New Clothes for the Emperors

The Works Progress Administration in Ohio presents The Federal Theatre for Youth in "The emperor's new clothes" LCCN98517057

Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan, in his 2017 budget, appears to be in the process of selling what seems, to an unapologetic sixties leftist like me, every remaining good thing in that province to private corporations.

Naomi Klein’s prescient book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, would shed some keen insight on this, unfortunately worldwide, trend. And the seismic shift in Saskatchewan, and possibly soon in Ontario, has happened on our watch!

As for Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, more hurt than help here, appears keen not only to leave all of Harper’s anti-democratic buckshot legislation, squirrelled away in over a dozen omnibus bills, in place, but more than that, to contribute his own pro-corporate slavish sauce to the mix. At this very moment Trudeau’s trying to figure out how to slyly dress his cabinet to keep the alt-right from going with someone like Kevin O’Leary.

The clothes of the Emperor (the proper name for any Prime Minister or Premier with a majority) are all but gone, and so many of his promises are in tatters, but he cuts a dashing figure in boxing trunks, doesn’t he?

Pierre must be spinning, and, simultaneously shrugging, in his grave.

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Family Photos and US Politics

I am sitting in my living room looking at the photos of my family on the piano and listening to the US election results come in on CBC radio on my iPad. One of my children and one of my grandchildren live in the US.
I have long been critical of the first-past-the-post electoral process and what happened on November 8th in the US reminds me vividly and viscerally how poor and unpredictable that antiquated system is and how farcical what we on both sides of the border call “democracy” has become.

However, my immediate, personal concern is about how vulnerable and scary things in neighbourhoods and on Main Street USA may become for the possibility of random acts of violent hostility caused by primitive emotions produced to no small degree by the shabby rhetoric and vaudeville displayed by both sides in this shameful, cynical contest.

Julian Assange has done courageous service in exposing how those controlling the world’s overwhelming superpower really have nothing but disdain for its average citizen and zero appreciation for those killed or maimed in the unfortunate places that they choose to manipulate. If I were a Syrian, Libyan, Afghan, Honduran, Salvadoran or any or any other tragic victim of decades of American hegemony, I might have been indifferent to this outcome.

But having two vulnerable, much-loved family members across the border…

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Things predictably unpredictable are coming too quickly to a head.

On October 19 – Vote to Repair Our Broken Democracy

I am working very hard to defeat Stephen Harper on October 19 and bring to Canada a voting system that eliminates the voter alienation that our current, outdated, First Past The Post (FPTP) system causes.

Some form of Party-List Proportional Representation is used by over 8o countries in the world, including Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Brazil, South Africa, Israel, Poland, the UK (for their EU representatives), Spain, Russia, Croatia, Albania and Austria. Two countries, Germany and New Zealand, use another good form: Mixed-Member Proportional Representation, known as MMP.

There is an excellent, more complete list of countries that use Proportional Representation at proportional-representation.org.

Only a few major Western countries, slow to wisen up, still use FPTP: Canada, the U.S. Congress, India and the UK House of Commons.

Liberal Position: “Make Every Vote Count.”

We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.

As part of a national engagement process, we will ensure that electoral reform measures – such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting – are fully and fairly studied and considered.

This will be carried out by a special all-party parliamentary committee, which will bring recommendations to Parliament on the way forward, to allow for action before the succeeding federal election. Within 18 months of forming government, we will bring forward legislation to enact electoral reform.

Note: I would prefer Justin Trudeau to come out firmly for MMP or Party-List Proportional Representation. His latest position has too much wiggle room, and some of the forms of PR are less proportional than MMP and Party-List Proportional Representation.

NDP:

From the Huffington Post:

Mulcair favourably references Germany and New Zealand, which have both adopted proportional representation. Specifically, the two nations use mixed-member proportional representation, the same system favoured by the NDP.

Note: Tom Mulcair’s preferred method, abbreviated as MMP, is used by only two countries. The vast majority use Party-List Proportional Representation.

Green Party:

From the Huffington Post:

The Greens want Canada to replace the current first-past-the-post electoral system with a form of proportional representation.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May said the existing electoral system allowed the Conservatives to form a majority government in 2011 with less than 40 per cent of the vote.

Note: Considering only 60% ov eligible voters voted, Stephen Harper has ruled like a dictator with only 23% (that’s twenty-three per cent!) of eligible voters marking their X for Harper on a ballot.

The Good News:

All three parties say they are committed to eliminating the FPTP system!

Proportional Representation is in the platforms of all three parties. They do not have to call a referendum on it. If Harper loses his majority, a coalition of the above parties with a combined majority of seats in Parliament can pass this and thereby fix our broken, unrepresentative, currently dysfunctional democracy in which only 61% of voters felt it important to vote.

This is NOT undemocratic, folks; we elect our representatives to govern for us. They will have an obligation to keep their promise to us after a careful review, done with the help of citizen expertise and input, that is finished within a year.

Some Concerns:

Changing how we vote is complicated.

It will take a genuine commitment to bring in a true, fully proportional form of voting, and not some watered-down alternative.

There is a risk that one of these parties may reverse its position and renege on its promise. Rest assured that every right-wing talk show in the country will try to turn voters against this change. It requires courage from the leaders.

Faced with cold feet or heavy propaganda from the media, one of the leaders may decide, as some provinces have done, to “consult the people” without properly educating them, as some provinces have done. In some cases the process required a 60% majority to move to Proportional Representation – a kiss of death if ever there was one when one considers the sad lack of sophistication out there on this complicated issue.  No cynical or cowardly referendum nonsense, please.

Proportional Representation must be at the very top of the new government’s agenda. All parties must set to work immediately and make the compromises necessary to bring in serious change. They must continue to relentlessly focus on this issue while managing the other important things that arise.

Past History:

In 1979 Pierre Trudeau proposed switching Canada’s system to Proportional Representation to the NDP, but both the Liberal caucus members and the NDP caucus members rejected it.

In 2000 the Law Commission of Canada, headed by Nathalie Des Rosiers, studied and recommended the MMP system in a 200 page report. It was not acted on by the Liberals.

In 2012 Stephane Dion proposed Proportional Representation in a New Brunswick speech.

In 2013 Joyce Murray, a Liberal leadership candidate who came second to Justin Trudeau, proposed Proportional Representation.

In February 2014 at the Liberal Convention a resolution was passed recommending “an electoral system including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent all Canadians more fairly and to allow Parliament to serve Canada better.Note: Beware of the ambiguous term, Preferential Ballot. This is a name for something that could be used in real Proportional Representation or something else in a voting system called the Alternative Vote, which is very similar to the current FPTP system and can even, in some cases, produce a less representative result.

Confused?

I don’t blame you, but remember that PR systems are used in the most enlightened countries on the planet and outnumber FPTP in progressive countries by about 90 to 4.  (See above) I want to believe that Canadians are smart enough to be taught something new and better. The FPTP system is keeping voters away in droves and the last four years under Harper’s ruthless hand have gone a long way towards destroying the Canada that those of us who care for our democracy, our environment and our children’s healthy and productive future still remember and love. We must learn to think seven generations ahead, like our First Nations did, before we vote on October 19. Choose wisely. Don’t wast your vote on an excellent candidate if that vote can, just this year, elect the most likely candidate to defeat Harper. With luck none of us after this October will have to hold our nose with one hand and make our X with the other – ever again!

More and more Canadians are catching on every day. Let’s keep our political leaders’ feet to the fire until they get it done.