Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Are Canadians Ready For Democracy?

Are Canadians Ready for Democracy?

Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau caused quite the stir when he promised that the most recent general election would be the last to use the first-past-the-post voting method.  A method where the entire country is divided into 338 electoral districts and a single deputy is elected in each district by whomever garners the most votes.

Ironically, it was the vagaries of first-past-the post that brought the Trudeau-led liberals to power, giving them a majority government although they only received 39% of the popular vote.  Will Trudeau make a substantive change to the way Canadians elect their representatives, or will he simply tinker at the edges and keep in place the system of governance that has been in place for nearly 150 years?

Come to think of it, 150 years is a long time, which raises the question why did it take this long? There must be something about the present system that most Canadians really like.  Otherwise, it should have been sent packing a long time ago.

As for me, I am a democrat, so first-past-the-post with all its obvious limitations, giving the power of a majority to a political party that only has the support of the minority of the electorate, systemic under representation of third parties, and rendering most of the votes cast by Canadians to be totally useless, has got to go. The sooner, the better.

So what gives?  Why has it stuck around for such a long time?

I ask this question because of the recent flurry of articles in the national media that have been published in response to the prospects of changing the electoral system.  Those in the political class and those who make use of politics for financial gain are very cognizant that changing the electoral system could result in a change in the way Canada is governed and, as a result, the way business, amongst other things, is conducted.  In other words, the stakes are high.

Surprisingly for those of us that has been active over the years to change the voting system, it has become a hot issue.  In fact, the leader of the opposition in the interim, Rona Ambrose, declared in Parliament that in order to change the voting system the proposed change would need to be ratified by the people in a nation-wide referendum.  Considering that Canada goes to war without putting the question to a national plebiscite, "methinks the lady doth protest too much."

Nevertheless, it is an very interesting proposition since it raises the democratic legitimacy of making political choices: who makes them and on whose behalf?  In this case, why does the decision to go to war not require a decision made by the entire electorate, yet changing the manner in which we choose how we elect our representatives does?

At this point, we need to make the difference between the idea of "democracy" as a political concept, especially in the North American context, and the practice of democracy as a feature of a particular culture.  Some cultures are more democratic than others, meaning that the norms of allowing political decisions to be made on a consensual basis, in other words, the will of the majority, and to allow for widespread meaningful participation in the electoral process are stronger than others.  For example, the Germanic and Scandinavian nations embrace the fundamental principles of democracy much more so than the English speaking nations with the exception of New Zealand.

As we could expect, nations that embrace the principles of democracy create political institutions that reflect democracy's core value of equality: political status, treatment by the laws of the land, and the rights ascribed to citizens.  Consequently, rather than trying to design a political system that confers advantage or privilege of one group over another, democratic cultures create democratic political institutions.  For instance, in democratic electoral systems each and every vote carries equal weight and is effective in the formula that determines how the votes are transformed into the manner in which the people are represented in their National Assemblies.  In short, in democratic cultures people accept the constraints that majority rule can often impose upon the individual and seek to create political institutions that bring forward the rule of, for, and by the people, especially when it comes to the challenge of how the diverse beliefs and interests of the people are to be represented in the political decision making process.

Before we embark on changing our electoral system we as Canadians need to ask ourselves are our political institutions fundamentally democratic.  Afterwards, we will need to decide whether we are good with the things as they are or do we want to embrace democracy in a more meaningful way.

As you can tell by the way I have framed the decision making process, I take it as a given that Canada's political system is not fundamentally democratic.

It may be argued that the Westminster parliamentary system, which we inherited from the British, provides good and effective government.  However, it cannot be argued that it is fundamentally democratic.  First, the presence of an upper chamber in which seats are reserved for the aristocracy in the UK and appointed by the Prime Minister in Canada, meaning that each assembly is unelected but has the power to modify or veto legislation arising from the elected lower house, is clearly undemocratic.  Moreover, using an electoral system that distorts the popular in order to give the power of a majority to a political party that only has the support of a minority is an affront to fundamental democratic principles.

When our politicians speak of our "democratic" political institutions, they are appropriating the term from a much different political context and applying it to the electoral politics that exist in Canada, a political system designed to assign or transfer the responsibility of governing the nation to a very small group of people, the Prime Minister and his cabinet of Ministers.  Our only truly democratic moment is when we cast our ballots, but that moment ends when the votes are tabulated and political power has been effectively outsourced from the citizenry to the ruling party.

Now, a great number of Canadians really don't have a problem with the political system as it exists in its present form.  As a democrat, I hate to say this but I understand that the Westminster system does have a certain appeal to a great many.  For example, the business and financial class prefer to have a political system in which there exists a direct correlation between a political party's ability to raise funds and its representation in Parliament.  As a result, when money can influence electoral results, in return for its financial support the business and financial class can expect a favourable business and financial environment in which to conduct its affairs.  Moreover, its interests can take precedence over the interest of the common  good when need be.  From this perspective, an arm's length approach to the economy for the most part and favourable intervention when called for leads to supposedly superior economic performance which can then generate the revenues to finance the social programs to advance the common good.

As well, in this mindset, for the vast majority of Canadians there exists the advantage of allowing their elected officials to be pretty much autonomous once elected thereby freeing individuals to pursue other activities.  The practice of democracy requires informed and engaged citizens of which there are many in Canada, but far too few to date to make a significant change in the way politics are done.  Let's face it, keeping informed on the issues affecting the nation and participating meaningfully in the political process other than voting takes time and energy.  I think the vast majority of Canadians prefer to have that work performed by someone else while still retaining the possibility of being able to get rid of ruling party when the time arises.  Essentially, Canadians participate meaningfully only in the process of choosing which of the two ruling options receives the social contract to govern.  Once that decision is made, they can return to pursue their other interests unencumbered by the demands of being an informed and engaged citizen.

Finally, the political system in Canada makes life relatively easy for the political parties.  In a purely adversarial system like our own, where political power is an all or nothing proposition, a political party spends little of its time working collaboratively with the other parties and most of its energy, with regard to the political debate, criticizing everything it can about what the ruling party says and does while being very vague on how it would do things differently.  After a few years of hearing this tiresome discourse, Canadians want to change the channel and watch a new political spectacle, so they vote the ruling party out, vote in the government in waiting, and life continues pretty much as before.  Essentially, over the long-term, the real question in Canadian politics is when do we make the switch from the Liberals to the Conservatives and then back again.  It's been that way for almost 150 years.

So, why change?

Perhaps, it would be better to continue living the lie in thinking we live in a democracy, a consensual hallucination that makes life better for some.  Democracy, after all, is messy. No more heroes in white hats and villains in black.  It isn't easy to be thoughtful and sympathetic towards others that do not share your beliefs and interests.  It's much simpler to cheer for either the blue or the red team. Finding workable solutions to complex problems in a changing environment requires everyone to put water in their wine instead of feigning to know the truth and berating those who disagree.

But I think the greatest change confronting Canadians facing the possibility of embracing democracy is that it requires a fundamental shift in the culture.  It has often been said by those who observe Canadian culture from the outside is that we prefer to defer to authority.  Although we have made great strides forward towards equality in the relationships between men and women, in the workplace and in the political sphere we still cling to our authoritarian power structures.  Certainly, most workplaces in Canada are structured on the basis of hierarchy, orders are released from above and those below are expected to follow.  There are other ways to organize.  Also, the neoclassical economic discourse dominates the manner political debate is conducted in Canada, growing the economy is far more important than a more equitable distribution of the nation's wealth.  There are other perspectives that could come into play.

I think the important question that needs to be addressed is whether Canadians are ready to accept the diversity of opinions and interests that their fellow citizens hold and to accept a political process that does not attempt to impose the primacy of one particular mindset.  When many conceptions of what constitutes the good society need to be taken into consideration when making political decisions, the process requires much more effort and different skill sets as well as a much greater level of sustained participation from the citizenry and its politicians.  Are Canadians ready to embark on such a path? I'm not so sure.  I would like to see our political system move in such a direction, but it has been my experience to date that I am part of a minority.

In my mind, before deciding on which voting system to adopt, Canadians must first decide upon what kind of society do they want to live in.  Adopting a more democratic electoral system will inevitably create a more egalitarian society.  Maintaining the present system or modifying first-past-the-post so that the fundamental authoritative power structure remains in place will only exacerbate inequality over time.

It will be interesting to see how the debate unfolds and what changes will be proposed in the legislation to be tabled that could put an end to what is truly an archaic electoral practice.

Who knows, an opportunity like this might not come around for another 150 years.

Carpe diem.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Unberable Lightness of Sunny Ways

In the Aesop's fable of The Wind and the Sun, the wind and sun argue over which was stronger. A traveller then appears on the road, and to settle their dispute the wind and sun decide to see which can get the traveller to remove his coat first. So the wind blows. And blows. And blows, and the traveller wraps his coat ever more tightly around himself, until the wind gives up and the sun takes a turn. Beating down, all hot and warm and cozy and nice, so that eventually the traveller discards the cloak.

Here in Canada, as a result of the last federal election, we have moved from the dark and stormy ways of the former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who spewed forth fire and brimstone, casting the world as a dangerous place where evil lurks in each and every corner, to the sunny ways of the newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who shines before us with a much more positive view of the world, a place in which compassion and generosity are allowed once again to emerge in the politics of the nation.

For the majority of Canadians, it feels as though a huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders.  No longer do we need to bow our heads to the moral certainty of those who worship the angry, vindictive God of the old testament.  Yes, let there be light, the light that shines from scientific research that dares to contradict the received vision of those who wield power and the statistical evidence that sheds light on the actual living conditions in which Canadians find themselves.  Some how, some way, the attempt to tell the truth openly and without recrimination became frowned upon in Harperland.  I'm so glad we no longer live there.

Yet, let us not fool ourselves.  The angry white men have not gone away.  For the moment, they are beside themselves.  "How did we let power slip from our grasp?" "We own the media!"  This very thought is too much for them to bear.

As a result, we know what lies ahead.  Throughout the upcoming year, those who own the traditional media will attack the newly formed government without respite.  As well, they will do their best to cast gloom and doom upon the society.  In short, they will try to extinguish the light and replace it with the foreboding of a gathering storm, the back drop from which the soon-to-be-anointed leader of the dark forces will be cast as the only one who can save us from the impending peril.

Sounds like a script from Star Wars to me.  Unfortunately, it works all too well.

As for me, I won't be tuning in.  I no longer watch television; haven't bought a newspaper in more than five years; listen to satellite radio while in my car; and get my news from my Facebook and my personal, algorithm-driven newsfeeds.

I suggest you do the same.  We need to take the same care in how we feed our minds as we should do when we feed our bodies. Without the shrieks of those who have us believe the sky is falling, the lightness of sunny ways is a pleasure to behold.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hear My Voice, "Democracy First!"

Having been a political activist trying to get the antiquated first-past-the-post voting system changed for many years, I am delighted to see that the Trudeau-led Liberals have committed themselves in The Speech from the Throne to change the voting system.

Never thought I would see the day that a government in Canada would take such a bold step and declare that the last general election would be the last using first-past-the-post.  Moreover, the intention to do so has clearly been signaled before the newly elected Members of Parliament have even taken their seats in Parliament.

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As militants, we have never been in this position before.  Previously, at the provincial level, governments went as far as holding a referendum to change the voting system, but retained the first-past-the-post option on the ballot -- better the devil we know.  As well, provincial governments in both British Columbia (BC) and Ontario placed a supra majority requirement (60%) in order to make the change.  All three referendums (two in BC) failed to reach this summit.  In Prince Edward Island, a referendum was held with little or any effort to inform the citizens about the choice they were to make.  Finally, in Quebec a preliminary piece of legislation was tabled to lead the public through a process of consultation, but to no avail since the Charest-led Liberals never even attempted to enact legislation that would have actually changed the system.

So, despite the setbacks, all our work over the years finally has led to something substantive.  As the late Canadian cultural icon, Doris Anderson, once said at Fair Vote Canada Annual General Meeting, "your moment will come and you will have to seize it."  Amen.

I think as we head into this new campaign that we need to realize that the context is much different.  First, the burden of the proof to demonstrate the recurrent limitations of first-past-the-post no longer rests with us.  The Trudeau-led Liberals get it, and, most importantly, they have a majority of seats in Parliament (we all know how they got that majority) and can simply enact legislation to make the change.  Second, the burden of proposing the alternative to the present system has not been transferred away from the government.  It is the government's responsibility.  In both Ontario and BC, the task was given to a citizens assembly, which although from first glance appears to be a laudable democratic practice, it allowed governments in both provinces to avoid taking ownership of the model that emerged from each assembly.  In other words, it is no longer up to the citizens to get it right.  This time around it will be the government's task.

Consequently, we need not get bogged down arguing the benefits of the Single Transferable Vote as opposed to the Mixed Member Proportional system.  At the end of the public consultation process, it will be the government, for better or worse, that will be putting forward their preferred model and the vote will be limited to members of Parliament.

In this scenario, the mechanics of the voting method used for general elections, whatever is decided upon, must above all conform to the fundamental principles of democracy.  For example, each and every vote must count and carry equal weight, and the composition of Parliament must conform to the manner Canadians actually voted.  Anything else, no matter how you slice it and dice it, is unacceptable.

Early on in the consultation process, before any model is actually put on the table, Canadians must be clear to communicate that Democracy comes first and constitutes a priority over all other considerations, especially the desire to maintain a close link between the elected official and his or her constituents, a secondary feature of an electoral system that should not be adhered to so that the new voting method brings about undemocratic representation.

On this point, we must be extremely vigilant.  Democracy should not be postponed to the indeterminate future.  We want a democratic electoral process and we want it now!!!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Follow the Yellow Brick Road Even Though There Is No Final Destination

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."    (Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz)

Ain't it the truth Dorthy.  Ain't it the truth.

In one of my all time favorite films, The Wizard of Oz, we are treated to a wonderful morality tale that cuts to the quick of what it's like to live early into the twenty-first century.  In short, the life scripts provided for Dorothy don't really pan out, and although the film has a Hollywood ending in which Dorothy is magically returned to the home she was trying to escape and everything seems fine, a close reading of the film reveals that it is where life deviates from the scripted narrative that the real magic is found.

In case you have forgotten, a synopsis of the plot goes like this.

Essentially, the film tells the story of a series of failed scripts.  It begins with the depiction of the orphaned Dorothy who lives with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry.  Faced with a court order to have Dorothy's dog put down, the elderly couple offers no resistance and allows the spinster, Miss Gulch, to make off with Toto.  Having no one to take up her cause, Dorothy runs away from a situation in which she has been left defenseless.  In the bigger picture, a family is supposed to take care and to protect its members, but in this case Dorothy must fend for herself if she wants her dog alive.  The adults on the farm are powerless, unable to live up to their societal roles as buffers to the societal injustice at large.

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Once transported to the magical realm of Oz, Dorothy follows the advice of the munchkins who tell her that if she wants to get back home, she will need to seek out the aid of the Wizard in Emerald City, and to get there she must follow the yellow brick road.  With this in mind, she embarks on a path which leads her on an incredible journey filled with disappointment of what was supposed to happen, wonderfully offset by the spirit of camaraderie and the joy of self discovery.

Despite the hokey ending, the Wizard of Oz is the quintessential "it's not the destination, but the journey" film.  Above all, the yellow brick road is a path of the heart, a journey revealing the nature of the "somewhere over the rainbow" experience of the soul, casting doubt on the supposed gains that result from attaining a specific goal.

All in all, the narratives Dorothy follows end badly.  She follows the yellow brick road to Emerald City only to be put off by the Wizard; she leaves on her quest to return with the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West only to discover that the Wizard is all smoke and mirrors with no magical powers at all; finally, just as she is to leave for Kansas in the Wizard's hot air balloon, it takes off suddenly leaving Dorothy behind.  So much for the extrinsic rewards for accomplishing a task.

Nevertheless, the film is a classic because we witness the friendship and self-discovery that emerges between her and her three companions, the scare crow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion, along with some very catchy show tunes.  As it turns out, the scare crow does have a brain, the tin man a heart and the cowardly lion is courageous, and it is their journey together with its trials and tribulations that gives evidence of the fact and not the bogus awards that the Wizard bestows, like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, upon Dorothy's three friends near the end of the film.

Indeed, the magical return to Kansas that Dorothy brings about by clicking her heels together and reciting the trite cliché, "there's no place like home" rings false, like the end of a fairy tale in which we are told that everyone lives happily ever after, but in reality is the same as it ever was, with all the problems that motivated Dorothy to leave in the first place.

More and more, our own yellow brick roads leading us towards the supposed rewards suggested by our societal scripts are also not panning out.  Blue collar workers struggle to find gainful employment as manufacturing has been transferred off shore, leaving them with little hope of realizing the American dream.  University graduates live with their parents unable to make it on their own while paying off their student loans.  Today, children are less and less likely to live with their biological parents as the traditional family has morphed into a series of temporary living arrangements.  The post-war script that guided a whole generation of boomers: go to university, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, and save for retirement no longer offers a path that most people can or perhaps even want to follow.

What are we to do?

That's simple: follow the yellow brick road!

Like Dorothy, we never know what fate will bring our way.  We may never get to see Emerald City, but that's OK.  Life still can be lived in an authentic manner.  We still can be true to our friends, our loved ones and to ourselves.  We just need to realize is that the yellow brick road never ends.  It is a road to be travelled to the end of our days, and we should take carry to journey down this road in a soulful manner, regardless of whom we might meet along the way.

If we bring forward our intelligence, tempered by empathy for each other, and bolstered by the courage of our convictions, we'll do just fine no matter where the road may lead and what surprizes lay in wait, as long as we stick together.

Monday, October 26, 2015

In Opening Up the Pandora's Box of Electoral Reform, Canada Should Look Down Under

Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable -- the art of the next best.  (Otto von Bismarck)

I never thought that I would see this day come.  We have a newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who stated publically that this election would be last using the first-past-the-post voting system, which is quite something considering he now governs Canada with a majority government although the Liberal Party only garnered 39% of the vote.

Scrapping the present voting system and putting another one in place, especially since it hasn't been decided what that new system will be for the next election, is a monumental task.  It would involve public consultations, adopting legislation, and retooling Elections Canada within the constitutional requirements of section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms  which protects the voting rights of Canadians.

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We also need to keep in mind that in our system of governance Parliament is bicameral, comprised of the lower, elected House of Commons and the upper, unelected Senate.  For any law to be enacted, it needs the assent of both chambers.  As a result, it would be unwise to radically reform the lower chamber with a proportional voting system of which there is great debate with regard to which to choose from and to leave the upper chamber untouched.  Imagine having an unelected Senate ruling over the House of Commons that can no longer effectively control how Senators vote.  Not a good idea!

Fortunately, the Senate as it is now functions is in disrepute and the idea of having an elected Senate has been discussed extensively but never enacted.  So, it would not be a great leap for Canada to change the voting system in the lower house and to introduce one into the upper chamber.

What we must realize is the scale of the institutional change Canadians are now thinking of making.  We simply cannot abandon our present system of governance under the rule of law and start over from scratch.  We would be much better off to take an incremental approach and to look to another member of the Commonwealth, Australia, a nation that has already evolved a political system much more democratic than its predecessor, the Westminster system that we both inherited from Great Britain.

In short, both the upper and lower houses are elected in Australia.  The lower house is elected using a preferential voting system in which electors rank the candidates, and the first candidate that receives fifty percent of the vote after the lower finishing candidates have their ballots redistributed on the basis of their electors other preferences.  The upper house is elected using a single district proportional voting method in which the percentage of the vote obtained by each political party in each state and territory determines who gets elected.

Importantly, this system is transferrable to Canada. 

For the next election in 2019, it would be feasible to transfer in a preferential voting system.  We could use the existing electoral map.  Moreover, this system has the advantage of requiring that each elected representative have the support of at least the majority of the electors that vote in his or her riding.  What it doesn't do is to correct for the distortion of the representation on the basis of the first choice, which, after all, is the most important choice a voter can make on this type of ballot.

Herein lies the brilliance of the Australian voting method.  It is in casting the second vote for the Senate where each vote counts and has equal weight.  The method is proportional, which allows for smaller political parties like the Greens to gain representation, and reflects, in the distribution of seats, how the electors actually voted.  Essentially, the Aussies made their political system more democratic without throwing out the existing system altogether, something I think the vast majority of Canadians would agree to be an important principle to follow.

Presently, Canadians are thwarted in making qualitative change to their dysfunctional Senate because of the Constitutional requirement to have unanimous consent of the provinces.  However, simply changing how Senators are chosen, moving to election instead of appointment, without changing the number of seats each province receives is entirely within the prerogative of Parliament.  Most assuredly, this would be challenged in the courts, which is why the present government must seek the opinion of the Supreme Court on the matter, preferably within the first year of its mandate.  Thereafter, Elections Canada, with the new minted proportional voting method in hand, could then go about educating Canadians on how to vote in the subsequent election in 2023.

There you have it, turning the world upside down by transferring the Australian electoral system into Canada.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Once Again Huge Distortions of the Popular Vote Mire Canadian Election Results

Four years ago I wrote a similar blog about how the voting system distorts the popular vote and produces a government that the people did not vote for.  As is quite often the case with the first-past-the-post method, 40% of the vote produces 60% of the seats in Parliament, thereby giving 100% of the political power to a political party that does not have the support of the majority of those who voted, and no where near the majority of registered electors of which 40% did not bother to vote. 

The only thing that really changed in the 2015 general election is that the distortion shifted from favoring the Conservative Party to the Liberal Party.

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In 2011, the Conservative formed a majority government largely due to the extra 27 seats they were awarded in Ontario because of the vagaries of the winner-take-all representation that plurality voting entails. 

In Canada, as in other countries that use the first-past-the-post method, how the vote is distributed is as equally important as how many votes are won since representation is awarded to the candidate who garners the most votes in a single relatively small electoral district.  This is not the case in a proportional voting systems that employ relatively large electoral districts and where the number of seats awarded to each political party is proportional to the percentage of the popular vote obtained.  In other words, 20% of the vote allocates 20% of the available seats, 30% of the votes allocates 30% of the seats, 40% of the votes allocates 40% of the seats, and so on.

What is truly remarkable about the 2015 electoral results is what happened in the Maritimes region in Eastern Canada.  This time around 60% of the popular vote that the Liberals obtained gave them 100% or 32 of the 32 available seats in the region.  In fact, although 40% of the electors voted for the other parties, they have no representation whatsoever in Parliament.  In doing the electoral math, the Liberals received an extra 13 seats over and above what they would have received if the seats were allocated on the basis of the popular vote in the region.

This trend continues in Quebec where the Liberals received an additional 13 seats over and above a popular vote allocation and even more so in Ontario where they received an additional 26 seats due to the voting system distortion.

Simple addition tells us that in Eastern Canada, the Liberals received 52 bonus seats, two more than the national distortion of having 50 extra seats than what would have been awarded according to the popular vote across Canada.  So, the headlines could as easily read: "voting system produces yet another false majority" instead of lauding the Liberals victory.

During the electoral campaign Canada's newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, declared that if elected this would be the last general election in Canada using the first-past-the-post method.  What remains to be seen is what will be the new voting system.  Will it be a preferential voting system that uses a different method to add up the votes but produces similar distortions or a truly proportional system that gives Canadians the government that they voted for?

The devil is in the details.  Only time will tell, but don't hold your breath.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Reason I'm Not Voting In Today's Election Is That Canada Does A Poor Job Of Protecting Voting Rights

OK Canada, you win.  Keep your outdated voting system.  Continue to outsource the nation's governance function to one person and his inner circle.  Carry on with this democratic farce called the general election.  I'll have none of it.

I used to believe that it is worth the effort to engage in politics in Canada, but no longer.  I know that in the desire to transfer the sovereignty of the nation's citizens to the winner of an electoral contest, the political party that wins the most of 338 simultaneously held elections across the land, my Charter Right to vote gets flushed down the toilet.
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The reason?  My vote will not count.  It is completely ineffective because if I vote according to my heart, to my values, in other words, for the Green Party of Canada, I know in advance that voting for the Green Party candidate is a total waste of time in this joke of an electoral system that dates from the medieval ages.

According to the Supreme Court, Section 3 of the Charter guarantees the right to vote, meaning the right to participate meaningfully in the electoral process.  Well then, how meaningfully is it to participate in an electoral process in which your vote does not count?

There is no way around it.  The practice of ensuring that millions of votes cast across Canada are totally ineffective does not jive with the values that inform the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the values of a free and DEMOCRATIC society.  First-Past-The-Post is profoundly undemocratic.

And it would be so simple to rectify the problem.  Simply put into place a proportional voting system.  This was the recommendation of the Law Commission of Canada, the former federally funded organization that examined the societal ramifications of Canada's legal system until it had its funding cut by the present government.

At this point, you might think that this is a matter for the Courts to decide.  Been there, done that.  We took this question to the Supreme Court of Canada, which simply refused to hear the case, leaving me totally flabbergasted since the entire case was based on the jurisprudence coming from the Supreme Court.  I find it completely unsettling and shattered my confidence in the justice system when the highest court in the land that takes the time and effort to define what is meant by the right to vote in a previous case dealing with the right of candidates to have their political party affiliation on the ballot (an impairment that affected less than one tenth of one percent of all votes cast) and then not to apply the same said principles in the much more important institutional practice that translates votes into seats in Parliament (a process that affects all the votes cast).

WTF?  Where am I living?  The Dominion of Canada?

In my present situation, the electoral system adds insult to injury.  Not only will my vote be wasted, I have to cast it in an electoral riding that has had it boundaries redrawn to maintain the constitutional requirement determined by the Supreme Court that all of the ridings need to have a relatively equal number of electors.  In my case, I happen to live in a section of the former city of Hull in Quebec that has been transferred to the rural riding of the Pontiac during the 2012 electoral redistribution. 

Sorry, as a resident of an urban centre, my concerns are very much different from the concerns of the farming communities in Western Quebec.  So, why am I being lumped in with them?  Because it's a constitutional requirement?  You mean the same constitution that doesn't guarantee that my vote will be an effective one?  Get out of town.

In other words, to save some semblance of legitimacy for this out-dated electoral system, those who have been entrusted in drawing up the electoral boundaries have to engage in a process of gerrymandering the electoral map in order to comply with Section 3 of the Charter as defined by the Supreme Court of Canada, the same Court that could easily declared First-Past-The-Post null and void and avoided this entire mess but instead refused to even hear the case.

I find it extremely odd that I live in a country where, due to the intervention of the Supreme Court,  I could marry another man if I were so inclined, legally procure marijuana from a federal government approved provider if I have the necessary medical condition, and even end my days with the assistance of a doctor if I so chose, but I can't get my preferred voting intention to count.

Go figure.

In the end, I won't cast my vote today to protest the injustice of the electoral system, but I will watch the results as they come in.  Who knows, the New Democratic Party has promised to introduce a proportional voting system if they form the government.

No wonder they are trailing in the polls.  Canadians prefer to live in the Dominion of Canada than in a modern nation-state.