Sunday, April 10, 2011

Democracy Agenda: Enumeration, Voting Rights, Parliamentary Retroform, AV

Read From Enumeration to the National Register of Electors: An Account and an Evaluation or here. (Note: worldwide, every time enumeration is replaced by voter lists, voter participation is reduced by approx 10+%, not 5+% as first noted).

Generally, whatever one's criticisms, the Liberal platform, taken as a whole, given where we are and what we are facing, is a good one and is rallying most progressives, being, as Salutin said, old-tyme Liberal. But. But. But there are a few absolutely fundamental problems with it, respecting our democracy, as regards its elements and its omissions. I agree with this, Liberals should adopt the Paul Martin plan to reform Parliament, whether or not McParland is genuine or just trying to stir up trouble for the LPC. But he and others miss how terrible an idea online voting is: Pantalone’s e-voting proposal dangerously clueless. The LPC is proposing it, either in a fit of naive 90s' "new is better!" or cynically, because it seems a low-cost way to increase voter turnout, from which they will profit, making meaningful electoral reform less pressing. I know a lot of people in the democracy and technology businesses and all agree it is a bad idea, given what the technology and human beings are like. And a People's Question Period is another terrible idea, as such moves to faux direct democracy delegitimise representative democracy, in whose name the LPC claims to be fighting this campaign. But what is missing may be more worrying, namely restoring ENUMERATION, undoing C-31 and restoring the right to vote to every Canadian, restoring the full health of parliamentary democracy, as Martin envisioned and was thwarted by the other parties' bad faith, and meaningful electoral reform.

The Need to Resurrect Enumeration, Voting Rights, Signage: Count Dollars, Not Pennies
Elections Canada was as wrong as can be to advocate the elimination of enumeration in the 1990s, spurred on by the typically blinkered Auditor General and gripped in a "culture of technology". History is repeating itself. You have to understand how important it is to older bureaucrats to seem "up to date" and "with it" (well everyone, these days, I guess) and "sensitive to the public".

So word went out that $30-40 million was too much to ensure over 98% of eligible voters were registered, massively increasing public awareness of the election, increasing turnout by at least 10% versus that achieved with permanent voters' lists (as has been the case in every transfer from enumeration to voter registers internationally) and traditionally providing temporary employment for 110 000+ Canadians who mostly comprise that part of the unemployed who need or are only capable of temporary employment, and whose employment, economic activity and taxes offset some of the minimal cost. Short-sighted foolishness. I've always been a big Chrétien fan, but that was one of the worst decisions his government made. I protested at the time, as best I could. But if the Auditor General and Elections Canada favour something...idiots. Just like many of the Gomery suggestions were foolish. You have got to see the big picture. But these guys all see things from a very limited, narrow perspective, that's their role. But the Parliament-PCO-PMO-caucus are supposed to think about the larger context. It still amazes me the LPC caucus went along with this. I've never met any MP or candidate or anyone involved in the nitty-gritty of elections who agrees(d) with it - everyone wants enumeration back. Now the electors' register is up and running, enumeration can be run alongside, costing, what $40-50M to make sure 98+% of eligible voters are registered, turnout improves by 10+%, with corresponding increases in awareness, and providing temporary employment for those who need it most, with the benefits that provides. That's a frigging bargain.

Conclusion: keep electors register AND restore enumeration!

Just as I am a great admirer of Chrétien generally, I am also known for my support for Stéphane Dion. But he was badly (weirdly for a poli "sci" prof) wrong to have the LPC caucus support Bill C-31, which introduced photo ID for elections, restricted the ability to vouch for those without it, ie., the homeless, and other methods of voter suppression. As I recall, it was because the LPC caucus was convinced that Olivia Chow had somehow cheated to win in Trinity-Spadina because of the large number of last minute additions to the voters' list. However, the subsequent investigation found no evidence of a single infraction. This is a classic example of the LPC cutting off their nose to spite their face, as higher voter turnout is also in their partisan interest, although one would hope they would be democrats enough to favour it regardless. Even if such a suppression measures would win them one seat, it loses them many more.

The origins of the whole movement to photo ID, restriction of vouching, etc., all come from the PQ post-95 referendum, when they figured they could fix the rules to suppress the vote of likely NO voters, immigrants, recent arrivals from other provinces, the disadvantaged, through means they could justify as guarding against voter fraud. They were helped, naively or not (I think not) by nationalist and secessionist sympathisers in the mass media, notably Jean-René Dufort and the then Péladeau père newspaper chain (Journal de Montréal, etc.), who consistently play(ed) up minor incidents to insist on ever-tightening conditions to vote, which effectively supress the vote of cultural minorities, recent arrivals and the poor. When you contrast the rhetoric in Quebec about restorative justice and the need to keep in mind the big picture with the alarmism over rare or non-existent incidents of electoral fraud, AS THE DGE & ELECTIONS CANADA HAVE EACH NOTED, the philosophical incoherence, not to say hypocrisy, is staggering. Dufort goes out of his way to dream up ways to illustrate potential cheating, which happen so rarely as to equal zero, when based against the effects of restrictive legislation. This is a classic example of the media doing great harm by stirring up the public over nothing in the big picture, helping the most self-interested and demagogic politicians. As I say, it`s just like the crime stories. The cost-benefit calculation is all wrong. There are next to no incidents of electoral fraud, but for the sake of preventing even the slightest, or the potential they might occur, Quebec has effectively suppressed the voting rights of the most vulnerable, who most need to be able to vote easily. And of course, the CPC was delighted to copy those tactics at the Federal level, given their own electoral interest. But the LPC was crazy to go along, and should, MUST, reverse it.

A third, minor, point is the lack of electoral signage around the country, another pennies vs. dollars. It's stupid, a classic example of counterproductive greenism. Everyone's scared to be accused of wasting paper, etc.. But since major environmental problems can only be fixed through a vibrant democratic movement, hence higher turnout and engagement, the minute environmental harm of a few more signs and leaflets is far outweighed by the good they do, raising awareness and increasing the vote. This is the kind of counterproductive blinkered faux environmentalism that drives me crazy. The climate crisis needs an engaged electorate to be confronted. But sanctimonious Greens get everyone scared to do the signage needed, for fear of being attacked as anti-green, which people can grasp, again like the reports of a single criminal incident or electoral fraud, while it's harder to convey the big picture re. crime, democracy, climate change. And the Greens play into this numbskullism. And others let themselves be cowed. Don't. Say healthy democracy is worth the cost of a few more dollars, a bit more recycling.

Let Parliament Be Parliament
I'm all for party platforms and the party discipline required as a result. Parliament doesn't work without party discipline and the usefulness of brokering deals in caucus between regions and right-left is always underrated. But much (most) bills don't require a three-line whip (which can also be a good strategy for a governing party trying to avoid confidence votes in a hung parliament, where one could say the Throne Speech and Budget need be the only three-line whipped votes). As stated : "the most important democratic reforms we need are the restoration (institution) of honourable parliaments with most votes being decided with 1- and 2-line whips, strengthened committees and a greater scope for action by individual MPs, as is the case in the UK". However, "as for more votes on a one- or two- line whip, which I favour, FIRST ALL PARTIES HAVE TO AGREE ON THE RULES (remember how Martin tried and got no cooperation?), and second, they're always for issues not covered by existing party policy and platforms."

AV Needed: Only Feasible Meaningful Electoral Reform Possible
Below I've boiled down to their essence pretty much all the points I've made about democratic reform over the years, particularly my insistence on preferential voting or AV as the only feasible electoral reform in Canada, and very necessary. Before reading, I repeat this:
MPs are referred to as Honourable because there's an understanding that they will conduct themselves as honourable men, otherwise the whole system will collapse. And now we see that a small group of radical right-wingers are following the most bad faith examples of the most radical American right-wing ideologues, using the worst 21st century tactics to effectively destroy our institutions, built on Burkean assumptions of respect for tradition. They are wolves in sheep's clothing, declaiming their affections for our most tradition-imbued institutions (military, the Crown) even as they rip apart very fabric that underlies and gives a sense to all those institutions. There is only one way to deal with wolves. Given this existential threat, if our democracy is to survive and thrive, not as a Potemkin Parliament but as real, healthy body, we must absolutely reform the electoral system to make effective our final possible brake on an aggressive executive, and then from there, proceed with a careful reestablishment of our major institutions, the Judicial (independence of nomination) and Legislative Branches (multi-party conventions on variable party discipline on House votes), as well as somehow doing what we can to restore our Public Service to its past past glory as a fearless, independent advisor to and implementor of Government policy.

November 21 2008 : "I was especially glad to hear him say that it's not just party renewal but nationwide democratic renewal we need, especially since 2008 was the first time in living memory that turnout in the US election was higher than ours. I overheard him comment as he left that we need to reintroduce enumeration along with the permanent voters list and eliminate last Parliament's voter ID requirements that discouraged and disenfranchised so many potential electors, a cause dear to my heart. Given I rarely meet a single politically active member of any party who doesn't agree we need to reintroduce enumeration, it's a mystery we haven't yet. It's elimination, piloted by then CEO Kingsley under Chrétien was a mistake we Liberals should have stopped and should now take the responsibility for reversing."

Saturday, March 24, 2007 :
Bill C-31 is one of the most disgraceful pieces of legislation ever passed through the Commons. It is now before the Senate where I hope the senators have the courage to correct its two most greivous faults: the disenfranchisement of the marginalised and the creation of a Big Brother invasion of privacy. These issues have been roundly condemned by the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Students, among others. The Liberal position in favour of the bill was adopted before Dion became leader and I am hopeful that a former poli sci professor like himself will revise this stand and instruct Liberal senators to fix it.

On the 1st point, of the obligatory official photo ID, this will disenfranchise those who don't have one. And whereas until now, those without ID could be registered to vote by swearing an oath to an appropriate commissioner, such as any lawyer in BC, now the person acting as commissioner has to live in the same riding as the voter and can only vouch for one individual total! Until now concerned lawyers who work with the poor and homeless but who may not live in the same riding as them would register a number of citizens to vote, but since that would be impossible under C-31, many citizens would be deprived of their most fundamental democratic right!!! It's a reintroduction of the "property qualifications" - we got rid of them at the turn ot the 20th century - now there seems to be an effort to again disenfranchise fellow citizens just because they're poor. Sickening.

Secondly, including citizens' full birth dates can lead to any number of abuses: a name, address and birthday is a gift to fraudsters.

Why are the Bloc and Tories in favour? The worse people's interactions with the State, the more suspicious they are and the less willing to identify themselves to public authorities. Wherever authorities wish to restrict the marginalised from voting they come up with rules that involve such self-identification: see Republican tactics in the USA.

The Bloc are in favour because they want to discourage all the pro-Canadian immigrants from voting: that's why the PQ changed Quebec's Election Act in this way in 1999. Immigrants are likelier to be poor and also to have come from oppressive regimes where one tries to avoid State interaction as much as possible.

The Tories are in favour because the poor and immigrants vote against them. And because Patrick Muttart wants to use the birth information to run some of his voter segmenting programs and target likely Tories, rather than try to speak to all voters.

But why would any Liberal, any small-l liberal worthy of the title, support this legislation?

I worked on the 1995 referendum here in Quebec, and other campaigns, as have many who read Liblogs. The amount of fraud in campaigns is infinitesimal, except when organised by the State, like Quebec Elections Office in the 1995 referendum.

As far as actual voter fraud goes, there was one case in 2006, an American who publicised his own fraud so as to show it could happen.In 2004, there were no cases and in 2000 election, there were three cases. That's it, four cases in three elections! Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer when the law was introduced, has stated: "I have no evidence that would lead me to believe that there has been any fraud in this country, based on the testimony I heard." Yet there's all this fear-mongering about fraud! Where's the empirical evidence?! Zilch.

Remember one of the principles of liberalism: It's better to have 10 guilty men go free than have one innocent man imprisoned. Conservatives and nationalists may be willing to deprive the poor and immigrants of their right to vote, but any liberal should err on the side of open democracy and the infinitesimal risk of increased fraud rather than an oppressively closed system which is guaranteed to deny some citizens the electoral rights.

Check out this testimony from the Commons Committee, where the Quebec Chief Elections Officer (CEO) admits that because of the Quebec law, the homeless can't and don't vote:
Mr. Yvon Godin,MP:
Is it possible that you said earlier that homeless people who don't have ID don't even go because they know they won't be able to vote? Do you have those numbers? Have you studied this?
Mr. Marcel Blanchet, CEO:
Unfortunately, we don't have any figures on that. Of course, there are homeless people in Montreal, but probably far fewer than out West, probably because of the weather.
Educate yourself through the following links and lobby Dion, your MP and all and sundry to correct this flawed bill.

Monday, October 13, 2008 : I strongly suggest we adopt Dion's suggestion and introduce preferential voting while undoing some excessively restrictive provisions re. party financing. The aging boomers make an increasingly powerful conservative plurality a real enduring possibility for a generation, given our current electoral system. If the majority of more moderate Canadians, from centre-right to centre-left & beyond, want to ensure they have a government that reflects them, then a preferential voting system should ensure that, introducing an element of proportionality into the system as well as being easy to implement: the ridings & ballots can remain identical, just instead of a single X one could number the candidates/parties in their corresponding circles from 1 onwards.

Friday, December 12, 2008 : I have repeatedly proposed preferential voting, as the simplest solution, which might just be acceptable to the Bloc & NDP. The Bloc would certainly oppose any PR system that reduced their disproportionate power in the Commons, but preferential voting probably wouldn’t. It probably wouldn’t change electoral results very much, except insofar as to likely prevent pluralities of the popular vote translating into majorities.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - 6:44 PM : I'm in favour of electoral reform, but the STV can't be simply explained to the masses. Any electoral system should be explainable in a couple of sentences. Otherwise the electorate doesn't know what's what and that leads to the sort of antidemocratic consocianalist politics (or "elite accomodation") one sees in various European countries. And this eventually leads to extreme protest parties whose subtext is "Simplify everything!" emerging & even winning, normally with extreme right-wing, not to say fascistic, tendencies. I'm in favour of a simplified preferential voting system or a mixed member proportional, either of which is easily explainable. But were STV to pass, its bias in favour of the creation and entrenchment of small parties means it would never be changed. So I think those who say "pass it now and get a better proportional system later" are misguided. Once STV's in, it's in for good. So I'd vote no to STV, however much this election highlights the need for reform.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009 9:51 PM : Proportionality is not the be-all and end-all of electoral systems. Elections have many purposes, one of which, very central, is to more or less accurately reflect the public's partisan preferences, or depending upon one's view of individual/popular sovereignty & representative democracy, preferences for representation locally and more widely, whether based on candidates' individual merits or wider considerations of political philosophy. But central as it is, this is only one of several functions elections' play.

I am a great believer in incremental, organic, "do no harm", easily understandable political change, whenever possible (some situations just can't wait). That is to say I am quite conservative in a (Burkean?) sense, except that quite a few policy questions can't wait, in my mind.

I don't think FPTP is bad. It well fulfills many of the other functions of elections (gives us a clear winner, with clear program, clarifies terms of debate, etc.) I just think it could be better. That's why I favour simple preferential voting as a first step down the path to further moderate electoral reform.

I didn't like the low threshold the Ontario had for winning seats. Germany has 5% and I would favour even higher than that, say 7.5% minimum. And why closed instead of open lists? I would have voted against the Ontario MMP proposal as it stood.

It is easy to adopt electoral systems. It is hard to change them as they bias the political landscape so as to ensure their survival. So it is that, comfortable but dissatisfied with FPTP, I could only support a system I felt I could live with for a generation or two. Given our institutions have been built around all the assumptions built into FPTP, a system which mimics it as far as possible is best. Hence, either simple preferential or MMP with a relatively high threshold and open list.

Having been politically involved for a while, it seems clear that the Canadian public is innately conservative as well, more than me. We are all some form of red tory. I'm just more red than most. But electoral reformers, the true believers, might do well to keep our national character in mind when campaigning. Why not target electoral reform within those cities, like Montreal, with a party system? Easier targets help build the case for bigger things down the line.

Finally, the most important democratic reforms we need are the restoration (institution) of honourable parliaments with most votes being decided with 1- and 2-line whips, strengthened committees and a greater scope for action by individual MPs, as is the case in the UK. Perhaps electoral reformers might do better to lobby for these reforms first. Let's see what a properly-functioning, healthy, FPTP system gives us before revolutionising our system. Then if needs be, let's carefully try another system which easily matches our Westminster tradition, like simple preferential voting, or, "à la limite", MMP. But one thing at a time, eh?

Thursday, October 29, 2009 : As for more votes on a one- or two- line whip, which I favour, first all parties have to agree on the rules (remember how Martin tried and got no cooperation?), and second, they're always for issues not covered by existing party policy and platforms.

Monday, December 14, 2009 : Of these various reforms, electoral reform, is the most essential, and the only plausible reform, given the state of Canadian opinion and its resistance to change, is preferential voting. I have gone over the reasons for this at length (read all the links) and found a way to do it, should any Lib-led government lack the guts to ram it through: "non binding plebiscite".
Thursday, December 17, 2009 : The legislative agenda would be well advised as having the restoration of democracy as its cornerstone, as the right thing and to gain support. Among the various propositions, might I reiterate the importance of electoral reform and the fact that the only reform that could ever be acceptable to QC, given its unique position, is preferential voting, which far from penalising the Bloc, as other proposals would, might indeed aid it, a bit, as the insurance policy party in QC, in the short term, 1-2 elections, max. The change in our democratic culture as a result of preferential voting (civilised debate, hence necessarily more policy-focussed, and leading to greater respect for institutions by parties, etc.) would eventually profit smaller parties and increase desire to be part of governing coalitions, pulling folk away from Bloc. But it's fair to say that the Bloc would probably profit slightly in the first preferential election, and that's exactly why it's the only electoral reform with a chance. NDP would have to be willing to put some water in their wine, take the medium to long view, recognise the perfect is the enemy of the good, that any more proportional system is a practical no-go, and decide whether their principles actually mean something: is it more important to stop neo-cons and promote progressive ideals, with chance for NDP to gain down the line, electorally & ideologically, after culture change, or to care more about the actual number of seats the NDP gets in following election, knowing full well they'll never top 18%? Enlightened self-interest would dictate NDP favour preferential voting, especially with aging, increasingly conservative population, who will eventually give Cons a majority under current system, with all that implies. They could agree to abide by results of national referendum on question, seems fair compromise in governing platform with Libs.
Sunday, January 10, 2010 :  There would be a whole package of democratic reforms front and centre, with, among others, Parliament needing to agree to prorogations, multiparty agreement on a more liberal UK approach to voting discipline, independence of nomination to judicial, quasi-judicial & arms length bodies, reestablishing independent public service, and most crucially, electoral reform by introducing a simple preferential system. Three previous posts have summed up the essential questions, Milliken's Ruling, Precedents & Inquiry. I quote from this last post to again explain why I think simple preferential system is the only electoral reform possible:
"might I reiterate the importance of electoral reform and the fact that the only reform that could ever be acceptable to QC, given its unique position, is preferential voting, which far from penalising the Bloc, as other proposals would, might indeed aid it, a bit, as the insurance policy party in QC, in the short term, 1-2 elections, max. The change in our democratic culture as a result of preferential voting (civilised debate, hence necessarily more policy-focussed, and leading to greater respect for institutions by parties, etc.) would eventually profit smaller parties and increase desire to be part of governing coalitions, pulling folk away from Bloc. But it's fair to say that the Bloc would probably profit slightly in the first preferential election, and that's exactly why it's the only electoral reform with a chance."

That goes for any reform, under any circumstances, whatever size of governing majority, as "QC", that is nationalist QC, representing some 70% of population, would rise in revolt against any electoral change that would be perceived as a method for weakening nationalist position, ie. Bloc. Even many (most?) federalists who don't like Bloc would be leery, esp. in light of media & popular reaction. To impose an even more proportional system that would have happy consequence of diminishing Bloc influence, from federalist point of view, would seem so wrong in QC as to be one of few issues on which PQ could whip up enough support for 60%+ Yes vote in referendum, as in post-Meech. The best short summary of attitudes on this kind of issue, and English-French relations, remains Some Obstacles to Democracy in Quebec and in QC, French Canadians always remember, or continue to perceive, that "English Canadians have not really wanted it (democracy) for others", ie. Anglos' claims of needed structural reforms are really just excuses for doing down Francos (cf. single capital markets regulator, among many such examples).

Thursday, February 04, 2010 : In yesterday's paper edition of Globe, there were two explanations of preferential vote, one by decent journalist and one by poli "sci" freaks. Guess which was clear & simple and which really really wasn't: terrible bit of mush from some poli "sci" group, clearly written in infamous poli "sci" prose. Since we've had, what?, four public consultations?, on more complicated proportional systems and there's no support (given Ont once, BC twice, PEI once), in large part because they were badly designed and hard to explain, Preferential is the only hope for introducing even an element of proportional, and maybe as a first step to eventual greater reform. But I'm starting to suspect that reform advocates would secretly prefer status quo as it allows them to lecture endlessly from height of incomprehensible "haut en bas" self-righteousness. How else to explain their affection for complicating & obfuscating the most simple concepts? The great advantages of preferential system is it hasn't been rejected, one, we already use it, two, as Saunders notes, it's easy as it can be done without any changes to electoral map or system (or ballot paper even), etc., three, AND IT'S SIMPLE!!! Please, electoral reform freaks, if you are at all serious, can we stick to Saunder's explanation and not your baroque over-complications? Or do you desperately want another group of soi-disant ordinary Canadians locked into a room with poli "sci" prof fantasists until they succumb to Stockholm syndrome and propose yet another incomprehensible 17-faceted electoral system that only poli "sci" nerds can love? Stick with this, SVP: "The system, known as the alternative vote in Britain or the preferential ballot in Canada, creates an “instant runoff” where, if no candidate gets 50 per cent of the first-choice votes, the second choices are then added to the tallies, and so on until a candidate achieves a majority."

Thursday, February 25, 2010 12:49 PM : Reduce the entire thing to this, for real: "The system creates an “instant runoff” where, if no candidate gets 50 per cent of the first-choice votes, the second choices are then added to the tallies, and so on until a candidate achieves a majority." That's right, get rid of the whole "knocking candidates off & redistributing their votes if no candidate has a majority even after counting all the preferences". Why? "The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good" is the argument for preferential voting in the first place, a 2nd or 3rd best option v.-à-v. the ideal voting models of proportional proponents, but far superior to them in one crucial aspect: preferential may actually be politically achievable...perhaps. And upon consideration, I propose a 2nd best version of preferential voting, which would have the happy side-effect of helping small parties a bit more than the usual model. List your preferences, count until a candidate achieves a majority, and if no majority, then most votes (plurality). That can be understood by all voters.
Having sold the Green Shift door to door, I know that even the most seemingly simple policy proposals (+1-1= 0) can be difficult to convey. I had great success with the Green Shift, judging from the results of the polls I canvassed, but I was unusually willing to spend five minutes at the door explaining it, which was inefficient (cost benefit: win votes vs. time spent). I foresee the whole "dropping candidates and redistributing their votes" thing as much worse. And wasted effort, as those situations are extremely rare.

If you think about it, you'll realise just how rare it is for no candidate to have obtained 50%+1 after four or five (QC) rounds of voting. Of course a new electoral system would change the number and nature of parties, and their behaviour, that's the whole point, but let's work with the current setup of four-party competition outside QC, five within. Assuming current results are a very rough indicator of 1st preferences, it is easy to foresee that ridings like Saanich-Gulf Islands would be rare exceptions, where one might not have any majority after simple preference count (unlikely, even then). Given that 95%+ of ridings will have majorities after first count (and I'm being conservative), it would be silly to be so intent on majority criterium so as to propose a system over-complicated in Canadians' eyes. It's not worth it.
Just tell them, rank your candidates, we count them, first to 50%+1 wins. What if no-one gets 50%+1? Then candidate with most votes wins.
This would also favour smaller parties a bit more.
I linked to all my other previous arguments here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010 1:24 PM : This old news, MPs back referendum on voting system reform, prompted one of the fairest comments on Preferential Voting you'll read: Neither its advocates nor its opponents can pretend that AV is a revolutionary change. It is, though, a fair one.

Monday, May 10, 2010 : The UK is definitely getting at least a referendum on electoral reform, and may just introduce it straight out, without a referendum. The Lib Dems now have the choice between supporting a Conservative government perceived as more legitimate which will give them a referendum on preferential voting/"alternative vote" (AV) or a Labour-led government, perceived as less legitimate, but now willing to offer AV without a referendum (perceptions do not reflect either constitutional or democratic realities, but unavoidable). I've written a lot on preferential voting and why it's the only politically possible electoral reform in Canada. I was also the first to note, I think, here and Macleans (page 2 of comments, top), that this is where the UK would end up, and this would almost certainly create huge momentum for a similar reform, probably preceded by a referendum, here in Canada. If at least a plebiscite is held in the UK, the only way Canada won't have one, if Liberals ( take power, IS IF CANADIAN ELECTORAL REFORMERS FIND A WAY TO OVERPLAY THEIR HAND AND FUCK UP AGAIN, AS IN THE PAST. The reality is, QC could not accept any reform more proportional than AV. And more proportional systems have been repeatedly rejected by over half the population (Ont+BC+PEI) already. Remember advice, electoral reformers: [see previous excerpts].

Monday, January 25, 2010 - Ignatieff Liberals: The Right Prorogation Limits : Obviously, the announcement pleases me enormously. To understand the logic, as I understand it at least, one might want to read this and then this. The Liberal proposal is the best one out there, much better than my meagre rough sketches, or anyone else's. As noted, of course one can't ever fully control a majority government, but one can limit their scope for abuse, and create the possibilility of paying a political price if they do so, hence the advance notice, debate & time limits, and allowing committees to function. Anything more would be bad law, as hard cases make bad law. We don't need to worry about no steenking constitutional acts, we got the power to do what is needed through standing orders. All democrats of good faith, as we saw from NDP's gracious reaction (for once) can, um, rally...around these terms.
NB. I would favour 2/3 needed for amendments to standing orders. Even if Bloc swept QC, would still only be less than 25% of members, that is, for those weak at math, less than the 1/3 needed for a veto. So they would not have a veto. And there are the precedents from the National Assembly in QC. But we could with this for now, and change them if need be.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 :  "Ignatieff said his Liberals must propose a democratic reform package to ensure that "I'm not going to shut down Parliament when the heat's on...every time my government is under legitimate scrutiny."" - Good news. Now if only there was someone in caucus who was qualified to bring such a package together, in a coherent whole. I'm imagining, like, one of Canada's and the world's leading experts on public administration, federalism & intergovernmental relations, and had served as a minister for years in a cross-cutting job that required knowledge of the running of all departments, while being sensitive to federal & intergovernmental implications, and who had been PM's right hand man, on all biggest cabinet committees, and in the know on view from the top, and had also had experience as backbench government MP, and had also seen the world from the perspective of a line minister, trying to push a total government response to the biggest issue imaginable against structural obstacles, and who had seen the world as humble opposition MP, and as critic, and as leader of an opposition caucus, as insider & outsider. A guy like that might have a few useful ideas, eh? And also know how to separate the wheat from the chaff, knowing that while general thrust of Gomery was well-intentioned, some (many?) of Gomery's recommendations were counter-productive and silly, and other areas of concern forgotten. A guy, who because he was born into discussion of these questions, and became world leading specialist in them, and that had great practical experience, has a massive institutional memory. It would need someone with a sharp mind and a natural inclination to analysis that led to coherent, structural, workable, useful reforms that make the world a better place. If only. Thinking, thinking....umm, paging Dr. Dion. Of course, to be fair, there's probably not a public policy related question on Earth for which one couldn't say that Dion was best if one wanted a productive coherent reality-based solution. But democratic & administrative reform, improving the very matrix of our system, to fundamentally, structurally, alter our system for the better, for a long time? Yeah, he just might be the man for the job. Just. Barely. By the slightest bit. And by slightest I mean of course the distance between Earth & Jupiter.

[ie. Dion for Treasury Board, Democratic Reform, P&P, etc. - Sunday April 10, 2011 Addendum]

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