Showing posts with label Electoral Reform. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Electoral Reform. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Interesthesia

As a resident of the episodic Ward 6, it comes as a relief to find that the white trash criminal population of Ward 4 and the unemployed hippies of Ward 13 will remain segregated after recent efforts to refine the science of defining electoral boundaries by "communities of interest." Now if they could just redistrict that schoolteacher down the street who drives a Prius, the retired alcoholic two doors down, and the man on the corner who never cuts his grass…

Continue reading…

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"The interest and duty of a wise people…"

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose; and there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.
— George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
On the eve of Ontario's general election, one can at least look forward soon to a return of honest signs and billboards advertising things that people can actually use. Otherwise, one is inclined to remember Andrew Coyne's recent observation that there are no "politics on Earth that is shallower, more boorish, less worthy of the attention of serious people than Canadian politics," for which he cites the provincial election as "the most tedious non-event in living memory."
The Liberals can hardly dare to issue a platform, having broken every promise in the last. The Tories, principled sorts, have declined to offer much of any. Ontarians can have little clue what impact the election of either party would make in their lives, or what difference it would make which one they choose.
Ontarians have apparently decided to stick with the devil they know, and damn the consequences. But if the general election is occasioning such thundering disregard, the simultaneous referendum on the proposed mixed-member proportional (MMP) system is drawing barely a breath.

A good thing in itself, since MMP proposes to fix a problem that doesn't exist with a solution that makes a real problem worse. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to suggest what problem it is actually supposed to solve, but it certainly isn't the problem of a "shallow, boorish and unworthy" politics. At best, Gods of the Copybook Headings can give its proponents the benefit of the doubt:
At the heart of every major objection to our current simple plurality, or First Past the Post, system is its inherent unfairness in over representing the one party that wins control of the House and the under-representation of all others … This cri de coeur of unfairness presupposes a standard of fairness; that parties should have as much influence in the legislature as the democratic will allows. Never is it questioned as to why the standard of fairness should be on how parties are represented.
In fact, it is the over-representation of parties in the political arena in the first place that has made politics so "stupid." As parties have concentrated the debates and decisions of parliament under strict partisan lines governed by central party administrations, the interests of constituency blocs — what are commonly called "special interests" — have been cultivated to support and reinforce the parties' commands over legislative dealings in a quid pro quo that distances citizens from the process. The concern of special interests in a democracy, it should go without saying, is not for democracy itself but for political objectives that are unquestionably better served in an arena in which policies can be bid up by centralized parties whose concern is for power. Such an arena is not only the enemy of cautious and rational deliberation, it inevitably turns out to be the enemy of freedom — like everything else, it is up for brokering and dealing to political advantage.

In other words, as the Interim puts it in a recent editorial, "What is really needed is not MMP reform, but 'MPP reform.'" Electoral reform refers not to the problem of how we are governed but to the outcomes of elections, and it is instructive to note who generally supports the idea. MMP, a fantastically contrived appliance to run on top of the most elementary of processes, would graft the distribution of political parties on to the distribution of representatives to create a bicameral legislature in one house, sitting both popular representatives as well as partisan appointees without a constituency except the parties to whom they owe appointment. Parties, it should be added, who are among the authors of the discontent that is supposed to have motivated in the first place these proposals for electoral reform that entrench their supremacy in the electoral process.

At the very least, as Colby Cosh wrote in 2004, "[i]t is wise to require that every MP should command the certifiable support of some specific geographical community," and even if the geographic community doesn't choose to exercise its discretion in the matter of choosing a representative or a party, it serves as a potential check upon them at least where lists of party appointees cannot. It may be decided by a majority of the public that they are represented best by parties instead, and it cannot be denied that party affiliation is a very useful indicator of a representative's inclinations… but they are far better indicators to parties of who they shall reward, who will compose the government's institutions, and an incentive to increase those institutions to spread their influence. If we choose to disregard this, and embrace instead the conceit that parties embody a general democratic will, then we at least can be said to have obtained the government that we deserve.

Gods of the Copybook Headings' "Address to the Electors of Ontario is a valuable and highly recommended primer on the general history of party influence on politics in British-descended forms of government, including an elegant and incisive quote from the great parliamentarian and philosopher Edmund Burke on the role and function of democratic representatives. The essay concludes fittingly:
For generations now we have elected flatterers of every party and nominal belief. This October the electorate of this province have an opportunity to check, though not reverse, the complete degeneration of our elected representatives into flatterers and to allow for better men and women, and better ideas, to some day come forth.
See also, from the London Fog: Proportional representation — recommended by 4 out of 5 activists! and The penalties of proportional representation.

And we might also be wise to resurrect for Americans their former custom of a reverential reading of Washington's Farewell Address:
They serve to organize faction; to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community, and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans, digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

… [T]he common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it."

Continue reading…

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Many worried about…"

…making the news, apparently. How many are "many" and why they are worried aren't the the pertinent questions in the school of anxiety journalism — just as long as there are "many" and they're worried, someone out there might at least take it into their head that they should be worried enough to read the damned story.

Former Ontario NDP MPP Marilyn Churley warns that "a gender-balanced legislature is unlikely unless Ontario residents vote to change the system" to a mixed-member proportional representation system that will be put to voters this fall.

A growing number of prominent women have said they aren't running again in the coming election, including two Liberal cabinet ministers and NDP veteran Shelley Martel. That's left many worried about gender balance in provincial politics.
If women must be sneaked into parliament under party lists instead of being chosen by voters, who will they be representing? Proportions or people? And why is the Canadian Press even reporting what Churley, who isn't acting as a representative of anyone these days, has to say?

Continue reading…

Monday, July 16, 2007

Running on empty

Although billions upon billions of permutations of representation are possible in a 107-member parliament within a province of millions of people, "gender balance" for some reason particularly exercises the consternation of media and sponsored lobby groups. But if we shouldn't suppose that we choose who are our representatives but that representatives choose who we are instead, then an electoral system of quotas makes perfect sense.

This would at least obviate the suggestion that, if women are not running for parliament because of time constraints, parliament should be doing much less.

Continue reading…

Being a loser might soon become more lucrative in Ontario

The self-proclaimed friends of the earth would deny us our cars, hydro and heating, but when it comes to proselytizing the masses, global rock concerts and government issued pieces of dead tree are deemed necessary to "raise awareness." The caring of our advisers ends with your earnings.

Elections Ontario will spend $6.8 million telling voters why they should cast ballots in the Oct. 10 referendum on electoral reform.

John Hollins, Ontario's chief elections officer, will oversee the information campaign.

His office yesterday revealed the "referendum education projected costs" would include $850,000 for pamphlets for 4.8 million households and a $4.2 million advertising campaign. As well, Elections Ontario will pour $620,000 into an informational website.

It's all part of the overall $92.9 million the election will cost.
And that figure does not include the funds citizens will be forced to pay via taxes for services not of their choosing, nor of their liking.


Sharing the financial advice with Mitchieville.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

London's dull and expensive future

Jim Chapman again predicts the future of London politics, this time post-OMB, post-Imagine London and post-Dalton McGuinty…

…and if those three are not quite the nightmare stuff of the-banality-of-evil legend, they will have at least contrived the costly unintended consequences of the-dullness-of-dysfunctional-governance mediocrity. The highlights of Chapman's predictions include:

  • full-time and correspondingly higher-paid councillors (get ready for those self-serving "farm-team" canards sometime thereafter),
  • the abolition of the board of control and more "secret deals and 'old-boys networking,'" and
  • voters casting ballots of two members of council instead of the previous seven, leading to more disenchantment and disinterest.
… Anyone who thinks this whole scenario is likely to lead to better government just isn't paying attention. But in the end, isn't that what many politicians want? Voters who aren't paying attention anyway are not likely to vote for much in the way of change.

And that means the gravy train will keep on rolling into the foreseeable future. Thanks for nothing to Imagine London, the OMB and Dalton McGuinty, and happy New Year to the rest of us.
Read the rest here.

Continue reading…

Thursday, October 5, 2006

"Board of control issue a waste of time…"
and a stupid idea

Jim Chapman steamrolls over resuscitant efforts to abolish London's board of control, the last remaining remnant of Imagine London's agenda for eliminating at-large constraints to the political competition for self-serving policies among unaggregated parochial interests.

The fact that we still sometimes choose candidates who might better serve elsewhere (or nowhere) is not a reflection of the shortcomings of the present system so much as a revelation of the lack of care too many voters bring to making their selections…

[A]nyone who thinks abolishing it will change the intermittently sorry record of the last few councils simply doesn't grasp how the system works.
Read the rest here. (See also his predictions for the future of London politics.)

On the other side are a few candidates in the upcoming election who are campaigning for democracy as a platitude, after 18 per cent of eligible residents voted in favour of abolishing board of control in the last election:
  • Cynthia Etheridge, mayoral candidate: "save tax dollars by down-sizing council … and abolish [sic] the Board of Control"
  • Gina Barber, board of control candidate: "support the abolition of the Board of Control in time for the next election"
  • John Walsh, board of control candidate: "Work towards ending the Board of Control before the next election"
  • Walt Lonc, ward 7 candidate: "I will work to dismantle Board of Control. Those who voted in 2003 voted to remove Board of Control by a strong 76% [sic]."

Continue reading…

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Divide & Rule

I have previously referred to Imagine London, the activist group behind the division and redistricting of London's seven two-councillor wards into fourteen smaller single-councillor wards, as Imagineering London. In truth, organizations may spend as much vigour and passion on promoting democratic reform, as their public calling card says, but an organization that confuses electoral systems with democracy is engaged, not in the resolution of the source of authority in government, but in its apportionment — in other words, in a task of political engineering of government. According to the London Free Press, the engineering aspect of Imagine London is underway.

Leaders of a citizens' group that pushed through London's 14-ward map are focused on backing a single candidate in each ward who would ban pesticides and limit sprawl.

Leaders of Imagine London sat down last week with representatives of like-minded groups to plan, ward-by-ward, how to elect candidates who share their vision.
The dissolution of Imagine London after achieving its ostensible aims would have signalled at least an earnest confusion between electoral systems and democracy; however, the confusion was transparently willful as the engineering of London's politics within the broad context of democracy had always been its real objective.

Imagine London is, if you will remember, a celebrated local group of disaffected social activists — they describe themselves as a "coalition of civic, neighborhood, labor, environmental, and student leaders" — who had mischievously recast a failure to achieve their own political objectives of environmentalism, heritage restrictions, pesticide bylaws and opposition to development under the current council as a failure of governance, as will all such groups. But cleverly deriving from principles of democratic checks and balances against corruption and interventionist excesses instituted by municipal reformers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Imagine London correctly deduced that those checks and balances — political interests aggregated in large geographically-defined wards and in at-large council structures — incent a competition for common interests that moderate the pursuit of particular interventions against one interest or another and impede their own interventionist aims. This cunning observation suggested to them that their objectives would fare better in a political environment where particular interests were fragmented and less inhibited from pursuing invasions of the interests of others.

The less broadly resonant imagined slight of "failure of governance" was presented as a more encompassing but undefinable "disconnection" between council and Londoners that could be attributed to the ward system, an attribution that itself could be counted on not to suffer much scrutiny. The immoderate vagueness and inscrutability of the product term "disconnection" effectively apprehends examination of the ward system factor in their equation. A similar dissemblance wass at work with their promotion of segregated and gerrymandered particular political interests under the handle of "communities of interest."

But, as I have noted before, there certainly was a connection between the existing ward structure in London and Imagine London's objectives…
there could not be otherwise especially given the lengths to which they have gone pursuing the decision. Advocates of activist intervention have long stridently voiced their continuing frustration with a council that can be characterized as fairly evenly divided between what can be called pro-development and anti-development, less and more interventionist, or laissez-faire and authoritarian propensities, according to your persuasion, resulting at times in some reluctance or a slow pace to adopt progressive policies that have been implemented in other cities. Imagine London's witnesses described the failure of council to implement what are euphemistically called "community initiatives" as a "democratic deadlock" […] Unfortunately for advocates, democratic deadlocks are evidence that democracy is working properly — there is rarely a consensus on either side of the contentious issues they propose. That is small comfort to those with utter conviction on their side against the status quo.

The current two-councillors per ward system at least fairly divided representation between Londoners of more or less "pro-development and anti-development, less and more interventionist, or laissez-faire and authoritarian" persuasions. Moreover, considerations of the particular methods by which the sovereignty of popularity is exercised include restraints upon democratic government to prohibit it from infringing upon the rights of minorities, and the processes and structures by which democratic governments are arrived at and incorporated.
Restraints of which Imagine London had never the slightest disposition despite its blustering public concern for democracy. In their undisguised incarnation as a political broker, Imagine London is certainly clever enough to focus on the issues of pesticides and urban sprawl, restrictions of which Londoners have largely acquired a habit of endorsement rather than rational criticism. Having committed these gross errors, however, Londoners would be committing a far greater one in pretending that the scope of Imagine London's ambitions, with its open door to every sort of progressive and socialist program advocate, would be fulfilled with only these objectives — Imagine London has already shown itself to reassemble its public agenda with each accomplishment.

Continue reading…

Friday, March 31, 2006

Proportional representation —
recommended by 4 out of 5 activists!

Note the most vocal proponents of proportional representation: invariably they are activists or advocates for special interests. Why is this? Ask yourself what special interests have to gain from political representation. But begin with the question of what they have not gained from the current political system — nothing less than their political objectives, of course. Frequently frustrated by their failures to achieve their objectives, or the slow implementation of those objectives, activists for political interests mischievously recast their complaints as failures of a democratic model.

But, as Paul McKeever, leader of the Freedom Party of Ontario, reminded Ontario's select committee on electoral reform in October of last year:

Elections and voting are not, per se, democracy. "Democracy" is a term derived from the Greek word "dēmos," meaning "people," and "kratos," meaning "power," not "rule." History is filled with examples of democracies that differed wildly in terms of who was permitted to vote or how they voted, but all of those systems have something in common. Properly understood, democracy, or "people power," is the belief that government gets its authority from the governed.

[…] Because one frequently finds lawmakers to be chosen by way of elections in alleged democracies, and because candidates win elections only by winning more votes than their competitors, elections and voting widely have been confused as being synonymous with democracy. However, in truth, elections themselves are not democracy; rather, they are a very effective tool for the defence of democracy. Specifically, by removing law-making authority from the lawmakers at regular intervals, and by requiring would-be lawmakers to obtain law-making authority from the people, elections continually and effectively remind everyone that the authority to make laws comes from the people. Put another way, elections remind the people that government answers neither to God nor to itself, but to the people it governs. Elections remind us that we believe in democracy.

The relevance of this to electoral reform should be noted. Different electoral systems may differ in how effectively they "kick the bums out," but it would be utterly false to suggest that one electoral system is itself more or less democratic than any other electoral system. Just as elections are not democracy, electoral systems do not differ in how democratic they are. As this committee drafts its final report, I would urge it to keep one thing in mind: Do not let your endorsement of one electoral system over another be based on the false notion that the electoral reform will lead to "greater democracy" or the elimination of a "democratic deficit." Though it may lead to a better or worse defence of democracy, it will not lead to more or less democracy.
Having dismissed the notion that proportional representation or any variation of it is inherently "more democratic," and noting that proportional representation refers more to an electoral outcome than to a system, McKeever goes on to note that suggested electoral reforms have much more to do with how governments arrive at decisions, and that here "the implications of electoral reform are truly immense."

Indeed, the concerns of special interests in democratic nations such as ours are generally not for democracy itself, but the achievement of their objectives. Their objectives and their methods both being political, their interests are unquestionably better served in arenas where decision-making is entirely political in nature; that is, where decisions are negotiated between competing political interests, where deals are cut between the brokers of political parties and lobby groups, for one thing only: political advantage, It goes without saying that such arenas are further removed from citizens. There exists already, of course, opportunities for such political arenas — what proportional representation will achieve is to make such arenas almost inevitable. They are called minority governments. McKeever continues:
In a majority government, the party in power has the opportunity to govern by doing what it believes is right, even when it's unpopular for it to do so. In a minority or coalition government, the process is almost entirely different. The issue is not one of right and wrong, but of compromise and negotiation. On its face, that sounds very friendly and up-with-people. But in reality, the difference between majority government and minority or coalition government is dramatic. Specifically, when we replace majority governments with minority or coalition governments, we move from a system that accommodates ethical decision-making to a system based on the rejection of ethics and the substitution of whims and numbers -- ballot-counting, or hand-counting, if you're talking about the Legislature. We move from a government guided by reason to one guided by emotion; to one guided not by what's right, but simply by what you want.
Objections can be made, and sustained, that the current electoral system already provides the opportunity for minority governments, and that majority governments as well are arenas in which decisions are made for political advantage. The point is, however, that majority governments at least allow an opportunity for rational, ethics-based decisions without regard to political horse-trading, an opportunity which almost cannot occur in minority governments. With this understanding, it is easy to judge the appeal of proportional representation to special interest groups. What then is the appeal of proportional representation to the average citizen? Simply, there is none except for duplicitous and misdirecting characterizations of democracy from those who have something to gain by it — how democratic is that then?

McKeever's interest in the subject may itself be of interest — as the leader of a party that has never elected a representative, he might be expected to support an electoral system that promises his party at least a chance of putting a chip on the table. Possibly to their political detriment, but to their credit, the Freedom Party is founded on and governed by principles that entirely exceed their pursuit of political advantage. Specifically, McKeever's presentation was incited by the Ontario government's feelers on electoral reform. It appears now that Ontario is moving closer to treading the path of BC. Lawrence Solomon, writing in the Financial Post, provides examples of what we in Ontario could someday look forward:
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform this week, giving it the task of explaining how a system of proportional representation or other electoral reform might work for Ontarians. Electoral reform bodies in B.C. and P.E.I. last year -- each of which put forward their own vision of voting nirvana -- failed to explain the benefits of the more sophisticated -- some say convoluted -- voting systems preferred by many activists. The provincial populaces voted down both schemes.

Ontario's Citizens Assembly -- 52 women and 51 men chosen randomly from the province's 103 ridings, including one aboriginal of unspecified sex -- have a tall order. They need to become experts in the world's voting systems in a matter of months. The assembly will meet for the first time in September, then come to its decision and issue its report on May 15.

To help the Citizens Assembly educate itself, I've produced a primer on proportional representation, the reform favoured by most activists, using this week's election in Israel as illustration. Israel is a model of proportional representation.

1. Don't think in terms of having a majority government run by a single political party with a coherent governing philosophy; think in terms of minority government comprised of a collection of special interests.

2. Don't think in terms of voting for the candidate of your choice.

3. Don't expect to know who will form the government after the ballots are counted.
Read the rest here, and judge for yourself the benefits of proportional representation.

Continue reading…

Thursday, March 2, 2006

The end of imagination

Wherever the real power in a government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the Constituents.
— James Madison, Letter to Thomas Jefferson, October 17, 1788

The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.
— James Madison, The Federalist No. 10
Superior Court Justice Dougald McDermid has rejected London's appeal of the Dec. 31 Ontario Municipal Board ruling ordering the city to replace its seven two-councillor wards with fourteen smaller single-councillor wards ostensibly representing "communities of interest" more or less — for example, farmers, students, the poor, suburbanites — according to a map drawn up by the ruling's author, Douglas Gates, as seen at right. City council has conceded the process after the loss of the appeal, ensuring that the fourteen ward system will be in place for this year's elections in November.

McDermid ruled that the OMB was within its authority, under the Ontario Municipal Act* to order the redistricting of wards, a decision that is perfectly legally correct. Under this act, the Ontario government has invested the OMB with the authority to accredit one unelected official with this power on the basis of the appeal of one elector in the case that council does not pass a bylaw in accordance with a petition requiring the signatures of only one per cent of the electorate or 500 electors, whichever is less. In the case of London, 997 signatures — less than one per cent of the electorate in a city of over 340,000 people — were obtained on a petition, and the petition's sponsors, Imagine London, found themselves with the statutory grounds to bypass the rest of the electorate and an astonishingly well-disposed ear bent at the OMB. Typically, huzzahs for democracy and accountability have been tossed around by the petitioners and their supporters on council in the wake of each ruling. "It's a good day for democracy in London," gushed Coun. Joni Baechler. One could be forgiven for thinking that we've never even had elections before. It's peculiar, because the original decision was based on a debate on governance rather than democracy — the word "democracy" does not appear once in the text of the OMB decision, and the word "democratic" appears only once, in quotes (p.15).

While McDermid's decision is legally correct and does not stray from the constraints of his jurisdiction over the matter, London is left with an appallingly flawed OMB order that the OMB has not yet seen fit to review, criticism of which I addressed in a previous post. It is sufficient to say here that Gates in his decision confused the structure of democratic government with the political objectives of the petitioners.

Imagine London is a group of disaffected social activists — they describe themselves as a "coalition of civic, neighborhood, labor, environmental, and student leaders" — who have mischievously recast a failure to achieve their own political objectives of environmentalism, heritage restrictions, pesticide bylaws and opposition to development under the current council as a failure of governance. In submission to Gate's hearings, the petitioners presented evidence of municipal disfunction according to their own criteria of social intervention and cast them as examples of "disconnection" between council and Londoners, a spurious association to which Gates all too readily conceded. Further, what neither the petitioners nor Gates established was that their examples of "disconnection" were related to the existing ward structure — it apparently was assumed by Gates to be the default explanation for the petitioners' complaints. They were abetted by a weak and defensive response by the city's witnesses.

Although not explicit in the OMB's hearings and decision, there is certainly a connection between the existing ward structure and Imagine London's objectives — there could not be otherwise especially given the lengths to which they have gone pursuing the decision. Advocates of activist intervention have long stridently voiced their continuing frustration with a council that can be characterized as fairly evenly divided between what can be called pro-development and anti-development, less and more interventionist, or laissez-faire and authoritarian propensities, according to your persuasion, resulting at times in some reluctance or a slow pace to adopt progressive policies that have been implemented in other cities. Imagine London's witnesses described the failure of council to implement what are euphemistically called "community initiatives" as a "democratic deadlock," to which Gates adhered in his decision. Unfortunately for advocates, democratic deadlocks are evidence that democracy is working properly — there is rarely a consensus on either side of the contentious issues they propose. That is small comfort to those with utter conviction on their side against the status quo.

The current two-councillors per ward system fairly divides representation between Londoners of more or less "pro-development and anti-development, less and more interventionist, or laissez-faire and authoritarian" persuasions. Moreover, considerations of the particular methods by which the sovereignty of popularity is exercised include restraints upon democratic government to prohibit it from infringing upon the rights of minorities, and the processes and structures by which democratic governments are arrived at and incorporated. The existing division of the city into pie-shaped wards cutting across "communities of interest" serves to aggregate interests in favour of self-serving interventionist policies with other self-serving interests, reducing the domain for common pursuit of particular interventions against one interest or another. "Communities of interest" left alone in their own sphere will not be moderated by the competition for common interest. Of course, this is precisely what Imagine London and its supporters are hoping for.

It is a shame that the lessons of the past will be institutionally wiped from memory. Both the elected-at-large Board of Control and the existing two-councillors per ward electoral structure were constructed as checks on the corruption and interventionist excesses of democratic government, generally in response to the Tammany Hall-type experiences of the late 19th and early 20th century. An affidavit by Andrew Sancton, filed in the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1999 unsuccessful challenge to the Toronto megacity legislation, Bill 103, Citizens’ Legal Challenge Inc., et al vs Attorney General of Ontario, is instructive:
In the United States, the municipal reform movement led not to municipal socialism as in Britain but rather to a search for new forms of municipal structures in which principles of good management would be able to prevail over the parochial concerns of ward politicians. The council-manager system, in which a small council elected at-large, while maintaining policy-making authority, hands all administrative responsibilities over to a professional city manager, is the best known and most long-lasting outcome of this approach.

… There are a number of points on which reformers from the two periods would not be in agreement. One such subject - municipal wards - is crucial to municipal political representation. Earlier reformers wanted no wards at all, or at least very large ones. New reformers favoured wards as mechanisms through which distinct communities within cities could be directly represented on municipal councils. In Ontario at least, they were fairly successful. Ever since the late 1960's, there has been a trend away from at-large elections in cities and in favour of elections based on wards. In Toronto, new reformers fought successfully to replace long, narrow wards encompassing various communities with block wards that more closely corresponded to the real social geography of the city.
Imagine London are of the new reformer camp. Of course, it is not inevitable that the new electoral system will result in the same kind of Millerista municipal government that is rapidly impoverishing Toronto — London voters will still have the power to elect responsible representatives even if the Ontario Municipal Act overrides their power to govern their own electoral structure. Time will tell — history suggests, however, that it may not be wise to be sanguine on the subject. It may be counterproductive of me to suggest this as a commentor on London politics, but it has been increasingly clear to me as I approach graduation that the prospects of an intelligent, educated and ambitious individual for a productive, prosperous and free life will not be well served by remaining in London.
*The Ontario Municipal Act, an obviously a flawed piece of legislation — see subsection (4).

Petition re: wards: 223. (1) Electors in a municipality may present a petition to the council asking the council to pass a by-law dividing or redividing the municipality into wards or dissolving the existing wards. 2001, c. 25, s. 223 (1).
Number of electors required: (2) The petition requires the signatures of 1 per cent of the electors in the municipality or 500 of the electors in the municipality, whichever is less, but, in any event, a minimum of 50 signatures of the electors in the municipality is required. 2001, c. 25, s. 223 (2).
Definition: (3) In this section, “elector” means a person whose name appears on the voters’ list, as amended up until the close of voting on voting day, for the last regular election preceding a petition being presented to council under subsection (1). 2001, c. 25, s. 223 (3).
Failure to act: (4) If the council does not pass a by-law in accordance with the petition within 30 days after receiving the petition, any of the electors who signed the petition may apply to the Ontario Municipal Board to have the municipality divided or redivided into wards or to have the existing wards dissolved. 2001, c. 25, s. 223 (4).
[Emphasis mine.]
Order: (5) The Board shall hear the application and may, despite any Act, make an order dividing or redividing the municipality into wards or dissolving the existing wards and subsection 222 (6) applies with necessary modifications in respect to the hearing. 2001, c. 25, s. 223 (5).

Continue reading…

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Every citizen a councillor

If we can get the OMB to issue a few more rulings, everyone will be able to be a councillor. The London Free Press reports that the recent ruling by the Ontario Municipal Board ordering London to replace its seven two-councillor wards with a redrawn fourteen ward map with a single councillor each may have unintended consequences.

Second-place finishers in London's municipal election in the fall may be legally entitled to seats on the new council, says a city lawyer and municipal law expert.

If Alan Patton and others are right, the size of council would balloon to 33 members under the new 14-ward electoral system imposed by the Ontario Municipal Board.
According to Patton and George Rust D'Eye, a Toronto lawyer hired to head the city's appeal of the OMB's ruling to the Ontario Court of Appeals, the OMB has jurisdictiion if it chooses over municipal electoral boundaries but the Ontario Municipal Act permits only council to change the number of councillors per ward.
And because council didn't make changes before the Dec. 31 deadline for the next election, two councillors must be elected for each ward, Patton said.

"The regulation is still in place — it's the law," Patton said. "If someone who finished second came to me and said they weren't given a seat on council, my advice would be to take it to court."

[…] On the face of it, it seems pretty absurd," said Sam Trosow of Imagine London. "Clearly, (the OMB's) intent was for there to be one councillor per ward and to do anything else would be an absurd result I don't think the courts would allow."
Clearly, Trosow has become accustomed to thinking that because he says it is so, it will be so.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2006

London Free Press OpEd on ward issue

There's a pretty good editorial in the London Free Press today — yes, I am pleasantly and occasionally surprised — about the recent OMB order to redistrict London's seven two-councillor wards into fourteen single-councillor wards.

Ward issue gets blurrier

The affront to democracy of the Ontario Municipal Board’s autocratic imposition of a new ward map for London was punctuated by the timing of the order — on the last business day of the year. After issuing a decision Nov. 22 backing Imagine London’s plan for doubling the number of city wards from seven to 14, OMB member Douglas Gates was here Dec. 22 for a follow-up hearing. He concluded it by announcing he would draw up the ward map himself.

The brouhaha over London’s ward system has been farcical for some time now, and local officials have little to brag about. City council not only failed to act on an Imagine London petition calling for 14 wards and the abolition of board of control, but rejected the results of two ballot questions in the 2003 election. On those questions, 76 per cent of voters backed a smaller council and 55 per cent wanted to abolish board of control.

The snub of Imagine London opened the door for the group to pursue its case to the OMB. Those not liking council’s decision on the 2003 ballot questions will have to wait until this November’s election to get their day in court.

No matter how the blame is allotted, the bottom line is the same. Principles of sound democratic governance have been circumvented. A job that cried out for broad public input was, through a series of misadventures, ultimately left to an out-of-town bureaucrat. He started with a 14-ward map drawn up by city staff months ago as one of the proposals for change, and altered it to address Imagine London concerns that communities of interest, such as Old South or Old East Village, be kept intact within their respective wards.

No political will has ever been demonstrated here for opening a thorough consultative process on electoral change. University of Western Ontario political science professor Andy Sancton says he was shocked at how little engagement there was on the ballot questions by incumbent councillors in the 2003 campaign. Sancton, one of three people asked by Gates to participate in redrawing the ward map, declined because he rightly objected to doing so in the absence of public participation. Asked how best London might move toward a democratic solution, Sancton said one possibility could be the enactment of something like a City of London ward act by the Ontario legislature. Or, it could be a cabinet order-in-council setting up some kind of body to hear the views of council and Londoners. This group could send its findings to cabinet for implementation. But Sancton, a municipal government expert, said neither scenario is likely to happen. Queen’s Park is unlikely to get involved.

It’s worth noting that the only issue the OMB addressed — ward boundaries — had nothing do with the two ballot questions.

Council’s non-decision on the petition, together with its spurning of the ballot measures, has led to an arbitrary ruling that satisfies only a small minority of the populace.
The editorial correctly casts some of the blame for the debacle on city council. By limiting debate on the subject of electoral structure, the city's defense of the current structure seems nothing more than reactionary. In fact, there are very sound reasons for defending the current structure as the most effective for democracy — a subject which I hope to address in the next few days — and an open and public debate is the best way to demonstrate this. Fortunately, debate is not confined to the corridors and chambers of city hall. Unfortunately, effective debate was not heard by the OMB.

Continue reading…

Thursday, December 22, 2005

London, Ontario…

…stuck in the middle between an incompetent dirigiste city council and a puffed-up putsch-happy band of socialist class warriors. Happy New Year!

Today at city hall (from AltLondon):

The city asked OMB member Douglas Gates for a deferment of his final ruling until after an appeal, today, citing a new provision governing the OMB.

[…] Mr. Gates ruled he would not allow a deferment, and that he will make an order. He did not entertain any new maps and that includes the one put forward by Imagine London.

It is not known how soon his final ruling will come down. He did ask if City Hall will be open tomorrow (it is open a half day).

Continue reading…

Thursday, December 15, 2005

City lawyers to have another go at the OMB

The London Free Press reports that city lawyers will ask divisional court on Dec. 20 for leave to appeal the recent contentious OMB order to London to replace its seven two-councillor wards with fourteen smaller single-councillor wards. On Dec. 22, city lawyers will ask the OMB for a review of rehearing of the decision as the Board reconvenes in London to assess the implementation of the ruling.

"If the board (refuses the city's request) and issues an order before the end of the year, then the election would be carried out in accordance with the board's order, subject to the outcome of the court appeal," said city lawyer Jim Barber.

Barber also told controllers there's not enough time to hire outside legal help, although the board passed a resolution giving him the option to hire a lawyer if necessary.
That's too bad, the city could apparently benefit from outside legal assistance. The city's arguments in the original hearing were poorly prepared and failed to rebut most of Imagine London's appalling assertions, allowing the Board's arbitrator, Douglas Gates, the indulgence of choosing between weak positions and substituting arbitrary collectivist platitudes for sound judgment. I'm not a lawyer myself, but considering that this is a political rather than legal matter, I submit these positions to the city's lawyers for consideration…

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Imagineering London

Little space is given in the London Fog to expressions of commendation for London's city council, but council made the correct decision Monday to challenge the recent ruling of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ordering the city to redraw and replace its electoral ward system.

In a 12 to seven vote, council attacked the ruling on several fronts, asking for a review and a re-hearing by the board and seeking permission to appeal to divisional court. (London Free Press)
Council's resolve means that no change in the ward system will likely be implemented before next year's election.

On November 23, the OMB ordered the city of London to replace its seven two-councillor wards with fourteen smaller single-councillor wards. Douglas Gates, an Oakville lawyer representing the Board, made the decision upon review of an application to the OMB* by Imagine London, a group of activists formed to challenge London's ward system and backed by the Urban League of London. Imagine London, led by experienced activist Sam Trosow, argued that effective democratic representation requires that council wards correspond to "communities of interest" — for example, farmers, students, the poor, suburbanites — as though "communities of interest" determined voters' interests instead of the other way around. The group proposed a redistricting of wards according to this vague collective notion of "community interests" using socio-economic indicators and neighbourhood affiliations. In effect, Imagine London proposed that aggregates of common interest can be defined socio-economically and geographically — in other words, that ghettoes are and should be circumscribed and maintained by the inertia of competitive representation. Pie-shaped wards may seem arbitrary, but in fact they are much less arbitrary than a social-scientist characterization of "community interests," nor are common interests supposed by socio-economic status any more real or relevant for governance purposes than geographic proximity. However, condoning the use of qualitative and immeasurable descriptions as a basis for political boundary-making is an invitation for people with political agendas to define the descriptions and, hence, the boundaries — a process known as gerrymandering. There is no objective or contestable difference between qualitative and political considerations.

The real imagination of Imagine London is their conceit that appealing to an unelected board whose purpose is to resolve land disputes under contradictory legislations open to a variety of interpretations is an appropriate method for promoting democracy and council accountability. It is, in fact, an entirely undemocratic method for obtaining specific political objectives. And the OMB ruling — adjudicated and ordered by one unelected officer who does not even live in London — is nothing more than a political decision, one that it should have had no business making in the first place. It could not be anything other than a political decision, and for Imagine London or anyone else to pretend that insitutionalizing a political decision promotes democracy does more disservice to local democracy than any amount of tinkering with maps. No more evidence of the arbitrary and political nature of the ruling is required than in the text of the decision itself. The substance of Gates' rationalization is that "[i]t appears … that Council is not well connected to its constituents at the neighbourhood level."
Board finds there is a pressing need for change… The Board is convinced that the existing Ward system has undermined City Council's ability to connect with its citizens [17]. …The Board is satisfied that there is a widespread support for this change [18].
Gates' reasoning is an assortment of personal judgments about council's "connection" with Londoners, an entirely subjective criterion upon which to base a legal order to circumvent elected politicians. Rather than attribute explanatory powers to an abstract descriptive concept, Gates should have been reminded that it is individual voters and not "communities" that elect councillors, and that any deficiency in the description of "connection" is simply explained by the fact that Londoners have voted for poor representatives. There may be "a pressing need for change," but the change is already within the power of voters to make and is not for one for an unelected outsider to impose.

Even if it were assumed that a "disconnection" between council and citizens could be ascertained and substituted for representational democracy as the basis for changing the structure of municipal governance, Gates' contention is that the existing ward system, rather than voters, is responsible for the "disconnection." There are no grounds to support this particular contention, except that Gates adopts the petitioners' platform as the default explanation where he finds the city's witnesses' arguments for the status quo lacking. The "pressing need for change" is assumed to be only that change that Imagine London proposes.

Gates' contentions further support the political objectives of Imagine London's examples of "disconnection" — that "a failure of governance" is manifested by and only by the failure to adopt particular ideologically-motivated interventions, and that a vocal but extremely small minority agitated by their own view of "a failure of governance" constitutes a public demand. Gates determined that the burden of establishing a "pressing need for change" had been met with the following evidence:
  • In 2003, two questions appeared on the ballot during the municipal election:
    • Are you in favour of reducing the present 19-member size of the municipal Council of the City of London?
    • Are you in favour of abolishing a Board of Control as part of the municipal Council of the City of London?
    The city did not respond to the results of the ballot, 76 and 55% respectively, because the 32% of eligible voters who voted on the questions did not meet the binding 50% threshold. "The City was criticized … by at least one member of the public for not taking any action on governance whatsoever to respect the voters who voted yes on either of the questions. The Board finds his criticism to be fair particularly when the City knew it was most unlikely that 50% of the eligible voters would vote" [4].
Neither question was relevant to the ruling — although Imagine London did petition the OMB to abolish Board of Control, the Board granted deference to the city on that item. Although the threshold may have been improbable, the roughly 24 and 18% of eligible voters who voted "yes" to the respective questions does not demonstrate a "widespread" support for change, although Gates is apparently willing to allow that "one member of the public" is representative. Even if failure to provide action on the referendum results were to be taken as evidence of "disconnection" or poor governance, a contestable and arbitrary finding, there is nothing to suggest that the existing ward system is accountable.
  • "One common theme … was that the downtown still needed attention…" Two city witnesses "relied on the progress made downtown as evidence the system was working. …The Board finds that these examples also demonstrate years of inaction prior to Council dealing with these problems" [15-16].
This finding supposes that redistribution is demonstration of "proper" governance — to prop up some parts of town at the expense of others or to command the economy in such a way as to divert market forces. This is an entirely political objective.
  • "The common theme that the Board heard over and over again was that the common everyday person found that the current system to be too complex, too cumbersome and too difficult to understand" [14].
Gates submits that the "common everyday person" in London is an idiot. Neither participation in the current ward system nor in the proposed new system is "complex," "cumbersome" or "difficult to understand," although these descriptions may be applied to the methodology of defining "communities of interest" as ward boundaries.
  • "The board heard no support for the City's existing Ward system at even at the evening set aside for hearing from the public" [16-17].
The first rule of meetings, hearings, debates and, yes, elections themselves is that the people who participate are usually those who feel they have something to gain from the proceedings. Demonstrations of support for the status quo are a rare occurrence. "The Board heard from over 15 witnesses that evening." Even 15 Londoners chosen at random would not constitute an adequate sample size to represent the public — the 15 Londoners who attended represented only those Londoners who have an activist concern in the outcome, themselves. That 15 people expressed no support for the existing ward system does not demonstrate a "widespread support for change."
  • "There were a number of witnesses who spoke about the difficulty of running for election in London Wards because of their sheer size and the cost" [13].
Witnesses were confusing "running for election" with "winning an election." This is a political attempt to lower barriers for agendas that would not otherwise generate competitive financial or voluntary contributions, a self-defeating proposition. Neither "communities of interest" nor financial and voluntary contributions vote in municipal elections.
  • "…while Councillors represented all of the citizens within their Ward … the suburban areas got the most attention both during and after the campaign. …A possible result could be that suburban 'communities of interest' are overprotected by City Council to the detriment of other 'communities of interest.' …It seems obvious … that a pie-shaped Ward system could be inequitable based on 'communities of interest'" [13-14].
There are no grounds to support this assertion except for hearsay. Even if it were true, suburban votes do not count any more than those of other areas. If suburban voters are more likely to vote it is because they are much more likely to be property owners who see first-hand the taxes they pay the city and take a more active interest in its disbursement. If voters in other areas fail to recognize the taxes they pay indirectly through their rent, they are the ones responsible for any lack of attention.
  • "A number of witnesses spoke of the plight of the disadvantaged and poor who were so discouraged and cynical of existing systems that they no longer voted. …the evidence given by the public at this hearing was of despair and cynicism" [14].
"It's our turn now!" Affirmative action representation.
  • "Councillors appeared overworked and underresourced. …Sometimes one Councillor in a Ward would support a community initiative while the other … would not, creating a 'democratic deadlock'" [14].
The problem of the "appearance" or fact of overworked and underresourced councillors — whichever it may be — is not addressed by the order to replace the ward system. Further, democracy often yields "deadlocks" because there is no clear consensus on either side of an issue — far from evidence of a failure of governance, this is if anything evidence of democracy working properly, the purported aim of the proceedings.

But why should it be supposed that the purpose was to promote democracy, except for Imagine London's say-so? Democracy is no more than a loose term to describe a method of governance that is, like all forms of governance, contrived to advance political objectives. When the complaint is heard that democracy is not working, it can generally be taken to mean that the complainant's political objectives are not being advanced. Imagine London is one such group with political objectives that imagines that a failure to obtain their ideological agenda under the current council is a failure of governance. Imagine London is nothing other than one front of the Urban League of London, a tiny clique of disaffected local bourgeoisie that promotes environmentalism, heritage restrictions and pesticide bylaws and opposes development, and finds common cause with the socialist groups it backs — the websites of Imagine London, the London Coalition Against Pesticides headed by local activist Sean Hurley and of which Trosow is also a member, and AltLondon, a rabble.ca-style discussion forum for local socialists and progressives managed by Hurley, are all hosted on the same server. This post on AltLondon in response to the city's decision to appeal the OMB ruling demonstrates the political criteria by which Trosow & Co. judge the effectiveness of democratic representation:
And who are they protecting? …They are protecting the old boys network that will ensure London continues to lose its tree canopy, continues to sprawl unimpeded across farmers' fields, and that cheap glass and steel continues to replace history and heritage.
What do tree canopies, urban sprawl and heritage have to do with the decision, one might ask? Imagine London's proposal was an implicit attempt to rig the ward system in the hope of yielding councillors more amenable to its ideological agenda because they have been unable to achieve these ends democratically. Whether or not council appealed the ruling for their own ends, the city now has the opportunity to defend principles — one hopes that its legal counsel understands that this time.
*It's hard to imagine that the OMB would be interested in the boundaries and electoral idiosyncrasies of London's two councillor per ward system. It is indefensible that the OMB would have jurisdiction over those questions, and yet they do under the Ontario Municipal Act. 997 people who signed a petition to abolish board of control and redivide London's seven wards into fourteen "neighbourhood-based" wards — were able to have the Board review its application under Section 223 of the Ontario Municipal Act, an obviously a flawed piece of legislation — see subsection (4).

Petition re: wards: 223. (1) Electors in a municipality may present a petition to the council asking the council to pass a by-law dividing or redividing the municipality into wards or dissolving the existing wards. 2001, c. 25, s. 223 (1).
Number of electors required: (2) The petition requires the signatures of 1 per cent of the electors in the municipality or 500 of the electors in the municipality, whichever is less, but, in any event, a minimum of 50 signatures of the electors in the municipality is required. 2001, c. 25, s. 223 (2).
Definition: (3) In this section, “elector” means a person whose name appears on the voters’ list, as amended up until the close of voting on voting day, for the last regular election preceding a petition being presented to council under subsection (1). 2001, c. 25, s. 223 (3).
Failure to act: (4) If the council does not pass a by-law in accordance with the petition within 30 days after receiving the petition, any of the electors who signed the petition may apply to the Ontario Municipal Board to have the municipality divided or redivided into wards or to have the existing wards dissolved. 2001, c. 25, s. 223 (4).
[Emphasis mine.]
Order: (5) The Board shall hear the application and may, despite any Act, make an order dividing or redividing the municipality into wards or dissolving the existing wards and subsection 222 (6) applies with necessary modifications in respect to the hearing. 2001, c. 25, s. 223 (5).

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Ontario Select Committee on Electoral Reform

Like the federal Liberal Party's "Elections Canada" front organization, Elections Ontario exists to protect the three incumbent socialist parties, the Liberals, PCs, and NDP, from competition. Elections Ontario implements its mandate by imposing busywork and inane regulation on all parties. The theory is that smaller parties have a smaller budget and fewer volunteers and can be encouraged to just give up their vote-splitting ways if they can be sufficiently tied up in layers of red tape. The red tape is, comparatively speaking, no hindrance to the socialist Parties that are already able to swing favours on a large scale with other people's money.

By wasting the limited time and resources of the opposition, so as to keep them limited, Elections Ontario helps to facilitate the uninterrupted reign of the Party of Parties as they join hands to loot Ontario and fuck over its inhabitants.

One might expect, then, that a Select Task Force on Electoral Reform would be Orwellian enough to take care not to involve all of Ontario's registered parties, including the uniquely sane Freedom Party of Ontario.

We present the following exchange of three emails, over the past three days, between Paul McKeever of Freedom Party and a Select Committee representative. All emphasis as in the originals.



1.
From: Paul McKeever
Sent: August 27, 2005 2:05 PM
To: Di Cocco_Caroline-MPP
Subject: URGENT - Exclusion of Freedom Party of Ontario from hearings of Select Committee on Electoral Reform


Madam Chair:

Re: Inclusion of Freedom Party of Ontario in Hearings of the Select Committee on Electoral Reform

It has come to our attention that a Select Committee on Electoral Reform will hold hearings on August 31 and September 1, 2005. It is our understanding that only one political party not represented in the Ontario Legislature (in particular, the Green Party of Ontario) has been called upon to testify.

We find it contrary to the spirit of this government's entire Electoral Reform process that Freedom Party of Ontario (and, presumably, Ontario's other registered political parties) were sent no notice:

(a) that the Select Committee had scheduled hearings; or

(b) that the Select Committee was interested in hearing the opinions of Ontario's other registered political parties.

That Freedom Party of Ontario ("FPO") was not so notified is particularly troubling given that:

* I had, prior even to the formation of the Select Committee, inquired with the Attorney General as to progress, if any, that had been made in terms of electoral reform. The Attorney General's written response gave the impression that things were still rather preliminary, little having happened other than the introduction of legislation to facilitate the consideration of electoral reform.

* Freedom Party of Ontario has been in regular attendance at Elections Ontario's Political Party Advisory Committee meetings since that Committee's inception years ago (I am perhaps its most consistently in-attendance participant).

* I have been on the mailing list of the Democratic Renewal Secretariat since early in the year. Despite that fact, I have received not a single e-mail from that body concerning any aspect of electoral reform (in fact, I have not received any e-mail from that body at all).

I recognize that an Agenda has already been set for the Select Committee's hearings this week. Nonetheless, given that FPO received no notice from the Select Committee, FPO hereby requests that the Agenda be amended and that FPO be given the opportunity to make submissions at the hearings of the Select Committee that are to be held this week.

In anticipation of a response that time does not permit the Select Committee to hear from FPO, I would quote from Hansard the minutes of July 27, 2005 hearing of the Select Committee:
"The Chair: OK. August 30 and 31, and September 1 and 2. We'll block off those four days and we will fit in there experts on the current system to come before us. Is that fair?

Mr. Patten: Yes.

The Chair: OK. So that's done.

Mr. Miller: The four days, again, are the 30th and 31st, and the 1st and 2nd.

The Chair: We may be able to do that in two or three days rather than all four, but I want the four days blocked off, that's all. I think it would be prudent for us to do that. OK?"
We would consider a denial of Freedom Party of Ontario's request to evidence of a prejudiced process. The electoral reform issue is one that could affect Ontarians and Ontario's political parties in a dramatic way. There are only six registered political parties with no members in the Legislature. They differ quite dramatically in their positions on electoral reform.

Moreover, like the parties having members in the Legislature (and representation in the Select Committee), the 6 parties having no members in the Legislature each have gone through the hoops of registering and making regular elections finances filings. We are paying our dues: it should not be too much to ask to be included on hearings on something so fundamental as electoral reform. Notifying those 6 parties of the hearings would have cost little more than the price of 6 postage stamps (i.e., $3.00) and (at the very most) 6 hours of hearings. That FPO and the other parties were not given notice of the hearings and called upon to give testimony is utterly unacceptable given the subject matter.

We would ask that the Committee's response to this request be directed in writing via e-mail, promptly, to:

Paul McKeever: pmckeever@freedomparty.on.ca
cc: rmetz@freedomparty.org

Sincerely,

Paul McKeever
Leader, Freedom Party of Ontario


2.
From: anne_stokes@ontla.ola.org
To: pmckeever@freedomparty.on.ca
Cc: cdicocco.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Sent: Monday, August 29, 2005 4:38 PM
Subject: RE: URGENT - Exclusion of Freedom Party of Ontario from hearings of Select Committee on Electoral Reform


Dear Mr. McKeever, On behalf of Caroline Di Cocco, Chair, Select Committee on Electoral Reform, I would like to thank you for your message.

Your interest in the issue of electoral reform is appreciated and I have put your name on a list of people who would like to appear before the Committee. The Committee is in the preliminary stages of its review and may well schedule additional days of hearings, although it has not had a chance at this point to make those plans.

I will distribute your email to the Committee members for their information and so that they are aware of your wish to appear. You are also welcome to make a written submission at any time. I will distribute anything I receive to all Committee members for their information and you can ensure that your views are known to them.

Thank you again for your letter.

Anne Stokes
Clerk of the Committee
Select Committee on Electoral Reform
Room 1405, Whitney Block
99 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A2
Phone: 416-325-3515
Fax: 416-325-3505
email: anne_stokes@ontla.ola.org


3.
From: Paul McKeever
To: Anne Stokes


Dear Ms. Stokes,

I thank you for your response. However, adding my name to a list of parties that would "like" to attend hearings of the Select Committee on Electoral Reform - possibly, at some time, maybe, in the future - is not a suitable and satisfactory response to my request.

According to Hansard from July 27, which I quoted in my letter to the Chair, four days have been already been blocked off for hearings: Tuesday through Friday of this week. Contrary to your statement, it is not the case that the Select Committee "has not had a chance at this point to make those plans". It needs only to schedule additional hours of hearings in the days already allotted: Friday, for example, is entirely free.

You have suggested that I make a submission in writing. I note the obvious: that all of the witnesses who have been scheduled to testify this week could simply have made written submissions. They were asked to attend not because they lack writing skills, but because the Committee values (or wants to appear to value) their opinions, and wants to ask them questions. Not inviting Ontario's five remaining registered political parties implies the opposite, loudly and clearly: the Committee does not value their opinions and does not care to ask them any questions. That implication is compounded by your response to me (and it should be noted that I asked for a response from the Chair: may I take your response as being hers?).

I would ask the Select Committee to remember that this exercise - which is quickly beginning to show the signs of being a farce - is being sold to the electorate as a response to disproportionality between the popular vote received by parties and the number of seats allocated to each. How on Earth does the Select Committee hope to appear credible and unbiased if it demonstrates a lack of concern for the opinions of those most negatively impacted by the current voting system: the so-far uninvited political parties and those who voted for them?

To the Chair: I await a timely answer to my question: will the Select Committee schedule Freedom Party (and any of the other four registered political parties who have been excluded from the hearings so far) to be heard in hearings during the four days already blocked off this week? Please note that I will share your response with the media, Ontario's registered political parties, and Ontario's other MPPs.

Sincerely,

Paul McKeever
Leader, Freedom Party of Ontario

c.c., Ontario's MPPs, radio, TV, and print newsmedia, and leaders of the Libertarian Party of Ontario, the Communist Party of Ontario, the Confederation of Regions Party of Ontario, and the Family Coalition Party of Ontario, respectively.


End of quoted emails.

So will the Committee prove me wrong and allow Freedom Party, the Libertarians, the CoR party, the FCP, and even the goddamned Communists to participate in this "electoral reform"? Or is this one more tightening of Party control over our elections?

Continue reading…

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Are you Imagining London yet?

Warning: This post concerns subject matter that is only of local interest — and "interest" may be too strong a word at that.

From the London Free Press:

[Monday] night, without debate, a slim majority of council voted 10-8 not to abolish board of control, cut the number of councillors or change the seven-ward system.

[… Councillor Fred] Tranquilli and others pushing for change are now regrouping to plan their next move.

An appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board is one option.

That's because council decided not to act on a 1,000-signature petition calling for a new 14-ward system and elimination of board of control.

"(Council) demonstrated very clearly they have no regard for the petition process" and they don't care what the public thinks, said Sam Trosow, spokesperson for Imagine London, the group that submitted the petition.
Hmmm… appealing to an unelected board whose purpose is to resolve land disputes under contradictory legislations open to a variety of interpretations seems like a good method for promoting democracy and council accountability! All for the sake of 1,000 signatures in a city of over 300,000 people, although if you removed the signatures of Urban League followers and academics plumping for research grants into what the heck the public thinks anyway, and the faint numbers in the petition might just pass right out on the street, never to get up again. But actually, 1,000 people is a pretty good turnout for London — although not nearly so great as, say, the number of smokers, but that never stopped council from banning smoking in private places — so there might still be hope for these people. Apathy or antipathy has never before stopped council from doing things.

Imagine London proposes a redistricting of wards according to some vague collective notion of "community interests," apparently using socio-economic indicators and inevitably applying conglomerations of census tracts as the political boundaries they were never meant to be used as. I don't really feel too strongly one way or the other about reducing or redistributing council seats if there's no prospects of any of them actually being unemployed, but I am skeptical about these boundaries people are petitioning for that have not even yet been defined. Introducing arbitrariness or social sciencey-ism into this political process could invite a potential for gerrymandering and/or ghettoization. But what do I know? For alternative views on Imagine London and the restructuring of city council, check out Jim Sweeney here, here and here.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The penalties of proportional representation

ColbyCosh discredits the cringing appeals of little socialist parties in Canada to have their miniscule support translate into hard policy making and breaking. I shudder to think that this seems like such a reasonable idea to so many.

...The Green voters are young, passionate and have new ideas, and while I figure that's three strikes against them, there are those who imagine that Green inclusion in a fragmented PR Parliament might "reawaken" youth interest in politics. Which is supposed to have died out, sometime, and is supposed to be desirable, somehow...
Read on...

And there's more...
...Functional PR, in the real world, is compatible only with party-picked national slates of candidates--and such slates are themselves incompatible with basic features of our democracy. I consider local accountability for every elected parliamentarian to be such a feature, at any rate. It is wise to require that every MP should command the certifiable support of some specific geographical community...
...Whatever "limited democracy" might mean, it seems as though that is exactly the sort of democracy we live in, and I thank heaven for it. I know of no unlimited one--no perfect, crystalline method of translating collective will to action; if there were one, I think we should rue the results soon enough. Democracy is not a primary principle of our constitutional monarchy. If it were, we should have, at the least, separate elections for each federal ministry; or no Parliament at all, with federal referenda on every federal bill. We should have no fixed constitution, written or otherwise, and perhaps no judiciary (let us vote on whether to set the cute murderer free!)...

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