Monday, September 30, 2013

Political parties putting on the hard sell

Is it just me, or do politicians seem like televangelists these days?

I'm starting to regret subscribing to the websites of various parties. Everyday my Inbox has more appeals for donations.

Auto donation

Chretien had the perfect idea: automatic donations. This meant $2 of your yearly taxes would go to the political party you voted for — not a tax burden by any stretch of the imagination.

But currently taxpayers are forced to subsidize other people's political donations to the tune of 75%. That means for every dollar the Cons spend on disgusting, slanderous attack ads, Canadians are forking over three.


Is it any surprise Harper killed the auto-donation, absurdly claiming the $2 donation was an abuse of taxpayer dollars? Yet he thinks the 75% subsidy — which forces you to fund someone else's choice — is perfectly fine.

A more democratic solution would be to kill the 75% subsidy and double the auto-donation.

We could also upgrade our voting system — like 91% of developed countries — to prevent corrupt politicians from gerrymandering the donation system.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Harper to balance books on the backs of provinces

The Harper Government was pleased with a recent report from the PBO stating long term federal finances were “sustainable” with “substantial fiscal room.”

But Harper didn't seem to mind that the report also said this long-term fiscal health was to be achieved by “downloading billions of dollars of health-care costs on the provinces”:

“The federal fiscal structure has been transformed … to sustainable — with substantial fiscal room — largely through spending restraint and reform of the Canada Health Transfer Escalator. However, the federal fiscal room created by the change in the CHT escalator has transferred the fiscal burden to provinces and territories.”

Creative Accounting

Harper is using an accounting trick to bleed the provinces dry, incrementally.

He is tying the growth of healthcare transfers to nominal GDP growth which is projected to be lower than the expected 4.9% annual growth of health care costs.

According to the National Post, this will “gut nearly $36 billion in funding to the provinces over the 10-year deal and will erode public health services to all Canadians.“

Even right-wing pundits like Andrew Coyne and Kelly McParland say the provinces are getting a raw deal.


In order to stop this corrupt neo-con “starve the beast” agenda, we must implement voting reform when opposition parties oust Harper in 2015.

The fact is three-way center-left vote splitting weakens opposition parties allowing the Cons to win most elections, even though the vast majority is opposed to them.

Justin Trudeau's simple reform of ranked ballot voting will ensure that Canadians — not neo-cons — determine our country's future.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Climate science denial reloaded

Break out the Champaign and gas-guzzling SUVs ’cause global warming is officially over! Now we can now burn up all the dirty tarsands oil we want and frack to our hearts’ content.

An apparent lull in rising temperatures over the past decade proves there is no global warming!

Well that, at least, is the narrative spun by con cranks like Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail and Lawrence Solomon of the National Post.

But the science tells a different story.

Can’t bank on short term trends

Climate science deniers employ an agenda-driven interpretation of the data. Skeptical Science shows how they use short time frames to distort reality:

Above, time frames are cherry picked to support the absurd premise that temperatures are flat and global warming has stopped.

But an honest interpretation of the data shows a troubling long-term warming trend:

What happens if an actual cooling period comes?

The Earth has a very complex climate. It’s possible a real cooling period could come our way. In fact, that’s exactly what happened from about 1945 to 1975. Then temperatures were on a slight downward trend:

But by 1990, global warming sprang back with a vengeance. It was as if the cooling period never happened:

Over the past 20 years, global warming has actually sped up.

So clearly a lull in warming is, by no means, an indication the phenomenon has — by some unexplainable process — come to a stop.


According to the science, the planet is warming due to a continuous rise of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which are higher now than they’ve been in millions of years.

We mustn’t allow ourselves to be fooled by neo-cons with a corrupt anti-regulation economic agenda. Their misanthropic philosophy of unfettered greed and self-interest will be the downfall of civilization if we allow it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Germany shows proportional representation not perfect

One of the main selling points of PR is the idea that a party must get 50% of the vote to get majority power. This number is about 39% under FPP; around 44% under PV ranked ballot.

Sunday's election in Germany shows that even with PR, a minority party can wind up with all the power. Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU party garnered 49.5% of the power on 42% of the vote. If she had got 43%, she would've won an “absolute majority.”


Germany uses Mixed-Member Proportional voting. People vote for a candidate and for a party. Seats are awarded to winning candidates; party-list seats top up a party's total seats so they are the same percent as the vote.

Merkel almost won an “absolute majority” on 42% of the vote. Not exactly proportional…

But there's a catch. A party must get 5% of the vote before getting party-list seats.

Minor parties that didn't make the 5% cut on Sunday totaled 9.8% of the vote. These seats were distributed among parties that did make the threshold.

Is a 5% threshold a good idea?

Definitely. During the 2007 MMP referendum in Ontario, PR opponents zeroed in on the low 3% threshold. They claimed it would fill the legislature with dangerous fringe parties.

So MMP supporters must push a 5% threshold to limit the amount of fear mongering plutocrats will throw at them. (Worry about lowering it later.)

PV majority threshold

If we had PV ranked ballot in 2011, Harper would've got only 46% of the seats on 40% of the vote (instead of 54%.) That's a 15% gain from proportional (instead of 35%.) One can use this number to extrapolate the percentage of the vote needed to get a majority — 155 of 308 seats, or 50.32%. The PV majority threshold is about 44% — or 5 points higher than FPP.


Since both PV and PR stop vote splitting, this will result in the formation of more parties that better represent voters. Not only that, elections will tend to produce multi-party majority governments, putting a stop to single-party dictatorships. That, in turn, will foster open, transparent and accountable government which represents an actual majority of voters.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Democracy Week flop

Today officially marks the end of “Democracy Week.” If you missed it, don’t feel bad. The commemoration received virtually no coverage in the corporate media.

Our Chief Electoral Officer marked “Democracy Day,” however, with a column saying we need to get young people more involved.

Of course, he ignored the elephant in the room: our primitive voting system that doles out unfettered power to minority parties shutting the vast majority out of government. (The literal opposite of democracy.)

I guess it’s not his place to point out the voting system he oversees is a painfully obvious farce.

This is NOT the launch of Fair Vote’s “Make Every Vote Count” campaign…

Fair Vote flop

In the same vain, Fair Vote Canada launched it’s Make Every Vote Count campaign on Parliament Hill. It was also ignored by the press. Perhaps they should’ve inflated a giant Mike Duffy balloon to grab more attention.

They could, of course, reach out to a much wider audience by promoting ranked ballot voting reform along with proportional representation. You know, let Canadians decide which kind of voting reform is best?

But why put the democracy in democratic reform when you can participate in a farce?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

If we had ranked ballot in 2011, Harper would be gone

Many Canadians are unaware of how ridiculous our voting system is. We award seats to minority candidates and unfettered power to minority parties. This often saddles voters with the opposite of what they voted for.

The 2011 federal election is a prime example. Sixty percent of voters were dead set against Harper getting absolute corrupt power — the vast majority. But he got it in any case.

Is it really a surprise 91% of developed countries have upgraded their voting systems?

Liberal solution

Justin Trudeau offers Canadians a simple but effective solution which will stop the absurd winner-take-all results: PV ranked ballot.

This fixes our existing system by making MPs earn their seats with a majority. Voters rank candidates, instead of selecting one. This gives voters alternative choices and allows for Anyone But Conservative voting.

2011 election

Compare the election results under FPP and PV ranked ballot (according to the Globe and Mail):

2011 Federal election

Party Vote FPP FPP PV PV
(Majority: 155 seats of 308)
CPC 40% 166 54% 142 46%
NDP 31% 103 33% 118 38%
LPC 19% 34 11% 46 15%
BQ 6% 4 1.3% 1 0.3%
GPC 4% 1 0.3% 1 0.3%

Under FPP, vote splitting allowed Harper to win dozens of center-left seats. With 40% of the vote, he won 54% of the seats and 100% of the power — all of which ended up in his hands.

Under PV, an NDP/Liberal government would've formed with 50% of the vote and 53% of the seats. Neither party or party leader would have absolute corrupt power. In fact, multi-party majority governments are the norm in the rest of the developed world.


It is imperative that we get PV legislated when Harper is replaced in 2015. Although PR may be ideal, it's too big of a change to accomplish in one fell swoop (as 4 failed provincial referendums can attest to.)

Let's put out the fire first. Then worry about interior decorating.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Action Plans ads just as corrupt as you thought

Harper has spent over $100M of taxpayers' money on “Economic Action Plan” advertising. These ubiquitous ads promote scaled-back spending, non-existing programs and a stimulus package that ended 3 years ago. They also assure Canadians the Government of Canada Harper Government is making the economy a top priority.

Many believe Harper has been freeloading campaign advertising all along. A recent $30,000 internal poll — on the effectiveness of Action Plan ads — confirms this is the actual agenda:

The Harris-Decima survey found 38 per cent were happy with the Conservative government’s performance, the lowest level among the 10 such polls conducted since April 2009, when the first wave of action plan ads was released.

Big Jim is serious about the economy (either that or he needs more bran in his diet…) Unfortunately, managing the economy requires more than image consultants and confidence schemes.

Clearly there’s no reason to poll the government’s perceived economic performance in a survey measuring the efficacy of a public service announcement. That is, unless the real purpose of the ads is to promote the Cons as good economic managers.

Harper pal chimes in

Gerry Nicholls, former vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition (while Harper was president,) does not mince words:

I don’t think the Conservatives are losing sleep that no one is visiting the website. I think the message behind the Economic Action Plan was primarily political, that is, to show Canadians that the government is doing a good job with the economy. [They are supposed] to work at a more subconscious level: Conservatives-economy-good.

Voting reform perspective

The source of this corruption is really our primitive voting system, FPP, which doles out 4-year dictatorships to minority parties. When the Cons won a “majority” on 40% of the vote in 2011, Harper ended up with 100% of the power.

This kind of nonsense does not happen in the rest of the developed world. There, multi-party majority governments are the norm. No single party — or leader — winds up with absolute corrupt power.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Harper’s economic flim flam

Harper incessantly claims his top priority is “jobs and the economy.”

So how exactly is he doing? Not so good according to Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail.

One major concern is the massive trade deficit:

Canada is running a current account deficit of about 3 per cent of gross domestic product, higher than any country in the G8, including the United States and Britain.

This means we’re consuming much more in imports than we are earning in exports. Harper actually inherited a trade surplus of 1.4% GDP.

Overall, the score card is not good:

Five years after that brutal recession, Canada remains fiscally weaker, saddled with a much higher rate of unemployment, a slower growth rate, trade and current account deficits, sputtering or failing trade negotiations, an aging population, uncertain energy exports – but a lot of political bragging about how wonderfully we are performing.

So instead of accountability and action on the economy, we get incompetence and government propaganda telling us our economy is the envy of the world. This sounds like something right out of Orwell’s 1984.

Perhaps it’s not such a great idea to dole out 100% of the power to 40% minority parties. Power corrupts, absolute power…

Friday, September 13, 2013

Unlock Democracy missing the key

A new electoral reform organization has come on the scene: Unlock Democracy Canada.

Unfortunately, like Fair Vote Canada, they have decided to preach proportional representation instead of representing Canadians on voting reform.

Reform in Canada

Canadians are divided on the issue between PR and PV ranked ballot.

PR ensures democracy at a federal level: parties get the same percent seats they got in votes. PV ensures democracy at a local level: MPs must earn their seats with a majority. Either system would've stopped Harper in 2011.

By only representing one side of the issue, Unlock Democracy is writing off half of the people who might've got involved otherwise.

United we stand…

The key to bringing real democracy to Canada is uniting the movement. The issue should be voting reform itself, not one's personal choice. In a democracy, it's up to the people to decide, not some presumptuous organization.

The greater goal is getting Canadians talking about voting reform to make it a key 2015 election issue. That way we will get something done.

If we blow this opportunity, a united Conservative party is poised to change Canada beyond recognition against the will of Canadians.


By taking the paternalistic approach, Fair Vote Canada and Unlock Democracy Canada are hurting the cause. Given PR has been rejected in BC, Ontario and PEI, by over 60%, the tired PR gambit is obviously not working. A change of tack is desperately needed.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The other 9/11...

Forty years ago today, a US-backed coup d'état in Chile would have much greater ramifications for the world than the terrorist attacks of a decade ago.

General Pinochet not only ushered in a fascist revolution bent on weeding out socialism — and socialists — from the South American country (a revolution that would spread throughout the Southern Cone.) He kicked off, what would turn out to be, a global free-market revolution that would wreak havoc in countries around the world — culminating in the 2008 global economic meltdown.

It all started with the first free-market meltdown: the stock market crash of 1929 that produced the Great Depression. This colossal market failure brought about an end to the Gilded Age and the free-market ideology that produced it.

Keynes and centrist economics

It became clear that the world was stuck in an economic quagmire that required government action. John Maynard Keynes developed the centrist mixed-market economic system which would end the depression and create modern living standards in the post-war era (which were unprecedented in history.)

During this time, free-market economists were all but relegated to the lunatic fringe. Given the enormous success of the Keynesian system, and the obvious failure of laissez-faire, they didn't have a leg to stand on.

Friedman and the free-market revival

In the late 1960s, Milton Friedman spearheaded a free-market comeback founded on a theory about money. Friedman claimed the cause of the Great Depression was not right-wing economics, but the US Federal Reserve's tight monetary policies. Friedman's monetarism got plutocratic doctrine back in the game.

A decade after Pinochet, Reagan and Thatcher brought the free-market revolution to the Western world. Eventually so-called liberals like Bill Clinton would mistake it for evidence-based policy. Clinton, embracing free-market banking deregulation, put an end to the 1933 Glass–Steagall Act that provided 80 years of unprecedented banking stability, which would be at the center of the 2008 financial collapse.


Chile was not only a laboratory for libertarian economics, it was also the birth place of modern methods of torture developed by the CIA. Naomi Klein weaves the two parallel real-history narratives together in a compelling, well-documented book — The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Like Communism and Nazism, free-market ideology is a force of evil that threatens the very survival of civilization. The Keynesian mixed-market system is a proven alternative. It creates a just society founded on equality of opportunity and provides the regulatory framework necessary for environmental sustainability.

Time to turn the tide.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In Canada, minority government is a theatre of the absurd

Elections can be burdensome on the public.

Kathleen Wynne (Liberal): “Just received some good polling numbers. Time to threaten an election.”

They cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. They pollute the airwaves with partisan propaganda. Voters have to take time out of their busy schedules to go down to a polling station and vote. Afterwards, people typically follow election coverage to see how it all turned out.

Is it asking too much for newly elected politicians to do their job and govern?

In Canada it is.

Tim Hudak (PC): “Not even gonna look at the budget. I vote for an election!“

Here, when one minority party does not win all the power, the election results are all but nullified. Instead of getting government, we get an extended election campaign, like a game gone into overtime. Politicians don't represent constituents, they plot and scheme hoping to get a bump in the polls so they can trigger another election and win the big prize.

How it's supposed to be done

In the rest of the developed world, there's no such thing as a “minority government.” And they certainly don't dole out absolute power to minority parties. There, stable multi-party majority governments are the norm.

Andrea Horwath (NDP): “What if I work with the Liberals and they get all the credit? I'll just make absurd demands.“

Canada has about the most unstable government there is when compared to Western European nations that use PR — and we dole out 4 year dictatorships most of the time.

We need to do as developed countries did a century ago: ditch the theatre of the absurd for sane, competent government.

Either Preferential Voting (ranked ballot) or Proportional Representation will get the job done. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

(Unfortunately, the theatre of the absurd has spilled over into the voting reform debate. Some reformers have decided the best way to win Canadians over to their voting system is to wage a war against the other option. Sigh.)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Right-of-center forever

Thanks to our corrupt voting system, First-Past-the-Post, Canadians have been burdened with 30 years of tough Tory times. If we don’t do something about it, we’ll get saddled with 30 more.

Spirit of Mulroney

In 1993, Canadians were sick of Brian Mulroney and voted for change.

Brian Mulroney forever: tougher to get rid of than a New York cockroach…

The Liberals came to power on big promises. Unfortunately they discarded most of them and became the Brian Mulroney party — bringing in spending cuts and corporate tax cuts Mulroney could only dream of.

Broken pendulum

In 2006, the pendulum swung from right-of-center to … uh … further right. That meant even bigger spending cuts and even greater corporate tax cuts. (Aren’t you grateful for all the “jobs” these tax cuts created?)

Hope, Change, More of the same…

Now with a united Conservative party, the Liberals have to win over moderate conservatives to split the right-wing vote and prevent another Con majority. That means we’re doomed to yet another era of right-of-center government.


Fact is Canadians are no more conservative now then we were in the centrist post-war era. So what in the hell happened?

The ill-effects of our primitive voting system happened. Absolute corrupt power ended up in the hands of a few people who couldn’t care less what Canadians thought or wanted.

This is not the way a democracy is supposed to work.

Voting reform or bust

Electoral reform is the only way to get real democracy. Proportional Representation is the ideal reform to get government by Canadians, for Canadians. But unless the NDP forms the government in 2015, it’s not going to happen.

PV ranked ballot, however, has a better chance at success. It, too, will stop the endless parade of right-wing government. Instead of a minority of cons calling all the shots, the center-left majority will finally have a say.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Andrew Coyne: principled voting reformer

In a national electoral reform debate mired in polarizing rhetoric, Andrew Coyne stands out as a principled example to follow.

Although he's a conservative, he doesn't favor First-Past-the-Post because it gives the Conservative Party an unwarranted advantage.

Although he favors Proportional Representation based on its merits, he also promotes PV ranked ballot as an obvious vast improvement over corrupt FPP.

No doubt members of the center-left will disagree with Mr. Coyne on many issues. But on voting reform he is clearly in the right.

PR and PV supporters need to join forces to get Canadians involved in the debate. This is the best way to ensure we get a democratic voting system. Let Canadians decide which system is best for Canada.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Top ten benefits of Proportional Representation

Here are the top 10 reasons why we should replace our unreliable voting system, First-Past-the-Post, with PR:
  1. Real Democracy: Ensures an actual majority of voters is represented in government.

  2. Ends winner take all: Stops minority parties from getting absolute corrupt power.

  3. Stops vote splitting: Voters don’t get stuck with the opposite of what they voted for. Parties get same percent seats they got in votes.

  4. Stops wasted votes: Federal votes are distributed to parties. Voters are ensured party representation.

  5. Ends need for party mergers: Encourages multiple parties to better represent voters.

Thomas Mulcair leader of the NDP and Elizabeth May leader of the Green Party. Both parties support modernizing our voting system with Proportional Representation — used by 85% of developed countries.

  1. Stable minority governments: FPP is unstable because a small swing in vote can produce a big swing in seats. That encourages frequent opportunistic elections. PR moderates polarizing results.

  2. Reflects the way people vote: For a party, leader and platform.

  3. Gives smaller parties a voice: Under FPP and PV it’s difficult for small parties to win seats because their vote is spread across the country. PR ensures parties get the seats voters elected to give them.

  4. Would’ve stopped Harper from getting a majority in 2011.

  5. Will stop the Conservatives from becoming Canada’s natural governing party against the will of Canadians.

Top ten benefits of Preferential Voting (ranked ballot)

Here are the top ten reasons why we should fix our existing voting system with PV. This small change of the ballot — from single-choice to ranked — offers a giant leap forward for democracy in Canada.

Although PV doesn’t have all the benefits of PR, it will be a good first step if a pro-PR party doesn’t form the government in 2015.

  1. Real Democracy: Ensures an actual majority of voters is represented in government.

  2. Ends winner take all: Prevents minority parties from getting absolute corrupt power.

  3. Stops vote splitting: The ranked ballot makes MPs earn their seats with a majority. Constituents don’t get stuck with the opposite of what they voted for.

  4. Prevents wasted votes: Votes are transferred to alternative choices. Provides better representation as parties reach out for alternative votes.

  5. Ends need for party mergers: Australia uses PV and has 4 right-wing parties. Canadian conservatives had to merge 2 right-wing parties to stop the distorted effects of vote splitting.

  1. Permanent electoral cooperation: Center-left votes are distributed among center-left parties. No need for difficult inter-party arrangements.

  2. Automatic strategic voting: Gets rid of the guesswork. Guarantees Anyone But Conservative voting. Ensures one’s first choice is counted.

  3. Moderates the debate: Extremists lose out on alternative votes.

  4. Would’ve stopped Harper from getting a majority in 2011.

  5. Will stop the Conservatives from becoming Canada’s natural governing party against the will of Canadians.