Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The BC Shell Game of Public Funds

In the 2013 BC Election, the Liberal party pledged the LNG industry would create $1 trillion in economic activity and a $100 billion prosperity fund. Tagline - "It's no fantasy"

Martyn Brown, Gordon Campbell’s former Chief of Staff, reckons Christy Clark and the BC Libs were 'patsies', repeatedly 'duped' by petro industry's sparkling promises of new investments, lots of jobs, and an endless supply of unicorn meat.

Sure, let's go with 'duped'.

"It is difficult to get a premier to understand something," as Upton Sinclair might have put it, "when her salary depends on her not understanding it."

BC In-Sights blogger and researcher extraordinaire Norm Farrell excerpts from Martyn Brown's Energy News Corp column on Clark's LNG fantasy and the gutting of BC's "2008 climate action plan":
"The Petronas precedent also gave those Asian state-oil monopolies a special 25-year indemnity that is underwritten by B.C. taxpayers.
That indemnity will save them harm from any so-called “discriminatory events.”
It assured the LNG industry that any companies covered under such project agreements would not have to face any industry-specific carbon taxes or any new industry-specific GHG reduction initiatives for at least 25 years.
If any future government changes those locked-in tax rates and benefits at a cost to those companies that is greater than $25 million in any year, or more than $50 million over five years, they will be entitled to full compensation, courtesy of B.C. taxpayers.
Similarly, any changes in government policy that impose new rules or tougher standards specific to the LNG industry, which entail higher costs relating to carbon taxes or to greenhouse gas emissions and reporting requirements, will be fully compensable above that threshold."
So what happens to that legislation now that a world glut of LNG and it's non-competitive BC market price has choked on Christy's unicorn meat? Can we repeal it?

Norm is on Canadian Glen's blogtalkradio show The View From Up Here tonight at 6pm PST to discuss the BC Hydro/Site C Dam con and the LNG debacle on The BC Shell Game of Public Funds. That's the question I'm sending in.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Why party strategists are threatened by electoral reform

Tom Parkin on bastions and battlegrounds ...
"There’s a reason traditional political strategists argue so fervently to keep the first-past-the-post system.

Yes, it can give them 100% of the power with only 39% of the vote. But that’s not the worst.

More worrisome is the thought the beloved political bastions and battlegrounds created by the first-past-the-post system might be destroyed – rendering useless all the manipulative political strategies they’ve successfully developed to exploit them."
Strategies like ignoring voters in the 1/3 to 1/2 ridings where an election outcome is a foregone conclusion to concentrate their micro-targeting tech and pork-barrelling on just the close ridings. Strategies like dogwhistling voters into two-party strategic voting.
"Proportional representation wipes out bastions because it makes every vote count. Everyone – even in what was a bastion – has a reason to vote, and all parties now need to pay attention."
Very good article. Go.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Another Clark Park Day in BC

So remember this?

"The 2007 document has surfaced one week after it was revealed that the Premier was a partner in her former husband’s lobbying firm, which formerly listed its office at her residence and boasted such clients as Enbridge and B.C. Rail.
In the fall of 2007, Ms. Clark entered into a two-year agreement as chairman and board member of RCI Capital Group’s RCI Pacific Gateway Education Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the investment firm.
Since becoming Premier, Ms. Clark has actively promoted RCI on official trade missions to Asia — recently signing a memorandum of understanding on behalf of the B.C. government in securing $1-billion in overseas investment..."

No I never worked for RCI said Christy, and RCI Capital's John Park gallantly came to Clark's defence, saying he'd never so much as even met her back then, much less paid her the first of three annual director's fee installments of $4,000 due her within 120 days of her RCI appointment. 
No, it was her then husband, Mark Marissen, Stephane Dion's campaign manager, that Park had hired. 
I guess that's just a spousal Chairman biz card then.

In December 2013, Clark appointed RCI managing director Tenzin D. Khangsar as chair of B.C.'s Multicultural Advisory Council. Khangsar was a former chief of staff to both Jason Kenney and Tony Clement and a key CPC ethnic campaign strategist for the Cons in 2011. 

Bob Mackin, July 2014 : 
"John Park hired Khangsar to be managing director of his RCI Capital investment bank after the Tories were re-elected in 2011. RCI’s board includes retired Conservative MPs Stockwell Day and John Reynolds. Day represented RCI on last fall’s trade mission led by Premier Christy Clark to China."

Still with me? Ok, flash forward to the Vancouver Sun two days ago featuring yet another Clark Park Day photo op :

"A B.C.-based company says it has brought $2 billion to Canada under the Quebec government’s cash-for-visa program, a scheme that some say is a factor in Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis.
Vancouver-based RCI Capital Group, which helps resource companies develop strategies and raise money in Asia, has a Montreal-based subsidiary that has been active for years in the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program.
The Quebec program has become increasingly controversial in Metro Vancouver as critics point to it as one of the drivers of sky-high housing prices, since the vast majority of successful Quebec applicants immediately establish themselves in Toronto and Vancouver."

The Tyee : 'China Syndrome' Paralyzes Politicians in Housing Affordability Crisis
Huge impact of foreign buyers can't be ignored, and raising the issue isn't racist.
"...the province won't act as long as the real estate industry that profits enormously from selling homes to foreign buyers also contributes huge amounts to the BC Liberal Party. Josh Gordon, Simon Fraser University public policy professor, even refers to the influence of Bob Rennie, the real estate mogul who also heads Premier Christy Clark's fundraising efforts.
That would be the Rennie who recently suggested action to curb foreign real estate investment would start a trade war. "China buys $6 billion a year in British Columbia exports," he said. "Are we going to tamper with those jobs and our economy?"
Gordon calls out those who fund political parties.
"The fundraising is being dominated by prosperous developers and others closely tied to the housing boom," he writes. "This is the second lesson about housing market politics from the past decade: inside players, with large vested interests, are willing to shovel over massive amounts of money to political parties to keep the boom booming."

Ian Young, South China Morning Post : Leak reveals secret tax crackdown on foreign-money real estate deals in Vancouver
"Confidential briefing for CRA auditors outlines strategy to tackle suspected tax cheats who do not report global income or who ‘flip’ homes – but reveals that last year, there was only one successful audit of global income for all of BC."
Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun : B.C. politicians almost alone in seeking foreign donations
"B.C. is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that welcomes political donations from foreign individuals and corporations.The B.C. Liberals have in recent years received hundreds of thousands of dollars from offshore real estate developers, mining companies, railways and others. At least indirectly, the B.C. Liberals have even received donations from foreign governments, specifically China."

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The strategy of the fly

"A terrorist is like a fly that wants to destroy a china shop. Small, low, fly is unable to move not even a cup. So she found an elephant, enters his ear and buzzes until mad with fear and anger, it sacked the shop. Thus, for example, the Al-Qaeda fly led the American elephant to destroy the china shop of the Middle East.

Why are they so sensitive to terrorist provocations? Because the legitimacy of the modern state is based on its promise to keep the public sphere free of political violence. A regime can withstand terrible catastrophes, and even ignore them, provided its legitimacy is not based on preventing them.

Today, a government may turn a blind eye to high levels of domestic and sexual violence, because they do not undermine its legitimacy. Rapists and abusive husbands are not perceived as an existential threat to the state, because, historically, the state did not build itself on the promise to eliminate sexual violence. In contrast, the much rarer cases of terrorism are viewed as a deadly threat, because over the last few centuries modern western states have gradually built their legitimacy on the explicit promise to maintain zero political violence within their borders."

Read the whole article from Yuval Noah Harari in French, or in English 

h/t Line Merrette Vincent


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Hissy fit on #ERRE committee

in which CPC MP Blake Richards uses up his timeslot on committee to berate the Liberals for not reading out twitter questions submitted by the public about holding a referendum ... instead of just reading those questions aloud himself. 

As noted by the Chair, the purpose of this Electoral Reform Committee meeting was to question and hear testimony from former Elections Canada CEO JP Kingsley. 

Richards is replacing Jason Kenney on the #ERRE committee while Kenney is off saving Alberta. 
When the idea of allowing public input to the committee via twitter was first proposed, Mr Kenney dismissed it as :
"We are not here to be conduits for twitter or other platforms of social media in which there is sometimes a robust and vulgar public debate..."
Perhaps this explains why Mr Richards declined to read out those twitter questions himself.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

5th Electoral Reform Committee meeting - JP Kingsley

in which the Conservatives only want to talk referendum and the Liberals mostly want to talk about online voting, which we aren't getting for the 2019 federal election, in part because the Liberals have not rolled back Fair Elections Act provisions that prevent Elections Canada from pilot testing it.

JP Kingsley gives his personal suggestion for a new combination electoral system - urban MMP and rural FPtP - and the CPC MPs launch the dismissive phrase "consultations in cafeterias" to refer to any discussions with Canadians about electoral reform that isn't a referendum.

Since May 2010, Kingsley, former Elections Canada CEO from 1990 - 2007, has been Chair of the Executive Advisory Committee of Dominion Voting, a Canadian company selling electronic voting machines and tabulators. In May 2010, Dominion bought the infamous Diebold Election Systems from Election Systems & Software. 
From 2007-2009, Kingsley was President & CEO of the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems, which "provides assistance and support for elections in new and emerging democracies" in 135 countries including Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Nicaragua, and Yemen.

Lest you think his position at Dominion Voting inclines Kingsley toward online voting for the next federal election, it does not. In a presumed response to Lib Ruby Sahota's comparison to online banking and Sherry Romanado's comment in the previous meeting that :
"I can order pizza online. On the day of the vote, it may be raining, I might be busy. Online voting gives me an option"
Kingsley, who thinks online voting is eventually inevitable and even necessary to engage the young and "differently abled" and voters not in their riding, said in his excellent opening remarks to the committee:
"Online voting. The analogy with online banking and purchasing I heard this morning is flawed. Banks hedge the risk from the person - a margin of error is acceptable against which they hedge. What margin of error is acceptable in elections?" 

The ERRE committee has not yet posted July minutes or transcripts so here's some notes on the Kingsley Q&A meantime : 

CPC Scott Reid : Referendum. He begins by quoting KIngsley from June : "You can only hold a referendum on a constitutional matter. Changing the electoral system is not a constitutional matter." Did you mean the Referendum Act would need to be changed to hold a referendum?
Kingsley : Yes, that's what I meant.
Reid : In 1992 you held a referendum 4 months after passing Referendum Act. Could you do it in 4 months again because Mayrand says he would need 6 months?
Kingsley : Easier then. Defers to Mayrand's 6 months.

NDP David Christopherson : Unlike Mayrand who is still in office, you can give opinions. Why should we move from comfort zone of FPtP to "something that more accurately describes the will of the people"?
Kingsley : "I can't think of a country that went with FPtP when installing a democracy because of its known difficulties. If you do not come out with a new system, then the people complaining about the system in place now will have to live with it."

Bloc Luc Theriault : More equitable state funding for small parties would address vote inequality.
Kingsley : We should return to previous system of $2 per vote per party annually, even if at $1.50 not $2. 
Theriault : Funding means smaller parties can make themselves heard in between election campaigns. 
Kingsley : My suggestion : Given size of Canada, remote vast rural ridings would keep FPtP to elect 40 to 60MPs. For urban ares, group 4 -5 current ridings and voters would choose their 4 or 5 MPs based on the vote. Everyone would vote for one candidate or one party. The party would be chosen by the new riding association from the grouped-together 4 or 5 ridings. To achieve gender parity in say 5 available seats, there would be 3 men and 3 women coordinated alternating man-woman-man-woman. Voters would vote for one man or one party - they would only have one vote. If 60% of people vote for Party A, they get 3 seats or 60%.

Elizabeth May : Given distortions we experienced under FPtP, do you believe our democracy will be improved when we get rid of it? 
Kingsley : Democracy will be improved when committee has done its work, when we have best system or least worst system as Shakespeare would have said. The process itself is important.
May : Power of PMO is unique to Canadian system. 
Kingsley : Concentration of power under Pierre E Trudeau was to ensure unity of direction, that ministers would not go contrary to what party wanted. That machinery over time created more authority of Prime Minister. Not directly related to issue but feeds into it.
Holding any referendum vote would require rewriting the outdated law but it was a good act re free broadcasting time - 1 1/2 hour to both sides. 

Lib Sherry Romanado : Simplicity of ballot, link between elector and elected, parties should be national coast to coast. Please elaborate.
Kingsley : Some parties are under-represented so there's bodies missing in caucus. In Quebec, eastern Canada there are fewer Conservatives than should be there. It's at caucus that national decisions are made for the rest of Canada - proportional or mixed proportional would address that but no system will be perfect.
Romanado : How would coast-to-coast parties affect intraparty competition?
Kingsley : Open list, choosing among candidates within the same party- electors rank within the same party which one they prefer. If only 4 to be elected in that riding, I would bust my proverbial to be among 1st four. There will be temptations but party discipline will address that. 
Romanado : I had 7 candidates in my riding and I benefitted from FPTP - that's the reality - but now I represent them all. 
Kingsley : With my suggestion, [ridings with several MPs] , after election, electors could choose who among those 4 or 5 they choose to take their issue to.

CPC Girard Deltell : Referendum. What is more important in consulting Canadians - a referendum or "townhall consultations in a cafeteria"?

Lib Ruby Sahota : Using compulsory attendance [not compulsory voting], would a new electoral system increase voter turnout?
Kingsley : I don't believe in compulsory voting, rather compulsory attendance. However "I don't know if 50% attendance at the polls is sufficient to lend legitimacy to a government."
Sahota : Twitter question : How much higher is voter turnout in countries with proportional representation?
Kingsley : One study by Prof Blais (sp?) found about 7%. I may be wrong. Might be marginal.
Sahota : Simplicity of ballot to increase voter turnout.
Kingsley : Youth are not voting. 58% turnout in last election; 39% in one before. Failure to engage. If we are to keep voluntary attendance at polls, we must do better at getting across *why* to vote. They don'y watch tv; why do we still do tv?

NDP Alexandre Boulerice : Public education needed. People think they are voting for a PM.
Kingsley : Must listen to Canadians. Social networks will create snowball effect. Canadians capable of understanding what democracy is about. I don't endorse any particular system but whatever you come up with must maintain link between MP and community.

CPC Blake Richards : Your suggestion of two systems - one urban, one rural - why is that a good system? 
Kingsley : People in rural areas accustomed to link with elected MP; a proportional system represents more difficulty for them because geography. 

Lib John Aldag : How do independents fit in to any new system?
Kingsley : A problem internationally with some PR systems but not mixed member. Chances of being elected the same as they are right now - low.
Aldag : Online voting. Mayrand not seeing it for 2019. When then?
Kingsley : Both later and faster than we think. All-pervasive technology must asssure integrity of elector identification. Mayrand said not in 2019 because he needs permission from House and Senate to even think about it never mind test pilot it; used to be just from PROC.
Aldag : Do you have preferred approach for a pilot test for say people with disabilities? How can we phase it in?
Mayrand : Could not apply to all Canadians - too broad a test. Could try people with "differing abilities" or mobility issues or a few ridings. Could then check to see how well we performed.
Aldag : What margin of error is acceptable?
Kingsley : Canadians will say if we have online voting - must be 0% error.

End of first round questioning. Might get to second round later if there is any interest in this first round.

Friday, July 08, 2016

4th Electoral Reform Committee - Mayrand

Testimony of Elections Canada CEO Marc Mayrand July 7  
on "Viable alternative voting systems to replace First Past the Post and examination of mandatory and online voting" 

Shorter : A one-off referendum would cost $300M, Mayrand not worried about getting election system changes and/or possible referendum done in time for 2019 election if May 2017 deadline, as promised, is his starter date. 
Mayrand, it should be mentioned, is retiring in December so it won't be him dealing with it.

Alternating CPC & Lib MP questions: Referendum, online voting, referendum, online voting, referendum.
The dominance of the referendum question from the CPCs continues as expected, but the emphasis on online voting from the Libs is a surprise, given Mayrand has already said it won't be an option for the 2019 election.

Longer, much much much longer :-) ...

As CEO, Mayrand's role is to administer Canada Elections Act and Referendum Act and implement readjustment of federal elections boundaries.
Next report on suggested legislated changes to be submitted to PROC in September.
"Very short timeline" to get changes in place for next election in 2019.
He will not be addressing pros and cons of various voting systems.
Government has committed to have legislation in place in May 2017 "which I am comfortable with"
Mayrand reiterated his remarks to PROC from April. Full statement here :

1)Some systems may require redistribution of electoral boundaries. Current legal framework does not allow for redistribution except after the decennial census - current boundaries are supposed to be in place till 2023 - and also does not allow for multi-member seats. A change in voting system requiring redistribution will require enabling legislation. Last redistribution exercise took 26 months.

2) Redistribution may make it difficult to get results published on election night.  Canadians expect quick results so electronic tabulation may be required at all polling places to continue this tradition.

3) Redistribution may impact political financing. 

4) Public education on new system and election officers will need prepping.

Online voting and mandatory voting.
Internet voting would remove barriers but Canadians must trust integrity and secrecy of the vote. Online voting will not be an option in 2019. 
23 countries have national mandatory voting. Sanctions or incentives? 

Two rounds of five minutes each for MPs to ask questions :

Lib John Aldag : Your role in public education?
Mayrand : Should start one year in advance of election. His current mandate under Fair Elections Act passed by Cons in 2014 restricts his public education role to only those under 18 years of age. 

So, Libs, how about it? Think you might roll back Fair Elections Act to let the CEO of Elections Canada explain the new system - whatever it is - to Canadians for a year before the 2019 election?

CPC Scott Reid : Can we get new legislation through both the House and the Senate by May 2017? At what point after that does new system become impossible to implement? What is the "drop dead rate"?
Mayrand : At least two years.
Reid : Still six months to prepare referendum? When does 6 months start?
Mayrand : Yes, six months. Starts when we can tell it's going to happen. Have started looking into referendum change.

NDP Boulerice : 26 months? Why don't people vote?
Mayrand : Yes. 40% are busy/not in riding, 45% not interested in politics, 8% cite administrative barriers.
Boulerice : Have any countries moved from another system to FPtP?
Mayrand : Not as far as I know.

Elizabeth May : Fair Elections Act/Bill C-23 restricts your actions. Could you provide committee with a list of what you'll need for a new system? And explain delayed election results.
Mayrand : In Australia, preferential ballots takes time to compute election results 
May : How much would a one-off referendum cost?
Mayrand : Estimate is $300M
May : Would regrouping existing ridings into one be a simpler exercise?
Mayrand : Will require public consultation but won't cut down the time required much.

Lib Ruby Sahota : How can we make voting more accessible?
Mayrand : Online voting - 3.5M electors have some form of disability. Will recommend party reimbursement for making voting more accessible.
Sahota : If banking and million dollar deals are done online, why not voting?

CPC Gerard Deltell : Could preferential voting system as recommended by Stephane Dion be made understandable to Canadians in 26 months?  ... wait for it ... wait for it ... What steps does a referendum entail?
Mayrand : Entails drafting the question, examining materials since 1992 [last referendum], training manuals for 255,000 election workers, adapting current systems, contracts. 
DelTell Won't that take more than 6 months?
Mayrand : 6 months minimum.

Lib Sherry Romanado : Tech for improving voting. Humans make mistakes counting ballots. Online voting - could do it like tax returns but with option of polling stations..
Mayrand : Online voting will not likely replace paper ballots.  25% of voters prefer not to vote on polling day and that number is increasing.
Romanado : Why not leave that up to Canadians? I can order pizza online. On the day of the vote, it may be raining, I might be busy. Online voting gives me an option.
Mayrand : Security is an issue. Confidentiality. Secrecy. Reliability. Integrity. Risk of online services is to provider. Also we lack a universal authentification system in Canada.

NDP Chris Christopherson : Mandatory and online voting discussion distracts from discussing electoral reform. Send to PROC.

CPC Blake Richards : Referendum

Lib Matt deCourcey: Mandatory and online voting part of this committee's mandate. Possibility of augmenting EC role re the bringing in the young.
Mayrand : We could register students before they are 18 for when they turn of age. Civic education means more likely to vote.

CPC Scott Reid : Government is trying to run out the clock so there will not be time for both a REFERENDUM and time to implement a new system. Minister Maryam Monsef refuses to either endorse or refuse a REFERENDUM while refusing to do what is necessary to allow a REFERENDUM. How to stop the REFERENDUM deadline from going by silently in the 6 months plus 26 months scenario?

NDP David Christopherson: Legally a referendum cannot be held at the same time as an election. 
Mayrand : Correct.
Christopherson : Must be stand-alone. You need marching orders by May 2017 to meet deadline, so if referendum was May 1st, that puts us around Dec 2016 this year to give you time enough. So committee must give you a total package by Dec 16 to trigger a referendum that still gives you time of 27 months to implement reform.
Mayrand: Can hold referendum under current legislation. Expecting your report in December. 

Bloc Theriault : [I never know what the hell he's on about .... oh, wait ... ] REFERENDUM and we should take our time to do this right.

May : Re online voting, there's a social cohesion benefit to actually gathering to vote.

May reads twitter question from David McLaughlin, former chief of staff to Jim Flaherty: If the Referendum Act was changed to allow a referendum to be held alongside a federal election, how much would it cost then? 
Mayrand : Only “marginally” more expensive.

May reads another Twitter question : Can all referendum ads be subject to fact-checking or fines? 
Mayrand : Not his responsibility - public policy matter.
May : If committee decision is MMP, how about returning to 2011 boundaries - go back to 308 ridings and add 30 seats for prop rep? 
Mayrand says interesting but would have to think about it.

Lib Sherry Romanado: Online voting. Outreach for seniors and students and homebound.
As EC CEO you aren't allowed to educate people over 18 but what can we 338 MPs do?
Mayrand : Aside from mending the legislation? 

Yes, once again, how about it Libs? How about allowing Elections Canada to do voter outreach and education again?

CPC Gerard Deltell : Will potential disputes over new electoral boundaries slow things up?
Mayrand : Independent commissions decide boundaries, not EC.
Deltell : So you are "a hostage" of these commissions. We should take our time to do this right.

Lib Ruby Sahota : Can you educate new Canadians about our electoral process?
Mayrand : We publish info in 35 languages. We try to recruit EC personnel that reflects diversity of riding. First generation Canadians have lower turnout but it picks up with next generation.
Sahota : What are pitfalls of different systems, like taking too long to count ballots?
Mayrand : Most people see elections as marking a ballot, not understanding the system. Changing from a simple system to something more - you should not underestimate the level of educating people required to even start a discussion.

NDP Boulerice : Is increasing the vote part of your mission?
Mayrand : "It has been clearly laid out it wasn't Elections Canada's role to do so."
Boulerice : Scottish model - 2/3 elected by FPtP; remaining third appointed by list. Urban ridings could be merged; single ridings on large land masses. 
Mayrand : Difficult to compare Scotland with Canada because of size of Canada.
Boulerice : How can we increase % of women and minorities? A list system could have rules mandating 50% of women.

CPC Blake Richards : Timelines for referendum and changes to the system - December report will start it? When is the "drop dead rate" for the government calling a referendum plus time for resdistribution?
Mayrand : Dec. 1st is date of report from this committee and next May is date for legislation. If by next spring there is nothing on the table, right there it tells me I won't see anything before the end of 2018. That means January 2019 and that means we're out of it. 

Lib John Aldag :  Last thoughts? 
Mayrand : Aging demographic. Important for Elections Canada to be able to provide service for homebound. I have exhausted what I'm able to do under current legislation. I need your support on changing legislation to prevent poll line-ups. 
Aldag : Aboriginal engagement?
Mayrand : Progressively closing the gap with the rest of the population but great disparities in participation across the country.
Aldag :  What is #1 Canadian challenge or attribute to designing a system?
Mayrand : Canadians have an extremely high level of trust in their elections system. Once you lose it, it's very difficult to regain. Be extremely careful in doing anything that may impact the trust of Canadians.


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

3rd Electoral Reform Committee meeting

Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic Institutions, spoke for 15 minutes and answered questions.  

Monsef acknowledges meeting taking place on traditional Algonquin territory, calls for collaboration, hopes committee will work towards more than just submitting five reports representing their respective party's views.

Gives her personal perspective on why we should move beyond FPtP. FPtP is 19th century system not designed for multi-party system. We need stronger link between will of voters and election results. Since 1960 we've had 10 elections giving majority results but only in one in 1984 did winning party receive more than 50% of the vote. This leads to lower voter turnout because of feeling their vote doesn't count.

FPtP tends to favour parties with regional rather than national appeal. 

In last election less that 40% of MPs were elected by majority of constituents, including herself, while 63% of Canadians voted for parties advocating alternative to FPtP.  So what type of system would best replace FPtP while recognizing that no one system is perfect.

Government not prepared to proceed without broad support, must reach Canadians disengaged from the electoral system. In 2016, facebook and twitter are primary tools for engagement, cannot be overlooked [Take that, Jason Kenney, not here because he's currently announcing his Unite the Right campaign for Alberta]. 

She brings up online and mandatory voting as two means of increasing participation.

She is not in favour of a referendum - they do not lend themselves to deciding complex issues and less than half of Canadians have participated in recent ones.
Stascan study after 2011 election : Under 45s, high school grads, single, unemployed, immigrants, renters, and rurals vote in lower numbers than over 45s, uni/college grads, married, employed, Canadian-born, home owners, and urbans.
A referendum would reflect these numbers, an incomplete picture of Canadians.

Previous electoral changes done without a referendum : secret ballot in 1874, began to extend voting to women in 1918, Office of Chief Electoral in 1920, FN get vote in 1960, 18 year olds get vote in 1970.  In fact all previous electoral changes have been done without a referendum.

All CPC MPs - Scott Reid, Gerald Deltell, and Blake Richards sitting in for Jason Kenney -restricted their questions entirely to whether she would accept or put in place the necessary mechanisms to hold a referendum. Referendum, referendum, referendum. Monsef answered CPC Scott Reid that if that was what listening to Canadians and a consensus on the committee recommended, then "It would be incumbent upon me and the government to take it seriously".
Scott Reid tries again, badly wants a yes or no. She doesn't give him one.

He is particularly agitated that a referendum becomes impossible if it is not aligned with the Elections Act between when the committee winds up in December and the next election in October 2019. I'm not sure where this sense of urgency originates. Marc Mayrand told PROC in May :"Six months minimum to set up a national referendum" .. because legislation on referendums has not been updated since 1992. 

NDP David Christopherson says CPC is for FPtP, NDP is for PR, and Trudeau's favoured system is "alternate ranked voting system" plus PCO just hired ranked ballot proponent Derek Alton, so what does Monsef's pledge of wide-open options really mean?
We're not a monolith, says Monsef : 
"We haven't made up our mind about any given system.... This isn't about us; this isn't about our parties. This is about Canadians - their electoral system. ...We don't do hiring for the PCO."   
Luc Theriault, Bloc, is concerned Monsef's dept has a budget of $10.7M to conduct parallel research to the committee which only has $300K. Monsef explained Board of Internal Economy sets budget and the dept money is to reach out to people not traditionally engaged with the process.
Did he just also make a case for holding a referendum? I think he did. That shifts the committee dynamics a bit.

Elizabeth May : Liberal Speech from the Throne promised "In order to make sure every vote counts, 2015 will be the last election held under FPtP. I intend to hold you to that promise." She notes the first parliamentary committee to study PR to replace FPtP was in 1921, and another in 1937. Plus "1970 was the first time ever the identity of the candidate became subservient to the name of their party with the party named next to candidate on the ballot."

May says media focus is more on attacking the process to get rid of FPtP than on why we need to get rid of it. Yup, she's got that right, as was borne out by media questions to Monsef after she left committee. Referendum, referendum, referendum. 

May asks if majority Liberal government is willing to choose a voting system that goes against their own self-interest. 
"Will you give us your word that you will fight for whatever this committee recommends?"

Monsef does not answer yes, says she looks forward to their report. Huh. 

May reads 2 questions from twitter, one about the skewed "truth in advertizing"surrounding this debate. Monsef says debate must be non-partisan and she is counting on the good work of "our free and independent press" to present the issues fairly.   Huh.

Monsef walked out of the committee 15 minutes later to a scrum of seven questions from "our free and independent press". Five were about holding a referendum and whether or not time was running out to have one.

3rd ERRE Meeting 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Hey Electoral Reform Committee: It's our system, not Parliament's

Sometime between the first televized ERRE committee meeting and the end of the second in camera meeting, Nathan Cullen's motion to have the committee set aside a timeslot for members of the public to ask questions of expert witnesses in real time via social media got axed.

As Cullen put it at the time of his motion in the first meeting : "This process is not ours - This entire conversation belongs to Canadians."

Cullen's motion, seconded by Elizabeth May, was received cautiously at first by the Lib MPs and then with growing enthusiasm to give it a chance. 

Jason Kenney's response was to suggest that Cullen could just give up one of his own allotted speaking slots to questions from the public if he was all that keen on it. 

A majority vote sent the motion off to subcommittee, from whence I noted at the time, it may or not return intact. 

Kenney, who was also very keen on the Brexit referendum, was not on the in camera June 28 subcommittee or at the also in camera second meeting of the whole committee that followed it but something akin to his view appears to have prevailed nonetheless, and the original motion favoured by Cullen and May did not. 

Le Devoir :
"The problem was to determine who would have chosen the issue, says Mr. Scarpaleggia. It's not fair to ask the researchers or clerks to select questions because, for them, it could remove their neutrality. And it becomes very difficult to manage. "
The amended motion [see below] allows you to tweet your questions to #ERREQ for members of the committee to decide at their discretion whether or not to pose any of them to the witnesses. 

Big whoop. We can do that already.

David McLaughlin: It's our electoral system, not Parliament's 
Anything less than a citizen-focused electoral reform consultation will cheat Canadians out of their rightful voice.
"During its first meeting, the ERRE Committee announced it had $300,000 to hold nationwide consultations and to complete its work. That same week, the National Energy Board announced $10 million for citizen consultation on the Energy East pipeline.
Such a contrast in priorities and effort is disturbing. The government and House of Commons need to reassess their thinking on electoral reform and engaging Canadians. A more citizen-focused electoral-reform consultation is required.
To do anything less will cheat Canadians out of their rightful voice. After all, it’s our electoral system not Parliament’s."
Mr McLaughlin, deputy minister of the New Brunswick Commission on Legislative Democracy 2003-05, now with Policy Options, has five good recommendations for the committee "to expand its process to fit its own expansive mandate."   Go

ERRE calendar this week, all televized :
Wednesday July 6, 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m : Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic Institutions

Thursday, July 7, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m : Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer

Thursday, July 7, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m : Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer, 1990-2007

CPC MP Scott Reid, who so far is speerheading the idea of an electoral reform referendum in committee, was adamant at the 1st meeting that Marc Mayrand not share a session with JP Kingsley because he intends to question Mayrand in depth on the time needed to set up a referendum. 
Six months to set up a national referendum because the act has not been amended in 24 years. 10 months to redraw electoral boundaries, another 7 months to implement ... total of 24 months before the next election on October 17, 2019. 

Cullen's amended motion :
"That the Committee invite Canadians to participate in the debate through Twitter using the hashtag #ERRE #Q; and that this participation includes questions that can be submitted to members of the Committee, who may, at their discretion, be selected to be posed to witnesses appearing before the Committee; and that the Analysts provide analysis of the public input received and that this analysis be included in the Committee report."

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