level to be effective.   Can you say that you've been pleased with the performance of your government living in BC in the last 12 or so years?   I'd prefer to be able to have a direct say in who I send to a Senate seat, rather then letting a politician perform another duty for me.

Yes, an elected senate is simply another "form of Parliament" in that it is representatives elected by constituents.   However, I think the fundamental issue is that a properly balanced Senate serves as a check-and-balance to the population based Commons.   If structured properly, it shouldn't allow politicians on the 401   beltway to gang up and dictate terms to the other provinces.

Hmm...I'm going back to the Federalist Papers....

(As an aside, Brad; would you happen to know why the US abandoned the state appointment of Senators?   Perhaps that event can inject a new viewpoint into the discussion; I'll look it up.)

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The idea that all-powerful federal government should exist to set equal standards everywhere is seductive to people who believe their ideas are sensible and would, or should, be embraced by everyone else.   That is quite a conceit, isn't it?

I think the idea is just as good as one of a split in powers between an all powerful federal government and all powerful provincial governments should exist to bicker over the resources of the state.   As I stated before, the existence of only two levels of government does not automatically require that all government policies be "cookie-cutter" in nature (ie; regional bureaucracies should be given the ability to modify policies within the government mandated parameters).

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Rather than worry about what a majority might impose on a minority, I would severely restrict the power of the majority to impose in the first place.   That eastern Canadians can impose their social views on western Canadians, or that urban Canadians can impose their social views on rural Canadians merely contributes to alienation and frustration.   It is possible, and I think for the long-term political and social stability of a country necessary, to elect governments democratically while restricting the scope of power of governments.

I refuse to cut Canada up into "Maritime Socialists" and "Toronto Urbanites", and "Western Farmers".   As I said earlier, I believe the province is still to large to present a significantly different level of government then the federal on in Ottawa.   A person in Thunder Bay probably has more in common with some from Brandon rather then someone in metro Toronto; even more extreme; some downtown Vancouverite probably has more in common with a fellow urbanizte in Seattle then with a logger in Northern BC or a fisherman in Newfoundland.

I refuse to cut Canada up into "Maritime Socialists" and "Toronto Urbanites", and "Western Farmers".  As I said earlier, I believe the province is still to large to present a significantly different level of government then the federal on in Ottawa.  A citizen in Thunder Bay probably has more in common with some from Brandon rather then someone in metro Toronto; even more extreme; some downtown Vancouverite probably has more in common with a fellow urbanite in Seattle then with a forestry worker in Northern BC or a fisherman in Newfoundland.

I'd rather not see Canada broken up into a patchwork of socio-political experiments; this is why I oppose the "third level" of Native self government as well, but that's another issue.  If I, as a Canadian, happen to lean to either socialist or free market tendencies, I shouldn't have to move to an area of Canada to fit with my ideology.  I'd prefer a more vigerous democracy that engages as many Canadians as possible, commited to compromise and determining the best solution for Canadian's as a whole.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on August 05, 2004, 02:08:36
     I might say I am a little more inclined towards having a "US Style" system of civilian appointment followed by Parliamentary confirmation.   You could avoid conflict of interest issues in that a MP happens to be at both times a representative of his riding and of his Ministry.   If I am a citizen of riding X, I want my minister to focus on the local issues and dealing with pertinent legislation, not trying to manage the budget and deal with the nightmare bureaucracy that is the Department of National Defence.  
What about a system in which the executive was chiefly in the Senate?  People could elect an MP to represent their riding in the commons, while they could elect to Senate the people they want to see in the executive (and as the check/balance to the commons).  I think I would prefer the current location of the executive, but this is an alternative that keeps it with elected officials.

On the issue of provincially appointed senators, I agree with Infanteer.  A province with a majority government could see its legislature stack the Senate with members of the dominate party.  Better to let the people decide.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on August 05, 2004, 04:53:51
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What about a system in which the executive was chiefly in the Senate?  People could elect an MP to represent their riding in the commons, while they could elect to Senate the people they want to see in the executive (and as the check/balance to the commons).  I think I would prefer the current location of the executive, but this is an alternative that keeps it with elected officials.

Interesting idea McG.  A Prime Minister is selected to lead the House of Commons while a Governor General is selected to lead the Senate.  Perhaps powers would be split between the two, with one acting as a check and balance to the other.  It would be a binary system; akin to the dual consulship of the Roman Republic.  Maybe it can be a senior/junior relationship; something akin to the relationship between a CO and his DCO or a Platoon Commander to his Warrant (ie: clear boundries of control and support).
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on August 05, 2004, 17:08:13
A search for information about the US 17th Amendment may find articles which discuss why US Senate elections changed to a popular vote.  Some of the pros and cons may not be as valid in the information age as they were when the amendment passed.

If a province is too large for disparate interests to be adequately represented by a provincial government, I fail to see how a federal government could do better and can not reasonably accept that it can even be "just as good as" provincial government.  All it means is the provincial governments should in turn devolve power to regional districts and municipalities.  To move power and authority to continually higher levels of government responsible for every-increasing masses of land and people is merely a recipe for inertia, waste, and dissatisfaction among those forced to "compromise" (ie. cede their rights to others).  People will naturally find their own cultural divisions regardless whether you care to partition and name them or not.  The issue is whether cultural differences should be respected.

On compromise and best solution as a whole: these are not the same.  Communism represents the gold standard of compromise, but I do not consider it the best solution for the structure of an economy.  To seek compromise may result in a total measure of achievement which is less than that obtained if people are freer to pursue different objectives in different regions.  The "best solution on the whole" may be to allow provinces and communities more freedom to chart their own courses.

If we don't conduct "socio-political experiments", or rather permit governments the freedom to pursue them, how can we learn what the best solutions are?  Publicly funded and delivered health care is endlessly advertised as the best solution for Canadians as a whole.  Is that true, or is it merely an article of ideological faith?  What information exists to prove conclusively that we could not have more access and greater quality under something less than complete public ownership?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on August 05, 2004, 19:26:32
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If a province is too large for disparate interests to be adequately represented by a provincial government, I fail to see how a federal government could do better and can not reasonably accept that it can even be "just as good as" provincial government.  All it means is the provincial governments should in turn devolve power to regional districts and municipalities.  To move power and authority to continually higher levels of government responsible for every-increasing masses of land and people is merely a recipe for inertia, waste, and dissatisfaction among those forced to "compromise" (ie. cede their rights to others).  People will naturally find their own cultural divisions regardless whether you care to partition and name them or not.  The issue is whether cultural differences should be respected.

I think we are both arguing for the same endstate (ie: devolution of power), we only disagree on the delivery (ie: should local authority flow from a strong national government or a strong provincial government).  We could probably exhaust ourselves running in circles with this issue.

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On compromise and best solution as a whole: these are not the same.  Communism represents the gold standard of compromise, but I do not consider it the best solution for the structure of an economy.  To seek compromise may result in a total measure of achievement which is less than that obtained if people are freer to pursue different objectives in different regions.

Don't you think that some measure of compromise is required to sustain a viable democracy?  In Athens, where every citizen was a landowning male Athenian, the lack of diversity allowed for less divisiveness amongst the citizens (although a good portion of intrigue still existed)  Regardless of regional location, the diverse nature of the average Canadian's ethnic and socio-economic background is bound to lead to many opinions, requiring a level of compromise within the public sphere.

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The "best solution on the whole" may be to allow provinces and communities more freedom to chart their own courses.

What is the point of having a federal government in Canada at all then?  If we are going to give most decision making capabilities to provincial governments, should we not just break things up into 13 independent states, leaving extra-provincial matters to ad-hoc arrangements between provinces as they see fit.

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If we don't conduct "socio-political experiments", or rather permit governments the freedom to pursue them, how can we learn what the best solutions are?  Publicly funded and delivered health care is endlessly advertised as the best solution for Canadians as a whole.  Is that true, or is it merely an article of ideological faith?  What information exists to prove conclusively that we could not have more access and greater quality under something less than complete public ownership?

I would argue that this is a matter of raising the level of understanding and participation of the average Canadian citizen.  Anyone who's looked into the issue at all understands that the current system is fraught with problems.  Even the most ardent socialist cannot deny waiting lists and scarcity of medical resources and technology that is increasing in cost.  If more Canadians bothered to look at their health care system and understand how it works, I think you would see a greater debate in the public sphere.

My guess is the answer to the question lies in a stronger grounding in civics and responsibility rather then a matter of dealing with federal-provincial relations.  Time to send the kids to Mr Dubois' "Moral and Political Philosophy" class.... :)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on August 05, 2004, 19:34:49
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The "best solution on the whole" may be to allow provinces and communities more freedom to chart their own courses.

What is the point of having a federal government in Canada at all then?  If we are going to give most decision making capabilities to provincial governments, should we not just break things up into 13 independent states, leaving extra-provincial matters to ad-hoc arrangements between provinces as they see fit.
Because as a federation we have a stronger international voice.  As a federation we can afford the tiny military that we do have.  The country has a larger (& more open) economy than would exist if it were 10 smaller countries.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on August 05, 2004, 19:56:28
>requiring a level of compromise within the public sphere.

Yes; the question is how large the sphere should be on any issue.

>What is the point of having a federal government in Canada at all then?

For some people (apparently not very many in Canada any more), the point is to defend the essential interests of the nation among other nations and guarantee the essential liberties of people ("negative" rights) so that they can pursue their own lives.   For other people, the point is to ensure all Canadians are the same and to arbitrarily pursue social outcomes ("positive" rights), which in turn necessitates erosion of essential liberties (aka "compromise").   The worship of sameness is not, contrary to recent portrayals, a Canadian value - it defies the whole spirit of "confederation", "two founding nations", etc.   Who is qualified to decide what is best for others?   Who has an inherent right to impose their view of what is best upon others?

A confederation of provinces (sound familiar?) with nearly all of the authority residing with the provinces would suit me fine. Why does federal government have to be big government, or bigger than provincial government?

Simply increasing Canadians' awareness of political process and specific policies will not yield best outcomes.   Different approaches to problems must be tried.   This is impossible unless the power to impose policy is removed from higher levels of government.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on August 05, 2004, 20:07:30
>Because as a federation we have a stronger international voice.  As a federation we can afford the tiny military that we do have.  The country has a larger (& more open) economy than would exist if it were 10 smaller countries.

Then surely we would be better off joined to the United States.  We would share in the benefits of a more powerful shared military, a larger economy, and a stronger international voice.

If you have reasons to believe Canada should remain distinct, then you should be able to defend distinctiveness with those reasons; and if you do, you must either:

1) Accept that there is no reason that distinction should not be extended to interprovincial relations and provincial powers within a federated government of limited authority;

2) Demonstrate why that distinction should be reserved for the 49th Parallel; or

3) Admit that your line of reasoning is intellectually inconsistent.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on August 05, 2004, 22:19:24
Then surely we would be better off joined to the United States.   We would share in the benefits of a more powerful shared military, a larger economy, and a stronger international voice.

If you have reasons to believe Canada should remain distinct, then you should be able to defend distinctiveness with those reasons;
I was not defending Canada being distinct.   I was arguing against dissolution (Infanteer asked why not rip the country appart, he did not ask why not merge with the US).  In that respect, my line of reasoning  is not intellectually inconsistent.  It just never attempted to address the issues you later raised.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on August 06, 2004, 02:52:27
Seen.  I perceived your remark incorrectly.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on September 11, 2004, 19:00:50
It seems that Ralph is ready to push ahead in Alberta and hold another Senator election.  While I think it is a waste of money doing this without an agreement between the provinces and federal government, maybe this will inspire our new PM to take a closer look at the issue.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on September 11, 2004, 20:31:53
I could see this idea getting more steam under the minority government.  I think two parties, the Bloc and the Conservatives (which have over half the seats), would like to move towards an elected senate in order for their traditional regional support base to gain more say in a Parliament dominated by Ontario and could possibly pressure Martin into allowing this to move forward.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Torlyn on September 11, 2004, 21:01:39
I could see this idea getting more steam under the minority government.  I think two parties, the Bloc and the Conservatives (which have over half the seats), would like to move towards an elected senate in order for their traditional regional support base to gain more say in a Parliament dominated by Ontario and could possibly pressure Martin into allowing this to move forward.

You've got that right.  If you look and CDN history, minority governments, while not lasting more than 2 years (on average) do seem to get more things done...  And in regards to the bloc & the conservatives, I was surprised that there hasn't been more collaboration between the two.  I know that there has been a shift in the Bloc to a more liberal-esque platform, but I believe you've got a point that if the conservatives & bloc align on these issues, they may force martin to actually do something about it.

McG - Alberta has done it before, and Mulroney appointed the elected Senator in 1990, but that was a political consideration in return for support with the Meech Lake Accords. Stan Waters was the senator, a one-time Reform party member, who (unfortunately) served for only a short time until his death in 1991.  Alberta still has two standing "elected" senators (Bert Brown & Ted Morton) for the seat vacancy from 1999 (which was filled as a patronage appointment by Cretién)  Given that we still have two senators-in-waiting (not sure how long they retain that particular title) I wonder if Paulie will do anything, except in the methods stated by Infanteer.

T
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on October 11, 2004, 02:29:36
Well, the Conservative/Bloc Throne Speech amendments call for â Å“a citizens assembly to review electoral reform.â ?  I had hoped they might have put forward an amendment calling for the government to explore an elected Senate.  This would be consistent with the Conservative's western support base, and the Bloc must be cognizant of the fact that any move toward proportional representation would see their seats drop.  Even a more vague call for Senate reform would have fit with the NDP platform.

I think the way we elect our members of parliament works (no electoral reform needed), but it needs to be complimented with an elected Senate.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on October 11, 2004, 04:32:44
Yep.  I don't think we need to invent any new mechanisms to strengthen democracy in this country; within the Offices of the GG and the Senate we have offices that can be retooled if necessary.  The key is to find a PM who has the cojones to loosen the iron grip of the PMO on policy making (and hence losing his own power) and put government function over personal ego.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on October 11, 2004, 18:14:36
I think the PM is going to get a lot of "encouragement" from the opposition to give up some powers.  And once powers have been lost the PMO will face an uphill battle to get them back.

On the other hand the struggle for power to control the agenda is neverending.

Cheers.

By the way, I am with those that think our instutions and their constitutional powers are largely in balance.  I wouldn't change the institutions.

I do think that a  combination of the Aussie Rules (single vote transferrable Commons and a split appointed/Proportional Rep Senate) combined with and elected GG would make for a nice balance.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Boydfish on October 23, 2004, 22:46:21
My two cents:

#1 - House of Commons.  Elected based strictly on population, with no "grandfather" or "balancing" adjustments.  That means that the 7 million people in BC and Alberta get the same amount of seats as the 7 million in Quebec, unlike now, where Quebec has 75 and BC/Alberta have 64.  One vote must be equal in every part of the confederation.  I refuse to accept any system that values ones person's vote over another simply because of where they live.

If we use Quebec as a template number of 93,333 for each MP, then the seat distribution looks like this:

British Columbia - 43, up from 36
Alberta - 32 seats, up from 28
Saskatchewan - 11, down from 14
Manitoba - 12, down from 14
Ontario - 122, up from 106
Quebec - 75, unchanged.
New Brunswick - 8, down from 10
Nova Scotia - 10, down from 11
Newfoundland & Labrador - 6, down from 7
Yukon - 1, unchanged.
NWT - 1, unchanged.
Nunavut - 1, unchanged.
PEI - 0, down from 4(I'll get to this in a bit, but fear not, oh great potato farmers by the sea)
Total: 322, up from 308

The seat totals would be adjusted by the most recent census in every "zero" year.

#2 - Senate.  Equal, "selected" and effective.  Each province gets 5 senators and each territory gets 1 senator.  Instead of fighting over if they should be elected, appointed, chosen by lot or whatever, each province selects it's own method for how it comes up with the 5 people they send.  If Quebec and Ontario want appointed ones, they appoint. If BC and Alberta want elected, they elect.  Simple, no?

The Senate becomes the check on tyranny of the majority.

#3 - Governor General.  I mentioned this in another thread, but the GG position is disbanded and replaced in function by the provincial LG's.

#4 - Prince Edward Island.  In blunt terms, it's too small in geography and population to be a province.  It skews seat totals and representation, which leads to the current circumstances where a vote in PEI is worth three times as much as a vote in BC.  Either PEI ends up under or over represented as a result, most often over.

On the other hand, the idea of scrapping provinces due to inconvienience is not a practice that I'd support or want to create a history of doing.  The other nine provinces shouldn't be able to vote a tenth out of existence and I won't even dignify the idea of the confederal government being given such an authority(The provinces make up the confederation:  Without the confederation, the provinces are still there, but without the provinces, the confederation is nothing.).  The next Trudeau or Cretin would have the confederation reduced to Ontario, Quebec and "dem other places" in no time.

As a one off suggestion, I'd say move the confederal "seat of government" to PEI from Ottawa.  Just like the US and Australia, the "seat of government" would have no local representation beyond municipal government, instead relying on the obvious economicl benefits of having the confederal government located there.

It would neatly remove the problem of a small municipality sized province, but in such a fashion that would prevent future abuse by confederal or ganging up by the other provinces.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: bossi on October 23, 2004, 23:49:17
My thanks to Boydfish for crunching the numbers, since it was one of the issues I wanted to address.

I feel for PEI, however ... it has a population roughly the size of Scarborough, Ontario ...
(i.e.sorry spudsters, but ... size does matter).

Also - I'm against the NDP brainfart idea of proportional representation in the House of Commons, simply because of the instability it has caused in other national governments (e.g. Italy - how many governments since 1945 ... ?)

Presently the Senate consists of patronage appointments, stacked by whichever party was in power ... pathetic, in other words.  Similarly, the ridings seem to be divided whenever it suits the governing party ... instead of an impartial, transparent system.

We do need a system of checks and balances - the unadulterated arrogance of "Papa Doc Crouton" must not be allowed to repeat itself (can you believe it?  He spent $15 million of our tax dollars on travel during his last two years in office ... plus the Challenger jets that were ram-rodded through at the end of the fiscal year ... plus the billion dollar boondoggle gun registry ... and our Navy STILL doesn't have replacements for the SeaThings ... simply because some snot-nosed Liberal party pollster fartcatcher who wears red suspenders to bed at night came up with the catchphrase "... Me, I drives a Chevrolet, nots a Cadillac ..." instead of admitting that the North Atlantic is just a teeny bit more dangerous than taking the taxpayers for a ride ...)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on November 17, 2004, 22:07:54
More movement in the wrong direction:

Quote
Ottawa may open debate on electoral reforms
By BRIAN LAGHI
From Monday's Globe and Mail
15 Nov 04


A federal plan is being developed that could lead to the launch of a sweeping review of the electoral system by opening up a national debate on everything from the first-past-the-post system to voter malaise.

Sources have told The Globe and Mail that Liberal deputy House leader Mauril Belanger is preparing a blueprint that would provide the public with a forum where it could express its views about the system, including the first-past-the-post structure under which the House of Commons is elected. Crucial issues like declining voter participation, youth engagement, fixed-date elections and political finance reform would also be open to discussion.

The minister has yet, however, to have his idea approved by Prime Minister Paul Martin, who has not seen Mr. Belanger's proposal. Approving the plan is fraught with risks for Mr. Martin, because, once he starts the process he would be bound to seriously consider its recommendations, which may not play to the Liberals' political advantage.

If it goes ahead, Ottawa would be following in the footsteps of several Canadian provinces, which are deep into their own deliberations over how to change their systems.

Sources said one notion being considered by the minister is for a series of five or so regional town-hall meetings, where citizens, academics and other groups would be asked to provide their views and suggest changes.

"It's an idea to take the pulse of the nation," said a source, who asked not be identified.

"The curve has been set by the provinces. We're simply following it."

A citizens assembly in British Columbia, for example, has already suggested that the province's traditional voting structure, which sees members elected in riding-by-riding competitions, be replaced by the single transferable ballot, a system that allows for multiple members to be elected from much larger geographical constituencies.

Residents will vote on the idea in a provincial referendum next spring.

Sources said the deliberations could be fashioned along the lines of those featured during the recent commission on health care, led by former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow. Mr. Romanow held public meetings as well as a massive focus group exercise, which presented participants with specific choices on what they wanted to see in a reformed health system.

The results of the work would be simply presented as information to Mr. Martin, and could conceivably become part of the government's platform for the next election.

The NDP â ” which would be warm to the idea of a review â ” has been in the forefront of the discussion on electoral reform and supports introducing proportional representation to the system. PR, as it is known, is a system under which the number of seats a party wins is fixed by the percentage of popular vote it garners. In other words, a party receiving 15 per cent of the votes would receive 15 per cent of the seats to the House of Commons.

PR would help smaller parties like the NDP, while reducing the seats of parties like the Liberals. The government, for example, earned 45 per cent of the votes in Ontario in the previous election, and came away with 75 per cent of the seats.

Mr. Belanger was given his mandate to look into reform issues when appointed by Mr. Martin in the summer. Sources said the fact that the PM has kept up a running interest in the issue could make it difficult for him to reject some sort of a public process. Mr. Martin also could have done away with the portfolio in the summer cabinet shuffle.

The Prime Minister also gave democratic transformation a boost in the recent Throne Speech when he bound his government to examine "the need and options for reform of our democratic institutions, including electoral reform."

The House of Commons standing committee on procedure and house affairs has also been asked to develop a process to study the issue.

If Mr. Belanger gets the nod, he could kick off the process as early as January.

Later this week, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is expected to announce the formation of a citizens assembly to look into the issue. Other provinces dealing with the issue include New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on November 18, 2004, 20:45:09
Quote
PM vetoes Alberta's Senate proposal
By BRIAN LAGHI and KATHERINE HARDING
From Thursday's Globe and Mail (19 Noc 04)


Ottawa and Edmonton â ” Ralph Klein's hopes to have elected senators from Alberta sit in the Red Chamber were dashed by Paul Martin yesterday, despite what the Premier took to be a pledge from the Prime Minister to act on the issue.

Mr. Martin, who is charged with appointing senators, told the House of Commons yesterday that Senate reform cannot be done on a one-off basis. Three of Alberta's six seats in the 105-member Senate are vacant.

â Å“I have long been an advocate of Senate reform. However, I do not believe that doing Senate reform piecemeal would really bring us the desired result,â ? the Prime Minister said in Question Period.

â Å“What it could quite well do is simply exacerbate a number of the problems. What I think we should do is look at Senate reform but look at it in its entirety.â ?

His comments came as a surprise to Mr. Klein, who said this week that the Prime Minister had told him privately a year ago that he would look favourably on making such appointments.

â Å“He's very disappointed. . . . This is unexpected,â ? said Marisa Etmanski, Mr. Klein's spokeswoman.

â Å“[Mr. Martin] is also not giving us a good reason.â ?

She said Mr. Klein viewed the idea of an elected Senate as an â Å“opportunity for the Prime Minister to prove he's serious about listening to Western Canada issues.â ?

The Prime Minister was answering criticisms yesterday from Opposition Leader Stephen Harper, who asked Mr. Martin to drop his long-standing opposition to naming elected senators.

Mr. Harper has said that, if elected, he would appoint elected senators.

Conservative MP Dave Chatters added his voice to those calling for the appointments, telling Mr. Martin that it would be a good way to address western anger.

â Å“The time has come for this Prime Minister to listen to Albertans,â ? said Mr. Chatters.

â Å“If he really wants to address western alienation, the time is now.â ?

The party's critic for intergovernmental affairs, Rona Ambrose, also noted that appointing a member to the Senate does not require a constitutional amendment.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney appointed the late Stan Waters in the early 1990s after a similar Alberta vote.

However, other nominees have not been, while the Liberal government refuses to reopen the debate.

Next Monday, Albertans will go to the polls in a special Senate election taking place alongside the provincial vote.

Ten people, including Link Byfield, the former publisher of the defunct Alberta Report magazine, are candidates in the contest, which will cost the province $3-million to run.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MissMolsonIndy on December 18, 2004, 07:01:21
Canada could definitely stand to undergo further democratic reform, and implement some of the proposals made: a Triple-E Senate, A form of Proportional Representation in terms of the Electoral Regime or the Single-Transferable Vote System, as well applying a more controlled and fixed system, like in the United States, for the calling of elections (as of present, the Prime Minister with the approval of the Governor General can call an election at any given time during his/her period of office).

As mentioned, the method in which the American people choose their head of state is more democratic than that of Canada: the American populace is able to, at the grass-roots, choose who will head their part of choice, instead of having the political party choose for them.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: JayJay on December 19, 2004, 02:17:17
  Okay, so there is a stability issue with PR, but, SMP is expensive, and isn't truely representative of the population.  Sure under PR there would be less in the lines of constituencies, but, because of the formation of coalition governments, those who believe that some of the fringe parties (which some have excellent platforms by the way) are given at least 1 seat in the house.  And, on top of that, SMP is a two party system, and is outdated in Canada by a longshot....we just have too many parties and too many people pissed off with what we have....maybe a senate reform would work, I'm not so sure.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 19, 2004, 02:52:58
We are circling around an issue which is the real killer of democracy here in Canada, and in many other nations as well: Career Politicians.

No matter what arrangements we propose, as long as people are motivated by greed, fear, lust for power and all the other factors we remember from Maslows hierarchy of needs, they will "work the system" for their benefit, not ours. Gold plated pensions and 20% pay hikes are the most obvious symptoms, but really, any sort of innovation which would crack open the door and allow some other group to gain some control is vigorously resisted.

The Greeks of the Classical period used a system of random drawings from the eligible population to create their assembly, jurors, civil service posts and often "Generals" (alternatively, Generals could be elected by the assembly. Each Polis was different). Since the drawing of lots was done on a yearly basis, there was a built in term limit; after a year, the odds were someone else would be selected for the higher level posts. One year was enough to do a job, but not really enough to learn how to manipulate the system. Only skilled orators and demagogues could consistently sway the assembly and be elected to posts like General, but even then, their actions were always under fairly close scrutiny.

While having a lottery might not be the best way to get MP's and Senators in todays world, the idea of strict term limits and accountability would certainly go a long way to curbing abuses. As an example, City Council in Phoenix Arizona is constrained to a two term limit, and taxes apparently have not risen in the last 11 years! Having a constant stream of "fresh blood" and ideas coming through the ranks of Government would probably crack open many of the mental log jams which hinder Canada (you can pick which log jam to break).

My suggestion; each elective office can only be held for two terms. This would give people enough time to take on fairly large projects and see them through, and a person who was interested in a "long term" career in politics would have to win their Commons seat twice, then run for senate and win that seat twice.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RCA on December 19, 2004, 14:14:38
The problem with term limits is that you wash away the good with the bad. The are many MPs plugging along doing the work they were elected for and doing a good job for their constitants.

Set term limits on Cabinet postions would be more effective. That is were the power corrupts thing happens.

Electors vote for their local MP (or MLA, Mayor., whatever). Thats the term limit. Don't like his policies or direction, out he goes. Move away from party loyalty. Its the electorate who need to become more involved not setting artificial limits
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 19, 2004, 21:16:00
There is no ideal system, true, but consider our disfunctional Medicare system is still being debated in terms framed in the 1960's, and US Social Security is based on assumptions current in the 1930's, so a little new blood is needed. As well, "the good" will be valuable in any other career path they choose, so having a time out for a term in office will not hurt them.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on December 20, 2004, 13:19:45
A couple of ideas, just off the top of my head.

Eliminate the Party System.
Directly elect our PM who's job it would be to create a coalition from the other elected MP's to form his cabinet.
This means that we would have to rethink our current confidence measures in the House of Commons in essence making every vote except perhaps the budget a free vote. This would allow MP's to vote with their constituents instead of some party line.

Retain the Senate but institute Alberta's Triple E resolution. In order to save on cost and to represent the provinces, have the election of Senators done on a PR system that is tied directly to the results of the federal election. The Proportional Senators "elected" through the PR system are then selected from a list compiled by the Provincial Legislature.

I know many here have a problem with the PR system but I think it is a better way to go, it is certainly more democratic. Under STV constituancies still exist, just on a larger scale. The complaints that individuals would loose touch with their MP's in my opinion is not well founded and I think having a multi member constituancy could help that connection. For example let's just say that you are a Libertarian but none of your guys were elected. You would have the freedom to approach any of the 2,3 or 4 MP's elected in your riding on any issue. You could approach a Conservative candidate about governmental interferance in business and a Liberal MP on questions of the legalization of Pot.

As far as stability goes The Republic of Ireland has had a fully functioning STV system since the 1920's and their parliaments have been stable. Malta also has a PR system and they have a 2 party state so the balkanization of political views does not necessarily have to happen and will only happen if the people want those choices available.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 20, 2004, 14:34:49
I don't get it.

Eliminate the Party System.
Directly elect our PM who's job it would be to create a coalition from the other elected MP's to form his cabinet.
This means that we would have to rethink our current confidence measures in the House of Commons in essence making every vote except perhaps the budget a free vote. This would allow MP's to vote with their constituents instead of some party line.

Quote
For example let's just say that you are a Libertarian but none of your guys were elected. You would have the freedom to approach any of the 2,3 or 4 MP's elected in your riding on any issue. You could approach a Conservative candidate about governmental interferance in business and a Liberal MP on questions of the legalization of Pot.

You say eliminate the political party system and then you advocate STV on the basis that more party participation would strengthen democracy.

The reason I oppose most PR variations is that they only serve to strengthen the role of parties.  I am not really a fan of the parties as they only weaken representative democracy and encourage group-think.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on December 20, 2004, 23:21:40
Infanteer, I guess I wasn't clear I wasn't talking about the Libertarian Party, Liberal Party or Conservative Party but of ideological points of view which people may hold.

While a pure PR List system may strengthen the party system because the party itself decides how candidates appear on the list the STV does not as it is the individual voter who decides which candidate they feel will represent them the best.

BTW, the elimination of the party system will never happen, they are too ingrained into the psyche of the populous and they are too powerfull as institutions. It might be possible when forming a democracy but not once one has been in existence since 1867

I personally believe that what some see as a drawback of the STV system (the proliferation of parties) is actually a bonus. To have more points of view in our house of commons representing the varied and diverse points of view of the people of Canada is a good thing not a bad one. Also for the people a minority or coalition is a good thing as well, no four year dictatorships, no Cretien style vanguard party to impose a my way or the highway brand of non-leadership.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 21, 2004, 11:03:44
I don't see how you could eliminate the party system. In terms of the Constitution, parties are not mentioned at all. In a practical sense, parties represent the gathering of people with common interests. Liberals, for example, are interested in getting and controllong your tax dollars for their purposes  :rage:.

PR systems, encourage small parties with limited constituencies, and have historically resulted in fragmented coalition governments which are not stable. First past the Post is designed for accountability, but as we see here in Canada, this is not a garunteed outcome. The American Electoral College system ensures candidates must reach to and appeal to a broad range of constituencies, in the 2000 election Al Gore gained most of the urban vote (and hence most of the popular vote as well), but because his message did not appeal to middle and rural America, he didn't win the electoral college votes in most of the American States, and so lost the election. A look at the map of "Red" vs "Blue" states shows a similar pattern repeated in 2004.

Perhaps rather than argue about how we elect our governments, we focus more on what we want our governments to do, and how they achieve these goals. Bloated government payrolls and officials who refuse to be held accountable are two huge problems which won't go away under any system, but can be attacked by voter action rather than voter apathy.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on December 21, 2004, 12:44:28
PR systems, encourage small parties with limited constituencies, and have historically resulted in fragmented coalition governments which are not stable.

Stable is a relative term. Ireland has had stable governments under the STV since the 1920's each lasting 3 to 4 years. Malta also has a stable 2 party system under STV.

Quote
First past the Post is designed for accountability

I'd disagree with this statement, it is designed to give the party a clear cut mandate to rule in spite of the % of people who vote for it nationaly. SMP also penalizes small parties and overrepresents regionaly based parties. Obviously accountability is not something we have here in Canada, on that we can agree. Gun registry anyone?

Quote
Perhaps rather than argue about how we elect our governments, we focus more on what we want our governments to do, and how they achieve these goals. Bloated government payrolls and officials who refuse to be held accountable are two huge problems which won't go away under any system, but can be attacked by voter action rather than voter apathy.

Good point. Sounds like an interesting thread.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on December 27, 2004, 03:00:57
Directly elect our PM who's job it would be to create a coalition from the other elected MP's to form his cabinet.
Interesting option (and I would suggest the deputy PM should probably be chosen the same way as the PM); however, potentially destabilising.  Being the only nationally elected seats in the House, the GG would not have the option to look to another party leader in the event of a non-confidence vote.  The country would automatically be sent to a vote.  Could it also lead to a majority opposition?  Would it work & has it been done anywhere else?

The reason I oppose most PR variations is that they only serve to strengthen the role of parties.
I think a PR system would strengthen the role of small parties at the expense of the current powerful parties.

I still think the best approach is to continue to elect MPs in the same fashion that we always have.  It ensures that every MP is accountable to a defined constituency (if we Canadian's have not been holding our specific MPs accountable that is another storey).  I like the idea of a PR (or even STV) Senate.  This chamber would see more parties, reflecting a broader cross-section of Canadian society, it would reduce the strength of the powerful parties in both houses, yet it would not have the option of a non-confidence vote against the government.  With the Senate as a buffer on the power of the powerful parties, there may be an increased tendency to vote independents as MPs (vice strategic voting for the MP supporting the desired PM) and thus increased accountability of all MPs to constituents.

. . . or maybe I'm blinded by some sort of utopian optimism.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on January 20, 2005, 01:54:34
It seems that PR systems are becoming more popular at the provincial level.
Quote
Partial proportional voting urged for N.B.
Province following on moves by Quebec, B.C., PEI and Ontario to consider changes
Wednesday, 19 Jan 2005
Canadian Press


Fredericton â ” The New Brunswick government says it will consider sweeping changes to the province's electoral system, including partial proportional representation.

New Brunswick's Commission on Legislative Democracy released its final report on Wednesday, recommending the Maritime province move to a mixed-member proportional representation system to try to revive flagging public interest in politics.

â Å“Voter turnout is dropping, youth participation in the electoral process is low, trust and confidence in our democratic institutions have declined and many citizens believe they have insufficient voice in the decision-making process especially when major issues are involved,â ? commission co-chairman Lorne McGuigan said.

New Brunswick joins British Columbia, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Ontario in moving toward major electoral reform.

The New Brunswick commission is recommending a referendum to find out whether New Brunswickers want to continue with the current, first-past-the-post system or to modify it by including an element of proportional representation.

Under the model proposed by the commission, 36 single-member riding seats would continue to be elected using the first-past-the-post system.

Twenty other members of the legislature would be elected from a pool of candidates within four regional districts, based on the party vote.

Kelly Lamrock of the Opposition Liberals in New Brunswick, said the mixed system might be too complicated.

â Å“If voters can't understand how to get someone elected, I don't know how it will work,â ? Mr. Lamrock said.

Premier Bernard Lord said only that it is important to nurture and renew democracy. He said the report and its 89 recommendations will be considered.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20050119.wnewb0119/BNStory/National/
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on January 20, 2005, 09:53:10
Hi all, this topic is sort of a response to the PR/Elected Senate topic. It is a fairly long essay but I thought it might be worthwhile to post it here as some people have bought the First-Past-The-Post myth hook line and sinker and it offers a different perspective.

Although I think this is unlikely, for reference purposes (and coppyright) the essay is mine so if you want to use any of the information in it formally please PM me for permission.

Enjoy

Straw Man Arguments:
 A Comparison of Electoral Systems in Ireland and the United Kingdom


   Supporters of the Single Member Plurality (SMP) systems are often prejudiced against the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, or any other method of proportional representation for that matter, based on the perception that all such systems create a balkanization and proliferation of political parties.  Another point of criticism of STV, is that the systems proportionality causes governmental instability through the lack of clear majorities, which in turn results in continuous coalition governments.

   This essay will focus on the electoral systems of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. In it I will prove, through a most similar systems analysis that many of the prejudices against STV such as the balkanization and proliferation of minor parties and inherent instability of governments that use it are not valid arguments against the Irish STV system.

   In order to effectively compare the voting systems used by the subject nations they must first be explained.  The SMP system, also called First-Past-The-Post, is the most simple to calculate and understand of all electoral systems.  Under this system votes are cast for a single candidate in single member constituencies.  The candidate who receives the largest number of votes, regardless of the actual percentage of the total votes that number represents, is declared the winner.  The use of this system is equivalent to a nation running as many separate elections as there are constituencies within the country.  Some of its perceived strengths are seen as its ability to create single party governments, the creation of coherent parliamentary opposition and as being seen as benefiting broadly based political parties.
 
   The STV system is a system of Proportional Representation (PR) in which voters cast ballots in large multi-member constituencies by ranking candidates in order of preference.  The number of votes a candidate receives is compared against a set number, based upon the number of votes cast, called the quota.

   There are three main formulae for calculation of the quota: the Droop Quota , Hare Quota  and the Impreiali Quota .  Of these the most commonly used formula is the Droop Quota, which is used by the Republic of Ireland. 

   In the first round of counting under an STV system, Process A, the voter's first selection is counted.  Should any of the candidates receive a number of votes equal to or greater than the quota they are declared elected, once elected a candidate can not receive any more votes.  If a candidate is elected with a surplus of votes, those surplus votes are redistributed by using the second choice listed on the ballots.  The selection of which ballots are counted again can be done by selecting them at random or by counting each ballot fractionally.  This process is repeated until there are no more candidates that have votes in excess of the quota.  Any candidate who achieves the quota from votes redistributed in this manner is also declared elected.  In the next step, Process B, the candidate with the least amount of votes after the first round is eliminated and his or her votes are reallocated according to the second choice listed on the ballot.  Once a candidate has been eliminated he or she can not get any more votes.  Once the reallocation of votes is complete the procedure begins again with Process A and continues in this matter until all the seats in the riding have been filled .

   There are three main comparisons I have chosen to examine between the UK and Irish systems.  They are the questions of proliferation of minor parties, the representation of voter choice and the predisposition of STV toward coalition governments and their perceived instability.

Proliferation of Parties:

   The first point of comparison I examine is the depiction of STV as a fractious system, which causes the proliferation and balkanization of political parties when compared to the more restrictive electoral requirements of an SMP system.  Upon examining the two nations, with regard to this perception, the immediate and glaring incongruity is that in the United Kingdom, there are over 10 times as many registered political parties than in the Irish Republic.

   In the United Kingdom there are nine major parties, in addition to these there are 114 minor parties registered, ranging from the traditional parties such as Labour and Conservative to nonsense parties such as the Church of the Militant Elvis Party .    As of the general election of 7 June 2001 only 9 of the 123 registered parties are represented in the UK House of Commons.   Ireland on the other hand has eight major political parties, seven of which are represented in the Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) since the general election of 17 May 2002.  There are no minor parties formally represented in the Dáil though there are fourteen members that sit as independents.

   This disparity in numbers contradicts the notion that STV creates numerous minor parties.  Upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious that the difference in numbers of registered parties in the two nations is due to the application of more or less stringent registration processes and not necessarily a result of the type of electoral system. 

   In the United Kingdom the regulations governing the registration of political parties is fairly simple and straight forward.  It requires only minimal rules and regulations be followed, such as the completion of an application form giving details of the party name and at least two party officers.  Where in the UK the party is to be registered and whether the party will have any accounting units.  Also required is a copy of the party's constitution, a financial scheme showing how the party will comply with the financial controls and a modest registration fee of  £150.00.

   Ireland on the other hand has much more stringent registration requirements which restrict the process to more serious and well formed political movements.  These regulations include provisions that a certain number of registered voters must be members of the party and the party must have a member of it elected to the Dáil.  Irish law also requires that annual meetings be held and the party must have an executive committee.  On the other hand, there is no fee to register a party and unregistered parties are entitled to fight elections, but the name of the party will not appear on the ballot. 

   Thus the stricter registration laws in force in the Republic of Ireland, combats the proliferation of political parties, which is one of the main arguments used by those that support SMP over STV.  The SMP system used in the UK on the other hand, achieves it's much touted governmental stability through the election process, specifically the non-proportional allocation of seats in a First-Past-The-Post electoral system.

Voter Choice

   Perhaps the most attractive element of the STV system, as an alternative to SMP, is the more complete representation of voter choice.  Under a First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system, only the candidate who wins the most votes in a riding is elected.  This means that should one candidate receive 48% of votes and another receive 47.9% of votes the candidate who received 48% would be elected.  The other candidate, although his percentage of the vote was almost identical, would loose, resulting in "wasted votesâ ?.  On the other hand, in a STV system with its multi member constituencies, both candidates would most likely be elected and more of the people of the constituency would have a voice in parliament.

   It must be noted that neither SMP nor STV requires a candidate to win a majority of votes cast in order to be elected.  But under STV a significant majority of the votes cast do count toward electing candidates, thus representing a majority of the votes cast, as well as a proportional representation of the people's vote within the multi-member constituency. 

   Ireland is divided into 3, 4 or 5 member constituencies ranging in population from 108,717 to 47,641 registered electors.   Taking one of these ridings as an example, and comparing it to a similar sized riding in the UK will demonstrate the more complete representation of the public vote achieved under STV.

   In the Irish riding of Cavan-Monaghan with an electorate of 87,595 and 61,847 valid ballots cast, the quota was set at 10,308 votes.  Multiplying the quota by the number of candidates for the riding (5) shows that of the 61,847 valid votes, 51,540 voters had a hand in electing the representatives for that riding.    This number represents 83.3% of the votes cast, meaning only 16.7% of valid votes were wasted and did not count toward the election of a member of the Dáil.

   In contrast to this, in the UK riding of Isle of Wight with 63,482 total votes cast, the winning candidate received 25,223 votes representing only 39.7% of votes.   For the other 60.3% of votes the voter's choice did not count toward the election of the representative and were wasted.

   Further comparison of the most recent general elections in Ireland and the United Kingdom reveals that on average, 71.4% of all votes cast in Ireland assisted in electing a representative.  Conversely, in the UK, the average representative was elected to the House of Commons based on an average of 51.3% of votes cast in each riding. 

   These figures are based solely on the votes cast, not on the number of registered voters.  When the national voter turnout for these elections is taken into consideration the number of voters casting votes which assisted in electing representatives is significantly reduced.

   For the most recent general elections, only 59.38% of eligible voters in the UK voted compared to 62.57% of voters in Ireland.  Combining these figures with the percentage of votes that assisted in electing a representative reduces the percentage of voters actually assisting in electing a representative to 44.67% for Ireland and 30.46% for the UK.  While certainly not a triumph of democracy for either system, obviously the advantage should be granted to the STV system for it's more complete representation of votes and the voting public.

Coalitions and Weakness

   Another criticism of the single transferable vote system is that it leads to coalition governments, which results in governmental instability, when compared to first-past-the-post.  However, comparison of the two nations in question shows that these problems are inconsequential.

   From a purely historical point of view coalition governments are not the norm in Ireland, since 1923 there have only been 9 coalition governments formed out of the 26 general elections held.  Since 1989 there has been no single party which has enjoyed a majority in the Dáil, and coalitions do seem to be becoming the norm. 

   This political reality does not lead directly or inevitably to instability though.  Irish coalitions have displayed considerable longevity, remaining in power for an average of three and a half years which is longer than non-coalition Irish governments, which on average have lasted approximately 2.9 years.

   While historically the UK has not tended toward coalitions, it has had 3 coalition or "National Governmentsâ ? since 1918, each of which was in response to a national crisis, World War 1, the 1930's depression and World War 2.    The need to show solidarity in government during crises by forming coalitions of political parties seems to indicate that the reason behind it is to represent the people and political will of the nation better than is possible under normal circumstances.  This exception demonstrates the inclusive nature of coalitions and far from implying weakness or instability emphasizes their strength and utility.

   The inference that coalition governments are unstable is also given as a reason not to employ STV as an electoral system.  This perception too has been exaggerated in favor of SMP.  The United Kingdom and Ireland have conducted 16 general elections since 1945.   The shortest lived government among the two nations was the UK's minority Conservative government of Prime Minister Edward Heath in 1974.  After failing to form a coalition with the Liberal Party, PM Heath resigned, allowing the Queen to commission Labour leader Harold Wilson to form the government.  The minority Labour government of PM Wilson lasted 8 months, and was replaced by a slim Labour majority in October of the same year.

   This average of the lengths of terms enjoyed by the respective governments reveals that there is only a slight difference when the two nations are compared.  Since 1945, the United Kingdom has averaged a Parliamentary election every 3.5 years whereas the Irish have conducted elections for the Dáil Éireann every 3.37 years.  Calculated in days the UK on average elects a new parliament every 1277 days and Ireland every 1199 days a difference of only 78 days.   

   Going back farther to Ireland's independence, the Irish republic has conducted 26 general elections since 1923 and the UK has conducted 22 for an average length of 3.15 and 3.72 years respectively.

   The above averages can not be attributed to differing lengths of administrative terms as Irish law requires elections to be held every seven years.  However, statute has limited the length of terms in Ireland to five years, which is equal to the length of term enjoyed by the UK parliament.

   In conclusion, the exaggerated claims made against the Single Transferable Vote system in favor of Single Member Plurality appear to be nothing more than a straw man of personal preferences and prejudices.  With regards to the UK and Ireland, it appears that in the case of party proliferation that the problem is a product of national electoral laws and not the electoral system used.  As for inherent weakness and instability of STV due to its tendency to cause coalition governments, this has been proven insignificant.  The drawbacks of STV versus SMP with regard to these difficulties are counteracted by the ability and willingness of the elected members of the government to work with other political parties and thus persevere, in spite of political ideologies, for the sake of stable national government.

© Martin Gasser 20 Jan 2005

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on January 20, 2005, 11:04:17
Interesting essay and rather thought provoking. I do have some questions about the conclusions that are drawn here, however.

1. Ireland's SVT system does not produce unstable coalition governments, but virtually every other nation which uses some form of PR does. Italy is the most notorious example, but Israel also comes to mind for fracticious coalitions. Is it possible there are cultural factors at work here i.e. the vast majority of Irish people already have a "cultural" consensus about a broad range of issues?

2. If culture is not the answer, the rigorous requirements for forming a political party and registering it might go a long way to explain what is happening. Once again, there has to be some sort of consensus to work together in a political party, supporters of the "Monster Raving Loony Party" or the "Parti Rhinoceros" would have a difficult time getting off the ground in Ireland.

3. The historical reason for "First past the Post" is the one elected representative is accountable directly to the people of his riding. We certainly have drifted far away from that principle here in Canada, but in theory, initiatives like voter recall or referendums could bring accountability back. What is the accountability mechanism in SVT?

I will be going over this again in greater detail tonight (beware, beware!), since a lot of other questions are bubbling just below the surface.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on January 20, 2005, 14:04:01
a_maj,

1.  In Israel the % of popular vote required to get a representative elected is very, very low (somewhere around 1%  IIRC) This again in my view is a fault with the electoral laws not the system. Germany on the other hand with it's mixed proportional system requires a party to achieve 5% of the popular vote. Extrapilate that to our most recent vote and only the Green Party would have been entitled to PR.

I can not say if there are cultural factors at work in Israel but I know that STV was chosen for Ireland specifically so that the minority Protestant population there would not be overwhelmed by a "tyranny of the majority"

2.  Yes, what you have described counters another criticism of STV, which is the perception that it allows "extremeist parties". My personal belief is that the electorate in Canada is smarter and more moderate than they are given credit for and will for the most part be self policing on this issue.

3.  The short answer is the same mechanisim we have now :D which is to say none. STV does not preclude accountability (any more than FPTP) though. What you are talking about is once again the electoral laws/process not the system itself.

A couple of points of my own now which I didn't address in the essay.

Another country that uses STV is Malta which, get this, is a classic 2 party system! although it has made subtle changes to STV for utility. This again exposes theStraw man arguments for FPTP. Germany also uses a PR system, is stable and has limited political participation through electoral law and not electoral innequality like FPTP.

I find it insulting that in the article about NB's proposed electoral reform one of the talking heads that responded suggested that the electorate wasn't intelligent enough to understand the system. What complete and utter crap!  This is just another piece of BS which is often spouted by the main political opponents to PR which happen to be or belong to...  The same mainstream political parties that are often over-represented in the HoC by FPTP. 

Give me a room full of average voters and 10 minutes and I can explain STV so that even the most sound proof individual will understand how it is employed.

Yes Italy has problems with PR but I believe that is a cultural problem (for lack of a better word). Canadians are by in large much more middle of the road than Italians.  I realize that this is a generalization and no I cant prove it right now but that is my opinion.

Unfortunately I may not be able to respond to many more posts here as I'm heading off to Gagetown for a course but I'll do my best to respond once I return.

Cheers
Reccesoldier.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on January 20, 2005, 19:50:57
   The first point of comparison I examine is the depiction of STV as a fractious system, which causes the proliferation and balkanization of political parties when compared to the more restrictive electoral requirements of an SMP system. Upon examining the two nations, with regard to this perception, the immediate and glaring incongruity is that in the United Kingdom, there are over 10 times as many registered political parties than in the Irish Republic.

   In the United Kingdom there are nine major parties, in addition to these there are 114 minor parties registered, ranging from the traditional parties such as Labour and Conservative to nonsense parties such as the Church of the Militant Elvis Party . As of the general election of 7 June 2001 only 9 of the 123 registered parties are represented in the UK House of Commons. Ireland on the other hand has eight major political parties, seven of which are represented in the Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) since the general election of 17 May 2002. There are no minor parties formally represented in the Dáil though there are fourteen members that sit as independents.

   This disparity in numbers contradicts the notion that STV creates numerous minor parties. Upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious that the difference in numbers of registered parties in the two nations is due to the application of more or less stringent registration processes and not necessarily a result of the type of electoral system.
 
Your conclusion, that restrictive party registration systems are the true check against a proliferation on parties in government, is mostly accurate but is lacking in depth.

Yes, restrictive party registration processes will reduce the number of parties that can eventually compete at the polls.   However, if this becomes a bureaucratic process (and I can't think of any other way to do it) then it actually restricts the voter's options at the polls.   SMP is superior when it comes to restricting the number of parties that actually get into government in a society that if overflowing with parties (I think your 9:123 ratio shows this fairly well).   Unfortunately, as you alluded to, the voters that do not vote for the winner of the plurality will essentially have lost their vote.   An option would be to use preferential ballots in single member constituencies.   This would ensure that the majority of voters preferred the winner to the next most preferred candidate.

Ireland is divided into 3, 4 or 5 member constituencies ranging in population from 108,717 to 47,641 registered electors.
I think these numbers are critical in the analysis.   The fact that these constituencies are small, will in itself limit the chances of success of fringe parties.   It will take a much higher percentage of the vote for a party to win one seat (or more) in a 3 - 5 member constituency.   In Israel, there is one pan-national constituency of over 100 representatives.   Clearly, the percentage of votes required to win a seat in this system is much lower.   In Canada, the Irish model would usually see fringe parties drown out at the constituency level against the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and even the BQ.   The Israeli model could see less than 1% of the population elect a fringe party, and the increased chances for fringe parties to make small victories could lead to more votes for these types of parties (and thus the "Balkanizationâ ? and instability of government).   The problem with small multi-member constituencies is that they would continue the tendency of the SMP system to over-represent regional parties in the House of Commons (the BQ and early Reform demonstrate this).


I find it insulting that in the article about NB's proposed electoral reform one of the talking heads that responded suggested that the electorate wasn't intelligent enough to understand the system. What complete and utter crap! This is just another piece of BS which is often spouted by the main political opponents to PR which happen to be or belong to... The same mainstream political parties that are often over-represented in the HoC by FPTP.
I think the comment was about a mixed PR and FPTP system that the comment was about.   Germany is a mixed system.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on January 21, 2005, 10:59:39
MCG,

Electoral law is definitely bureaucratic and in my opinion it should be in a Weberian fashion. Although I'm rather Libertarian I see nothing wrong with ensuring that political parties have more substance than two stoners would be able to come up with while eating the best Kraft Dinner they've ever had.

As long as the requirements were not based on some punitive monetary fee or innacessable (for starting parties) portion of electorate support I see nothing wrong with ensuring a quality of choice over a quantity of it.

I think presonally that the Irish constituancy size would work for Canada. One thing that should be remembered about STV is that it only produces proportionality within each individual constituancy. There will still be a slight non-proportionality in the national outcome but certainly not to the extent that there is now.

My last point was that none of the PR systems is beyond the mental capacities of any person who has it explained to them. The people who seek to ensure the FPTP status quo spit this little gem out any time someone suggests PR because it threatens the stranglehold they have due to the democratic failures of SMP.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on January 21, 2005, 12:59:02
Your conclusion, that restrictive party registration systems are the true check against a proliferation on parties in government, is mostly accurate but is lacking in depth.

Yes, restrictive party registration processes will reduce the number of parties that can eventually compete at the polls.  However, if this becomes a bureaucratic process (and I can't think of any other way to do it) then it actually restricts the voter's options at the polls.  SMP is superior when it comes to restricting the number of parties that actually get into government in a society that if overflowing with parties (I think your 9:123 ratio shows this fairly well).  Unfortunately, as you alluded to, the voters that do not vote for the winner of the plurality will essentially have lost their vote.  An option would be to use preferential ballots in single member constituencies.  This would ensure that the majority of voters preferred the winner to the next most preferred candidate.
I think these numbers are critical in the analysis.  The fact that these constituencies are small, will in itself limit the chances of success of fringe parties.  It will take a much higher percentage of the vote for a party to win one seat (or more) in a 3 â “ 5 member constituency.  In Israel, there is one pan-national constituency of over 100 representatives.  Clearly, the percentage of votes required to win a seat in this system is much lower.  In Canada, the Irish model would usually see fringe parties drown out at the constituency level against the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and even the BQ.  The Israeli model could see less than 1% of the population elect a fringe party, and the increased chances for fringe parties to make small victories could lead to more votes for these types of parties (and thus the â Å“Balkanizationâ ? and instability of government).  The problem with small multi-member constituencies is that they would continue the tendency of the SMP system to over-represent regional parties in the House of Commons (the BQ and early Reform demonstrate this).
 

McG beat me to the punch. Looking at the historical evidence, it seems the trade off is at the level of "compromise" for want of a better term. FPTP requires the representative or the party to appeal to the widest number of voters in the rideing or district. SVT or other PR systems would seem (Malta notwithstanding) to promote the growth of more narrowly focused parties.

If I was to run as a Libertarian in Canada, I would have difficulty since the vast majorety of voters preffer middle class entitlements such as government monopoly Health Care. If I was to work withing the Conservative party, I would have to compromise somewhat, but their message is more appealing to the voters, and hence I would have a better chance as a candidate to run on the Conservative platform. The Conservatives have room for my point of view, so long as I am also willing to work with them.

In a PR Canada, I have less reason to compromise my beliefs (maybe a good thing), and I would be much more apealing to the small number of Libertarians out there. Assuming I crossed the vote threashold, I would now be one of a very small number of Libertarian MPs in a Pizza parliament. Do I represent my riding? all the Libertarian voters in Canada? the Party? These are the practical issues that have dogged PR. Myself, I would like to think the person I voted for represents me and my ridings interests to parliament (alas, the MP is a Liberal, so he represents Ottawa to our riding instead), PR would seem to disconnect that relationship, especially if there was a national or pan national electoral list.

Bottom line, every system has its merits and flaws. I can imagine 10 or 20 years after Canada adops a PR systemn there will be agitation for the adoption of FPTP, with detractors saying how difficult that would be for voters to understand....

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on January 21, 2005, 13:22:27
a_maj,

Do you believe that your MP realy represents your constituancy now?

Another one of the problems with FPTP is that it produces 4 year dictatorships through Majority governments. In a coalition government there is a requirement to take other points of view into account or else the coalition will splinter and the government will fall. Compromise is supposed to be a function of government not an opposite of it.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on January 21, 2005, 13:45:53
Sorry, I thought I was clear that my MP does NOT represent me or anyone else in the riding.

The elected dictatorship can be addressed by finessing other elements of the system besides the electoral method. Swiss style referendums to propose legislation from outside the house, voter recall, even alternating electoral cycles (such as the US Senate, where half the senators are up for reelection every two years) will put the public right in Parliaments face.

How to get there without an armed revolution? I don't know. We could wage a multi-year propaganda campaign through the Internet, or the financial mismanagement of verious governments could cause a financial disaster and voter revolt (London, ON is gearing up for this since council cannot dicipline their spending and have proposed 10% tax hikes three years in a row now). Maybe an asteroid will fall from space and strike Ottawa. As you say, there are enough people who know how to game the current system and beniftit from it to mount a sustained defense of FPTP.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on January 21, 2005, 18:34:53
If you do not like FPTP, then preferential ballots are another option that would allow us to keep with our single member constituencies.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on January 21, 2005, 21:46:14
Sign me up for the preferential ballot also known as the Single Vote Transferrable with single member constituencies.   I like accountability and it gives a clear decision - most folks in the constituency either like or can tolerate the winner.  

As to regionalism, what's so bad about that?   The whole rpremise of our system is that the house is made up of representatives from 366(?) regions.   It is a geographically based system.   It is designed to reflect the fact that Urban BC issues are not the same as Rural Ontario or the Backcountry of Nunavut.   These characters are all sent there to work out practical compromises that they think will benefit most Canadians most of the time.   Every few years we get to decide if we like the compromises they have made.

Now as to the Senate and the Governor-General and the Lieutenant-Governors, there I am much more open to proportional representation or even some sort of collegial system where they are appointed or elected by the provinces and the federal parliament and government. - As long as their powers are constrained as they currently are.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 12, 2005, 10:48:30
As soon as the position becomes elected it will be politicized.  One of the essential virtues of constitutional monarchy is that the Queen doesn't owe anyone any favours, is immune to political pressure, and is above the divisiveness of politics.  The minute you start choosing the person for the office, which really means electing him or her at some level, then you've got yourself another politician.  And we have plenty of those already.

...

Is the German president overly political?  How about the Indian president or the Israeli president?  There are several Westminster style parliamentary republics, with selected presidents.  I refuse to accept that Canadians are so venal as to be unable to manage.

If you think my (or McWhinney's, take your pick) proposal for morphing into a regency is scary, here is my proposal for Senate Reform, by stealth.

On being appointed, Prime Minister Harper writes a few letters:

"¢   First, to each provincial premier outlining (not proposing) his plan for Senate Reform;

"¢   Second, to each senator -

o   Outlining his proposal, and

o   Demanding each senator's resignation, to be effective the day of the next general election in the province (s)he represents.

Next: the proposal; on the same day as he sent the letters, he goes public and tells Canadians that, starting soon, they will elect their senators when they elect their provincial governments.  He will explain that senators will be elected, province by province, using a simple system of proportional representation: each provincial party will submit lists of candidates for the Senate of Canada when they go to the polls in their respective provinces; senators will be appointed, by the Prime Minister of Canada - as required by the Constitution, from those lists, based on the share of the popular vote earned by each party; senators will, before being appointed, provide the Prime Minster with a letter of resignation, effective at the next provincial general election (this will be a new, practical, requirement for being appointed to the Senate).  He will explain that, almost certainly, a few senators will refuse to resign, preferring that they be allowed to continue in their illegitimate, appointed, pork barrel politics, patronage sinecures.  Most will, sooner rather than later, change their minds after they understand that they will be illegitimate - toothless old hacks, flacks and bagmen.  It may take 20 years to complete the whole process but, at least, it has begun.

In response to questions he will say that while he prefers some form of provincial equality he cannot see how to manage it without turning the Senate into a 250 seat body, something he does not intend to do.  He will also say that he plans to use his power to increase the senate, on a regional basis, to appoint six new senators - one from each territory (selected by the territory, in some form to be agreed) and three others, elected every three or four years by the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapirisat and the Metis National Council.

Prime Minister Harper will explain that he will establish a new constitutional convention requiring that senators appointed to the cabinet must be elected; he will respect the Senate's right, even duty, to amend or delay legislation but he will not accept that a defeat in the Senate on a matter of confidence in the House of Commons would mean a defeat of the government.  As now a bill might be rejected by the Senate but, if it is passed again by the House then the GG will sign it into law.

The point is that there are many things which can be done to reform our institutions without amending the Constitution; reforming the Senate and ditching the monarch, in favour of a Canadian regent, are just two of them.


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on April 12, 2005, 11:46:14
On being appointed, Prime Minister Harper writes a few letters:

[...]

o   Demanding each senator's resignation, to be effective the day of the next general election in the province (s)he represents.

[...]

 senators will be appointed, by the Prime Minister of Canada â “ as required by the Constitution, from those lists, based on the share of the popular vote earned by each party; senators will, before being appointed,

Senators are appointed by the Crown, on the advice of the Prime Minister.  You can't have the PM demanding the resignation of 100 people appointed by the Crown and making his own unilateral changes to the way they're appointed.  It's to prevent exactly that kind of thing that we have an apolitical head of state above the PM.  Without the Queen, who would stop a PM from running amok and reinventing the government to suit his own purposes?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 12, 2005, 12:03:46
Senators are appointed by the Crown, on the advice of the Prime Minister.   You can't have the PM demanding the resignation of 100 people appointed by the Crown and making his own unilateral changes to the way they're appointed.   It's to prevent exactly that kind of thing that we have an apolitical head of state above the PM.   Without the Queen, who would stop a PM from running amok and reinventing the government to suit his own purposes?

Of course the Prime Minister can demand the resignation of senators; it is an overt political act: just what partisan, political prime ministers are meant to do.  What he cannot do is fire them.

When they have resigned and when new ones have been elected, the Queen â “ or the Regent â “ can appoint them on the advice of the PM, just as the Constitution says.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on April 12, 2005, 13:40:29
All-in-all, short of changing our Constitution, I like Mr Campbell's proposal except for a few issues:

He will explain that senators will be elected, province by province, using a simple system of proportional representation: each provincial party will submit lists of candidates for the Senate of Canada when they go to the polls in their respective provinces; senators will be appointed, by the Prime Minister of Canada â “ as required by the Constitution, from those lists, based on the share of the popular vote earned by each party

I think the Senate is a better place to discuss putting PR, but I still disagree with the principal of Proportional Representation as it further mires our politics in the "Party".

What if I want to run for the Senate as an Independent?

Can a Senator be booted from the Party Caucus and still hold his seat, considering that he was put there by people ticking a Party name on the nomination?

Who decides who gets to be put on the Senate list?   What choice would one have if you wanted a Liberal Senator but didn't want Art Eggleton and the rest of the political hacks that the Party decided to accord the top spots to represent your interests in the Senate?

To me, it seems that we've voted for "people" as opposed to "parties" for centuries and it's worked.

Quote
appoint six new senators â “ one from each territory (selected by the territory, in some form to be agreed) and three others, elected every three or four years by the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapirisat and the Metis National Council.

I feel that elected Representatives based upon ethnicity is fundamentally wrong for a few reasons:

-   From a moral standpoint, I refuse to believe that our liberal democracy should afford some sort of special standing on a certain ethnic group whether this standing is advantageous or discriminatory.   Viewing people differently is wrong either way you cut it - saying "Natives get their own Senator" is just as wrong as saying "Coloured folk to the back of the bus".   As well, the organizations you empower to select these "ethnic Senators" are privileged organizations which are closed off to many Canadians - not a good thing in my books with regards to participatory democracy.

-   From a historical standpoint, I can't see anything that should entitle Natives to extra political representation within Canada.   God knows the "Indian Industry" is good at pushing the "time immemorial" spiel (the Supreme Court seems to have bought it), but for all intensive purposes we are all immigrants to North America and all societies (Europeans with other Europeans, Europeans with Natives, Natives with other Natives) have feuded, fought, and bartered the territory within Canada in the past.   European's started the major cities in Canada which are now beakons to minority immigrants - should we give those with European heritage access to a "reserved" positions within City Council?   Sounds ludicrous, doesn't it?

-   From a structural point of view, we effectively give Canadians who have Native heritage two voices in the Senate (both in their province/riding and in their ethnic based interest group) while all other Canadians have only one.   It may seem like peanuts, but it is an important one that flies in the face of representation.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on April 12, 2005, 16:20:02
Infanteer,
Would you be more comfortable with some type of multimember constituency that allowed the voter to vote for the individual or for the party?   

While I generally do not agree with PR systems, I could see a multi-member transferable vote system working for municipalities currently of more than one constituency (2 â “ 4 MPs).

Because of the population density of cities, it could become easier for citizens to identify with the Liberal representative of London ON or with the Conservative representative of London ON.  Dispersion in rural areas does not lead me to believe this would work well outside of cities, and it would not be fair to produce mixed urban/rural multi-member constituencies.

As far as the Senate is concerned, it is probably best suited as a multi-member constituency system (with each province forming a constituency).
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 12, 2005, 21:06:58
...

Would you be more comfortable with some type of multimember constituency that allowed the voter to vote for the individual or for the party?     

...

As far as the Senate is concerned, it is probably best suited as a multi-member constituency system (with each province forming a constituency).


That's an interesting idea.   Wish I'd thought of it.

My views on the Senate derive from my beliefs that:

"¢   In a federal state there must be a bicameral legislature.   One House (which I prefer to call the National Assembly (rather than the time honoured, traditional House of Commons - which speaks to an important part of English, maybe even British political history) needs to represent all the people, as unhyphenated Canadians, in rough equality.   (This is something which will take eons to accomplish in Canada because of PEI's four Senate seats which, according to the un-amendable Constitutions, means PEI has four HoC seats, which means that unless we have 1,200+ members in the HoC then a vote in PEI is worth four or five in Toronto: not equal, not democratic, not at all!)   The other chamber, the Senate, must represent the equal (in constitutional terms) partners in the confederation: the provinces.

"¢   Representation in the Senate should reflect the roughly current views of the people in each province; thus to reflect, in the Senate of Canada, the political preferences of Ontarians, in Ontario, Albertans in Alberta, etc.

The same end might be accomplished with multi member constituencies.

With specific reference to a couple of Infanteer's points:

"¢   The lists, in a simple PR list system, would be prepared by the provincial parties.   I believe that list management might become an important tool; some people, at the top of some lists, are almost guaranteed a Senate seat - once they make the top of the list.   Who gets there might have a significant outcome on the provincial general election; if a near the top senatorial candidate is a despised old political hack or bagman then his very presence night drive voters away; conversely if the (likely) third place party puts a real star candidate close to but not at the top then people might be persuaded to vote for that third party's candidates for the provincial legislature just to send the popular star[/b] to the Senate in Ottawa.

"¢   I think that caucus solidarity would be badly damaged - which would not be a bad thing.   It is not clear, to me, that, for example, BC Liberals would, automatically, all join the federal Liberal caucus.

"¢   I share Infanteer's distaste for reserved seats - no matter what the group; but, if any group is entitled to seek special status in our government then it must be aboriginals.

In any event, I remain convinced that real reform is possible without amending the Constitution.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on May 20, 2005, 03:35:23
Well, after the political hub-bub with the Federal Government, BC's electoral reform, and various discussions on here, my current ideas on a better arrangement right now are:

- Parliament, consisting of 2 Houses (call them what you want).

- An Upper House (Senate) which is, as McG mentioned above, formed of multi-member constituencies.   The Senate must be "Triple E" - Elected, Equal, and Effective.   This means that the Senate must be:

        = nominated in constituencies by the citizens of Canada.   I think that a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system that was recently rejected in British Columbia would be an ideal set-up for a Senate.   Divide each province into two and give 5 Senate Seats to each area (ie: in BC, have Greater Vancouver with 5 seats and the rest of the Province with 5 seats).   In an STV system, parties are permitted to run multiple candidates and independents can run as well (getting around problems with PR systems).

        = Equally representative of the regions of Canada (akin to the US Senate).   The Senate is broken as long as Ontario and Quebec get half the seats - essentially, the Senate is representing population, which is a job of the House of Commons.   I guess the exact breakdown is up in the air, but I imagine it could be layed out with 10 votes for each province and 2 votes for the territories (thus, a 102 member Senate).

        = An effective part of Government; the Senate can propose legislation, block bills, and acts as a legitimate check on the Prime Minister by approving of Appointments.

-   A Lower House that is responsible to represent constituencies of equal amounts of citizens (yes, this means that PEI loses some seats).   This will probably be very similar to the current layout - the Lower House forms Cabinet and the Prime Minister is the head of government.   I would like to see arrangements to reduce the grip of the Party and increase the role of ordinary MP's from all parties (perhaps eliminating the confidence vote?)

- An elected Governor General to act as the Head of State.   Whether the GG remains as a representative of the Monarchy is a completely separate issue that is irrelevant here; what I am looking for is, as I've stated a few times on these forums, a legitimate Head of State for Canada with a GG.   The "Elder Statesman", the GG will be elected by Canadians for a longish term (6-10 years) and will only be able to sit for one term (to avoid seeking the politics of seeking a re-election).   The specifics are debatable, but I see the elected GG as a legitimate "last resort" to intercede in Parliament - they will not be very active politicians and should not have to run on policy platforms as they are reactive and are elected to perform the Constitutional duties of the Head of State in order to act as another check on the office of the Prime Minister.  

A very important duty is the Governor General as the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces.   All soldiers, in their oath, swear obedience to the Head of State, not the Head of Government.   If the Head of State (the GG, representing the Queen) is elected, then their is absolutely no ambiguity in the fact that their exists legitimate and democratic civilian control over the military.   As well, the Chief of the Defence Staff is the only Government Official who has the legal right to go around government and to his superior, the Governor General, if he feels the Defence of Canada is being neglected due to the muckraking of Parliament.

Well, just a few thoughts after observing the Government in action - thoughts?

Cheers,
Infanteer
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on May 20, 2005, 17:28:33
If the Americans can make do with 100 senators, I don't see why we need so many.

Perhaps the GG could be elected by the senate from among the senators.

I still lean toward letting each province decide how to elect/appoint its senators.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on May 20, 2005, 17:50:31
If the Americans can make do with 100 senators, I don't see why we need so many.

That is true, the number is up for debate - I just used 100 off the top of my head.   Does 52 Sound better (5 per province and 2 for the territories)?

Quote
Perhaps the GG could be elected by the senate from among the senators.

Another possibility, with some interesting consequences to contemplate, such as:
- The CDS (and the CF) is managed by the DND but the "CofC" goes to the Senate?
- One House of Parliament has the Head of State while the other has the Head of Government - does this mean that the GG gets some new powers by being the head of a (now effective) Legislative Branch?

However, I still lean to a seperate office.   As I said above, I'm not to sure I want the GG to be a very partisan office, which they would be by default by being from Parliament.

Quote
I still lean toward letting each province decide how to elect/appoint its senators.

Possible, but I still don't like it because government appointments have not impressed me.   Take BC for example - would we want all of BC's Senators being chosen by the Liberal Government that, until recently, had 98% of the seats or the NDP government before it that held a mandate without even achieving the plurality of the popular vote?   I feel that people will lose faith in the accountablilty of the Senate if it can be percieved as an extention of the Provincial government.

Elected by the citizens of a Province using a STV system seems attractive for the Senate.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on May 20, 2005, 20:11:47
My purpose in having the provinces decide would be to impose a check, above Parliament, which more directly represents the interests of the provinces and further empowers the provinces relative to the federal government.  Given that, I see no reason for a provincial not to directly appoint senators (subject to the term limits) - it promotes unity of purpose and accountability.  The BC senators, for example, should represent the interests and wishes of the government of BC.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on May 20, 2005, 21:34:44
Ahh, I see - I should of guessed that, considering our past tete-au-tete over Provincial governments.

I do not wish the Senate to represent the Government of BC, bringing teh dynamic of a incestuous relationship between the Provincial and Federal governments (I view myself as a Canadian, not a British Columbian); I'm not interested in seeing the fiefs claw more away from our Government.  I desire Senators to represent me and the other constituents, albeit in a slightly different manner and makeup than my MP.  I want to vote for my Senator(s) rather than having them appointed - this way, if there is a problem with the Senate, than we have only ourselves to blame....
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on May 21, 2005, 08:23:18
My personal feeling on the Head of State is that no matter who it is they should be apolitical. they should not have or have had any formal affiliation to a political party or be an outspoken idealogue for any party.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 21, 2005, 09:26:05
I believe, I'm pretty sure and I'm repeating myself â “ but no apologies, that a federal state needs a bicameral national legislature:

1.   One chamber must represent the people in (roughly) equal number â “ a major flaw in the Canadian system which allows a PEI vote to count for four or five times a Toronto vote; and

2.   The other must represent the partners in the federation: the provinces.

That's why I, too, favour electing the Senate from the provinces.  I believe that Senators should be elected at every provincial general election â “ by some system which reflects the will of the people â “ i.e. for Ontario, right now, the Liberals would have 12 senators (46+% of the votes in the 2003 general election), the Tories would have 8 (34+%) and the NDP would have 4 (14+%) and Nova Scotia would have 4 Tories (36+% of the popular vote in the last general election), 3 Liberals (31%) and 3 NDP senators (also 31%).

 I have explained elsewhere how to start the process of legitimizing the Senate by persuading (shaming) senators into resigning and then appointing only senators elected (who, also, submit resignations before being appointed).  It would take a while but it took our US neighbours several years to get from the first generally elected senators (1904) to the 17th Amendment (1914).

I would prefer an equal senate but that is too difficult, now, and the whole thing need not come at once; an elected Senate will become 'effective' (legitimate) and equality can follow â “ as it often does.

The idea of electing a head of state â “ say every six or seven years â “ by the Senate, maybe even from the ranks of Senators, has some appeal â “ if the GG then, immediately resigns her (maybe his) Senate seat and moves over to Rideau Hall.  Perhaps the Senate could both nominate (from their own list of distinguished Canadians) and elect the GG every few years.

----------

P.S. Don't forget that I do not want Charles to become King of Canada so I want the GG to become a regent â “ standing in  for an unselected monarch.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Dare on May 21, 2005, 22:54:39

P.S. Don't forget that I do not want Charles to become King of Canada so I want the GG to become a regent â “ standing in  for an unselected monarch.

I think there would have to be a lot more changes than just that to attain your goal.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on May 24, 2005, 15:47:01
A Lower House that is responsible to represent constituencies of equal amounts of citizens (yes, this means that PEI loses some seats).   This will probably be very similar to the current layout - the Lower House forms Cabinet and the Prime Minister is the head of government.  
This single member constituency could also be selected based on a transferable vote.  The lowest candidates would be dropped one at a time and their ballots transfered based on the voters' ordered preference.  The winning candidate would be the one that earned the higher preference of the majority of the voters.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Kernewek on December 19, 2005, 23:09:37
Since there's an election going on, I thought it might be appropriate to put forward my idea for an elected senate. I think it would be an excellent step in the reforming of our government structure, which seems to be driving more and more folks bonkers (the west wants in, etc.) However, I also believe it could help in inter-government relations, in addition to national unity.

I believe that the House of Commons, in itself, does what it is supposed to do, in terms of representation. Everyone's vote is worth the same. But since their is so much talk of under representation to the regions of the country with less people, a triple E senate, I believe, would cure a number of problems of national unity. My model, though not quite triple E, would also provide the provinces with more power at a federal level, so, hopefully, this would bring about the killing of two birds, while also acting as a balance to the power of the reigning party.

Here's how it goes:

Elected body:
- Every province elects 8 senators, representing an equal geographic area. This will result in 80 senators.
- Every territory elects a senator, representing the whole territory. This will result in 3 senators, and 83 in total.

Non-elected body:
- Every provincial and territorial government dispatches a deputy to sit in the senate, to represent and promote the will of their respective governments. This will result in 13 senators, and 96 in total.
- Each party represented in the House of Commons dispatches one deputy to sit in the senate, to promote the will of their party. Under the last government, this would result in 4 senators, bringing the grand total to 100 senators.

Notes:
- All elected senators are independent candidates. The original senators were ment to provide a sober second thought, and being free from party lines will better allow that.
- Senators will be elected through first past the post. Given how they are independent, proportional balloting I don't see how it would work.
- If the senate did have a party system and proportional representation, would it not be just a more or less carbon copy of the house?

That's the base of it; it still needs to be fleshed out, but that's my idea. What do you think?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 20, 2005, 19:19:01
I believe that the House of Commons, in itself, does what it is supposed to do, in terms of representation.

The House of Commons is inadequate because it is a single house that has centralized all of Parliaments power into a single body.  It is impossible for this single body to serve as a universal outlet for the democratic will of the Canadian people.

Quote
- Every province elects 8 senators, representing an equal geographic area. This will result in 80 senators.

The number is debatable - I've thought 6 would be a good number for each Province.  An interesting side proposal would be to divide the Senators up within each province as well to help split coverage and accountability up (for example, in BC have 3 Senators for Central/Northern BC and 3 Senators for Greater Vancouver and the Island).

Quote
Every territory elects a senator, representing the whole territory. This will result in 3 senators, and 83 in total.

I'm not too sure if you want to have a wide disparity between senators in Provinces and Territories - this defeats the regional nature of the Upper House.  Sure, Territories will get less based upon their separate status, but not much.  6 per Province and 2 per Territory - thus 6 Senators would represent a "Northern Province" in a Senate of 66.

Quote
Every provincial and territorial government dispatches a deputy to sit in the senate, to represent and promote the will of their respective governments. This will result in 13 senators, and 96 in total.

Why should provincial/territorial governments get a seat?  I disagree with this idea; there is no need to allow Provinces to get their hand in federal legislation - infact, I'd argue that this is an unconstitutional reach of provincial politicians into Federal jurisdiction.

Quote
Each party represented in the House of Commons dispatches one deputy to sit in the senate, to promote the will of their party. Under the last government, this would result in 4 senators, bringing the grand total to 100 senators.

The Green Party runs candidates in every riding - why should they not get a seat under this proposal?  Conversely, the Bloq is highly concentrated, only really representing a certain percentage of Quebec-based voters, so why should they get one under this proposal at all?  What (or whom) decides if political parties get a seat in a Legislative house based upon the sole fact that they are a Party?

I disagree with this idea as well - political parties are not Constitutionally recognized constituencies and there is no reason to empower them as such.  As Brad Sallows pointed out earlier:

As has been pointed out on several political blogs, the whole "party representation" issue is a red herring.  Political parties don't really have any particular constitutional standing.  Parliament is composed of riding representatives who are directly chosen by riding electors (voters).  Party affiliations are an afterthought which helps to simplify governance (ie. figuring out which clique can control Parliament or the balance of power in Parliament), and there are some institutional characteristics that have been grafted on over the years (eg. funding based on party status).

Quote
All elected senators are independent candidates. The original senators were ment to provide a sober second thought, and being free from party lines will better allow that.

No point trying to do this - Senators are going to be Legislators, so they should be able to run on platforms that highlight their platforms.

Quote
Senators will be elected through first past the post. Given how they are independent, proportional balloting I don't see how it would work.  If the senate did have a party system and proportional representation, would it not be just a more or less carbon copy of the house?

I think the STV model works best for the Senate, with each province (or half province) being considered a Multi-member constituency.  I believe in Senate reform as necessary for fixing the democratic deficit in Canada, but we don't really need to rewrite the playbook for this; the Australian Senate serves as an excellent model for a functioning regional-based Upper House:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Senate

Quote
But the proportional election system within each state ensures that Senate incorporates much more political diversity than the lower house, which is basically a two party body. Consequently, the Senate frequently functions as a house of review, intended not to match party political strength in the lower chamber but to bring in different people, in terms of geography, age and interests, who can contribute in a less politicised manner to the process of legislative enactment.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 20, 2005, 19:27:35
Furthermore, the Senate and the House of Commons are only two of three parts of the Parliamentary equation, and I believe that reform of the third body is essential as well.

The failing of our Constitutional order is that it allows unwritten convention to overtake the written "rules of the game" leading to unintended consequences.   I'm all for changing the rules of the game, but let's be upfront and clearly show how they work; if anything to avoid a reply of the "Confidence" vote/no-vote we saw in the spring.

One of the "unintended consequences" I believe has occurred is the shape of our political landscape today.   Our Westminster tradition (which has its strengths and is a tradition we should be duly proud of) is underscored by the principle of the Supremacy of Parliament.   Forget the fact that federalism in Canada has underscored this (a contradictory and yet necessary function), the heart of our national government is in Parliament.

Constitutionally, Parliament is defined as the following in the BNA Act:

17. There shall be One Parliament for Canada, consisting of the Queen, an Upper House styled the Senate, and the House of Commons.

Thus, Sovereignty is a three part deal in Canada.   Unfortunately, unintended consequences have evolved Parliament from the "Sovereignty of Parliament" into the "Tyranny of the Commons" (clearly described in Simpson's The Friendly Dictatorship).   This "friendly tyranny" has managed to usurp the rudder of Canada by ensuring that power is concentrated two-fold; power that rightly is shared amongst Parliament is wielded by Commons and all this power centralized into a winner-takes-all party system that has the Party leader at the Apex of the structure.   The true sovereign voice of the people, the vox populi, is ignored as party machinery finds a clever way to rule through unintended concentration of power that is unprecedented in the Western Democracies.

I believe the general solution to be Checks and Balances.   Critics will deride the system of checks and balances of as "American" - but they are not; they've existed before.   One only has to view the structure of the Greek polis or of the Roman Res Publica to see checks and balances at work.   I'd argue that checks and balances aren't even "Republican" in nature - Westminster Parliamentary government is built on the foundational check and balance of the Magna Carta.   English (later British) rule has always been a battle of checks and balances - when the system was usurped, civil war rang out with a tyranny of the monarch (Charles I) and a Tyranny of the Commons (Cromwell).   Obviously, the balanced middle ground is the desired endstate.

Checks and balances can be, in my opinion, reinvigorated in Canada by simply reinstituting the Constitutional imperative that Parliament be composed of the Queen, the Senate, and the House of Commons.   I've tried to rationalize a way to do so with as little change to our Constitutional structure as possible.

The Governor-General is the ideal office for true executive head of the State (whether she be the Queen's representative or not is another debate irrelevant to this discussion   ;)).   My reading of the Constitution (more specifically, the BNA Act) leads me to find   main duties for our Governor General:
Unfortunately, unintended consequences have seen these duties fall by the wayside or be given to the Prime Minister (who isn't even mentioned in the BNA Act) in the name of "ceremonial".

Regardless, I think these 4 powers are excellent in defining the scope that a modern, real Governor General should have.

The Privy Council:   An odd organization that could be useful if modernized.   The PC is essentially the "Executive Council" for government.   It includes the GG, Cabinet (current and former), Chief Justices, and a variety of other characters who are accorded a spot for either pressing or honorary reasons.   The Queen's Privy Council for Canada should essentially be restructured as the "Cabinet".   It should contain the GG, the PMO, Ministers, and other important advisers and heads of agencies (for example, something akin to the US National Security Council, the Bank of Canada, etc, etc).   A more detailed discussion would be required to ascertain the role of a GG in this body (is it to retain a reserved, observer status?   Active member?) but it should be an organization that actively meets in whole or in part to govern Canada, and the GG should be part of this regular meeting (as the Constitution intended).

Appointment:   This is an important power - one that can help to eliminate cronyism and patronage if stripped away from the Prime Minister and his party hacks.   Make the power of appointment similar to that of the US, where the GG selects the person and the Senate approves of the selection to ensure a democratic "check and balance" is maintained.

Command of the Armed Forces:   This is a seemingly minor one, but I think it is very important.   The CDS is, alone among senior government officials, guaranteed by law direct access to the Governor General.   This relationship highlights the fact that deployments and missions are enacted by Parliament and executed by the GG - legislation sending the Forces away involves a final nod from the GG to the CDS (who, by law, is the only one allowed to give orders to the CF).   As head of our Armed Forces, the GG is responsible for ensuring that our military doesn't unduly suffer from negligent politicians (through reservation).

Reservation:   The equivalence to the American President's veto - and an essential power I think needs to be brought back.   The veto allows the GG to put a check on run-away houses, especially Commons which is the only legal source of Money Bills.   Reservation is, like the President's veto, a serious issue.   Again, like the US, the allowance of an override through a 2/3 majority vote in both houses should be included to ensure democratic imperative and act as a further check and balance.

Four key powers for our Head of State - four that are good at balancing out the relationships within Parliament (as constituted by Law) and yet unobtrusive to the daily running of the State.   Obviously, popular vote is required to give these powers the moral force of the vox populi.   With that in mind, I advocate the following:

1)   The Governor General be elected by a simple popular majority (no fancy electoral systems).   If a primary vote doesn't yield a winner, take the top two into a run-off.

2)   The Governor General be a long-term post, perhaps 8 or 10 years with no ability for re-election.   This measure will ensure that the position has, as the executive head of state, a real enduring quality (much like our Monarchy) and that the politics of re-election don't interfere with the ability to perform the duties.

3)   That the Governor General be that of an "Elder Statesman".   More of a representative (to foreign governments) and an observer.   The GG won't have legislative power and can't propose Bills.   As well, depending on how Cabinet-Privy Council would be structured, I'm not sure they should interfere too much in the running of the State (if Cabinet votes are required they have one vote) - they should attend to be aware of what is happening in Canada (especially for National Security and what not) so as to have an understanding of policies that they must give Royal Assent to.

4)   The Governor General's appointment powers need to be examined.   Judges, ambassadors, heads of Crown Corporations are given.   What about Cabinet members?   In the US, Secretaries are appointed by the President and serve at his pleasure, would the same work for Canada.   Unlike the US, which constitutionally forbids legislators from holding executive posts, our Westminster system conventionally gives Cabinet ministries to MP's.   In Canada, they all come from Commons, but there is nothing in law that says that Ministers can't come from the Senate or be private citizens.   As well, members of the Privy Council have a term that is defined as "time to time", which implies that they serve at the Governor General's pleasure - this means that if voted out they can still legally serve in Cabinet.   Conversely, if busy as an executive, are not these MP's and Senators neglecting their important jobs as representatives in the Legislature?   All these are valid points and, in the spirit of the best person for the job (as opposed to Art Eggleton), need to be considered in detail when addressing the scope of the GG's power of appointment.

5)   Perhaps the GG should be recallable?   Maybe by a 4/5's majority by both Houses?   Definitely an Impeachment clause.

Thus, a popularly elected GG serving as an effective Head of State acts as the third "check" in Parliament.

Commons loses power in this (along with a Triple-E Senate) structure, but it still maintains it's primacy by being the only body that can propose Money Bills.   This is good, although maybe it should now be given to all of Commons and not just to Cabinet members in order to encourage more debate and individual action on the Commons floor.     The Prime Minister should be a position that is Constitutionally enshrined as the Head of Government - I believe that there is still many important things for the Prime Minister to do along the lines of the day-to-day affairs of the State.   In defining the PMO, his duties should be outlined.   I think Commons should be mandated to votes every 4 years.   As well, I think we should lose the convention of Commons as a House of confidence in order to allow more free voting and dissention on the floor.   Remember that Edmund Burke quote, we have to work at eliminating factionalism and encouraging work towards the interest of Canada as a whole.

Anyways, just more thoughts for the grist mill.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 20, 2005, 21:49:47
Quote
Quote
Every provincial and territorial government dispatches a deputy to sit in the senate, to represent and promote the will of their respective governments. This will result in 13 senators, and 96 in total.

Why should provincial/territorial governments get a seat?  I disagree with this idea; there is no need to allow Provinces to get their hand in federal legislation - infact, I'd argue that this is an unconstitutional reach of provincial politicians into Federal jurisdiction.

Now Infanteer, I thought you and I just discussed this recently and I agreed with me that you were wrong. ;D

Ottawa was originally hand-servant to the "independent" colonies.  The Senate was to represent their interests in Parliament and federal legislation.  Otherwise why would the seats have been apportioned geographically in the first place.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on December 20, 2005, 21:57:58
It seems the poll has been wiped clean.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 20, 2005, 23:45:56
Now Infanteer, I thought you and I just discussed this recently and I agreed with me that you were wrong. ;D

Ottawa was originally hand-servant to the "independent" colonies.

It's my Republican "more perfect union" thing.  Ottawa was not (and shouldn't be) a hand-servant - Canadian politicians specifically tried to avoid this in 1867 while looking at what had just went on down South over the same issue. 

Quote
The Senate was to represent their interests in Parliament and federal legislation.  Otherwise why would the seats have been apportioned geographically in the first place.

The Senate has never worked this way - look how it is constructed; seats are apportioned by "Region" and not "Province".
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on December 21, 2005, 03:12:45
The Governor General [should] be elected by a simple popular majority (no fancy electoral systems).  If a primary vote doesn't yield a winner, take the top two into a run-off.
That is awfully expensive when a preferential ballot could allow an "automatic" run-off with out the cost of reopening the polls, continued campaings, delays in taking office, etc.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 21, 2005, 04:22:18
That is awfully expensive when a preferential ballot could allow an "automatic" run-off with out the cost of reopening the polls, continued campaings, delays in taking office, etc.

I have no qualms against spending money to get things done right - if Canada is willing to bear the burden of funding parties, ensuring bilingualism, paying for ceremonial guards, running elections more frequently for minority governments, and a host of other things that keep democracy ticking then there is no problem with organizing a second run-off election if necessary.   The cost of an election is a drop in the bucket compared to a host of other things in which we could cut if we were worried about money.

A preferential ballot is not the panacea that many make it out to be.   It can be used effectively in multi-member ridings to give a more proportional balance to the election, but it only seems to complicate a straight-forward election of a single candidate to represent a single constituency (Canada).   A majority vote will ensure that no controversy arises in an election of more than one candidate and creates a clear-cut, legitimate successor to the office.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Sheep Dog AT on December 21, 2005, 04:41:38
"panacea"
hey I got your big word right here:
thesaurus
your becoming more of an officer everyday
pardon me its the sleep deprivation talking
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Dog on December 22, 2005, 06:38:58
The major issue I have with our electoral system, is that many formerly-rural ridings have since been conjoined with urban centres, and now no matter how many of the rural residents vote, they are always vastly outnumbered but the urban voters. I know my old riding was staunchly conservative until it was almalgamated with the urban centre of Cornwall..... ever since, the MP has been elected within the city, and the voters from the farms, and rural areas as far away as a 45 minute drive are no longer represented, or campaigned to.

Since 60% of the Canadian population lives in an urban centre, rural voters are essentially irrelevant now.... which is stupid.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 22, 2005, 12:22:29
Just getting back to Infanteer's concern about the provinces interfering in "federal" jurisdiction

Section 22 - the 1867 Constitution Act

Quote
22. In relation to the Constitution of the Senate Canada shall be deemed to consist of Four Divisions:--

1. Ontario;
2. Quebec;

3. The Maritime Provinces, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island;

4. The Western Provinces of Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta;

which Four Divisions shall (subject to the Provisions of this Act) be equally represented in the Senate as follows: Ontario by twenty-four senators; Quebec by twenty-four senators; the Maritime Provinces and Prince Edward Island by twenty-four senators, ten thereof representing Nova Scotia, ten thereof representing New Brunswick, and four thereof representing Prince Edward Island; the Western Provinces by twenty-four senators, six thereof representing Manitoba, six thereof representing British Columbia, six thereof representing Saskatchewan, and six thereof representing Alberta; Newfoundland shall be entitled to be represented in the Senate by six members; the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories shall be entitled to be represented in the Senate by one member each.

In the case of Quebec each of the Twenty-four Senators representing that Province shall be appointed for One of the Twenty-four Electoral Divisions of Lower Canada specified in Schedule A. to Chapter One of the Consolidated Statutes of Canada.(12)


Pretty clear to me that the Senators REPRESENT the provinces.  Section 23 on qualifications say they must reside in the province they represent.   Ergo it seems to me that the provinces have always been intended to have a voice in the central government's legislation.

They were appointed - but not necessarily on the advice of the prime minister alone. The GG could act alone, on the advice of the Privy Council, on the advice of the Commons (not the PM - no mention of a PM at all) or could accept advice from the provincial legislatures for whom and to whom the GG was responsible via his deputies, the Lieutenants-Governor.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 22, 2005, 13:02:55
Pretty clear to me that the Senators REPRESENT the provinces.  Section 23 on qualifications say they must reside in the province they represent.   Ergo it seems to me that the provinces have always been intended to have a voice in the central government's legislation.

They represent the provinces, not the provincial governments.  The difference is crucial; one between interstate federalism (provincial government representation in Parliament) and intrastate federalism (bringing regionalism within the central institutions).  I fully believe in a provincial voice in federal affairs (intrastate federalism); I argue that the current method of dividing seats up into "regions" is unfair, hence my support for a Triple-E Senate.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 22, 2005, 13:32:04
So you would have two provincial voices with the ear of the executive?   You would have both the provincial governments, speaking on behalf of their legislatures and presumably the citizenry as well as the Senate, independently found from the provinces (appointment or election) and thus also speaking for the provinces but independently of the provinicial governments, offering advice and opinion to the executive, the Governor General?  You would then only have the PM acting with the support of the Commons offering "federal" advice?

Remember that the rules say the GG decides - and I think we both think that is a good thing - the only problem has been the usurpation of the GG's power by the PMO by declaring that the GG is an illegitimate figurehead imposed by a foreign ruler.

If the GG were "re-legitimised" by whatever method, and able to act independently with the advice and consent not just of the PMO but also the Privy Council (apolitical expertise selected personally by the GG but with no legislative power), the Senate (provincial ambassadors offering advice and consent on Commons legislation), the Commons (the nation at large and law makers in central jurisdiction) AND the provincial legislatures (directly or indirectly via the Senate) then many of our checks and balances would fall back into place.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 22, 2005, 13:49:16
So you would have two provincial voices with the ear of the executive?     You would have both the provincial governments, speaking on behalf of their legislatures and presumably the citizenry as well as the Senate, independently found from the provinces (appointment or election) and thus also speaking for the provinces but independently of the provinicial governments, offering advice and opinion to the executive, the Governor General?   You would then only have the PM acting with the support of the Commons offering "federal" advice?

Yes.  The provincial governments should deal with Parliament on matters pertaining to provincial-federal relations or joint duties.  However, our central, federal government needs provincial input to allow regional interests to balance out Commons.  With a dysfunctional Senate, most Canadians seem to rely on their provincial governments to "stick it to Ottawa", which just creates tension and confusion over who should be doing what.  Providing a Senate (organized along the lines of the Australian model) would give Canadians a legitimate federal body to do so in.  While not being a fix-it-all solution, I think a proper Senate would take the air out of things like Newfoundland oil, the Parti Quebecois, and Ralph Klein telling Ottawa to shove it and eliminate the quasi-feudal order that has overtaken the federal relationship in Canada.

Quote
If the GG were "re-legitimised" by whatever method, and able to act independently with the advice and consent not just of the PMO but also the Privy Council (apolitical expertise selected personally by the GG but with no legislative power), the Senate (provincial ambassadors offering advice and consent on Commons legislation), the Commons (the nation at large and law makers in central jurisdiction) AND the provincial legislatures (directly or indirectly via the Senate) then many of our checks and balances would fall back into place.

Roger.  :)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 22, 2005, 14:01:14
Quote
I think a proper Senate would take the air out of things like Newfoundland oil, the Parti Quebecois, and Ralph Klein telling Ottawa to shove it and eliminate the quasi-feudal order that has overtaken the federal relationship in Canada.

Frankly I like the idea of Ralph, or Jean Charest or Danny Williams being able to tell Ottawa to "shove it".   Anything less results not in a "quasi-fueudal order" but a feudal order.     

Now if you mean that a properly functioning Senate could reduce the need for the provinces to point the direction to the highway and invite the federal government to take advantage of the clubs recently approved by the SCOC, then I am with you.

But just as you as an individual cherish your freedom to say no, and just as many argue that they need arms to allow them to say no, so the provinces have and need to retain the right to say no.

Everything has consequences but democracy is about the freedom to act.   The consequences will follow whether or not you are aware of them, willing or unwilling to accept them.   The fear of consequences generally keeps most people in line most of the time.

This innate fear tends to act as a natural check on the impulse to act.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 22, 2005, 15:57:09
Frankly I like the idea of Ralph, or Jean Charest or Danny Williams being able to tell Ottawa to "shove it".   Anything less results not in a "quasi-fueudal order" but a feudal order.

I also like it when Ottawa tells provincial leaders who can't seem to figure out the big picture to shove it.   I can't stand petty premiers fighting over the table scraps.

Quote
But just as you as an individual cherish your freedom to say no, and just as many argue that they need arms to allow them to say no, so the provinces have and need to retain the right to say no.

Not in matters of federal jurisdiction - there is a reason that the "rules of the game" lay out a proper federal-provincial relationship.   I'm arguing for a strong Senate so as to fix this and get provinces and Ottawa disentangled.   When I put on the uniform, there is a Canadian flag on my shoulder; not BC or Quebec.   As far as I'm concerned, that is where national leadership comes from and it doesn't need to be undermined by Provincial governments.

I fail to understand this view that Provinces are some sort of protectorate against the Federal government.   Constitutionalism, not federalism, moderates the affairs between a citizen and his government.   The fact is that my interests are no better served in Victoria than they are in Ottawa.   Infact, judging by a unicameral house and an even more disproportionate allocation of seats, I'd say the province is an even poorer representative for me politically....
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 22, 2005, 16:25:22
Here's a heretical thought - people, not laws, control the actions of people.  Laws moderate their controlling actions but it is not laws alone that control.  AND.  For people to exert control, to exert force, they need a power base from which to work.  I like the idea of balancing the Feds with the Provinces.  They are both me.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 22, 2005, 16:56:57
Huh?

Anyways, this one is swerving off topic - we are talking about Parliament here.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 22, 2005, 17:32:01
Disagree.

Not swerving off topic.

Parliament is a forum where people exercise and negotiate power.  They agree to laws on how that power can be exercised.  We have access to two parliaments (provincial and federal) both responsible to their electorate (me) and both constraining a common executive (the GG and her deputies the Lieutenants Governor all acting in the name of Her Majesty).

Just as there is one taxpayer regardless of which level of government is authorized to act as agent for the funds, there is also only one powerbroker, the elector.

Frankly I think parliamentary reform is a bit of a red herring.  That implies constitutional reform.  The rules as described in 1867 aren't a bad set of rules - probably as good as any other compromise.  It is in the execution that our governments have failed - and in the usurpation of the GG. 

The entire concept of our governance is based on a non-partisan military commanded by the GG, a non-partisan civil service presided over by the GG, a non-partisan advisory group (the Privy Council) and a non-partisan GG and Lieutenants.  The politicians act as brakes on the GG.  The GG and the Solicitor General, Adjutant General, Comptroller General all act as breaks on the politicians - when legitimated.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on January 04, 2006, 06:02:49
A preferential ballot is not the panacea that many make it out to be.   It can be used effectively in multi-member ridings to give a more proportional balance to the election, but it only seems to complicate a straight-forward election of a single candidate to represent a single constituency (Canada).
On issues such as this, I don't believe in a panacea.  However, I do believe the preferential ballot deserves closer attention.  It should be the standard when electing MPs, and it would be desirable when electing a GG aswell.

When you consider the number of parties in this country (and the potential number of independant candidates), there may not be any clear-cut top two candidates to go to a run-off.  At the very least, a preferential ballot could add clarity to who should go on to the next round.

Frankly I like the idea of Ralph, or Jean Charest or Danny Williams being able to tell Ottawa to "shove it".
There should be no need for primiers to be doing this if senators elected by the province's population are sitting in Ottawa as part of a check on the lower houses power.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on January 04, 2006, 15:09:48
Quote
Quote from: Kirkhill on December 22, 2005, 10:01:14
Frankly I like the idea of Ralph, or Jean Charest or Danny Williams being able to tell Ottawa to "shove it".
There should be no need for primiers to be doing this if senators elected by the province's population are sitting in Ottawa as part of a check on the lower houses power.

Agree entirely McG.   If there is an effective voice then discussions don't reach the level where it becomes a "take it or leave it" proposition.  On the other hand, knowledge that the upper house has the backing of powerful premiers would tend to make the lower house more likely to pay attention I would think.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on January 04, 2006, 15:18:46
On the other hand, knowledge that the upper house has the backing of powerful premiers would tend to make the lower house more likely to pay attention I would think.
I would think more authority would come from having the upper house backed by the electorate (elected by the provinces' population & not appointed by their Premiers).
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on January 04, 2006, 15:30:11
Also possible.  Then a province's voters could play off their Premier against their Senator(s).  More checks and balances - but this time they might effectively be seen as an "internal" discussion, pitting eg Albertan against Albertan vs Albertan against Canadian.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on January 05, 2006, 20:04:04
Run-off voting might seem fair, but it reinforces the 'voting against' problem we have in Canada.  Its greatest benefit would be to all the soft NDP voters whose greatest worry during elections is making the correct guess between risking a NDP vote or propping up the local Liberal.  If you want to swing Canada permanently into socialism, support run-off voting - Liberal/NDP coalitions unto the end of the economy.  I believe the lure of conscripting others' money is already strong enough; no more encouragement and advantage are necessary.  If Canadians in general had a strong, well-ingrained self-reliance backbone - a culture which viewed the notion of voting to acquire a share of someone else's labour as a distasteful proposition - then run-off voting might be sensible.

OTOH, given the direction we seem to be heading, maybe it's best to accelerate the pace so we can reach the likely culminating point and acquire some serious motivation to each rethink how we view our neighbours' freedom.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on January 06, 2006, 18:52:11
Run-off voting might seem fair, but it reinforces the 'voting against' problem we have in Canada. 
I anticipate that run-off elections or preferential balots would encourage voters to go with thier top preference as a first choice.  The need for the stratigic vote would be eliminated/reduced because as one's third party preferences fall from the balot, eventually one's vote would transfer to thier stratigic alternative. (Though for many the stratigic choice may also be thier number one preference).

Parties currently earn money toward the next campaing for each vote recieved in an election.  I would see this money distributed based on the number of first preference votes cast for any party. 

 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on January 06, 2006, 20:46:04
I would like to see the money removed entirely.  People who want to control government with their "faction" can damn well pay for it themselves, without any tax breaks.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 18, 2006, 10:15:37
Earlier this week the National Post ran an informative, if quite wrong-headed, series on the ever popular subject of Senate reform.  The series was too long to reproduce here but Andrew Coyne’s response is not.  Here it is, from today’s Post, reproduced here under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act.

Quote
Fear of a democratic Senate

Andrew Coyne

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Before this week's series on Senate reform -- only in your soar-away National Post -- I had been under the impression that reform of the Senate was a desirable thing. At any rate I had thought that it was a desired thing -- that somewhere in this favoured land at least a few Canadians thought the present House of the Timeservers should be replaced with something less disgraceful, namely a house elected by universal suffrage, as I understand is often the practice in democracies. I had understood that there were differences of opinion on this great and weighty issue, and that while many believed a reformed Senate was needed to offer some counterweight to the power of the more populous regions, many others disagreed.

How wrong I was. Not content with the daily diet of front-page stories explaining all the many dozens of ways Senate reform simply Could Not Be Done, the Post also put its readers through a strenuous regimen of op-ed pieces exhorting that it Should Not Be Done. Two were explicitly anti-reform, differing only on the comparatively trivial question of whether it should be kept as is or done away with altogether. The third, by my friend Lorne Gunter, was ostensibly pro-reform, but with one caveat: that by reform, he did not actually mean reform. Under the Gunter plan, senators, instead of being appointed by the prime minister, would be appointed by the premiers. The provinces would then control one-and-a-half levels of government: their own, in the usual fashion, and the feds' by remote control.

So I can only conclude that no one in this country actually favours Senate reform, much as no one thinks there should be any serious check on the prime minister's power to appoint Supreme Court judges, or that Parliament should be required to abide by the rights it enshrined in the Charter, without recourse to the notwithstanding override -- issues on which the same consensus of the great and good has lately pronounced, always on the side of the status quo. The democratic deficit? No such thing. Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

Still, there is the little matter of a government having been elected on a platform promising, among other things, to begin the process of Senate reform. Which makes the opposition of the learned Gunter and fellow travellers such as Gordon Gibson, also quoted in the Post series, so intriguing. Both are from the West. Both support the Conservative party, and were supporters of the Reform party before it -- a party that arose in large part to address the democratic failings of the federal government, the Senate before all. And both are now skeptical of Senate reform, at least on the democratic model, on the grounds that -- I confess this had not occurred to me as an objection -- it would make the federal government more democratic.

This is how tightly provincialism has gripped some sections of the conservative movement: They would prefer an undemocratic, and hence illegitimate, federal government, rather than suffer any power to arise that might rival that of the provinces. "Were the central government to achieve the legitimacy of genuine, directly elected regional representation in a reformed Senate," Mr. Gibson warns, "the balance would be upset. Power would follow the new legitimacy."

Mr. Gunter goes further. "The centralization of authority in Washington," he notes with alarm, "can be traced to the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which mandated the election of senators directly by the people of their states. Prior to that, senators were elected to six-year terms by their state legislatures...

"Not surprisingly, senators were highly attentive to the will of their state representatives. But after the 17th Amendment, senators quickly learned to approve all sorts of new federal spending and regulations and laws to please the voters back home... The same will happen here if senators become federal players rather than provincial representatives."

Gracious. Senators focused on "pleasing the voters" rather than jumping to the commands of their provincial patrons. A Senate filled with "federal players" rather than "provincial representatives." A reminder: He means this as an objection.

But of course this is precisely the argument in favour of reform: not only that it is unseemly, in a democracy, to be governed by any but those the people elect, but that the presence of such a house of ill repute in our national capital has served to discredit the federal government itself. Nor is this resolved by abolition: The pressures for regional representation do not go away just because the Senate does. In the absence of a legitimate upper house, that role has been played by the provincial premiers, who have no constitutional standing whatever to intrude themselves into federal matters.

I can understand why the premiers would be so fearful of Senate reform: Their own role would be diminished accordingly. But it is an oddity to see others make the same case against it -- not that it wouldn't work, but that it would.

© National Post 2006


I want to use this as a springboard to suggest that it is not just Senate Reform which is required, we, Canada, need to introduce some form of representative democracy with a few fairly basic principles such as, just for example, one person : one vote in elected legislatures.

I understand that many Canadians believe we have a liberal, democratic, representative democracy; I also understand that many Canadian believe in Santa and the tooth fairy.  All those myths, Santa slides down the chimney, Canada is a representative democracy, the tooth fairy leaves money are equally well founded.

Consider, just for example, one person : one vote.  A voter in Cardigan PEI had, in the 2006 general election, a vote worth about 3 times that cast by a voter in Calgary-Nose Hill or over 2.5 times that cast by a voter in Chatham Essex-Kent in Ontario.  Remember, we are not talking about very small populations in our vast, remote Arctic lands – Cardigan is a lot like Chatham Essex Kent except that it has way, way less than half the population but the same political ‘value’ in Ottawa.

There is a reason why PEI votes are so valuable: PEI has four Senate seats and, according to our Constitution, no province may have fewer MPs than it has Senators.  To change that particular provision of the Constitution requires the unanimous consent of the national parliament and all ten provincial legislatures.

One of the reasons so many people oppose Senate reform is that they perceive that a Constitutional amendment would be required and they agree, amongst themselves, that meaningful Constitutional reform regarding the nature of the state (including parliamentary representation) is impossible under the 1982 Constitution.

So, should we give up, quit, cut and run?

No!

Meaningful democratic reform: creating a fairly modern representative, secular, liberal democracy, is possible.

First we need to recognize that, except for a very, very few special ridings in the Yukon and High Arctic we needURGENTLY need – real representative democracy which will be based on the idea that for 95+% of Canadians one person’s vote will be worth roughly the same as any other person’s vote – say plus or minus 20%.  There is, in my opinion, a simple and, relatively, cheap and easy way to do this, without amending the Constitution: increase the number of MPs to about 1,000.  This requires serious, apolitical rebalancing of seats within provinces – a Toronto Centre vote is ‘worth’ 1.5 times more an Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing vote within Ontario.  We should settle for one MP for about every 25,000 to 35,000 residents or every 25,000 registered electors.  That means PEI needs 4 MPs, just as it has today, and just as it is Constitutionally required to have.  Alberta needs 91, that’s 3.25 times its current allotment of 28 and Ontario needs a whopping 335, 3.1 times its current 106 – that’s more MPs for Ontario than there are seats in today’s HoC just to provide Ontario with equal representation.

Now, I can hear the screams already: There are already too many of those overpaid, pampered bums.  We can’t afford more!

Yes we can.  Let’s say that each MP ‘costs’ about $1,000,000 per year – salary, benefits, staff, parliamentary library, etc, etc – that’s probably a bit high, but that’s OK.  So we spend as much as $300 million now – about of 0.2% of the budget.  Could we not:

•   Triple the number of MPs;

•   Increase the parliamentary staff by, say, only 60%, increasing the staff budgets to, say, only $300 million, therefore;

•   Reform how MPs work, how they are supported (fewer staff for each), how committees are managed, and, and, and … because so many MPs will require new ways of working; and

•   Cut their salaries and staffs, a bit, so that we spend, let’s say $750,000 per MP and thus spend ½ of 1% of the budget on democracy?

Is ½ of 1% of the national budget really too much for a functioning democracy?

We can reform the Senate, too.  I have explained, here: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg218220.html#msg218220  here: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg200811.html#msg200811 and here: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg200450.html#msg200450 how I think our Prime Minister should go about it.  My proposal would institutionalize an existing measure of inequality.  Alberta has 2.9 million voters and only six senators, Nova Scotia has only 750,000 electors but it gets 10 senators – that’s a 5:1 disparity.  Only Québec is fairly represented I the Senate of Canada – it has a bit less than 25% of the senators for a bit less than 25% of the population.  Atlantic Canada is grossly over represented and Canada West of the Ottawa River is grossly underrepresented.

We should have a equal Senate – because it should represent the equal partners in the federation: the provinces.  That, too, requires unanimous agreement and is, consequently, probably a practical impossibility.  It may have to be sufficient, for now, to make the Senate elected, which may take 20 years to accomplish, completely.  An elected Senate will make itself effective: one of the reasons the National Post authors opposed democracy!  Equality might have to wait for political maturity in Canada, maybe that will be a 22nd century phenomenon.

Edit: typos
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on March 18, 2006, 13:54:23
Two more arguments by extension to bolster your cause Edward:

Your 1000 member parliament would work and be affordable if it explicitly followed the "jury" format.  That is to say that a jury is a body of common citizens, peers of the accused and accuser, that sit in judgement with no particular skills beyond their common sense.  They represent the community interest and are there to ensure that the community believes that justice has been fairly done.

MPs in parliament need be no more than those Jury members.  Like those jury members they do not need a personal staff to help them in their decisions.  They do however need informed advice and opinion such as is supplied by a judge and lawyers in court.  In parliament that information, normally dug out by the MP's staff or party staff, should be supplied by Parliament's staff - eg Auditor General, Library, etc.... Take the MP's staff budget away and apply to a central pool such as the GAO or CBO in the States.

Let the MPs finance their political staff that keeps them elected themselves.

I like your 1000 MP parliament because it dilutes the power of the Government.  It would be difficult to justify creating 501 Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries.  At that point the Back Benches hold the power.  Nicely done.

Related - I think I saw something recently on the Dutch Parliament where Ministers sit in the House but can't vote on legislation.  They can propose while the MPs dispose.  They Government has to find its majority from the non-governing MPs.  I thought that a nice touch.  The MPs can still fire the Government if they don't like their performance.

WRT the Senate:

I don't think we have to rely on maturity to achieve reform.  I have little faith in that as a concept.  Adults more often than not seem to be oversized five year olds. 

I do think that from time to time it is necessary to throw the cat among the pigeons and let events take their course.  Especially if the cat-thrower has a view of the end-state they wish to achieve.

It is hard to convince people to move away from a comfortable status quo.  It is much easier to get them to act when the status quo is not comfortable.  Sometimes it is necessary to create discomfiture, even if there is an element of risk associated with an unintended outcome.

When do you intend to throw your hat in the ring?

Cheers.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on March 18, 2006, 23:46:40
A 1.000 man parliament is somewhat of an amusing concept (until you consider it would be twice the size of a current Infantry battalion!), but from a historical perspective, the idea of a 1000 man citizen "Jury" makes more sense.

In the classical Athenian ekklesia, the assembly acted as a jury for the most part, smaller groups elected or appointed by the assembly such as the strategoi and the boule did most of the actual work, and submitted the results to the assembly for confirmation. A full explanation can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athenian_democracy

For the most part, the faults in the Canadian system are not based on the way the institution is built, but rather how it is run. Tweaking the number of MPs, or even having an elected Senate will not really alter the outcome so long as Paul Martins, Jack Laytons or Caroline Parishes get elected and remain in office for long periods of time. Perhaps the only certain way to restrain office holders is to follow the examples of the ancient Athenians, or modern Americans: strict term limits. In Athens, a citizen could only serve on the boule twice in a lifetime, and similarly, the President of the United States can only serve two terms. Enforcing term limits for elected officials prevents the formation of an insular "parliamentary elite" who have spent a large fraction of their lives in office and have no real world experience anymore. Ossified ideas get tossed out with ossified parliamentarians, and new ideas are allowed to flourish.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on March 19, 2006, 00:37:52
I think the Senate in particular could benefit if its members were elected to one single term.  With no follow-on career in politics there would be little advantage to towing the party line.  Hiring people at the end of their "working" career would also impact on the degree of partisan activity.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Five-to-One on March 28, 2006, 19:27:25
Someone should provide a rough outline of what each option means, I dont believe many people understand what proportional commons means.

Would definitly help the vote turn turnout and give us a better idea of the majority opinion
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on April 01, 2006, 01:28:17
A fairly comprehensive review of why PR and other "alternative" voting systems get pushed (and why we should push back):

http://thelondonfog.blogspot.com/  31 March 2006

Quote
Proportional representation
recommended by 4 out of 5 activists!

Note the most vocal proponents of proportional representation: invariably they are activists or advocates for special interests. Why is this? Ask yourself what special interests have to gain from political representation. But begin with the question of what they have not gained from the current political system — nothing less than their political objectives, of course. Frequently frustrated by their failures to achieve their objectives, or the slow implementation of those objectives, activists for political interests mischievously recast their complaints as failures of a democratic model. But, as Paul McKeever, leader of the Freedom Party of Ontario, reminded Ontario's select committee on electoral reform in October of last year:

    Elections and voting are not, per se, democracy. "Democracy" is a term derived from the Greek word "dēmos," meaning "people," and "kratos," meaning "power," not "rule." History is filled with examples of democracies that differed wildly in terms of who was permitted to vote or how they voted, but all of those systems have something in common. Properly understood, democracy, or "people power," is the belief that government gets its authority from the governed.

    […] Because one frequently finds lawmakers to be chosen by way of elections in alleged democracies, and because candidates win elections only by winning more votes than their competitors, elections and voting widely have been confused as being synonymous with democracy. However, in truth, elections themselves are not democracy; rather, they are a very effective tool for the defence of democracy. Specifically, by removing law-making authority from the lawmakers at regular intervals, and by requiring would-be lawmakers to obtain law-making authority from the people, elections continually and effectively remind everyone that the authority to make laws comes from the people. Put another way, elections remind the people that government answers neither to God nor to itself, but to the people it governs. Elections remind us that we believe in democracy.

    The relevance of this to electoral reform should be noted. Different electoral systems may differ in how effectively they "kick the bums out," but it would be utterly false to suggest that one electoral system is itself more or less democratic than any other electoral system. Just as elections are not democracy, electoral systems do not differ in how democratic they are. As this committee drafts its final report, I would urge it to keep one thing in mind: Do not let your endorsement of one electoral system over another be based on the false notion that the electoral reform will lead to "greater democracy" or the elimination of a "democratic deficit." Though it may lead to a better or worse defence of democracy, it will not lead to more or less democracy.

Having dismissed the notion that proportional representation or any variation of it is inherently "more democratic," and noting that proportional representation refers more to an electoral outcome than to a system, McKeever goes on to note that suggested electoral reforms have much more to do with how governments arrive at decisions, and that here "the implications of electoral reform are truly immense."

Indeed, the concerns of special interests in democratic nations such as ours are generally not for democracy itself, but the achievement of their objectives. Their objectives and their methods both being political, their interests are unquestionably better served in arenas where decision-making is entirely political in nature; that is, where decisions are negotiated between competing political interests, where deals are cut between the brokers of political parties and lobby groups, for one thing only: political advantage, It goes without saying that such arenas are further removed from citizens. There exists already, of course, opportunities for such political arenas — what proportional representation will achieve is to make such arenas almost inevitable. They are called minority governments. McKeever continues:

    In a majority government, the party in power has the opportunity to govern by doing what it believes is right, even when it's unpopular for it to do so. In a minority or coalition government, the process is almost entirely different. The issue is not one of right and wrong, but of compromise and negotiation. On its face, that sounds very friendly and up-with-people. But in reality, the difference between majority government and minority or coalition government is dramatic. Specifically, when we replace majority governments with minority or coalition governments, we move from a system that accommodates ethical decision-making to a system based on the rejection of ethics and the substitution of whims and numbers -- ballot-counting, or hand-counting, if you're talking about the Legislature. We move from a government guided by reason to one guided by emotion; to one guided not by what's right, but simply by what you want.

Objections can be made, and sustained, that the current electoral system already provides the opportunity for minority governments, and that majority governments as well are arenas in which decisions are made for political advantage. The point is, however, that majority governments at least allow an opportunity for rational, ethics-based decisions without regard to political horse-trading, an opportunity which almost cannot occur in minority governments. With this understanding, it is easy to judge the appeal of proportional representation to special interest groups. What then is the appeal of proportional representation to the average citizen? Simply, there is none except for duplicitous and misdirecting characterizations of democracy from those who have something to gain by it — how democratic is that then?

McKeever's interest in the subject may itself be of interest — as the leader of a party that has never elected a representative, he might be expected to support an electoral system that promises his party at least a chance of putting a chip on the table. Possibly to their political detriment, but to their credit, the Freedom Party is founded on and governed by principles that entirely exceed their pursuit of political advantage. Specifically, McKeever's presentation was incited by the Ontario government's feelers on electoral reform. It appears now that Ontario is moving closer to treading the path of BC. Lawrence Solomon, writing in the Financial Post, provides examples of what we in Ontario could someday look forward:

    Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform this week, giving it the task of explaining how a system of proportional representation or other electoral reform might work for Ontarians. Electoral reform bodies in B.C. and P.E.I. last year -- each of which put forward their own vision of voting nirvana -- failed to explain the benefits of the more sophisticated -- some say convoluted -- voting systems preferred by many activists. The provincial populaces voted down both schemes.

    Ontario's Citizens Assembly -- 52 women and 51 men chosen randomly from the province's 103 ridings, including one aboriginal of unspecified sex -- have a tall order. They need to become experts in the world's voting systems in a matter of months. The assembly will meet for the first time in September, then come to its decision and issue its report on May 15.

    To help the Citizens Assembly educate itself, I've produced a primer on proportional representation, the reform favoured by most activists, using this week's election in Israel as illustration. Israel is a model of proportional representation.

    1. Don't think in terms of having a majority government run by a single political party with a coherent governing philosophy; think in terms of minority government comprised of a collection of special interests.

    2. Don't think in terms of voting for the candidate of your choice.

    3. Don't expect to know who will form the government after the ballots are counted.

Read the rest here, http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/financialpost/story.html?id=86f453bf-558d-4522-9a30-e9d6c9bbf373&p=2 and judge for yourself the benefits of proportional representation.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on April 01, 2006, 01:50:42
If you want a concrete example of the power of PR look at Iraq.

The voters there voted for a slate (a party of parties if you like).  The electors often didn't have a clue who the candidates for the parties were nor the parties in the slate.  Now the people that control those votes have been slagging each other since December/January? ( It's been so long I can't remember anymore) trying to finagle seats for friends and the best perqs available.  3 or 4 months and no end in site with the terrorists chuckling as they let the Iraqis enjoy the benefits of "Democracy".

The same thing has happened in most other countries that have accepted PR.  The Pary Apparatchiks decide who stays and who goes not the electors.  In New Zealand, where it is apparently a split house, (some members elected directly and some appointed from the party lists) electors have been treated to the sight of directly elected members being chucked out on their rump for doing a piss-poor job of representing them only to discover that the party reappoints them.  Their party backed vote could potentially veto the wishes of the electors that chucked them out in the first place because of their opinion.

Maybe First Past the Post - Winner Take All is not the best system, I am willing to hear arguments for systems to guarantee the Member has a majority of electors (run-offs or ranking), but it has to come down to one riding, one member, elected by the constituents, and all members elected on the same basis.  If you want to represent other interests - well the Senate and the Provincial legislatures offer possibilities to find different voices representing different constituencies.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: SeaKingTacco on April 01, 2006, 13:55:02
Another problem with PR-

Sure going with PR would get marginal parties, like the Greens some seats in our Parliament.  What people seem to forget is that it could also elect parties like (just making this up)- The Anti-abortion Party of Canada or the New Nazi Party of Canada or even the Anti-Immigration Party Of Canada.  In other words, single issue, not very nice parties that are currently held onto the sidelines because they cannot get a critacl mass in any one place.  In PR, these little guys can end up holding the balance of power and extracting some nasty concessions to get it.

Our current system may not be perfect, but it is not bad. It forces compromise and washes out some of the more radical ideas (witness the morphing of the Reform into the Conservatives). It could probably be improved safer and easier with an elected senate, based regionally or provincially that would act as a check/balance to Parliament.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on May 30, 2006, 17:11:14
Sure going with PR would get marginal parties, like the Greens some seats in our Parliament.  What people seem to forget is that it could also elect parties like (just making this up)- The Anti-abortion Party of Canada or the New Nazi Party of Canada or even the Anti-Immigration Party Of Canada. 
This might come true if we are talking about national proportional representation.  However, the risk can be reduced through multi-member constituencies.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on September 07, 2006, 23:19:19
Quote
PM demands Senate reform, 'not a report'
07/09/2006 5:07:59 PM 
CTV.ca News Staff

Harper wants new appointees limited to terms of eight years. Senators currently sit for as many as 45 years before being compelled to retire at 75.

The reform would eliminate Canadians' ability to refer to senators as "lifers," Harper told the Senate committee.

"The government is not looking for another report, we are seeking action," he said.

While the proposed reform calls for limiting senators' terms to eight years, the government is flexible and would consider six or even nine years, as some have proposed, Harper said -- as long as there is a limit.

"We are seeking limited, fixed terms of office," he said.

Canada needs an upper house with democratic legitimacy, the prime minister said.

Harper said it's become a convention for politicians to promise Senate reform during elections, but to date no one has followed through once elected.

"This has to end, because the Senate must change. "We will be the authors of that change," he vowed.

Liberal strategists suspect the prime minister's move is meant to be a warning to the Liberal-dominated Senate that Harper won't tolerate any attempt by unelected senators to derail legislation on issues he feels strongly for. That includes his Federal Accountability Act.

The act, aimed at cleaning up government in the wake of the Liberal-era sponsorship scandal, is currently under study by the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee.

On Tuesday, Liberals on the committee blocked a Conservative effort to conclude hearings by Sept. 26.

Liberal senators are insisting the act needs significant revisions, an insistence that could lead to an impasse by the Harper government that would only be broken by an election.

Tory strategists, however, predict Liberals will back down rather than risk declining popularity in another election because the sponsorship scandal is still fresh on the minds of voters.

Liberal senators will also test the Senate reform, as some suggest the proposal is unconstitutional and should be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada first.

The government insists its proposal requires only the approval of both houses of Parliament, but Liberal Senator Jack Austin suggested a constitutional amendment with provincial consent would be needed.

Seeking to head off that argument, the prime minister reminded the Senate committee that the 1984 Molgat Cosgrove report on Senate reform made a similar recommendation regarding term length, and "confirmed that such a change was achievable without using the general constitutional amending formula."

Harper's appearance before the committee was the first of a sitting prime minister.
http://news.sympatico.msn.ctv.ca/TopStories/ContentPosting.aspx?feedname=CTV-TOPSTORIES_V2&newsitemid=CTVNews%2f20060906%2fharper_senate_060906&showbyline=True
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on September 20, 2006, 18:09:42
Ontario: the first to whine for more power in the Senate.
Quote
Abolish Senate or give us more seats, says Ont.
Updated Wed. Sep. 20 2006 11:24 AM ET
Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- Ontario wants Ottawa to abolish the Senate or give the province more seats in any plans to reform the upper chamber.

The Ontario government will present its official position to a federal Senate committee tomorrow.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Marie Bountrogianni says there are other more pressing concerns facing the federal government, like education and infrastructure.

But she says if the prime minister is determined to reform the Senate, the province thinks the upper chamber should either be scrapped or Ontario given a larger percentage of the total seats.

Since Ontario has 40 per cent of the country's population, Bountrogianni says the province should have more than 23 per cent of the senate seats.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said his government is working on a plan to elect senators but a Queen's Park source has told the Toronto Star that Harper would be reaching beyond his powers if he goes ahead without approval from the provinces.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on September 20, 2006, 20:32:57
What are these guys fumer-ing?  Give Ontario more seats?  They should have less.  The Senate shouldn't be a representation of population; that's what we have the House of Commons for.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on September 20, 2006, 20:41:43
Les lecons are commencing to pay off are les?  ;D

You've got to know that Ontario knows a good thing when it sees it.  They're not going to give up their seat at the trough without a fight.

The only solution to the 7-50 formula (7 provinces & 50% of the population) is for all you young Westerners to have more kids.

Get at it. ;)

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on September 21, 2006, 14:13:51
Someone remind Ontario that they already have rep-by-pop in the House of Commons.  They seem to have forgotten.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on September 21, 2006, 14:24:05
The senate should be elected and each province should have an equal amount of seats. (Does that mean PEI has 24 senators twiddling their multiple thumbs?)

Each province should also have an equal number of seats in the Commons. Then the issues get resolved geographically rather than thru population density.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on September 21, 2006, 20:16:21
I wonder what would happen if Harper were just to say that he will accept as nominees those that the provinces put forwards.  Those provinces that choose to elect their senators could then go ahead.  Those opposed could either not appoint a senator or else explain to their provinces why other provinces do get to choose their representatives.

If they choose not to participate and offer nominations then the elected senators will have the floor to themselves.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 22, 2006, 07:43:27
As I read the Constitution (  http://lois.justice.gc.ca/en/const/c1867_e.html#legislative ) (§21/36, §23 and §32 being all important) the Governor in Council (the PM, really) operates with nearly complete discretion; (s)he can appoint as many (up to the limits described in §22 and  §26/28) or as few senators as (s)he wishes.  I can see (and I checked Forsey a couple of years back) no restrictions on how the PM selects or fails to select.

If Harper decides that he will appoint only elected senators then the provinces have two choices (after the obligatory court challenges): elect senators or go unrepresented.  The former leads, inevitably, to an elected and effective Senate, the latter to abolition.

I repeat (see my comments from 18 months ago ff) that a federal state needs a bicameral legislature so abolition is the wrong answer.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Old Guy on September 22, 2006, 11:43:06
So, if Canada had a Senate with two senators from each province, and a Commons with each province represented according to population, what does that do to the existing balance of power within the Federal government?  Your current arrangement guarantees a concentration of power.  A Senate set up as suggested would contribute to a separation of powers, like the US.  Allowing each province to determine how their senators are selected is a good idea, by the way.  That's how it started in the US.  State legislatures appointed senators for a long time before we turned to direct election of the Senate.

If the PM is a member of the majority party in the Commons and the Senate happens to have an opposite majority, either of a single opposing party or a coalition, doesn't that cause a separation in power structure?  I'm not sure it would make any difference, but it's worth considering.

Based on what I've seen of Canadian politics, an upper house is needed to offset the smothering effect the populous provinces have on national politics.  If an upper house is elected via proportional representation and/or according to population, the end result will be a further fracturing of east from west and probably along other lines I don't understand from where I sit.

James Madison, one of the prime movers behind the US Constitution, was convinced that the various branches of government had to be separate and that they would naturally serve different constituencies.  He felt that the natural result of such separation was that the branches would tend to collide.  In those collisions lay the safety of the people from their own government.  The necessity for compromise in such a situation tends to smooth out the truly radical initiatives and provide the most inclusiveness for any decision.  In practice, it's messy, but it works.  Mostly.  The Founding Fathers thought a lot about how dangerous a government could be to its own people and took stringent steps to limit that power.  Efficiency is not the name of the game in government, no matter what moron insists that it is.  Hitler created a fairly efficient bureaucracy.  They efficiently slaughtered millions in death camps and saw to the deaths of millions more from battle, starvations, and disease. 

Just thinking out loud.  :)

jim

jim 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 13, 2006, 11:05:51
This is from today’s (13 Dec 06) Ottawa Citizen; it is reproduced under the Fair Dealings provisions of the Copyright Act:

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=32f730ac-e1cf-49a3-bff9-8321db4df5f0&k=57929
Quote
Harper may consult electors on their Senate preferences
 
Tim Naumetz, CanWest News Service; Ottawa Citizen
Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2006

OTTAWA - The Conservative government has served notice it plans to bring in a bill to clear an impasse with key provinces over an elected Senate by consulting voters directly.

The surprise legislation, which could be tabled as early as today under House of Commons rules, would call on Elections Canada to poll electors to find their ``preferences'' among candidates for Senate vacancies.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan surfaced in a brief notice the government placed on the House order paper saying it intends to introduce: ``An act to provide for consultations with electors on their preferences for appointments to the Senate.''

Media aides to Harper and Government House Leader Rob Nicholson declined to comment on the legislation before it is tabled, and opposition parties were taken by surprise.

But the Ottawa Citizen has learned the bill proposes to establish a procedure where Elections Canada, which has the legal authority to conduct a federal referendum as well as federal elections, would conduct a form of plebiscite, likely only within provinces that have Senate vacancies.

The results would be presented as information to a prime minister to consider when filling a vacancy.

The consultation could not be legally binding on Harper or subsequent prime ministers because the Constitution stipulates only the Queen, on the advice of cabinet, can name people to the Senate. Unlike all other government appointments, where the Governor General's approval is enough, Senate appointments continue to receive direct approval from the Queen.

The government motion includes a recommendation to the House of Commons from Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean Jean to provide funding for the unprecedented ``consultations'' with electors.

Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale was unaware of the government's plan, saying ``they haven't talked about it.''

NDP Leader Jack Layton said he was unaware of the proposal, but reiterated the NDP position that the Senate should be abolished.

Harper's original plan to convince provincial governments to help find Senate candidates through their own electoral agencies has faltered.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty have objected, with McGuinty saying the Senate should be either abolished or reformed.

Alberta is the only province that has held elections to nominate candidates for Senate vacancies.

A total of 10 Senate seats are currently vacant _ three in Nova Scotia, two in each of Quebec and Ontario and one in each of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Ottawa Citizen

If consulted in any direct, meaningful way I will reiterate my position:

•   No change, for now, to the equality of Senate representation – that would require reopening the Constitution, a prospect which, while welcome to me, personally, ought not to be on the agenda of level headed Canadian politicians;

•   All currently serving senators to be invited to submit a letter of resignation to be effective on the date of the next (applicable) provincial general election; and

•   Provinces to be advised that, in addition to respecting all the current senatorial qualifications, the PM will select only senators elected on a proportional basis during a provincial general election who, in advance, provide a letter of resignation to be effective on the date of the next provincial general election.

This would result in an elected Senate.  Imagine that, an elected legislature in Canada, in the 21st century!  Not overnight, of course: some serving senators would refuse to resign right away – but they would surely reconsider as soon as they (the (mostly Chrétien) appointees) were outnumbered and rendered toothless by the elected senators.  It took the US several years, starting just after the turn of the last century, to get from an appointed to a fully elected Senate.

The newly elected Senate would, soon, become effective, too – elected politicians tend to do that ort of thing.

This system would play havoc with the current caucusing system.  I did a very rough calculation over a year ago and I guesstimated that an elected (by my system) Senate of Canada, circa mid 2005, would look like this:

•   Bloc Québecois – 8
•   Conservatives – 30
•   Green – 1
•   Liberal - 40
•   NDP – 18
•   Other/Independent* - 8

Cleary the Liberals would be unable, on their own, to block government bills but the Liberals plus the NDP could form a majority coalition IF all the Liberals caucused together.  But, it is not clear to me that the BC Liberals, for example, would caucus with the federal Liberals.

My elected Senate becomes a ‘House of the Federation’ and, effectively, undercuts (but does not totally negate) the ongoing, interminable federal/provincial first ministers’ conferences.

Being, broadly, representative of provincial legislatures, the Senate (elected on my terms) could be expected to give the government-of-the-day real heartache on matters in which the federal government has intruded into areas of provincial jurisdiction.

--------
* Includes unaffiliated senators from the Territories (one each), one from Alberta and 4 (mostly Action Democratique) from Québec.


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: warspite on December 13, 2006, 20:24:48
Well the bill has been tabled...
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/12/13/harper-senators.html (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/12/13/harper-senators.html)

Quote
Dion calls bill "completely irresponsible"
Dion said changes to the Senate should address more pressing concerns.

He said the current system doesn't make sense because a province like Nova Scotia is represented by 10 senators, while a province like Alberta, with about five times the population, only has six senators.

"I think what the prime minister wants to do is completely, completely irresponsible," Dion said in French, speaking to reporters a few hours after Harper's caucus meeting.

"We would be electing senators with the current distribution and the current distribution does penalize provinces, particularly the western provinces."
Well I agree with Mr Dion. Lets go mess around with the constitution and redistribute the senate seats justly... and while we're at it lets redistribute the seats in Parliament too, more Parliament seats in the west... HOW WOULD YOU LIKE THAT MR DION?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: TCBF on December 14, 2006, 18:12:39
Parliamentary ridings are re-organized within ten years of the latest census.  Since Alberta/BC combined now have a greater population than Quebec, any forward thinking Eastern politician should be agreeing with the latest senate reform proposal, not fighting it.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: 3rd Horseman on December 14, 2006, 19:46:57
I like the idea of Senate reform as proposed but I would not like the 8 year term. The full life of a Senator gives that person the ability to work according to best interrest since they don't need to be elected again or get the permission from the PM.

To ensure the fairness of representation we should have a change to the regional Senate representation with special interest at large positions to represent the first nations. I would suggest that the country have 6 regions based on the natural regional boundaries vice the current regions.

20 seats - Pacific - BC
20 seats - Western - Alberta/Manitoba/Sask
20 seats - Upper Canada - Ontario
20 seats - Lower Canada - Quebec
20 seats - Eastern - NB/NS/PEI/NF
3 seats - Northern - Yukon/NWT/Nunavut
2 seats - Indigenous peoples one from the west and one from the east

Just a thought. On that note hats already in the ring.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 14, 2006, 20:15:34
I don't mind the 8 year term, so long as it is a single term with no re-election.   I think that gets to the same place that you want to be - limiting the politicking.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 15, 2006, 01:35:24
Quote
He said the current system doesn't make sense because a province like Nova Scotia is represented by 10 senators, while a province like Alberta, with about five times the population, only has six senators.

The Senate need not be a body that represents population - we have the House of Commons to serve that purpose.  We don't need two houses doing the same thing.

As a regional body, the Senate is well constructed to counteract popular voice with regional voice (essential in large countries like Australia, Canada, or the US).  I would prefer a system like the Aussies or US, which assigns each state an equal amount of Senators.  Even the regional model (assigning equal Senators to each region) would be functional - we only need to retool the current regional model to one representative of the 21st century, as the current model is grounded in 19th century Canada with Upper and Lower Canada, the West, and the Maritimes.  Unfortunately, either of these distribution plans involve Constitutional amendment.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on December 15, 2006, 02:36:11
Having thought about it some more, I'm now unconvinced there needs to be any federal body that is rep-by-pop.  We just went through a lot of fuss over cultural ("nation") identities.  It's beyond dispute that there are distinct regions and peoples in Canada, each content to live life in different flavours.  It's unclear that there's any compelling reason for Toronto to have the power to make PEI live the way Torontonians like to live.  We'd be fine if each of the 10 provinces were represented equally in one federal house.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 15, 2006, 18:55:28
Having thought about it some more, I'm now unconvinced there needs to be any federal body that is rep-by-pop.  We just went through a lot of fuss over cultural ("nation") identities.  It's beyond dispute that there are distinct regions and peoples in Canada, each content to live life in different flavours.  It's unclear that there's any compelling reason for Toronto to have the power to make PEI live the way Torontonians like to live.  We'd be fine if each of the 10 provinces were represented equally in one federal house.

As a Canadian soldier, I'm not to sure I'm interested in moving to one of 10 different "nations" every few years and having to readjust.  Having some affinity from Vancouver to Halifax beyond a mere roundtable session in Ottawa is nice.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: TCBF on December 15, 2006, 21:37:08
"It's unclear that there's any compelling reason for Toronto to have the power to make PEI live the way Torontonians like to live.  We'd be fine if each of the 10 provinces were represented equally in one federal house."

- A sure recipe for civil war or the UDI of 'oppressed' majorities.  A bi-cameral system with one rep-by-pop and one regional rep works fine.  The devil will be in the details.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on December 15, 2006, 22:41:01
>A sure recipe for civil war or the UDI of 'oppressed' majorities.

Civil wars don't start because people are allowed to be themselves in their own lands.  Civil wars start when one part of a nation gets tired of other parts telling its people how they should live - especially with regard to moral and cultural preferences.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 16, 2006, 00:01:22
>A sure recipe for civil war or the UDI of 'oppressed' majorities.

Civil wars don't start because people are allowed to be themselves in their own lands.  Civil wars start when one part of a nation gets tired of other parts telling its people how they should live - especially with regard to moral and cultural preferences.

Amen Brother Brad.  :)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: TCBF on December 16, 2006, 03:29:12
"Civil wars don't start because people are allowed to be themselves in their own lands.  Civil wars start when one part of a nation gets tired of other parts telling its people how they should live - especially with regard to moral and cultural preferences."

- Which is exactly what would happen if we had ONLY a house where the ten provinces were represented equally.  PEI, NB, NS and NF - 1.5 million people, max - ramming through legislation such as a 'New NEP' over BC and AB - 7 million people. 

A house based on regional rep alone would only work if we were a loose federation without the ability to legislate how the rest should live.  But then, we would not be a country if we did that.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on December 16, 2006, 16:07:17
>- Which is exactly what would happen if we had ONLY a house where the ten provinces were represented equally.  PEI, NB, NS and NF - 1.5 million people, max - ramming through legislation such as a 'New NEP' over BC and AB - 7 million people.

Seeing as AB (or AB+BC) would be outnumbered in both a rep-by-pop and rep-by-province body, and 4 of 10 provinces wouldn't be a majority - at least 2 of the others would have to join in the cawq-fest - your objection isn't particularly compelling.  However, I do in fact prefer a bicameral system.

>But then, we would not be a country if we did that.

How do you figure?  As I see it, as long as a collection of jurisdictions share armed forces they are pretty much a country.  All the rest is dressing.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 17, 2006, 00:57:02
>But then, we would not be a country if we did that.

How do you figure?  As I see it, as long as a collection of jurisdictions share armed forces they are pretty much a country.  All the rest is dressing.

Maybe not. Collections of shared jurisdiction are a confederation (or a confederacy), and the binding power of their collective armed forces may or may not be all that is needed to bind the people together. The Delian League was plagued by constant revolts, and the biggest problem faced by the Confederate States of America was the various States wanted to go off in their own directions (with their own armed forces) rather than carrying out a unified war plan. (As an aside, the Union wasn't much better in the beginning, [America was properly known as "These United States"] but the Republican Administration laid the foundation of the modern bureaucracy in order to mobilize the military, economic and natural resources for the war effort).
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 17, 2006, 12:49:35
As an aside (and this may warrant its own thread), what neccesarily makes the Province any better at securing it's citizens from the policies of a distant majority?  Canada has some pretty big provinces, many with both regional and urban/rural divides.  Would a citizen of, say, central British Columbia be anymore satisfied with Vancouver or Victoria pushing through legislation than PEI imposing its will on Confederation (to stick with your example  :)).  This suggests to me that our definition of region may be antiquated and inadequete.  I know I've broached this before, but I feel that the maximum distance a person will travel to do commerce and other social function is roughly 100km.  Perhaps a large variety of government function should be devolved down to a level like this, a new 'polis' if you will.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on April 18, 2007, 18:43:56
Well we can at least see the direction the wind is starting to blow:

http://www.proudtobecanadian.ca/blog/index/weblog/harper_provides_sign_that_canada_is_becoming_a_grownup_country

Quote
Harper provides sign that Canada is becoming a grownup country
Posted by Joel Johannesen

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper today appointed the twice voter-elected Bert Brown to the Liberals’ Canadian Senate division.  He will sit as a Conservative. 

Liberals are against that. The Liberals ignored the wishes of the Canadian people on this Senate matter, as they often did and continue to do.  Liberals have worked hard at appointing liberals to every facet of Canadian life, and as such, Canada is now replete with liberals running and working in and dominating every facet of Canadian life. 

Bert Brown ran in an Alberta election for the Senate in 2004.  Prime Minister Harper apparently cares about what Canadians think—risking the notion that they—the citizens instead of a bunch of self-anointed liberal elitists — might be right.  The beauty of the current situation is that now, both Prime Minister Harper and the citizens are both right. 

Posted by Joel Johannesen on 04/18/07 at 01:49 PM
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on April 21, 2007, 01:28:55
Great news!  A step in the right direction!  :)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on April 21, 2007, 09:16:00
Great news!  A step in the right direction!  :)

Not everyone agrees, of course.....

Quote
Bert Brown's red chamber
Colby Cosh, National Post
Published: Friday, April 20, 2007

To understand the argument in favour of the Brown appointment, one only need look at who is opposing it. Stephane Dion claims that Albertans are settling for piecemeal Senate reform, and goads them with the antiquated seat distribution in the upper House. But piecemeal reform seems like a pretty nutritious alternative to going hungry, and that's what will happen if Albertans must wait for a Quebec signature on the constitution in order for any reform to go ahead.

Worse still, Dion expresses open doubts that Brown is "the best person" for the job. Even for Dion, this may be an extravagant new accomplishment in tone-deafness. Granting that Mr. Brown has opened himself to a modicum of criticism by openly seeking a Senate job, the remark will leave Albertans wondering whether generations of Liberal prime ministers were really always selecting the "best person" when they elevated throngs of failed Liberal candidates and skulking partisan satchel-carriers to the Senate.

But at least Dion, unlike others in his party, spared us the complaints that it is "unconstitutional" for a prime minister to appoint a Senator who won an election and who otherwise meets the requirements of the office. According to this theory, the only eligible Albertans Mr. Harper is categorically forbidden to appoint are the four people who were actually chosen by the province's voters in 2004. There could be no possible "constitutional" objection, after all, if Harper deliberately chose from the list of people who lost that election, or even if he pulled a random Albertan's name out of a hat on national television.

This is self-evident nonsense, and it is being put before the public only because the Conservatives now wield the prime ministerial authority. In truth, Harper's selection of Bert Brown is in our best constitutional traditions. It is the kind of organic, fractional change, implemented by means of unwritten convention, that brought about our model of government in the first place -- not that a good Liberal would admit to knowing anything about that.

Colbycosh@gmail.com
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: warspite on April 21, 2007, 13:00:10
Excellent article :salute:
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on April 21, 2007, 17:05:49
Pragmatic incrementalism is the tradition of Westminster.  Solutions for all eternity are the province of the Constitutionalists - that way they keep themselves busy constantly rewriting new Constitutions.  Lessee: Sargon, Hammurabi, various Pharaohs, Moses, Justinian, Code Civil, Napoleon, Multiple French Republics......  The Americans have a neat variation on a them they "carved a Constitution in stone" then kept on hand a body of stone-cutting scribes to constantly update the stone and read it back to the masses.  Trudeau's acolytes seem to like that variation.  Of course Russia, China, N. Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Zimbabwe all have Constitutions but the say exactly what the Bossman says they say.

Parliamentarianism is about the pragmatic tyranny of the majority in order to minimize conflict.  It adjusts to the realities of the day.  It doesn't/shouldn't spend time looking for eternal verities.  That is the job of the clergy, both secular and religious.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on April 22, 2007, 00:35:28
It should be noted that until Oregon started electing senators, the US Senate was appointed by each individual state.

EDIT to add:  Incrementalism works!
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 18, 2007, 09:03:43
Earlier this week the National Post ran an informative, if quite wrong-headed, series on the ever popular subject of Senate reform.  The series was too long to reproduce here but Andrew Coyne’s response is not.  Here it is, from today’s Post, reproduced here under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act.

----------
Fear of a democratic Senate

Andrew Coyne

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Before this week's series on Senate reform -- only in your soar-away National Post -- I had been under the impression that reform of the Senate was a desirable thing. At any rate I had thought that it was a desired thing -- that somewhere in this favoured land at least a few Canadians thought the present House of the Timeservers should be replaced with something less disgraceful, namely a house elected by universal suffrage, as I understand is often the practice in democracies. I had understood that there were differences of opinion on this great and weighty issue, and that while many believed a reformed Senate was needed to offer some counterweight to the power of the more populous regions, many others disagreed.

How wrong I was. Not content with the daily diet of front-page stories explaining all the many dozens of ways Senate reform simply Could Not Be Done, the Post also put its readers through a strenuous regimen of op-ed pieces exhorting that it Should Not Be Done. Two were explicitly anti-reform, differing only on the comparatively trivial question of whether it should be kept as is or done away with altogether. The third, by my friend Lorne Gunter, was ostensibly pro-reform, but with one caveat: that by reform, he did not actually mean reform. Under the Gunter plan, senators, instead of being appointed by the prime minister, would be appointed by the premiers. The provinces would then control one-and-a-half levels of government: their own, in the usual fashion, and the feds' by remote control.

So I can only conclude that no one in this country actually favours Senate reform, much as no one thinks there should be any serious check on the prime minister's power to appoint Supreme Court judges, or that Parliament should be required to abide by the rights it enshrined in the Charter, without recourse to the notwithstanding override -- issues on which the same consensus of the great and good has lately pronounced, always on the side of the status quo. The democratic deficit? No such thing. Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

Still, there is the little matter of a government having been elected on a platform promising, among other things, to begin the process of Senate reform. Which makes the opposition of the learned Gunter and fellow travellers such as Gordon Gibson, also quoted in the Post series, so intriguing. Both are from the West. Both support the Conservative party, and were supporters of the Reform party before it -- a party that arose in large part to address the democratic failings of the federal government, the Senate before all. And both are now skeptical of Senate reform, at least on the democratic model, on the grounds that -- I confess this had not occurred to me as an objection -- it would make the federal government more democratic.

This is how tightly provincialism has gripped some sections of the conservative movement: They would prefer an undemocratic, and hence illegitimate, federal government, rather than suffer any power to arise that might rival that of the provinces. "Were the central government to achieve the legitimacy of genuine, directly elected regional representation in a reformed Senate," Mr. Gibson warns, "the balance would be upset. Power would follow the new legitimacy."

Mr. Gunter goes further. "The centralization of authority in Washington," he notes with alarm, "can be traced to the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which mandated the election of senators directly by the people of their states. Prior to that, senators were elected to six-year terms by their state legislatures...

"Not surprisingly, senators were highly attentive to the will of their state representatives. But after the 17th Amendment, senators quickly learned to approve all sorts of new federal spending and regulations and laws to please the voters back home... The same will happen here if senators become federal players rather than provincial representatives."

Gracious. Senators focused on "pleasing the voters" rather than jumping to the commands of their provincial patrons. A Senate filled with "federal players" rather than "provincial representatives." A reminder: He means this as an objection.

But of course this is precisely the argument in favour of reform: not only that it is unseemly, in a democracy, to be governed by any but those the people elect, but that the presence of such a house of ill repute in our national capital has served to discredit the federal government itself. Nor is this resolved by abolition: The pressures for regional representation do not go away just because the Senate does. In the absence of a legitimate upper house, that role has been played by the provincial premiers, who have no constitutional standing whatever to intrude themselves into federal matters.

I can understand why the premiers would be so fearful of Senate reform: Their own role would be diminished accordingly. But it is an oddity to see others make the same case against it -- not that it wouldn't work, but that it would.

© National Post 2006
----------

I want to use this as a springboard to suggest that it is not just Senate Reform which is required, we, Canada, need to introduce some form of representative democracy with a few fairly basic principles such as, just for example, one person : one vote in elected legislatures.

I understand that many Canadians believe we have a liberal, democratic, representative democracy; I also understand that many Canadian believe in Santa and the tooth fairy.  All those myths, Santa slides down the chimney, Canada is a representative democracy, the tooth fairy leaves money are equally well founded.

Consider, just for example, one person : one vote.  A voter in Cardigan PEI had, in the 2006 general election, a vote worth about 3 times that cast by a voter in Calgary-Nose Hill or over 2.5 times that cast by a voter in Chatham Essex-Kent in Ontario.  Remember, we are not talking about very small populations in our vast, remote Arctic lands – Cardigan is a lot like Chatham Essex Kent except that it has way, way less than half the population but the same political ‘value’ in Ottawa.

There is a reason why PEI votes are so valuable: PEI has four Senate seats and, according to our Constitution, no province may have fewer MPs than it has Senators.  To change that particular provision of the Constitution requires the unanimous consent of the national parliament and all ten provincial legislatures.

One of the reasons so many people oppose Senate reform is that they perceive that a Constitutional amendment would be required and they agree, amongst themselves, that meaningful Constitutional reform regarding the nature of the state (including parliamentary representation) is impossible under the 1982 Constitution.

So, should we give up, quit, cut and run?

No!

Meaningful democratic reform: creating a fairly modern representative, secular, liberal democracy, is possible.

First we need to recognize that, except for a very, very few special ridings in the Yukon and High Arctic we needURGENTLY need – real representative democracy which will be based on the idea that for 95+% of Canadians one person’s vote will be worth roughly the same as any other person’s vote – say plus or minus 20%.  There is, in my opinion, a simple and, relatively, cheap and easy way to do this, without amending the Constitution: increase the number of MPs to about 1,000.  This requires serious, apolitical rebalancing of seats within provinces – a Toronto Centre vote is ‘worth’ 1.5 times more an Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing vote within Ontario.  We should settle for one MP for about every 25,000 to 35,000 residents or every 25,000 registered electors.  That means PEI needs 4 MPs, just as it has today, and just as it is Constitutionally required to have.  Alberta needs 91, that’s 3.25 times its current allotment of 28 and Ontario needs a whopping 335, 3.1 times its current 106 – that’s more MPs for Ontario than there are seats in today’s HoC just to provide Ontario with equal representation.

Now, I can hear the screams already: There are already too many of those overpaid, pampered bums.  We can’t afford more!

Yes we can.  Let’s say that each MP ‘costs’ about $1,000,000 per year – salary, benefits, staff, parliamentary library, etc, etc – that’s probably a bit high, but that’s OK.  So we spend as much as $300 million now – about of 0.2% of the budget.  Could we not:

•   Triple the number of MPs;

•   Increase the parliamentary staff by, say, only 60%, increasing the staff budgets to, say, only $300 million, therefore;

•   Reform how MPs work, how they are supported (fewer staff for each), how committees are managed, and, and, and … because so many MPs will require new ways of working; and

•   Cut their salaries and staffs, a bit, so that we spend, let’s say $750,000 per MP and thus spend ½ of 1% of the budget on democracy?

Is ½ of 1% of the national budget really too much for a functioning democracy?

We can reform the Senate, too.  I have explained, here: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg218220.html#msg218220  here: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg200811.html#msg200811 and here: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg200450.html#msg200450 how I think our Prime Minister should go about it.  My proposal would institutionalize an existing measure of inequality.  Alberta has 2.9 million voters and only six senators, Nova Scotia has only 750,000 electors but it gets 10 senators – that’s a 5:1 disparity.  Only Québec is fairly represented I the Senate of Canada – it has a bit less than 25% of the senators for a bit less than 25% of the population.  Atlantic Canada is grossly over represented and Canada West of the Ottawa River is grossly underrepresented.

We should have a equal Senate – because it should represent the equal partners in the federation: the provinces.  That, too, requires unanimous agreement and is, consequently, probably a practical impossibility.  It may have to be sufficient, for now, to make the Senate elected, which may take 20 years to accomplish, completely.  An elected Senate will make itself effective: one of the reasons the National Post authors opposed democracy!  Equality might have to wait for political maturity in Canada, maybe that will be a 22nd century phenomenon.

Edit: typos

I am bumping this up because of this article, reproduced here from today’s Globe and Mail under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070517.wpop0518/BNStory/National/home
Quote
Tory bill unfair to Ontario, McGuinty charges
Formula would cost seats, Premier says
 
BRIAN LAGHI AND KAREN HOWLETT
From Friday's Globe and Mail
May 17, 2007 at 1:37 AM EDT

OTTAWA and TORONTO — Ontario will be shortchanged in House of Commons seats by federal legislation introduced last week to bring fast-growing provinces up to par, Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday.

The bill put forward by the Conservative government would ensure that the number of British Columbians and Albertans necessary to elect a member of Parliament would approximate the national average, but Ontario would remain under-represented.

“It leaves us scratching our heads and wondering why we've been left out of a solution,” Mr. McGuinty said last night.

The legislation is written in such a way that Quebec's ratio of voters to MPs becomes the benchmark. But any provinces larger than Quebec – Ontario is the only one – would not enjoy the full benefits. According to his government's numbers, in 2021 Ontario's share of the national population will hit 40.4 per cent while its share of seats will be 35.6 per cent, an under-representation of 4.8 per cent. The Ontario under-representation in 2011 is projected at 4.3 per cent. By contrast, the under-representation of B.C. and Alberta will disappear between those years.

Mr. McGuinty said he plans to enlist the support of all Ontario MPs to urge Ottawa to instill fairness into the system.

His concerns come in the wake of legislation unveiled by the federal government last week – changes the Conservatives promised in the last election. The plan would eventually add 22 seats to the House of Commons, all of them in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. Ontario would get 10, B.C. seven and Alberta five. Those seats would probably come into play around 2014. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan, who is the minister responsible for democratic reform, said last night that Ontario will be much better off under the government's proposal than if the formula for apportioning seats remains the same.

Under the current formula, Ontario would receive an extra four seats, while Alberta would get one and British Columbia two. No other provinces would get an increase under either formula.

“Certainly, the bottom line is Ontario does far better under this formula than the current formula,” Mr. Van Loan said.

However, the legislation would give every province, with the notable exception of Ontario, enough ridings to match the size of their population. For example, by 2011, Ontario will have 35.2 per cent of the seats and 39.4 per cent of the population, compared with Quebec, which will have 22.7 per cent of the seats and 23 per cent of the population.

No province, save Ontario, will have a gap of more than one percentage point between their seat allotment and their share of the national population.

Mr. Van Loan acknowledged that Ontario is under-represented, but said the government's solution is better than the status quo. “Alberta and B.C. move basically to representation by population. Ontario doesn't go all the way to representation by population, but they get a lot closer than under the existing formula.”

The under-representation of Ontario is not a new issue. In 2001, 38 per cent of Canadians lived in Ontario, but the province had 34.4 per cent of the federal ridings, leaving it with 3.6 per cent fewer seats than people.

The changes have also caused controversy in Quebec, where the seat totals are not expected to change.

All three parties in Quebec's National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion this week calling on the House of Commons to back down on the measures outlined in the democratic reform legislation.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe also went on the attack yesterday, accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of reducing Quebec's political clout in an effort to appease members of the Conservative base who opposed the government's recognition of Quebec as a nation.

“The Quebec ministers in this government have done nothing to defend the political clout of ‘their' nation,” Mr. Duceppe said.

Conservative ministers responded by noting Quebec will always be guaranteed a minimum of 75 MPs and took a shot at Mr. Duceppe's short-lived run for the leadership of the Parti Québécois.

“When it comes to defending Quebec's interests, I think they are very well served,” Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon responded in the House.

Mr. Harper was not in the Commons yesterday.

With a report from Bill Curry

There are some interesting, albeit slightly misleading graphics in the print edition … old adages about ”lies, damned lies and statistics” apply there.

Premier McGuinty is (partially) right – Ontario, with 15 more seats by 2021 (10 in 2011 and 5 more in 2021) is worse off than it should be but Mr. Van Loan is also correct – Ontario is substantially better off than it would be if nothing is done.

The basic problem is: Canada’s democracy is locked into a 19th century mould thanks to a Constitutional amending formula designed to frustrate democratic reform.

I’m a bit of a purist: while I accept that it may be necessary to provide additional money and staff to MPs from e.g. Nunavut to aid the Member in representing his (or her) huge, remote riding, I do not believe that the value of a Nunavut voter can be more than three times that of the ‘average’ Canadian voter and four times that of some Canadian voters in some major urban centres.  That’s fundamentally undemocratic and it ought to be absolutely unacceptable in a country that wants to be a functioning, liberal democracy.  That it is not a major cause célèbre in Canada is indicative of the very, very low quality of Canadians as citizens.  We are, broadly, stupid, lazy, greedy, envious and ill-educated.

The Constitution does not allow discussion of democratic reform without opening the whole kit and caboodle – including the basic structure of the state.  No government in its right mind wants to reopen debates about trading fish for freedom and the like – the Constitution Act of 1982 (the work of a numskull prime minister and his bungling, sycophantic justice minister) enshrines 19th century conservatism for a 21st century nation-state.

I know no one likes the idea of more and more politicians but, as Mrs. Thatcher was wont to say: “There is no alternative.”  The system is broken.  It is worse than broken: the system disenfranchises most Canadians – a handful of Canadians in Atlantic Canada, the prairies and the North are over-represented while the majority in Ontario, Alberta and BC, especially in urban centres in those provinces, are grievously under-represented.  The basic principle of and the fundamental right to equality are sacrificed on the alter of temporary electoral advantage.

A federal state, like Canada, needs a bicameral legislature:

•   One chamber (the Senate in Canada) needs to represent the equal partners in the federation – the provinces;

•   The other chamber (the House of Commons) ne3eds to represent the citizens, equally.

Equality is a key principle.  Prince Edward island IS equal to Québec.  Both are provinces.  Each, as a province, is entitled to the same voice in the nation’s affairs.  That why the Senate needs to exist – as a house of the provinces.  Québec is, equally, entitled to a greater voice than prince Edward Island because it has more people – that’s why the HoC needs to provide (roughly) equal representation for each and every citizen.  A school teacher in Churchill River (SK) is not worth more than a shopkeeper in Trinity-Spadina (ON).  Each must have an equal voice in the nation’s affairs.  When, as in Canada, they do not then the state of democracy is arrested, even retarded.  That (a retarded demcracy) ought not to be good enough for citizens, not even for Canadians.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on May 18, 2007, 11:28:36
First off I'd like to invite Edward to get out of my OODA cycle. ;D  What you have written sir is much more succinct and intelligible than I could have and you have struck most of my high points. 

I do have some thoughts of my own to add though, starting from the top down...

The Governor General:  In my opinion this position has become little more than a useless hangover of a pre-WW1 Canada.  It stems from an era of British global dominance as well as an English desire to maintain a grip on "the colonies" when we as a nation were too timid to stand up and be counted.  Today the GG is to a functioning head of state what the Yugo is to automotive excellence. 

Needless to say I would like to see us make this a true elected head of state, embodying all the stately functions as well as giving it the political license to speak for Canada and Canadians outside of the country.   The illiberal, ceremonial and functionary status of this office as it is today is an insult to the concept of a liberal representative democracy.

The election of the Governor General should be a simple form of PR, each party or independent should enter a single candidate with a first round of voting and a runoff between the top two finishers to decide who gets the job.

The Senate:  Overall Edward has stolen my thunder on this issue I will add however that in addition to the equal representation of all the provinces (4 Senators per) I would add into the mix an additional 4 Aboriginal Senator seats to represent Canada's first nations as an equal partner in Canada.

Senators would be chosen on province wide votes with the top 4 candidates on a FPTP ballot being sent to the Red Chamber

The HoC I would like to see based on PR, STV to be exact, this is still doable with Edwards 1 vote for 1 person, it just means that PEI would most likely be reduced to a single Riding (electing 4MP's)

Now, to make it all work...

Here is where most of you are probably going to think I've fallen off my barstool (it wouldn't be the first time)

First the functional relationships.

1.  The Governor General being primarily concerned with the big picture, Canada's place in the world, national defence, International treaties, alliances and general Diplomacy would be paired with the House of Commons, which would also be constitutionally focused narrowly on those types of issues. 

This in my opinion is the logical course.  MP's represent ridings but they also (currently) have the responsibility to decide Canada's role, relationships and responsibilities to the wider world, but then they also get their fingers stuck in provincial pies leading to a single house of parliament trying to be everything to everyone.  A Jack of all trades and master of none is what we the people are left with.  So let's take internal National issues off their plate.  Lets let them focus their effort and best work to work with the head of state and develop a unified, holistic and coherent Canadian international policy.

2.  The Prime Minister is, or should be a National figure.  I see his job as first among equals as the protector and prime representative of the constitution.  The constitution is a NATIONAL document and as such deals specifically with Canada's internal workings and the relationships between the provinces and territories and the Federal government.  The constitution does not deal with the rest of the planet, only our small part of it.

The PM should work with what we now know as the "Council of the Federation", that is to say the provinces, but not as dictator to the provinces as is now the case during "first Ministers meetings" but as an honest broker to facilitate inter-provincial agreements.  There is currently so much inconsistency and provincial discrepancies that it is often easier for goods and services to move North and South between individual provinces and the US than it is for the goods to move east to west between provinces.

Also the PM would, in my mind, work with the Senate as the senators are the Provincial guardians of their rights within the constitution.  I believe that once the international responsibilities have been removed that this job could be done effectively with the PM and 44 Senators and the Federation of The provinces working together.

So what would all this jiggery-pokery mean?  Well if you've been paying attention you see that I've cerated 2 separate unicameral houses. With no-one checking their work this means that each house would have to be very diligent in crafting legislation but with the scope of that legislation narrowed it would allow for a little more expertise than currently found.  All legislation would still require the GG's ascent and the GGO would be expected to exercise due diligence prior to that ascent.

Now for my rant...

The Constitution:  The constitution is or should be a living document, but we Canadians have become so gun shy in dealing with it that we have failed to reform the things that are more than reformable.  The amending formula is not a one shot deal.  In areas of purely Federal responsibility the federal govenment needs only the approval of the HoC, in areas shared by the Fed and one province only the fed and that province need approve of the change.  The only time that 3/4 of the provinces and the fed has to approve is when the changes involve all the provinces and the feds.

It is also a fallacy that opening the constitution on one issue opens it for all issues.  Just like any other piece of legislation the legislation is written for one a particular issue.  Yes, someone can try to alter it in committee but should that happen then all the originating party has to do is write it out again, work with it or scrap the deal as it is.  It's called negotiation!  Our MP's and MLA's have to get over this one shot, my way or the highway mentality.  Why on earth would we as a nation spend literally years debating same sex marriage but reduce Federal Provincial relationships and responsibilities to a take it or leave it proposition?

Since I'm ranting already...

Quote
All three parties in Quebec's National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion this week calling on the House of Commons to back down on the measures outlined in the democratic reform legislation.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe also went on the attack yesterday, accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of reducing Quebec's political clout in an effort to appease members of the Conservative base who opposed the government's recognition of Quebec as a nation.

Now, who says Quebec isn't hell bent as a province (all 3 parties in the QNA) to blackmail the RoC.  Gilles, Mario, Jean, thanks for the empirical evidence fellas.  Equality is not Quebec uber alles.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on May 21, 2007, 00:02:52
I have to say, Mr. Campbell, that I agree with much of what you said.  Representation in the HoC should be based on population, and representation in the Senate should be divided equally amongst the provinces, with less representation from the territories, so that the two can balance each other off.  I too feel that we need more representation (i.e. politicians), not less.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Hunteroffortune on May 22, 2007, 03:24:01
I have to say, Mr. Campbell, that I agree with much of what you said.  Representation in the HoC should be based on population, and representation in the Senate should be divided equally amongst the provinces, with less representation from the territories, so that the two can balance each other off.  I too feel that we need more representation (i.e. politicians), not less.

I think the Senate needs a major overhaul, as an Albertan, in a highly Conservative province, we have 5 Liberal senators and 1 conservative. Mitchell has pushed through the Kyoto bill, obviously not even thinking about how it will impact Alberta. Why should anyone in Canada not be able to vote for who should represent them in the Senate? Why should do nothings get to sit for years in the Senate, without any accountability to voters? Who actually thinks that the PM should have the right to appoint their buddies to the Senate. Pass the brown bag.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on May 25, 2007, 14:08:21
I will add however that in addition to the equal representation of all the provinces (4 Senators per) I would add into the mix an additional 4 Aboriginal Senator seats to represent Canada's first nations as an equal partner in Canada.

I think giving people political rights based upon ethnic/racial background is the absolute worst thing to do, especially in an egalitarian democracy.  "Super"-empowering any group (by giving them not only a vote for being a citizen but one based upon race) is just as bad as disenfranchising people for the same reason; someone else in the body politic loses out due to their ethnic background.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on May 25, 2007, 16:21:06
I think giving people political rights based upon ethnic/racial background is the absolute worst thing to do . . .
+1
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on May 25, 2007, 16:26:18
I think giving people political rights based upon ethnic/racial background is the absolute worst thing to do, especially in an egalitarian democracy.  "Super"-empowering any group (by giving them not only a vote for being a citizen but one based upon race) is just as bad as disenfranchising people for the same reason; someone else in the body politic loses out due to their ethnic background.

Normally I would agree but not in this case.  Canada's Aboriginals and their interests are NOT represented in our parliament, and leaving their dealings with the federal government to corrupt chiefs and band leaders will only get us more of the same (Oka, Caledonia, summers of protest). 

This initiative would take the majority of power away from the band and put it in the hands of elected representatives.  Let me be clear, the election of these 4 Aboriginal Senators would be a democratic practice, no wishy washy meeting of elders, smoke a peace pipe or some such nausea, we do not want to perpetuate the worst of aboriginal governance.

No one in the body politic would loose anything by recognizing the third solitude of this country.  As a block they would be 4 senators out of 44, a voice for sure but definitely not an overpowering one.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on May 25, 2007, 17:04:56
Normally I would agree but not in this case.  Canada's Aboriginals and their interests are NOT represented in our parliament, and leaving their dealings with the federal government to corrupt chiefs and band leaders will only get us more of the same (Oka, Caledonia, summers of protest). 
I would argue that the aboriginals would vote for local parliamentarians and provincial senators.  No other ethnic group has specific representation in national government.

This initiative would take the majority of power away from the band and put it in the hands of elected representatives. 
I don’t see how this would be achieved.  Senators do not replace provincial governments, and aboriginal senators would not some how be empowered to goven the many communities across the country.

Perhaps if all reserves across the nation were grouped into one territory with its own territorial government.  That would create an elected body with power over local chiefs.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on June 03, 2007, 00:22:05
I see the issue of PR or some form of SVT is beeing mooted in Ontario as a referrendum for our next election in October. It has occured to me that the "debate" is quite sterile since the issue is being framed as "either/or" between PR and First Past the Post.

Some issues might simply be resolved by taking them right off the table; jurisdictional limits should be observed and enforced ("Your city council overspent their budget and dosn't want to raise taxes? Sorry, the Provincial legislature dosn't cover your shortfalls")

Other alternatives exist as well, such as the electoral college system in the United States, which the founding fathers developed as a way to prevent mob rule (it is irrelevant in a Presidential election who has the greatest popular vote, this way cities and large states do not overwhelm the voters in rural areas and small states). Swiss style citizen referendums (or US ballot initiatives) are another potential means of breaking the political "establishment's" monopoly on the legislature.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on June 03, 2007, 13:52:33
What determines who qualifies as an aboriginal voter?  Don't assume the current rules for band membership necessarily apply.  As long as I'm a resident of a political jurisdiction (municipality, province), I'm qualified to vote there.  Where the exercise of political power is involved, there can not be a guild guarding membership of the privileged.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on June 05, 2007, 11:06:09
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today's online edition of the Globe and Mail, is an interesting comment by former Pierre Trudau advisor Brian Flemming (http://www.cdfai.org/fellows/brianflemming.htm):

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070605.wcomment0605/BNStory/National/home
Quote
Web-exclusive comment

Stephen Harper's turn
Every prime minister has a chance to remake Canada in his image and it's not too early to see this one's direction
 
BRIAN FLEMMING
Special to Globe and Mail Update

June 5, 2007 at 1:10 AM EDT

When you are elected prime minister, you get the chance, like the God of Genesis, to remake your country in your own image.

With his Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Pierre Trudeau, the constitutional lawyer, changed Canada forever. Business-oriented Brian Mulroney negotiated a North American free trade deal that permanently altered the Canadian economy. A modest small-towner, Jean Chrétien, successfully pulled the country from an economic swamp.

It's too early to hand Stephen Harper a final report card on how his character has changed Canada. But it's not too early to discern some of the directions in which he is taking the country.

There's no question Mr. Harper's first year in government was a success. He delivered on his five-point election platform with a decisiveness that impressed Canadians. For a brief, shining moment, his poll numbers predicted he might get his holy grail of a majority.

Lately, however, the wheels have been falling off his minority government. Today, he and his front bench want nothing more than for Canada's dysfunctional Parliament to pack up and go home for the summer.

Between a spring prorogation and a fall throne speech, the Prime Minister must pull his government back together, because it is likely to last for another 21/2 years, due to recent changes in Canada's electoral laws.

Parliament is now chained to a fixed election date in late 2009. Unlike all his predecessors, Mr. Harper cannot go to the Governor-General and ask for an election writ. The only way Canada can have a general election now is if a vote of non-confidence brings Mr. Harper down.

Getting that vote won't be easy, because with 125 Conservatives in our 308-seat Parliament, it will take 154 votes to defeat him. The 100 Liberals cannot combine with 49 Bloquistes to do it. Nor can the 29 New Democrats join with the Liberals or the Bloc separately to defeat the government. There are also three independents and two vacant seats, but it will take a simultaneous descent into insanity by all three opposition parties, voting together, to trigger an election.

Mr. Harper will have to withdraw the infamous handbook his office recently distributed on how to make Parliament not work and replace it with one showing how it can work — until 2009.

If he wants to succeed, he'll have to treat the Senate with more respect, rather than imposing his undemocratic, Reformist ideology on the Red Chamber and failing to fill its vacancies.

Sections 24 and 32 of the Constitution Act require Mr. Harper to fill those seats — language that is mandatory, not enabling. The government has a "constitutional duty to appoint qualified persons to the Senate," Senators Tommy Banks and Wilfred Moore noted in a recent debate, accusing the Prime Minister of Öwilfully breaking the law, not just exercising a valid policy option.

But there are currently 12 openings, including three from Nova Scotia — 30 per cent of the province's constitutionally guaranteed number. The Maritime provinces are currently missing 20 per cent of their constitutionally allotted number of senators, more than any other part of Canada — a reflection of how Mr. Harper has written off this region politically.

By 2009, one-third of Canada's Senate seats could be unfilled. Mr. Moore suggested this might be Mr. Harper's sneaky way of rebalancing it so underrepresented provinces like Alberta and British Columbia achieve parity.

If our stubborn, secretive Prime Minister continues to refuse to appoint senators, the Supreme Court of Canada should be asked for a declaratory judgment on the subject: That would set the constitutional cats among Mr. Harper's populist pigeons.

Mr. Harper must be forced to play his Senate cards in a transparent way, not in the shadows. Above all, he must be forced to reform the Senate in a lawful manner, and not emulate the disastrous way in which Tony Blair tried to change Britain's House of Lords.

In any case, Mr. Harper's character is already dictating Canada's constitutional destiny, if not the very stability of Parliament. Avert your eyes: It won't be a pretty sight.

Brian Flemming writes for The Daily News of Halifax. He was an adviser to Pierre Trudeau.

Even allowing for Flemming's political bias, this is a remarkably one-sided piece.

Flemming cites §24 & 32 of the Constitution; they say:

Quote
Summons of Senator

24.  The Governor General shall from Time to Time, in the Queen's Name, by Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada, summon qualified Persons to the Senate; and, subject to the Provisions of this Act, every Person so summoned shall become and be a Member of the Senate and a Senator.


Summons on Vacancy in Senate

32.  When a Vacancy happens in the Senate by Resignation, Death, or otherwise, the Governor General shall by Summons to a fit and qualified Person fill the Vacancy.

I'm not a lawyer but I fail to see how these clauses require the PM to act expeditiously; to act, yes, to act quickly, no – but I'm happy to be corrected.  I understand why Sen. Banks and Sen. Moore want Harper to act against his own policy and appoint unelected senators.  They, Banks and Moore, oppose an elected Senate.  I wonder if Banks, Moore and Flemming have the balls to go to the Supreme Court of Canada to ask it to perpetuate an undemocratic, appointed legislative chambre.  Nothng, I think, would make Mr. Harper happier. 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on June 05, 2007, 11:33:43
It's a good thing that article's premise isn't bias.....gee.....

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on June 05, 2007, 14:03:24
This
Quote
rather than imposing his undemocratic, Reformist ideology on the Red Chamber
has got to be the most laughable example of faster than a tornado spin I have ever seen put to a sentence.

Somehow Flemming sees the election of senators as being undemocratic?

un-freaking-believable
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on June 28, 2007, 15:16:04
It seems Ontario voters will be asked to weigh in on some sort of PR system this election. Not surprisingly, I havn't come across any discussion as to what sort of system is being proposed; it seems like PR supporters are trying to sneak something in since they havn't made gains in other parts of the country.

Anyone have more details?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on July 05, 2007, 10:50:45
It seems Ontario voters will be asked to weigh in on some sort of PR system this election. Not surprisingly, I havn't come across any discussion as to what sort of system is being proposed; it seems like PR supporters are trying to sneak something in since they havn't made gains in other parts of the country.

Anyone have more details?

http://uncommonsensecanada.blogspot.com/2007/05/another-doomed-attempt-at-democratic.html
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on October 19, 2007, 02:00:31
Now that MMP has bitten the dust, I would like to point out that PR and related systems are geared to providing more power to political parties. The MMP proposal was particularly blatant: the "list candidates" were to be from a closed party list. Voters don't even get an indirect say in who represents them from the list.

While the current FFTP system provides majority governments without majorities of the voters, it does offer (in theory) accountability of the elected member to the voter. In order to retain the direct link between representative and voter, we need to agitate for something other than PR or a PR variation. Some possible things to propose:

Voter recall
Elimination of party whips and whipped votes in the house
Redistricting
Much smaller ridings (and therefore many more seats in the house)
Electoral College (prevents rural ridings from being "swamped" by more populated urban ridings due to weightings)
Swiss referendum system

I'm sure other systems are out there, and I am also certain that people who want to empower parties even more will fight tooth and nail against them.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on October 19, 2007, 02:51:24
I much prefer the Run-Off system as used in France: (They do somethings right - cheese is pretty good, wine is so-so).  It results in a clear majority, keeps the decision in the hands of the electorate and results in accountability to the local voters.

It is a bit more expensive than our single FPTP vote, it requires two trips to the polling booth.

But it is simpler to explain than the equally effective and cheaper "ranking" system.  That's the one where you rank your candidates 1,2,3...... Candidate with the "Fewest" points wins (1=1, 2=2, 3=3...  5 Firsts = 5 points, 2 Seconds = 4 points, 4 Thirds = 12 points for a total of 5+4+12 = 21 points).  Maybe that could be the follow-on project.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on October 19, 2007, 02:57:31
But it is simpler to explain than the equally effective and cheaper "ranking" system.  That's the one where you rank your candidates 1,2,3...... Candidate with the "Fewest" points wins (1=1, 2=2, 3=3...  5 Firsts = 5 points, 2 Seconds = 4 points, 4 Thirds = 12 points for a total of 5+4+12 = 21 points). 
Shouldn't the points be higher for being voted highest ranking (vice more points for being ranked last)?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on October 19, 2007, 09:46:42
Not all proportional systems increase the power of the parties.  By power I mean their ability to decide who is elected, STV for example. 

The real question I have is how was the citizens coalition group chosen?  By whom, and how were they able to give up their day jobs for a year to do it?  Sounds like a hand picked group with personal interests, plenty of spare time which speaks of established wealth.  Sounds like a group that had more in common with the establishment than the rest of the people in the province.

That coupled with the piss poor explanation and education of the issue by the government led to an inevitable outcome. 

My conspiracy riddled mind says the established parties didn't want to change the status quo so they first selected the method of PR which would increase their power and then threw the rest of the game by only half-heartedly explaining it.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on October 19, 2007, 16:45:24
Electoral College (prevents rural ridings from being "swamped" by more populated urban ridings due to weightings)

I would suggest that a Triple E Senate would balance out the Commons which is weighted heavily towards urban areas.

My $0.02... :)

Edit to add:

The real question I have is how was the citizens coalition group chosen?  By whom, and how were they able to give up their day jobs for a year to do it?  Sounds like a hand picked group with personal interests, plenty of spare time which speaks of established wealth.  Sounds like a group that had more in common with the establishment than the rest of the people in the province.

Here in BC, the members of the Assembly were randomly selected from the voters list, and letters went out inviting them to attend.  Those who could participate did.  I believe they were able to get 2 people per riding to participate.  Most appeared to be retired ordinary citizens.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on October 19, 2007, 19:32:07
I would suggest that a Triple E Senate would balance out the Commons which is weighted heavily towards urban areas.

My $0.02... :)

+1.

The Americans and the Aussies do it; why can't we?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on October 19, 2007, 21:16:47
Shouldn't the points be higher for being voted highest ranking (vice more points for being ranked last)?

I think it works either way MCG.  "Low man wins" has the advantage of being the identical calculation regardless of how many people are in the field.  "High man wins" means you have to count up the number of candidates in each riding and let every "First" equal the number of candidates (n).  2nd Place = n-1, 3rd = n-2....I think  ???
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 21, 2007, 06:35:44
I would suggest that a Triple E Senate would balance out the Commons which is weighted heavily towards urban areas.


Actually the HoC is weighted heavily, waaaay too heavily, towards rural and small town areas. A PEI riding, any PEI riding, is 'worth' for than three times many major urban area (Calgary and Toronto) ridings.

Canada fails two of the major tests of a liberal democracy: we have an appointed legislature (Senate) and our votes are nowhere near equally weighted. It's disgraceful and its should be cause for riots on the streets - or it would be if Canadians were politically mature.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Baden Guy on October 21, 2007, 09:58:24

Canada fails two of the major tests of a liberal democracy: we have an appointed legislature (Senate) and our votes are nowhere near equally weighted. It's disgraceful and its should be cause for riots on the streets - or it would be if Canadians were politically mature.

+1  :salute:
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on October 21, 2007, 21:08:21
Actually the HoC is weighted heavily, waaaay too heavily, towards rural and small town areas. A PEI riding, any PEI riding, is 'worth' for than three times many major urban area (Calgary and Toronto) ridings.

Yes (and this should be addressed) but there is only 4 PEI ridings while Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal have how many ridings - this goes to the heart of RangerRays point; over 1/3 of all Canadians come from 3 relatively small geographical areas and that an triple E senate will act to counter this trend.

Quote
Canada fails two of the major tests of a liberal democracy: we have an appointed legislature (Senate) and our votes are nowhere near equally weighted. It's disgraceful and its should be cause for riots on the streets - or it would be if Canadians were politically mature.

+1
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on October 21, 2007, 21:16:19
Actually the HoC is weighted heavily, waaaay too heavily, towards rural and small town areas. A PEI riding, any PEI riding, is 'worth' for than three times many major urban area (Calgary and Toronto) ridings.

Canada fails two of the major tests of a liberal democracy: we have an appointed legislature (Senate) and our votes are nowhere near equally weighted. It's disgraceful and its should be cause for riots on the streets - or it would be if Canadians were politically mature.

I agree completely.  If we are to have a true Triple E Senate, then the representation in the Commons should be a true representation by population.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 21, 2007, 22:54:27
Yes (and this should be addressed) but there is only 4 PEI ridings while Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal have how many ridings - this goes to the heart of RangerRays point; over 1/3 of all Canadians come from 3 relatively small geographical areas and that an triple E senate will act to counter this trend.


So your vote should be worth less just because you or I, like the overwhelming majority of the people in the whole bloody world, live in an urban area?

There is no point, except: One person, one vote, roughly - give or take, say, 25%.

If we are going to have something akin to a real, grown-up, liberal democracy then PEI should have only one seat in a 300+ seat HoC or, if PEI must have four seats - as the Constitution says it must,* then we need a 1,200 seat HoC to accommodate Constitutional necessity.

----------

* The Constitution says no province may have fewer seats in the HoC than it has senators. PEI was given four senators back in 18nn so it cannot have fewer than four MPs.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on October 22, 2007, 12:16:56
So your vote should be worth less just because you or I, like the overwhelming majority of the people in the whole bloody world, live in an urban area?

Well, I come from a rural area.... ;)

Quote
There is no point, except: One person, one vote, roughly - give or take, say, 25%.

If we are going to have something akin to a real, grown-up, liberal democracy then PEI should have only one seat in a 300+ seat HoC or, if PEI must have four seats - as the Constitution says it must,* then we need a 1,200 seat HoC to accommodate Constitutional necessity.

----------

* The Constitution says no province may have fewer seats in the HoC than it has senators. PEI was given four senators back in 18nn so it cannot have fewer than four MPs.


Of course this needs to be addressed - hence my "and this needs to be addressed" caveat in my previous post.  I was only adding further substance to Ranger Ray's claim that there is an inherent unbalance to the House of Commons due to the nature of Canada's population distribution (irregardless of whose vote means more) and that a properly functioning Senate can act to rectify this.

Irregardless of whether a PEI'er's vote is worth one Torontonian vote or three Vancouverite votes, those 4 (overweighed) votes will be drowned out in Parliament.  A Jane and Finch or a East Hastings street solution may be what a majority of the people in Canada want, but it may not be the best for a majority of the country.

A triple E Senate, bringing equality to the provinces in the Upper House, may be something that will convince PEI to let go of its 4 seats in the Lower House in order to allow equality of the electorate....
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on October 24, 2007, 00:27:54
More on the politicing behind senate reform:

http://langhjelmletter.blogspot.com/2007/10/screw-that.html

Quote
Screw that

I know that Senator Hugh Segal is a Conservative and that he helped Harper get elected. But with this proposal (http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2007/10/23/4599413-cp.html) in mind, one shouldn't forget that he was appointed by Paul Martin.

Maybe I'm overly suspicious, but to me this looks like a deliberate attempt to kill any prospect of Senate reform. I'll explain.

If there were a referendum simply on whether or not to abolish the Senate, I and most other Conservatives would be inclined to vote "no." The Senate; if reformed, would serve the valuable purpose of balancing the interests of all parts of the country within Parliament. It would also help ease us away from "executive federalism" and toward greater national consensus.

The problem is that the opponents of reform will interpret a vote against abolition as a vote for the status quo. Something that virtually everyone in this country (with the exception of the Liberal Party) is dead set against.

They would subsequently argue that the Senate had been finally granted the stamp of democratic legitimacy and then proceed to slam the door on any proposal for democratic reform.

If my suspicions are correct, Segal is hoping that we won't be able to see through this and walk straight into the trap.

Luckily for us, the Prime Minister is far too intelligent to fall for it. I have little doubt that he will tell the Senator, "thanks, but no thanks" and promptly kill his proposal.

I hope so anyway.

posted by Brandon at 6:27 PM

And the proposal:

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2007/10/23/4599413-cp.html

Quote
Survivor: Senate? Tory wants you to say if senators should be voted off the Hill
By John Ward, THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA - A Conservative senator wants voters to decide whether to put Canada's sleepy upper chamber into permanent repose.

Senator Hugh Segal - who could be doing himself out of a job if people say yes - says he believes in the value of the Senate, but its legitimacy as a non-elected body is dubious.

Segal, a former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney, says he wants a debate and a referendum on the Senate's future.

"We've had 17 efforts at reforming the Senate since 1900," he said. "All of them have failed.

"The legitimacy of the place is under attack on a pretty regular basis."

Segal says he'd personally vote against abolition because he feels the Senate offers regional and provincial interests and can be a check on poorly drafted laws rushed through the Commons.
   
He notes, though, that Canadians never voted for an appointed Senate.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who wants to reform the upper house, last week warned the Senate against stalling his big crime bill. There would be consequences, he said, without detailing what those consequences might be. He has said several times that abolishing the Senate would be an option if it cannot be reformed.

But Segal said he's not a stalking horse for the prime minister.

"He can do better than me on that front."

If the motion passes the Senate - and the Liberal majority isn't supportive right now - it would constitute a formal request to the cabinet to hold a referendum.

He said he thinks the Harper government would welcome a chance to ask Canadians what they want.

"There is no question that, amongst Conservatives, Senate reform evokes some of the strongest positive feelings," he said.

Segal wants the vote to come under the Referendum Act, which would require the formation of two bodies to campaign for and against and would require a question approved by the Senate and Commons.

"I think involving the public is a good thing," he said. "It's their institution. We work for them, it's not the other way around, and we shouldn't be afraid to bring the public to the table."

In recent months, the premiers of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario have called for abolition.

If a majority of voters went for abolition in a majority of provinces, that would give the first ministers the push they would need to support a unanimous constitutional amendment to kill the Senate.

But, Segal said, if the pro-Senate side campaigned on a pledge of reform, "that would constitute a basis to go forward."

Harper has tried small reforms - including term limits - without success. He has said he wants an elected and effective Senate.

Segal said a referendum could provide clarity on what changes are needed.

"Let the voters speak," he said. "Let them tell us what they want."
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 24, 2007, 15:06:12
With all possible respect to the good senator, the worst thing we could do would be to consult Canadians. As the article points out, too many Canadians – an overwhelming majority of Canadians, I think – would vote to abolish the Senate. That would be an idiotic idea for a federal state but I have no doubt it would ‘win’ in any free and fair vote.

Canada is a federation; we cannot fix that without a wholesale, top-to-bottom, turn it inside out revision of the Constitution. A federal state is a partnership between sovereign political entities – the provinces in our case. In theory we might not need a national (federal) legislature so long as there is some way for the sovereign partners to work together to manage the federation – in other words we might need only a ’Council of the Provinces’, something akin to the Senate.

The Constitutionally required model, however, calls for something akin to Britain’s Westminster type of parliamentary democracy so we need a full blown federal legislature: HoC1 plus a Senate – which must to be an elected chamber (which will, perforce, make it effective) and in which each province ought to be equally represented.

Equality is a troubling principle for many Canadians. Although many (but not all) will agree with me that one person/one vote is an essential component of a mature, modern, liberal democracy (and is a component which is lacking in Canada and which makes us an immature, antiquated and illiberal democracy) they are less willing to accept one partner/one vote in the senate.

This equality dilemma is not unique to Canada. The (British) authors of the (1949) German Constitution decided that the German Länder could not be equal in the upper house, the Bundesrat so the four smallest Länder (with less than 2 million people) get three ‘votes’2 each while the four largest (each with more than 7 million inhabitants) get 6 votes.

Interestingly the German Bundesrat is not directly elected. The Bundesrat is composed (http://www.bundesrat.de/cln_051/nn_11006/EN/organisation-en/mitglieder-en/mitglieder-en-inhalt.html?__nnn=true) of members of state governments; the members are appointed and recalled by the state government. They may be represented by other members of their state government.[/b] This is, in my opinion, an acceptable format for a modern, liberal democracy.

I will restate what I think is the ideal model for a Canadian Senate:

Composition: 100 Senators –

Seven per province, (70)

One per territory, (3)

One per each of three first nations oerganizations: Assembly of First nations, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada and the Metis National Council, (30)

Twenty four National senators (24)

Appointment: by the Prime Minister according to the following rules:

1.   The PM will appoint only elected senators, as follows:

The seventy provincial senators will be elected during provincial general elections on a ‘simple’ proportional representation system (14.3% of the popular vote elects on senator – the first off the party’s list of senatorial candidates. The inevitable extra goes to the party which elects the government.

The three territorial senators will be elected during territorial general elections.

The three first nations senators will be elected for four year ers by their respective organizations.

The 24 national senators will be elected, again by simple proportional representation, during federal general elections.
 
2.   The PM will appoint only those elected senators who submit a signed etter of esignation effective he next appropriate election.

3.   The PM will appoint only those elected senators who meet the other qualifications for appointment set out in the Constitution of Canada.

Responsibilities: the Senate will have almost equal powers with the National Assembly. The exception is that the Senate may not introduce a money bill and the National assembly may reintroduce a money bill which was defeated in the Senate and it will receive Royal Assent (without further Senate consideration) one being passed by the National Assembly for the second time.

As a matter of constitutional convention the cabinet should include ministers from the Senate for those portfolios which intrude into areas of provincial jurisdiction as defined in the Constitution of Canada.


I think prime Minister Harper could get part way there right now, without any Constitutional considerations. I have explained how before, here, nearly a year ago (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg495206.html#msg495206) and earlier in this thread.

The equality bit is harder. It requires an amendment to the Constitution – one which I am not convinced is within the realm of political possibility in Canada. Assuming Québec is not to ‘lose’ anything then we need to have 240+ senators – that’s 24 from PEI. With a possible respect to Islanders: are there 23 other Islanders you really, really want to send to Ottawa to legislate for us all?

Anyhow: we need a Senate because:

•   It is constitutionally required; and

•   A bicameral legislature is a necessary part of as proper federation.

Since we need a Senate we should strive to make it democratic – elected and, if we understand the concept, equal. As soon as it is elected it will make itself effective.

----------
1.   Which I believe should be renamed as the National Assembly – we don’t have a Canadian nobility so we cannot have commoners either, can we?
2.   Each Länder can send as many (or as few) delegates as it wishes to the Bundesrat but it has n votes – based on population.

   
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on October 24, 2007, 15:28:26
That is probably the best outline for change I have heard to date....nice.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on October 24, 2007, 21:44:07
An interesting proposal.  I wonder if the PM reads Army.ca?  ;D

One concern I have, as someone who lives in the western colonies, is where the 24 "national" senators come from.  Under this system, is it plausible that all 24 could be from one province or region?  Or are they spread out amongst the provinces and territories?

Are the senators elected provincially from provincial parties or federal parties?  I have seen some proposals that senators come from provincial parties, which would create a hodge-podge of a senate, IMHO.  For instance, here in British Columbia, both the BC Liberals and the BC Conservatives (fringe party) have no ties to their federal namesakes.

I say you should book an appointment with the PM to sell this idea, Mr. Campbell!  :)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on October 24, 2007, 23:53:20
Canada is a federation; we cannot fix that without a wholesale, top-to-bottom, turn it inside out revision of the Constitution. A federal state is a partnership between sovereign political entities – the provinces in our case. In theory we might not need a national (federal) legislature so long as there is some way for the sovereign partners to work together to manage the federation – in other words we might need only a ’Council of the Provinces’, something akin to the Senate.

I can't think of any really successful confederation in history, the United States was a weak and bickering confederal state (http://www.patrickkillough.com/government/confederation.html) until the Constitutional convention adopted and ratified the American Constitution and established "These United States" as Federal Republic. The Confederate States of America suffered many of the same defects as the original confederation, and it would be interesting to speculate on how long that form of government would have lasted had the Confederacy won the Civil War. The Swiss Confederation is in name only, the government is established and run on federal lines.

The alternative is Empire; which eliminates the "sovereign" part of the subordinate political entities.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on October 25, 2007, 01:00:11
With all possible respect to the good senator, the worst thing we could do would be to consult Canadians. As the article points out, too many Canadians – an overwhelming majority of Canadians, I think – would vote to abolish the Senate. That would be an idiotic idea for a federal state but I have no doubt it would ‘win’ in any free and fair vote.

Agreed.  I'm a believer in the Burkean notion of Representative Democracy - you elected me, now let me do my job.  Consultation is not a requirement for our represenatives to do their job.  Apply the same principle to our efforts in Afghanistan.  Why consult the Canadian electorate?  If so, ask the average Canadian to:

1.  Put Afghanistan on a map.
2.  Explain it's geography and ethnic make-up.
3.  Desribe the difference between the foreign "Talibanism" and the traditional Sufism that has existed in the country for centuries.

You get the point.

Quote
Canada is a federation; we cannot fix that without a wholesale, top-to-bottom, turn it inside out revision of the Constitution. A federal state is a partnership between sovereign political entities – the provinces in our case. In theory we might not need a national (federal) legislature so long as there is some way for the sovereign partners to work together to manage the federation – in other words we might need only a ’Council of the Provinces’, something akin to the Senate.

Yes, but:

1.  I am opposed to the idea of allowing the Provinces to appoint Senators.  This merely replaces political appointees of the Federal government with political appointees of the Provincial governments, which promises to make affairs in Parliament just as, if not more, acerbic.  It may work for Germany, seeing how it was designed to accomadate the forging of the German states, each with an independant history with different politics, religion, etc, etc, into a whole in 1871 (the post WWII constitution simply reaffirmed this).  The United States tried this and found it was unsuccessful, resulting in the XVII Amendment.  The Australians, who have the same basic federal system as us - far flung, relatively empty regions and a few, populace cities - didn't even bother with it, going for an Senate elected by the voters upon federation.  Giving the provinces this power would, in my opinion, give the provincial governments unprecedented power in Parliament and upset the balance of our federal system.  I suppose it could be argued that this would even be unconstitutional, as it gives the provincial governments say in matters that the Constitution puts firmly in the sphere of the national government.

I see a "triple E" Senate as acting as a stabilizing, counter-active element to the immense power of the provinces.  I can settle for one large, unresponsive bureacracy in Ottawa, but I am loathe to sign more of the country to the ten large, unresponsive fiefdoms that constantly bicker and whine about their own interests as opposed to those of Canada as a whole.

2.  I thinking giving Canada's natives their own Senate seat is probably one of the worst thought out ideas in recent history and I fundamentally oppose it.  It pops up from time to time and I seem to remember seeing it in a book by Jeffrey Simpson.  As I said earlier when Reccesoldier put forth the same idea, "I think giving people political rights based upon ethnic/racial background is the absolute worst thing to do, especially in an egalitarian democracy.  "Super"-empowering any group (by giving them not only a vote for being a citizen but one based upon race) is just as bad as disenfranchising people for the same reason; someone else in the body politic loses out due to their ethnic background.

Not to mention the obvious can of worms that Brad Sallows mentioned which is who among the Canadian native population would be entitled to this "extra" say in govenrment.  Status, card-carrying Indians or are natives without status out of luck because they lack a government card?  If so, are we going to accept the minimal degree of ancestry that qualifies for status - I believe it is something as flimsy as 1/8 ancestory, so we'd be entitling someone to an extra seat based upon a single grandparent.  How about Metis and Inuit, who are not defined as "Native" in the Indian Act, do we include them as well?  Natives that live on reserve only, or off reserve.  How about those who marry a Native and move onto the reserve?

The politics of ethnicity are so complicated that giving it a political outlet would be disasterous to the ideal of an egalitarian liberal democratic order.  In an increasingly pluralistic society in Canada (we even have an E channel!) race is becoming more and more irrelevent (I don't define myself by the fact that my Grandfather stepped off a boat from a Nordic country) and the politics of bloodlines have, thankfully, been consigned to the dustbin of the 19th century.

Anyways, just my opinion on that.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 26, 2007, 09:53:29
An interesting proposal.  I wonder if the PM reads Army.ca?  ;D

One concern I have, as someone who lives in the western colonies, is where the 24 "national" senators come from.  Under this system, is it plausible that all 24 could be from one province or region?  Or are they spread out amongst the provinces and territories?

Are the senators elected provincially from provincial parties or federal parties?  I have seen some proposals that senators come from provincial parties, which would create a hodge-podge of a senate, IMHO.  For instance, here in British Columbia, both the BC Liberals and the BC Conservatives (fringe party) have no ties to their federal namesakes.

I say you should book an appointment with the PM to sell this idea, Mr. Campbell!  :)

That (how do the national senators get nominated? and how do elected senators caucus?) is, for me, the most interesting thing.

I expect that given a requirement for equality the parties will want to put the names of Ontarians and Québecers at the top of their senatorial candidate lists in an effort to appeal to those big provinces by offering them a bigger voice in the Senate.

It’s not clear to me that the federal political parties will be able to enforce anything like discipline in an elected Senate – at least not in one elected using my model. BC Liberals might decide to caucus with federal Conservatives as might Action Démocratique senators – and there would be some in my model. Or, the ADQ senators might try to persuade the Alberta senators to join them in a provincial autonomy caucus.

It would make politics fun again.   
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on October 26, 2007, 13:02:12
Destroy-and-save strategy isn't as crazy as it might sound
Referendum on abolishing the Senate would serve as a pretext for reform
L. IAN MACDONALD Freelance Friday, October 26, 2007
 Article Link (http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/columnists/story.html?id=6f531bb3-5cbe-4c7e-a70d-be48975abec7)

Hugh Segal wants to abolish the Senate in order to reform it.

How's that again? Segal, himself a Conservative member of the Senate, was explaining the method to his madness over breakfast in Ottawa yesterday.

"The motion," he said, "requests that a referendum be held under the provisions of the Referendum Act of 1992 to abolish the Senate."

He would then campaign against his own motion.

He knows this process, as one of the authors of the 1992 Referendum Act, the enabling legislation of the Charlottetown referendum, when he was chief of staff to then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Segal has a seconder for his motion - Lowell Murray, leader of the Progressive Conservative remnant in the Senate and former constitutional affairs minister during the Meech Lake period. To pass, it would require the approval of the Liberal-dominated Senate and the cabinet.

The latter is more likely than the former. Senate reform is Stephen Harper's second-favourite sport after hockey. Harper's office was given a heads-up on Segal's motion and had no problem with it. Neither did Marjorie Le Breton, government leader in the Senate and a member of the powerful cabinet committee on priorities and planning.

The Liberals would probably kill the motion on the floor of the Senate, but if it ever got to cabinet, Segal would propose a simple referendum question: "Do you favour the abolition of the Senate of Canada? Yes or No."

Having started the debate and framed the question, Segal would then campaign against his own motion. Huh? Well, what he really wants is a reformed Senate, preferably an elected one.

And he thinks the best way to do that is to "referendize" the issue of Senate reform. As Pierre Trudeau might have put it: He wants to go over the head of the constitution, to the people of this land.

It takes a little explaining.

In terms of a constitutional amendment, abolishing the Senate, like abolishing the Crown, would require the unanimous consent of Ottawa and the provinces. The provinces are unlikely to approve, least of all Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with their 10 senators, as compared with six for Alberta and B.C., with three and four times their populations, a huge sore point in western Canada.

But if a referendum were approved in all provinces, their governments could hardly oppose the will of the people. Referring to 1992 referendum on the Charlottetown Accord, Segal calls this "the de-facto Mulroney amendment - after Charlottetown, there can be no fundamental constitutional change without a referendum."

Then why propose to abolish the Senate, and why oppose your own motion?

Aha, Segal says.

It is, he says, like the 1980 Quebec referendum, where it wasn't enough for the No forces to oppose sovereignty-association in order to prevail. In his famous referendum speech at the Paul Sauvé arena on May 14, 1980, Trudeau made a solemn promise of constitutional reform.
More on link
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on October 26, 2007, 13:31:16
.... so, why not just put a senate reform question to referendum?  Why beat about the bush?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on October 27, 2007, 00:24:58
.... so, why not just put a senate reform question to referendum?  Why beat about the bush?

Where's the fun in that?  ;)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on October 29, 2007, 19:01:27
Constitutional reform does not have to be hard; many of these ideas have been mused about by Prime Minister Harper in the past

http://www.backseatblogger.com/2007/10/29/sleeper-issue/

Quote
Sleeper Issue

I think that this has the potential to be the sleeper issue in any federal campaign(whenever the Fiberals find the political backbone that they’ve so publiclly misplaced).

I’m mystified in a lot of ways. I can’t quite figure out why the Tories, when they get into power, seem to find the issue of constitutional reform, well nigh irresistible. I can only think that this is because Tories, while they are inside the system remain outsiders as far as actually exercising power. Thus they can see all the weaknesses of the current system and fewer of the strengths. I wonder if this constitutional reform impulse will lessen the longer the party is in power.

In the meantime though, the Tories appear intent on ‘rebalancing the federation.’ On the face of it, it’s a pretty scary thought. Particularly when the issue is framed as the federal government giving up power(spending or otherwise) to the provinces. I mean this country is already one of the most decentralized in the world… short of political basket cases like Belgium. (Talk about not being a real country ;) )

I find talk about limiting the federal spending power particularly ironic when Canadian cities start whining about getting more money from the federal government. One, two, three, all together now: cities are creatures of the provinces. They should be looking to their provincial capitals for whatever they desire. Not the federal government.

Calls to limit the federal spending power are particularly ironic when coming from provincial governments whose own empire building efforts are particularly obvious.

The provinces should be careful what they wish for. They might actually get it.

In this case the provinces might come to regret calls for limiting the federal spending power IF the feds move to use the other powers available to the federal government under the constitution. The most obvious of these are the commerce powers which the feds could use to establish free trade within Canada. ie no restriction on the move of goods, services, and labour within our borders. Imagine that. Being able to buy Moosehead bear regardless of what province you’re in. Free trade within Canada might make Canada a real country.

Other examples of using the Federal power under section 91 of the constitution could include the arbitrary establishment of a national securities commission or the invalidation of provincial laws limiting the mobility of labour and capital. The most obvious of these are the law in Quebec and Ontario prohibiting each others construction companies from bidding for work in either province.

Imagine the howls of the provinces if the federal government actually used its constitutional power to invalidate provincial laws….

If those powers were used for the common good, that would be something I could really get behind.

Posted on Monday, October 29th under Canada.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on November 06, 2007, 09:51:43
Harper would back plan for referendum on abolishing Senate
BRIAN LAGHI From Tuesday's Globe and Mail November 6, 2007 at 2:00 AM EST
 Article Link (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20071106.wsenate06/BNStory/National/?cid=al_gam_nletter_newsUp)

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper will support a move to put the future of Canada's Senate up to a nationwide vote if the government can't find a way to reform it in the meantime.

The Globe and Mail has learned that the Prime Minister would add his voice to those who would support a referendum that would ask Canadians whether they wish to abolish the Senate.

The idea was broached by NDP Leader Jack Layton on the weekend. Tory Senator Hugh Segal has also put forward the notion of a nationwide plebiscite.

“If it came to the House, it would be hard not to support it,” a source told The Globe
More on link
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on November 06, 2007, 09:55:39
I still think this is a backward approach that could very well destroy the Senate when the intent should be to fix it.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on November 06, 2007, 11:08:50
Given the popularity of the abolish the Senate idea, I've added to the poll.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on November 06, 2007, 14:46:06
On one hand, one way of amassing the will to change is to first do without something for a while.

On the other, during periods of Liberal government in the House of Commons, how is Canada governed without a Senate any different from Canada with a Liberal-dominated Senate?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on November 13, 2007, 22:52:44
Quote
Tories will seek to abolish Senate if reforms blocked
The Conservative government said it will support an NDP motion to abolish the Upper House if two Senate reform bills are again blocked by the opposition.
CTV.ca
13/11/2007 8:53:25 PM
 
"We are open to different approaches to the details of Senate reform, but we will not compromise on one fundamental aspect: the Senate must change," Peter Van Loan, the minister responsible for democratic reform, told a press conference Tuesday.

"If that change cannot happen through reform, then we believe the Senate should be abolished. But this is not our preferred route."

The first bill calls for a term limit of eight years for senators. Currently, senators only have to retire when they turn 75, meaning they can hold terms of up to 45 years.

"This is unacceptable in a modern democracy and must change," said Van Loan.

The second bill changes the way senators are selected. Canadians would be involved in a consultation process for nominees and vote for their choice, in conjunction with either a federal or provincial election. The prime minister would then be shown a list of nominees and make the final choice.

"This will allow Canadians to pass judgment on the conduct of senators, who will now have to be accountable for the decisions they make, the work they do and the pay they receive," Van Loan told reporters.

Both bills are essentially the same as two pieces of legislation proposed in the previous parliamentary session. But this time, the term limit bill clarifies that senators would only serve one term, and it will be introduced in the House of Commons rather than the upper chamber.

In the last session, the Liberal-dominated Senate never voted on the bill because it said the issue of term limits could only be addressed with provincial consent, and asked for a Supreme Court decision on the matter.

"The senators refused to carry out their constitutional obligation to deal with that bill," said Van Loan.

However, the governments of Quebec and Ontario sided with the Senate in the last session, saying any reforms would need a constitutional amendment approved by seven provinces.

Liberal Senator George Baker said everyone holding a seat in the upper chamber would like reform, and that senators had actually reduced the possible term limit outlined in the previous bill.

He told CTV's Mike Duffy Live that the previous term limit bill had called for two sessions of eight years, for a possible total of 16, while senators had amended the bill to a single 15-year term -- although that would only be a potential one-year difference.

"That term limit bill was limited to less than the government wanted ... and at the end we said it should then go to a court for verification," he said.

Conservative Senator Hugh Segal said that Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated his willingness to support amendments to the bill, but in the end the Liberals stalled the legislation's passage.

"The Liberals never amended the bill so it could pass. They in the end held it up for some kind of ephemeral reference to the Supreme Conference," he said.

On Tuesday, Van Loan was accompanied by Conservative Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton, who said it's "unhealthy" for Canada's democracy to have a Senate unchanged since Confederation.

"The Senate must change and become the effective and independent voice it was meant to be. It must change because Canadians want the Senate to change," she said.
http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071113/senate_reform_071113/20071113?hub=TopStories
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: bdog on November 22, 2007, 09:13:57
My personal views would be for consesus goverment however given how strong the parties are that not going to happen so I think some form of PR is need
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on November 22, 2007, 12:39:07
PR also includes political parties, and even strengthens their role in Parliament at the expense of the electorate (who controls the Party lists of members who will sit in the house?).

There is a "consensus" of sorts in Canada; all the opposition parties espouse some variation of Socialism inside the "Socialist Democratic" framework, although for tactical reasons the Liberals are spending more time and effort to fend off their fellows to prevent being decimated at election time (battles among "family" members are the most bitter, after all). If you look closely, the Harper Government is also running a fairly Socialist Democtatic platform as well, with the only major shift away from that philosophy still in the wings (restricting government legislation and spending powers to areas of jurisdictional responsibility).

Why the partisanship is so bitter these days (in all democratic nations, not just Canada) has to do with the awesome stakes; billions of dollars in spending power and the ability to control massive sectors of the economy. People will do anything to win with those rewards.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on November 22, 2007, 16:17:59
The powers and responsibilities currently assigned to government are the root of the problem.  Limit government to indispensable public works and services and let individuals sort out what of the rest they want, and are willing to pay for.

Government in my opinion should have responsibility for the military defence of the nation, establishing foreign affairs and relations, Law and the courts.  As for the rest it should have a very limited role in establishing attainable national standards for industry, business, education, transportation and all those other things currently set up as government ministries or parts thereof.

Alas, in Canada we oscillate between Liberals and Conservatives (both of which spend their time fighting over the mushy middle ground of politics), the chance of electing any radical party, and therefore seeing any radical change is slim to nil.

The government is best that governs least.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: stegner on February 15, 2008, 12:55:40
Quote
BTW, Mr Harper only promised to advise the GG to appoint persons selected through popular vote. He didn't promise not to appoint others. In the end, the GG makes the appointment and has the power to ignore the PM on the issue. I know it's a power that has seldom if ever been exercised, but it exists none the less.

Exactly!

Do think like I do, that the GG should exercise the prerogatives of the Crown more often.  Is such a debate worthy of a new thread?

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on February 15, 2008, 14:15:08
Exactly!

Do think like I do, that the GG should exercise the prerogatives of the Crown more often.<snip>



Not for a freaking nanosecond!!!  The last thing I want is a unelected political appointment exercising control.  Pseudo-monarchy is a step back from freedom not toward it
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: stegner on February 15, 2008, 16:54:36
Quote
Not for a freaking nanosecond!!!  The last thing I want is a unelected political appointment exercising control.  Pseudo-monarchy is a step back from freedom not toward it

Howabout if the people were to elect the GG? 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on February 15, 2008, 17:21:17
Howabout if the people were to elect the GG? 

So you would advocate what would almost amount to an American presidential system in Canada?  Not me. Less layers of Gov'mnt crap is what I want, not more.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on February 18, 2008, 14:40:51
Do think like I do, that the GG should exercise the prerogatives of the Crown more often.

No way.  The only time the GG should ignore the advice of the Cabinet is when the legitimacy of the government is in question (for example, if the Prime Minister were to fail to ask for an election at the end of his mandate).  The main role of a constitutional monarchy is to ensure the continuity of legitimate government, not to go off in its own direction.

Quote
Howabout if the people were to elect the GG?

No; that would just give us another politician beholden to that fraction of the population that elected him.  Much of the benefit of an unelected GG is that the position is able to stay away from the seamy underbelly of partisan politics.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on February 18, 2008, 21:48:00
No; that would just give us another politician beholden to that fraction of the population that elected him.  Much of the benefit of an unelected GG is that the position is able to stay away from the seamy underbelly of partisan politics.

I agree, the GG should be above common politics.  However having said that, there needs to be a better way of selecting the GG so that we do not have retired political hacks and regulars of parties' cocktail circuits inhabiting Rideau Hall.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ModlrMike on February 18, 2008, 22:06:48
I agree, the GG should be above common politics.  However having said that, there needs to be a better way of selecting the GG so that we do not have retired political hacks and regulars of parties' cocktail circuits inhabiting Rideau Hall.

Perhaps the solution is for HM to receive a list of suitable candidates and have her make the appointment.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on February 18, 2008, 23:17:32
Suggesting the GG is above partisan politics is beside the point. The current appointing of the GG is a political patronage appointment, while having HRH directly appoint the GG hearkens back to a time when it was almost a family matter among the Royals.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on February 18, 2008, 23:55:07
Is there anything that the GG does that could not be spelled out in a constitution thus rendering her and her position obsolete?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: stegner on February 19, 2008, 00:32:24

Quote
Is there anything that the GG does that could not be spelled out in a constitution thus rendering her and her position obsolete?

No-but any changes to the Office of GG would be a huge headache.   The Constitution would have to be amended as much of that office's powers are written there.  You would need unanimous consent of the provinces to abolish the office also or to change the office. The prerogative powers would all have to be codified into statute or transferred to another political figure. Every law in Canada would have to be amended to remove Governor-in-Council and replace it with something else.  The Letters Patents would have to be rescinded by her Majesty.   One would also have to find a system to replace the Constitutional Monarchy which is no easy task.  Australia voted to become a republic and abolish the monarchy but could not agree on how to do it. 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on February 19, 2008, 02:49:59
Australia voted to become a republic and abolish the monarchy but could not agree on how to do it. 

Actually, they had a referendum between the status quo (constitutional monarchy) and a republic with a president elected by Parliament.  PM Howard (a Liberal monarchist who inherited the Labor initiated referendum) worded it specifically to divide the republicans.  The present Labor government has promised to hold another referendum, which they will no doubt word differently.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ModlrMike on February 19, 2008, 03:08:04
No-but any changes to the Office of GG would be a huge headache.   The Constitution would have to be amended as much of that office's powers are written there.  You would need unanimous consent of the provinces to abolish the office also or to change the office. The prerogative powers would all have to be codified into statute or transferred to another political figure. Every law in Canada would have to be amended to remove Governor-in-Council and replace it with something else.  The Letters Patents would have to be rescinded by her Majesty.   One would also have to find a system to replace the Constitutional Monarchy which is no easy task.  Australia voted to become a republic and abolish the monarchy but could not agree on how to do it. 

A fine summary, and the specific reference is:

Section 41 of the Constitution

An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the following matters may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada only where authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province:

    (a)    the office of the Queen, the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor of a province;
    (b)    the right of a province to a number of members in the House of Commons not less than the number of Senators by which the province is entitled to be represented at the time this Part comes into force;
    (c)    subject to section 43, the use of the English or the French language;
    (d)    the composition of the Supreme Court of Canada; and
    (e)    an amendment to this Part.

So, in order for the GG's powers to be changed unanimous consent is required, and in order to dispense with that requirement, unanimous consent is required. In short, two unanimous votes are required. This is commonly known as the Hatfield clause, and was written in such a way as to make it extremely difficult for us to become a republic.

BTW, Hatfield's other constitutional claim to fame was that he wrote the notwithstanding clause.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on February 19, 2008, 10:28:16
This news story, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s National Post, might just represent the thin edge of the wedge re: Canada as a constitutional monarchy that shares its monarch with other realms in the echo of an old, faded imperial superstructure:

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/story.html?id=317485
Quote
Unwilling to swear
Ottawa champions an oath some new Canadians reject

Joseph Brean, National Post  Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The government of Canada will be in the Ontario Court of Appeal today, attempting to get a class-action lawsuit tossed out. At issue is whether the Charter rights of new Canadians are violated by the requirement to swear an oath to the Queen.

The case's very existence is remarkable, given that it was already fought at the Federal Court of Appeal in 1994, when Charles Roach, the Trinidadian-Canadian lawyer who believes forcing blacks to swear to the British monarch is like forcing Jews to swear to Hitler, lost a split decision.

But that was an appeal of a mere citizenship court ruling, sparked in 1987 when the Law Society of Upper Canada required lawyers to be Canadian citizens, and Mr. Roach, a permanent resident after emigrating to Saskatchewan from the Caribbean island in 1955, asked for an exemption.

Now, with the case re-framed as a Charter breach, the government is pulling out all the stops in defence of Her Majesty, Canada's head of state, to whom new citizens -- but, notably, not native-born ones -- must promise to "be faithful and bear true allegiance." In the past year, government lawyers have tried and failed in lower courts to have the case judged frivolous, doomed or already decided. They have argued that removing the oath would require a wholesale constitutional change, on par with abolishing constitutional monarchy. So if they win today against Mr. Roach and his loyal band of republican followers, all eyes will turn to the Supreme Court's schedule.

Represented by his lawyer and daughter Kikelola Roach, Mr. Roach, 74, is an unusual plaintiff, and not just because he is a lawyer himself. A prominent black activist and founder of Toronto's Caribana festival, he has in the past sued police for false arrest and won $512 in damages. He sued a local politician and NOW Magazine, a free Toronto weekly, for libelling him as anti-Semitic. He successfully defended his friend and fellow activist Dudley Laws on a sexual-assault charge and led the campaign to label former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae a racist for bringing the Barnes Exhibit to Toronto in 1994, because Dr. Albert Barnes' significant collection of African art was not included in the popular show.

Now, in uniting the causes of African slavery, Irish and Indian repression, and casual republicanism, his case has drawn into focus the ancient conundrum of governments forcing people to declare things they do not mean.

As such, Mr. Roach is the latest in a tradition of objectors that stretches back at least to George Fox, the 17th-century founder of the Quakers, who, like Mennonites, have long refused oaths due to their scriptural prohibition against swearing.

In federal court last month, for example, a judge ruled in the case of Captain Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh of the Royal Military College in Kingston, who, being Irish, objected to outward displays of loyalty to the Queen at regimental functions. The judge ruled that opting out of such protocols would lead to a "chaotic and unworkable situation."

U.S. presidents Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover both "affirmed," rather than swore, to God at their inaugurations. And when she was sworn in as Toronto's police commissioner in 1989, Susan Eng promised to do her job faithfully, but not to "well and truly serve Her Majesty the Queen." Her refusal eventually led to a change in the police oath.

Early on in Mr. Roach's campaign, a citizenship judge suggested that if he were to "do it in a large group, you won't even have to move your lips." This is a commonly proposed solution to objectionable oaths, but a strange one: that it is best to just hold one's nose and recite a meaningless vow.

A precedent of sorts was set in 1880, when the atheist Charles Bradlaugh was elected an MP in Britain but refused to swear the religious oath of allegiance, preferring to affirm it, or to recite it without meaning it "as a matter of form." Instead, he was imprisoned for trying to take his seat unlawfully, and after getting re-elected four times, managed to rewrite the Oaths Act with the option to affirm.

Today, some of the most culturally important oaths still retain a streak of duplicity. Most doctors do not literally believe in the pantheon of Greek deities, but few if any object to the Hippocratic Oath, in which they swear "by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygeia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses." Boy Scouts in Canada swear to do their duty to both God and the Queen, even though those with diverse religious and political views are accepted. Girl Guides, on the other hand, swear to either God or "faith," and Canada, not the Queen.

After decades of legal wrangling, Canada's oath to the Queen is lurching toward a crisis. As Mr. Roach declared yesterday in a letter to supporters, "If we win this class action, a centuries-old tradition would begin to unravel."

jbrean@nationalpost.com

So, we have two competing visions: Mr. Roach wants to help an old, maybe outdated, tradition to ”unravel” while the Government of Canada argues that what Mr. Roach wants the courts to do “would require a wholesale constitutional change, on par with abolishing constitutional monarchy.”

I find it interesting that the Federal Court did not reject the much discussed case (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,52232.0.html) brought by Captain Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh  on constitutional grounds. Rather, it appears to have sided with the proponents of the status quo on the grounds of administrative simplicity. That, it seems to me, gives hope to Mr. Roach. If the Federal Court cannot see its way clear to stand up, fore-square, for the rights of the nation’s monarch then, perhaps, when her time comes, her succussors may have no such ‘rights.’

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on February 20, 2008, 10:39:57
Without looking at the relative merits of Canada as a Republic vs a Constitutional Monarchy, I suspect that things will not change simply because the ROI is too low.

Like Australia, there may be the feeling that the current form of government is archaic, but there is no consensus on how government should be reorganized (just look at the swirling debate on Senate reform, which is a minor change compared to establishing a Republic). The Australians ended up with the status quo because there was no consensus or majority (or even energetic minority) able to push one vision forward.

Canada has an almost absurdly high "bar" for constitutional change, perhaps even higher than Australia, so there are two possible outcomes:

a. the grumbling will subside after a time after some minor cosmetic changes, or:

b. there will be a build up of pressure which minor changes will not release, leading to a blow up of some sort as the demands for change become too great.

Based on history and observations of Canadian society (where politicians and bureaucrats can crap all over us without too much complaint) I suggest that the answer is a.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ModlrMike on February 20, 2008, 13:31:00
If  his contention that he must swear to HM is the issue, the court may decide that as the Crown is our constitutional head of state then there is no discrimination. If the case hinges on swearing an oath of loyalty where native born Canadians do not, the court may rule that it is reasonable for new Canadians to do so in order to legally bound loyal to their new nation. Native born citizens are legally bound loyal by virtue of their birth. It would be interesting to read how the complaint is phrased to get a better appreciation of what will be at trial.

As an aside, I wonder how this case would go over in the States. Not swearing the oath because of the American history WRT slavery would be an interesting constitutional case for them.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on February 21, 2008, 12:39:53
Is there anything that the GG does that could not be spelled out in a constitution thus rendering her and her position obsolete?

Not really.  Part of the GG's role is to respond in the event that the wheels fall off of the constitution itself.  For example, we could amend the constitution so that a general election would be held on a certain date every four years (obviating the need for the GG's current role in calling elections), but there would still be a need for someone to be able to prevent a corrupt Prime Minister from preventing the election from taking place.

By the nature of the position, the GG has responsibilities that do not easily lend themselves to being codified down to the last detail for every applicable scenario.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: stegner on February 21, 2008, 12:47:35
Quote
we could amend the constitution so that a general election would be held on a certain date every four years
 

You don't need to amend the constitution to do that.  Such a provision has already been enacted in legislation last year and it is causing a bit of a legal debate highly relevant to our discussion here on the GG. 

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=301407 (http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=301407)

Quote
Harper ready to ask GG to pull plug

If Senate stalls crime bill past March 1, spokesman says Prime Minister would ask Michaelle Jean to dissolve Parliament

Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News Service  Published: Monday, February 11, 2008

NP Network Blogs

Stephen Harper stands to speak during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion in the background.Chris Wattie/ReutersStephen Harper stands to speak during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion in the background.

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper is prepared to ask the Governor General to pull the plug on the minority Parliament and trigger a spring election if the Senate does not pass the government's violent-crime bill by March 1.

The House of Commons began debate Monday on a government motion calling on the Senate to pass the Tackling Violent Crime Act by the start of next month. If the Commons passes the motion and the Senate does not comply, the prime minister could ask Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to dissolve Parliament, said a Harper spokeswoman.

"It's a confidence motion, so that's still an option," said Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, the prime minister's press secretary.

It is the strongest statement yet that Harper is willing to force an election if the Senate does not yield to his government's agenda.

But some constitutional experts say such a move would conflict with a federal law passed last year setting fixed-election dates. Under the law, which was introduced by the Harper government, the next federal election is slated for October, 2009, unless the opposition parties defeat the government before then.

"One could make a very strong argument to the Governor General to refuse his request because he's violating his own law," said Errol Mendes, a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa.


An attempt to force an election would also violate the constitutional principle of Senate independence, noted Mendes. The Commons has no authority to compel the Senate to pass legislation, he said.

"Confidence motions are basically about the government of the day retaining the confidence of the House, not the Senate. It has nothing to do with the Senate, which is why there has never in the history of Canada been a motion such as this."

Government officials beg to differ. Conservative House leader Peter Van Loan has said the fixed-election law doesn't prevent the prime minister from asking the Governor General to dissolve Parliament.


"There is nothing in the law that takes away the Crown's traditional and usual prerogatives on this matter," he told reporters at a news conference to announce the motion last week.

The motion will be put to a vote as early as today, and is expected to pass. If the Senate then refuses to pass the bill by March 1, the two chambers of Parliament would be at a "clear impasse," Van Loan said last week.

It is not unprecedented for the Governor General to refuse a prime minister's request to drop the writ. The most famous case was in 1926, when then-governor general Lord Byng refused a request by William Lyon MacKenzie King. Byng instead asked Conservative Leader Arthur Meighen to form the government, but Meighen's government was quickly defeated.

But today, some constitutional experts believe Jean would have little choice but to drop the writ if approached by Harper.

"I don't see any constitutional problem at this point in time for the Governor General on the question of dissolving the House," said Ned Franks, professor emeritus of politics at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. "The Parliament's gone on for two years and, historically, if a minority government has lasted that long, the Governor General doesn't raise any squawks."

In building its case for a possible snap election, the Harper government has referred to the 1988 election. Then-prime minister Brian Mulroney called the election after Liberal Leader John Turner asked the Senate to delay passage of Free Trade Agreement legislation.

But some observers question whether that is a valid comparison.

"It's a change of direction for Canadian laws on crime, but it's nothing near as momentous as the Free Trade Agreement," said Franks.

The Conservatives argue the Senate has been impeding the government's crime agenda for months. The Tackling Violent Crime Act actually repackages five crime bills that the government failed to get through in the last parliamentary session. Among other things, it would impose tougher sentences for gun crimes and raise the age of sexual consent to 16 from 14.

But the Liberals point out it was the Harper government itself that prorogued the last session in the summer, thus requiring the bills to wend their way through Parliament again. And they note the bill was introduced in the Senate on Nov. 29, and Parliament only recently resumed after a holiday break.

The Senate legal affairs committee, which is studying the bill, has extended its sitting hours and will likely meet during a parliamentary recess next week to fast-track the bill, said Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs. But she said it's "unrealistic" to expect the Senate to pass the bill by March 1.

"They clearly don't want their bill. If they wanted their bill, they clearly would give the Senate time to examine it," said Carstairs. "We have a constitutional responsibility to give it sober second thought."

POSSIBLE ELECTION TRIGGERS

Feb. 26: Finance Minister Jim Flaherty confirmed Monday he will table the government's annual budget on Feb. 26. The NDP and Bloc Quebecois have given strong indications they will oppose it, while Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says his party will wait and see. There will be up to four days of debate, though not necessarily on consecutive days, on the budget motion and any opposition amendments. The first confidence vote could come on the second day of debate, when MPs will vote on the first set of amendments.

March 1: Parliament is expected to pass a motion this week calling on the Senate to pass the government's violent-crime bill by March 1. If the Senate does not pass the bill by then, the prime minister could ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament, on the grounds the Senate is impeding his government's agenda.

March 31: The government has tabled a motion calling for the extension of the Afghanistan mission until at least 2011, provided the government can procure additional equipment and convince its allies to commit roughly 1,000 more troops. The government has said it will put the motion to a vote before Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to a NATO leaders summit in early April. Last week, government House leader Peter Van Loan said the vote could come "sometime" next month.

The government must also schedule seven "opposition days" between now and March 26. The opposition can use those days to introduce non-confidence motions that could topple the government.

Ottawa Citizen
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 26, 2008, 11:44:34
Warning:  :deadhorse:


This commentary by Michael Adams of Environics (http://www.michaeladams.ca/), reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, allows me to revisit one of my hobby-horses:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080326.wcoadams26/BNStory/specialComment/home
Quote
Commentary

The seeds of electoral realignment
The urban-rural divide is overtaking region as a predictor of how Canadians will vote
 
MICHAEL ADAMS

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
March 26, 2008 at 7:35 AM EDT

Last week's federal by-elections represent the most recent chapter in a narrative that has been unfolding in this country for decades: the divergence of urban and rural Canada. As in the United States, where Democratic districts are overwhelmingly urban and Republican ones overwhelmingly rural, the urban-rural dimension in Canada is overtaking region as a predictor of how people will cast their votes.

In the last federal election, Stephen Harper's Conservatives did not win a single seat in any of Canada's three largest cities. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver belonged to the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois. In last week's by-elections, prominent Liberals sailed to victory in two Toronto ridings while a Tory took a seat in rural Saskatchewan. In Vancouver Quadra, the Conservative candidate came remarkably close to edging out Liberal Joyce Murray, but this outcome speaks more to the departure of a popular Liberal incumbent, Stephen Owen, and to surging Greens than to a strong embrace of the Tories.

It is not surprising that Canada's cities and rural areas vote differently; they are very different places. The 2006 census reveals significant demographic disparities between people living in our 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs), places with 100,000 people or more and now home to 80 per cent of Canadians, and those living elsewhere in the country.

To begin with, urban Canadians are younger. More than a third of urban dwellers (35.7 per cent) are between 20 and 44. In rural areas, just over a quarter (27.7 per cent) fall into this age group. With fewer residents in the prime of adulthood, rural areas have higher proportions of their labour markets made up of people in their late 50s and early 60s - on the brink of retirement.

Much of the youth and vitality of Canada's cities comes from the steady inflow of immigrants from elsewhere (the average age of immigrants to Canada is 30). Seven in 10 newcomers settle in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. The rest head for other urban areas, increasingly booming Western cities such as Calgary. According to Statistics Canada, only 3 per cent of newcomers who arrived between 2001 and 2006 settled in rural areas.

Immigrants, of course, are most often drawn by the promise of economic opportunity - and incomes in urban and rural Canada tell them where to go. In federal electoral ridings within CMAs, the average household income is nearly $79,000. In ridings outside CMAs, incomes are just over $63,000.

The differences between urban and rural Canada do not stop at demography: Strong psychographic differences emerge when we examine the social values of Canadians. Not surprisingly, given the concentration of immigrants in cities, urban Canadians are more likely to report a sense of global citizenship and feelings of connectedness with people and events in other countries. By contrast, rural Canadians tend to identify more strongly with their own regions.

Urban Canadians register greater comfort with change and complexity, reporting that, when they think about the changes happening around them, they see more opportunities than threats. They say they love seizing on new technologies, they enjoy mixing with people of different backgrounds, and they think diversity - whether in family models or ethnocultural backgrounds - enriches society.

Rural Canadians say they are not so sure about all this change: They are less eager to buy and learn about new technology. They express greater wariness of social changes, whether related to immigration or growing sexual permissiveness. They are more likely than other Canadians to say that religion is an important part of their life, that they prize family bonds above all else, and that they are heavily involved in their local communities.

These divergent attitudes are surely reinforced by the economic outlooks in each milieu: People in cities generally have a lot to look forward to, situated as they are in places that are relatively vibrant both economically and culturally.

Some rural Canadians are living idyllic existences in intimate small towns, but many are clinging to relatively isolated communities where economic opportunity seems to be waning and morale is going with it. Intermittent resource booms like those in Newfoundland and Alberta will keep spirits up in some pockets, but many of the family farms and local resource jobs and manufacturing plants that once yielded small-town self-sufficiency are fading away.

If current trends continue, these two Canadas will be even more different in 2017 (our 150th birthday) than they are today. One result of this divergence will be growing pressure for electoral reform that would allow the two Canadas to be more accurately represented in federal politics. Currently, while 80 per cent of Canadians live in CMAs, only 68 per cent of federal ridings fall within CMAs. Sparsely populated rural ridings - such as Prince Edward Island's Egmont (population: 35,747) or Labrador (26,928) - send MPs to Ottawa who have no less voice or influence than ridings with many times the population.

This arrangement might have made sense when Canada was a rural country and a riding meant a riding - as in a candidate riding on horseback to meet constituents. In a Canada where four out of five people live in densely populated urban constituencies, it makes much less sense. And with municipal budget crises and other jurisdictional irritants, it may not be long before city dwellers join their politicians and begin to cry foul.

It used to be difficult for urbanites to push for more electoral influence because the struggle would often be cast as rich city folk who already hold too much power trying to steal whatever meagre influence good country people exerted. Today, though, with increasing proportions of Canada's cities made up of immigrants, the narrative might be very different: Should eighth-generation pure laine WASPS in rural ridings hold more sway than immigrant citizens struggling to build new lives in cities? It almost has the whiff of a Charter of Rights case about it.

Michael Adams, president of the Environics group of companies, is also the author of "Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism."

Off the top I need to reiterate that I am a card-carrying Conservative and a regular financial contributor to my party and I understand that what I propose will not serve the partisan best interests of my party – but it will serve democracy and Canada, so we Conservatives should be behind it, 75% of us anyway.

We must appreciate that the central thesis of democracy is: government with the consent of the governed. We, in Canada, use periodic elections to measure that consent.

Central to the idea of the “consent of the governed” is equality – we, all citizens, should be equal when we enter the voting booth; my vote ought not to be worth more than yours just because I am richer or better educated or white or because I served in the military. Equally yours ought not to be worth more than mine just because you vote in the riding of Egmont while I vote in Ottawa Centre. We do a pretty good job of ensuring that wealthy white males with medals do not get greater electoral authority than poor women of colour but we fail, miserably, as democrats, at ensuring that a vote in Ottawa Centre is worth as much as a vote in Egmont.

The first problem is Constitutional. The Constitution (1867) (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/const/c1867_e.html#pre) requires (in §51/51.A) that seats in the HoC are allocated on a ’rep-by-pop’ basis except that no province, not even PEI, may have fewer MPs than it has senators and (§24) PEI gets four senators so, no matter how small its population, it must have four MPs. Amending this part requires unanimous approval by the Parliament of Canada and all provincial legislatures (see: Constitution (1982) (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/const/annex_e.html#VI) §42). Thus, absent a full blown Constitutional congress – the kind that would, probably, make us a Westminster style federal republic (à la India or Germany) with only, say, five provinces (BC, Canada West), Ontario, Québec, Atlantic Canada) and some territories, we are going to remain in a situation where PEI gets four MPs – about one per 34,500 residents (http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/demo02a.htm) (of all ages and regardless of citizenship).

Using that StatsCan data and their projections for the future (http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/91-520-XIE/00105/tablesectionlist.htm) and 1:37,500 and 1:42,500 factors (for the current situation and the 2025 situation, respectively) we can conclude that, if equality matters, seat distributions should be:

         Current Pop ('000s)/Seats   2025 Pop ('000s)/Seats
Canada   32,976.000/881          37872.6/892
Newfoundland   506.3/14          522.7/12
and Labrador 
Prince Edward   138.6/4          149.6/4
Island
Nova Scotia   934.1/25            997/23
New Brunswick   749.8/20          788.3/19
Quebec   7,700.80/205            8273.7/195
Ontario   12,803.90/341          15210.5/358
Manitoba   1,186.70/32          1306.9/31
Saskatchewan   996.9/27          980.9/23
Alberta   3,474.00/93            3789.5/89
British Columbia   4,380.30117      5732.7/135
Yukon Territory   311            36.9/1
Northwest   42.61             53.3/1
Territories
Nunavut   30.1/1             30.8/1

The first and most obvious objection is: We don’t need more politicians!

There is a simple work around for that, one which could be managed by parliamentary convention rather than Constitutional change: two classes of Mps with two workloads. All MPs would be elected as part time members – likely to serve in Ottawa for about 10 working days (two one week session) in each of three parliamentary seasons (mostly to vote on bills). All MPs would have an appropriate, but generous, part time salary of, say, $1,500.00/’working’ day ($45,000/year) plus, say, $500.00/day ($15,000/year) for hotels, meals and incidentals in Ottawa (less for local members) and appropriate (business class) travel allowances for three or four round trips/year. Some members would earn as much as $75,000/year – a few (from Ottawa) would get just $50,000. The members themselves, in caucus, would elect about 25% of their membership to be permanent MPs – these 225 or so members (far fewer than the 308 we have today) would be required to spend more than 150 days/year in Ottawa and would serve on committees, debate in the HoC, etc. They would get salaries at least as generous as we see today.

The alternative is to continue with a retarded democracy – one which, intentionally, Constitutionally, enshrines inequality as a fundamental value. If we are going to discriminate on the basis of provinciality why not on the basis of education, or land ownership or gender? Why not, indeed, on the basis of race or creed?


 


   


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on March 26, 2008, 12:27:53
With everyone racing about on their favorite hobby horse this thread is starting to look like the chariot race in Ben Hur  ;)

In the United States the Founding Fathers created an electoral college system as a way to minimize the differential powers that populous states would have over smaller, less populous states. Senator Clinton complained loud and long after their losses in 200 and 2004, but with perfect irony her supporters are now using the electoral college as a way of promoting Senator Clinton as the "more electable" candidate, since she has won the primary contests in states with more electoral college votes.

This only goes to show that there is no "perfect" system, clever people will find a way to wargame it and manipulate the system for their advantage. While Edward's proposal is one of the most original ideas I have ever seen on the topic (how many current back bencher's are "part time" MP's anyway?), I suspect the end result will be even more dysfunctional parliaments and parties. Imagine being Stephan Dion with a horde of "part time" MP's casting their lots behind Bob Rae or Justin Trudeau, for example. The wrangling over who gets the coveted full time seats and the horse trading that would go along with it would also either weaken traditional parties, or create ruthless "Party Dictatorships" in an attempt to maintain legislative control. Of course if the desired result is a paralyzed parliament that won't get in our way, then my hat is off in admiration and awe......

The real problem now isn't our elected representatives; it is the unelected ones who are working in the shadows and quite unaccountable to the taxpayers.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on March 26, 2008, 12:50:18
Of course if the desired result is a paralyzed parliament that won't get in our way, then my hat is off in admiration and awe......

Of course, it would be more likely that such a government would not be able to get out of our way.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on March 26, 2008, 20:55:08
....This only goes to show that there is no "perfect" system, clever people will find a way to wargame it and manipulate the system for their advantage. .....

Maybe you have the seeds of the solution right there Thucydides.  Mess up the OODA loop.  All sorts of people of limited intelligence have figured out how to "game" the system (media consultants, lobbyists etc) precisely because the rules are written down and change at a glacial pace.  Imagine taking on Saddam with his playbook in hand and everybody adhering to the rules.

Perhaps the way to make the system fairer is to randomly generate a new rule book every 5 years.

In part that is why I voted for the Conservatives.  I don't necessarily consider them better people than the Liberals, although generally I prefer their ideas.  I just wanted the system shaken up so that people had to figure out who to call to get the favours they wanted.  In another 5 years or so I will want to do the same again.

And Edward's solution is eminently suitable for a 5 year run.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on March 26, 2008, 22:10:29
The ancient Greeks were no dummies, and certainly understood human nature as well as, if not better than, we do today. The classical polis drew its legislature from randomly selected citizens, similarly juries and even an executive body known as the Boule, which set the agenda for the ekklesia. In order to prevent the growth of a ruling class, the ekklesia and juries were redrawn on an annual basis, and in Athens at least, anyone who served on the Boule was disbarred from ever serving on that body again.

Despite all these precautions, the system was prone to manipulation by demagogues within the assembly and juries, and externally in the cities which elected a sort of permanent staff for continuity (the strategoi) these men could use their own powers of persuasion or other inducements to maintain their hold on office for many years.

The modern incarnation of this idea (of which I am a proponent) is to have term limits for elected officials. The idea of someone having a career in politics should be denormalized, serving in public office should be considered a privilege or a short shift in your career progression. For people who truly wish to serve the public or the State, there are plenty of other options out there. This also ensures new people and fresh ideas circulate through the body politic, which is itself a good thing.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on March 26, 2008, 22:46:24
Speaking as someone who has grown up and continued to live in "rural" areas*, I fully support the idea that representation should be rep by pop.

But, to counter act this new power to urban areas, there should be a true "Triple E" senate.  This, in theory, should act as a check on urban dwellers to prevent them from forcing urban solutions on rural areas for urban problems.

I do realise this is in my fantasy land, where the required numbers of legislators across the country would see past their self interests and agree to radically change the Constitution.  ;D

*What constitutes a "rural" area as opposed to an "urban" area anyways?  A town of 10,000?  50,000?  100,000?  1,000,000?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on March 27, 2008, 09:38:30
To tell the truth I'm not nearly as concerned about the how and who of the HoC I'd be way, way more happy if we had hard, fast and enforceable limits on the ability of government to legislate outside of certain functions such as the rule of law, national security and policing.

Eliminate the bastards abilities to screw with our daily lives and their machinations will become less invasive, less persuasive and therefore the positions themselves will become less enticing to the elite.

Why become an MP if you are limited to the mundane when continuing in your career as a businessman/lawyer will garner you more money more power and more fame?

It's not the electoral system thats broken its the socialist/statist/collectivist creep that has ruined the democratic ideal.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 22, 2008, 10:57:48
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is an entirely muddle-headed editorial:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080522.wesenate22/BNStory/specialComment/home
Quote
The back door is the wrong way

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

May 22, 2008 at 6:26 AM EDT

Stephen Harper is no fan of our unelected Senate. He dislikes it so much, in fact, that he seizes upon any opportunity to take a swipe at it -- most memorably in an appearance before the Parliament of Australia, where he announced that "Canadians suffer from 'Senate envy.'" But he knows he cannot formally restructure the Red Chamber without a round of constitutional wrangling for which the country has little appetite. So Mr. Harper is going a different route, trying to press the provinces into holding their own Senate elections by leaving their seats vacant until they do so.

This backdoor approach to reform has its pitfalls, threatening to create a far more powerful Senate without any real national debate on what that would entail. But there are signs this week that the strategy is working. Saskatchewan announced on Tuesday that it will join Alberta in holding Senate elections, Manitoba is launching province wide consultations on how such votes would be held, and several other provinces appear open to the idea.

Even so, Mr. Harper can continue this battle of attrition only so long. Already, 14 of the Senate's 105 seats are empty. By the end of 2009, that number could more than double. Quite apart from the inability of the shrinking Senate to perform its basic functions, the house of Parliament designed to curb regional disparities is instead creating them.

British Columbia is getting an especially raw deal. It should have six senators, the same as Alberta. Instead, it has only three, only half its neighbour's representation, and the same number of senators as tiny Prince Edward Island (which has a vacancy, too).

In the long run, Canada's two biggest provinces - which happen to be the two least likely to hold Senate elections - would suffer most. Ontario is projected to have five vacancies by the end of 2009; Quebec, seven. If most other provinces eventually choose to go Mr. Harper's preferred route, more than 60 per cent of Canada's population could find itself muted in the Red Chamber.

Senate appointments are a Crown prerogative, and the Prime Minister can take advice on those appointments from whomever he wishes. Mr. Harper would clearly prefer to take advice from voters. But barring constitutional changes, advice is all it is. And where that form of advice is unavailable, the Prime Minister should not simply refuse to appoint senators, leaving some provinces less represented than is constitutionally mandated.

As one of his first acts in office, Mr. Harper appointed Michael Fortier to the Senate in order to bring stronger Quebec representation to his cabinet. If that was cause enough to pause from his war against unelected senators, so too is the need to avoid making the Senate even more dysfunctional than he claims it already is.

The Good Grey Globe admits that Prime Minister Harper: “cannot formally restructure the Red Chamber without a round of constitutional wrangling for which the country has little appetite.” But: It, cowardly and intellectually dishonestly, refuses to say that an elected Senate is a good thing. Instead it argues that the PM must perpetuate the current unelected legislature – a situation that is a constant blight on Canada’s claim to be a modern, liberal democracy.

The  experience of the United States (http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Direct_Election_Senators.htm) is illustrative of the Harper approach. The US fought the issue of senate elections for about 50 years. Finally, in 1907, Oregon resorted to direct, democratic elections. Within only six years (1913) the US Constitution was amended (17th Amendment) to require an elected senate. I suspect the process will be similar here and I think Ontario and Québec will come on board quickly, albeit gracelessly.

The issue of an equal senate is more difficult and a constitutional amendment is required.

I believe that an equal senate could have 100 seats (vice the current 105): six from each of the provinces* and one from each territory (63) elected during provincial/territorial general elections for a term ending with the next provincial/territorial general election and 37 “federal” senators – elected on a proportional representation basis, during federal general elections, for a term ending with the next federal general election. This would allow the parties to lard their senatorial candidate lists with Québec, Ontario BC and Alberta people. But: I fear that is unlikely and that the best we might be able to accomplish is a system in which we have 149 senators:

24 each from BC (up from 6), AB (up from 6), ON (no change) and QC (no change) = 96;
10 each from SK(up from 6), MB (up from 6),  NB (no change) and NS (no change) = 40;
6 from NF (no change) = 6;
4 from PEI (no change) = 4; and
1 from each territory (no change) = 3.

---------------------

* Which, unless other sections were amended would that PEI would need to have six MPs, further exacerbating the equally anti-democratic problem with our parliament: unbalanced representation
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on May 22, 2008, 16:32:34
But why would we need so many senators? The United States has only 2 per State. If we want to avoid deadlocks we could say 3 per Province, or 5 if PEI won't give up their 4 senators, but certainly no more than that.

If nothing else, a leaner, meaner senate with only 33 senators (or 65 at 5 per province/territory) would have manpower issues which would limit the amount of issues that could be given "sober second thought". This in turn should have the effect of throttling the HoC into passing far less legislation per session, since legislation would have to pass through a very narrow senate "gate".

Admittedly, the Congress and Administration of the United States has evolved all sorts of evasive manouevres to pass big blocks of legislation without "sober second thought" and there is no reason to suppose that we would not evolve analogues to "earmarks" and other trickery, but then again, it was always up to "we, the people" to monitor the performance of our elected representatives and hold them to account. Freedom is a self help project!
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 22, 2008, 18:24:04
But why would we need so many senators?

Because, I suspect, neither Ontario nor Québec would be willing to have the same number of seats as SK, MB, NB, NS, NF or, heaven forbid, PEI. In fact, I'm guessing that they think a 6:1 ratio against PEI is about right; it's hard to blame them.

I doubt BC will settle for less than ON or QC and I doubt AB will settle for less than BC.

Thus we end up with four big, 24 seat provinces, four medium, 10 seat, provinces, and five small, 1-6 seat provinces.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on May 22, 2008, 23:02:31
Thucydides,

I think I would go one step further and blend the Senate with the Privy Council.   The Privy Council, as I understand it is a group of unelected advisors to the Crown (Government), usually ex-politicians, but not always.

I think a large confabulation of individuals with diverse backgrounds as a chamber of sober second thought is a great idea.  However only elected members can vote.  The rest of them get to sit in comfy chairs with bottles of scotch and pontificate.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on May 22, 2008, 23:13:36
The rest of them get to sit in comfy chairs with bottles of scotch and pontificate.
Sign me up for "the rest"!
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on May 22, 2008, 23:15:17
I'll see you there.....
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on May 23, 2008, 08:58:48
The thing that struck me about the article was the fabrication that a voluntarily elected Senate would be more powerful. But in the same breath the article goes on to say that constitutional talks would have to take place in order to make any real changes to the Senate.

WTF over. 

Is there some sort of magic in a simple vote that, presto-chango makes the work done by elected members more important, more noteworthy or more powerful than the exact same work done by unelected former government cronies?

I see baffling with BS is alive and well in the MSM.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on May 23, 2008, 09:50:59
I think I would go one step further and blend the Senate with the Privy Council.   The Privy Council, as I understand it is a group of unelected advisors to the Crown (Government), usually ex-politicians, but not always.

The Privy Council includes all members of the Cabinet, all living former Prime Ministers, and several others.  For most purposes the Privy Council and the Cabinet are about the same thing.  When you head the term Governor-in-Council, the Privy Council is what's being referred to.  In practice, Governor-in-Council actions are taken by the Cabinet.

Cabinet meets regularly but I don't think the rest of the Privy Council meets very often, if at all.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 23, 2008, 10:10:59
The Privy Council, per se, is larger that noted by Neill McKay. Here (http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/index.asp?lang=eng&page=information&sub=PrivyCouncilMembers&doc=PCMembersCurrentList_e.htm) is the current list, from the PCO.

Former MND Paul Hellyer appears, at a quick glance, to be the dean (senior member) having been appointed in 1957 - when he was appointed Associate Minister of National Defence by Prime Minister St. Laurent. He only barely beats out HRH Prince Philip who was appointed about six months after Hellyer. The Hon. John Abbott (http://webinfo.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/ProfileMP.aspx?Key=78914&Language=E) appears to be the junior member, having been appointed last fall.

I think the correct appellation for the cabnet is "The Committee of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada."

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on May 23, 2008, 11:06:31
Glancing through the list, it might be that all living former cabinet ministers are included, as opposed to only the former Prime Ministers.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on May 23, 2008, 11:21:46
http://www.privy-council.org.uk/output/Page76.asp
http://www.privy-council.org.uk/output/Page25.asp

And here is the list of the Privy Council in the Mother of Parliaments and its introductory notes.  Even as advisors they have clout.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 23, 2008, 11:23:43
Glancing through the list, it might be that all living former cabinet ministers are included, as opposed to only the former Prime Ministers.

Yes, plus all living Governors General and Supreme Court Chief Justices, all living provincial premiers and speakers of the HoC and Senate and selected other "distinguished Canadians", which, I guess, explains Prince Philip. Basically, if you are a "Right Honorable" or an "Honourable" you are, ipso facto, a Privy Councillor, too.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on August 29, 2008, 19:04:40
The first and most obvious objection is: We don’t need more politicians!

There is a simple work around for that, one which could be managed by parliamentary convention rather than Constitutional change: two classes of Mps with two workloads. All MPs would be elected as part time members – likely to serve in Ottawa for about 10 working days (two one week session) in each of three parliamentary seasons (mostly to vote on bills). All MPs would have an appropriate, but generous, part time salary of, say, $1,500.00/’working’ day ($45,000/year) plus, say, $500.00/day ($15,000/year) for hotels, meals and incidentals in Ottawa (less for local members) and appropriate (business class) travel allowances for three or four round trips/year. Some members would earn as much as $75,000/year – a few (from Ottawa) would get just $50,000. The members themselves, in caucus, would elect about 25% of their membership to be permanent MPs – these 225 or so members (far fewer than the 308 we have today) would be required to spend more than 150 days/year in Ottawa and would serve on committees, debate in the HoC, etc. They would get salaries at least as generous as we see today.

The alternative is to continue with a retarded democracy – one which, intentionally, Constitutionally, enshrines inequality as a fundamental value. If we are going to discriminate on the basis of provinciality why not on the basis of education, or land ownership or gender? Why not, indeed, on the basis of race or creed?

Sorry to dredge up this old thread, but all this talk on the other thread about the GG made me go back and read it.

I thought this was a pretty interesting idea.  Treating most MP's for what they are, general chorus that should be called upon once in a while and keeping the more prominent ones in town to do the actual job of legislating.

-BUMP- I guess.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on August 31, 2008, 02:23:09
Rather than clutter up the place with more politicians (even if you only think of them as a Greek Chorus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_chorus)), the real solution is to cut through the clutter, tightly define and enforce the roles of each level of government and let most decisions fall at the lowest possible level.

Face it, most Canadians need and use the services of municipal governments more than anyone else, but since Parliament (under the Martin government) began spreading bucket loads of cash for municipal projects, we now have bizarre situations like London Ontario having the worst roads in Ontario, claiming "lack of funds" while receiving 120% more than the average amount of Federal and Provincial grants than 30 similar Canadian cities! Since the City government can pass the buck, city taxpayers get the shaft while council gats to avoid responsibility.

Lots of little governments with limited powers and responsibilities rather than a monolithic Leviathan (http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&id=uzYCAAAAQAAJ&dq=leviathan&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=3Pt1HyvUOg&sig=8syLXYvwe4mh1Vc_IHhcz2zf30c&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result&pgis=1) is the solution.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on August 31, 2008, 06:43:10
Rather than clutter up the place with more politicians (even if you only think of them as a Greek Chorus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_chorus)), the real solution is to cut through the clutter, tightly define and enforce the roles of each level of government and let most decisions fall at the lowest possible level.

Face it, most Canadians need and use the services of municipal governments more than anyone else, but since Parliament (under the Martin government) began spreading bucket loads of cash for municipal projects, we now have bizarre situations like London Ontario having the worst roads in Ontario, claiming "lack of funds" while receiving 120% more than the average amount of Federal and Provincial grants than 30 similar Canadian cities! Since the City government can pass the buck, city taxpayers get the shaft while council gats to avoid responsibility.

Lots of little governments with limited powers and responsibilities rather than a monolithic Leviathan (http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&id=uzYCAAAAQAAJ&dq=leviathan&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=3Pt1HyvUOg&sig=8syLXYvwe4mh1Vc_IHhcz2zf30c&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result&pgis=1) is the solution.

I would agree with you if we were starting from scratch, with a clean slate, so to speak. But I doubt that a full blown Constitutional Congress – one where everything, including the very nature of the state (unitary or federal) and its boundaries (BC, Alberta, Québec and Newfoundland in or out?) – is due any time soon.

Unfortunately we are stuck, for now and the foreseeable future, with a very first draft level of a British federal constitution. (The 2nd draft was Australia’s, which had the advantage of nearly a half century and the 3rd draft was found in Germany’s and India’s which had another, nearly as long, maturation period.)

Our Constitution, as I said, enshrines inequality as a fundamental Canadian value. We have an immature, even retarded democracy, stuck, firmly, in the middle of the 19th century while we try to grapple with the 21st.

We can make some fixes to the HoC and the Senate without getting into the complexities (impossibilities) of the 1982 amending formula.

I have come to believe that our very conservative constitution, with its totally unacceptable emphasis on collective, group rights and its reliance upon ‘oversight’ of the ‘Commons’ (the chamber of the individuals) by a ‘Senate’ representing the ‘establishment,’ is part of the problem: one of the (many) reasons we are such a ‘conservative’ – nearly socialistic and, therefore, anti-democratic – society.

Eventually, before we ossify, we will need to rip the 1982 mishmash apart and begin anew. Until that happy day the national government could, easily, introduce Canadians to elements of a modern, liberal democracy.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on September 02, 2008, 01:56:11
Although the context is discussing the inclusion of the Green Party leader in a national Leaders debate, the blogger makes the most compelling argument that I have seen against PR and similar ideas:

http://stevejanke.com/archives/271994.php

Quote
Blair Wilson, the Green Party, and Elizabeth May lusting for a TV spot

History has been made today.  The Green Party has an MP in Canada's parliament.

Well, technically, the Green Party has an MP who is ready to sit in parliament, though it is unlikely parliament will sit before an election is called.

Indeed, after all is said and done, the Green Party might come out of all this never have had a sitting MP.

And certainly not an elected MP.

That might not matter much to some people, but I think these are more than just subtle distinctions.

The Green Party has an MP in parliament!

    Green Party leader Elizabeth May is welcoming MP Blair Wilson to the Green Party as the first Green Member of Parliament in Canada.

    Mr. Wilson, MP for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, will serve in the Green Party Shadow Cabinet.

Relax, the Green Party has not garnered enough votes to win a riding.  But Blair Wilson, the Liberal MP tossed out of the party for not having disclosed his numerous legal problems, has switched to the Green Party.

Does that earn Elizabeth May a spot in the leader's debate?

It seems like the only specific reason Blair Wilson can name for sitting as a Green Party MP (if parliament sits again before an election is called) is so that he can affect the leader's debate in an upcoming election.  Indeed, he obliquely suggests it is an act of mischief aimed at the Liberal Party:

    Mr. Wilson has served as an Independent MP since autumn of 2007.

    “Not only do I embrace the policies of my new party, I will feel that all my past difficulties are justified if, by my actions, I can make a real difference by ensuring Elizabeth May is included in the leaders’ debates,” said Mr. Wilson. “There is a democracy deficit in Canadian politics and this is one step in restoring effective democracy in Canada.

Elizabeth May also seems to value Blair Wilson mostly as a ticket to a TV appearance:

    “Today we make history,” said Ms. May. “I am grateful for Mr. Wilson’s principled belief that the Green Party deserves a voice in Parliament and for his firm commitment to democracy. With a Green MP sitting in the House of Commons, it will now be impossible to exclude the Green Party from the televised leaders’ debates in the next election.

As impossibilities go, the only one I see is the impossible task, so far, of electing a Green Party member of parliament.

Should that matter?  I think so, and I've always maintained that our first-past-the-post system is a great filter for eliminating noise in our political process.

Here is what I wrote about mixed member proportional representation:

    I don't look at a body like a legislature as the political expression of the collective will of the people. I leave that to philosophers and other chronically unemployed types.

    I work for a living. I get things done. And for that I need power. Power drives a system. But it has to be clean power. Filtered power.

    I look at everything as systems, with inputs, outputs, feedback loops, memory, and a source of power. It's an engineering thing, but it works for me.

    So what does this have to do with legislatures and voting schemes? A legislature is a system which outputs governance for a society. A machine for making laws. That machine needs power, and in a democracy, that power is derived from the popular will of the people.

    The challenge, though, is to provide clean filtered power. Imagine a lamp (a machine for making light) being powered by a power source in which the voltage varies randomly and the current switches direction with wild abandon. The light would be bright, dim, off, flickering, steady -- all over the place and utterly useless.

    If we tried to work a legislature off of the popular will as measured moment by moment, it would be the same thing.

    So we apply filters (just as power supplies are filtered in any electrical circuit).

The filters include elections every four years (in the normal course of events), representative democracy, riding-based elections, and so on.

A party has to prove itself able to get a sizeable fraction of the voters in a riding, made up of a mix of urban and rural voters, men and women, families and single people, rich and poor, religious and atheist, and so on and so forth, to vote for the candidate.  If the candidate succeeds at that better than the candidates of the other parties, that party is rewarded with an MP in parliament.


And how does this concern the Green Party?

    The Green Party has never won a seat. Well, many of their policies are already reflected in the policies of other parties. Other Green policies can't find enough traction with voters. They simply can't earn enough votes as a standalone party to win a seat. That puts the onus on them to construct policies that are more appealing to a broad cross-section of voters you would find in any given riding.

Will the Green Party succeed at that?  Quite possibly.  I'd guess in another couple of elections, but that will have a lot to do with what happens to the Bloc Quebecois, the NDP, and the Liberal Party in the next few years.  Those parties are natural reservoirs of potential Green Party voters, and if any of those parties break down or even dissolve, the Green Party could benefit in subsequent elections.

And of course, the evolution of Green Party policies will play a big role in attracting enough voters in a riding to win a seat.

Electing an MP is tough.  Only four parties can manage it today, and one of them focuses all its efforts exclusively in one province.

The Green Party is not one these parties.  That an MP who was elected in a riding running on an entirely different platform is now deciding to call himself a Green Party MP doesn't mean that Elizabeth May gets to present a Green Party platform at a leader's debate, a debate about platforms.

The leader's debate will be rendered useless if there is too much noise.  So far, the Green Party has not proven that its contribution to Canadian political debate amounts to much more than just noise.  Snatching a disgraced MP on the eve of an election does not change that.

When the Green Party platform succeeds at winning over a riding, then we'll talk.  Until that happens, I have to say that Elizabeth May has failed to prove, in the only way that matters, that her party's platform deserves to be presented and debated at the leader's debate.

Technicalities:  When does an MP actually get recognized as being a member of a particular party?  Is there a formal process, perhaps involving the Clerk of the House of Commons, so that the MP is noted as being a member of this party or that, assigned an appropriate seat, and so on?  Clearly Blair Wilson will not have party status -- whatever party affiliation he claims to have, the Green Party will not be a formal party in the House of Commons, with a research budget, seats on committees, and an allotment of time during Question Period.  Functionally, Blair Wilson is still an independent.  If an election is called before parliament sits again, can Blair Wilson even be correctly referred to as a sitting Green Party MP?  Can the Green Party say that it has ever had an MP in parliament, elected or otherwise?  I haven't found any reference to how all this works, but I think it's an interesting set of questions.

Precedents: From Daimnation:

    I see Janke's point, and I'm not anxious to give the Green Party even more exposure. That said, in 1993 Preston Manning was included in the debates despite there being only one Reform Party MP (albeit an elected one) and Lucien Bouchard was allowed to participate even though the Bloc caucus was made up almost entirely of floor-crossers.

Albeit an elected Reform Party member?  Well, that's the point, isn't it.  Deb Grey ran in fourth place in the 1988 election in riding of Beaver River as the candidate for the Reform Party.  Preston Manning was not in the debate.  Then in 1989, Deb Grey won the by-election in that riding (the winner, Progressive Conservative John Dahmer having died before he could be sworn in).  In the next general election in 1993, Preston Manning was invited to participate, since clearly the Reform Party platform resonated at the federal level and could win over a plurality of voters in a riding.

The same applied for Lucien Bouchard.  The Bloc Quebecois was made up almost entirely of floor crossers -- except for Gilles Duceppe, who won the by-election in Laurier-Sainte-Marie in 1990.  Having proven, in principle, that the Bloc Quebecois platform was one that could win an electoral fight, Lucien Bouchard was invited to participate in the 1993 leader's debate.

Elizabeth May and her Green Party haven't managed that feat yet. 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 10, 2008, 12:34:32
This John Ibbitson column, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail is important:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080909.wcoibbi10/BNStory/specialComment/home
Quote
America is simply too democratic for Canadian tastes

JOHN IBBITSON

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
September 10, 2008 at 12:47 AM EDT

By coincidence, both Canada and the United States are in general elections. The events of the past year have shown why the American system is better.

Many Canadians consider U.S. elections perverse. They find the primary system of electing party nominees confusing and unbalanced, and suspect money and insider influence are the determinants of success. These assumptions are false. Canada, not the United States, chooses its leaders from a small, secretive elite.

During the primaries, Iowa and New Hampshire serve as vetting committees, assessing the qualities of the candidates and reporting those findings to the rest of the population. In every city, town and village across the two states, candidates arrive at the community centre or school auditorium, make their pitch, and take questions until everyone has received an answer.

Slick marketing, well-financed ad campaigns and influence within the party and congressional leadership can't protect candidates from the scrutiny of voters in these bear pits. This is why the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries are so important.

Once the remaining primaries get under way, the entire electorate can participate in choosing the party leaders. In many states, voters registered with one party can vote in the other's primary if they wish.

Barack Obama was able to exploit a groundswell of popular support to best Hillary Clinton, despite her headlock on the party and congressional leadership. John McCain rescued a foundering campaign by retreating to New Hampshire, without money or a national campaign organization, and rebuilding from there.

So, in this election, both candidates were, at one time or another, underdogs. That's not unusual. So were Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Ronald Reagan won in 1980 only because of his insurgency campaign against Gerald Ford in 1976.

None of these candidates would have had much chance of leading a Canadian political party, where a handful of loyalists and leaders exercise a strict gatekeeper function.

In Canada, a political aspirant will typically curry favour with a local riding association and get elected, then seek to broaden his base of support.

Those who aspire to lead the party must appeal both to its leadership, or at least one faction of it, and to its card-carrying membership. Less than 2 per cent of Canadians belong to a party, so even the Liberals and Conservatives choose their leaders from a pool of voters representing less than 1 per cent of the population.

No one can win an election in either country without money, whether publicly or privately provided. But those who have tried to buy a presidential nomination by self-financing their campaigns have thrown worse money after bad. Just ask Mitt Romney and Steve Forbes.

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, developed the most impressive fundraising system in campaign history, by combining traditional big-dollar donations with a broader-based Internet campaign that has generated a base of more than two million donors.

In sum, the American system makes it possible for outsiders, underdogs and mavericks to sometimes capture a party's nomination by igniting grassroots wildfires of voter and donor support that overwhelm the initial preferences of the party's leadership. Canadian aspirants must confine their pitch to the backroom boys and a tiny band of party members. So which is more democratic?

Of course, there are lots of things wrong with America's electoral rules. To name just two: Politicians, not neutral arbiters, establish congressional district boundaries, which often leads to gerrymandering. The elections in many House districts are, quite frankly, rigged. One reason the Senate is more powerful than the House is that senators are considered more credibly elected, since they have to appeal to all the voters of their state.

And because the states oversee elections, including federal ones, Americans are subjected to a plethora of voting methods that can lead to confusion and abuse.

America is a rowdy, messy mass of contradictions, and its elections are no different. But it's an open society, where anyone can be president.

Anyone can be prime minister, too. All you need is the support of the party bosses and the grassroots of a very small pasture. America, one suspects, is too democratic for Canadian tastes - or at least for the tastes of its ruling political, intellectual and cultural elites.

That's another reason why American elections are so much more fun.

Ibbitson is pointing at the FACT that Canada is a very immature democracy – to the degree that it is at democracy at all.

Is it really fair for Canada to claim membership in the ’club’ of democratic nations when one of the two houses of our national parliament is appointed from the ranks of party hacks, flacks and political bagmen and the other enshrines inequality based on Constitutional principle? No! It is shameful!, a disgrace but, evidently, quite acceptable to most Canadians.

There is a huge democratic deficit in Canada – and political parties are well served by that deficit and they are able to sustain it because most Canadians are intellectually unfit to vote.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on September 10, 2008, 13:37:07
Ibbitson is pointing at the FACT that Canada is a very immature democracy – to the degree that it is at democracy at all.

I can't agree with the notion that any country that uses the Westminster parliamentary system -- which pre-dates the US system considerably -- could be called an immature democracy.

Quote
Is it really fair for Canada to claim membership in the ’club’ of democratic nations when one of the two houses of our national parliament is appointed from the ranks of party hacks, flacks and political bagmen and the other enshrines inequality based on Constitutional principle? No! It is shameful!, a disgrace but, evidently, quite acceptable to most Canadians.

Your last few words say it all.  If ever we elect a House of Commons with popular support to reform the Senate then it will happen.  We have the system we have now because it is evidently acceptable to a majority of Canadians (or because no better alternative has been presented that would itself be acceptable to a majority of Canadians).  That sounds like a democracy to me.

The next time the Senate prevents passage of a Commons bill outright then we can talk about its democratic shortcomings, but until then the elected representatives of the people generally get what they want -- to the extent that they can agree amongst themselves.  That also sounds like a democracy to me.

Quote
There is a huge democratic deficit in Canada – and political parties are well served by that deficit and they are able to sustain it because most Canadians are intellectually unfit to vote.

If most Canadians are intellectually unfit to vote then the less voting the better, eh?

Of course that's not true, though; you're indulging in drama at the expense of making a sound argument.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 10, 2008, 14:03:07
So, N. McKay, are you content with an appointed legislature? Do you think an appointed legislative chambre is democratic?

Are you content with an elected legislative chambre in which "equal representation" is, at best, a bad joke? Where a vote in, say, Charlotetown (27,000+ voted in 2006), is worth three or more times as much as a vote in Calgary West (92,000+ voted in 2006)  or Toronto Centre (89,000+ voted in 2006)? Do you think that is democratic?

As to democratic maturity: an appointed legislative chambre smacks of 19th century paternalism, when our 'betters' believed that the 'people' could not be trusted to manage their own affairs. It's not surprising that we have a 19th century, paternalistic Constitution - it was written back then. It is surprising that we haven't worked up the gumption to repair that glaring bit of the democratic deficit. Ditto for our own "rotten and pocket boroughs (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PR.htm) - almost all East of the Ottawa River.

I remain dismayed at the flaccid nature of the national spine.
 

 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Tango2Bravo on September 10, 2008, 14:42:30
So, N. McKay, are you content with an appointed legislature? Do you think an appointed legislative chambre is democratic?

Are you content with an elected legislative chambre in which "equal representation" is, at best, a bad joke? Where a vote in, say, Charlotetown (27,000+ voted in 2006), is worth three or more times as much as a vote in Calgary West (92,000+ voted in 2006)  or Toronto Centre (89,000+ voted in 2006)? Do you think that is democratic?

As to democratic maturity: an appointed legislative chambre smacks of 19th century paternalism, when our 'betters' believed that the 'people' could not be trusted to manage their own affairs. It's not surprising that we have a 19th century, paternalistic Constitution - it was written back then. It is surprising that we haven't worked up the gumption to repair that glaring bit of the democratic deficit. Ditto for our own "rotten and pocket boroughs (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PR.htm) - almost all East of the Ottawa River.

I remain dismayed at the flaccid nature of the national spine.
 


Edward,

Calling our democracy immature does seem a little extreme or sensational to me.  Immature compared to what?  We have an appointed Senate that has no real legislative power.  Heck, we have an unelected executive branch in legal terms (but not in reality).

Canada does have some interesting issues.  We are a regional nation combined with a concentration of the population, however, in the centre.  This is going to make for some glitches.  While PEI might have more seats per person than Ontario, the fact remains that if you carry Ontario and Quebec you carry the nation.

Canada also lacks an underlying consensus (Quebec and the rest of Canada).  This affects many things and makes for glacially slow constitutional change.  That Canada has survived, however, demonstrates to me the strength of Canadian democracy.  My 1st year political science prof pointed out the underlying consensus in the US as a way of illustrating our lack of such a beast, to which I pointed out that they got there through a Civil War so we should perhaps just be thankful for our shortcomings. 

An elected Senate might help resolve some regional issues, but basing it on the Provinces could get a little silly.  Perhaps we just muddle through with our system which seems to govern a country that does very well world-wide on a number of indicies.  Our system may not always make sense at first glance, but I would hardly call it shameful or a disgrace. 

Cheers

p.s. You yourself have stated that "most Canadians are intellectually unfit to vote."  How does that point of view square with the 19th century paternalism you mention?   >:D
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 10, 2008, 15:20:55
I stick by ”immature”.

We were the first country to have a written constitution for a federal state with a Westminster style parliamentary democracy. In 1867 the idea of an appointed ‘upper’ house was not unreasonable. The US Senate, for example, was appointed, by state legislatures – some had more democratic election procedures than others. Beginning in 1904 and ending in 1913 (with the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution) the American moved from an appointed to an elected Senate.

In 1901 Australia became the next major Westminster style federal state – this time with an elected Senate.

In the 1940s we saw two more constitutions for federal democracies with Westminster type governments: Germany and India – both have elected upper houses, although the Indian one is ’indirectly’ elected by the legislatures of the Indian states.

The German Constitution is the most ‘mature,’ I suggest, having benefited from the political and constitutional experience of the Australians and Canadians.

Our democracy retains its ‘youthful’ (immature) nature in both the appointment of the Senate and by its tolerance of inequality of representation. Both may have been acceptable in the middle of the 19th century; they ought not to be now.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on September 10, 2008, 16:05:32
So, N. McKay, are you content with an appointed legislature? Do you think an appointed legislative chambre is democratic?

I think the government, as a whole, is democratic.  I dispute your assertion that having one part of it not elected makes the institution undemocratic.

How far would we have to go towards electing public officials to have a truly democratic government?  Should we stop at the Senate, or also elect the Governor General?  What about judges?  Deputy Ministers?  Or the entire civil service?

There is an elected body at the core of the government, and the government can do bugger all without that body's say-so and oversight.  I think we qualify as having a democratic government on that basis.

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Are you content with an elected legislative chambre in which "equal representation" is, at best, a bad joke? Where a vote in, say, Charlotetown (27,000+ voted in 2006), is worth three or more times as much as a vote in Calgary West (92,000+ voted in 2006)  or Toronto Centre (89,000+ voted in 2006)? Do you think that is democratic?

It is democratic, but perhaps not perfect.  The number of people who actually voted in any given riding is immaterial, though.  What matters is the number of people living in each riding, and that should be kept equal as far as is practicable.

Quote
As to democratic maturity: an appointed legislative chambre smacks of 19th century paternalism, when our 'betters' believed that the 'people' could not be trusted to manage their own affairs. It's not surprising that we have a 19th century, paternalistic Constitution - it was written back then. It is surprising that we haven't worked up the gumption to repair that glaring bit of the democratic deficit.
Quote

It has worked reasonably well for a very long time.

My car has worked well for five years so I don't fiddle around under the hood except to add fluids.  You can bet that if it's still running after 141 years I'll be even less interested in meddling with it!  (Mind you, I obviously won't still be running by that time.)

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I remain dismayed at the flaccid nature of the national spine.

I remain dismayed at people who fail to appreciate just how good we have it here, and to what degree that is a product of a stable and proven system of government.  So, lots of dismay to go around today!
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 10, 2008, 16:57:19
...  What matters is the number of people living in each riding, and that should be kept equal as far as is practicable. ...


Here is the electoral quotient (http://www.elections.ca/scripts/fedrep/federal_e/red/appendices_e.htm) by province and here (http://www.elections.ca/scripts/fedrep/federal_e/RED/representation_e.htm) is an explanation of how it is calculated.

We really have three Canadas, don’t we? One (AB, BC and ON) is about ‘fairly represented’ by the current formula; the second (MB, NS and QC) is more than 10% but less than 33⅓% ‘above’ the ‘fair’ level – still about ‘practically’ equal, I guess; but the third Canada (NF, NS, PEI and SK) is between 40% and 300% overrepresented. Is that as equal as practicable in your mind?

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 10, 2008, 17:14:32
...  Perhaps we just muddle through with our system which seems to govern a country that does very well world-wide on a number of indicies.
...

I’m grumpy about ‘muddling through’ because I’m trying to digest the latest productivity figures.

Canadian productivity is down, again.

US productivity is up, again. Ditto most of the rest of the world, too.

The US is our biggest competitor as well as being our biggest customer; our economies are too much alike for us to be, contentedly, less productive than them.

Part of our productivity problem is attitudinal I think. We are too “fat, dumb and happy,” there is waaaaay too much “I’m all right, Jack” in our government, corporations, banks and trade unions. And the same people who are content with a democratic deficit are equally content with an increasing productivity gap.

I think we’re bloody idle – as the sergeant major used to put it.

Ibbitson said, “America, one suspects, is too democratic for Canadian tastes - or at least for the tastes of its ruling political, intellectual and cultural elites.” Those ruling elites who care too little, in my opinion, for democracy also care too little for other important things - like productivity, and it pisses me off!

I repeat: our lagging productivity is not because we have lazy, inept, overpaid workers. It is because our corporate/banking/industrial elites are timid and lazy – and overpaid (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,79639.msg755309.html#msg755309). And they are forgiven for being idle, often actually encouraged in their idleness by trade union and political ‘leaders.’

Leadership is THE issue and despite the fact that we are embarked upon a general election our would-be leaders will not discuss hard issues. The democratic deficit is, in my opinion a real issue and an important one, so is productivity, ditto our role in the world. We ought to be demanding that leaders do better: provide better democracy, encourage better productivity, be more productive in protecting and promoting our own vital interests in the world. Do you want to bet that any of them will receive much attention in the ongoing campaign?
 

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Jed on September 10, 2008, 17:48:39
ER Campbell, you should run for PM. You would have my vote. (One of those idle types in an over represented province. lol)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on September 10, 2008, 22:40:30
Here, here, Mr. Campbell.

I agree with your assertion that our democracy is immature and that our constitution is a work of 19th century paternalism.

IMHO, having a truly popular representative HoC and a Triple E Senate would go a long way to bringing our constitution into the 21st century.

Edit to add:

That may mean that PEI get only one MP, but that also means that they get the same number of senators as Ontario.  Which is fine by me.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Tango2Bravo on September 10, 2008, 23:31:36
Edward,

Do you really think that productivity is tied to our political system?  Could there be other factors at play?  While I believe that there is dynamic exchange between a society and its political system in terms of influence, at the end of the day I believe that our political system reflects our society and not the other way around. 

I am not upset about PEI voters having a greater quotient of MPs per vote because Quebec and Ontario still hold the hammer in the big picture.  Canada came together out of compromise and not absolutism.  An elected senate would have a similar (but much more out of whack) tilt unless it was just a split of the House of Commons. 

Messing with the Constitution is fraught with peril and I do not believe that the possible benefits justify the risks. 

Our productivity is lower, but how is our trade deficit?  Apples and oranges, to be sure, but we should look as widely as possible when comparing two countries and deciding if we want to radically change ours.

Cheers

T2B

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on September 10, 2008, 23:51:55
I’m grumpy about ‘muddling through’ because I’m trying to digest the latest productivity figures.

I think we’re bloody idle – as the sergeant major used to put it.



Edward, I take exception to this juxtaposition.

Some years back a young Prussian Infanteer kept inundating us with tales of the German High Command.  I seem to recall some comment to the effect that the Prussians considered lazy people worthy of promotion ......

Ultimately, Productivity is not a function of people working harder.  It is a function of people working less hard. 

Our problem is that our politicians have been working hard on the Canadian version of the French 35 hour work week.  They fear the unemployed and so are going out of their way to keep candle-stick makers in business when the market died out years ago.  In the environment they have created our naturally risk averse, shall we say conservative, business class have been reluctant to try out new technologies.  Unless the government pays for new ideas and experimentation Canadian Business isn't interested.

Consequently we have been trying to keep families in funds packing fish for 10 weeks a year while the Icelanders buy up and build robots to butcher, slice, dice and pack cod.  We have been running plants on 24/7 shifts while other countries have been putting in bigger motors so that they can produce more, faster with fewer people: the definition of productivity enhancement.

To go back to The RSM:   The problem is not that we are bloody idle.  The problem is that too many of us "need to grow a pair".
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 11, 2008, 08:12:49
...
Do you really think that productivity is tied to our political system?
...
No, and I said that the connection is tangential, at best (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,79639.msg755043.html#msg755043). (And, by the way, Kirkhill, I also said (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg756118.html#msg756118) that, “our lagging productivity is not because we have lazy, inept, overpaid workers.”)

I agree we need to look broadly at our situation, and when I do that, through the lens of my experience I see a need for some broad, ‘structural’ changes to politics and policy and ‘attitude.’

I think there are links between (in no particular order) foreign policy, tax policy, productivity, the democratic deficit (as I state it), R&D spending (by industry and governments), social programmes, trade policy and so on.

Earlier I described the ‘attitudinal’ bit as “I’m all right, Jack.” Many may have never seen that old (1959) British comedy that parodied the way in which vested (special) interests manipulate people and the ‘system’ for heir own, selfish ends. But it is how I believe we have come to accept that the ‘elites’ – the chattering classes, the unimaginative, anti-competitive, overpaid CEOs, the politicians, the labour ‘leaders’ and the busybodies – operate against the national interest.

The extent of my ‘confusion’ is perfectly illustrated by this election:

•   The Liberal Party – the one which I vowed, way back in 1967, would not get my vote until Trudeau was gone and his influence erased – proposes, as its centrepiece policy, something with which I agree, philosophically, on two out of three points –

+   The Green Shaft Shift is based on a consumption tax. That’s good!

+   The ‘plan’ involves cuts to income taxes. That’s good, too, but

+   The ‘plan’ includes all manner of new (mostly social) spending. That’s bad;

•   The Conservative Party – the one I support (actively) – proposes to cut a perfectly good consumption tax. That's bad.

So, on one of my and the country’s BIG issues I plan to vote against the good policy. But, of course, it is because I am looking for a larger, more coherent ‘plan’ – maybe the eternal triumph f hope over experience, again.

I think we are not Chinese. I think we need to reform our government ‘system’ before we try to shake off the shackles of socialism effects of decades of less than stellar management – the sort that gives us consistently negative trade balances (http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/gblec02a.htm) with just about every country or region except the USA.  I think the ”I’m all right, Jack” attitude is more dangerous than Harper’s hidden agenda™ or Dion’s apparent ineptitude or even Elizabeth May’s mouth.

I’m being hyperbolic because I’m trying to provoke interest, even discussion.


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on September 11, 2008, 11:08:43
Quote
No, and I said that the connection is tangential, at best. (And, by the way, Kirkhill, I also said that, “our lagging productivity is not because we have lazy, inept, overpaid workers.”)

Seen Edward.   Comes from skimming and typing when I should have been working.

Cheers.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on September 11, 2008, 11:35:52
Someone tell me how an elected Senate will make my life better, in practical terms.  Or your life, if you prefer.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on September 11, 2008, 11:44:53
Someone tell me how an elected Senate will make my life better, in practical terms.  Or your life, if you prefer.

We might actually get some of them back from their Mexican villas, and keep some of the others awake (less meds)  ;D
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Tango2Bravo on September 11, 2008, 12:37:53
No, and I said that the connection is tangential, at best (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,79639.msg755043.html#msg755043). (And, by the way, Kirkhill, I also said (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg756118.html#msg756118) that, “our lagging productivity is not because we have lazy, inept, overpaid workers.”)

I think we are not Chinese. I think we need to reform our government ‘system’ before we try to shake off the shackles of socialism effects of decades of less than stellar management – the sort that gives us consistently negative trade balances (http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/gblec02a.htm) with just about every country or region except the USA.  I think the ”I’m all right, Jack” attitude is more dangerous than Harper’s hidden agenda™ or Dion’s apparent ineptitude or even Elizabeth May’s mouth.

I’m being hyperbolic because I’m trying to provoke interest, even discussion.


I agree that we are not Chinese.  Reforming our system to shake off the shackles of socialism is a bit more debateable.  What if Canadians want those shackles of socialism?  Perhaps parties that have offered social programs have offered something that resonates with a fair majority of the Canadian population.  Whether you or I agree with them is important in so far as how we vote and how we engage in the process.  At the end of the day, however, I believe that Canadians will get the government they support and will get what they ask for.  Not everybody will be happy, but that is democracy.  I will mention tyranny of the majority later.

Our trade balance surplus has shrunk recently, due in part I believe to the rising dollar.  Given the proportion of our trade with the US compared to the rest of the world, however, I think that we should remain focused on that aspect.  Our balance there is still quite healthy and we still have an overall surplus.

I only come back to your productivity piece because you are calling for political reform but are seemingly focused exclusively on economics.  Politics and economics are certainly linked, but the Venn diagram of the two would still have some aspects outside each other's circle.  Reforming the constitution is a major undertaking, and in a country like Canada that lacks a real underlying consensus can lead to all sorts of problems.  Do we really want to go back to the period circa 1990 to 1995?  Germany may have a more modern constitution, but lets remember how that came about. 

Canada is a regional nation and therefore will have some funny or annoying aspects (depending on your point of view).  Given that the regions are very unequal in terms of population but still have their regional issues there will have to be some give and take at the national level.  I don't see that as undemocratic.  Tyranny of the majority is one of the those things to watch for, and if the centre rules with a velvet gloved iron fist (through democracy) than the regions may eventually decide to withdraw their consent.  Our first past the post system can also cause frustrations.  Nevertheless, we should look to the second and third order effects of any major changes made to our political system.  We have combined our de facto executive with our legislative, and only one chamber of the legislative has any real power.  I can live with the strangeness and nuances because I am proud of Canada as a whole and I worry about causing damage to the whole in order to fix a paper problem.

Our voter turnout isn't great but it compares favourably to many (somewhere in the mid 70% range), which tells me that while Canadians might not be in love with politics three quarters get out and participate.  Perhaps my muddling through life with a mid-seventies average has tainted me.

Is there really some crisis that can only be resolved by changing our constitution?  Perhaps we let sleeping dogs lie.

As an aside, an elected senate with regional representation appeals to me on some levels, but bear in mind that it would take the idea that a single voter in PEI has more influence than a single voter in Ontario to a new level.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on September 11, 2008, 22:18:21
I think I see where Edward is going with this (although this is my interpretation).

Canada's long term prospects are limited by an "I'm all right Jack" attitude, which is partially caused and supported by the State. In order to pay off supporters and maintain voter support, a vast array of vote buying subsidies and programs have grown across the political and economic landscape like weeds. Major offenders are EI and our healthcare system, followed by regional economic "development" programs and "social" programs which give the State essentially parental powers over individuals. We don't feel the need to be competitive or productive because we are cocooned and insulated from hard choices and consequences of our actions by the State. Most people seem to be comfortable with this, and accept the implicit bargin that we will turn over 50% of our earnings in return for the privilage of coasting.

Now overturning the existing order and unleashing the energies of Canadians will require some pretty dramatic changes. We have elites in business, politics, education and the bureaucracy who prosper from the status quo, and will defend their positions to the last taxpayer. (To use another metaphor, they are forming a perimeter around the lifeboats on the Titanic, while hoping we haven't noticed the water lapping over the deck).

Now a politician with balls of steel might try to face down the voters mobilized by the elites, but will probably not get elected. A politician in power still needs to operate with a very deft political touch in order to change the existing order without arousing the opposition of the conservative elites (conservative in the sense the champagne socialists will work to preserve the existing order for their benefit). The other scenarios are the stuff of nightmares; a massive economic dislocation or meltdown forces governments to jettison the dead weight of social programs, EI etc. in order to save the State, global war, or armed revolution to seize the powers of the State for whatever purpose the revolutionaries deem fit.

If I am reading Edward correctly, Prime Minister harper is taking option "B" (deft political manipulation) to reform the system in small steps that the conservative elites are unable to counter individually, but will collectively add up to true changes for the Dominion of Canada and its people. Watch and wonder.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on October 08, 2008, 10:55:06
It seems the prediction of massive economic meltdown is indeed coming true, although I don't see much actual change on the political horizon (yet). Here is a take on one reason why the status quo will be with us for a long time to come (remember, politicians will fight to the last taxpayer to maintain their advantages)

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20081008.COFLANAGAN08//TPStory/Comment

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The fragmentation of our politics
Blame changes to party financing for splintering the vote

TOM FLANAGAN

Professor of political science at the University of Calgary and a former Conservative campaign manager

October 8, 2008

Money is the mother's milk of politics.

- Jesse Unruh, California

Assembly Speaker, 1966

An underreported story of this election campaign is the fragmentation of partisan support. In the latest polls, the combined support for the two leading parties (Conservatives plus Liberals), which was 66 per cent in the 2004 and 2006 elections, is declining toward its value in the 1993 election - 60 per cent (Liberals plus Reform). In 1993, everyone blamed the splintering of the vote on the crack-up of the Mulroney coalition, which produced a five-party system.

It is less clear why the vote should be fragmenting in this election, but changes in party finance are part of the explanation. Jean Chrétien's Bill C-24 and Stephen Harper's Accountability Act outlawed union and corporate contributions as well as large personal donations, leaving parties to survive on government subsidies and grassroots fundraising. One of several unintended consequences is to encourage the proliferation of parties.

The effect is clearest with the Greens, a party that has never elected anyone to the House of Commons and got less than 5 per cent of the vote in both 2004 and 2006. Under the old system of party finance, its supporters would have given up and it would now be a fringe party, nominating a few candidates but not having a significant impact. Yet, under the new regime, all pollsters (except Nik Nanos, who has a different way of asking the ballot question) have the Greens in double digits.

The Greens have been able to thrive because they received enough votes in 2004 and 2006 (more than 2 per cent) to qualify for an annual subsidy of about $1-million - enough to finance a professional organization and national campaign. Thus, without ever electing anyone, an advocacy group has turned itself into a viable political party, courtesy of the system of public subsidies; and even if the Greens never elect anyone, their status as a party makes their advocacy more effective.

Consider also the Bloc Québécois, a party that hardly bothers to do any fundraising on its own because its federal subsidy is almost entirely sufficient to its needs. The Bloc was founded to promote Quebec independence, a cause that is temporarily moribund. Also, its leader, Gilles Duceppe, is thought to be on the verge of retirement. Instead of promoting its separatist raison d'être, it has campaigned on the necessity of keeping the Conservatives from winning a majority. A party dependent on its grassroots supporters for its well-being could hardly contemplate such a volte-face, but the Bloc can carry on, confident of its subsidies.

The NDP's unprecedented decision to run a fully funded campaign has also been affected by the new subsidy system, which more than makes up for the contributions it used to get from organized labour. With Elections Canada rebating half the party's national campaign expense, and with its subsidy growing in line with its increasing vote totals, the NDP should be in reasonably good shape, though it will also have to ratchet its fundraising up a notch if it hopes to wage the frequent election campaigns that result from the fragmentation of federal politics.

Whereas the new system has helped the three smaller opposition parties, it has hurt the Liberals, who, despite their bigger cash requirements, have not yet learned the art of grassroots fundraising. With their much bigger war chest, the Conservatives outspent the Liberals by a huge margin in the pre-writ period and thus entered the writ-period campaign with a big advantage, although that is dissipating amid the international financial turmoil.

But if the Liberals end up badly in this election, the subsidy system will cushion their fall. No matter how poorly their own fundraising performs, they can expect an annual subsidy of $6-million to $7-million, which will discourage them from facing the need to "unite the left" through a coalition or merger with the NDP and/or Greens. Once again, the subsidy system will promote fragmentation.

My long-term prognosis: Whether the Conservatives win a minority government (a majority now seems out of the question) or the Liberals stage a comeback to win their own minority, we are in for years of fragmentation. Usually, a period of splintering would be followed by consolidation, as happened with the Canadian Alliance-Progressive Conservative merger, but our system of finance tends to turn advocacy groups into parties and keeps them alive even after they have outlived their usefulness.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: adaminc on October 09, 2008, 05:27:55
I am not sure what kind of voting system this would be, but I wish that I could vote for a local rep in my riding independantly of the federal party.

i.e. I could vote a Lib in as my MP, but vote for the Cons Federally, or vice versa.

Never thought it through in any detail, but there are times when I like what an MP does for the area, but I don't like what their respective political party does federally. Does this make sense?

So you vote in the person in your local riding who would then be your rep in the house of commons, and then you vote for the federal party who would become the PM and the Cabinet. I am thinking that there could be an issue of there being more reps for party A in the house, but party B winning the federal election, but I think it would be interesting to see nonetheless, even if it only lasts a short time, I dont think it would hurt to try it out, unless I am supremely wrong and this would turn Canada into a 3rd world country.

P.S. I would also like to see Michaëlle Jean pull a prank on the next Prime Minister (and film it all) by saying that she is going to pick the Cabinet this time around. I would love to see the look on the PMs face, hahaha.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 09, 2008, 07:58:05
That’s what they do in the USA.

There are, in pretty much all democracies, three elements of government:

•   The Executive;

•   The Legislature; and

•   The Judiciary.

The Americans elect all or parts* of all three.

-------------------

Our tradition is different: we elect only the legislature.

Our ‘Executive’ is the Queen – advised by a committee of the Queen’s Privy Council, AKA the cabinet. We inherit the sovereign but we indirectly elect (most of) the cabinet† since, by Constitutional convention (unwritten rules with at least as much ‘weight’ as any written law, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) the cabinet is formed from members of the political party that ‘has the confidence’ of (can win votes in) the House of Commons which, also by ancient ‘convention’ is the only place where taxes can be ‘levied’ and where wars can be declared.

Our judges, like US judges, have their origins in Heny II’s ‘assize’ courts. That term (Assize Court), and ‘Court of Queen’s Bench’ survived and still survive into the 21st century.

Because judges derive their power from the sovereign (executive) and because they can literally overturn decisions of the sovereign’s legislature (remember it is “Her Majesty’s Government” and “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” – terms that indicate that the legislature, too, is subordinate to an all powerful executive) they are, of necessity an extension of the executive.

Now, our system is evolutionary. Clearly, Queen Elizabeth’s (or Governor General Michaëlle Jean’s) real, practical powers are confined to a few, largely ceremonial matters.‡ The real power – to require, for example, that you and I pay taxes and that we all drive on a certain (uniform) side of the road – rest with the elected legislatures. Those legislatures can, and sometimes do, deny “Her Majesty’s Government” its (her) wishes. In that case the government-of-the-day may lose the ‘confidence of parliament and Her Majesty (us, effectively) may have to find a new government – generally by having an election.**

Thus, we come (evolve) full circle. We, the people, are our own ‘all powerful sovereign.’ We pay a monarch, a governor general in our case, to look after some of the less important ‘head of state’ duties for us. A few hundred years ago we, our parliament, used to ‘select’ (indirectly elect) the monarch, too. That’s how William and Mary (1689) and the current House of Windsor (1714) (variously House of Hanover, House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and House of Windsor) came into ‘power’ or, properly, into our employ.

We govern ourselves through the legislature we elect and we, through the elected cabinet, appoint our own judges.

There are, especially for radical “Jacksonians,” attractions to electing pretty much everything. Our system, rooted in more than 1,000 years of British tradition, can be just as ‘democratic.’

 
--------------------
* Originally all US judges were appointed, like all Canadian judges today, but, circa 1850 there was something of a ‘constitutional revolt’ in the US and a corrupt judiciary was part of the problem. Electing judges, to provide ‘accountability’ to the people was seen to be the answer. Today many lower court judges (a majority, in a majority of states (http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/25/america/judge.php)) are elected.
† Provided a few ‘conventions’ are observed he prije minister ma appoint a few unelected senators to the cabinet, too.
‡ But, as we will soon see, some ceremonial vestiges remain. We do not have a government until Governor General Michaëlle Jean swears it in – making it her government.
** But not always; if a government ‘falls’ (loses a vote of confidence) very son after a general election – say in the late winter of 2008/09 or early spring of 2009 – the GG may decide to ask the leader of her opposition to see if he can form a government and secure the ‘confidence’ of parliament.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on October 12, 2008, 17:20:45
Here is a bit of a different topic in this grand, sweeping subject.

In my riding in central BC (being a Reg Force member, my riding is that on my SOR, not where I am posted - as many political pundits incorrectly assumed), the Green Party dumped their traditional candidate - a local farmer - in favour of someone else.

This is the problem; the candidate lives in Vancouver.  She agreed to run for the Central BC riding on the condition that she have no picture or biography published, no interviews with the press, and participate in no debates.  She was sought out by the Green Party because she is a female member of the party that would satisfy some Party goals with the "right-to-vote" principle that enables electors in all of Canada's ridings to vote Green.

Now, if you ask me, this reeks.  Are we to be content with candidates who have never even been to the area to run as candidates?  Has the party assumed that much primacy in our electoral system that representatives are merely an "electoral college" for the Prime Minister.  I'd like to think not, but this appears to indicate yes.

I consider this a true democratic deficit.  When we have prospective MP's that are nothing but numbers or parrots.  It reeks of old British ridings that aristocrats would pick up just to get a seat.  Although probably an exception rather than a norm, it sets a dangerous precedent in my opinion.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: George Wallace on October 12, 2008, 17:28:21
Unfortunately, it has been done many times in the past, by all Parties.  Party Leaders have been parachuted into "Safe Ridings" so that they can have a guaranteed seat in Parliament.  It is nothing new.  That, however, doesn't make it right.  I agree that this practice reeks and should not happen.

Your example of the "Anonymous Green Party Candidate" takes the cake though.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: TCBF on October 12, 2008, 17:33:49
... This is the problem; the candidate lives in Vancouver.  She agreed to run for the Central BC riding on the condition that she have no picture or biography published, no interviews with the press, and participate in no debates.  ....

- Fresh air kills most germs.  You need to run this one up the nearest flagpoles and start by finding out her name.  She may not want to answer questions now, but after the election - in fact, for the rest of her stinking life - she should be called on to account for her anti-democratic activities.

- Seriously.  When she is 98 years old and living in an assisted care facility, a little old lady with a sparkle in her eye should lean over from the next wheelchair and say: "Tell us, ____, just WHAT the f_ck were you possibly thinking, dearie?"
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: George Wallace on October 12, 2008, 17:37:18
Then again, she may go by the name of "Rover", or "Spot" or "Fluffy".  Perhaps: "Fifi".    :-\
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: TCBF on October 12, 2008, 17:41:43
Then again, she may go by the name of "Rover", or "Spot" or "Fluffy".  Perhaps: "Fifi".    :-\

- A 'ghost' candidate who does not exist?  Leave it to BC...

 8)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 12, 2008, 18:27:08
Here is a bit of a different topic in this grand, sweeping subject.

In my riding in central BC (being a Reg Force member, my riding is that on my SOR, not where I am posted - as many political pundits incorrectly assumed), the Green Party dumped their traditional candidate - a local farmer - in favour of someone else.

This is the problem; the candidate lives in Vancouver.  She agreed to run for the Central BC riding on the condition that she have no picture or biography published, no interviews with the press, and participate in no debates.  She was sought out by the Green Party because she is a female member of the party that would satisfy some Party goals with the "right-to-vote" principle that enables electors in all of Canada's ridings to vote Green.

Now, if you ask me, this reeks.  Are we to be content with candidates who have never even been to the area to run as candidates?  Has the party assumed that much primacy in our electoral system that representatives are merely an "electoral college" for the Prime Minister.  I'd like to think not, but this appears to indicate yes.

I consider this a true democratic deficit.  When we have prospective MP's that are nothing but numbers or parrots.  It reeks of old British ridings that aristocrats would pick up just to get a seat.  Although probably an exception rather than a norm, it sets a dangerous precedent in my opinion.



Would this (http://www.sierraclub.bc.ca/local-groups/Lower-Mainland/contact-local-group/amber-van-drielen-treasurer) be her? She (a would-be lawyer articling in Vancouver) has the same name as the Green Party candidate in Cariboo - Prince George (http://www.greenparty.ca/en/campaign/59004).
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on October 12, 2008, 18:37:38
Yup.  Further cements my idea that this party is a joke but is still going to get a cut of the money.  However, it reminds me of something I'm paraphrasing from Heinlein - "Give the absurd and impossible the chance and it becomes reality".

Then what?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 12, 2008, 18:39:18
Would this (http://www.sierraclub.bc.ca/local-groups/Lower-Mainland/contact-local-group/amber-van-drielen-treasurer) be her? She (a would-be lawyer articling in Vancouver) has the same name as the Green Party candidate in Cariboo - Prince George (http://www.greenparty.ca/en/campaign/59004).


I’m guessing that’s her because I found this story, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the 10 Oct edition of the Prince George Free Press:

http://www.bclocalnews.com/bc_north/pgfreepress/news/30809289.html
Quote
In search of Green Party candidate Amber van Drielen

Published: October 10, 2008 2:00 PM
Updated: October 10, 2008 7:50 PM

AUTUMN MacDONALD

Black Press

Footsteps reverberate from above and two necks crane in their direction.

“Are you Rob?” the reporter asks.

Reporter and videographer have driven more than 800 kilometres to meet this man, Rob Hines, the provincial co-ordinator for the Green Party of Canada — the man who gave Cariboo-Prince George voters the rumour that is Amber van Drielen.

He pauses, mouth slightly open, eyes darting from reporter to videographer.

“Uhhh, yes . . . yes I am.”

She requests an interview.

He tells them to wait and hurries into Green Party headquarters.

Minutes tick by. Finally, heels echo off concrete flooring.

“Come with me.”

He leads them up a spiral staircase as she comments on the beauty of the heritage building in downtown Vancouver.

He either doesn’t hear the compliment, or is not in the mood for small talk.

Opening a heavy wooden door, he gestures to a small table and two chairs.

She sits, opens her notebook and asks the question plaguing the Cariboo since the Greens announced her candidacy:

“Who and where is Amber van Drielen?”

Friday, Oct. 3 — 7:30 a.m.

The videographer jumps into the front seat, pulls out the compact “foolproof” camcorder and immediately begins documenting the road trip.

Plans, strategies, focus and key points are discussed, reworked, tossed and reinvented.

It’s tough for two planners to go with the flow; to simply ask the question and see where it takes them.

Will they find her? Will any Green candidates along the way know who she is?

Will they know where she is? Will they know what she looks like?

And the most delicious question of all:

Does she even exist?

The plan is simple:

• Drive to Vancouver, where Green Party press releases have stated van Drielen lives.

• Call Green candidates in various ridings between Quesnel and Vancouver, asking if they know anything about her – ANYTHING that could help locate her and, in the process, enlighten “her” electorate.

The reason for the trip?

A refresher: Since the party refused to sign former candidate Douglas Gook’s nomination papers — deciding instead to appoint van Drielen — e-mails and calls to both provincial co-ordinator Hines and media liaison Kevin McKeown have been met with a consistent party line:

“Van Drielen is a right-to-vote candidate to provide Cariboo-Prince George residents the opportunity to vote Green. She will not be giving any interviews or participating in any forums or debates.”

Seeking information on the Kootenay-born ghost candidate provides more frustration.

One short biography from her membership with the Sierra Club pops up on the Internet. In it, van Drielen states she’s into the green movement and is a lawyer (or at least an articling law student in Vancouver).

That’s it. No picture.

Nothing about the Cariboo.

Nothing about her candidacy.

Nothing about her likes or dislikes. Not even a hint as to which vegetable van Drielen would be, if she could be a vegetable.

Which brings us to the reason for the epic, three-day, 1,600-kilometre road trip — finding out who she is, where she is and, most importantly – why she is the Green Party of Canada candidate for the Cariboo-Prince George riding.

Oct. 3, 11:56 a.m.

A call to Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Green candidate Donovan Cavers.

No answer on his cellphone.

Calls to the media liaison promise message delivery and a call back.

Oct. 3 — 2:20 p.m.

A call to Barbara Lebeau, Green candidate for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon.

No answer. A message is left, simply stating a reporter wishes to say hi, is driving through her riding and has a quick question.

At this point, Cavers calls back, leaving a message. His cellphone is incommunicado, making it difficult to reach him, but he suggests leaving another message and he will return her call.

Oct. 3 — 3 p.m.

A call to Abbotsford candidate Karen Durant, who answers.

After a quick rundown as to who’s calling and why, the question is asked: Does she know where Amber van Drielen is?

“Who?” Durant asks.

Yes, exactly.

Durant then points her caller to provincial organizer Rob Hines, stating he’ll know where she is.

“But, wait,” Durant adds.

“Which area is she representing?

Where did you hear she is?”

“She’s the Cariboo-Prince George candidate, but apparently she’s in Vancouver,” the reporter responds.

“Well, she should be in Prince George,” Durant said.

Precisely.

Oct. 3 — 3:30 p.m.

A call to Langley Green candidate Patrick Meyer.

No answer. A message is left, requesting a call back.

Oct. 3 — 4:38 p.m.

A call to Burnaby-Douglas candidate Doug Perry.

Once again, a rundown is given on who is calling and why, followed by the question: “Do you know who or where Amber van Drielen is?”

Perry: “Ammmbbbeerrr van Driiilleeennn.”

He says it slow, mulling it over — one can almost picture his eyes narrowed, perhaps a forefinger and thumb stroking his chin.

Maybe. Maybe not.

We have no idea. Van Drielen’s “constituents” have no idea.

Hence the road trip.

Perry then suggest a call to Rob Hines at provincial headquarters.

“He’ll know,” Perry says.

“Here, let me get you the number.”

Oct. 4 – 8:30 a.m.

Hastings Street offers a wide selection of potential man-on-the street subjects.

Perhaps one of the teeming masses in western Canada’s largest city will lead us to our elusive political quarry.

Alas, blank stares, crinkled noses and shrugs fill the camcorder.

But several do offer the suggestion of hitting up Green Party of Canada provincial headquarters, less than two blocks from where they stand.

The building sits on the corner of Hastings and Cambie. Its pink/orange colouring somehow suits its splendid-in-a-rundown-way appearance.

Signs declaring VOTE CARR and GREEN frame dusty windows.

Pulling on the brass handle, the small-town reporter is thankful her purse contains hand sanitizer.

Standing in the foyer, reporter and videographer scan the list of building occupants: Green Party – Third Floor.

The elevator doors slide open.

Quick greetings confirm Hines is in the building.

They wait at the bottom of the stairs, pacing.

Footsteps are heard from above.

“Are you Rob?”

Oct. 4 — 10 a.m.

They sit across from each other as the camera rolls.

Green Party of Canada provincial co-ordinator Rob Hines answers, spins and tries to charm.

Hines: “Amber’s a right-to-vote candidate only, thus providing the riding the opportunity to vote Green. She’s a volunteer with the party, has been for years. She’s a lawyer in Vancouver."

Reporter: “Why a female?”

Hines: “The federal Green party adopted a policy of running women candidates in ridings where the party does not have an electoral district association and a local nomination process.”

Reporter: “But why? Why a female? Why not the best person for the job?”

Hines: “Affirmative action. Female participation, experience, encouragement and perspective.”

At this point, it’s pointed out van Drielen is not actually “participating, encouraging or offering perspective.”

Hines admits it’s disappointing and unfortunate.

Reporter: “Did she come to you?”

Hines: “No. We sought her out, asked if she would put her name down.

She accepted with the provisions — no picture, no bio, no interviews, no debates.”

Reporter: “Has she ever been to the Cariboo?”

Hines: “Yes, she has family there.”

Reporter: “Has she ever been to Quesnel?”

Hands lift, face grimaces.

Hines: “I don’t know. I’ll have to ask her.”

Reporter asks if she can.

Hines laughs.

Reporter takes that as a no.

Reporter: “What do you think about the other candidates calling this move an assault on democracy?”

Hines: “The assault was trying to exclude [Green Leader] Elizabeth May from the national debate.”

Reporter: “What happens if she wins?”

Hines laughs: “They really don’t see that happening.”

Reporter: “Any possible way we can talk to her, see her — two teeny, weeny minutes?”

Hines: “No. We are respecting her privacy and wishes.”

Reporter: “We’ve heard she’s a redhead. Is that true?”

Hines sighs: “Reddish blonde.”

Reporter graciously offers her notebook: “Can you draw us a picture?”

Hines laughs long, hard and loud: “No.”

Reporter: “Well, then, if she has reddish blonde hair, she must have blue eyes. Does she have blue eyes?”

Hines: “Fine. Yes, she has blue eyes.”

Oct. 4, 10:30 a.m.

Reporter and videographer leave the building, laden with “I’m Voting Green” buttons — a parting gift from headquarters in lieu of an interview with van Drielen.

Reporter stops outside the front doors and carefully unties a baby Converse shoe, inside is soil from the bottom of Quesnel’s giant gold pan.

She dumps it onto the front mat.

“It’s simple really,” she says.

“This way, should Amber visit Green headquarters, she can at least say she’s set foot in her riding.”

Wow!


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Bread Guy on October 12, 2008, 19:15:46
In some ridings, they say you could run a potted plant for certain parties and they would win.  It'll be interesting to see this candidate's vote count, running what looks like ZERO campaign.

While all parties have parachuted candidates into ridings at one point or another, this is the first time I've heard of someone running for PUBLIC office seeking more anonymity than the head of most intelligence services.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 12, 2008, 19:28:31
The idea of a right-to-vote candidate has been around for quite a while. Many, many years ago it was quite all right for major parties to not bother to run a candidate in a few ridings. Very often a no-chance candidate was put up yo face e.g. the prime minister and the leader of the opposition – who were, themselves, often parachuted into ridings.

Sometime back (in the ‘70s?) the NDP were taunted (by Trudeau?) for not being a real, 'national' party because they didn’t have x candidates (x being a number around 280) (The NDP didn't, back in those ancient days, run candidates in all QC ridings). Now every party wants to make sure that it has nominated 308 candidates – even if a few are flakes and fruitcakes and have to withdraw and even if a few are just names on a piece of paper – so that they are 'real, national' parties. Some are there only to give a handful of people a ‘right-to-vote” for the N_____ Party of Canada.   



Edit: typo
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on October 12, 2008, 19:51:02
Yup - that's the article I read in today's local paper.

Pretty sad.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: TCBF on October 12, 2008, 21:25:42
- So, Autumn Goes Looking For Amber? Sounds like one of those videos we watched in the 9D1756 Mess Tent on REFORGER 88.

 8)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on November 02, 2008, 16:39:06
Very odd, considering the Greens had someone in the past who actually lived and worked in the area.  More proof that the party under May has become a joke.

The Liberals in the riding also nominated a 19 year old lad to run...far different from the lawyers, engineers and other professionals who have run for them in the past in that riding.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on November 02, 2008, 17:17:41
Considering the end result in that riding, I can see why the other parties took a rather laissez-faire approach to their candidate choices.  I'm going to switch my SOR for the next election so my vote will be worth something more than simply adding onto a landslide.... :)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on November 26, 2008, 22:30:52
Electoral welfare coming to an end. Parties that do not have to work for your vote will now find their funding issues have just increased by an order of magnitude:

http://www.stephentaylor.ca/2008/11/flaherty-to-end-campaign-welfare/

Quote
Flaherty to end campaign welfare

On November 7th, I argued that we should end government-subsidized campaign welfare in this country and follow the example set by President-elect Barack Obama and amend our electoral system to eliminate our $1.95-per-vote subsidy received by political parties each year. During the US Presidential campaign, Obama did not take a single dollar of public financing and went on to win the election. On a panel for the Public Policy Forum yesterday, I suggested to my Obama-obsessed co-panelist Judy Rebick that Mr. Hope and Change had set the wheels in motion for the elimination of public money for political campaigns.

In my post earlier this month, I suggested that such a system implemented in Canada would eliminate cause parties to appeal to the electorate and work for donations rather than put their hand out for a per-vote subsidy for being the least offensive option. The theory goes that if our politics inspires (Yes We Can) rather than demonizes (No They Can’t), people will show that additional financial support that parties should depend on rather than be the public cash-receptacle of successful fear mongering campaigns. How many Quebeckers these days actually support the Bloc Quebecois on its principles (they’ve all but abandoned sovereignty these days) instead of voting for that party to “block” the Conservatives or the Liberals.

In that post, I argued that we should end party welfare to motivate parties to appeal on their own issues.

In the past couple of hours, we’ve learned that in Jim Flaherty’s economic update tomorrow, the Conservative government will move to do just that in the name of showing that even politicians can tighten their own belts.

I may have been a bit of a tongue-in-cheek cynic by using the Obama magic to suggest removing critical funding from two parties of the left. The Bloc Quebecois, as mentioned, has depended on their status as those that could block Liberal corruption in 2006 and the Conservative Party’s… er conservatism in 2008. The Liberal Party on the other hand has depended upon what they are not. Specifically, they have warned Canadians of the Harper hidden agenda and what the Conservatives would do if they had a majority. In this spot, Liberals have relied in relative comfort on their per-vote subsidy. Under the new proposed financing cuts, the strength of the Liberal brand won’t matter as it is without substance as conservatism is represented by the CPC and progressive politics is claimed by a resurgent NDP.

CTV reports that under Flaherty’s cuts, the parties could stand to lose up to:

* Conservatives: $10 million
* Liberals: $7.7 million
* NDP: $4.9 million
* Bloc Quebecois: $2.6 million
* Green Party: $1.8 million


Late this evening, I’ve learned that the per vote subsidy stands to be reduced in full.

In this, the Conservatives aim to level a strategic blow to the Liberals as Conservative fundraising efforts — rooted in the Reform tradition of passing the hat in legion halls and church basements — has remained strong. Buoyed by detailed supporter databases, the party is set to compete on an advantageous — despite it’s now mutually diminished — footing with other parties. The Liberal Party still has not mastered grassroots fundraising and with an expensive year ahead with another leadership convention, Liberals will need to determine how to appeal (and fast) if they are to survive as a viable organization.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: tamtam10 on December 04, 2008, 01:14:46
I think we need a proportional representation system. It's simply not fair that when 7% of Canadians vote for the Green Party, as an example, not 1 seat is earned.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: TCBF on December 04, 2008, 02:10:27
I think we need a proportional representation system. It's simply not fair that when 7% of Canadians vote for the Green Party, as an example, not 1 seat is earned.

- Proportional representation is undemocratic.  Who would your MP be?  Someone you voted for, or someone a party got to pick as part of their vote percentage?  Proportional rep allows fringe parties and radicals (such as Hitler and the NSDAP) to deadlock governments.  Bad idea.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 04, 2008, 11:33:36
I think we need a proportional representation system. It's simply not fair that when 7% of Canadians vote for the Green Party, as an example, not 1 seat is earned.

First past the Post acts as a political "filter" to find a clean "signal" of voter intent for the government to act on. PR in all its forms allows a much lower "signal to noise" ratio, so unstable minorities and coalitions become the rule rather than the exception. Imagine this circus in Ottawa going on all the time?

As well, if people like Jean Chretien and Ed Broadbent can engineer this sort of instability from the back room (along with who knows how many others) today, how will a PR Parliament work with all the "Party List" MP's under control of a shadowy, unelected and unaccountable Party establishment?

For real reform, try drastically limiting the powers and jurisdictional responsibilities of government, and institute term limits so Parliament and the Senate are not clogged up with professional politicians.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Baden Guy on December 04, 2008, 11:39:21
Aren't there countries where PR is working?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 04, 2008, 11:55:15
Aren't there countries where PR is working?

Let's try an analogy:

A Cadillac Escalade is a large luxury hybrid

A Buick Enclave is a large luxury SUV that gets the same gas mileage without the batteries, electric engine, control electronics etc. by being 1000 lbs lighter and using a V6 engine. It is also cheaper to manufacture, cheaper to buy, cheaper to service and even cheaper to dispose of (no toxic batteries) etc.

Both are similar large luxury SUV's and both "work". Which one is the better choice overall?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Baden Guy on December 04, 2008, 15:02:19
Let's try an analogy:  :-\


But the Buick Enclave is a sweet vehicle.  :)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 11, 2008, 15:51:13
Two interesting bits in this report, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail web site:
--------------------
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081211.wPOLsenate1211/BNStory/politics/home

Harper to fill Senate vacancies

STEVEN CHASE

Globe and Mail Update
December 11, 2008 at 11:22 AM EST

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper will fill all 18 vacancies in the Senate with Conservative appointees before year's end, sources say.

The decision appears to be at odds with the Tory Leader's promise to only appoint elected senators to the unelected chamber.

But the Conservative move is motivated in part by the worry that the alliance between the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois alliance could topple Mr. Harper's minority in early 2009 and stack the Senate with their own choices, a government official said.

"We remain committed to Senate reform, which means elections for senators. [But] as long as the Senate exists in its present form, Senate vacancies should be filled by a government that Canadians elected, not a government that Canadians rejected."

The Liberal-NDP coalition, supported by the separatist Bloc, have not backed down from talk of ousting the Conservative government when Parliament resumes in early 2009.

The Tories want to avoid the possibility that the 105-member Senate gets filled with members opposed to Senate reform -- or with separatist leanings.

"The Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition has indicated it plans to fill the Senate with coalition members and this includes the prospect of appointing senators who do not believe in Canadian unity," the official said.

"The democratically elected government will fill the Senate before the end of the year. And only senators who support our senate reform agenda including senate elections will be chosen."

The Prime Minister's move comes after he tried to nail down a meeting with newly minted Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff in an effort to prevent his government from being defeated over its coming budget.

Sources said Mr. Harper phoned Mr. Ignatieff within hours of the Liberal Leader's warning that the Conservatives will be defeated if the Prime Minister doesn't shelve partisan attacks or if he fails to compromise on the budget.

Mr. Harper phoned to congratulate Mr. Ignatieff on his acclamation to the party's leadership Wednesday and invited him to a get-together. A spokesperson for Mr. Ignatieff said the leader neither accepted nor declined the offer.

Mr. Ignatieff later told the CBC that Mr. Harper asked to meet about the budget and parliamentary business, and that he'd be willing to meet with the Prime Minister.

"I made it clear I don't want to get into secret negotiations or backdoor deals," Mr. Ignatieff said.

"I'm there to listen to the Prime Minister because he's the Prime Minister of Canada. And then we'll decide what we have to do from there."

Mr. Ignatieff said earlier that he was open to supporting the government if the budget is acceptable, potentially scuttling the plans of a Liberal-NDP coalition to take the reins of power. But he adopted a substantially more forceful tone than his predecessor, Stéphane Dion, maintaining that the coalition option is still viable while also criticizing the Prime Minister for raising national tensions in a fall economic statement that, among other things, proposed to remove voter subsidies from political parties.

"I am prepared to vote non-confidence in this government. And I am prepared to enter into a coalition government with our partners if that is what the Governor-General asks me to do," Mr. Ignatieff said.

"But I also made it clear to the caucus this morning that no party can have the confidence of the country if it decides to vote now against a budget it hasn't even read."

While Mr. Harper was seeking a meeting, other Conservatives criticized Mr. Ignatieff. On Tuesday, Conservative campaign manager Doug Finley sent out "emergency" fundraising letters calling Mr. Ignatieff's acclamation a "stunning and unprecedented demonstration of Liberal contempt for our democratic rights."

When asked how the government can ask for co-operation from a leader it deems illegitimate, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said it was an internal matter for the Liberals.

When the Liberals prevented the defeat of the Conservatives last spring by sitting on their hands through repeated confidence votes, the Conservatives mocked them in the House of Commons.

But Mr. MacKay said he didn't envision a repeat of those tactics.

"We're in a very different circumstance today as a country," he said. "The global economic crisis has everyone, I think, re-examining priorities."

Mr. Ignatieff was acclaimed during a caucus meeting and a consultation among party officials, defeated candidates and other Liberals. He is now considered the interim leader, and will be confirmed at the party's convention in May.

His ascension was welcomed by Liberal MPs, who suffered through a recent election in which the party posted one of its worst results in history. Mr. Ignatieff acknowledged he has much work to do to rebuild the institution, particularly in rural Canada and the West.

"I want us to reach out and hope that Western Canadians forgive and forget, to be very blunt, some of the errors that the party has made in the past."

Mr. Ignatieff took a standoffish approach to meeting Mr. Harper, first suggesting he has no plans to negotiate with the Prime Minister, but ultimately leaving the door open.

"I think that after having lost the confidence of the House, after having triggered a national crisis, after having raised tensions between groups in Canada, it's not up to me to reach out a hand. It's more up to the Prime Minister," he said.

"But I want to add something: I'm a responsible elected official, and I want to do the best for my country. I will do all that I can to get my country out of this crisis."

He also called the Prime Minister's earlier actions "divisive, spiteful and unproductive."

With reports from Brian Laghi, Campbell Clark and Jane Taber
--------------------

The interesting bits are:

•   A Harper spokesperson says: "The democratically elected government will fill the Senate before the end of the year. And only senators who support our senate reform agenda including senate elections will be chosen;" and

•   Ignatieff says: ”... no party can have the confidence of the country if it decides to vote now against a budget it hasn't even read."

There are, currently, 87 senators. Three are Progressive Conservatives (one each was appointed by Clark, Mulroney and Martin), six are independents of various sorts (three of whom were appointed by Mulroney, two by Trudeau and one by Martin), 20 are Conservatives and the remaining 58 are Liberals. Adding 18 Conservatives would bring the balance to:

•   Conservatives: 38
•   Independents: 6
•   Liberals: 58
•   Progressive Conservatives: 3

Fourteen senators have served more than 20 years in the Senate; 19 have served for five years or less (Jim Munson was appointed by Jean Chrétien on 10 Dec 03).

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 12, 2008, 14:00:06
Say, most of us could become Senators:

http://phantomobserver.com/blog/?p=1433

Quote
So Why Should There Be An Observer In the Senate?

Well, if Chucker and Brian in Hespeler are actively “lobbying” to become one of the PM’s 18 new appointees, I suppose there’s no harm in playing the game. I think I can make a case for my appointment in the Senate:

   1. I meet the minimum qualifications for appointment. Such qualifications are listed here on the Parliamentary website. I’m well over the minimum age, I own my own dwelling, and even in these recessionary times my net worth is still well over four grand.
   2. I have practical life experience. Education at UBC and McGill, temp work at various government departments and the Canadian Forces — that equals a better-than-average understanding of how government works.
   3. I have youth on my side. I estimate that I’m good for 30-plus years of service, which means I can be an effective thorn in any government Jack Layton might lead.
   4. I don’t hate Liberals. Which means I can work with the current majority without the urge to denounce them, which can get awkward at Christmas parties.
   5. I can be just as lecherous as Ted Kennedy, without the embarassment of being married. No, wait, that’s the wrong Senate . . .
   6. I have mastered the art of tuning into the alpha wave. This means my brain can be active while giving the illusion that I’m paying attention to long-winded orations, a talent learned well with college lectures and church sermons, and useful during Chamber sessions.
   7. I can strengthen the intellectual dexterity of our Quebec members. This is because my French (I admit this freely) hasn’t expanded beyond the necessity of buying groceries or booing the Leafs. Which means Quebec senators get to exercise their English when trying out a new speech in front of me.
   8. I have a defensible record. Like the Chucker, I have never written anything on this blog that I would be ashamed of, or at least can’t defend.
   9. I know how to operate a Flip Mino. Which means I can make better speech videos than, say, Stéphane Dion’s crew.

Y’know, properly speaking, I should challenge some other Blogging Tory to list their potential qualifications. Damian, for example . . .
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 14, 2008, 00:57:24
If politicians were paid for success (and this applies to us as well)...


Edgelings.com - http://pajamasmedia.com/edgelings -

Quote
Turning Around America — A Modest Proposal

Posted By edgelings On December 12, 2008 @ 3:41 pm In Uncategorized | 12 Comments

The stock market and economy are in the dumps largely because of mistakes made by the boobs, scoundrels and narcissists who govern us. Let us list them:

1. Federal Reserve
2. Congressional overseers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
3. Federal Accounting Standards Board
4. Securities and Exchange Commission
5. Treasury Department
6. A standing U.S. president whose appointments have been the worst since Warren Harding’s
6. An incoming U.S. president who could easily announce (but won’t) that, in light of the financial and economic troubles, he has decided to delay his tax hikes until 2011.

To these boneheads we now add Rod Blagojevich and his bribe scandal, which lends weight to the idea that government has never been run by poseurs, windbags, sociopaths and self-dealers to the extent that it is today. Washington has become a sort of Hollywood for ugly people.

Call me a dreamer, but I propose a simple fix to this problem. Pay politicians more. Give these takers the chance to become rich legally.

Here is how. Let’s put every elected federal official and appointee and bureaucrat on a stock option plan. The value of these options would be tied to the health and wealth of America. Half the options would vest over two years so as to spur politicians to make immediate changes. The other half would vest over 20 years, so politicians could build a framework for enduring success and be rewarded for it.

The options would gain or lose value based on these criteria:

1.    Noninflationary GDP growth
2.    Job growth
3.    Vitality of the small-business sector
4.    Wealth growth of American households in all four socioeconomic quadrants
5.    Educational achievements of American K-12 kids versus the world
6.    Health and longevity of Americans
7.    Prevention of military or terrorist attack
8.    Reduction of the national debt


Your criteria might be different (or differently weighted) than mine. I don’t care, really. We can debate the fine points and priorities. What I want is to change the whole darn way we define political success in America and thereby draw a better class of person to politics. One way we can do that and preserve our democratic values is to reward politicians for the performance of their country.

Does the idea of paying politicians more money repel you? Look at it this way. The wealth of American households is down about $20 trillion from 18 months ago. Each percentage point of unemployment will create a million more sad stories this winter. Each percentage point will add incremental thousands of more divorces, child beatings, black dog depressions, plunges into drug addiction and alcoholism, and even suicides.

If the incoming Obama administration, Senate and Congress are able to return America to noninflationary, sustainable 3% growth and put $20 trillion back into our stock and real estate portfolios, would you then be so churlish as to deny each senator, congressman, Cabinet official, Fed chairman and Fed governor a $10 million bonus? Not me. Let us hand the chief executive, Obama, a $100 million bonus if he pulls it off.

America needs a turnaround and quick. Let’s give the politicians a personal stake in improving the conditions for America’s success.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 19, 2008, 10:08:58
As those who follow my musings will understand I favour giving Ontario its full and fair share of seats in the HoC, as this report, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s National Post, suggests will happen circa 2014:
--------------------
 http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2008/12/18/john-ivison-harper-mounts-an-assault-built-on-retreat.aspx

John Ivison:
Harper mounts an assault built on retreat


Posted: December 18, 2008, 6:05 PM

John Ivison

Either Stephen Harper is playing three dimensional chess at such an advanced level that he’s bamboozled his political opponents, or he’s winging it, in the hope that he doesn’t land himself in checkmate.

The latest in a series of policy reversals strongly suggests the latter. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said this week that he and Mr. Harper had resolved their disagreement over the distribution of seats in Parliament when they met in Ottawa. “I spoke to him about that and I think we’ve fixed it,” the Premier said.

The inference was that Mr. McGuinty had won his battle to have Ontario allocated more than the 10 new seats in the House of Commons the government had proposed under legislation that would have seen representation in the House more closely aligned with growing populations. Under the original plan, B.C. was set to received an additional seven seats and Alberta another five.

Most people have leapt to the conclusion that Mr. McGuinty’s declaration of victory means Ontario is set to get another 21 seats, the number that would correspond to its population, when the legislation is re-introduced. However, sources say the number is more likely to end up being in the mid-range between 10 and 20 new seats.

The motivation for revamping the legislation remains unclear but insiders say new Minister for Democratic Reform, Steven Fletcher, was asked to make nice with Ontario. This suggests Mr. Harper has had second thoughts about his decision to declare war on the province when he sent his Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, to Toronto last spring, to attempt to lay the blame for the coming economic slowdown at Mr. McGuinty’s door.

“I’ve been tasked by the Prime Minister to come up with a formula that reflects the reality of Canada and respects Canadians’ sense of fair play,” said Mr. Fletcher in an interview yesterday. “I will be introducing legislation when Parliament resumes and I think most reasonable people will agree with the balance that is struck.”

Those who subscribe to the theory that Mr. Harper is a latter day Jean-Luc Picard, several chess moves ahead of his dim-witted opponents, might argue that the Prime Minister is simply turning to Ontario, now that he has been frustrated in Quebec. In this light, another 15 or so seats in Ontario boosts his chances of a majority.

This remains a possibility but a closer look at the ridings from which new seats might be carved suggests that the Liberals are as likely to gain as the Conservatives.

Of the 13 seats in Ontario with a population of more than 130,000 at the last election, five were “safe” Liberal seats (that is, won by more than 5% of the vote), four were “safe” Conservative seats, two were marginal Liberal wins and two were marginal Conservative victories.

The prime candidates for readjustment are suburban areas around Toronto like Brampton (Brampton West has a population of 170,000 - six times the number in Nunavut), Halton, Mississauga and Oak Ridges-Markham. Many of those seats could go either way in forthcoming elections.

It should also be remembered that the new seats are unlikely to come into being much before 2014, three years after the 2011 census on which they will be based. After the last major census in 2001, it took three years to go through the long process of appointing provincial commissions to look at the issue; allow public and parliamentary hearings; and, finally amend the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. Even Mr. Harper’s most enthusiastic fans don’t claim he’s gazing out six years into the future.

Where his supporters may be on firmer ground is the suggestion that, by increasing the number of seats for Ontario, Mr. Harper is trying to destabilize the already wobbly coalition between the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois.

The Liberals opposed the original legislation, on the basis that Ontario was being denied its fair share of seats. It will be hard for the Grits or the NDP to oppose a new bill, if it is adds to Ontario’s seat count and is embraced by Mr. McGuinty.

Joyce Murray, the Liberal critic for democratic reform, said that her party supported an increased number of seats for Ontario. “We called for that and if the Prime Minister is listening to what the Liberal Party was insisting upon, that’s good...But we have to see the details of the bill,” she said.

The Bloc, on the other hand, is steadfast in its opposition to granting Ontario more seats -- unless Quebec also benefits. “We were opposed to the original bill because it diluted the political weight of Quebec. Once it’s been recognized that the Québécois nation exists, you have to ensure that it can be heard by federal institutions,” the party’s House leader, Pierre Paquette, toldLa Presse. This, even though Quebec has just seven seats where the population is more than 110,000, compared to 67 in Ontario.

Whatever the reason for Mr. Harper’s change of heart on representation by population, irresolution at the heart of government is becoming a common occurrence. For a Prime Minister who had made “never retreat, never explain, never apologize” his modus operandi, he has recently reversed himself on a range of issues - from removing the public subsidy for political parties to banning public sector strikes; from electing senators to the commitment not to go into deficit.

Conservative critics of the Prime Minister used to joke that he was so earnest he couldn’t entertain a doubt. For better or worse, those days are past.


National Post
-------------------

I don’t know about three dimensional chess at a very high level but I think Harper is ‘out front’ of his opponents on this issue, because:

First - continually reducing Québec’s ‘power’ in Canada can do nothing but benefit the country. Québec already has separated: in most meaningful ways it is already a foreign and usually unfriendly country, 'locked' within our territory;

Second – equality of representation is an important attribute of a modern liberal democracy. It is difficult to achieve in Canada because of the Senate. Our Constitution says, in  §51A (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/const/c1867_e.html#legislative) that ” a province shall always be entitled to a number of members in the House of Commons not less than the number of senators representing such province” and, in 22, that PEI will have four senators. Thus – until we totally revise the Constitution* - PEI must have four seat in the HoC which means that almost all other provinces must should have their representation levels increased, steadily, until we have (circa 2030) 800+ MPs in Ottawa (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.210.html)!

Adding seats in AB, BC and ON is a step in the right direction on democratic and practical grounds. Harper’s Conservatives are dominant or strong and gaining ground in all three.

--------------------

* A process which, if done sensibly, would make is a republic (better, formally, a regency (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,26126.msg199828.html#msg199828)) and that would see us having five provinces: British Columbia, with its integral Yukon Territory; Saskatchewan (the former Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) with its subordinate territories (Northwest Territories and Nunavut), Ontario, Québec and Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, PEI, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador).


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 19, 2008, 11:59:20
* A process which, if done sensibly, would make is a republic (better, formally, a regency (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,26126.msg199828.html#msg199828)) and that would see us having five provinces: British Columbia, with its integral Yukon Territory; Saskatchewan (the former Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) with its subordinate territories (Northwest Territories and Nunavut), Ontario, Québec and Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, PEI, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador).

Interesting idea - I will admit that I'm warming to a rearrangement of sub-national bodies in any rearrangment of the rules; this is another interesting take on things, but I think I'm more prone to seeing the provinces busted up into smaller entities then seeing larger conglamerations.

BC always gets accorded "independant" status because of the massive population density that lies in Vancouver and the surrounding cities of the Lower Mainland (Greater Vancouver).  However, leave this geographic area, and you see something different - I wager that BC North of Hope has more in common with Alberta then it does with downtown Granville and Hastings Street.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 19, 2008, 16:34:27
...
BC always gets accorded "independant" status because of the massive population density that lies in Vancouver and the surrounding cities of the Lower Mainland (Greater Vancouver).  However, leave this geographic area, and you see something different - I wager that BC North of Hope has more in common with Alberta then it does with downtown Granville and Hastings Street.

True enough, but I think, when you look at BC's economy and trade patterns, it is not enough like AB, SK, etc to justify a single Western province. On the other hand, a single western province does, easily, ,muscle QC down to third place in a four team league and that might be attractive. But QC in third place might just makes the whining even louder and less productive.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 19, 2008, 18:31:05
True enough, but I think, when you look at BC's economy and trade patterns, it is not enough like AB, SK, etc to justify a single Western province. On the other hand, a single western province does, easily, ,muscle QC down to third place in a four team league and that might be attractive. But QC in third place might just makes the whining even louder and less productive.

Which is the basis of my argument for an additional three provinces: Vancouver (including Vancouver Island), Toronto (Including Hamilton and Oshawa - maybe even including London) and Montreal.

The folks in the Crowsnest and Smithers are much more likely to travel to Calgary and Edmonton than Vancouver.

Prince Rupert could easily become the coastal outlet of single political entity encompassing Winnipeg, Edmonton and Kelowna.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 20, 2008, 02:16:46
City States would represent the "new" political landscape, even in the United States, "Blue" states are often "Red" with "Blue" cities when examined on a county by county basis.

Other divisions could be made based on watersheds or any other arbitrary boundary. I am an advocate of sharply defined and limited government (my time seems to have been @ 300 years ago; missed the bus again!  ;)), but the real problem seems to be that the current system is totally inflexible by design and circumstance. Bottom up initiatives are resisted by the centre (several Senators in Waiting have been elected since the 1990's without taking their seats or even being acknowledged), while the public is rightfully suspicious of "top down" initiatives like the Meech Lake or the Charlottetown accords, and defeats them if given the chance.

Unless and until this is resolved, there will be no electoral reform.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 20, 2008, 09:42:18
According to this report, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Ottawa Citizen, Taliban Jack Layton has found a new way to make mischief:
--------------------
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Naming+Tories+violates+Constitution/1082070/story.html

Naming Tories to Senate would violate Constitution: NDP

BY MIKE DE SOUZA

DECEMBER 16, 2008

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be abusing his power if he appoints unelected senators before the House of Commons reconvenes, NDP Leader Jack Layton said Tuesday.

One day after sending a letter to the prime minister urging him not to try to stack the Senate with Conservatives, Layton argued that the proposed 18 appointments would be unconstitutional.

"The prime minister needs to impose upon himself some restraint," Layton said in an interview with Canwest News Service. "He ducked the test, the fundamental test of his legitimacy to make these recommendations through a prorogation (of Parliament) and he's now pretending that he has the full legitimacy to move forward. This is an abuse of his power."

The NDP also sent a copy of Layton's letter to Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, who must approve Harper's nominations.

Harper said on Monday that making the appointments was "the only option" since his government has been blocked in attempts to introduce legislation for an elected Senate.

"In a way, it's a sad day for me," said Harper in an interview with ATV. "I've waited for three years. We've invited provinces to hold elections. We've put an electoral bill before the House of Commons. But for the most part, neither in Parliament nor in the provinces has there been any willingness to move forward on reform."

The Liberals hold a comfortable majority with 58 seats out of 105 in the Senate, but the Conservatives, who now have 20 seats would begin to catch up if Harper nominates Tories to fill the 18 vacancies.

"We're now faced with a very simple choice," Harper told ATV. "Does the government Canadians elected appoint those senators, or are they going to be appointed by a coalition that nobody elected?"

But Layton compared Harper's arguments to those used by former Liberal prime minister John Turner who was criticized by Brian Mulroney in a 1984 federal election debate for approving a series of patronage appointments right before the campaign started.

Layton noted that a group of constitutional and legal experts last weekend also questioned Harper's legitimacy to make nominations without demonstrating that he had the confidence of the Commons.

"The nomination of senators in these circumstances would be illegitimate and, more importantly, in clear violation of the constitutional ideals and the rule of law," wrote the six experts in an opinion piece published in La Presse.

The experts also suggested that the Governor General should ensure that Harper has the confidence of the Commons before approving the nominations.

Layton added that a letter signed by a majority of opposition MPs demonstrated that the prime minister has lost the confidence necessary to continue governing.

"He can try to pretend to ignore that and act as though he has the full authority of the prime minister in normal circumstances, but that would fly in the face of the facts," said Layton.

mdesouza@canwest.com

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
--------------------


First: Layton doesn’t have a constitutional leg upon which he might try to stand wobble. The Constitution (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/const/c1867_e.html#legislative) (in §23) lists six ‘qualifications’ to be ‘summoned’ to the Senate and in (§24) says that the Governor General (always acting on the advice of her Privy Council) shall ”summon qualified Persons to the Senate.”

The GG did not qualify the prorogation - as she does, for example, when parliament is dissolved before a general election – in any way. (When parliament is dissolved for a general election the GG tells the PM, formally, that he may only take necessary, routine administrative actions – which would not include naming new senators. When John Turner (1984) named Trudeau’s list of hacks, flacks and bagmen to the Senate (giving Brian Mulroney a debate winning line: "You had an option, sir. You could have said, 'I am not going to do it. This is wrong for Canada, and I am not going to ask Canadians to pay the price.' You had an option, sir--to say 'no'--and you chose to say 'yes' to the old attitudes and the old stories of the Liberal Party. That sir, if I may say respectfully, that is not good enough for Canadians.") he did so before asking the GG to dissolve parliament.) PM Harper’s advice to the GG re: summoning 18 new senators is advice she is constitutionally obliged to follow.

Second: Unless Taliban Jack was, like me, far away from Canadian news during the last week in Nov 08 he would know that Prime Minister Harper had just, on 27 Nov 08 at 1725 Hrs, won a confidence vote in the HoC, on the Throne Speech (http://30024294). Now that parliament is prorogued the economic statement and the possible consequences that might have followed a vote on it are finished, constitutionally it is as if Jim Flaherty’s economic statement had never existed and, therefore, there is no/cannot be any threat of a coalition based upon it.

Prime Minister Harper can, and in my opinion should offer a new Throne Speech on 27 Jan 09 – one that sets out the bleak fiscal situation and promises firm but temporary measures to protect Canadians (but not their factories) from its worst effects. He should follow this with a budget that:

•   Can be used to fight an election in Apr 09; or

•   Will deeply divide the Liberal Party of Canada, being a budget that will be unacceptable to the BQ and the NDP and to the left wing of the Liberals but will be popular with Canadians, who are now well prepared for harsh measures – including a big deficit – and bad news, but who want some relief in the form of cash in hand which might be provided by temporary measures such as loosening the EI purse-strings.


Edit: punctuation

Another edit: typo/spelling - carelessness, anyway!
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 20, 2008, 10:27:12
Further to my last, this, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Ottawa Citizen, is Harper’s political WMD:
-------------------
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Harper+message+Senate+change+Minister/1097631/story.html

Harper's message to Senate is change or die: Minister

 
BY MIA RABSON

DECEMBER 19, 2008
 

OTTAWA — If the federal Conservative government can't get its planned reforms to the Canadian Senate passed as soon as possible it will simply move to abolish the chamber altogether, says Steven Fletcher, the minister of state for democratic reform.

But Manitoba Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs says that's just a lot of hot air, because the government needs the approval of the provinces to make any major changes to the Senate.

Fletcher says he will introduce legislation to introduce eight-year term limits for senators, and a process to elect senators, as soon as the budget and economic issues are dealt with by the House of Commons. He also issued a warning to any parliamentarians planning to block the reforms.

"If we don't get those reforms in a reasonable amount of time we will look to abolish it," said Fletcher.

The bills will be similar in nature to the ones introduced in the last parliament that failed to get through a committee review before the election.

But Carstairs said that in order to abolish the Senate, or introduce an elected Senate, the government would need the approval of the provinces.

"They cannot in my view even introduce fixed terms without the approval of the provinces," said Carstairs. "Both Ontario and Quebec have said they will take them to court over this."

While the Conservative government argues it only needs the approval of Parliament, the two biggest provinces say a significant change to the Senate can be done only with a formal constitutional amendment — which requires the approval of at least seven provinces which represent 50 per cent of the population. That means either Ontario or Quebec — or both — would need to approve the reforms.

Reforming the Senate was one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's election promises in both 2006 and 2008. He has battled with and criticized the Senate repeatedly over the past three years.

He has also refused to fill any vacancies in the upper chamber, saying he wanted to wait until he could implement elections. But with 18 vacancies, and with his minority government facing the constant threat of being toppled by a vote of the opposition parties, Harper now plans to fill the vacancies in an announcement expected Monday.

The decision was blasted by opponents as a flip-flop on Harper's election promise. Fletcher defended the decision as a practical move to at least get the Senate fulfilling its purpose.

"There are so many vacancies the Senate is essentially not able to function," said Fletcher.

Filling the empty seats with pro-reform senators will also improve the government's chances of getting their reform plans passed.

The government has been inundated with applications for the vacant seats, he said.

"People come up to me on the street and say they want to be a senator," said Fletcher.

Fletcher also indicated it's possible the senators being appointed next week will take officer under term limits, but added that will be up to Harper to announce.

Albertans have voted for senators since 1989, providing a list of names to the prime minister to choose from. Two of the senators elected in Alberta have been appointed — Stan Waters in 1990 and Bert Brown in 2007. Saskatchewan announced earlier this year it would begin a similar process to elect senators in that province.

Manitoba has begun an all-party consultation process to determine how Manitobans feel about Senate reform.

© Copyright (c) Winnipeg Free Press
--------------------

Carstairs is right, abolishing the Senate would require the sort of full blown constitutional amendment process that, while welcome to me, personally, is anathema to most Canadians. Remember the Meech Lake and Charlottetown processes? They were bad enough to make your worst root canal seem pleasant by comparison.

But there is an easy way to Senate reform if/when Harper has a majority. He need only write two letters:

One to all the provincial premiers telling them that, effective a certain date, he will appoint to the Senate only those persons who -

1. Meet all the qualifications in §23 of the Constitution,

2. Submit, with their nomination a signed letter of resignation to be effective on the date of the next (applicable) provincial general election, and

3. Are elected in their province – eventually in elections held coincidentally with provincial general elections and on a ‘proportional’ (list) basis so that the senate ‘delegation’ of a province reflects the will of the people in the province concerned; and

The second to all senators demanding their resignations effective the date of the next (applicable) general election.

Of course not all senators will resign – but many will and, after a year or two, there will be two Senates: one elected and the other phoney in the eyes of Canadians. By around 2021, around half the time it took in the USA early in the 20th century, I’m guessing that we will have an elected Senate.

During the conversion process the PM should announce that, forthwith, he will appoint only elected senators to be ministers in portfolios (e.g. Agriculture, Fisheries and Oceans, Health and Natural Resources) where the national government intrudes greatly into areas of provincial jurisdiction.

The ‘deed’ can be done without any constitutional amendment – the PM’s discretion (beyond the provisions of §23) is, essentially, unlimited and beyond review by anyone. Provinces either sign on or do without. Senators either sign on or face planned obsolescence and increasing public disdain.

We end up with a ‘House of the Provinces’ that, fairly consistently, represents the political will of Canadians in their provinces.
 
Equality – in both chambers – is another matter but two of the three Es can be effected easily.


Edit: typo/spelling
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ArmyRick on December 20, 2008, 10:32:08
Interesting stuff so far. Its good to see people are at least recognising our system is far from perfect and needs improvement.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 20, 2008, 13:22:25
Harper should ust do what Caesar did and stack the Senate with Gauls....(Yes, I just watched HBO's Rome).

On a serious note, I like and agree with Edward's last two posts.  Layton is grasping for anything to keep the spotlight on him and Harper seems to be playing a good game of brinksmanship - but one that, here, is better for Canada as a whole.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 22, 2008, 10:52:39
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is a provocative column by Lawrence Martin:
--------------------
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081219.wcomartin22/BNStory/politics/home

The G-G needs to break her queenly silence and explain herself

LAWRENCE MARTIN

From Monday's Globe and Mail

December 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM EST

Since our Governor-General made her critical decision on prorogation 2-1/2 weeks ago, there's been a sustained regal silence. Nary a word from the celestial Michaëlle Jean to explain it.

Few seem bothered by this. It's as if our mindset is back in the old colonial days. Upper Canada circa 1839. Lord Sydenham at the helm.

Ms. Jean's verdict, as we know, prevented the government from being defeated on a motion of non-confidence. It locked the doors of Parliament, kept the Conservatives in power. They should be sending her champagne every day from here to eternity.

One would think, given its significance, that we would be entitled to know something about the G-G's pivotal meeting with the Prime Minister that precipitated the outcome. We have been told nothing about the rationale for her queenly judgment. We don't know what the PM told her, whether it was accurate, whether he torqued the separatist threat, whether he raised the possibility of legal recourse. We don't know whether her decision came with any strings attached or how she determined it was consistent with the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy. We don't know if, as has been suggested, advisers on each side had pretty much worked out the deal before the PM went to Rideau Hall.

In our collective ignorance, we're prepared to move on.

The Governor-General could very well be called upon in the coming year to make another landmark decision to keep the government in power, or strip it of same. We'll likely be left in the dark then as well. Nothing is revealed because tradition suggests our Governor-General never has to explain herself. This, and because we're so docile that we allow that hoary tradition to stand. It gives rise to cracks such as that by a wag who recently called us "a banana republic with snowflakes."

Over recent decades, the remaining vestiges of colonialism haven't bothered us much because we thought the monarchy was irrelevant. The Governor-General had only ceremonial functions. She was the hood ornament on the car. Why worry about it? But in this season, we found out how potent the office can be.

And how did we react? We rolled over like vassals.

Instead of demanding disclosure, we submitted to the tradition of silence for no other reason than it is just that - tradition.

Progressive societies, by the 21st century at least, should be in the business of unburdening themselves of outmoded convention. Not us. Here the divine right of kings abides.

Michaëlle Jean is an elegant Governor-General. It's not a question here of whether her prorogation decision was the right or the wrong call. That's another debate. But it's one that cannot be properly aired without knowledge of what was behind the verdict.

Adrienne Clarkson isn't speaking out but Ed Schreyer, our other remaining G-G still in good health, says that there is nothing preventing Ms. Jean from publicly explaining her rationale.

"I'm afraid that the historical practice is one of discreet silence," he said. "But that's not to say it shouldn't evolve with time. There's nothing written that says the governor-general must never articulate reasons for doing or not doing something."

On her handling of the controversy, Ms. Jean has been let off the hook.

The Harper government did a spectacular job of turning public opinion in its favour with its separatists-at-the-gates fear-mongering. Opposed to the option of a coalition government, the public then welcomed, only two weeks after Parliament had begun, her prorogation.

Not everyone passively accepted the closed-door dictate. Writing from his base in Paris, Keith Spicer spoke of how pathetic it looked.

"Finally, the world pays a little attention to Canada. And what does it see? Zimbabwe run by the Queen." The CBC's Allan Gregg used a similar comparison. Andrew Cohen, Allan Fotheringham and Peter Newman, who called the lock-up our "test run at a banana republic," have spoken out.

As the dust settles, there will be more questions put and more doubts seeded about the monarchy playing such a vital role in times we thought were modern. Given that we're in a period where minority governments are common and the G-G's power is therefore large, it becomes doubly important that the disclosure issue be addressed.

Ms. Jean, who knows all about the history of colonial masters, needs to be prepared to reform her institution. She can do away with the archaic tradition of secrecy with a snap of a finger.

For her loyal and acquiescent subjects, it would be a timely gift.
--------------------

While I think Ed Shreyer is correct in saying that ”there is nothing preventing Ms. Jean from publicly explaining her rationale,” were she to do so it would likely topple a traditional but rather wobbly system that requires the prime minister to consult the sovereign (or her representative, the GG) and gives the sovereign/GG an important and powerful check on unbridled prime ministerial power.

If the GG (or an elected president with similar functions powers à la Germany (http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,490793,00.html) or India (http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/President_of_India_-_Powers_and_Functions/id/1862191)) were to discard one tradition it is highly likely that the rest would go, too. After all, why would a head of government (PM) want to consult with a head of state (GG) who is free to publicize their discussions – but those consultations are, as I said, a very real check on the PM’s power – Mme. Jean could have sais “No,” and then invited Celine Stéphane Dion and Taliban Jack Layton to form a government.

I’m betting Lawrence Martin would not be complaining then because, in his mind – filled to brim with fevered images of Tory fiends and demons, as it must be – that would have been a good thing.

But Mme. Jean (advised, as she was, by a first rate, independent constitutional expert (http://www.yorku.ca/ylife/2006/07-July/07-03/CONVHogg-070106.htm)) made the right choice and now the left wing Liberal/NDP propaganda mill is casting about for someone to blame – and it’s tradition.

What knee-jerk anti-Americans like Martin cannot admit, to themselves, is that they want an American style constitutional republic – because they understand its carefully written rules and regulations. I admit that our tradition wracked Westminster style parliamentary system – with its funny hats and all – can be a bit mysterious, especially for those who find Bagehot (http://books.google.com/books?id=3g0QAAAAYAAJ&dq=bagehot+the+english+constitution&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result#PPP8,M1) a bit much to get through, but it has its own advantages, over the US system, and the traditions of monarchical silence, which protects the sovereign’s political power – that she exercises on behalf of her people, are amongst them.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on December 22, 2008, 11:50:41
Mr. Martin's snarky and sarcastic tone doesn't add to his writing, and doesn't make his ignorance any more entertaining.

The explanation Mr. Martin seeks is blindingly obvious: the Governor General prorogued Parliament because she was advised to do so by the Prime Minister, and that advice was within the bounds of the constitution.  In general the GG will accept the advice of her government unless the wheels have come off and the PM is trying to act outside of the constitution.  Whether we agree with his advice or not, this wasn't one of those times.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on December 22, 2008, 14:11:35
>"Finally, the world pays a little attention to Canada. And what does it see? Zimbabwe run by the Queen." The CBC's Allan Gregg used a similar comparison. Andrew Cohen, Allan Fotheringham and Peter Newman, who called the lock-up our "test run at a banana republic," have spoken out.

Once again, some of Canada's allegedly finest and/or most illustrious and/or influential minds speak out with a sense of proportion.  My dog's vomit has more substance.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 22, 2008, 14:47:26
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the CBC web site are the eighteen new senators:
--------------------
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/12/22/senate-harper.html

Wallin, Duffy among 18 named to fill Senate seats

Last Updated: Monday, December 22, 2008 | 1:32 PM ET

CBC News

Prime Minister Stephen Harper named 18 people to the Senate on Monday, filling all the vacancies in an effort to balance out the Liberal-dominated chamber before the possibility of an election in the new year.

Among those appointed to regionally distributed seats in the upper house were former broadcaster Pamela Wallin (Sask.), Olympian Nancy Greene Raine (B.C.) and CTV personality Mike Duffy (P.E.I.).

Others named:

•   Former MP Fabian Manning (N.L.).
•   Lawyer Fred Dickson (N.S.).
•   Stephen Greene, former deputy chief of staff to N.S. Premier Rodney MacDonald (N.S.).
•   N.S. businessman Michael L. MacDonald (N.S.).
•   Long-time New Brunswick MLA and cabinet minister Percy Mockler (N.B.).
•   Lawyer John D. Wallace (N.B.).
•   National chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Patrick Brazeau (Que.).
•   Former MP and teacher Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (Que.).
•   Director of Via Rail Canada Leo Housakos (Que.).
•   Former Quebec MNA Michel Rivard (Que.).
•   Nicole Eaton, member of the prominent Eaton family (Ont.).
•   Businessman Irving Gerstein (Ont.).
•   Co-founder of the Corean Canadian Coactive (C3) society Yonah Martin (B.C.).
•   Provincial cabinet minister Richard Neufeld (B.C.).
•   Former Yukon MLA Hector Daniel Lang (Yukon).

Move thwarts coalition appointments

The prime minister said he filled the vacancies to prevent a potential Liberal-NDP coalition from getting the opportunity.

If Senate vacancies are to be filled … they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for," Harper said in a press release.

He vowed to continue pushing for Senate reforms, and said all incoming Senators had promised to support eight-year term limits and other Senate reform legislation.

"For our part, we will continue working with the provinces and reform-minded parliamentarians to build a more accountable and democratic Senate," said Harper.

Opposition parties have been critical of Harper's decision to make patronage appointments during a time when Parliament is prorogued, saying the prime minister does not have the confidence of the House of Commons.

In early December, Harper asked Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament until Jan. 26, a move aimed at avoiding a confidence vote in which opposition parties planned to topple his minority government and try to bring a Liberal-NDP coalition to power.

But the opposition parties could still trigger an election on Jan. 27 when the minority Conservatives introduce their annual budget, and Harper is worried about losing the chance to fill the seats, said CBC's Margo McDiarmid.

2 prior Senate appointments

Harper's appointment of senators marks a significant departure from his long-held position that Senate members should be elected.

Until now, the prime minister held off filling the 18 vacancies in hopes of reforming the Senate to make sure members are elected, but he has been unable to pass any legislation to that effect.

Prior to Monday's appointments, Liberal-affiliated senators occupied 58 of the 105 seats, while 20 were held by Conservatives. Other seats are held by Independents and senators of other party affiliations.

The Tories had previously only named Quebecer Michael Fortier and Albertan Bert Brown to the Senate since coming to power in early 2006.

Following the January 2006 election of a Conservative minority government, Harper gave Fortier a seat in the Senate and then appointed him to a cabinet post, a decision he said was to ensure representation for Montreal. The Montreal lawyer resigned from his Senate seat for an unsuccessful bid in the October election.

Brown won his seat in an election in Alberta, the only province to elect senators. In November, Saskatchewan introduced legislation to allow voters to choose senators.

Also Monday, Harper made another high-profile appointment — naming Thomas Cromwell of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.

By doing so, the prime minister bypassed a parliamentary hearing process he has championed to more openly scrutinize nominees.
--------------------

The adverse comments (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081222.WBSpector20081222123921/WBStory/WBSpector) are already starting to appear – especially from those who defend the indefensible: an appointed legislature.

Addendum:

And there are more adverse comments, here, on Army.ca (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,82281.msg791894.html#msg791894). My question, retiredgrunt45 is: should Harper have simply aimed to abolish the Senate by failing to appoint anyone? Would the Celine Dion/Layton coalition not have appointed its own crew of Green/Liberal/NDP hacks, flacks and bagmen? Will Iggy not appoint senators if/when he becomes PM? Or are Liberals OK just because they're not Conservatives?


Edit: addendum added

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on December 22, 2008, 22:18:43
If the nation is to reform its democratic systems, then another element which must be fixed is the ignorance of the voters (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,81648.msg789426.html#msg789426) (and the resultant susceptibility to baseless emotional arguments from parties and media).  At the very least, we could avoid time wasted on arguments defending the government elected by the people of Canada or attacking the constitutionality of the Prime Minister recommending persons to the GG for the Senate.

After that, it may be worth looking at how leaders are selected in Parliament (not necessarily by the parties) and how government and the opposition is formed.
Infanteer is correct:  We have a de facto Party System, grafted on a de jure Representative System.

As much as I would like all parties to disappear so that we could have a true representative (not to mention libertarian) parliament, that is neither going to happen, nor is it what the public at large wants or expects.

They are comfortable with the party system and the notion of electing a Leader.

It has the value of simplicity.  It allows them to exercise their vote once every few years with minimal effort.

For the system to work as the laws are written then we wouldn't have general elections at all.  We would have a permanent cadre of representatives, elected locally on an intermittent basis as the representatives died, quit or lost the confidence of their electors, and that would be called to parliament occasionally to vote on Government proposals.

But that isn't the parliament that we have.

Just as the Prime Ministers from Pitt, through North, Gladstone & Disraeli, Lloyd George and MacKenzie King have progressively usurped the powers of the Monarch, with little formal acknowledgement of the fact, so have the parties usurped the legitimate powers of the Members of Parliament.

For good or ill.
In the Canadian context I believe, I stand to be corrected, that it was MacKenzie King that blew up the old informal party system, just as he blew up the relationship with the Governor-General, and created the modern disciplined party.

If I'm not mistaken it was MacKenzie King who, when confronted by a caucus revolt, responded by claiming that his legitimacy came not from caucus, but from the party membership at large.  And that is the reason that the Libs are having so much trouble turfing Dion and electing Ignatieff.
This should get ire of the average Liberal party member. Most out here say the Party should choose the leader, not the MPs.
I think you can make a could case for the reverse - especially if you want a return to a more classical form of Westminster style parliamentary government.

We should, according to the classicists all vote for our individual members - selecting the best person to represent us. Then the elected members should caucus, based on party affiliation or, even, a coalition. Each caucus should elect a leader. Then the caucuses (and a few independents) should gather to elect a speaker and to hold a single 'vote' to see who forms the government. The leader of the caucus/party or coalition that gets the most votes sends its leader to see the GG and, after she agrees he's to be the Prime Minister, then selects a cabinet for her to approve.
I think shifting power from parties to MPs would be a good thing.  Of course, this debate would also require that we review our position on the formation of coalitions and of MPs crossing party lines inside the house.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: dapaterson on December 22, 2008, 23:01:27
I personally favour Senators selected from party lists within provinces, appointed in proportion to the party vote within the province.

Of course, that would require reshuffling the number of senate seats; perhaps move to 3 per province, 2 per territory, plus an additional 72 divided by population (twice the baseline number allocated to the provinces and territories), based on the last decennial census.  That would provide the upper house with 108 members.

Harper's move is partisan politics.  Get over it.  He did precisely what any other PM in the same situation would have done - and by appointing Saskatchewan's favourite daughter, a former Grit patronage appointee, has also bought himself some top cover.  Add in the biggest Ottawa political newsman and he's bought the grudging admiration of the press - a nice bit of info ops, buying off the media.  And, as a final bonus, this week is only 3 days long for the news cycle - by the time the news is back into its normal cycle, it will be 2 weeks from now, a lifetime in politics.  Almost better than trying to bury it on a Friday.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: retiredgrunt45 on December 22, 2008, 23:42:03
Quote
And there are more adverse comments, here, on Army.ca. My question, retiredgrunt45 is: should Harper have simply aimed to abolish the Senate by failing to appoint anyone? Would the Celine Dion/Layton coalition not have appointed its own crew of Green/Liberal/NDP hacks, flacks and bagmen? Will Iggy not appoint senators if/when he becomes PM? Or are Liberals OK just because they're not Conservatives?

Mr Campbell that's the problem, everyone is talk, talk, talk, but when it comes right down to it, the partinship always gets in the way. In my view as I have stated in another thread the Senate as its stands is a waste of tax payers money, its only purposes it to feed par tinship politics and that can be done well enough by the politicians themselves as they have clearly shown over these past few months. The whole process of appointing senators is a bogus circus act and the only beneficiaries are the political parties, (Banana republic politics). Senators should be for the people, by the people and not for the beneficiary of some political party who thinks they have a God given right to rule.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 23, 2008, 14:21:09
......After that, it may be worth looking at how leaders are selected in Parliament (not necessarily by the parties) and how government and the opposition is formed.I think shifting power from parties to MPs would be a good thing.  Of course, this debate would also require that we review our position on the formation of coalitions and of MPs crossing party lines inside the house.

MCG, I agree that this is the crux of the matter for Canadian democracy: the selection of leaders. 

The representative assembly system, with no parties, and the Prime Minister selected by the Majority of the Caucus that has the Majority of the Votes in the House, reduces the opportunity for back-room deals to be made.

The party system ensures that power is managed out of sight of the public, outside the House.

When King, (or was it Bonar Law? or Lord North?) declared that he was no longer bound by the Caucus, but was a creature of extra-parliamentary forces, he set aside all the work of reform that had occured from the days of Lord North and had their apogee with the arrival of universal suffrage.   No sooner did working men and all women have a right to influence the decision making system in parliament than a mechanism was discovered for influence to be exerted that would subvert their influence.

The Parties are Clubs.  They are Private Clubs.  They may run themselves by constitutions and Roberts Rules but they are still Private Clubs.  They may not discriminate in membership but they still charge a membership fee.  And that fee does not gain you  much control over how the funds are spent. Edit: It essentially buys you a single, minority share in privately held company.

The Party is essentially a corporation whose sole purpose is selling influence.  It promises to deliver a Prime Minister, a block of MPs and a set of Policies in return for cash.  In the Liberals case it used to come primarily from the heirs of the Norwesters in the Golden Square Mile of Montreal.  In the case of the NDP it came from the coerced masses in their Unions.  In the case of the Conservatives, it used to come from Upper Canada but now, increasingly, is coming from Calgary and the Middle Class.

But no matter how broad the subscription on which a Party is based, it is stilll a vehicle for influence-peddling, and that is a crime:

Quote
INFLUENCE PEDDLING
Influence peddling is another example of improper use of office. Unlike bribery, which is aimed at buying a decision directly from the decision maker, the concept of influence peddling involves paying a third party to exert influence on the decision maker. In this situation, the buyer hopes that the influence of the person being paid will be sufficient to convince the decision maker to decide a matter in his or her favour.

The Criminal Code prohibits officials from demanding, accepting or offering or agreeing to accept a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind for cooperation, assistance or exercise of influence in connection with any matter of business relating to the government[21]. Although Parliamentarians may not necessarily be in a position to make a particular decision, they might very well be able to influence the decision-making process. In fact, members of the House of Commons are expected to represent the interests of their constituents and to participate in the development of public policies. Thus, representing the interests of their constituents in influencing public policy is not in itself a crime. However, this activity becomes a crime when done in exchange for a benefit. The member would be taking advantage of his public office for private gain.

It is noteworthy that when a public official accepts a benefit in exchange for the exercise of his or her influence, it is not necessary that the official possess a corrupt state of mind. The test applied by the courts is : whether or not the individual is aware that he or she is an official ; whether or not the official intentionally demands or accepts the benefit in question, for himself or herself, or for another person ; and whether or not the official knows that the reward is in consideration for his or her influence in connection with the transaction of business with the government.....

Source (http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/icg-gci/po-cp/page04.html)

Moving to Proportional Representation and Party Lists would only strengthen the hand of those who control the coffers and buy the Prime Minister's office.

With respect to your point about crossing party lines.  If there are no parties, there are no lines to cross.  There is just an assembly of representatives who are forced to make their deals in public, on the issues.

I noticed in one article that I posted, I think it was the article by the Carleton prof (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,81648.msg787608.html#msg787608), that Belgium insisted that the Party Leader NOT be the Leader of the Party in the House.  Perhaps that makes some sense.  It separates the Party, an extraparliamenetary club of individuals that lobby parliamentarians to support their cause, from the parliamentarians themselves.

Perhaps the secret is to move the parliamentarians further along the curve toward the (supposedly) apolitical courts.  A starting point would be to demand that parliamentarians cannot be affiliated with any party - cannot hold a party membership.

A second step would be to increase the use of by-elections and decrease the use of general-elections.  This would decrease the ability of the Party to influence the messaging by forcing them to spread their efforts over time as they would be limited geographically.

(By the way I wonder if the word By in By-election is  related to the By in the name of the town Whitby.  By is a Danish word for city, town or borough is found widely in town names throughout northern England and southern Scotland. Whitby is smack in middle of this area on the coast of Yorkshire.)

A third step would be to actually elect the individual that our laws and conventions recognize as our leader - Her Majesty's representative, the Governor-General (deisgnate the office as Guardian of the Crown and us traditionalists would probably be happy).

With these three steps I think we could put our system of governance back into balance.

Edited to add Carleton link.






Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Castus on December 24, 2008, 17:47:26
Proportional Commons, Elected Senate (with a fixed, equal number of Senators per province/territory, maybe) and Elected GG. That's how I see democracy working best for us. Yeah, it would affect the party I voted for last election (Tories) negatively, but I think the ultimate point of having proportional representation is that all viewpoints are broadly represented.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 24, 2008, 18:28:11
.....but I think the ultimate point of having proportional representation is that all viewpoints are broadly represented.

I don't think there is a problem with all viewpoints being represented now.

The ongoing question is: "Who gets to decide?"

The proponents of proportional representation generally are also fans of "consensus".  When time is available then "consensus" is a viable (if not necessarily desirable) method of decision making.  However, when time is short, or divisions are so entrenched that consensus isn't possible who gets to decide?

Our system is based on giving an individual a temporary, renewable licence to decide for us.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: TCBF on December 25, 2008, 18:20:42
Proportional Commons, Elected Senate (with a fixed, equal number of Senators per province/territory, maybe) and Elected GG. That's how I see democracy working best for us. Yeah, it would affect the party I voted for last election (Tories) negatively, but I think the ultimate point of having proportional representation is that all viewpoints are broadly represented.

- Again, Proportional Rep gives the lunatic fringe influence in national affairs - that is how Hitler came into power: Proportional Rep.  First Past the Post ensures that that every MP MUST meet the standard of getting more votes than their competitors from their constituents.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on December 26, 2008, 08:54:18
- Again, Proportional Rep gives the lunatic fringe influence in national affairs - that is how Hitler came into power: Proportional Rep.  First Past the Post ensures that that every MP MUST meet the standard of getting more votes than their competitors from their constituents.

Excluding forms of PR that give seats in legislative bodies based on nation wide percentages or numbers of voters, a "lunatic fringe" must still garner enough votes in a single riding (over all the non-lunatics) to win the seat.  The single transferable vote system is one example of this in which reaching the quota in a multi-member constituency is the only method of selecting a MP and no % or national vote tally can parachute a candidate into office.

I'm not as big of a fan of PR as I used to be, but some of the claims against it just don't stack up to reality.  If you compare the FPTP system of the UK and the STV system of Ireland you will see that not only is the Irish parliament just as stable as the British , but that the British system has many more "fringe" parties than the Irish do.   

The Irish through their method of PR (The Single Transferable Vote) and tightening the criteria for registering a political party has gone to great lengths to eliminate the possibility of nut-bars in Parliament.  In short it's not PR but the method of PR that one has to be wary of.

Do I think that PR could work in Canada?  Frankly, no.  Neither our politicians nor our electorate seem mature enough to actually accept a coalition, much less be able to function in one.

One of the things I'd most like to see done in Parliament is to have all the TV cameras removed from the HoC.  Take the stage away and I'd wager the grandstanding and childish crap that these so called legislators pull to one-up their opponents would diminish greatly.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 26, 2008, 09:33:25
I favour a simple (list system) form of PR for a fully elected Senate – when (rather than if) we get there.

The Senate of Canada should represent the equal partners in Confederation: the provinces, as provinces.*

I want each province’s Senate ‘delegation’ to be elected during provincial general elections and I want the senators to reflect, roughly, the votes cast in that provincial election – hence a simple list system.

Ontario, after the 2007 election, would have sent 11 Liberal (on 42% of the popular vote), 7 Conservative (31.6%), 4 NDP (16%) and 2 Green senators to Ottawa for a (roughly) four year term of office.

Abolishing the Senate requires a full blown Constitutional convention during which the NDP’s abolitionist nonsense would be exposed for the populist fluff it is – completely devoid of any intellectual weight at all. If we ever get a full blown Constitutional Convention I forecast a republic, with a Westminster Style Parliament and an elected Senate representing, equally, five provinces: BC, North West Canada, Ontario Québec and Atlantic Canada.

--------------------

* While the HoC should represent Canadians as people living in local communities – some, to be sure, bloody vast communities – on a roughly equal (1:1±20%) basis. For this a First Past the Post system - with run of elections or, better, multi round vote counting (select your first, second, third choices) with only a few run offs when necessary - is best. Each local community selects its own member: the one who gets 50%+1 of the weighted (3+2+1) total ballots. The parties must deal with local voters on local issues in order to get enough seats from enough local communities to form a government.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on December 26, 2008, 12:09:00
I like the idea of HoC multi-member constituencies for cities that are large enough to have multiple constituencies under the current system. 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on December 26, 2008, 14:54:52
So McG, you're not opposed to a STV-system for cities?

For the House of Commons, I still support the single constituancy representative elected by a first past the post system.  It is a simple and clear way of ensuring accountability - the buck stops with your representative.  Just because we have a party system and an elector didn't vote for "Party X" doesn't mean that the winner isn't their representative as well - make 'em work for you.  The reason there is so much disatisfaction with this system is that our current constitutional makeup makes this vote so important.  The first past the post system amounts to who gets the most seats which amounts to who selects the Prime Minister which amounts to an office with the single greatest concentration of power amongst Western democracies.  If FPTP simply represented sending a Representative to Ottawa, it wouldn't be so much salt in the eye.

I advocate Senate Reform, but I've never really put thought into how we should choose Senators.  I believe, fundamentally, that a Senate should be equal in order to offer regional representation.  If it isn't - if Senate seats are assigned based upon which provinces are more populace - then it is simply another Legislative House based upon population.  It is my belief that an Upper House needs to offer a counterbalance to a potential "tyranny of the Majority".  In Canada's case, so many people are dissatisfied with the amount of seats in Southern Ontario (which it rightly deserves in a House representing population) - an equal Senate offers a "check" to this.  If the ultimate goal isn't an Equal Senate, then we may as well chuck it because it is only duplicating a function served by the HofC.

I do not support Edward's idea of a list system for two simple reasons:
1.     It shuts out the independants.  Sure, they may not be a huge effect on the system but the notion that anyone can run as an independant is important in highlighting the fact that the principle prerequisite for office is the will of the electors and not the nod of the local party chief; and

2.     By extention, it enshrines Parties and their grip on the political process.  My goal is to see parties reduced to "confederations" of ideas as opposed to enshrining them into Kingmakers.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: dapaterson on December 26, 2008, 19:26:51
Having a PR senate, using the results of the provincial elections, would either oblige greater co-operation between the federal and provincial parties or would create a more robust upper house - both good, to my way of thinking.

Of course, I'd probably want seats in the upper house rotating on alternate provincial elections (that is, half the seats in play at any one time) to provide better continuity.  Add a few term limits as well, and it could be good.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 27, 2008, 00:20:02
The deeper I look into things the more it seems like this is a job that can only be done by teaming Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) and Mike Holmes (Holmes on Holmes).

Much of the problem isn't in the Constitution or the ordinary conventions that surround a Westminster Parliament at all, but rather the various additions that have grown around Parliament and government over the centuries. I suspect that no one ever really considered that being a politician should be a full time career, nor were ideas like political parties, caucusing, the Privy Council Office, a permanent bureaucracy, NGO's, interest groups,activist courts, politicized press on a 24hr news cycle or polling in the thoughts of the people who put together the various constitutions and laws that make up our official system of government.

In a way, the BNA act and the Constitution act of 1982 are more like a trellis in the garden which supports the "real" mechanisms of government in Canada growing over top of them (which have been revealed to be poisonous weeds). I have no real solutions except to sharply limit and restrict the powers of government; without the incentives of absolute power there will be less attraction to get into government (and the trough will not be big enough to support the armies of flunkies and hangers on anyway).
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on December 27, 2008, 07:23:39
In a way, the BNA act and the Constitution act of 1982 are more like a trellis in the garden which supports the "real" mechanisms of government in Canada growing over top of them (which have been revealed to be poisonous weeds). I have no real solutions except to sharply limit and restrict the powers of government; without the incentives of absolute power there will be less attraction to get into government (and the trough will not be big enough to support the armies of flunkies and hangers on anyway).

Agreed, take away the almost unlimited ability to tax and spend, separate government and the economy and return government to the basic functions of Defense of rights, defense of the nation and ensuring the rule of law and see how many politicians line up to make such mundane duties their life's work. 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 27, 2008, 11:58:13
..... take away the almost unlimited ability to tax and spend......

But ultimately that is why we have Parliament.  It's primary purpose has always been to control the public purse and limit the government's ability to tax and spend.

Everything else is secondary to that main effort.

Parliament, in another instance of usurpation/evolution, has moved from laws pertaining to the King's ability to raise taxes, through economic "rights", like the right to maintain a fishweir on the Thames to "rights" in general.  Once upon a time those "rights" issues were decided by the King and the Courts, and Juries, under the Common Law formula of precedence.  The Juries and Precedence ensured that Common Law evolved with Society.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on December 27, 2008, 22:35:54
So McG, you're not opposed to a STV-system for cities?
See here: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg200633.html#msg200633

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on December 28, 2008, 09:45:33
But ultimately that is why we have Parliament.  It's primary purpose has always been to control the public purse and limit the government's ability to tax and spend.

Historically perhaps but our system has evolved away from controlling the King's excess to the point where the guys we elect are worse than the King in the first place. 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on December 28, 2008, 10:07:04
Historically perhaps but our system has evolved away from controlling the King's excess to the point where the guys we elect are worse than the King in the first place. 
Is it the individuals or the parties that have become "worse"?

It seems all the more reason to ensure a system which gives power to individual representatives over parties, and for a bicameral system with one house to check the other.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on December 28, 2008, 13:16:08
Zip and MCG - I agree with both of you.

Part of the problem is the job of Prime Minister - an undefined position held at the behest of external influences. 

I say this next as a confirmed Monarchist, the other part of the problem is that the Monarchy gives cover to the PM.  The PM has progressed from being an advisor to the Monarch, to being a counter to the Monarch to being the Monarch pro tem.

The US republic and the Canadian monarchy have this in common.  Both require a head of state and a CEO.  Both of them require their head of state and their CEOs to be active participants in their governance.  In the US the President is Head of State and Monarch Pro Tem.  In Canada (and Britain) the PM hides in the shadows protecting us from the phantom of the absolute monarch while availing himself of all the powers of the Monarch in the Monarch's name.

This is a bigger problem for Britain than for Canada.  In Britain Governance is still tied up with the Oldenburg family blood lines.  In Canada, by virtue of our having an unrelated Governor-General selected as Vice-Roy for a limited term (5 years by tradition) we already have a simple basis for correcting the imbalance.  Change the method of selection from PM's fiat to some form of election.   We already changed from Foreign Office appointee to PM's fiat without anybody noticing much.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Zip on December 28, 2008, 13:17:25
Is it the individuals or the parties that have become "worse"?

It seems all the more reason to ensure a system which gives power to individual representatives over parties, and for a bicameral system with one house to check the other.

It's much deeper than that.  In my opinion it goes all the way back to the founding documents of this country that allow the wholesale expansion of government into private and market sectors.  Don't even get me started on that PC, let's all sing kumbaya, piece of reform liberal, social engineering that is the CCRF.

There aught to only be three rights in that document, Life, Liberty and Property.  Everything else is at best ancillary to those and at worse a fabrication of fuzzy thinking.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on January 11, 2009, 16:19:44
I want each province’s Senate ‘delegation’ to be elected during provincial general elections and I want the senators to reflect, roughly, the votes cast in that provincial election – hence a simple list system.

With the hodge-podge of provincial parties, would this not lead to a disfunctional Senate?  Many provinces do not have provincial Conservative or Liberal parties (e.g. BC, Saskatchewan, Quebec), some share a party name, but are otherwise unconnected to the federal namesake (e.g. BC Liberal Party) and many have parties that only exist in their respective province (e.g. Saskatchewan Party, Yukon Party, Parti Quebecois), not to mention the existence of provincial Progressive Conservative parties that have little in common with the federal Conservative Party (e.g. Newfoundland).

I think having provincial parties in a federal House would be quite messy.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on January 11, 2009, 16:34:53
I like the idea of a "messy" upper house.  Given that its remit is to give "sober second thought",  and not just to pass government legislation,  its primary role is to delay and consider.  Perhaps we could say allow time for the passions of the mob to pass?

However it can't delay if it lacks legitimacy - then its motives become suspect, especially if the majority is identified with a particular party (either pro or anti government).

It should be selected on grounds that grant it legitimacy, independent of the government, or the opposition.  Provincial representatives, Municipal representatives, Borough representatives, Guild representatives, all of them I would have in the Senate, with no general election provisions at all to permit continuity.  Seats would be filled on a staggered, if not random, schedule.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on January 11, 2009, 17:07:21
With the hodge-podge of provincial parties, would this not lead to a disfunctional Senate?  Many provinces do not have provincial Conservative or Liberal parties (e.g. BC, Saskatchewan, Quebec), some share a party name, but are otherwise unconnected to the federal namesake (e.g. BC Liberal Party) and many have parties that only exist in their respective province (e.g. Saskatchewan Party, Yukon Party, Parti Quebecois), not to mention the existence of provincial Progressive Conservative parties that have little in common with the federal Conservative Party (e.g. Newfoundland).

I think having provincial parties in a federal House would be quite messy.


It would certainly, delightfully in my view, complicate things for the government and opposition leaders. There is no guarantee that the BC or QC Liberal delegations will caucus with the Liberal Party of Canada, for example. The Saskatchewan Party delegation might choose to caucus with the Conservatives or might remain as independents.

Once a Senate is elected PMs will pretty much have to appoint some elected senators to cabinet - mostly in portfolios where the feds intrude into areas of provincial jurisdiction. Some senators will want to caucus with the governing party in order to secure a cabinet appointment. Right now, for example, at least one (elected) NF senator would certainly caucus with the government, with Danny Williams' blessing, to have a NF 'voice' in cabinet again.

The 'messy' Senate might complicate life even for PMs with good, solid HoC majorities because elected senators are, surely, going to be willing to throw their (elected) weight around.

On balance I think it is manageable and, in my opinion, infinitely preferable to an appointed legislative chambre.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on January 12, 2009, 10:45:36
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Ottawa Citizen, is an interview with Peter Russell, author of several books on constitutional/legal and property rights issues and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, that is critical of Prime Minister Harper’s decision to prorogue parliament but also offers some thoughts on the office of the governor general:
--------------------
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Business/cheers+jeer/1165882/story.html

Two cheers and a jeer
 
Constitutional expert Peter Russell weighs in on the pros of minority government and the cons of parliamentary crisis. 'People might have other adjectives; I'll stick with dishonourable,' he says of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue the House

 
BY ANDREW POTTER, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN

JANUARY 11, 2009
 
 

One of Canada's foremost experts on the Constitution, political scientist Peter H. Russell has written a new book that looks at minority rule in Canada and contrasts it with the much different European experience. Two Cheers for Minority Government is a prescient look at the evolution of Canadian democracy and an indispensible guide to the shenanigans that have occupied Parliament during the past five months. Citizen editor Andrew Potter spoke with Prof. Russell to get his take on where things are going.

AP: The core message of your book is that minority government promotes a "parliamentary" form of government, and therefore enables a form of deliberative democracy. What do you mean by parliamentary government and deliberative democracy? What are you comparing or contrasting that with?

PR: I'm contrasting it with "prime ministerial" government. Prime ministerial government is when the major policies -- indeed, almost all policies -- are made and shaped in the Prime Minister's Office by the prime minister and the prime minister's political staff, not by the cabinet.

They're kind of reviewed by cabinet, but at the end of the day, the government decides what the policy is, and announces it.

So Parliament's role is reduced to the classic role of criticism and providing an option for the electorate the next time there's an election. In between elections, the country is governed by a very small number of people, most of whom are unelected. That is the prime minister's staff -- the prime minister is elected.

I don't have a lot of respect for that, for a lot of reasons.

Parliamentary government is when the government has to defend its policies, one by one, every one of them, in Parliament, and it's never a slam dunk. Parliamentary committees have a much more independent function to consider policy and not simply follow the government line. It isn't a bed of roses. I'm not suggesting all MPs hug each other and love each other and partisanship goes down the toilet -- that's ridiculous.

AP: You suggest minority rule is not inherently unstable, that one of the things that makes it unstable in the Canadian situation is the sense by all the parties that it's somehow a deviation from the norm of majority government.

PR: It's a cultural change we need. It's just an ingrained expectation of party members -- they expect their leader to deliver a majority. Even Mr. Harper. He's been pretty successful, but he hasn't brought home the gold medal -- a majority government.

AP: One of the most obvious points about this book is its prescience. It must have felt a bit surreal, watching what was going on this fall.

PR: Yes, quite honestly, because as the book title implies, minority government, while it's worth two cheers, also falls a little short of three cheers, because of the turbulence that comes with it.

AP: You write with some confidence and satisfaction about the arrival of fixed election dates and how that heralds the change in the culture we need, that now there's a commitment to all the parties concerned to letting Parliament run. So do you see the fact that he dropped the writ and was granted an election as a missed opportunity?

PR: Very much so. The opposition didn't make enough of it. I think there should have been a little more attention to what was said about Bill C60 when it was in Parliament, particularly before committee in December 2006 -- it was passed in May 2007 -- but if you look at the debate, the government made very strong commitments, supported by all the parties that Oct. 19, 2009 would be the next election.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson was asked, "What if the prime minister asks for a dissolution when his government had not been defeated?" And Mr. Nicholson said, "Well clearly, the Governor General would have to give it very careful consideration."

And she may well have done so. We don't know -- we don't know what they talked about.

AP: Some pundits have argued the Governor General could have refused Mr. Harper the dissolution and she could have refused him the prorogation.

PR: Technically, I think she could have done that, but the political consequences of doing that might have been so severe she'd back away. Now people would say she's a gutless lady. I wouldn't buy into that. This part of our Constitution is governed by political conventions, rather than written-down, legal rules. The Constitution is subject to prudential political thinking -- you've got to think of the consequences of what you're doing when you exercise these conventional powers.

AP: On that note, you punctuate your discussion of the infamous King-Byng affair by saying the chief lesson is that the smooth functioning of parliamentary government requires all the parties involved to behave honourably.

PR: Yes, and I know that's motherhood, but I consider Mr. Harper's request "dishonourable." I made that submission to the Federal Court as part of Democracy Watch's legal action for judicial review. Yes, it was dishonourable, it violated a pretty serious commitment that he -- and not just himself and his government, but all the parties -- entered into. And I consider that dishonourable.

AP: Was Mr. Harper putting the Governor General in an untenable position?

PR: Oh, for sure. I mean, it's always very, very tough when a prime minister does a dishonourable thing. I consider it dishonourable to promise a confidence vote and then, a few days later, make it impossible by asking for a prorogation of Parliament. People might have other adjectives; I'll stick with dishonourable.

In a democratic culture, it's so tough for the Crown to step in and stand up for a democratic principle, particularly when you have a government with huge machinery of propaganda, which it's shown every inclination to use, and would use, both on the office of the governor general and probably on her personally. These people take no prisoners!

AP: The prorogation was clearly designed to avoid the fall of the government and the setting up of the purported coalition.

There was considerable debate afterward about the constitutionality of the coalition, with Harper saying this was an unconstitutional attempt to overturn the results of the election. What's your take on that? Would the coalition have been a legal, constitutional entity had it come to pass?

PR: Oh my goodness, yes. Oh my goodness, yes. On that, there can be no doubt. People may not like coalitions, and they may punish parties that have entered into them, but that's fair enough; that's political judgment voters have every right to make.

But the parties in Parliament have every right to get together in pretty well any way they wish; to coalesce together to accomplish their purposes. There's nothing illegal about coalition; otherwise, about half of the governments in the parliamentary world would be illegal. I mean, the constitutions of parliamentary countries, they don't have clauses about what parties in parliament, how they can work together or not work together; they can work together in a whole myriad of ways.

AP: Do you have any sense of what's going to happen when Parliament resumes?

PR: If I was a betting person, I would bet that the Liberals at least -- I don't know about the NDP and the Bloc -- but at least the Liberals will find the budget sufficiently satisfactory on priming the pump, on stimulating the economy, to vote for it and therefore not force an election and give the new Liberal leader time to build his strength and probably have what they hope is a big, successful political convention and all that.

AP: If we are looking at minorities for the foreseeable future, do you think we should be looking at changing the electoral system, to some form of proportional representation?

PR: There's a more immediate change that, I think, what we've been through in the past few weeks points to even more: We've got to do more to kind of regularize the governor general's office. One suggestion: Her office should have something like the European constitutional monarchies have -- an informateur, an official sort of prober of the parliamentary scene who can interview party leaders and is known to the media, is known to the public as a respected person -- so it's not all whispers and hush hush -- to advise the governor general on the political situation in Parliament, in order to make good decisions.

It's sometimes a former Speaker; in Sweden, it actually is the Speaker, but the Speaker there has a bigger role. All the countries have to make their own design according to their own history and institutions, but we need something like that because the governor general's office is going to be very much a target now of political speculation and pressure. I think it needs to be strengthened to deal with those situations.

AP: If you could wave a magical wand, is there one institutional change you could make to improve our parliamentary system?

PR: I'm a big supporter of electoral reform, but, my God, I'm also a realist, political scientist. If you bet me on any electoral reform, and you want to bet in favour, I'd give you 1,000 to one and I think I'd be safe for the next five to 10 years. So if you're counting on something that ain't going to happen, then you're not being realistic.

Two Cheers For Minority Government: The Evolution of Canadian Parliamentary Democracy is published by Emond Montgomery Publications Ltd., Toronto 2008.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
--------------------


I agree, very broadly but not too deeply, with most of what Prof. Russell says, but: I don’t like the word ”dishonourable” to discuss PM Harper’s actions re: the prorogation . They were perfectly legal and constitutional – he had just won a confidence vote a few days before, when the Throne Speech – his government’s programme, in broad outline – was passed. His actions were devious, perhaps, but not dishonourable. He ‘used’ the Constitution and the Governor General for partisan, political ends – but the Constitution is all about politics and so are the GG’s “reserve powers.”

Prof. Russell’s explanation of constitutional convention and ”prudential political thinking” may help those who still wonder what went on.

I favour some way of ‘formalizing’ the method of appointing the governor general.

As a start, of course, I favour ditching the next ‘foreign’ monarch* and establishing a Canadian ’regency’. Then we need some way to ‘select’ the regent – better, I suggest, than a coffee clache in the PMO. Maybe a (reformed) Senate could be charged to form a ‘nominating committee’ every sever years, or so, to recommend one name (take it or leave it) to the PM.


--------------------
* By, simply, failing to “proclaim” the successor. When, as sadly, she must, our most gracious sovereign lady Elizabeth, the second of that name, dies, some functionary (whoever ‘keeps’ (has custody of) the Great Seal of Canada (the Minister of Industry? His/her deputy? The Registrar General?)) must “proclaim” that fact. In Britain the Earl Marshal (Duke of Norfolk) will say something like, “The Queen is dead! God save the King!” and, presto!, just like that, Britain will have a new king. Our functionary could just say, “The Queen is dead!” and go about his/her business. We would, ipso facto have a ‘vacant’ throne. Nothing else would change; we would still be a constitutional monarchy – we would just not have a current monarch of our own. This situation – not uncommon in British history – is called a regency. Someone, called a Regent, is appointed to act for the missing sovereign – just as the GG does, day-in and day-out, today.

It would be nice, of course, if we didn’t just spring this on Prince Charles. A parliamentary resolution – like the Nickel Resolution of 1919 that Jean Chrétien used to stymie Conrad Black’s attempt to be both a British lord and a Canadian citizen – that says that, for good ‘rights’ reasons (we don’t and shouldn’t like the anti-Catholic bias in the Settlement Act of 1704) we cannot agree the existing terms of succession and will decide our own in our own good time will ‘advise’ Her Majesty and Prince Charles that, on that sad future day, he will not succeed to the (independent) Throne of Canada.


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on February 11, 2009, 22:27:44
Israel provides yet another reason to avoid PR in any form:

http://gayandright.blogspot.com/2009/02/why-i-hate-proportional-representation.html

Quote
Why I hate proportional representation....

You can see one of the biggest problems of proportional representation in yesterday's Israeli election. Now that the election is OVER, the real horse trading begins, and the public has no input. Somehow, somewhere deals will be made and someone will come to power, and the end result may be far different than what voters may have wanted or intended.

And, the sad part is that the party who does the best trading may well become the winner. So, if Netanyahu 'outbids' Livni, he will become the next PM, and no one will know what he has promised until he comes to power. And vice versa - who knows that Livni is saying to Lieberman, etc.

I'm not a huge fan of first past the post - it has its own problems (The Greens certainly do deserve some representation) - but proportional representation is even worse.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: MCG on February 19, 2009, 11:00:27
Quote
MP calls Tory plan to cap Senate terms a 'sideshow'
Updated Wed. Feb. 18 2009 3:09 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff

NDP Democratic Reform Critic David Christopherson says a Conservative plan to introduce an eight-year cap on Senate terms is a "sideshow" that won't lead to real reform in the upper chamber.

Minister of State for Democratic Reform Steven Fletcher said he intends to propose new legislation that would require senators to leave their posts after a single, eight-year term.

In a telephone interview with CTV.ca, Fletcher said the new rules would only apply to senators appointed after Oct. 2008, which would include the 18 senators appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a controversial move last December.

But Christopherson, MP for Hamilton Centre, who has not yet seen the proposed legislation, said the Conservatives are "missing the opportunity for real action."

"This is nothing but another sideshow, a distraction from the real issue: How do we make the Senate accountable to the people of Canada?" Christopherson said in an email statement sent to CTV.ca.

"Setting term limits for patronage appointments will only let the Conservatives spread out their patronage among even more of their friends - it won't ensure that senators make their decisions based on the will of Canadian electors."

Current rules dictate that senators, who are appointed by the prime minister, can serve until the age of 75.

Senators appointed before last October will still be able to serve until then, Fletcher said.

While getting the budget passed is the government's first priority, Fletcher said, he hopes that it will only be a few months before Senate reform can move to the top of the agenda.

"I hope it will be before summer, but it depends on the co-operation of the other parties in getting the budget moved through Parliament," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said that the government would also consult with Canadians on the prospect of an elected Senate.

The NDP would like to see the Senate abolished entirely, said Christopherson, who allowed that his party would be open to a restructuring to make the upper house "an accountable, elected body."

Harper has long advocated caps on Senate terms, as well as for an elected Senate, whereby the provinces would vote for their own representatives in the upper chamber.

The Conservatives had previously tabled legislation that called for Senate term caps. But that bill did not receive widespread support in either chamber of Parliament and died with last fall's election call.

Harper's rash of new appointments shortly before Christmas drew sharp criticism from the opposition parties.

... [more at link]
http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090218/senate_caps_090218/20090218?hub=Canada
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on February 23, 2009, 12:58:00
A look at the US system (in particular the 17th Amendment, which speaks to how Senators are elected). Notice how clearly the Founding fathers sought to separate and constrain the different branches of government, a lesson we might take to heart:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/20/AR2009022003034_pf.html

Quote
Sen. Feingold's Constitution

By George F. Will
Sunday, February 22, 2009;



A simple apology would have sufficed. Instead, Sen. Russ Feingold has decided to follow his McCain-Feingold evisceration of the First Amendment with Feingold-McCain, more vandalism against the Constitution.

The Wisconsin Democrat, who is steeped in his state's progressive tradition, says, as would-be amenders of the Constitution often do, that he is reluctant to tamper with the document but tamper he must because the threat to the public weal is immense: Some governors have recently behaved badly in appointing people to fill U.S. Senate vacancies. Feingold's solution, of which John McCain is a co-sponsor, is to amend the 17th Amendment. It would be better to repeal it.

The Framers established election of senators by state legislators, under which system the nation got the Great Triumvirate (Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John Calhoun) and thrived. In 1913, progressives, believing that more, and more direct, democracy is always wonderful, got the 17th Amendment ratified. It stipulates popular election of senators, under which system Wisconsin has elected, among others, Joe McCarthy, as well as Feingold.

The 17th Amendment says that when Senate vacancies occur, "the executive authority" of the affected state "shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct."

Feingold's amendment says:

"No person shall be a Senator from a State unless such person has been elected by the people thereof. When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies."

Feingold says that mandating election of replacement senators is necessary to make the Senate as "responsive to the people as possible." Well. The House, directly elected and with two-year terms, was designed for responsiveness. The Senate, indirectly elected and with six-year terms, was to be more deliberative than responsive.

Furthermore, grounding the Senate in state legislatures served the structure of federalism. Giving the states an important role in determining the composition of the federal government gave the states power to resist what has happened since 1913 -- the progressive (in two senses) reduction of the states to administrative extensions of the federal government.

Severing senators from state legislatures, which could monitor and even instruct them, made them more susceptible to influence by nationally organized interest groups based in Washington. Many of those groups, who preferred one-stop shopping in Washington to currying favors in all the state capitals, campaigned for the 17th Amendment. So did urban political machines, which were then organizing an uninformed electorate swollen by immigrants. Alliances between such interests and senators led to a lengthening of the senators' tenures.

The Framers gave the three political components of the federal government (the House, Senate and presidency) different electors (the people, the state legislatures and the electoral college as originally intended) to reinforce the principle of separation of powers, by which government is checked and balanced.

Although liberals give lip service to "diversity," they often treat federalism as an annoying impediment to their drive for uniformity. Feingold, who is proud that Wisconsin is one of only four states that clearly require special elections of replacement senators in all circumstances, wants to impose Wisconsin's preference on the other 46. Yes, he acknowledges, they could each choose to pass laws like Wisconsin's, but doing this "state by state would be a long and difficult process." Pluralism is so tediously time-consuming.

Irony alert: Feingold's amendment requiring elections to fill Senate vacancies will owe any traction it gains to Senate Democrats' opposition to an election to choose a replacement for Barack Obama. That opposition led to the ongoing Blagojevich-Burris fiasco.

By restricting the financing of political advocacy, the McCain-Feingold speech-rationing law empowers the government to regulate the quantity, timing and content of political speech. Thanks to Feingold, McCain and others, the First Amendment now, in effect, reads: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech unless it really, really wants to in order to guarantee that there will be only as much speech about the government as the government considers appropriate, and at times the government approves."

Now Feingold proposes to traduce federalism and nudge the Senate still further away from the nature and function the Framers favored. He is, as the saying goes, an unapologetic progressive, but one with more and more for which to apologize.

georgewill@washpost.com

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on February 24, 2009, 12:17:08
Glenn Reynolds (the Instapundit) with an evolutionary interpretation of elections and voter behaviour:



Quote
Is Democracy Like Sex? 
 
By Glenn Harlan Reynolds : 15 Nov 2006 
 
So the elections are over, and happily my fears of last week weren't borne out. A cynic may say that it was because the Democrats won, but for whatever reason there weren't major complaints of fraud or miscounting. That said, I hope that these issues will get addressed more thoroughly before 2008.

But enough on that topic, which I've been hammering on for a while. This week I want to explore a feature of electoral turnover that doesn't get enough attention: Its effect as a limit on political parasitism.

We always hope, when an election rolls around, that the better candidates will be elected. It often seems, however, as if it's a choice between dumb and dumber, or crooked and crookeder, or something equally unappetizing. This leads some people to wonder why they bother voting at all. But it just may be that voting and elections have benefits that go beyond just selecting the right candidate.

As I argued in a law review article some years ago (you can read it here), democracy serves some of the same interests that sex does.

Evolutionary biologists, I noted, have only recently begun to appreciate the importance that parasites play in evolution. That makes sense: Predators are visible, and when they kill and eat their prey it's pretty dramatic. But when you look past the surface, it turns out that predators are vastly outnumbered by parasites, and the arms race between parasites, which try to adapt to get around their host's defenses, and their hosts, which try to make life tougher on parasites, turns out to be an important one.

This, it is thought, explains why sex is worth all the trouble and expense. (Explains it at the species level; we all know why it's worth the trouble and expense at the individual level. . . .) Reproducing by fission is easier, cheaper, and conveys virtual immortality -- but a population that reproduces by fission is an army of clones, and a parasite that's well adapted to one population member is well adapted to them all. Sexual reproduction, by jumbling up genes every generation, forces parasites to try to adapt to a moving target, giving the host organisms an advantage that justifies all the metabolic energy they put into this more troublesome form of passing on one's genes.

My thought has been that elections play the same role for the body politic that sex plays for the body physical: Every so often, the voters throw the rascals out, and vote in a new set of rascals, meaning that the special interest groups, lobbying outfits, etc., that parasitize the body politic have to adapt to a shifting target. As scientist Thomas Ray has said, one rule of nature is that every successful system accumulates parasites. The American political system has been successful for a long time.

It's not perfect, of course -- neither is sex, since parasites remain a problem -- but it does mix things up and help prevent special-interest relationships from becoming too fossilized. When the Democrats come in, Republican interest groups lose influence, and vice versa. The question is, does it mix things up enough?

Power tends to corrupt. The new guys always promise reform, but -- as the history of the "Republican Revolution" of 1994 suggests -- those promises generally don't get as much attention once the new guys are in power themselves. Mixing things up via elections helps, but -- especially when there are only two parties to choose from -- it may not stir the pot enough over time.

This makes me wonder if we don't need some additional anti-parasitic measures. But what kind of measures?

Two proposals that we often hear are term limits and campaign finance reform. The former may have some merit -- particularly in light of gerrymandered House of Representatives districts that tend to make turnover less likely. The latter, it seems to me, is more likely to foster parasitism than limit it: If you make donating money to politicians complicated and obscure, the process is likely to be mastered by people who have the incentive and ability to deal with complicated and obscure laws.

Transparency would seem like a good idea: Making it easy for people to find out what politicians are doing for whom, and what they're getting in exchange, is likely to have a strong anti-corruption effect, and likely to enhance the turnover created by elections. This suggests that information on who's behind every legislative provision, and who's getting contributions from whom, would be very helpful. So would amending the Freedom of Information Act to ensure that it applies to Congress.

Will we see anything along these lines from the new Congress next year? I hope so, but -- even though Democrats ran against the "culture of corruption" in Washington -- don't hold your breath. Still, politicians respond to pressure. So if there's sufficient attention to the issue, who knows?

If not, I think that we may see a renewal of pressure, a la Ross Perot, for a third party. And it's possible that technology and the Internet will facilitate the growth of third parties in ways that weren't previously possible. Perhaps having a third party in the mix will enable us to mix things up more.

 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Tango2Bravo on February 24, 2009, 16:36:10
A look at the US system (in particular the 17th Amendment, which speaks to how Senators are elected). Notice how clearly the Founding fathers sought to separate and constrain the different branches of government, a lesson we might take to heart:

Why would we (Canada) take lessons about the separation of powers to heart? We can certainly look outside for ideas, but I don't look at the framers of the US constition as my "Founding fathers."
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on February 24, 2009, 18:24:29
Political power in Canada is extremely centralized, especially in non elected institutions like the PMO and PCO, rather than distributed amongst different organizations as in the American system.

The Founding Fathers were very concerned with the fragility of governments and institutions, and designed a system where ambitious people would not be able to consolodate power but have to compete with each other for fragments of power.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Tango2Bravo on February 26, 2009, 16:04:35
We have a parliamentary system that evolved in a different fashion from the US system. The big difference being that we have, in effect, a blended legislative and executive branch. It is true (in my view) that the Prime Minister has more 'power' within the Canadian system than the President has in the American one. It should be noted, however, that we have a division of powers/responsibilities between the federal and provincial government that offers a balance. Both levels of government are sovereign. In addition, the process of elections and the parliament itself mean that the Prime Minister is still answerable to the people.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GurneyHalleck on July 12, 2009, 23:23:27
Why would we (Canada) take lessons about the separation of powers to heart? We can certainly look outside for ideas, but I don't look at the framers of the US constition as my "Founding fathers."
Especially considering that the Founding Fathers had nothing to do with the 17th amendment, which was enacted in 1911.

I'm in favour of a constituency based commons, elected senate and leaving the Governor General position as-is. Given that s/he is the monarch's representative in Canada, I don't think it would even be unreasonable for her to actually be selected by the monarch, but that's a whole other can of worms.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 13, 2009, 13:12:32
:deadhorse:  Caution: flogging of nearly dead horses follows!   :deadhorse:


Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail is an editorial (therefore unsigned) about this subject:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/sober-effective-and-democratically-legitimate/article1215814/
Quote
Sober, effective and democratically legitimate
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said his government takes Senate reform seriously, and that the Senate must change. Godspeed, Mr. Harper

From Monday's Globe and Mail Last updated on Monday, Jul. 13, 2009
 
Before Parliament's summer recess, the Conservative government reintroduced legislation that would limit the term of senators to eight years. This, alone, is too modest a reform of the Senate. It is a token gesture that only serves to imply that meaningful reform is out of reach. But that is not the case. Instead of going after term limits, Prime Minister Stephen Harper should fulfill his commitment to create a process to elect senators.

Three years ago, Mr. Harper addressed a Senate committee, saying, “Canada needs an upper house that provides sober – and effective – second thought. Canada needs an upper house that gives voice to our diverse regions. Canada needs an upper house with democratic legitimacy.”

Nothing has changed between then and now. The Senate can provide sober and effective second thought with its existing powers, and it can protect less populous regions – or, as Sir John A. Macdonald put it during the Confederation debates, “protect local interests” – but only if it has democratic legitimacy.

It is a disgrace that regional aspirations are not adequately reflected in the one political institution in Canada designed for that function, when other federal countries like the United States, Australia and Germany have all managed it. (The House of Commons, which aims to provide representation by population, cannot give sufficient voice to all regions.)

Canada's political leadership has, after decades of fits and starts, failed to reform and invigorate the upper house so that it can fulfill the purpose that the Fathers of Confederation conceived for it.

As the report of an Alberta select committee on Senate reform declared, “Many Albertans are impatient for such change believing that Alberta's proper place in Confederation can only be secured with a Senate constituted in a more credible manner.” That was in 1985. It is not only Albertans who are still waiting.

Senate reform should ideally be the product of a constitutional amendment, but there is little stomach for opening up the Constitution, and a minority federal government is poorly positioned to lead such change. But no constitutional amendment is required for the appointment to the Senate of people who have been chosen by voters.

Indeed there is a precedent, as both prime minister Brian Mulroney and Mr. Harper have previously appointed senators selected by Alberta voters. The Prime Minister, then, should proceed with his commitment to bestow greater legitimacy on the Senate by, where possible, filling any vacancies with senators who have been elected, ideally during votes timed with provincial elections.

In cases of provinces such as Ontario, where Premier Dalton McGuinty has refused to contemplate votes to select senators, Mr. Harper should offer the provincial legislature the right to choose the province's nominees. While it might pain him to see more Ontario Liberals filling seats in the Senate, it would underscore the role of the Senate as a place where regional aspirations can be aired. And while he may not wish to give the Senate any legitimacy by allowing the public a say in choosing Ontario's senators, Mr. McGuinty would doubtless be tempted to provide a list of Liberal names.

If premiers fail to do even that much, then the Prime Minister should proceed and appoint senators the old-fashioned way, as Mr. Harper did when he filled 18 Senate vacancies in December – summoning failed Conservative candidates, Conservative fundraisers and organizers, and a few others. With time, the lesson might just sink in.

By proceeding with such legislation when the House resumes sitting, Mr. Harper would not only fulfill a long-standing commitment made to voters, but would also put to the test the sincerity of Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal Leader, who is courting support in regions long lost to the Liberals, particularly the Prairie provinces.

Mr. Ignatieff leads a largely central Canadian party that, while pretending to advocate reform, has trenchantly defended the status quo for the Senate. Remember former prime minister Paul Martin's famous 2004 declaration that he didn't want to “deal with Senate reform piecemeal,” which is to say he didn't want to deal with it at all.

Mr. Harper has said his government takes Senate reform seriously, and that the Senate must change. Godspeed, Mr. Harper.

I dare say that neither Prime Minister Harper nor many of his supporters take the Good Grey Globe all that seriously but, in this case, he and they should, at least in part.

As I have said before, I believe it is politically possible, even for a minority government, to force the issue.

The first key is to dictate to provinces: they either find an effective way to elect senators or they lose their voice or, at best, get an endless succession of toothless, second rate political hacks.

The second key is to persuade senators to resign their seats and contest elections. Not all, maybe not even most will do that but some will and that “some" will gain political legitimacy and in politics legitimacy IS a zero sum game: one either has it, through – and only through – being elected, or one does not. As soon as that distinction exists, in sufficient numbers, all those with zero legitimacy will want to join those with full legitimacy.

Three or four provinces hold the key: probably BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, maybe Manitoba and one of the Atlantic provinces will suffice. The three or four of those provinces need to establish acceptable Senate election procedures and some of their senators need to resign, at some appropriate moment, and contest those elections. A dozen elected senators will, fundamentally, change the whole nature of the upper house and the rest of the senators, almost all the rest but there will be a few holdouts, will begin to follow suit. So will the rest of the provinces – but probably without a holdout.

The issue of equality is important and the Globe and Mail has fudged it.

We, in a federal system, need two sorts of equality:

1.   Equality amongst the partners in the federation - the provinces – in one chamber of a bicameral legislature; and

2.   Equality amongst the citizens, as Canadians, in the other.

Make no mistake, confederation is a partnership and the partners are equal: tiny PEI is equal, in status and constitutional responsibilities and “rights,” to mighty Ontario. But, the original partnership agreement, the BNA Act, foresaw an unbalanced, unequal partnership: Ontario and Québec were the senior partners and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were the junior partners in 1867. PEI, BC, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan and so on all joined on the understanding that they, too, were junior partners. It was to be a confederation of (equal) regions rather than a federation of equal provinces. That ought not to have been the case, but, in fairness, it was the very first draft of a federal constitution for the authors in the British Foreign and Colonial offices. They got better and better as they drafted constitutions for Australia, India and, eventually, Germany.

Sadly, in modern times, we Canadians have failed the democratic tests of equality. We fail to accomplish it in both our legislatures: we have gross inequality of representation in the House of Commons where the vote of a PE Islander is worth nearly four times that of a Calgarian or Torontonian; equally, we fail to achieve even regional equality. Atlantic Canada is not “equal” to Ontario or the West.

The problem of individual inequality can and will be solved, eventually, by an ever growing House of Commons – once it has something approaching 1,000 members it will, de facto, become equal, maybe around the year 2075, when PEI still has four seats but Ontario has 350, Québec 200 and BC 150.

Senate equality requires a Constitutional amendment, sad to say.

But, for the time being, Prime Minister Harper can and should move forward with Senate reform – not timid, half arsed reform but real, 21st century democratic reform.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on July 14, 2009, 08:50:07
While I agree with most of your analysis, the idea of a 1000 man commons really sticks in my craw. Besides the fact that the Commons would be bigger than most Infantry battalions, I can see large bodies like this being rife with cliques and cabals operating out of sight of the constituents, and being even less transparent than what we have today.

Of course if the actual idea is to immobilize the legislative arm, then perhaps this would be a good thing. The other flaw I see is this might actually promote an even more powerful and centralized PMO, since the executive arm would need the ability to get something done. An elected Senate might have to serve as the de facto legislature in this case.

The other overarching problem in Canada is the fact that real power resides with unelected bodies, the Courts and the Bureaucracy. Much of the day to day entanglement that we face as citizens and taxpayers is through the actions of these bodies, not the Legislative arm, and there should be a wholesale pruning done here in order to effect real change.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on July 14, 2009, 09:10:48
As you all are probably aware, the news casts covered the fact that by 2012 or so, there would be enough vacant senate seats to give the CPC a Senate Majority. Therein lies the change, if Harper can hang on long enough ( one majority government should just about do it).

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on August 27, 2009, 10:16:05
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s National Post, is Don Martin’s take on the rumour (thus far) that PM Harper will appoint another batch of hacks, flaks and bagmen to the Parliament of Canada:

http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/08/26/don-martin-are-party-loyalists-the-best-harper-can-come-up-with.aspx
Quote
Don Martin: Are party loyalists the best Harper can come up with?

August 26, 2009

OTTAWA -- When he anoints his very own Hallelujah Chorus to represent Canadians in the Senate in the coming days, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will have delivered his most compelling argument for electing senators.

Sources say up to nine vacant Senate seats will soon be filled, bolstering the Conservative standing to 46 seats in the 105-seat chamber.

Among the rumoured appointees are Conservative party president Don Plett, campaign manager Doug Finley and former staffer Carolyn Stewart-Olsen.

An ideological politician who was disgusted at watching Parliament’s upper house turned into a vote-stacking exercise, where only the faintest of sober second thoughts actually take place, Mr. Harper has turned ruthlessly partisan in making his Senate appointments, elevating party loyalty into a key consideration for the cushiest job on the Hill.

The argument for such behaviour was first advanced after Mr. Harper rushed 18 bums into Senate seats when the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition was threatening to take down his government. Better to load up the Red Chamber with loyalists before the Liberals handed out those juicy plums, he argued.

But is it absolutely necessary for Mr. Harper to fill these $132,000-a-year positions, with retirement deferred to age 75, with such fanatical loyalists? There must be blue-chip candidates with conservative credentials in Ontario, Manitoba or Atlantic Canada who could deliver decent representation for voters while siding with government policies.

These insiders may not be known outside the parliamentary precinct, but that only makes their appointments more outrageous.

Their strongest, indeed only, character traits for the job seem to be blinkered vision and blinded loyalty. They will serve as little more than a vote administered by remote control from the Prime Minister’s Office for as long as Mr. Harper owns the job.

There is a certain shenanigan symmetry to this, of course.

The Liberals appointed a former prime minister communications director named Jim Munson to the job. Ms. Stewart-Olsen comes from the communications wing of Mr. Harper’s PMO.

The Liberals put their election wizard, David Smith, into the Senate. Mr. Finley has been the campaign guru for the Conservatives through all Harper-led elections.

But there is something sad about justifying the stacking of the Senate with patronage trough-feeders on the grounds that Conservatives are no worse than the Liberals.

There is also the incongruity of giving faithful Conservatives a job representing provinces which rejected them in the polls. Fabian Manning grabbed a Senate gig representing Newfoundland just two months after he was defeated as an MP there in the last federal election. Rumours have former premier Rodney MacDonald, ousted from power in Nova Scotia only two months ago, landing a Senate seat.

The Senate is becoming the land of the misfit politicians, but at least most of those types have solid people skills.

Not so much for gruff Doug Finley, husband of Human Resources minister Diane Finley, who excels at campaign donor shakedowns and serving as guard dog in deciding who was worthy of receiving Conservative nominations.   

Ditto for Ms. Stewart-Olsen, severed from the PMO a few months ago, whose enforcement of low-level directives and constant singing of Mr. Harper’s praises are somehow seen as ideal senator material.   

Of course, the ultimate objective can only warm the hearts of true blue Conservatives. This batch of appointments edges the Senate closer toward the glorious day when it will fall under Conservative control. 

But he could have and should have done better — even though the inside view is that Mr. Harper did not get enough credit for delivering decent appointments under his watch.

True, the appointment of Bert Brown, who had been elected twice in Alberta elections, was commendable. Former broadcaster Pamela Wallin deserves credit for projecting a dignity of independence as a bonafide celebrity senator, even while standing with the government when the votes are called. And while I’ve been hard on former CTV icon Mike Duffy, at least he bonds with average Canadians even while shamelessly promoting the Conservative agenda.

But the names so far fall short of having any skills to represent their assigned provinces in a more effective Senate. They will only represent Stephen Harper. That’s why we must find a better way of making quality Senate appointments — or elect to abolish it entirely. 

National Post
dmartin@nationalpost.com


None of these Tory partisans are, in any way, unqualified for the Senate of Canada. None is any “worse” than many of those appointed by e.g. Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien.

But, I maintain that there IS a better way which is, right now, within Mr. Harper’s reach. I explained it before, but: Harper needs to write two letters:

1.   One to each provincial premier saying that he intends to reform the Senate by establishing, through convention, some political limits on his power. He will select for the Senate only those who –

a.    Meet all the existing, constitutional requirements,
 
b.   Have been elected during a Senate election held in conjunction with a provincial general election through a system that reflects, broadly, the partisan political outcome of that election, and

c.   Provide him with a signed letter of resignation from the Senate of Canada that will be effective on the date of the next provincial general election; and

2.   One letter to each serving senator inviting them to submit their signed but undated letters of resignation which he will use only when a general election is called in the province that senator represents.

Of course, not all senators will resign. Several, perhaps even many will. After a few senators are elected there will be a “two tier” Senate: legitimate/elected and illegitimate/appointed. This will hasten the resignation/election process. But it may be 20+ years before the last appointed senator who is unwilling to accept the challenge of elections is required to retire. That’s about as long as it took the Americans to transition from an appointed to an elected senate early in the 20th century.


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on August 27, 2009, 10:27:51
While I agree with most of your analysis, the idea of a 1000 man commons really sticks in my craw. Besides the fact that the Commons would be bigger than most Infantry battalions, I can see large bodies like this being rife with cliques and cabals operating out of sight of the constituents, and being even less transparent than what we have today.

Of course if the actual idea is to immobilize the legislative arm, then perhaps this would be a good thing. The other flaw I see is this might actually promote an even more powerful and centralized PMO, since the executive arm would need the ability to get something done. An elected Senate might have to serve as the de facto legislature in this case.

The other overarching problem in Canada is the fact that real power resides with unelected bodies, the Courts and the Bureaucracy. Much of the day to day entanglement that we face as citizens and taxpayers is through the actions of these bodies, not the Legislative arm, and there should be a wholesale pruning done here in order to effect real change.


No one, and certainly not Canadian voters, likes the idea of a 1,000± seat House of Commons. They better like accept the idea of disproportionate representation.

Let us assume, for a moment, the New Brunswick, with 2.24% of the population and 10 seats in the HoC is appropriately represented.

If we adjust almost all the other provinces and territories – except, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut, the North West Territories and the Yukon (4, 1, 1 and 1 seat, respectively) – so that their “variance” from their share of the national population is somewhere between 97.8%(MB) and 102.3% (NS) then we end up with a 451 seat legislature in which ON and QC get 98.8% and 99.1% of their “fair share” of seats.

(Adjusting down to get a “more acceptable” HoC of 351 seats produces results which, I suggest should be unacceptable because the variances (after it is guaranteed that no provinces lose seats – as NF, NS, NB, MB and SK would if the 351 seats were to be distributed “fairly”) run from 95.3% (ON and QC) to 130.9% (NF and SK). I believe the “variance” should be, by law, between 90% and 110% (PEI and the Territories excepted).)

This is a change that parliament, itself, could make. It would not be easy. Canadians are not seized with this issue. They don’t care much for the 308 MPs they elect now; they are not keen on electing another 100+.

(Wikipedia has a quite clear article that explains, in the Members and electoral districts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_House_of_Commons) section, the current electoral quotient and why the seat distribution is what it is.)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Bread Guy on August 27, 2009, 16:59:26
More grist for the discussion mill....

"PM acts to fill Senate vacancies" (http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=2776)
Quote
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced the appointments of nine distinguished Canadians to serve in Canada’s Senate.

“Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate,” said the Prime Minister.  “If Senate vacancies are to be filled, they should be filled with individuals who support the legislative agenda of our democratically-elected government, including Senate reform and real action against gang- and drug-related crime.”

The new Senators will all support the urgently-needed anti-crime legislation currently being held up in the Senate.  They have all pledged to support the Government in its efforts for Senate reform, including the legislation to limit Senate terms to eight years which was introduced in May 2009.

The new Senators fill three vacancies in Quebec and two vacancies in Ontario.  Single vacancies are being filled in each of Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Nunavut....

Backgrounder: List of new Senators (http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=2777)
Quote
Claude Carignan (Quebec) was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1988 and, as a lawyer, he specialized in labour and public law.  He was a law teacher at the Université du Québec à Montréal and at the Université de Montréal.  Mr. Carignan has always been actively involved in his community.  He has been Mayor of Saint-Eustache since November 2000 and held other positions at the regional and national levels.  He is a member of the Board of the Union des municipalités du Québec and has been Vice-President of the Union since May 2008.  During his career at the municipal level, he organized many fundraising campaigns and created the Fondation Élite Saint-Eustache, which helps the young people of the region.  Claude Carignan is married to Brigitte Binette.  They have three children.

Jacques Demers (Quebec) is the former head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, taking the team to a Stanley Cup victory in 1993.  In addition to the Canadiens, Mr. Demers was head coach of numerous other hockey franchises including the former Quebec Nordiques during the 1978-80 hockey seasons.  Mr. Demers is a well respected figure in the hockey world, winning the Jack Adams Award for NHL Coach of the Year in 1987 and 1988, the only person to do so in consecutive years.  In 2007, he was named one of the 100 most influential personalities in hockey by The Hockey News magazine.  Mr. Demers is active in the community, including his strong support for literacy.  In 2006, he served as Honorary President of fundraising campaign of the Fondation de l’alphabétisation, and made numerous presentations on the subject throughout Quebec.  He also supports other causes including la Fondation québécoise pour les enfants malades du cœur.  He is married to Deborah Anderson.  Mr. Demers currently works as a commentator for the sports network RDS.

Doug Finley (Ontario) has had a successful career in various industries including aviation, agriculture and energy.  Mr. Finley began his professional career at Rolls Royce Canada, where he quickly rose through the ranks to become Director of Production, Strategic Planning and New Business Development.  He moved on to serve as President of Standard Aero and Senior Vice President of AvCorp Industries.  Later in his career he worked as General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of Fermlea Flowers in Southwestern Ontario.  Mr. Finley also maintained an active presence in Canadian politics, including his service as Director of Political Operations for the Conservative Party of Canada.  In the 2006 and 2008 general elections Mr. Finley served as National Campaign Director.  Born in the United Kingdom, Mr. Finley and his wife Diane reside in Simcoe, Ontario.

Linda Frum Sokolowski (Ontario) is a Canadian journalist and bestselling author.  From 1998 to 2007 she worked as a feature columnist for the National Post newspaper.  She is also a past contributing editor to Maclean’s Magazine.  Ms. Frum Sokolowski is an active member of the Toronto community.  A current board member of Upper Canada College, the Bishop Strachan School, the Canadian Club and Canada’s Walk of Fame, she is also a past board member of the Ontario Arts Council, Soulpepper Theatre, the Art Gallery of Ontario Foundation and the Canada-Israel Committee.  In 2006 she was chair of the United Jewish Appeal’s annual Women’s Campaign.  Ms. Frum Sokolowski and her husband, Howard Sokolowski, have three children.  Together with her husband she is a past recipient of The Human Relations Award from the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews.

Kelvin K. Ogilvie (Nova Scotia) is past president of Acadia University in Wolfville.  An award-winning international expert in biotechnology, bioorganic chemistry and genetic engineering, Dr. Ogilvie’s scientific accomplishments include the development of the “Gene Machine,” an automated process for the manufacture of DNA, and the invention of the drug Ganciclovir, which is used worldwide to fight infections that occur when one’s immune system is weakened.  During his ten years of service as President and Vice Chancellor at Acadia, Dr. Ogilvie proved to be an equally innovative administrator, introducing the groundbreaking “Acadia Advantage” program that has been internationally recognized.  Dr. Ogilvie has served on numerous national and international organizations including the National Biotechnology Advisory Committee and the National Advisory Board for Science and Technology.  He recently completed a three-year term as chair of the Nova Scotia Premier’s Council for Innovation and currently serves as Senior Fellow for Postsecondary Education at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.  Dr. Ogilvie is a member of the Board of Genome Canada and chairs both the Advisory Board of National Research Council’s Institute of Marine Bioscience and the Advisory Board of the Atlantic Innovation Fund.  For his numerous contributions to science, technology and higher education in Canada, Dr. Ogilvie was named to the Order of Canada in 1991.  Dr. Ogilvie is married and has two children and three grandchildren.

Dennis Patterson (Nunavut) is a former Premier of the Northwest Territories who has dedicated his career to bettering the lives of people throughout Canada’s North.  In his distinguished 16-year career as a member of the Legislative Assembly in the Northwest Territories Mr. Patterson served in many capacities including Minister of Education, Minister of Health and Social Services and Minister of Justice, culminating in his service as Premier between 1987 and 1991.  During his time in public office Mr. Patterson played a key role in the settlement of the Inuvialuit final agreement and the Nunavut final land claim agreement.  Mr. Patterson also served as the leader of the more than twenty-year campaign which led to the establishment of Nunavut as Canada’s newest territory in 1999.  Prior to entering politics, Mr. Patterson practised law and was appointed founding Executive Director of the Legal Services Centre, Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik Society, in Iqaluit.  After serving as Premier, Mr. Patterson established a private consulting firm, was admitted to the Law Society of Nunavut in 2001 and since 2003 has been a Trustee and Chair of the Investment Committee of the Northern Property Real Estate Investment Trust.  Mr. Patterson is married and has four children and two grandchildren.

Don Plett (Manitoba) has dedicated much of his life to community service in his home province of Manitoba.  As a Red River College alumnus, Mr. Plett served on the Board of Governors of the College.  An active sports enthusiast, he has coached and played hockey, basketball, and golf and was President of the Landmark Minor Hockey Association.  Mr. Plett also served as President of the Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the Village Council, and Chair of the local Utilities Board.  Throughout the years, he has maintained an active interest in politics, including serving as President of the Conservative Party of Canada.  Mr. Plett and his wife Betty have four sons and six grandchildren.

Judith Seidman (Quebec) is an educator, researcher and advisor to universities, government and not-for-profit agencies in the fields of health and social services.  Trained as an epidemiologist and social worker, Ms. Seidman has been a consultant in Applied Research in the Health Field and was Senior Researcher at the University Institute of Social Gerontology of Quebec.  Ms. Seidman served as project coordinator for the Canadian Study of Health and Aging at the University of Ottawa and was Research Associate/Fellow at the Montreal Neurological Hospital/Institute’s Department of Social Work.  Ms. Seidman has also been active in community service, including as a member of the Board of Directors of the Allan Memorial Institute Advancement Fund, member of the McGill Society of Montreal, Chair of the 75th Anniversary Fundraising Committee for the McGill School of Social Work and co-Chair of the Whiteside Taylor Preschool Co-operative in Baie D’Urfe.  Ms. Seidman is married and has one daughter and one grandchild.

Carolyn Stewart Olsen (New Brunswick) has extensive experience in health care and politics.  A Registered Nurse, Ms. Stewart Olsen spent over a decade as an emergency staff nurse at hospitals throughout New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec.  In 1986, Ms. Stewart Olsen was named Head Nurse for the Ambulatory Care Department at Ottawa’s Grace Hospital and later Nursing Manager for the Emergency, Recovery Room, Ambulatory Care, and CSR departments at Carleton Place Hospital.  After a twenty-year career in nursing, Ms. Stewart Olsen turned her attention to political life where she served as communications assistant and Press Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition.  Most recently, she served as Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Communication in the Office of the Prime Minister.  Ms. Stewart Olsen is married to Terry Olsen.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 27, 2009, 14:49:56
There was a public forum the other evening, here in Ottawa, at Saint Paul’s University. I did not attend; I took a look at the sponsor, moderator and participants (http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/) and decided that Charlotte Grey, alone, could not keep me from rushing the stage and throttling a few of them.

I listened, with a more than just half and ear, this morning and it confirmed, for me, the wisdom of staying home.

At the very end Jane Taber plus a few chimed in and said, “We/they/someone must unite the left, unite the Liberals and NDP to bring balance to Canadian politics.”

I wonder if any of them have even half the brains the gods gave to green peppers.

Uniting the left – uniting the Liberals and NDP – is the fondest hope, the veritable wet dream of all partisan Conservatives. The key to utterly and completely destroying the Liberals is to unite them with the NDP. That’s why the coalition proposed by Jack and Gilles and Celine Stéphane Dion would, actually, have been a great thing for the Conservatives.

The reason is that the Liberals are not a left wing party. They are, in the main, a centrist, even ever so slightly right of centre party. There is a big and very vocal and active left wing but most Liberal voters trust their party to campaign left and govern right. Look at King, St Laurent, Pearson, Turner, Chrétien and Martin. None were on the left and none pandered a whole lot to the hard left. Only Trudeau was, in most respects – except for his personal life, left of centre. If the Liberals were to unite with the NDP then the centre and centre right majority would bolt.

Another big topic, to which the panel returned again and again, was some alternative to “first past the post (FPTP).”

I looked at the data from the last few elections; they are relatively consistent:

•   10% of Canadians – fully 40% of Québecers – vote Bloc

•   35%+ of Canadians vote Conservative;

•   6% of Canadians vote Green;

•   30%± of Canadians (more minus than plus more recently) vote Liberal;

•   15+ of Canadians vote NDP; and

•   1 or 2% of Canadians vote for independents and assorted fruitcakes.

Speaking broadly:

•   The Bloc’s vote is stagnant;

•   The Conservative vote is rising, a bit, and a bit slowly;

•   The Green vote is stagnant;

•   The Liberal votes is falling, slowly; and

•   The NDP vote rose, more than just a bit, in 2008, but that may be a blip.

Using recent data I concluded that the  First Past the Post system:

•   Benefited –

   o     The Bloc in Québec by 19 seats,

   o     The Conservatives in 6 of ten provinces by about 25 seats, and

   o     The Liberals in one province, (Newfoundlandf and Labrador) by two seats; and

•   Penalized –

   o     The Conservatives in two provinces, by three seats,

   o     The Greens in two provinces, by two seats,

   o     The Liberals in five provinces, by nine seats,

   o     The NDP in seven provinces by 13 seats.

So, it is true that FPTP tends to help the party that, overall, gets the most votes, and (the Bloc in Québec being excepted) tends to penalize lesser parties. Broadly the fewer votes you get, overall, the “worse” you will do proportionately.

I “constructed” a House of Commons basewd on pretty much absolute proportional representations.

Guess what?

It produces a Conservative minority government with the Liberals in the official Opposition benches, the Dippers as the thirds party, fewer Blocistes and several new Green and Independent members.

The proportional Conservative minority government is smaller (117 instead of 143 seats), the proportional Liberal opposition is bigger (88 instead of 77 seats) and the NDP is much larger (55 rather than 37 seats). A simple Liberal/NDP coalition can defeat the government but either the Bloc or the NDP can combine with the Conservatives to outvote a coalition of the Liberals plus the other of the Bloc or NDP. The Greens (15 seats!) are the spoilers, and they could combine with the Liberals and NDP to form a majority – but one that would destroy the Liberal Party of Canada.



Edit: two typos
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Infanteer on September 27, 2009, 15:03:50
Interesting - so Proportional Representation is really much ado about nothing with the only real effect of further divorcing MPs from any sort of responsibility to their constitutents.

Coyne and Wells had a decent little piece in a recent MacLeans article in which they highlighted many of the criticisms and solutions discussed in this thread.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 27, 2009, 15:37:42
Interesting - so Proportional Representation is really much ado about nothing with the only real effect of further divorcing MPs from any sort of responsibility to their constitutents.

Coyne and Wells had a decent little piece in a recent MacLeans article in which they highlighted many of the criticisms and solutions discussed in this thread.


I'm not sure.

The analysis I did shows that FPTP does benefit the party that gets the most votes, overall, and does penalize the lesser parties. In other words: doing well is rewarded and (relative) failure is punished. Maybe that's as it should be.

Other data, from, say, the '80s and '90s might would produce different results - as when the Liberals won 100± seats in ON with 40% of the popular vote. Someone lost a lot of representation.

I'm wondering if, for a change, the French are not doing something right by requiring those elected to get 50%+1, even if, as it very often does, that results in two votes, the second a week after the first with the second ballot being between only the 1st and 2nd place finishers in the first ballot. There are problems with the French system: voter turnout is much lower in most second ballots than in the first, people get tired of election; and it tends to discourage minor party candidates - which may not be a really bad thing.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on September 27, 2009, 17:06:29

I'm wondering if, for a change, the French are not doing something right by requiring those elected to get 50%+1, even if, as it very often does, that results in two votes, the second a week after the first with the second ballot being between only the 1st and 2nd place finishers in the first ballot. There are problems with the French system: voter turnout is much lower in most second ballots than in the first, people get tired of election; and it tends to discourage minor party candidates - which may not be a really bad thing.

Which is where the Irish system has its merits - you rank the candidates in your riding.  High Score (low score?) wins.  Effectively you have the run-off election at the same time as the general.  You still end up with one representative per riding but the representative is either favoured by most or at least found least objectionable.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: kratz on October 08, 2009, 20:07:01
Governor General Michaelle Jean has become embroiled with the Prime Minister again. This time on the appropriate way of publicly describing herself. Is she the Sovereign's Representative, or Canada's Head of State? As the position is an appointment, I agree with the PM and would prefer her a HRH Representativ

Quote
Harper reminds GG just who is head of state
By Randy Boswell, Canwest News ServiceOctober 8, 2009 5:50
Ottawa Citizen.com (http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/Harper+reminds+just+head+state/2082430/story.html)

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent a clear message to Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean that she should not call herself Canada's head of state.

"Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada and Head of State," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement issued to Canwest News Service on Thursday. "The Governor General represents the Crown in Canada."

The extraordinary reminder from the country's head of government to its top viceregal representative follows an uproar over Jean's use of the phrase "head of state" when referring to herself during a speech in Paris on Monday.

Twice during the Governor General's address at an executive meeting of UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — she called herself Canada's head of state.

more at link (http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/Harper+reminds+just+head+state/2082430/story.html)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on October 08, 2009, 23:50:39
Quote
"Working together with a purpose in common, the 11 viceregal representatives — with the Governor General as first among equals — exercise powers that flow from the Sovereign," the document states. "Operating in their own jurisdictions, they personally represent the Queen and perform most of the functions assigned to her as our head of state."


From the article above this quote struck me.

It is not particularly germaine to the electoral reform discussion but it does shed an interesting light on the discussion about the "proper" relation of the Federal and Provincial Governments.  If the Federal Governor is Co-Equal with the Provincial Governors then surely the Federal Government which advises the Federal Governor and executes her wishes is Co-Equal with the Provincial Governments which advise and the Provincial Governors and execute their wishes......all on behalf of Her Majesty, the ultimate adjudicator and authority.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Bread Guy on October 09, 2009, 07:27:17
This from Global/National Post (http://www.globalnational.com/entertainment/Somnia/2082430/story.html):
Quote
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent a clear message to Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean that she should not call herself Canada's head of state.

"Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada and Head of State," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement issued to Canwest News Service on Thursday. "The Governor General represents the Crown in Canada."

The extraordinary reminder from the country's head of government to its top viceregal representative follows an uproar over Jean's use of the phrase "head of state" when referring to herself during a speech in Paris on Monday.

(....)

The statement issued Thursday by Harper's office struck one expert — constitutional expert David Smith, University of Saskatchewan professor emeritus of political science — as history-making.

"I can't recall that ever happening before," said Smith, now at the University of Regina and co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Canadian Politics.

But he added it was a welcome move by the Prime Minister's Office because "there seems to be a misunderstanding on the part of Rideau Hall as to the constitutional position of the Governor General under our system."

Monarchist League chairman Robert Finch also applauded Harper for promptly and directly addressing the issue.

"While I am sorry to see that this story has detracted from the 'feel-good' news about the upcoming royal homecoming of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, it is refreshing to see the Prime Minister of Canada, the Governor General's principal adviser, make such a clear statement," said Finch. "I hope this puts an end to the silly notion that the Governor General is head of state — de facto or otherwise."

(...)

Rideau Hall declined to comment on the PMO statement.

A Rideau Hall spokesperson had stated Wednesday that Jean's reference to being head of state was justified: "As the representative of the Crown in Canada, the Governor General carries out the duties of head of state, and therefore is de facto head of state."

Rideau Hall had also said the "head of state" reference was acceptable because of a 1947 agreement in which the "letters patent of King George VI" — Queen Elizabeth's father — "transferred all the duties of head of state of Canada to the Governor General."

With this from the GG's web page (http://www.gg.ca/gg/rr/index_e.asp):
Quote
Our system of government is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada and Head of State. Sworn in on September 27, 2005, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General since Confederation, represents the Crown in Canada and carries out the duties of head of State.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ballz on October 09, 2009, 09:09:17
I said it before in here and got crapped on for it, but I'll say it again.

The whole GG, monarch, thinger ma bobster idea, needs to go.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: 4Feathers on October 09, 2009, 09:20:01
I said it before in here and got crapped on for it, but I'll say it again.

The whole GG, monarch, thinger ma bobster idea, needs to go.

 :nod:
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Michael O'Leary on October 09, 2009, 09:26:10
Folks, if you want to reprise that particular discussion, go read and then join the relevant thread.

Milnet.ca Staff
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 09, 2009, 10:10:23
Perhaps a MOD could move this entire thread to here (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.0.html).

In the interim: This leads us into tricky constitutional terrain and especially into the unwritten part of our Constitution, referred to in the very first part:

http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/const/1.html#anchorbo-ga:s_1
Quote
Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom ... [9.] The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen ...  [10.] The Provisions of this Act referring to the Governor General extend and apply to the Governor General for the Time being of Canada, or other the Chief Executive Officer or Administrator for the Time being carrying on the Government of Canada on behalf and in the Name of the Queen, by whatever Title he is designated.

The constitution of the United Kingdom is where the powers of the Queen (effectively, according to Bagehot, the rights to be consulted, to encourage and to warn) are “defined” and that Constitution is wholly (and very sensibly) unwritten. Bagehot (whose book The English Constitution (http://books.google.com/books?id=x58OAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Walter+Bagehot&source=gbs_book_other_versions_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q=&f=false) is still regarded as an authoritative reference) also identified three occasions when the monarch (or the GG) might exercise real, (and so called residual) political power:

1.   At the formation of a new administration;

2.   During its continuance – which is when the three “rights” come into play; and

3.   At its break-up.

We have seen, just recently, the GG exercise her powers in all three situations, (including, especially, her decision (during the coalition crisis in Dec 08) to prorogue parliament). We should not “see” the GG exercising her rights with regard to her government. Those rights are best exercised in private – perhaps they can only be exercised, effectively, in private.

The GG and the provincial lieutenant governors are, indeed, co-equals because Her Majesty is indivisible. The sovereign “exists” in three forms:

1.   For the legislative function (Parliament/Legislature) she is “The Queen in Parliament” and enacts (makes) the laws;

2.   For the executive function (the cabinets and governments) she is “The Queen in Council” and executes the laws (governs); and

3.   For the judicial function (the courts) is “The Queen on the Bench” and interprets the laws.

The sovereign does all these things, all the time, but she does them through her alter egos, the governor general and the lieutenant governors who are, therefore, co-equals.

But the fact that the governor general and the lieutenant governors are co-equals does not, in any way, imply that the nation and its constituent parts (the provinces) are co-equal. It is clear in our Constitution (§91 and §92) that each level of government has its own areas of jurisdiction but Canada qua Canada is more than a collection of independent provinces it is a formal, legal confederation in which the whole IS greater than the sum of its parts.

Constitutionally (referring to the unwritten part) the sovereign is both:

•   Formally, the state itself – and we are her “subjects;” and

•   The personification of the nation – she represents all of us to the state, “she” is “us” and she, therefore, in a ‘funny’ way, she represents us to herself.

In practice our constitutional system allows us, politically, to separate the nation from the state. Some of us may thoroughly detest the government-of-the-day, Her Majesty’s Government, for wholly partisan, political reasons, but this does not, in any way, excuse any of us from doing our duty to Her Majesty, our sovereign.
 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: PanaEng on October 09, 2009, 12:37:09
Great summary Mr Campbell.

However, couldn't help but giggle after reading the line:
Quote
The GG and the provincial lieutenant governors are, indeed, co-equals because Her Majesty is indivisible. The sovereign “exists” in three forms:
Sounds very Catholic - like the Holy Trinity....   ;D

cheers,
Frank
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Bread Guy on October 09, 2009, 23:05:50
At 6-ish this morning, you'd find this (http://is.gd/4aaTg) at the GG's roles & responsibilities page (PDF also attached, marked "Before")

The original link here (http://www.gg.ca/gg/rr/index_e.asp) now brings up this message:
Quote
Error 404

Page not found

The site has been redesigned.

You may want to revise the bookmarks
that refer to our site.

We have been advised of the error.

Return to the Home page

Contact the webmaster
Erreur 404

La page est introuvable.

Notre site a été reconstruit.

Vous devrez revoir les signets
qui réfèrent à notre site.

Nous avons été avisé de cette erreur.

Retourner à la page d'accueil

Communiquer avec le webmestre

Never fear, though, because now there's a new, improved roles & responsibilities page here (http://www.gg.ca/role-and-responsibilities/constitutional-responsibilities):
Quote
.... The Crown is a legal body or institution through which the head of State caries out his or her duties. Our head of State is placed above the government. The head of State does not exercise political authority and is non partisan.

The Canadian Constitution (Constitution Act, 1867) places executive power in the Crown. However, in practice this power is exercised by the federal government. The governor general therefore acts on the advice of the prime minister and the government but has the right to be consulted, to encourage, to warn and to meet with them on a regular basis. Although free to refuse such advice, the Crown normally accepts by convention and sanctions bills to give them the force of law. In other words, the governor general provides formal consent to the government’s intentions and ensures its continuity ....

More about this in MSM here (http://www.globalmaritimes.com/world/Somnia/2087588/story.html).
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on October 10, 2009, 09:43:37
A buddy of mine earned the enduring nickname Corps Envelopement because when conducting a section attack he decided to go "flanking"  and flanked so wide he was half way to Fredricton before he returned to the Range.

First reaction - well there goes the election.
Second reaction - the Quebecers will be back in the Liberal/Bloc fold in no times flat
Third reaction - the Liberals will be looking at this as an opportunity for the election
Fourth reaction - the NDP: Socialists or Monarchists?  Unclear.
Fifth reaction - Harper's stand is strong beer for much of his base
Sixth reaction - Is this chosen ground for an election?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ModlrMike on October 10, 2009, 12:48:50
Or, there could be machinations at work to replace Ms Jean.

Personally, I'd like to see the Queen appoint the GG from a list of potential candidates supplied by the PM. I think that if HM is going to devolve some of her powers then she has the right to have a personal stake in who they are devolved to.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 10, 2009, 16:35:04
... I don't mind the monarchy, but I'm not a fan of it.
I am a staunch federalist, but I would like to see a Canadian republic after the current monarch's reign.  :cdn:

Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail web site, are Norman Spector’s (well informed, he was Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Mulroney and was also a very senior bureaucrat and diplomat) views:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/spector-vision/fixing-a-constitutional-grey-area/article1319854/
Quote
Fixing a constitutional grey area

Norman Spector

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The spat between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor-General Michaëlle Jean that’s in the headlines is not about ego or strained interpersonal relations. Nor is it about some arcane constitutional niceties that are of interest principally to the dwindling number of passionate monarchists in Canada. Rather, behind the semantic dispute over the correct description of Her Excellency’s Office, lies a debate about power — real power — and a potential constitutional crisis.

In both Canada and Britain, the Head of State hires and can fire the prime minister. That’s no problem in the U.K., where no one questions that the Royal Family is completely above politics. And, as part of its duties, the Royal Family takes great care to school those in the line of succession in the constitutional aspects of the job.

In Canada, by contrast, the prime minister in effect hires the Governor-General through his prerogative of advising the Queen. There is no prohibition on appointing political partisans to the position. Nor is there a requirement that the Governor-General know much about the constitution, or even about the country.

Over the years there has been considerable discussion of finding a better way to appoint the Governor-General, but these discussions have come to naught. Fortunately, until now, we’ve been able to avoid the constitutional crisis that is latent in our current arrangements.

That could very well have changed during last fall’s coalition shenanigans.

According to U of T historian Michael Bliss, “if Stephen Harper’s government had lost a confidence vote in Parliament and the governor general had denied Harper a request to dissolve Parliament to test Canadians’ opinion on whether they supported a coalition based on a legislative agreement with a separatist party, Harper would very properly have concluded that the governor general was behaving unconstitutionally. His recourse would have been to insist that she be dismissed from office by Queen Elizabeth II. There is no possibility that the Queen could deny such a request from her Canadian prime minister.”

I’m not certain of the latter. However, it is clear that we would have had a bloody mess on our hands had the Queen of England (as she is also known) been called on to settle a Canadian domestic political dispute as Professor Bliss suggests. As we would have, had Ms. Jean transferred power to the coalition without an election.

Experts will differ on the constitutionality of the two alternative courses of action for resolving the dispute. Both, however, would have been seen by many Canadians to be illegitimate. Which means that we had better turn our minds to fixing this grey area of our constitution, before we are ever again confronted with a dispute over who will govern this country.


I think Prof. Bliss is exactly right. Her Majesty is constitutionally bound to accept the advice of her prime minister, even when it might come to firing her own representative for crass, partisan political reasons, but the PM is also bound to hear, if not heed, her advice and warnings – and she would certainly have some for him.

The issue becomes the selection and appointment of the GG.

I do not believe that HM ought to have anything except the most formal role in that. It must, in my opinion be a 100% Canadian decision – made in Canada by Canadians.

The constitutional duty to advise the sovereign on who she should (must, actually) appoint to the office of GG lies with the prime minister, but there is no reason why (s)he cannot, perhaps even should not delegate the nominating process to, just for example, the Senate of Canada. Or the PM might do the nominating and then allow another agency to elect the person he would, eventually, recommend for appointment.

No one should be excluded from consideration for being GG, but appointing superannuated political hacks should be avoided.

Of course, the current contretemps does bring us back to the reality that our, Canadian, head-of-state is someone we “share” with several other countries and she, a most admirable woman in all respects, has a full time job in the United Kingdom.

Personally I wish we had a bornlives-in-Canada head-of-state, a de jure rather than just a de facto Canadian head of the Canadian state. I don’t mind sharing Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth with the Aussies, Brits and Kiwis but I hope she might be our last non-resident head-of-state.

But there’s a problem. The form of our state, a constitutional monarchy with the current British sovereign as monarch, is defined in our Canadian Constitution and it is defined in one of the parts that cannot be amended without the unanimous agreement of all the provinces and the federal parliament. The late Prime Minister Trudeau lamented that in constitutional negotiations the provinces were inclined to “trade rights for fish”. Can you even begin to imagine what they would want to trade for a reshaping of the very essence of the state?

But, as I have said before, there is a way.

Parliament could pass a resolution – not an Act of Parliament or a “law,” per se, just a resolution that expresses its opinion – rather like the Nickle Resolution (http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0009566) that requested that the sovereign (actually the British government) stop granting honours (knighthoods and titles) to Canadians.

While the Nickle Resolution passed the House of Commons it never went father – not even to the Senate (where it was almost certain to be defeated) and it never resulted in anything being sent to London. But it served its purpose. It expressed the will of the elected House of Commons – the only will that, even in 1919, mattered in Canada and the only will that, even a dozen years prior to the Statutes of Westminster, bound the King of Canada.

A similar expression of the will of the Canadian House of Commons, the only elected national political will available to our good Queen, saying that we did not accept, for the Throne of Canada, the rules of succession of the United Kingdom – based, just for the sake of argument, on the anti-Catholic bias in the Act of Settlement of 1701 (http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/05/16/f-rfa-bio-autumn-kelly.html) – would bind the entire British Royal Family.

Based on that resolution, that parliamentary opinion, when, as she must, sadly, Her Majesty dies, we would not proclaim anyone to be our monarch. We would still be a constitutional monarchy and the Throne of Canada would still be the “property” of the British Royal Family but “we,” Canada as represented by our parliament, and they, the Brit Royals, would be unsure of just which Royal ought to have it. Into the vacuum steps the Governor General of Canada who, de facto becomes the Regent of Canada, too. We would have a regency; now regencies are meant to be temporary, interim things but nothing says we ever have to resolve our monarchical dilemma. We could, almost certainly would, in our own good time, develop our own, made-in-Canada way to select our de facto head-of-state, but (s)he wouldn’t get the job by divine right any more.

I think it provides a constitutional way to square the circle.


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on October 10, 2009, 16:59:31
Edward,

I sense a Constitutional Conference in the making:

Current GG declaring herself de facto Head of State and PM demurs;
PM pushing for demographic redistribution in the Commons but Quebec demurs;
PM pushing for redistribution of powers between Commons and Senate but Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes demur;
Senate constantly, (hamfistedly?) sets itself up as a target for reformers
Quebec constantly pushing for devolution of powers fiscal but Ontario demurs (until acquiescing on the HST).
Most Western Provinces and Territories are/seem to be on side with some form of Constitutional Change.....

By the way, I agree with you in all of your above particulars beyond this one singular:  God Save The Queen (and the heirs and successors to which I, and I believe you as well, pledged fealty) ;D.

Edit: PS - we are adrift from the topic but all of these issues; constitution, election, Ignatieff, the Liberals, the direction of Canada..... all seem to be drifting on the breeze just now.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 10, 2009, 17:01:18
One of the things that both Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean have shown us is that we are better served when the GG is a good communicator. Another is the GG should be a people person – someone who is comfortable in his/her own “skin” and makes other comfortable. The GG must be bilingual, of course. The GG should have a record of service to Canada. (S)he should be someone to whom we can all look up, someone we would like our children to emulate.

So, how about:

(http://www.thewesternstar.com/photos/WesternStar/stories/RickHillierinFatigues.jpg)

He’d be economical, too; he’s got his own uniform.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on October 10, 2009, 17:03:48
Would we have to change the GG's standard from the Lion to a Cod?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 10, 2009, 17:04:18
Edward,

I sense a Constitutional Conference in the making:

Current GG declaring herself de facto Head of State and PM demurs;
PM pushing for demographic redistribution in the Commons but Quebec demurs;
PM pushing for redistribution of powers between Commons and Senate but Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes demur;
Senate constantly, (hamfistedly?) sets itself up as a target for reformers
Quebec constantly pushing for devolution of powers fiscal but Ontario demurs (until acquiescing on the HST).
Most Western Provinces and Territories are/seem to be on side with some form of Constitutional Change.....

By the way, I agree with you in all of your above particulars beyond this one singular:  God Save The Queen (and the heirs and successors to which I, and I believe you as well, pledged fealty) ;D.


No one in their right mind wants a constitutional conference.

I do, just for the fun of it, but that does not negate the "no one in his right mind" remark.

There is no political will in Canada for such a thing and no Canadian leader has enough political capital to bring the requisite will to the fore.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 10, 2009, 17:05:42
One of the things that both Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean have shown us is that we are better served when the GG is a good communicator. Another is the GG should be a people person – someone who is comfortable in his/her own “skin” and makes other comfortable. The GG must be bilingual, of course. The GG should have a record of service to Canada. (S)he should be someone to whom we can all look up, someone we would like our children to emulate.

So, how about:

(http://www.thewesternstar.com/photos/WesternStar/stories/RickHillierinFatigues.jpg)

He’d be economical, too; he’s got his own uniform.


The current GG's seven year term expires in 2012.
 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: dapaterson on October 10, 2009, 21:09:14
Please, no.

The man does not take advice, ignores established rules, regulations and precedence, enacts really stupid ideas...

In short, he displays the qualities we see in Parliamentarians, and not those we'd want in a GG.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on October 10, 2009, 21:54:05

No one in their right mind wants a constitutional conference.

I do, just for the fun of it, but that does not negate the "no one in his right mind" remark.


Notwithstanding the first assertion Edward, I think there is a real possibility of it being "forced".  In which case jollity will ensue.   

As I said earlier there is an awful lot of "stuff" drifting along out there and sometimes that makes for accidents..... in this case it would be an accident that might be put to good use IF you were of a mind to re-order the power structure.  Jus' sayin'.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Old Sweat on October 11, 2009, 09:55:26

No one in their right mind wants a constitutional conference.

I do, just for the fun of it, but that does not negate the "no one in his right mind" remark.

There is no political will in Canada for such a thing and no Canadian leader has enough political capital to bring the requisite will to the fore.

The mind boggles at the prospect of another go at the constitution, or at the prospect of redefining the role or method of selection of the GG. Having suffered through the Charlottetown Accord (not the Conference of 1864), where the likes of Joe Clarke and Judy Rebick attempted to reorder Canada, I doubt that a solution that can gain acceptance from sea to sea to sea is dobable.

Yes, there are all sorts of faults and fault lines in the present system, and plenty of people of ill will more than willing to exploit them. Watch and see how difficult a task the perfectly legal and constitutional distribution of seats based on population growth and patterns will be. Technically it is simple; practically it would take a majority government with its power base in the areas that would see their seats increased to pull it off without flinching. Even then, it still would be very, very untidy, especially if it was being perceived as a slight to old Canada east of the Ottawa River.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on October 11, 2009, 11:50:34
Perhaps a MOD could move this entire thread to here (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.0.html).

In the interim: This leads us into tricky constitutional terrain and especially into the unwritten part of our Constitution, referred to in the very first part:

http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/const/1.html#anchorbo-ga:s_1
The constitution of the United Kingdom is where the powers of the Queen (effectively, according to Bagehot, the rights to be consulted, to encourage and to warn) are “defined” and that Constitution is wholly (and very sensibly) unwritten. Bagehot (whose book The English Constitution (http://books.google.com/books?id=x58OAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Walter+Bagehot&source=gbs_book_other_versions_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q=&f=false) is still regarded as an authoritative reference) also identified three occasions when the monarch (or the GG) might exercise real, (and so called residual) political power:

1.   At the formation of a new administration;

2.   During its continuance – which is when the three “rights” come into play; and

3.   At its break-up.

We have seen, just recently, the GG exercise her powers in all three situations, (including, especially, her decision (during the coalition crisis in Dec 08) to prorogue parliament). We should not “see” the GG exercising her rights with regard to her government. Those rights are best exercised in private – perhaps they can only be exercised, effectively, in private.

The GG and the provincial lieutenant governors are, indeed, co-equals because Her Majesty is indivisible. The sovereign “exists” in three forms:

1.   For the legislative function (Parliament/Legislature) she is “The Queen in Parliament” and enacts (makes) the laws;

2.   For the executive function (the cabinets and governments) she is “The Queen in Council” and executes the laws (governs); and

3.   For the judicial function (the courts) is “The Queen on the Bench” and interprets the laws.

The sovereign does all these things, all the time, but she does them through her alter egos, the governor general and the lieutenant governors who are, therefore, co-equals.

But the fact that the governor general and the lieutenant governors are co-equals does not, in any way, imply that the nation and its constituent parts (the provinces) are co-equal. It is clear in our Constitution (§91 and §92) that each level of government has its own areas of jurisdiction but Canada qua Canada is more than a collection of independent provinces it is a formal, legal confederation in which the whole IS greater than the sum of its parts.

Constitutionally (referring to the unwritten part) the sovereign is both:

•   Formally, the state itself – and we are her “subjects;” and

•   The personification of the nation – she represents all of us to the state, “she” is “us” and she, therefore, in a ‘funny’ way, she represents us to herself.

In practice our constitutional system allows us, politically, to separate the nation from the state. Some of us may thoroughly detest the government-of-the-day, Her Majesty’s Government, for wholly partisan, political reasons, but this does not, in any way, excuse any of us from doing our duty to Her Majesty, our sovereign.


In the above you define the Sovereign as "The Queen in Parliament", "The Queen in Council",  "The Queen on the Bench".  I think you might have added "The Queen at the head of her Army"  except that the Queen has no army even though her Colonial Governors are Commanders - in - Chief of their Armies.

The  Governor General's site makes (woops made - the site is currently being redesigned again as of 8:08am Mountain Time), reference to the Crown as representing the State because she is Head of State.

I think/believe that all of those assertions are incorrect on similar grounds.  Since 1689 the Monarch has had no supremacy over Parliament or the Army nor over the Bench.  And she has had steadily diminished authority even in Council.  All of those institutions have progressively become the preserve of the demos and are, at least in theory (de jure or de facto) subject to civilian control.

I think that the statement the Crown represents the State errs.  I believe that it would be truer to see the Crown as the embodiment of the Nation with the Queen earning the Dantonesque title of First Citizen or the First of the Demos.  In Britain that position would probably not be as remarkable as it is here because patently the Queen does not connect with Canadians to the extent she connects with Brits, and even there her connection is "imperfect".

However, if we see Her Majesty as First Citizen then we see the Demos in authority over Parliament, over the Executive, over the Bench and over the Army, thus preserving intact the concept of Civilian Control. 

I suggest further that the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governors, as appointees of the Sovereign are in effect appointees of the Demos and thus, in effect nothing more than the most senior Civil Servants in the land.

So, in my view, the Queen, Elizabeth II, acting as Sovereign and Head of State with authority over Parliament,  Council, Bench and Army, and backed by the legitimacy of the Demos, would be an awesome and terrifying prospect.   The convoluted and misbegotten beauty of our system is that she is all of those things and had vestigial powers in all of those areas but has real authority over none.   Her role, perhaps analogously, could be likened to the President of the United States being told he has but one opportunity to influence events in the US - to press a button releasing all the Nation's nuclear assets in the event he doesn't like the direction discussions are going.  Beyond that he can only advise and warn in private.  But absent a credible threat he has no real leverage.  Likewise with Her Majesty, unless she is willing to "blow up" the entire system and hope to be in a position to conduct a reorg with the remnants (a process that some of my management has tried in the past), she has no credible method of influencing the debate. 

Effectively she becomes a virtual locus around which all the other power players circle playing out their interminable games. She exists but does not exist.  She referees but has no whistle.  She is necessary but superfluous. 

With Her, or the institution of the Crown broadly, we have a system that works, even if haltingly at times.  Without Her we have to invent Her......

And if we invent Her we run the risk of putting in her place someone who actually thinks that the powers of the Monarch, (Head of State, Sovereign, supreme in Parliament, Governance, the Bench and Commander - in - Chief,  possessor of the Button,) are theirs to use..... especially if legitimated by direct election by the Demos.

I would far rather have an illegitimate Monarch with constrained powers as figurehead of the Nation than a legitimated Monarch/Monarch Pro Tem/President/Governor-General with all the forces of the State at their beck and call.


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 11, 2009, 12:17:51
Good! You understood Bagehot.

Constitutionally (again the unwritten part, the part that really matters) the Queen IS all the things I said but, practically, she is what Bagehot and you have described. And it has to be that way or else we, Australians, Brits and Canadians, would have to write down the important parts of our various constitutions, including the one we all share, and that would be disastrous.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on October 11, 2009, 12:46:07
Good! You understood Bagehot.


Thank You, Yoda.   ;D

Edit:  Less facetious, and more concise - Is this a fair summation of the Role of Her Majesty? She denies supreme authority to all merely by being a place-holder (a Lieutenant?)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Dennis Ruhl on October 11, 2009, 12:47:40

The current GG's seven year term expires in 2012.

I don't think there is a term other than at the pleasure of Her Majesty.  It is understood to be five years with a 2 year bonus for not ticking off the PM.  Jean has 11 months to go.

While the PM could ask the Queen to replace the GG at any time, it would probably just provide fodder to the opposition to guarantee an election loss.  I doubt that the GG imagining herself as Queen is sufficient grounds to get the boot.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Dennis Ruhl on October 11, 2009, 12:54:33
One of the things that both Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean have shown us is that we are better served when the GG is a good communicator. Another is the GG should be a people person – someone who is comfortable in his/her own “skin” and makes other comfortable. The GG must be bilingual, of course. The GG should have a record of service to Canada. (S)he should be someone to whom we can all look up, someone we would like our children to emulate.

So, how about:

(http://www.thewesternstar.com/photos/WesternStar/stories/RickHillierinFatigues.jpg)

He’d be economical, too; he’s got his own uniform.

Lest we forget.  The "misunderstandings" with Gordon O'Connor have probably not been forgotten nor foregiven so he isn't getting appointed by any Conservative.  Also he is too competent to be ever appointed by any Liberal government.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: TCBF on October 11, 2009, 13:06:40
http://www.leaderpost.com/news/Grit+determination+many+faces+Lynda+Haverstock/2078692/story.html

- Lynda Haverstock gets my vote.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Fishbone Jones on October 11, 2009, 15:46:36
Happy Birthday - Joan Cook, Liberal Senator

http://www.liberal.ca/en/team/senators/1804_joan-cook (http://www.liberal.ca/en/team/senators/1804_joan-cook)
Quote
Educated in the school systems of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, she was born in English Harbour West, Newfoundland on October 6, 1934. Senator Cook is a widow, and the mother of two children: Diane and Jean.

So she turns 75 and retires from the Senate. The GG will appoint a Conservative replacement at the request of the PM, bringing the Tories to 47 + 6 Independants = 53. At 52, the Lieberals now lose their Senate majority position. Although the Independants don't always vote with the Tories.

Two more Libs and an Indy will be retired at years end (well, by 02 Jan 10) also. http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/senmemb/senate/isenator.asp?sortord=R&Language=E (http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/senmemb/senate/isenator.asp?sortord=R&Language=E)



Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Dennis Ruhl on October 11, 2009, 18:50:21
At any time Harper could appoint 4 or 8 extra senators and end the charade.  It's about time.  Mind you the last time this was done was to push through the GST.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on October 12, 2009, 23:28:40
The way I read it, HM Queen Elizabeth II is not our "Head of State"...she is the State.

As well, also the way I read it, the GG is not a de facto Head of State, but has most of the duties and responsibilities of the Sovereign delegated to him/her by the Sovereign.  This would be like the Minister delegating his/her duties and responsibilities to other civil servants underneath.  Those civil servants do not become "de facto Ministers". 

The Sovereign's authority and sovereignty are not transferred to her representative.  She merrily delegates certain responsibilities to her representative.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 13, 2009, 08:00:54
Correct on both counts.

Here (http://www.solon.org/Constitutions/Canada/English/LettersPatent.html) are the Letters Patent through which the sovereign (King George VI) delegated his powers. He could not transfer his powers unless he abdicated in favour of the GG - he did not do that.

A very imprefect analog is CO and DCO. When the CO is away on leave or TD the DCO acts for him/her but the DCO does not become the CO - that lawful appointment remains the property of the person to whom it was assigned.

In the case of a sovereign we still purport to believe - according to the religious service of coronation - that a god assigned the role of monarch to her/him.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 01, 2009, 08:45:28
Given the imminent arrival of Prince Charles and Camilla, several members of the Canadian commentariat have weighed in on the issue of the monarchy most, like the Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson and the Ottawa Citizen’s Janice Kennedy  - who are pretty ‘normal’ examples of the mainstream opinion - demonstrating a high degree of contempt for the Constitution.

Simpson says (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/no-offence-prince-but-our-ties-to-the-monarchy-should-end/article1346160/):

”Canada has the luxury, assuming the Queen remains in good health – long may she reign! – to prepare for the transition to making the Office of the Governor-General the office of the head of state, period. No constitutional debates about whether the Queen or G-G is head of state, de jure or de facto, distinctions that leave all but the most discerning foreigner, to say nothing of ordinary Canadians, baffled.

There is no golden formula for executing this move, although options abound. The head of state could be selected by Parliament, the people, or the 150 Companions of the Order of Canada, a representative sample of the best citizens the country has produced.

We need only to make the decision that we should make a decision, and then figure out the modality to executing it. Polls, for what they are worth, suggest that Canadians in the majority would be prepared for a change, sensing that, yes, the time is right.”


Kennedy says (http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/right+royal+yawn/2169046/story.html):

”It is time to say goodbye to our indisputably British monarch. And it's time to replace that monarch with an indisputably Canadian head of state -- legally, culturally, constitutionally and no longer merely the "de facto" noted recently by Rideau Hall.

Predictably, conservative alarmists warn of dire consequences for such rashness, as if we'd be severing the limb of our own past and then bleeding to death. Some, like Calgary Herald columnist Naomi Lakritz, actually predict that a monarchy-free Canada would "only be able to identify itself as U.S. Lite." Except that it's not a limb we're severing. We won't bleed to death.

The power of the monarch -- yes (sigh), our official head of state -- is primarily and effectively symbolic, like the power associated with heads of state in numerous modern democracies around the world. So worrying about the modalities of choosing a head of state is pointless.

In Canada, if we ever got off our duffs and decided to add symbolic independence to actual independence, we could even maintain the process we have now for finding governors general, with governments appointing well-regarded Canadians to the post for fixed terms.

Those figures' authority would derive from and reside permanently in the people and nation of Canada, not in an anachronistic echo of our history.”



That’s all true enough and it’s all well and good, as far as it goes but along comes uncommonly sensible Norman Spector to remind them and us, in this article, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail web site, that we DO have a Constitution and that matters:


Quote
We're stuck with Chuck
 
Norman Spector

Saturday, October 31, 2009

On the eve of the Royal visit, I’m afraid that the antis will just have to suck it up. For the dwindling number of monarchists among us, on the other hand, there’s some good news: it doesn’t really matter what Canadians think about the institution. All the talk (including all the ink being spilled) about nuking the monarchy is just that — talk.

According to the Constitution Act, 1867 (once known, by the way, as the British North America Act, 1867), “The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.” In other words, the Queen (or the future King) is our Head of State. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently reminded the Governor-General.

Far from changing that provision when our Constitution was brought home from London, prime minister Pierre Trudeau was forced to agree to the premiers’ preferred amending formula in order to cut the deal. And, let’s be frank: that amending formula has cast the monarchy in stone. For the ages.

According to section 41 of the Constitution Act, 1982, it would take “resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assemblies of each province” to cut our ties to the monarchy. Forget about Senate obstruction: If we learned anything from the failure of the Meech Lake accord, it’s that it’s virtually impossible to get unanimous agreement of governments in this country even on the time of day. And the Charlottetown accord taught us that opening the constitution is a recipe for everyone to put forward his or her shopping list of reforms. Which is why no government — even Québec — wants to do it.

So get over it. The monarchy is here to stay. The majority of us, I suspect, will get on with our lives. As to those with strong feelings on either side of the issue, here’s my advice: Make the best of the situation. As I hope Prince Charles and his Royal Consort will do as they travel our magnificent country in the coming days.

But, Spector is wrong to say that we are “stuck, for the ages.”

There IS a provision to change the Constitution. While I agree with Spector that there is NO political will to do that, it means that the possibility of changing the form of the head-of-state is Constitutionally possible. Although getting rid of the monarch (but not the monarchy, per se) is a bigger ‘deal’ than getting rid of British honours (lordships and knighthoods, etc) we did that in 1919 without ever passing a law – the Nickle Resolution (http://www.economicexpert.com/a/Nickle:Resolution.htm) asked the sovereign to stop awarding titles to Canadians and the sovereign is obliged – by the really, really important and wholly unwritten parts of the Constitution - to obey the will of her Canadian parliament; and the British parliament in Westminster is, equally, obliged to respect Canada’s sovereignty in all matters related to the Throne of Canada.

A simple resolution saying, for example, that Canada does not recognize the UK’s various Acts of Succession and Settlement (which discriminate against Roman Catholics and, therefore, offend our Charter values) will be sufficient to prevent Charles from claiming or ascending to the Throne of Canada on the sad day when his mother, our most gracious sovereign lady Elizabeth, dies – as she will. There will still be a Throne of Canada, not one word of the Constitution Act (1867 or 1982) will have been changed, and we will, explicitly, remain a constitutional monarchy, the ’property’ of the lawful heirs and successors of Queen Victoria. But, since we will, on a fine Constitutional point,  disagree with the UK and Australia and several other countries about just who those lawful heirs and successors might be, the new King of Australia and, separately, of new King the United Kingdom will not be the new King of Canada because he and his mother, respecting the will of Canada’s parliament as, Constitutionally, they must, will have surrendered his claim to  our crown.

The situation that will obtain is that we will not have a named sovereign. Our sovereign will be absent. Our sovereign will exist, somewhere, we will suppose, but we will be unsure about who (s)he may be. Constitutionally we will all assume that, eventually, we will get around to naming a sovereign but, in the interim – a long, long, long interim, we will select (somehow) a Regent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regent)1 of Canada. The regent – we can call him or her whatever we want, governor general, president, whatever, just not king or queen, and we can select him or her in pretty much any way we want – will be both the de facto and de jure head-of-state.


----------
1.   The Wikipedia article is useful because it links (by FN 1) to the OED’s definition - which specifies that a regent may 'protect' the throne during the absence of the monarch - and it shows the long list of regents in current and former monarchies, demonstrating that regencies are not abnormal.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 06, 2009, 09:19:22
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is an interesting article about the gun registry and parliament:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/rural-overrepresentation-defeats-the-peoples-will/article1353380/
Quote
Rural overrepresentation defeats the people's will

JOHN IBBITSON

Friday, Nov. 06, 2009

If the House of Commons reflected the will of the people, the gun registry would not once again be threatened with the axe.

The long-gun portion of the firearms registry may be ineffective, as Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan maintained yesterday, because police forces rarely use it, concentrating instead on handguns.

Mr. Van Loan was commenting on the Commons vote Wednesday night that approved in principle a private members bill to shut down the registry. He will be belatedly releasing a report today in support of the registry. His government ignored the report. The minister also ignored the truth that police forces insist they value the registry.

But all that is beside the political point. The political point is that the registry is popular with Canadians. About two thirds of them want the registry retained, according to a 2006 Ipsos Reid poll. More recent data doesn't appear to be available, but pollster Darrell Bricker says it is unlikely attitudes have changed since then.

Within that poll are stark contrasts. Urban voters support the registry, and any other measure that limits gun violence. Rural voters oppose the registry, seeing in it an insidious government conspiracy to pry rifles and shotguns out of hunters' and farmers' infuriated hands.

Eighty per cent of us live in cities. If the House of Commons were representative of the nation, the gun registry would survive; the voters of greater Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver would insist on it.

The House of Commons, however, is skewed: by laws and conventions that ensure smaller provinces and Quebec have certain minimum levels of representation in the House.

Within each province, electoral commissions are authorized to adjust riding boundaries in favour of rural voters, on the grounds that otherwise those ridings would become impossibly large.

That is, however, the whole point. Rural ridings would be impossibly large because so few people live in rural parts of the country. Rural overrepresentation in the House distorts policy and confounds the people's will.

The Conservatives love to force votes on the registry because it reveals the splits in the other parties on the issue. A number of Liberal and NDP MPs bolted to the Tories on Wednesday night's vote. Those MPs fear their constituents' wrath if they support the registry, and fear even more the Tory attack ads that would target them in consequence.

So Charlie Angus of Timmins-James Bay, Ontario (NDP); Wayne Easter of Malpeque, PEI (Liberal); Niki Ashton of Churchill, Manitoba (NDP); Scott Andrews of Avalon, Newfoundland and Labrador (Liberal) - 21 opposition MPs in all, from rural or partly rural ridings, voted to shut the registry down, helping the bill to pass second reading comfortably.

The Conservatives are considering adding 30 or more seats to the House of Commons, to address the rural/urban and regional skew. Most of those seats would be in the fast-growing communities on the edges of Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, where the Tories think they can take on the Liberals and win.

For that reason, Prime Minister Stephen Harper must know that, in the long run, it does his party's future prospects no service to obsess on the registry.

The new, exurban Canadians who live where these new ridings would be formed don't hunt, don't like guns and don't care about Canada's settler heritage.

But having disappointed its core supporters in so many other areas - where are the new tax cuts; where is God in the agenda? - this is one bone that this former Reformer simply must toss at his restive base.

The registry may yet stagger on. The bill must make it through committee and third reading.

Then it heads to the Senate where gun-control advocates will push hard for delay.

Unless the government survives into next fall, the legislation will probably die on the order paper when Parliament dissolves.

Canada's destiny is ever-more urban. If the registry can survive enough minority governments, even the Conservatives might eventually leave it alone.


I agree with Ibbitson about the rural/urban split. I have complained, time and again, about the inequality in our system. But I also agree with parliamentarians: reducing the number of rural ridings, making them “impossibly large” is not the way to go. The right way to go is towards a larger and larger HoC – my  guesstimate is that we need about 451 seats in the HoC (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg870349.html#msg870349) (up from 308 today – about a 50% increase).

With specific regard to the gun registry debate, in my opinion:

1.   It is unlikely to be drastically changed in committee. As a general rule committees should avoid making fundamental changes to bills that passed first reading. It doesn’t always work that way, but I suspect that no one, not even the BQ, wants to really annoy rural voters. Delay may well be the best tool the pro-registry folks have;

2.   It may get delayed in the Senate but, for the same ‘fear of farmers’ reason it is unlikely to be voted down or altered in any fundamental way. This is a wedge issue and the Conservatives want to exploit it; thus

3.   It may well die on the order paper and the long gun registry may survive as is.

But:

•   If this bill does die on the order paper or is altered in committee or in the Senate, the Liberals (and the NDP)  will pay a price in the next election – a price neither party can afford; or

•   If this bill passes the public will, fairly quickly, forget. When the long gun part disappears and when there is no spike in gun violence (as I am about 99.9% certain will be the case) people will shrug and say, as the Globe and Mail did in an editorial:

Quote
The money spent on the federal long-gun registry would be better spent on preventing handguns and other weapons from crossing the border into Canada, or on youth programs in the most at-risk neighbourhoods. If the registry dies because of a Conservative private-member's bill, which passed a key vote this week, it would not be a defeat for gun control. It would be the end of a costly bureaucratic system whose benefits are uncertain.
...
Gun control will not die with the long-gun registry, if it is indeed scrapped. Canadians will still be required to register handguns, and they will still need a licence for all guns, whether pistols, rifles or shotguns. They will still need to pass safety and background checks meant to prevent dangerous or irresponsible people from owning guns. And rules for the storage of hunting guns need not change.

One member of Parliament argued that there is no reason to burn down a house one has overpaid for. But there is no reason to pay forever for a mistake, either.

This issue, guns, does resonate with Canadians; they want "gun control." The problem for the BQ, Liberals and NDP is that it is not a key issue and people in the fast growing "bedroom" suburbs are unlikely to vote one way or the other based upon the fate of the long gun registry. The central urban vote, which is already Liberal/NDP, that will not change based on the long gun registry. The rural vote will not change unless the bill fails. The place to exploit is the suburbs - where the BQ, Conservatives, Liberals and NDP are all competitive. The Conservatives need to be seen to be tough on guns - on hand guns in the hands of (visible minority) urban kids. That will get suburban voters' attention and support.

This may be a watershed issue. Canadians say, in poll after poll, that they want parliament to work in a minority situation and that they ‘like’ minorities because they hope (against experience) that parliamentarians of all parties will work together. This private member’s bill is almost exactly what Canadians say they want. If parliament tinkers too much with the bill or delays it too long then the Conservatives will be able to say: “See? Minorities are not good. They cannot be made to work. Even when members of several parties vote together on something the Liberals will find a way to defeat the will of the majority.”

There are two questions here:

1.   How will parliament ‘work’ on this issue?

2.   How should we fix the inequality in our parliamentary system?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Technoviking on November 06, 2009, 10:17:59
In my opinion, Mr. Ibbitson makes a false claim:
Quote
Urban voters support the registry, and any other measure that limits gun violence. Rural voters oppose the registry, seeing in it an insidious government conspiracy to pry rifles and shotguns out of hunters' and farmers' infuriated hands.
He is implying that the Long Gun Registry (LGR) is a measure that limits gun violence.  I believe that there is no evidence to suggest this.
He also implies that rural voters oppose the LGR because of some conspiracy theory.  I also believe that there is no evidence to suggest this.  (I'm certain that there are some conspiracy theorists who oppose the LGR on these grounds; however, it's not wide spread).
Mr. Ibbitson also ignores the urban folks who SUPPORT scrapping the LGR.  If 8/10 Canadians live in Urban areas, and if 2/3 support the LGR (as is suggested by the polls), then there MUST be some support in the cities, even if ALL those who support it live in cities.  (To illustrate using common denominators, 12/15 Canadians live in cities, while "only" 10/15 support the LGR.  What of the other 2/15 Urban dwellers?)

My opinion is that Rural Canadians who oppose the LGR do so because (a) they realise that it doesn't stop crime and (b) it affects them personally.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Old Sweat on November 06, 2009, 10:29:50
Mister Ibbitson has a thing about rural Canadians. In about 2005 he pounded on about how the CPC could never come to power as it was shut out of sophisticated, urban Canada. Apparently, places like Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa (as well as we rural rubes) are not sophisticated enough to appreciate the finer things in life such as Liberal MPs.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: dapaterson on November 06, 2009, 10:52:37
That the scion of a band of inbred Germans followed in his father's adulterous footsteps with a married woman, only to marry her after her husband divorced her, his wife left him, and his ex-wife was killed in an accident, should have no impact on a nation such as Canada.

Unfortunately, we're on the hook for that couple's sightseeing jaunt across the country.  And left with the unfortunate realization that, bad as it might be, the proposed republican alternatives may be worse...
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Rifleman62 on November 06, 2009, 13:51:33
Does that mean that 20 % of the population produce the food for the 80 % who live in cities???

Have you ever met, or spoken one on one with John Ibbitson??

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 06, 2009, 14:35:50
Does that mean that 20 % of the population produce the food for the 80 % who live in cities???

Have you ever met, or spoken one on one with John Ibbitson??


Actually, a bit more than 1% of Canadians (http://www.cahrc-ccrha.ca/docs/LMI%20Executive%20Summary.pdf) produce the food for the other 98+% of us. I am certain, but I cannot come up with a number, that at least as many, almost certainly more, Canadians are involved with the transportation, storage, processing and distribution (selling) of food - much of which is imported.

Rural Canada ≠ Canadian farmers. Farmers have been a steadily declining share of the population for over a century but rural Canada has grown – not anywhere near as fast as urban Canada, but the 6 million Canadians (nearly the population of Québec) who live in rural Canada is more than lived there circa 1910 when about half the population was rural (the total population of Canada was just below 7 million in 1910).

What appears, to me, to be happening, right now, is that urban Canada is thinning or, at the very least, not growing, while suburban Canada is growing fast and rural Canada is growing slowly.

None of that excuses the gross representational inequality that is so characteristic of our political system. Canadians farmers or miners or rustics of whatever sort have no ‘entitlement’ to votes that are worth more than say, factory workers or accountants or soldiers. One vote should be worth pretty much the same as another. In an earlier post (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg870349.html#msg870349), where I proposed a 451 seat HoC, I outlined how only about 250,000 Canadians (those living in PEI and the three territories) would have votes that are worth more than twice that of the other 33 million Canadians. The rest of us would all have votes worth only a few (single digit) percentage points more or less than those of anyone else.

Re: Ibbitson. In fact I have met him. He’s a pleasant, well informed and well intentioned gentleman. His problem is that, like Jeffrey Simpson, for example, he’s a classic Torontonian – it doesn’t matter where one was born, being a Torontonian is a state of mind, but for many of them it is a blinkered state of mind that causes them to be unable to see all the parameters of a problem. All they can see is what is straight ahead, in Toronto.
(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fd/Horse_head_%28PSF%29.png/180px-Horse_head_%28PSF%29.png)


Ibbitson, like Simpson, sees Washington, London and Beijing from Toronto’s perspective and that how they see Calgary (which Simpson detests, viscerally) and Unity, SK, too.
(http://www.seevirtual360.com/photos/tours/127347.jpg)
Unity, SK – a prairie town a bit West of Saskatoon, near to the farm where my mother was born in 1910.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Rifleman62 on November 06, 2009, 15:04:44
ERC: I was being a smart alec re the 20/80 %.

Spoke to Ibbitson a couple of times. You are right on with the analysis.

He his also a bit vain re hair loss.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Technoviking on November 06, 2009, 15:18:20
That the scion of a band of inbred Germans followed in his father's adulterous footsteps with a married woman, only to marry her after her husband divorced her, his wife left him, and his ex-wife was killed in an accident, should have no impact on a nation such as Canada.

Tell us how you really feel! 

 >:D
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: dapaterson on November 06, 2009, 16:33:56
Tell us how you really feel! 

 >:D
Hey, if we're going to be under a German (the house of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha), make them a proper Emperor or Imperatrix, and get the army those funky spiked hats.  That's all I'm saying.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Technoviking on November 06, 2009, 18:32:29
Hey, if we're going to be under a German (the house of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha), make them a proper Emperor or Imperatrix Kaiser, and get the army those funky spiked hats.  That's all I'm saying.
Like this one?
(http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c174/Krollspell666/HitlerWWI61915.jpg)
 >:D
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on November 06, 2009, 20:42:31
Disregarding the invidious slights to the Oldenburg clan (and we used to have nice pointy helmets - the Met still wears them sans pickel):

Setting that aside - what Mr. Ibbitson fails to recognise is that if the rural communities fail then there wiill only be "spaces" between his glorious "places".  Canada would quickly become 3-10 disparate islands with a whole bunch of Afghanistan in between.  The cost to maintain the Praire Village (Winnipeg-Calgary-Admonchuk Triangle), Northern Ont, Interior BC, The Territories, Lac St Jean, and most of the Maritimes is the price that Ibbitson pays to maintain the fiction that is Canada.  Consider it the Canadian version of the price of Empire.

Now if he wants to describe a set of laws that only apply to TOMOVA and leaves the rest of the land in peace he is welcome to do so.  The mechanism exists.  It is known as the By-Law.  He is quite welcome to suggest, implement and pay for the cost of said implementation out of his own municipal taxes - And if that includes Check Stops at the city limits - AKA Customs stations - so be it.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Tango2Bravo on November 06, 2009, 21:35:44

 All they can see is what is straight ahead, in Toronto.

Toronto has the Brass Rail. Can't be all bad.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on November 07, 2009, 01:36:06
Actually, Canada will probably become a Republic sometime in the mid century through demographic forces.

Short version of the argument: while Canada erodes with a very sub replacement birthrate, the United States is continuing to expand, with the population expected to be between 500 and 550 million. At the same time, Canada will be suffering acute labour shortages due to the demographic "bust" of the 2020's.

Large numbers of Americans can be expected to immigrate to Canada seeking the higher pay employers will be forced to offer to get workers, and they will also import their values. As they become more numerous and politically active, they will become the driving force behind many social and institutional changes.

Remember too that it is the "Red State" Americans who have large families, not "Blue State" Americans, and the generations leading up to 2050 will have seen Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid go bankrupt (along with many US municipalities and even some States like California, Michigan and New York). Come to think of it, most of us will be around to see it happen (some estimates put the entitlement programs into net deficit as soon as 2016), so there will be at least two generations of Americans who will not be disposed towards unsustainable entitlements, and certainly will work hard to see these things do not happen in their new home.

"Oh say can you see...."
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Rifleman62 on November 07, 2009, 10:03:47
Being a smart alec again, this will mean we will finally have some good Tex-Mex restaurants in Canada.

What year is it estimated that Hispanics will reach the 50% of the population of the USA??

In Texas, it is not unusual to see families of all stripes with 3 or more children.

Very interesting post Thucydides and Kirkhill.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Journeyman on November 07, 2009, 10:36:09
Toronto has the Brass Rail. Can't be all bad.
Toronto also has the Village Idiot Pub, which I find coincidentally close to the Provincial Legislature. 

[/thread derail]


...oh, and St Louis Wings, south of Eglinton, is fine....when Connie's working   :nod:
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 07, 2009, 11:56:58
Toronto has the Brass Rail. Can't be all bad.

<contributing to the train wreck JM started>

Yes, indeed!

How I remember the trips from Camp Borden - ah, the good old RCSofI - and back (hazy, that part) to/from the big smoke and the Brass Rail and the Brown Derby and so on.

There were others, but I'm too old to recall.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: dapaterson on November 08, 2009, 12:10:14
[Continuing derail]

How to embarrass any VanDoo:

"Remember that time at L'Entre Nous?"

Sort of like the Brass Rail, but less classy, with a wider array of ways for troops to spend their pay.

And (at least 20 years ago) they would cash Government of Canada cheques north of $1000...
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 09, 2009, 08:59:26
<drags the thread, kicking and screaming, back towards the topic>

This column, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, puts things in perspective:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/city-slickers-and-the-legend-of-canada-as-an-urban-nation/article1356147/
Quote
City slickers and the legend of Canada as an urban nation

Roy MacGregor
 
Monday, Nov. 09, 2009

It is the ultimate urban myth.

And this newspaper is as guilty as any when it comes to spreading that myth.

But there it was again late last week, published as if fact: "Eighty per cent of us live in cities." It is a claim that - in various forms - appears regularly in newspapers and in broadcast commentary across the country, an absurdity as hard to kill as the notion that porcupines shoot quills or that astronaut Neil Armstrong took his legendary "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" in Sudbury.

It is not even remotely true that four out of five Canadians live in what any of us would actually consider a "city," yet so strong is the belief in this that it has marginalized even more so those who consider themselves "rural." If they amount to only one in five, they can be virtually dismissed so far as national debate on public policy goes. This particular reference was to last week's vote in the House of Commons to approve in principle a private member's bill to shut down the controversial long-gun registry.

But that is hardly the only time the bogus "80 per cent of us live in cities" comes up and has an innuendo effect that is usually unfair.

If "rural" Canadians - the so-called one in five who live in the boonies - are against gun control, then they must be knuckle-dragging rednecks who like to ride around with their .303s hanging in the back window of the pickup.

If they are against, say, wind turbines, then they must be a bunch of NIMBY reactionaries who think a carbon footprint isn't worth leaving unless you stomp your feet.

If they are against the closing down of local television outlets and signals they might pick up, then they are simply techno-dinosaurs who think TV hockey is a game played in driving snowstorms with 10 men a side.

This idea that 80 per cent of Canadians live in cities - the other 20 per cent being yokels - comes courtesy of Statistics Canada and a non-thinking media.

StatsCan, which for reasons even many of its employees puzzle over, considers an "urban" centre a defined area with 1,000 or more population. That has the effect of deeming little places like Arnold's Cove, Nfld., and Barry's Bay, Ont., "urban." The media, then, substitutes "city" for "urban" (why not?) and we end up with this continuing misread of the country.

"I've heckled and berated Statistics Canada on this," says Tony Clement, the member for "rural" Parry Sound-Muskoka and one who voted for last week's bill.

"They don't like to change their definitions because it makes it difficult to make comparisons with past statistics. But this has a big impact on our public-policy debate when all urban areas are based on some 1903 definition." Actually, it's worse than that. Though StatsCan often tweaks the density requirements, the notion of 1,000 people being an "urban" centre goes all the way back to Confederation - when it was fair to say a town of 1,000 people was substantial.

If the cutoff were 100,000, then Canada would be considered roughly half urban and half rural. The population is clearly more in cities, and it can be fairly argued that city voters get shortchanged when it comes to the value of their vote, but that is another point, not this one.
This one is merely that a wrong-headed "fact" - four out of five Canadians are city dwellers - has the effect of stereotyping, usually unfairly, those who do not live in large centres.

Keith Martin is the member of Parliament for Esquimalt - Juan de Fuca, as well as a Liberal. He is such a "redneck" that this spring he introduced his own private member's bill in the House of Commons to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. He is also a physician and has a long track record of humanitarian work in the Third World. Yet he, too, voted for the bill that suspended the long-gun registry.

"I had one woman say to me, 'You should be ashamed of yourself - you're a physician!'" says Martin. "Well, I've seen people shot. I've been helpless to save them. I have a vested interested in making sure people don't get shot and killed by guns.

"I know this is one of those issues where the attitude is 'If you're not with us, you're against us' and the presumption is that I'm against any gun control. Well, that just isn't so. I voted to send it to committee to see if there might be more effective ways of spending this money." Martin, like Clement, thinks the simple-minded media interpretation of urban/rural needs to be addressed.

"It's an artificial divide," he says, "and it preys on old mythologies of people in rural areas being hewers of wood and drawers of water, whereas 'urban' people are more sophisticated and higher educated.

"Those stereotypes are long gone. But the problem in Canada is that we focus more on the things that divide us than those things that bring us together." Is anyone at Statistics Canada listening?

The Elections Canada web site is a good place to see what McGregor is saying. Look at these maps and pay attention to the scales at the bottom of each:

(http://www.elections.ca/cir/maps/images/atlas/35068.gif)
This is a real urban riding – hundreds of thousands of people concentrated in a small area.

(http://www.elections.ca/cir/maps/images/atlas/35091.gif)
This, still in Ontario, is a real rural riding – several tens of thousands of people scattered over vast areas.

(http://www.elections.ca/cir/maps/images/atlas/47001.gif)
Here’s another rural riding, with the town of Unity which I mentioned above.

(http://www.elections.ca/cir/maps/images/atlas/12002.gif)
Here is a mixed riding – several small towns scattered across real rural areas.

(http://www.elections.ca/cir/maps/images/atlas/59027.gif)
And here is one of those fast growing suburban ridings: hundreds of thousands iof people concentrated in a relatively small area but they have different vital interests than do the people who are concentrated in the real urban ridings in downtown Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.


Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Old Sweat on November 09, 2009, 10:26:01
Interesting bit of work by Mr McGregor. Thanks for posting it, Edward, along with the maps. A good number of years ago I discovered that there were only 28 centres in Canada with a population greater than 100,000. That probably has grown, both by natural increase and by amalgamations.

I live in North Grenville, Ontario which has a population of about 13,000. It therefore probably qualifies as urban, although it measures roughly 20 km by 20 km, includes three or four towns - the largest of which has a population of 3500 - 4000 - and prides itself on its rural roots. If North Grenville is typical, then Statistics Canada is talking through its butt.

Which leads to the classic "so what?" Perhaps there is another way of distinguishing between city and others, perhaps by population density. Even that might be skewed in Ottawa (and Timmins) which covers a very large geographic area compared to other places of equal population. Does it matter? Is there a difference in attitudes and ways of life? Probably, and that is a good thing, as the life styles are adapted to the local conditions. 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 09, 2009, 10:56:03
Consider my third map, above - the one that has Unity in it. It also has one major urban centre: North Battleford (http://www.cityofnb.ca/) (pop 14,000). Is North Battleford really an urban place like Parkdale High Park (first map) or Ottawa Centre, where I live? Not on your nellie!

Unity, SK, which is a lovely little town - not just because my roots are there, has a population of about 2,500 (http://www.townofunity.com/visiting/demographics.php). Does anyone with the brains the gods gave to green peppers thinks Unity belongs in the same designation as Halifax?

I suspect that we are a moderately urban nation, with very, very many suburban and small town centres and a substantial rural population, too.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Retired AF Guy on November 14, 2009, 13:57:20
Consider my third map, above - the one that has Unity in it. It also has one major urban centre: North Battleford (http://www.cityofnb.ca/) (pop 14,000). Is North Battleford really an urban place like Parkdale High Park (first map) or Ottawa Centre, where I live? Not on your nellie!

You missed one; you forgot Lloydminister  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloydminster) (pop. 24,000+) which sits on the SK-AB border and has 8,000+ plus people on the Sask side. However, Lloyd (as the locals call it) is incorporated as a single city, not two cities with the same name, so I'm not sure if its considered an Alberta or Saskatchewan city? Or may be its in some prairie limbo?

An even better example is the new "city" of Meadow Lake*  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meadow_Lake,_Saskatchewan) which just became the newest city in SK (to be a city in SK you must have a pop over 5,000).  Now according to Statscan Meadow Lake (or just Meadow) is an "urban" entity but as anyone who has ever visited the place would never considered it to be urban in the sense that Statscan or Ibbitson envision.

The problem with commentators like Ibbitson is that they never get out of that TO-Ottawa-Montreal area and have no ideal of the rest of the country if like.

* Meadow Lake is located in the Misssinippi- Churchill River electoral district. And yes, E.R., I'm SK born, 75 or so miles north of where you are from, except my town is so small its not even on the electoral map!
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on November 15, 2009, 00:56:56
Kirkhill's definition of urban - any body of humans that who generate smog.  If you can't see a cloud over your community from exhausts then you are probably not sufficiently "densified" to qualify as a top of the charts urban environment.  With the exception of certain resource extraction communities that seems to require, from personal observation a population upwards of 500,000 people.

From Stats Canada that would limit Urban Canada to the following cities:
Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa-Gatineau, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

They have a combined population of 15.6 million bodies in their metro areas including suburbs and exurbs or roughly half of Canada's 33 million residents - and that assumes that all of those 15.6 million have urban sensibilities..... On the other hand the civil servants of Regina are decidedly Urbane.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on November 15, 2009, 01:15:45
The issue smacks of the "group rights" mentality that infects most Socialist/Leftist/Progressive political thinking. Just because people live in urban rideings does not mean they have similar values (just like union menbers are rarely enamoured of the policy proposals of the NDP).

Torontonians are not like Calgarians, and even Calgarians and Edmontonians have different values and interests (note that Edmonton was a Liberal stronghold in the West throughout the 1990's, while Cargary was enthusiastically Reform minded).

The essential issue is the number of voters being represented per riding, and the fact that we would have to either undo the BNA and Constitution acts or develop unwieldy 800 member+ parliaments to ensure relatively equal representation; both proposals too toxic for serious consideration.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on January 08, 2010, 08:17:59
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail is a useful reminder from Jeffrey Simpson that Prime Minister Harper’s options are limited on the Senate reform front:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/senate-reform-an-altered-state-of-affairs/article1422994/
my emphasis added
Quote
Senate reform: an altered state of affairs?
The Supreme Court has already said Ottawa is in no position to try anything unilaterally

Jeffrey Simpson

Published on Friday, Jan. 08, 2010

So here we go again, apparently: another round of pondering Senate reform, a subject that animates a few Canadians and bores the rest.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, harkening back to his former Reform Party days, wants to alter the Senate. The precise details of his true intentions aren't known, but there is talk of an elected Senate, or a limitation of the terms of senatorial appointments.

If he can't get reform, the Prime Minister has warned, he might seek abolition of the Senate, an outcome already supported by the federal NDP and premiers of a handful of provinces.

Go right ahead, gentlemen. Climb into the sandbox of Senate reform and start playing. But before doing so, pause and read at least a summary of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling of 1979 that will complicate every game you might wish to play.

In that ruling, on a reference from Pierre Trudeau's government, the court said 9-0 that Ottawa could unilaterally do almost nothing to the Senate. In particular, Ottawa could not unilaterally abolish the Senate, change the powers of the Senate, alter the number of senators from each province or fiddle with the method of senators.

The Trudeau government had proposed in 1978 a massive change to the Senate, including the selection of members by Ottawa, provincial legislatures and “some other body or bodies.” The change envisaged the possibility of electing senators. Elections, ruled the court, would “involve a radical change in the nature of one of the component parts of Parliament.” Such a change could not be implemented unilaterally by Ottawa, since it would “affect a fundamental feature of that body.”

So all those thinking of entering the Senate reform sandbox should therefore be aware that Ottawa can do very little unilaterally with the Senate, at least not the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution.

The Court essentially saw the Senate as an integral part of the federal system, because senators reflect regional interests in the Parliament of Canada. As such, the federal system cannot be changed by one level of government alone, even if the Senate is part of what is known as the “federal” government that resides largely in Ottawa.

So forget unilateral federal action. If tried, the action would be taken to court. Unless today's Supreme Court overturned a previous unanimous judgment, the action would be unconstitutional.

What about some federal-provincial agreement? In theory, maybe, but just try to secure such an outcome. There's a reason, after all, why every federation or confederation in the world has an upper house of some kind: to offer a regional offset against the representation-by-population of the lower house.

Provinces that want abolition are in a minority and will remain there, since why would the smaller provinces want to yield up an institution in which they are overrepresented? The same goes for Quebec – it won't give up anything in which its interests are potentially defended. The same also goes for diehard defenders of a Triple-E Senate – elected, equal and effective. They won't give up their dream and settle for abolition.

What about electing senators? Ottawa cannot implement this alone, the court said in 1979, but maybe provinces could hold elections and Ottawa could appoint the winners. That might be a possible innovation, since the federal government would not be unilaterally changing the rules of the game. But unless every province agreed to such a change, the Senate would have various tiers of members, some elected, some appointed. (On the other hand, this is how the United States got an elected Senate. Oregon first insisted on electing senators. Other states eventually followed suit.)

But do provincial governments really want elected senators? Some publicly do; others privately do not. The untidy fact is that many premiers want to be the ones to speak for their provinces on the national stage, instead of a bunch of provincially elected senators. Think of the United States. Which Canadian premier would want his role on the national stage to shrivel to that of a governor?

Put the idea of electing senators on the table. Then wait for a second or two before Quebec (and other provinces) comes along with a list of other constitutional demands. What would begin as a one-issue change would quickly become a multi-headed constitutional hydra.

And we all know where that has led, and would certainly lead in the future: constitutional agony, acrimony and deadlock. Beware, therefore, all ye who think about the temptations of the sandbox.


Essentially, as I have said (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php?topic=25692.msg870343#msg870343), more than once (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php?topic=25692.msg855970#msg855970), going back a long time (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php?topic=25692.msg200450#msg200450), there is a way to do most of what Harper wants to do, within the constraints of the Supremes’ ’79 ruling:

1.   The PM writes two letters:

a.   The first to each provincial premier telling him/her than he intends, by convention, to limit the way he appoints senators. He will, effective whenever, appoint to the Senate of Canada only those who –

(1)   Are constitutionally qualified (§23 of the BNA Act),

(2)   Are elected by their province, usually in senatorial elections that are held in conjunction with a provincial general election and by a system that, broadly, reflects the outcome of that provincial general election, and

(3)   Present him with a signed letter of resignation - effective the date of the next provincial general election, before being appointed, and

b.   The second to each serving senator, asking for a signed letter of resignation, effective the date of the next provincial general election; and

2.   The PM needs to explain – publicly - that he will not let provinces go unrepresented in the Senate but he will still demand, of those he appoints for his own, political, reasons, the same letter of resignation – thus, [de facto ensuring that senators are not appointed for life.

It will take a long time to achieve a fully elected Senate – not all serving senators will want to resign, some will hang on, in their sinecures, for 20 years or so but, eventually, appointed senators will understand that they are second class citizens compared to their elected counterparts and those who don’t bump into the age limit will resign out of frustration. Not all provinces will, initially, go along – but the hold outs will, eventually, understand that despite having enough senators they have ‘second class’ (unelected) representation and they, too, will sign on.

Elected senators will, with public support, make themselves effective because they will be willing to challenge the will of the elected HoC – putting provincial interests, including Quebec’s interests, into play and giving the overrepresented “Old Canada” (everything East of the Ottawa River) even more undue influence in the parliament of Canada.

An elected Senate will complicate life for the PM – even a majority government (in the HoC) may not be able to command the loyalty of the Senate. Even worse, who is to say that a BC Liberal senator will join the federal Liberal caucus – many BC Liberals are, in fact, Conservatives. The Saskatchewan Party Senators may, well, caucus with the federal Tories and so on.

But it – Senate reform – can be done, within the limits imposed by the SCC, and Senate reform might, sooner rather than later, lead to constitutional convention that will, finally, deal with several aspects of the old (1867 thru 1982), rickety Constitution of Canada.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: dapaterson on January 08, 2010, 10:09:24
Edward:

I've favoured a similar system, with senators selected from provincial party lists based on proportion of popular vote in the province - that is, they are senators at large for the province as a whole; for continuity, perhaps electing half in each provincial election - that is, a senate term would be two election cycles within the province.

In a better world, we'd also see some reshuffling of seats - I'd like a senate of 112: 5 seats per province, 2 per territory, plus the remaining 56 divided by population among the provinces, re-allocated three years after the census...
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on February 12, 2010, 10:36:38
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is another suggestion re: how to accomplish senate reform:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/fixing-the-red-chamber-step-by-step/article1465044/
Quote
Fixing the Red Chamber, step by step
Senate reform requires a delicate dance, but Stephen Harper still has a constitutional trump card to play

Tom Flanagan

Friday, Feb. 12, 2010

Senate reform is now within sight, although it will take several steps to get there. Here's a road map to the destination.

By appointing five new senators, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has created a plurality of 51 Conservative senators against 49 Liberals, with five independents holding the balance of power. Prorogation means that Senate committees will be reappointed with Conservative majorities. Now, when the two reform bills are reintroduced – one to limit senatorial terms to eight years, the other to provide for consultative elections – the government doesn't have to worry about the bills being held up in committees.

Passage of these bills in the Senate is still not guaranteed, however – it will depend on who shows up to vote and how the five independent senators decide. But Mr. Harper has a trump card if he wants to use it. Under Section 26 of the Constitution Act, 1867, he can request that the Queen appoint four or eight additional senators pledged to support Senate reform. That's how Brian Mulroney secured passage of the GST in 1990.

Invoking Section 26 would be risky, because the opposition would paint it as another tricky power play. But it would also showcase Mr. Harper at his strategic best – using power politics not just to confound the opposition but to democratize the Canadian Constitution.

Once out of the Senate, the reform bills should be introduced into the House of Commons as confidence measures, thereby putting the Liberals to the test. Michael Ignatieff says he supports limiting senators' terms to 12 years, rather than the eight years suggested by Mr. Harper. I think 12 years is too long and eight years is about right, but if Mr. Harper is in a blue-sweater mood, he might offer to split the difference at 10. In any case, the Liberals can't be expected to vote for the election of senators because, in their view, that change requires a constitutional amendment.

The Liberals, therefore, will dislike one and perhaps both reform bills. But will they force an election by defeating the bills if they are presented as confidence measures? Probably not, because Mr. Ignatieff has been insisting that he doesn't want an election. Too bad, because if the Liberals did defeat one or both bills, we would be catapulted into an election that was actually about something, like the 1988 election that became a virtual referendum on free trade.

It would be good for the issue of Senate reform to have it front and centre in an election campaign. An elected Senate will lead to important changes in Canadian politics, so the best thing would be to build public support for it by debating it in an election, as happened with free trade.

When the Liberals consider the potential polarization, however, they are unlikely to force an election. The Conservatives would be the only party in favour of Senate reform, while the opposition parties would divide the anti-reform vote. Once again, the Conservatives could ride a “divide and conquer” strategy into office, even if public support for Senate reform was only a plurality rather than a majority, as was the case with free trade.

Rather than put their necks in a noose, the Liberals may offer to support the bills, or at least abstain, if the government inserts a clause referring them to the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion before they take effect. There is a serious argument that a changeover to an elected Senate would be constitutional in character and thus require a constitutional amendment rather than ordinary legislation. That is what the Liberals, as well as pundits such as The Globe's Jeffrey Simpson, have been saying for several years in opposition to Senate reform.

But a direct reference by the federal Minister of Justice to the Supreme Court is a bad idea because it suggests that the government harbours doubts about its own legislation. It would be better to pass the two bills and let them be challenged by dissident provinces, which can refer them to their own courts of appeal. The Supreme Court can do its work better after letting several provincial courts of appeal thrash through the issues.

I hope the government keeps forging ahead. At worst, we'll get an authoritative judicial opinion about the feasibility of Senate reform through legislation; at best, we might get a reformed Senate.

Tom Flanagan is professor of political science at the University of Calgary and a former Conservative campaign manager.

I agree with Prof. Flanagan that the government should not refer this to the Supremes – let (a) province(s) make the challenge. I also agree with the government that the senate, itself, should introduce a bill to limit senatorial terms but I do not agree that the senate (or the HoC) should try to force elections through legislation. I think my proposal – two letters, etc – is better because it establishes a constitutional convention when the prim minister limits his own power and, in the long run, that is likely to be much more effective that any legislation and much tougher to challenge or change.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on February 16, 2010, 15:31:06
Link Byfield, former editor and publisher of the now defunct but resolutely small ‘c’ conservative Alberta Report, is on the right track in this column reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Toronto Star:

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/764818--let-provincial-voters-elect-senators
Quote
Let provincial voters elect senators
Published On Tue Feb 16 2010

Link Byfield

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rewarded five lucky Canadians two weeks ago with appointments to the Senate, the most lucrative "taskless thanks" our nation bestows for reliable party service.

At $130,000 a year plus benefits, for working as much or as little as you like until age 75, it's like winning the lottery.

However, Harper's ongoing determination to control Parliament's upper house prompts a very sensible question. Which does he want: to control the Senate or to reform it? Are not these two objectives in conflict?

If by getting control he succeeds in putting future Senate seats up for democratic grabs, he and/or his successors will probably fall right back into the trap Harper has been in since 2006, with a Liberal majority blockade in the upper house.

Indeed, if an opposing party controls an elected upper house, we could end up with an even worse danger of Senate obstruction than the one Harper has been coping with for four years. The 1867 Constitution gives our Senate the same powers as the House of Commons, and an elected Senate majority would use them far more freely than the unelected ones have in the past.

This is such an obvious flaw in the Harper position it suggests the man is either foolish or has something else in mind. And as we know he is not the first, we should consider the second.

Maybe he is using the threat of federal Senate elections to push the provinces into holding provincial Senate elections instead. He has certainly intimated as much.

If we put aside the Senate as it has existed in the past, and start thinking about the good it could do if it were suitably reconstituted over the next decade or so, interesting possibilities emerge.

Most important, suppose future senators were elected from provincial parties in provincially mandated elections. Harper has said he finds this perfectly acceptable, and has appointed the only such candidate available (Bert Brown from Alberta).

Now, bearing in mind that there is only tenuous cooperation between provincial and federal parties (just ask Dalton McGuinty and Michael Ignatieff) there is no partisan imperative built into a provincially elected Senate to obstruct and embarrass the government. We would no longer see the upper house whipped from the front bench of the lower house as we always have, nor would the business of the Senate be tailored to national party election strategies.

Instead of gridlock, we would see – for the first time – genuine negotiation between the executive and a Parliament whose upper half was actually independent; as indeed our founders hoped the Senate would be. We would see provincial and regional priorities influencing national decisions in Parliament. Outside Quebec, national parties can't even talk about regional interests, let alone campaign for them, for fear of losing seats in other regions. A provincially elected Senate would add a badly missing dimension to national deliberations.

We seem to have forgotten that the main purpose conceived for the Senate was to represent provincial rights and interests in Parliament. If you read the Quebec resolutions and the Constitution Act 1867, you will find no other purpose given.

Then too, a provincially elected upper house could hold the government to account on national issues far more reliably than a partisan Senate controlled by the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition. It's interesting but not surprising that the sponsorship scandal was first aired in a Liberal-dominated Senate and then quietly forgotten.

Best of all, the provincial route to Senate elections requires no national or constitutional change. Alberta is already doing it, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba are considering it. As other provinces begin, the process becomes politically impossible for prime ministers to ignore. Unless, for some unforeseen reason, it isn't working. We then return very easily to the present system, little though anyone respects it.

Such a simple and natural evolution of our parliamentary system is surely worth trying.

Link Byfield is a freelance writer in Edmonton and a senator-elect nominee for Alberta.www.ElectOurSenate.ca

Indeed, senators should be elected by the provinces, during each provincial general election – on some sort of proportional representation system that reflects the (rough) split of the provincial vote.

That means (were such a system in place today) we would have PQ senators – who would, most likely, caucus with the BQ, and NDP senators who would caucus with the NDP. We would also have BC and Québec Liberals, who might not (all) caucus with the federal Liberals and we will have Saskatchewan Party senators who would, likely, caucus with the Conservatives. It would make life more complicated for the prime minister and it might just rejuvenate democracy in this sad, tired country.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Chris Pook on February 17, 2010, 19:51:54
Anything to shake up the system, E.R.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Petamocto on March 25, 2010, 23:21:55
Now that we're running such massive deficits, I got to thinking "What do we really need, and what can be dropped?"

Granted, we are still financially better off than most countries in the world, but that doesn't mean we can't still make some fundamental changes that would get us in the black faster and when we get there surge into big-time surplus territory.

There are 105 of them, and their requirements at work would almost be a joke if it wasn't such an abysmal waste of our money.  Everyone knows the story, they basically aren't accountable to go to work, and they aren't expected to move the yard sticks down the field.  I'm not saying they have no purpose at all, but in a time of financial hardship can they really be justified anymore? 

In terms of savings, the cost of having them is astronomically more than just their salaries.  If it were just a matter of (for argument's sake) $100,000 year x 105 of them it would be over $10 million per year alone, but that cost is a fraction of the true cost for them in terms of expenses, travel, staff, and infrastructure to keep the whole institution up and running.

By no means am I writing this in the context of "tell me how right I am", but I'd actually like to discuss it.  I would be more than willing to admit that I'm wrong if the majority believes the Senate serves enough of a purpose to be kept.

I just can't find the justification, though.  If we had more money than we could spend as a country then sure, but we don't.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brasidas on March 25, 2010, 23:58:26
I don't see it as a justifiable body.

If you're going to have a bicameral parliament, then do the "triple-E" thing that a particular party once talked about.

But there's no real need for a second house, let alone one with overpaid patronage appointments and questionable accountability for a job well-done.

Consolidate, pension off the ones we've got, and make a de jure unicameral parliament out of our de facto one.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on March 26, 2010, 02:37:02
Our senate, as currently constituted, is an anachronism.  If we pride ourselves in being a modern democracy, our senate should be a national embarrassment and a scandal.

Having said that, I believe that we would be worse off without an Upper Chamber.

All modern democracies, except for New Zealand, have two houses of parliament/congress.  A properly constituted Upper Chamber provides a regional balance to the mob rule of the popularly elected Lower Chamber.  Without a properly constituted Upper Chamber, we have the current situation where the population centres can ram legislation through the Lower House, and the lesser populated provinces/states have to live with the policy wishes of the higher populated provinces/states.

As far as I'm concerned, both the status quo and dissolving the Senate are unacceptable.  If we wish to be in a modern democracy, the Senate must be reformed to check the power of the House of Commons.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 26, 2010, 22:19:41
A bicameral legislature is, in my opinion essential for a federal state. (New Zealand, being a unitary state doesn't really need one.)

The nature of a federal legislature requires that two interests be balanced:

1. Those of ALL the people, on a pretty close to equal basis - a situation in which Canada seriously lags most modern democracies. Votes in PEI have more than three times as much weight (value) as votes in, say, downtown Calgary or Toronto; and

2. Those of the constitutional partners in the federation - the provinces and states which should also be equal, regardless of size, population or wealth. Thus Ontario and PEI are equals while PEI is superior to Toronto because, constitutionally, PEI is a higher order of government.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Brad Sallows on March 28, 2010, 18:33:51
Edward has it right.  Disposing of the Senate would save a relative pittance of money.  As a body the Senate needs reform, not removal.  If you wish to save money, shear about 50% of the federal government's agencies and programs and taxation points and transfer all associated responsibilities to the provinces.  Let the provinces decide which courses to pursue, and see what happens when there are ten governments exploring best practices rather than one.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Petamocto on March 28, 2010, 18:54:15
I agree with you that reforming it may be better overall than just disbanding it.

However, I disagree about downloading things to the provinces.  It may save money at the federal level, but at the end of the day now you have 13 agencies duplicating effort and that will cost us more in the big picture.

Don't get me wrong, I know Ottawa can't make the right decisions about everywhere in Canada, but if a particular service can be centralized then it should be.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Loachman on March 28, 2010, 19:13:25
The federal governmemtn has certain powers and responsibilites, the provinces have others, and municipalities have their own as well. Our governments are in the messes that they are in part because higher levels of government have butted into the affairs of lower ones, generally in order to gain votes. This has caused confusion and much duplication. Each level should stay within its assigned lanes.

Duplication of effort means waste.

Regardless of which level "pays" for what now, there is still only one level of taxpayer funding all three levels of government.

I'd rather have some honesty and efficiency in the system.

This would mean that some things in which the federal government dabbles would, yes, be "downloaded", but that would only be a matter of the lower government assuming powers and responsibilities usurped by the federal government. Centralizing something is not necessarily a good thing. It takes control further from the people who are supposed to hold it, and can stifle innovation.

Regardless, our Country has been set up in the way that it has. Provinces were once colonies, with generally the powers and responsibilities that they now have under Confederation. As they freely entered into Confederation, they should retain them.

And were we to centralize all things, there would be no need for provinces and territories at all, no?

That might save far more money than abolishing the Senate, but it would also make things unwieldy - like having Corps with no Divisions or Brigades.

Are you sure that we are "allowed" to have and express opinions about this, though?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 28, 2010, 20:41:39
According to a report (http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2737107) in the National Post, the government will introduce a bill (tomorrow) to limit senate terms. A step - but not necessarily in the best direction.

----------

Mods: could this thread be merged with the stickied, GG, HoC, Senate thread above, please?

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Petamocto on March 29, 2010, 07:04:44
Are you sure that we are "allowed" to have and express opinions about this, though?

Haha, that's pretty funny.

You seem like an educated man, so I will assume you know the difference between giving your opinion on concepts just as discussion (senate) and in other cases putting your opinion where it really shouldn't carry any weight (gays in the military).

We're not technically voting on anything here either, we're just talkin'.  And also about something so abstract that it's not an issue of being in/out of arcs.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: PPCLI Guy on March 29, 2010, 12:29:40
I will rephrase your original question:

Bad economic times = really, really bad time to open up the constitutional can o' worms.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Yrys on March 29, 2010, 12:36:54
Bad economic times = really, really bad time to open up the constitutional can o' worms.

That was my thought, also, when I saw the title...

Who want to discuss the constitution, and spend time and money on that,
in "bad economic times" ?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on March 29, 2010, 12:43:20
I will rephrase your original question:

Bad economic times = really, really bad time to open up the constitutional can o' worms.

On the other hand, few people talk about this during economic good times, so when do "we" discuss these issues?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Petamocto on March 29, 2010, 18:07:06
I think that bad economic times is the best time of all, because everything has to be looked at closely.

I'm not saying that our morals should go out the door, I'm saying that money should only be spent on things that can be fully justified.

I see the Senate as having some use but nowhere near what it costs to run.  There could be 4-5 people doing the same job if the only function of the senate is to provide one extra level of top-cover oversight.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: S.M.A. on April 01, 2010, 15:55:45
So far this doesn't seem to be an April Fool's joke:

 ;D

Canadian Press link (http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/100401/national/bigger_commons)

Quote
Ontario gets lion's share as government bill adds 30 new Commons seats

2 hours, 3 minutes ago
 

By The Canadian Press
 
OTTAWA - New government legislation will add 30 new MPs to the House of Commons.


Under the bill introduced Thursday, the Commons would grow to 338 seats, with Ontario getting 18 new MPs, British Columbia getting seven and Alberta getting five.


The representation for the other provinces would not change.
 


Steven Fletcher - minister of state for democratic reform - said the idea is to give greater representation to the faster-growing regions of the country.


"If passed, this legislation will give fair representation to the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, while protecting the seat counts of the other provinces," he said.


A similar bill was introduced in 2007, but was withdrawn over complaints that Ontario would remain under-represented.


The number of seats in the Commons has grown in fits and starts since Confederation, when there were only 181 MPs.


Normally, the seating is adjusted after each census according to a complex formula adopted in 1985.


That formula would have given Ontario only four new seats, with British Columbia getting two and Alberta one.



The government says the 1985 formula was designed to slow the growth of the Commons and penalized some regions.


"The proposed legislation would update the formula so that future readjustments better reflect the democratic representation of faster-growing provinces."


Fletcher said he hopes the new legislation is passed before the next routine update which is supposed to follow release of the 2011 census.


Pure representation by population is almost impossible in Canada because the Constitution guarantees that no province can have fewer MPs than it has senators. That means Prince Edward Island, with about 141,000 people, is assured of four MPs - or one for every 35,000 people.


If that ratio were accepted nationally, it would require more than 970 MPs.
 
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on April 04, 2010, 22:54:21
For the Senate to be an effective provincial counterweight to the House of Commons, all provinces should have an equal number of senators.  At the very least, there should be two senators per province, or twenty in total.  However, I'm guessing that twenty would be too small, since most upper houses in bicameral parliaments have more than 50 members.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on April 04, 2010, 23:59:04
I would suggest that a "triple E" senate needs to have an odd number of members (either per province or total) to ensure there are no deadlocks. Term limits and "rolling elections" like the US system (where Senators and members of Congress are not all elected at once) should also be considered.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on April 05, 2010, 15:18:25
The Senates I'm familiar with have an even number of senators, but I believe one sits as Speaker and only votes to break a tie.

Term limits and "rolling elections" would also be great to have.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 05, 2010, 15:34:34
Any attempt at equality will require a Constitutional amendment with all that entails - which is more than politician i can think of wants to face.

An elected Senate is fairly easy - as I have explained (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg902718.html#msg902718) in the past, on an all too regular basis. An equal Senate will, very soon, become an effective one, too - no matter what the prime minister of the day may think or want. But equality is a much, much tougher nut.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: RangerRay on April 05, 2010, 15:48:04
Agreed.  I'm just fantasizing about what it would be like if I were King of Canada.  ;D
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on May 02, 2010, 17:55:02
'Bravo, Michaelle Jean': Ignatieff's GG endorsement raises eyebrows
By: Stephen Thorne, The Canadian Press 2/05/2010
 Article Link (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/extend-term-of-role-model-governor-general-ignatieff-urges-harper-92621594.html)
 
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is urging the prime minister to extend Michaelle Jean's term as Governor General when her five-year appointment expires in September.

In an unusual break with the non-partisan tradition of all things GG, Igantieff issued a news release Sunday saying the Queen's Canadian secretary consulted him on a successor at Stephen Harper's request.

Jean has served her country with "distinction and honour" and deserves Canada's thanks, Ignatieff said.

"We just think somebody ought to get up and say: 'Bravo, Michaelle Jean; you've done a great job for Canada and in our view it would be great if you continue,'" Ignatieff told reporters after a Sunday speech.

Within hours on Sunday, the topic of Ignatieff's comments was becoming political fodder — just the sort of thing critics of his public declaration warned would happen.

The Prime Minister's Office issued an official statement saying Jean has done "an exceptional job representing Canada" and that she and Harper "have an excellent working relationship."

"It's a little disappointing that Mr. Ignatieff appears to be trying to politicize the appointment of a new GG, even after the unprecedented input that he's been asked to submit," offered a PMO source, who did not want to be identified.

"Maybe this is a bit naive, but we asked him in private and we hoped that he would keep it in private, but apparently that hasn't happened."

The governor general is the Queen's representative in Canada, effectively — albeit largely ceremonially — the head of state.

Appointed by the prime minister — formally by the Queen — her roles include the power to name a new government, a particularly sensitive issue in the current minority Parliament.

"One of the governor general’s most important responsibilities is to ensure that Canada always has a prime minister and a government in place that has the confidence of Parliament," says the GG's website.

"In addition, the governor general holds certain reserve powers, which are exercised at his or her own discretion."

Her powers were put to the test in December 2008 when she tossed Harper a lifeline and granted his request to prorogue Parliament while his Conservative minority was about to be toppled by an opposition coalition.

"The governor general is non-partisan and non-political," says the website.

Robert Finch, dominion chair of the Monarchist League of Canada, said Ignatieff's "peculiar" public endorsement risks politicizing the appointment process and compromising the GG's independence.

"I'm a little bit blown away," Finch said in an interview. "It's certainly unusual for a leader of an Opposition — or anybody, actually — to go public with their suggestions as to who should be governor general.

"It kind of opens the realm to politics and you don't want politics entering into the nomination process of the governor general."

Finch suggested such a move can start a slippery slope, whereby political parties ultimately line up behind one candidate or another.

Jean was appointed by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin in 2005. The subject of her replacement has been widely discussed since Harper recently confirmed her term would not be extended.

Several names have been floated as potential successors, including disabled-rights campaigner Rick Hansen; former defence chief John de Chastelain; Inuit leader Mary Simon and Reform party founder Preston Manning.

A Facebook page has even sprung up where tens of thousands are advocating Montreal-born actor William Shatner — Star Trek's Captain Kirk — for the job.

"It's time for Canada to boldly go where no country has gone before," it says.

The traditional five-year terms of Canadian governors general have been extended on several occasions — by as much as two years. Among those who've been kept on were Roland Michener, Jeanne Sauve and Jean's predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson.

Said Ignatieff's release: "Ms. Jean has done a superb job. I am calling on Stephen Harper to reconsider his decision to replace her."

He said Canadians were "deeply moved by her strong and passionate performance" after the devastating earthquake in her Haitian homeland, which reportedly killed more than 200,000 people.

Her role in bringing attention to Haiti and its people's plight has been "significant, profound and needs to be sustained," Ignatieff said.

Jean has also been a powerful advocate for aboriginal and Arctic peoples, and a proud commander-in-chief who has stood alongside Canadian troops in Afghanistan, he added.

"As a francophone woman who overcame great obstacles to get where she is today, and as the first black Canadian appointed as governor general, I can’t imagine a better role model for young Canadians, particularly young girls," said Ignatieff.

Finch said he can't imagine what Ignatieff's thinking.

"It risks (undermining) the whole non-partisan nature of the Crown," he said.
More on link
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Bread Guy on May 02, 2010, 18:37:06
From the Liberals' news release (http://www.liberal.ca/en/newsroom/media-releases/18035_michael-ignatieff-calls-for-the-extension-of-michaelle-jeans-term):
Quote
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff today called on Stephen Harper to extend the term of Governor General Michaëlle Jean when her current five-year term expires in September.

Mr. Ignatieff was consulted by the Canadian Secretary to the Queen at the request of the Prime Minister for suggestions on a successor to Ms. Jean. Mr. Ignatieff strongly urged, instead, that Ms. Jean's term be extended.

"Michaëlle Jean has served her country with distinction and honour.” said Mr. Ignatieff. "She deserves our thanks and our gratitude."

"All Canadians were deeply moved by her strong and passionate performance in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in her homeland of Haiti. Her role in bringing attention to the country and the plight of its people has been significant, profound and needs to be sustained."

"She has been a powerful advocate of Aboriginal and Arctic people."

"As a proud Commander-in-Chief, she has stood with our brave men and women serving in Afghanistan."

"As a francophone woman who overcame great obstacles to get where she is today, and as the first black Canadian appointed as Governor General, I can’t imagine a better role model for young Canadians, particularly young girls," said Mr. Ignatieff.

Mr. Ignatieff noted that extending the terms of Canadian Governors General has been a common practice in recent times, citing the examples of Roland Michener, Jeanne Sauvé and Adrienne Clarkson.

"Ms. Jean has done a superb job. I am calling on Stephen Harper to reconsider his decision to replace her," Mr. Ignatieff concluded.

Sorry, Iggy - if you can pick your own GG on your watch (if you ever get one), what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  Or would YOU be willing to let the opposition tell you who to pick/keep?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ModlrMike on May 02, 2010, 20:28:15
Sorry, Iggy - if you can pick your own GG on your watch (if you ever get one), what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  Or would YOU be willing to let the opposition tell you who to pick/keep?

There's the small obstacle of winning an election.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Technoviking on May 02, 2010, 20:47:49
There's the small obstacle of winning an election.
Pfffft!  Details!  Details!

;D
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on May 03, 2010, 00:02:39
Mathematical proof there will never be a "fair" voting system. A close reading of the article indicates any system can be manipulated to get the outcome "you" want, which suggests that the best thing to do is limit the amount of damage by limiting the amount of power and reward winning an election gets.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627581.400-electoral-dysfunction-why-democracy-is-always-unfair.html?page=1

Quote
Electoral dysfunction: Why democracy is always unfair
•   28 April 2010 by Ian Stewart

IN AN ideal world, elections should be two things: free and fair. Every adult, with a few sensible exceptions, should be able to vote for a candidate of their choice, and each single vote should be worth the same.

Ensuring a free vote is a matter for the law. Making elections fair is more a matter for mathematicians. They have been studying voting systems for hundreds of years, looking for sources of bias that distort the value of individual votes, and ways to avoid them. Along the way, they have turned up many paradoxes and surprises. What they have not done is come up with the answer. With good reason: it probably doesn't exist.

The many democratic electoral systems in use around the world attempt to strike a balance between mathematical fairness and political considerations such as accountability and the need for strong, stable government. Take first-past-the-post or "plurality" voting, which used for national elections in the US, Canada, India - and the UK, which goes to the polls next week. Its principle is simple: each electoral division elects one representative, the candidate who gained the most votes.
This system scores well on stability and accountability, but in terms of mathematical fairness it is a dud. Votes for anyone other than the winning candidate are disregarded. If more than two parties with substantial support contest a constituency, as is typical in Canada, India and the UK, a candidate does not have to get anything like 50 per cent of the votes to win, so a majority of votes are "lost".

Dividing a nation or city into bite-sized chunks for an election is itself a fraught business (see "Borderline case") that invites other distortions, too. A party can win outright by being only marginally ahead of its competitors in most electoral divisions. In the UK general election in 2005, the ruling Labour party won 55 per cent of the seats on just 35 per cent of the total votes. If a candidate or party is slightly ahead in a bare majority of electoral divisions but a long way behind in others, they can win even if a competitor gets more votes overall - as happened most notoriously in recent history in the US presidential election of 2000, when George W. Bush narrowly defeated Al Gore.

The anomalies of a plurality voting system can be more subtle, though, as mathematician Donald Saari at the University of California, Irvine, showed. Suppose 15 people are asked to rank their liking for milk (M), beer (B), or wine (W). Six rank them M-W-B, five B-W-M, and four W-B-M. In a plurality system where only first preferences count, the outcome is simple: milk wins with 40 per cent of the vote, followed by beer, with wine trailing in last.

So do voters actually prefer milk? Not a bit of it. Nine voters prefer beer to milk, and nine prefer wine to milk - clear majorities in both cases. Meanwhile, 10 people prefer wine to beer. By pairing off all these preferences, we see the truly preferred order to be W-B-M - the exact reverse of what the voting system produced. In fact Saari showed that given a set of voter preferences you can design a system that produces any result you desire.

In the example above, simple plurality voting produced an anomalous outcome because the alcohol drinkers stuck together: wine and beer drinkers both nominated the other as their second preference and gave milk a big thumbs-down. Similar things happen in politics when two parties appeal to the same kind of voters, splitting their votes between them and allowing a third party unpopular with the majority to win the election.

Can we avoid that kind of unfairness while keeping the advantages of a first-past-the-post system? Only to an extent. One possibility is a second "run-off" election between the two top-ranked candidates, as happens in France and in many presidential elections elsewhere. But there is no guarantee that the two candidates with the widest potential support even make the run-off. In the 2002 French presidential election, for example, so many left-wing candidates stood in the first round that all of them were eliminated, leaving two right-wing candidates, Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen, to contest the run-off.

Order, order

Another strategy allows voters to place candidates in order of preference, with a 1, 2, 3 and so on. After the first-preference votes have been counted, the candidate with the lowest score is eliminated and the votes reapportioned to the next-choice candidates on those ballot papers. This process goes on until one candidate has the support of over 50 per cent of the voters. This system, called the instant run-off or alternative or preferential vote, is used in elections to the Australian House of Representatives, as well as in several US cities. It has also been suggested for the UK.
Preferential voting comes closer to being fair than plurality voting, but it does not eliminate ordering paradoxes. The Marquis de Condorcet, a French mathematician, noted this as early as 1785. Suppose we have three candidates, A, B and C, and three voters who rank them A-B-C, B-C-A and C-A-B. Voters prefer A to B by 2 to 1. But B is preferred to C and C preferred to A by the same margin of 2 to 1. To quote the Dodo in Alice in Wonderland: "Everybody has won and all must have prizes."

One type of voting system avoids such circular paradoxes entirely: proportional representation. Here a party is awarded a number of parliamentary seats in direct proportion to the number of people who voted for it. Such a system is undoubtedly fairer in a mathematical sense than either plurality or preferential voting, but it has political drawbacks. It implies large, multi-representative constituencies; the best shot at truly proportional representation comes with just one constituency, the system used in Israel. But large constituencies weaken the link between voters and their representatives. Candidates are often chosen from a centrally determined list, so voters have little or no control over who represents them. What's more, proportional systems tend to produce coalitions of two or more parties, potentially leading to unstable and ineffectual government - although plurality systems are not immune to such problems, either (see "Power in the balance").
Proportional representation has its own mathematical wrinkles. There is no way, for example, to allocate a whole number of seats in exact proportion to a larger population. This can lead to an odd situation in which increasing the total number of seats available reduces the representation of an individual constituency, even if its population stays the same (see "Proportional paradox").
Such imperfections led the American economist Kenneth Arrow to list in 1963 the general attributes of an idealised fair voting system. He suggested that voters should be able to express a complete set of their preferences; no single voter should be allowed to dictate the outcome of the election; if every voter prefers one candidate to another, the final ranking should reflect that; and if a voter prefers one candidate to a second, introducing a third candidate should not reverse that preference.

All very sensible. There's just one problem: Arrow and others went on to prove that no conceivable voting system could satisfy all four conditions. In particular, there will always be the possibility that one voter, simply by changing their vote, can change the overall preference of the whole electorate.
So we are left to make the best of a bad job. Some less fair systems produce governments with enough power to actually do things, though most voters may disapprove; some fairer systems spread power so thinly that any attempt at government descends into partisan infighting. Crunching the numbers can help, but deciding which is the lesser of the two evils is ultimately a matter not for mathematics, but for human judgement.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on May 09, 2010, 09:43:05
A look at MMP. Note the other changes needed to make something like that work:

http://freedomnation.blogspot.com/2010/04/revisiting-mixed-member-proportional.html

Quote
Revisiting the Mixed Member Proportional electoral system

In 2007 Ontario voted to keep the traditional ‘first-past-the post’ electoral system and rejected the Mixed Member Proportional system. At the time I campaigned hard against MMP. I felt that it would lead to small parties controlling the agenda and other unpredictable outcomes. The proponents of MMP held up New Zealand as an example of why I was wrong. And New Zealand is indeed a fair case study for how the system works. New Zealand has similar cultural and institutional roots as Canada (as much as any two countries share such roots). The problem was that the proponents of MMP drew the wrong lesson from New Zealand.

New Zealanders are set to make a verdict on their electoral experiment in a referendum to be held at the same time as the New Zealand election. Those who are interested in electoral reform should keep a close eye on the debate and results that will be coming out of New Zealand. Australian Policy Online provides a taste of how that debate will likely take form:

The new world of politics and equitable representation, however, never quite materialised. In fact, MMP created many perverse incentives and largely unforeseen consequences, such as increasing the power of political parties, the cessation of MPs being legitimised by their local electorate, and a reduction of political accountability for laws passed. The compromises that MMP encourages have led to a more consensual style of government, but it has also contributed to ad hoc lawmaking, an inability of government to take proper charge of a legislative programme, and pork barrel politics and ‘back room deals.’

MMP is a system concerned with process rather than outcomes. Although MMP has brought proportionality to parliamentary representation, it has produced political results that can hardly claim to be representative. This is because minor parties have a greater say in contentious legislation than their vote warrants. MMP was also designed to give women and ethnic groups more representation in Parliament. Maori and women’s representation has somewhat improved under MMP, but there is little or no evidence that it was MMP itself that led to this improvement.

Another case worth studying is how MMP has worked in Scotland, another country with a historic cultural and institutional relationship with Canada. There is little evidence that the same adverse effects have taken place in the Scottish Parliament, at least not to the extent that there should be concern. Scottish politics are dominated by four major political parties: Scottish National Party, Labour Party, Conservative Party, and the Liberal-Democrat Party. There was an upsurge of small parties in earlier elections, but they have all but disappeared in the 2007 election. MMP has even worked to provide representation that otherwise wouldn’t have existed; the Conservative Party would have barely gotten any seats in the traditional Westminster system even though they get more votes than the Liberal-Democrats. The MMP system has allowed the Conservatives to be a real political force in the Scottish Parliament.

So why does it work in Scotland and not in New Zealand? The answer is pretty simple; the Scottish Parliament did not move from ‘first-past-the post,’ it started off with MMP when it was established in 1999. The whole institution of the Scottish Parliament is built with MMP at the core. This meant that the Scots did away with some traditional aspects of a Westminster Parliament, including confidence votes for budgets and a stronger committee system.

The lesson for electoral reformers and democratic reformers in general is that you can’t just change one part of an institution. You have to make the various bits fit together. They fit together well in Scotland but they don’t fit in New Zealand, this is why MMP is dysfunctional in New Zealand. A lot of reform can be advantageous but a little reform can be a disaster.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 17, 2010, 07:53:14
The Liberals ride to the rescue, according to this article reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/liberal-party-favours-more-federal-seats-for-quebec/article1570822/
Quote
Liberal Party favours more federal seats for Quebec
Liberals’ stance at odds with Conservative legislation, which provides 30 extra Commons seats but none in Quebec
 
Daniel Leblanc

Ottawa — Monday, May. 17, 2010

The Liberal Party wants Quebec to get two or three extra seats if the House of Commons passes legislation to increase representation in three other provinces.
The Liberal plan could trigger a clash with the Conservative Party, which is proposing to add 30 new House seats in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, but none in Quebec.

The Liberals’ Quebec caucus is pushing to increase seats in their province, and are gaining traction within the party. Their goal is to ensure that Quebec’s share of the seats in the House reflects the fact that the province has 23.1 per cent of the Canadian population. Quebec would be left with 75 seats under the Conservative plan.

“The file is a clear priority for the Quebec caucus,” said Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez, who has been making representations to the national caucus and the Office of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

Earlier this year, the Liberals voted against a Bloc Québécois motion that would have locked in Quebec’s representation at its current level of 24.4 per cent of the seats, by adding another 10 seats in the province. To the Bloc, maintaining its overall percentage of House seats compared to the rest of Canada is crucial.

A senior Liberal official confirmed the party will conduct a close study of the bill when it goes to committee, and find the best possible formula to ensure that all provinces, including Quebec, get adequate representation in the House.

“The principle for us is that it can’t be below the province’s share of the population,” the official said of the party’s position on Quebec.

He added the party is in favour of adding seats in other provinces, too.

“There is the Quebec element that is obviously important for the Leader and the party, but we also recognize that there are other provinces that are under-represented,” the official said.

As it stands, there are 308 seats in the House.

The Conservative government’s Bill C-12 would make major changes to the legislative chamber, adding new seats in Ontario (18), British-Columbia (7) and Alberta (5).

Matthew Mendelsohn, director of the Mowat Centre think-tank, said that there is a rationale for increasing the representation of Quebec, as long as the provinces that are currently under-represented get their additional seats.

“The goal is to pass legislation that is broadly acceptable in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta,” Mr. Mendelsohn said.

“If you find legislation that does some small fix for Quebec, which makes it more acceptable in Quebec and more likely to pass the legislation, then that is something you should be willing to look at,” he said.

But the Conservative government has shown no signs of budging on the bill, and is expected to defend its proposed distribution of new seats.

Ontario will be an important battleground in the next election, and Conservative officials are insisting that the province would remain under-represented in comparison to Quebec, even with the influx of 18 new seats. In that context, the Conservative Party can be expected to oppose the Liberal proposal, which would dilute Ontario’s representation in Ottawa.

The Bloc Québécois has been waging the most vigorous fight against Bill C-12, saying the Parliament’s recognition of the Québécois as a nation entails the province’s stable presence in Ottawa. In addition, the Bloc points out that there will never be proportional representation in the House, given that Prince Edward Island benefits from the constitutional promise of four seats.

The new law would only come into effect in 2014, and would not be expected to apply in the next election.

Some time back I presented a “model” (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,25692.msg870349.html#msg870349) based on New Brunswick, with 10 seats, being “fairly and properly, represented. I allowed that the three territories and PEI would remain grossly overrepresented and that no province should have a ‘variance’ from the ‘national average’ of more than about 10%. That produced a 451 seat legislature. I amended that to produce a 351 seat legislature - one with greater and, according to the anonymous Liberal official, unacceptable variances.

I have refined it further. A model which meets the Liberals goal of (very nearly) 100% equality of representation for all provinces except PEI (and the territories) requires about 500 seats in the HoC – more, I think, than Canadians will accept. There is another model that has 399 seats – something we could achieve in, say, three steps, on every five years, with about 30 new seats in each step. That model has a variance of about +15% (for Newfoundland and Labrador, on the plus side) (PEI and the Territories are still excluded but their overrepresentation “falls” to around only 250%.) and -3% (Ontario) which, I think, ought to be acceptable.

Here is the HoC using that model:

NV .......     1
NW .......    1
YK .......      1
BC .......    51
AB .......    42
SK .......    14
MB .......   15
ON ....... 150
QC .......   92
NB ........   10
NS .......    11
PE .........     4
NF .........     7
Canada  399

(I hope the numbers add up, i.e. that there are no transcription errors.)

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Journeyman on May 17, 2010, 09:41:35
Instead of simply adding more and more politicians, I suppose it would be heretical to suggest that any reform include making current ridings larger to take in more constituents.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Old Sweat on May 17, 2010, 09:44:43
Instead of simply adding more and more politicians, I suppose it would be heretical to suggest that any reform include making current ridings larger to take in more constituents.

It seems to me that that would only exacerbate the PEI advantage.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Greymatters on May 18, 2010, 15:07:12
Mathematical proof there will never be a "fair" voting system. A close reading of the article indicates any system can be manipulated to get the outcome "you" want, which suggests that the best thing to do is limit the amount of damage by limiting the amount of power and reward winning an election gets.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627581.400-electoral-dysfunction-why-democracy-is-always-unfair.html?page=1

Good article, even if the calculations and conclusions are almost depressing...
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Journeyman on May 18, 2010, 23:46:14
Quote
Instead of simply adding more and more politicians, I suppose it would be heretical to suggest that any reform include making current ridings larger to take in more constituents.
It seems to me that that would only exacerbate the PEI advantage.
Only if the Hon Member from Borden-Carleton also assumes responsibility for some NS constituents based on the bridge's abutments 'ashore.'  ;)

If anything, PEI would lose, so this amendment would only refer to constituencies with populations (southern BC, central Alberta, southern Ontario and Quebec)

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ArmyVern on May 19, 2010, 02:10:08
It seems to me that that would only exacerbate the PEI advantage.Only if the Hon Member from Borden-Carleton also assumes responsibility for some NS constituents based on the bridge's abutments 'ashore.'  ;)
...

Those would then have to be New Brunswick abutment constituents ... but I know what you mean.  ;)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Journeyman on May 19, 2010, 02:32:06
Those would then have to be New Brunswick abutment constituents ... but I know what you mean.  ;)

Insert face-slap icon here.
All those places east of Lloydminster, Alberta baffle me
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ArmyVern on May 19, 2010, 02:45:17
Insert face-slap icon here.
All those places east of Lloydminster, Alberta baffle me

Considered yourself to have been struck with the white glove; pistols at dawn.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Eye In The Sky on May 19, 2010, 03:13:57
Now I know I haven't been home since Christmas but I didn't think they'd gone and moved the bridge...

 8)

And, for the record, the MPs from PEI are a force to be reckoned with...fear them, ALL (3) of them!   :blotto:
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: ArmyVern on May 19, 2010, 03:20:58
And, for the record, the MPs from PEI are a force to be reckoned with...fear them, ALL (3) of them!   :blotto:

True that.  ;D
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 19, 2010, 06:28:57
Now I know I haven't been home since Christmas but I didn't think they'd gone and moved the bridge...

 8)

And, for the record, the MPs from PEI are a force to be reckoned with...fear them, ALL (3) of them!   :blotto:


There are four (4) of them, actually: Easter, MacAulay, Murphy and Shea (http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Lists/Members.aspx?Language=E&Parliament=8714654b-cdbf-48a2-b1ad-57a3c8ece839&Riding=&Name=&Party=&Province=53648e00-d9b7-4214-b88c-d944ae1d4dd8&Gender=&New=False&Current=False&First=False&Picture=False&Section=False), making it (whatever it is) even worse!
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Journeyman on May 19, 2010, 11:06:10
Spud Island's escape route bridge goes to NS? NB? Three seats? Four?
It's just the maritimes; details are inconsequential  >:D
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Petamocto on May 19, 2010, 15:07:33
I have always been dumbounded that with 300+ MPs and 32 million people, we don't do something like having 1 MP for every 100,000 people in a cluster.

Granted the population ebbs and flows and grows in some places and drops in others, but it would simply be a matter of shifting the boundaries on fixed dates every 10 years or so if required.

Yes there are going to be some obvious fudges like one area with 90,000 and another with 100,000 due to an obvious natural or political boundary, but it would still be far better than the disproportionate representation now.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: dapaterson on May 19, 2010, 15:19:50
Wow.  Have you ever read the BNA Act to understand where these questions come from?  Do you understand the process required for amendment of that document?

Or are you just randomly shooting off your ill-informed opinions?
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Oldgateboatdriver on May 19, 2010, 16:28:23
In a Parliamentary system such as ours, there is a democracy advantage to having a large number of constituencies, as you have in the U.K., if only you agree to party leader appointment process similar to that of the U.K.: The confidence of the party's members of parliament (i.e. appointment by the caucus).

With a large number, few M.P. can expect to accede to the Cabinet, and as a result, serving your constituency well, on the one hand, and making sure the PM doesn't do anything so as to cause you to lose the next election, on the other hand, become two important considerations in all your decisions. This creates a lot of back-room dealings within the backbenchers to keep the leader in check and makes the whips a little less powerful.

For instance, with the numbers suggested by  E.R. Campbell  (399), you would need 200 members to have a majority. Even with a large Cabinet of 50, that would still mean the average MP would have a 75% chance of not making it in and little prospect of getting there later. To maintain his chances of re-election, such MP would not be inclined to necessarily support the government in all votes that are not confidence vote, would likely be a lot more vocal in caucus, may ask questions of the government in the commons that are a lot more difficult to answer than the usual "set up" questions they now ask just to make ministers look good by publicizing achievements and would likely be a lot tougher on government ministers and officials in the house committees they are member of.

All this could only be good for democracy.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 19, 2010, 16:36:31
Wow.  Have you ever read the BNA Act to understand where these questions come from?  Do you understand the process required for amendment of that document?

Or are you just randomly shooting off your ill-informed opinions?

I know we aren't allowed to do this, but:

+1

Petawhatever: I believe you are an officer; you should know better enough to avoid appearing ignorant.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Petamocto on May 19, 2010, 18:05:32
Or are you just randomly shooting off your ill-informed opinions?

(And Mr Campbell).

I'm well versed in the reasons why things are the way they are, but thank you for the insult nonetheless.

However, amendments are made to every facet of everything legal or political that has ever been a good idea at one time of another, so there are no reasons things can't change.

What I brought up is the fairest possible way to do it.  Yes I would require a fundamental shift in the way we do things, but what could be more fair than equal representation by population?  Why should one riding that's 10 times the size of another have the same say?

Edit: Going back and reading my original post I see where the confusion may be coming from (if you thought I was suggesting that the boundaries weren't adjusted now).  Yes, it was specifically the PEI-types of scenario (senatorial clause) that I was talking about that I see was also covered already.

Another example is a seat being automatically given to each territory, regardless of population.

My apology for not mentioning PEI in my first post and not seeing it above anyway.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on June 06, 2010, 17:45:50
Although this, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail, is a bit of partisan Liberal fluff and is, in fact, offered tongue in cheek, it highlights an important point about proportional representation:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/silver-powers/harper-suggests-israels-government-is-illegitimate-oops/article1593926/
Quote
Harper suggests Israel’s government is illegitimate. Oops.

Rob Silver

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I may not agree with everything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has done in Israel, but I think Stephen Harper's unprovoked attack on the legitimacy of his election victory this week was completely uncalled for and inappropriate. Israel is a democracy and one of our allies, and Harper should not be attacking their Prime Minister the way he did.

What, you missed Harper's attack on Netanyahu's legitimacy to govern Israel? He made the statement to the entire world while travelling abroad, so I'm surprised that it hasn't provoked more of an outcry.

You see, when the results of the 2009 Israeli election were counted, Tzipi Livni's Kadima Party won one more seat in the Knesset than Netanyahu's Likud. Netanyahu was able to put together a governingcoalition with other right-wing parties.

When Harper declared this week that “coalitions of losers don't get to govern,” he was effectively saying that any coalition made up of parties that doesn’t include the party with the most seats in parliament doesn’t get to govern. Not with any legitimacy, according to Harper. They're losers. No nuance, no exceptions. There's a winner and a loser in an election. The winners – Livni, in Israel’s case, not Netanyahu – are in power. Those are Harper's words.

The fact that Harper feels that Netanyahu leads a coalition of losers that has no business being in power must surely come as something of a surprise to his erstwhile ally – but hey, when you have views on democracy as solidly rooted in principle as Harper does, you are sure to piss off your friends every once in a while.


Israel has one of the most proportional of all the various PR systems and the result has been that ‘coalitions of losers’ are almost the norm. For a period, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Labour managed to form coalitions with only a few other small parties but, starting in the ‘70s, the situation has looked more and more like Canada when one contemplates the electoral map – left, centre and right are about evenly balanced and the religious parties fill the spoiler role of the BQ.

I mentioned before that I did a quick and dirty analysis of several recent Canadian general election – taking Québec out of the equation because Québec does not vote like the rest of the country – and I determined that our ‘first-past-the-post’ does, indeed, reward large parties and punish minor ones. What surprised me, though, was how little the rewards and punishments mattered. When I did some extrapolations I found that, under PR, we would have had a Chrétien majority, a Martin minority and two Harper minorities, albeit somewhat differently structured than the Chrétien majority, Martin minority and Harper minorities we got, mainly in having more NDP members and a tiny handful of Greens. But I asked myself: is it wrong to reward those who get the most votes and ‘punish’ those who get fewer? Do we really want an Israeli system wherein we might well have two or even three parties to the right of the Conservatives and two or even three to the left of the NDP and two or three or even four Québecois parties? Not for me, thanks.

Coalitions are legitimate, coalitions of losers are a little less legitimate than others but with some PR models, like Israel’s, and in some societies, like Canada’s and Israel’s, coalitions of losers are what you get.

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on June 16, 2010, 10:26:45
Budget shenanagins in the Senate provide a powerful argument for Senate reform. Opposing Senate reform has actually cost the Liberals this round:

http://stevejanke.com/archives/302687.php

Quote
Budget bill passes in the Senate; naming the names
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 07:46 AM

The Liberal Party has real problems with the Conservative budget.  So much so that Michael Ignatieff felt compelled to expend what little political capital he has within the Liberal Party to convince them to enter into the sort of voting charade that had become commonplace under his predecessor, the hapless Stephane Dion:

Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government has passed its fifth consecutive federal budget with the tacit support of the Liberal opposition.

The 2010 budget bill sailed through the House of Commons by a vote of 138-126 on Tuesday, with 30 Liberal MPs absent to ensure the budget survived -- along with the government.

NDP and Bloc Quebecois members voted against the budget en masse.

[Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff] called it a "dumpster bill" and "an abuse of power." But his party wasn't prepared to defeat or change the legislation for fear of causing a federal election, which they're not prepared to fight and say Canadians don't want.

Only 47 of 77 Liberals, led by Ignatieff, were in the House for the final budget vote. Every Conservative budget since Harper came to power in 2006 has survived courtesy of the official Opposition Liberals.

That nonsense drew this rebuke from  Progressive Conservative Senator Lowell Murray:

When this monstrosity was before the House of Commons committee the Liberal whips contrived to keep one of their members out behind the door so that the Liberals present could vote against a number of these measures without defeating it, because they wanted to oppose the budget. They wanted to vote against it without defeating these measures. I mean this is a pathetic, a pathetic abdication of their responsibility. The idea that Mr. Harper is threatening elections or that an election is automatically involved is nonsense.

But the plan was to let the Senate do the dirty work:

The massive, 900-page piece of legislation now goes to the chamber of sober second thought, where Independent and Liberal senators are promising to give it a rougher ride.

That plan has earned the scorn of pundits as well:

Canadians spend much time debating which party would make the best government. Perhaps, in this era of minority parliaments, we should focus equally on who would do the best job of acting as official opposition.

Because it seems that Michael Ignatieff's Liberals certainly aren't up to the job.

The latest example of Liberal ineffectiveness is the party's contradictory approach to a massive omnibus bill working its way through the Commons.

On Tuesday, Liberal MP and finance critic Bob Rae was on CBC Radio suggesting that the unelected Senate might be better positioned than the elected Commons to give Bill C-9 the scrutiny it deserves.

That's an argument that doesn't make sense (the unelected Senate is always loath to defeat a Commons money bill). But to be fair to Rae, it's all he could say given the refusal of Liberal MPs to undertake the job they were elected to fill - that of official opposition.

Well, as seems typical for Liberal plans (scorned or otherwise), it fell apart, with 12 Liberal senators missing the vote:

Independent and Liberal Senators have failed in their effort to hive off sections of an omnibus budget bill that they say have little to do with budgetary matters.

Senator Lowell Murray, a Progressive Conservative, introduced a motion on Tuesday that would have seen Bill C-9 divided into five smaller bills. The Liberals, who supported the move, had hoped to have enough of their members in their seats to ensure that it was passed.

In the end, however, they were outnumbered by the Conservatives, who have a younger and more disciplined caucus that includes many senators appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the expressed purpose of ensuring that government bills are not lost in the Upper Chamber.

Until November, the Liberals and the independents combined will have a majority of one in the Upper Chamber. But they still could not muster the numbers to take on the Conservatives.

Here is the list of Liberal senators and their vote on the motion to split the budget bill:

George Baker no vote recorded
Tommy Banks yea
Catherine Callbeck yea
Larry W Campbell yea
Sharon Carstairs yea
Maria Chaput yea
Jane Marie Cordy yea
Jim Cowan yea
Romeo Dallaire no vote recorded
Dennis Dawson yea
Joseph Day yea
Pierre De Bane no vote recorded
Pervy Downe yea
Lillian Eva Dyck yea
Art Eggleton yea
Joyce Fairbairn no vote recorded
Francis Fox yea
Joan Fraser yea
George Furey yea
Mac Harb no vote recorded
Celine Hervieux-Payette yea
Libbe Hubley yea
Mobina Jaffer yea
Serge Joyal no vote recorded
Colin Kenny no vote recorded
Jean Lapointe no vote recorded
Rose-Marie Losier-Cool yea
Sandra Lovelace Nicholas yea
Frank Mahovlich yea
Paul Massicotte yea
Terry Mercer yea
Pana Merchant yea
Grant Mitchell yea
Wilfred Moore yea
Jim Munson yea
Lucie Pepin yea
Robert Peterson yea
Marie Poulin yea
Vivienne Poy no vote recorded
Pierrette Ringuette yea
Fernand Robichaud yea
William Rompkey yea
Nick Sibbeston yea
David P Smith yea
Peter Stollery yea
Claudette Tardif no vote recorded
Charlie Watt no vote recorded
Rod Zimmer no vote recorded
Raymond Lavigne (suspended while facing criminal charges)
 

So Raymond Lavigne has an excuse.

But what of George Baker, Romeo Dallaire, Pierre De Bane, Joyce Fairbairn, Mac Harb, Serge Joyal, Colin Kenny, Jean Lapointe, Vivienne Poy, Claudette Tardiff, Charlie Watt, and Rod Zimmer?

I shouldn't be complaining, but I'll do it on behalf of Liberals who are too embarrassed to do it themselves.  Why isn't your senate caucus as disciplined as the Conservative caucus?  Why aren't they working as a team, backing up the Commons caucus who can't afford to trigger an election?

Why is it that every Conservative caucus member showed up for the Senate vote, and the Liberals were shy a dozen?

I know that Senate reform is a Conservative platform, but I don't know why Liberals don't support it.  If your Senators were elected, the fear of facing the voters might make them a bit more disciplined.  Certainly fear of facing Michael Ignatieff isn't enough.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on June 16, 2010, 10:34:49
Quote
But what of George Baker, Romeo Dallaire, Pierre De Bane, Joyce Fairbairn, Mac Harb, Serge Joyal, Colin Kenny, Jean Lapointe, Vivienne Poy, Claudette Tardiff, Charlie Watt, and Rod Zimmer?

Some of the most rabid (if a senator can be rabid?) Liberal senators stumping the circuits, especially Baker.....hypocrisy knows no bounds...
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 01, 2010, 08:38:45
It is not often that I agree almost unreservedly with Jeffrey Simpson, but in this column, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail, he has it about right:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/jeffrey-simpson/welcome-david-johnston-and-thanks-michalle-jean/article1735806/
Quote
Welcome, David Johnston. And thanks, Michaël Jean

JEFFREY SIMPSON

From Friday's Globe and Mail
Friday, Oct. 01, 2010 12:12AM EDT
 
On this day, when David Johnston becomes the new Governor-General, Canadians can thank recent prime ministers for their outstanding appointments to that office.

No slight is intended to previous occupants of the post or to prime ministers who appointed them in signalling for special merit Jean Chrétien’s selection of Adrienne Clarkson, Paul Martin’s choice of Michaëlle Jean and, now, Stephen Harper’s pick of Mr. Johnston.

As Ms. Jean leaves Rideau Hall, she has earned the country’s heartfelt appreciation for a job superbly done.

When appointed, many Canadians outside Quebec said, “Michaëlle Who?” Yes, she had been a television presenter of note on Radio-Canada, but even a lot of Quebeckers don’t watch the kind of up-market shows for which she used to play host, let alone an English-speaking audience inside and beyond the province.

“What’s she ever really done?” was the sort of snide question asked at the time of her installation. The optics were good – Haitian immigrant, bilingual, good with words – but what qualifications did she possess? And that filmmaker husband of hers, Jean-Daniel Lafond, hadn’t he swum around with the nationalist/separatist crowd in Montreal?

From Day 1, when she spoke so brilliantly at her installation, in particular about reconciling the “two solitudes” of Canada, she was a star – not just because she carried herself so well and spoke so eloquently and precisely in both languages, but because her generosity of spirit, curiosity of mind and capacity to relate to people in any setting soon became the hallmark of her time in office.

When she met the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, she showed a rare empathy for their pain. When she travelled abroad, she related as an internationally minded person to people in other situations, speaking different languages. When she went to the Arctic, she ate seal meat; when she met the poor, she was never condescending; when she gathered women’s groups to Rideau Hall, she was one of them; when she handed out honours or met diplomats, she spoke to the occasion with fitting words.

And when she was called on to make the most important decision of her tenure – prorogation, as demanded by Mr. Harper – she made the constitutionally correct decision, whatever the political fallout.

She had a special concern for Haiti, the country of her birth, the country devastated by a terrible earthquake in January. She will now be a special United Nations envoy for Haiti, a task for which she will be well-prepared. Canada can thank Mr. Harper for working behind the scenes to assist her in securing this assignment.

Just as Ms. Jean stepped into the large shoes of Adrienne Clarkson, who brought intelligence, creativity and panache to Rideau Hall, so David Johnston will find following Ms. Jean no easy task.

Obviously, he cannot be her, and will not even try, but he has his own marvellous talents well-suited to this role.

Mr. Johnston is a scholar, lawyer, athlete and university administrator of distinction and duration, having been president of both McGill and Waterloo. He speaks French, knows how to handle public events, has always demonstrated fair-mindedness, never puts on airs, is inherently friendly and, should the knowledge be needed in a pinch, studied and taught constitutional law.

As Canadians get to know Mr. Johnston better, they’ll like what they see and hear, just as they did with Ms. Jean. They’ll see in him, as they did in his predecessors, admirable virtues and a desire to serve the country.

These latest governors-general, distinguished Canadians all, reflect many of the best elements of the national experience and, as such, illustrate how much better off we’d be without the British monarchy, a point to be driven home when the day comes that Prince Charles and Camilla move into Buckingham Palace.

Sadly, Canadians are not ready to see Clarkson-Jean-Johnston and people of that ilk as head of state. It would appear that, in due course, we shall have Charles and his sons and their heirs until, well, who knows when?

But we can be thankful for Ms. Clarkson and Ms. Jean and those who preceded them, and we can say with confidence: Welcome, Mr. Johnston.


The office of Governor General may well become more and more presidential, in a European manner, if we are, indeed, stuck with a generation or so of minority governments. The GG may have to select prime ministers and invite them to form governments based on his/her (the GG’s) assessment of which leader might be able to form a stable government that can command the confidence of parliament. If that’s the case then Mr. Johnston might well be the gold standard.

But that begs a question: if the office is to be more and more political, albeit non-partisan, then how do we, how should we select our own GG? And if we are going to have a more political GG then is it not more appropriate that (s)he be a real Canadian, a resident of Canada with a good, personal feel for Canada and not a British implant? (Yes, yes; I know that HM and HRH are, legally, Canadians, but for all of her GREAST work as our head of state there is no doubt that, first and foremost HM is the Queen of the United Kingdom – that’s where she is, regularly, consulted by her real prime minister.)
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on October 01, 2010, 10:59:23
But that begs a question: if the office is to be more and more political,

I don't see any reason to think that it will be.  Even in a minority government, it's generally clear who the PM should be according to the conventions of our parliamentary system.

Quote
And if we are going to have a more political GG then is it not more appropriate that (s)he be a real Canadian, a resident of Canada with a good, personal feel for Canada and not a British implant?

Every GG in my lifetime has been a "real" Canadian, resident here, despite the fact that some have been immigrants.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 01, 2010, 20:25:04
I don't see any reason to think that it will be.  Even in a minority government, it's generally clear who the PM should be according to the conventions of our parliamentary system.

Every GG in my lifetime has been a "real" Canadian, resident here, despite the fact that some have been immigrants.

Last point first: sorry, I pressed post without double checking. I really wanted to talk about the de jure head of state, not the GG who is the de facto head of state. Despite my enormous affection and respect for HM the Queen and her office, I think it is time that we patriated our head of state - finding some sensible way to select an eminent person to 'wear' the Crown of Canada; that eminent Canadian must be, in my opinion, one of us - and, as I mentioned, I understand that the royals are, legally, Canadians but no one really believe that.

First point: consider this scenario, please - we have a budget early next year and the government loses the budget motion and we go to the polls. The results are something like this:

BQ -      55
Cons - 127
Libs -   100
NDP -    25
Others -  3

So, obviously, the GG calls upon the Conservative leader to form a government.

The Conservatives bring down a budget which, once again, fails to win parliament's confidence.

The PM goes to the GG and asks for another general election.

Now is when the GG becomes presidential. His (the GG's) primary duty is to ensure that Canada has a government that has the confidence of parliament. Generally, but not absolutely, its is also the GG's duty, to follow the advice of his PM, but he (the GG) is not the PM's slave.

In this case, given that the Liberals + the NDP + the Independents/Others have a workable minority he (the GG) can, maybe should, call on them to try to govern Canada - it is his constitutional right, even duty to do that.

Now, let's suppose that the Lib/NDP coalition brings down a budget that still cannot secure parliament's approval (perhaps because the BQ has a vested interest in making Canada fail). The Liberal PM asks for a general election but it is still less than one year since the last one. The GG could decide to haul the Conservative and Liberal leaders into Rideau Hall and ask them to craft a majority coalition - that would be a very European presidential thing to do. It would also be constitutionally legal and, maybe, proper too.

That's what I meant by being presidential.


Edit: grammar  :-[
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on October 01, 2010, 21:58:47
Ohhhh.....that would quickly put paid to the incestuous  catfighting presently going on, or......hmmmmm....I dunno....might work.....
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on October 01, 2010, 22:46:55
Ohhhh.....that would quickly put paid to the incestuous  catfighting presently going on, or......hmmmmm....I dunno....might work.....

The ghost of Viscount Byng of Vimy would like to have a little chat with you........

Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on December 21, 2010, 23:26:45
Americans do it right, again:

http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/states-with-lower-taxes-smaller-government-fewer-unions-seeing-the-most-population-growth/

Quote
States With Lower Taxes, Smaller Government, Fewer Unions Seeing The Most Population Growth
Rob Port  •  December 21, 2010
Share |

New census numbers are out, and it would seem as though people are voting against higher taxes and bigger government with their feet.
An updated study by Americans for Tax Reform compared states gaining and losing Congressional seats in the decennial reapportionment process and found that states gaining seats had significantly lower taxes, less government spending, and were more likely to have “Right to Work” laws in place. Because reapportionment is based on population migration, this is further proof that fiscally conservative public policy spurs economic growth, creates jobs, and attracts population growth.

The Census Bureau announced today that eight states will gain at least one Congressional seat. Texas will gain four seats and Florida will gain two. Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington will gain one seat each. The biggest losers will be New York and Ohio – both will lose two seats – while Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania will lose one seat each.

The average top personal income tax rate among gainers is 116 percent lower than among losers. The total state and local tax burden is nearly one-third lower, as is per capita government spending. In eight of ten losers, workers can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. In 7 of the 8 gainers, workers are given a choice whether to join or contribute financially to a union. (Interpolation, I think they mean taxes in the losing states is 116% higher than the gaining states)

You can read the full report from Americans for Tax Reform here.

The fact that States can gain seats as population grows and shifts is a no brainer, but the fact that States can lose seats in the Congress i interesting. We are froze in time, Provinces which lose population never lose seats in Parliament. Reapportation like this would make Parliament more representative of real shifts in demographic and economic power.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: GAP on December 21, 2010, 23:51:57
I love this one....I think I will email the link to Jack Layton..............

Oregon Raises Taxes On The Rich, Collects Less Revenues
Rob Port  •  December 21, 2010
 Article Link (http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/oregon-raises-taxes-on-the-rich-collects-less-revenues/)
 
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02: People attend a rally outside of the office of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to protest an extension of tax breaks for the wealthiest two percent of Americans on December 2, 2010 in New York City. The protest, which was organized by MorveOn.org, called the tax cuts millionaire bailouts and vowed to pressure Democratic senators to oppose the cuts, which Congress is currently considering extending. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It’s almost like higher levels of tax burden inhibit economic activity and development or something, but that can’t be true. According to liberalism, bigger government means more prosperity, right?

Right?

    Oregon raised its income tax on the richest 2% of its residents last year to fix its budget hole, but now the state treasury admits it collected nearly one-third less revenue than the bean counters projected. …

    Instead of $180 million collected last year from the new tax, the state received $130 million. The Eugene Register-Guard newspaper reports that after the tax was raised “income tax and other revenue collections began plunging so steeply that any gains from the two measures seemed trivial.”

    One reason revenues are so low is that about one-quarter of the rich tax filers seem to have gone missing. The state expected 38,000 Oregonians to pay the higher tax, but only 28,000 did. … These numbers are in line with a Cascade Policy Institute study, based on interstate migration patterns, predicting that the tax surcharge would lead to 80,000 fewer wealthy tax filers in Oregon over the next decade.

The rule of thumb is that when you tax something you get less of it. Oregon taxed rich people, so the rich people left.

The moral of the story is, you cannot solve debt problems by taxing the rich. Everyone should pay taxes, all taxes should be low and the government should be small.
end
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: N. McKay on January 03, 2011, 10:15:30
Americans do it right, again:

Correlation doesn't imply a causal relationship.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on January 03, 2011, 16:25:50
A new political party. Based on the interview, I suspect the founder has developed the "mechanics" of a 21rst century political party, but since there are no "core" issues around which members would gather, this is an empty shell. Worst case scenario, the party is infiltrated by "leftists" who dominate and "guide" the discussions within the Online party, making it a rather irrelevant clone of the NDP. OTOH, current parties can look at the structure and see how they can adapt it to their needs (not taking the Online Party over, but creating a CPC/Liberal/NDP online organization) Part 1:

http://walkersunknownthoughts.blogspot.com/2011/01/my-interview-with-michael-nicula.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FwVPTZ+%28The+Blog+of+Walker%29

Quote
My interview with Michael Nicula, the founder of the Online Party of Canada - director's cut

A little while ago, I had the real pleasure of conducting an interview with the founder of the Online Party of Canada, Michael Nicula.

A tight, edited version of my chat with Michael can be read at the Libertas Post: The Libertas Post Interview – Michael Nicula, founder of the Online Party of Canada:
As part of our effort to track new political trends and movements, Libertas Post recently interviewed Michael Nicula, founder of the Online Party of Canada. As its name implies, the OPC is an exclusively Internet-based organization at present.

Nicula’s unique vision mixes high-tech tools with electoral populism. Essentially, party members get to create the party’s platform. Whether this leads to meaningful change or mob rules, we’ll leave to your judgment.
Check it out.

For those who are interested, my whole discussion with Michael Nicula, the director's cut if you will, follows below:

1) So let's start this off with the most basic question imaginable: what is the Online Party of Canada?

The Online Party of Canada is an organization I created out of nothing, with a clear purpose in mind: to offer a radically different political platform starting from scratch ( rather than incremental improvements to a system that has too many flaws ). Sometimes it's better to start with a clean slate. The goal is to combine technology (internet-based collaboration and voting) with 'lessons learned' from centuries of political disappointments. Anything that can be done better, we will propose a better way.

2) Would you represent a majority opinion on any issue? By that I mean, is there anything that the OPC absolutely won't budge on?

We can't even say that we will compromise in certain circumstances. That would open the door to 'exceptions' and would compromise the idea. Answer is NO.

3) Can you give us some background on yourself? How did you end up as the founder and leader of the OPC?

I founded this political movement out of passion for politics. I am committed to spend my free time and energy to build this organization. I've been active in politics for over 15 years, however, this is my first attempt in Canada. Brief resume: My University degree (graduate) is in Architecture. I never practiced as an architect, but I've learned a lot about Urban Development, City Planning. Then I've got an Executive MBA from the University of Washington and I completed a rigorous Certified Management Accounting program in Ontario.

I've also completed a special training program as a Technician in Nuclear Technologies (CANDU) and I have been very successful in school competitions in Physics. After University graduation, I needed some money so I got myself Certified in Business Software Applications, such as SAP R/3, Oracle, Peoplesoft. I've been working as a Consultant, Business Software for more than 15 years now. My specialty is Human Resources and Payroll systems. Short biography: Born in October 1970 in Eastern Europe to a Hungarian mother and Romanian father. I grew up in southern part of Romania, Transylvania and Bucharest. I got married in 1993 and had a daughter 3 years later, then I moved to Canada and settled in Toronto. I love this city and this country dearly. I enjoy travel - not any kind of travel but adventure and discovery travel. I've been to places like Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India, China, Bhutan, Tanzania, Amazonia, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyanas, New Zealand, New Caledonia. All around Europe of course, North America. The most interesting place so far was North Korea - I visited in 2009 and I'd love to go back; such an eye-opening experience and I think most governments and media are offering a very distorted picture of what's really happening there.

[ You can see many of Michael Nicula's travel photos here, at his Picasa Web Album account. ]

I play football (or soccer as it's called here in North-America) and I do it with passion. My daughter Maria is my biggest achievement. I love her and I want to help building a better future for her and her young generation. 




4) What initially led to the idea to get the OPC up and running? Was there an event that galvanized you into forming your own political party? Have you done any political activism before this?

I've heard for decades now, from people all over the world, how unhappy everyone is with the political leadership. Politicians are known as incompetent and corrupt. Politics has a really bad reputation, being perceived as the art of deceiving people and getting away with it. Believe me, I've experienced it myself - as soon as I told my friends that I intend to be active in politics, they distanced themselves. Then I asked myself why is that? The answer I found is that the way the political system is built is causing a disconnect between the voters and the elected officials. There are two components missing from the system: Competence - no way to ensure that the people we entrust with managing multi-billion dollar budgets have the skills and experience to handle the job Accountability - there's no way to hold the elected officials accountable. They can basically lie all the way, behave in spite of those who elected them, make decisions contrary to what the voters want. Their only worry is to get re-elected, which is relatively easy for an incumbent given the lack of interest and general disgust of the electors ( thinking if we don't re-elect this person, there will be another crook...whatever we do, we're screwed ). So I put some thinking into building a system where along with the basic principles of democracy, competence and accountability are enshrined and governing principles. You're asking yourself how is it possible that we live in a presumably democratic country, however, on major issues pretty much all polls agree the Canadians want to go one way and the government acts the other way, for generations.. Some people say you don't want the 'stupid' voters to decide on 'complex' issues because they don't understand the intricacies...I am a beleiver in the wisdom of the voters as a large group. The politicians have been proven wrong too many times, I don't buy the argument that they're smarter than the voters who elected them.
Quote
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: Thucydides on January 03, 2011, 16:27:01
Part 2

Quote
5) What is it that the Online Party of Canada is hoping to accomplish? Are you in place more to send a message to other parties as a sort of 'protest' party? Do you have ambitions to sit in parliament? What ambitions do you have provincially or municipally?

OPC is here to become a political force of change. We need to play by the existing rules in order to get seated, then we'll do all we can to change the system at its core to make it more functional. We would ask Canadians if there's any sense in keeping the current form of government - Constitutional Monarchy. Do we really need this layer of leadership - the Queen, General Governor, Lieutenants etc. Do we really need the Senate, what is its role in a democratic society where the decisions are made by the people. Do we need 3 levels of Government ( Federal and Local make sense, but why do we need Provincial governments? ) Yes we have big ambitions - Parliament and every public office is our target. Don't quite understand the disconnect between Local, Provincial and Federal politics...how come even the big parties have different political agendas and behaviour at these three levels - shows the partisanship nature of the current politics.. There are too many wrong things in politics as we know it, that need to be changed. Small improvements won't do, we need sweeping changes. We're counting on the Internet media, social networking, bloggers...to get Canadians on board and swell the membership of OPC and then let them drive it wherever they want to go. 6) What advantage do you think the OPC could have over larger, more conventional, parties? Do you think its focus on things like social networking will give it access to some untapped political markets, maybe reduce advertising costs, make the party lighter on its feet, etc.?

You're right those three are the biggest advantages we're counting on. The problem is that the big media has this symbiosis going on with the established political structure ( advertising $$ and special access to political news in exchange for positive coverage ) and it's hard to penetrate. Social networking works fine but it has to be backed up by mainstream media. People pay attention to you on the web if they heard about you in the news. My Facebook ( and membership ) has peaked once an article about OPC was published by Postmedia papers. We need to find a way to break into big media - still working on that.

7) How far along is the party intrastructure? The OPC seems to have a pretty ambitious set of checks and balances set in place so that members can keep their candidates in check, fire them, or become candidates themselves. Is this infrastructure all in place at the moment? If not, how far along would you say that these processes are?
I am very happy and proud of the infrastructure - namely the website. We have all controls in place to ensure vote confidentiality and count, membership checks, specialists verification etc. In regards to Candidates' accountability: I hired a Bay street lawyer to come up with the most advanced process and I've got a document that we require Candidates to sign. The document is grounds for civil lawsuits, possibly class action, if a Candidate / Elected official goes 'rogue'. The politicians have made sure to keep themselves protected from voters' anger - there's no legal procedure to remove them. What we've got at OPC is the closest you can get to removing an elected official. My lawyer is confident this is solid. Needless to say, the traditional career politicians won't like it and I expect a lot of opposition to it.
8) How soon do you think it will be before the OPC can officially register with Elections Canada?

We're collecting membership forms through our lawyer's office who's also verifying the forms. Should be done in a few weeks.
9) How does one go about becoming a member of the Online Party of Canada?

Becoming a website user is quick and easy - need an e-mail address pretty much. That gives you a 'Guest' level status. Becoming a Member requires verification via a membership form ( hardcopy ) - you can download the form from the website, print, fill and mail to OPC or request a form be mailed to you ( along with a stamped return envelope for maximum convenience ). All you need to do is write your name, address and date of birth and sign the form before mailing it. It cannot get any easier than that.
10) To someone uninformed like me, there seems to be a rather obvious problem to achieving a majority of opinion on the OPC website: that someone will somehow find a way to game the system in their favor by registering more than one name to create multiple accounts - or something to that effect. What measures has the OPC taken to stop this kind of thing from happening? You said in your live-chat with The Mark that your website security is on par with any bank's. Do you stand by that assessment?

These are two separate questions. You can't register more than once in the system as a 'Member' because we're checking the membership forms. You can register as a Guest with multiple e-mail accounts, but the Guest votes are not binding. Also, the website has extra security features - flags IP addresses and computer IDs that are used with multiple accounts. Up to 5 would be normal, for members of a family, over 5 is suspicious. But then again, a lot of effort to register non-binding votes... Once you're a verified Member, your login is secured using SSL certificate encryption - same as the banks. I get a lot of questions about this but seriously, any IT security expert can tell you that it's actually more complicated to cheat a computer system than it is to cheat the current voter registration system. You can easily register and vote in multiple Electoral Districts...go to a few Voting centers [on] the election day, send multiple advance ballots. We're proposing in one of our Issues the creation of a National ID to replace all government issued cards and numbers: SIN, Driver's license, Health Card, Fishing license...as well as Voter registration. There's no need to have so many different numbers when you can really store all that info in a single magnetic strip. If you add biometric security features, all identity fraud issues would melt away. Until then, we're doing our best to verify Member identity within the limits of the current laws. The membership form contains a solemn declaration and we're counting on it. I personally believe it is not good enough but that's a legislative limitation and we're bound to it. As you saw on our website, we accept as Members people who cannot sign that declaration because they don't have the right to vote: landed immigrants, minors over 16, expats over 5 years. For those people we have a separate membership form that requires signatures from 2 professionals - doctor, lawyer etc. Same process for passport application. Again, I believe that's not strong enough, but it's the limit of the law. I'd rather have a National ID with biometric features ( fingerprint or palm map ). Lastly, I'm always listening to any ideas, if there's a better way to verify people within the law limits, we're adopting it immediately.

11) Something that also occurs to me is that the OPC might have a hard time establishing an elections platform, since majority opinion in the membership base could change on an issue mid-way through. Is there a plan in place to sort of 'cut off' the consultation process with the membership for any given period of time so the OPC can focus on promoting the issues it knows that its membership wants promoted? A sort of 'point of no return', at which point members won't be able to reverse their majority opinion on something for a given length of time so the OPC can mobilize itself around certain issues?

I've got this question many times before. OPC has no platform or agenda. Whatever people want to discuss and vote on becomes 'de-facto' agenda. People change their mind all the time, it's natural and healthy. We've put in place the 'tolerance margin' to avoid 'wiggling' around 50.0001 / 49.9999 type of votes - we added 3%. That means, we establish a true majority at 53% and flip back at 47% - lots of room to wiggle. But if 53% of members think the official position is wrong, we act immediately. Note: the tolerance margin itself is an 'Issue' - members can vote it up or down. There's no cut-off from consultation - that idea is anti-democratic and opens the door for abuse. OPC promotes the issues, not the positions. We at OPC don't care what position will become 'official', it's up to the members to decide. We will continue to promote the issues our members think are important - judging bu the number of votes and comments - regardless of the official position changes. Example: War in Afghanistan. It is an important issue. OPC currently stands for immediate withdrawal. But even if the majority vote switches to 'status quo', we will still consider it an important issue. ( I don't know how logical this approach is...I think I have good logic, but I'm open to criticism. If proven wrong, I change my mind easily. )

12) We've gone into this before a little, but I just want to be thorough. The OPC has five different kinds of membership: guest, member, specialist, candidate, party official. Can you explain the differences between these forms of membership?

Guests: can vote and comment on certain issues. Their votes are not counted towards establishing the 'majority' - official position. Members: they can vote on any issue that pertains to their location. Certain issues are restricted to a Province, Municipality, Electoral District...but most issues are marked 'Federal'. Members are verified - membership form. They must be either Canadian citizens with the right to vote, or 'special' members - minors over 16, expats, landed immigrants. These 3 categories don't have voting rights under Canada law, but OPC internal admin is independent. Members can request upgrade to Specialist, Candidate, Official. Specialist: member who has proven qualifications, work experience etc in a certain domain. I envision that in the future each domain will auto-administer - accepting new requests. Candidates: members who want to run for public office. They must make their profile public and post Bio, Statement and Resume. We might ask them to take some university courses in preparation - depending on their credentials. I envision a vetting committee that will handle this process. We will ensure equal opportunity as well as competence - fine line there but I'm confident we can manage. In addition, ALL candidates must sign the 'Promissory Letter of Resignation' - we talked about it before. Officials: party staff. Vote counting: members', specialists', candidates' and officials' votes are equal and counted altogether. For information / reference purposes, we also present separately the votes of specialists, candidates, officials to show how each category has votes. Members can use this information as guidance when they vote on a topic they're not sure - either trust the specialists, follow leadership of the candidates and officials.

13) How many members does the Online Party of Canada currently have, and how many 'guest' users does the OPC website have?

I don't have the latest count, our lawyer is collecting the forms. I'll know more when I get home [ most of this interview was conducted while Michael Nicula was in New Caledonia.]

I hope we have more than enough to start the registration process.

14) Have disaffected former members of other parties - like the Liberal Party of Canada or the Conservative Party of Canada - been joining the OPC? In other words, do you get a sense that people who have given up on the other parties are starting to flock to the Online Party of Canada?

Yes, I was invited by a Conservative riding in Mississauga to discuss a possible switch and also have members from the Liberal party. We've been approached by two other registered political parties for a potential 'amalgamation'. The leader of a registered political party is also a member of OPC. I also have a Native Indian Tribe chief as a member. I'm not seeking to 'poach' and I'm not willing to compromise on the Governing principles' in order to accommodate political agendas.

15) Do you think that other parties are going to try to copy, at least in some way, the OPC's approach to online politics? Do you see Canadian politics moving toward the Internet?
I've been requested to share the technical setup and I offered it for free. I don't believe in patenting an idea. If someone wants to copy our model, I'd be happy to assist. My goal is not personal - I just want my country to function in a democratic system. Problem is - the OPC true model implies competence and accountability. Most traditional politicians are not competent and do not want to be held accountable. They're career politicians - if you kick them out of politics, most of them can't do anything else. They can't accept the OPC model because there's no career guarantee in it.

Think about the mayoral candidates in the recent Toronto elections. Two of them are high school graduates, no university degree, the third one has a diploma in geography. They're not 'prime' candidates for an office that handles hundreds of billions of dollars. These people dropped school to start a career in politics. You think they would sign a 'Promissory Letter of Resignation' giving them the sack if they don't keep their promises? I really don't think this model applies to traditional politics.
Title: Re: Electoral Reform (Senate, Commons, & Gov Gen)
Post by: E.R. Campbell on January 16, 2011, 10:30:35
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail is a useful reminder from Jeffrey Simpson that Prime Minister Harper’s options are limited on the Senate reform front:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/senate-reform-an-altered-state-of-affairs/article1422994/
my emphasis added

Essentially, as I have said (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php?topic=25692.msg870343#msg870343), more than once (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php?topic=25692.msg855970#msg855970), going back a long time (http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php?topic=25692.msg200450#msg200450), there is a way to do most of what Harper wants to do, within the constraints of the Supremes’ ’79 ruling:

1.   The PM writes two letters:

a.   The first to each provincial premier telling him/her than he intends, by convention, to limit the way he appoints senators. He will, effective whenever, appoint to the Senate of Canada only those who –

(1)   Are constitutionally qualified (§23 of the BNA Act),

(2)   Are elected by their province, usually in senatorial elections that are held in conjunction with a provincial general election and by a system that, broadly, reflects the outcome of that provincial general election, and

(3)   Present him with a signed letter of resignation - effective the date of the next provincial general election, before being appointed, and

b.   The second to each serving senator, asking for a signed letter of resignation, effective the date of the next provincial general election; and

2.   The PM needs to explain – publicly - that he will not let provinces go unrepresented in the Senate but he will still demand, of those he appoints for his own, political, reasons, the same letter of resignation – thus, [de facto ensuring that senators are not appointed for life.

It will take a long time to achieve a fully elected Senate – not all serving senators will want to resign, some will hang on, in their sinecures, for 20 years or so but, eventually, appointed senators will understand that they are second class citizens compared to their elected counterparts and those who don’t bump into the age limit will resign out of frustration. Not all provinces will, initially, go along – but the hold outs will, eventually, understand that despite having enough senators they have ‘second class’ (unelected) representation and they, too, will sign on.

Elected senators will, with public support, make themselves effective because they will be willing to challenge the will of the elected HoC – putting provincial interests, including Quebec’s interests, into play and giving the overrepresented “Old Canada” (everything East of the Ottawa River) even more undue influence in the parliament of Canada.

An elected Senate will complicate life for the PM – even a majority government (in the HoC) may not be able to command the loyalty of the Senate. Even worse, who is to say that a BC Liberal senator will join the federal Liberal caucus – many BC Liberals are, in fact, Conservatives. The Saskatchewan Party Senators may, well, caucus with the federal Tories and so on.

But it – Senate reform – can be done, within the limits imposed by the SCC, and Senate reform might, sooner rather than later, lead to constitutional convention that will, finally, deal with several aspects of the old (1867 thru 1982), rickety Constitution of Canada.



It’s  :deadhorse:  time again!

This article, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail gives me an opportunity to revisit one of my pet projects:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/the-house-that-stephen-harper-built/article1871123/singlepage/#articlecontent
Quote
The House that Stephen Harper built

JOHN IBBITSON

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Last updated Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011

The Senate has always been a House under a cloud.

The Fathers of Confederation cobbled it together in part to protect people like themselves against the rabble, which is why senators still have to meet a property qualification: “We must protect the rights of minorities, and the rich are always fewer in number than the poor,” as Sir John A. Macdonald put it.

Because its members are appointed, prime ministers since Confederation have stacked the Senate with party bagmen and loyalists, leaving it in perpetual disrepute: “Probably on no other public question in Canada has there been such unanimity of opinion as on that of the necessity for Senate reform.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper likes to offer that quote, and then point out that it was written in 1926.

However, it has turned out that Mr. Harper's idea of reform is to make the Senate more Conservative and more powerful. On his watch, the Tories have achieved a majority in the chamber for only the second time in 70 years. And they are using that majority to veto legislation passed by the House of Commons, which the Senate was never meant to do.

If the Prime Minister gets his way, new legislation will make the Senate more powerful still, because its members will be elected to fixed terms. Some think this new Senate would be more legitimate and effective. Others fear it'd be a nightmare.

Whatever the Senate could become it is becoming already. The Other Place, as MPs like to call it, is actually starting to matter.

Rewriting the House rules

The House of sober second thought is not supposed to be powerful, though it has reared up before – most famously in 1988, when it refused to pass the U.S. free-trade deal until Brian Mulroney held an election on it.

But, centrally, its role “rests on obstruction. Rather than empower, it restrains government,” wrote University of Saskatchewan political scientist David Smith, one of Canada's leading authorities on the Senate.

It did, that is, until Stephen Harper and perpetual minority government arrived.

When Mr. Harper became Prime Minister in 2006, he promoted legislation that would limit senators' terms to eight years. He invited provinces to hold elections to fill senatorial vacancies and promised to appoint the winners.

But outside of Alberta, premiers had little appetite for sending senators to Ottawa who might compete with them as their provinces' voices. So in 2008 the Prime Minister began filling all available vacancies with good Conservatives, from the famous athlete Nancy Greene Raine to his former press secretary, Carolyn Stewart-Olsen.

By last January, the Conservatives had a Senate plurality; in December, an absolute majority.

A brake or a bomb?

While all this was happening, Parliament evolved in strange ways, as minority governments became entrenched and a majority for either the Conservatives or the Liberals seemed out of reach.

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois began passing legislation the government opposed, such as a plan to cut back on carbon-dioxide emissions; requiring all Supreme Court judges to be bilingual; providing tax credits for university graduates who work in certain regions; and offering restitution for Italian Canadians interned during the Second World War.

Imposing a caucus discipline to which the Senate is unaccustomed, the Conservatives used their majority to defeat the environment bill outright in an unusual snap vote. For other legislation, their preferred method is to defeat through delay. The bilingual Supreme Court bill, for one, languishes in debate and may never come to a vote.

“The majority in the Senate is prepared to use the legal powers that the Senate has” to block legislation from the House of Commons and to push legislation of its own, argues Jennifer Smith, a political scientist at Dalhousie University. “It's very important and it's likely to increase.”

Conservativ