We hope you’ve been enjoying a wonderful holiday season. As the New Year starts, we want to take this opportunity to review some of the significant democracy-related events of 2013. While the Senate finances scandal has been in the news all year, there have been many other stories worth paying attention to. Here’s our rundown:
- January – BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) filed a constitutional challenge in BC Supreme Court of the Liberal government’s ‘gag law’ that prevents individuals and non-profits from expressing political opinions in public without registering as an official political advertiser.
- January – Samara Canada ran a survey asking public and politicians for suggestions on Redesigning Parliament; check out their final list of 50 ideas in six broad areas.
- February – The federal government referred their proposed Senate reforms to the Supreme Court of Canada for a ruling on whether they can proceed unilaterally or if they require the provinces’ consent [Fact sheet]
- February – LeadNow and Project Democracy endorsed Joyce Murray‘s run for Liberal Party leadership because of her commitment to electoral cooperation and implementing voting reform.
- March – Environics poll shows 70% of Canadians support a move to proportional representation – we are the majority! [Poll details]
- March – Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand releases report calling for improved investigative powers to deal with robocall scandal. [Report]
- April – The Conservatives pulled their democratic reform bill that was intended to give Elections Canada enhanced investigative and enforcement powers; no date for reintroduction has been announced. It is now nearly a year and a half overdue.
- April/May – Fair Voting BC runs “Deepening Democracy” survey of provincial candidates in the runup to the May election.
- April/May – Fair Voting BC runs “Our City, Our Choices” campaign aimed at getting the provincial government to respond to Vancouver’s four-times-issued request for more autonomy in how the city holds elections.
- May – BC Election – pundits and pollsters significantly misread the public mood, raising interesting and challenging questions about the limits of polling accuracy. Postmortems:  [Ekos (PDF)] [iPolitics] [the Tyee] [Great interactive graphic showing vote shifts by riding over past five elections]
- May – Elections Canada chastises the federal Conservatives for dragging their feet on the robocalls probe and not consulting on election-law reform [The Star] [Toronto Sun]
- May – Federal Judge Richard Mosley rules in a robocalls-related court case that there had been orchestrated and widespread fraud in the last federal election, but insufficient evidence with regard to consequences to justify annulling election results. “The evidence points to elaborate efforts to conceal the identity of those accessing the database and arranging for the calls to be made.” [Judgement] The plaintiffs then decide they won’t appeal to the Supreme Court.
- May – The federal NDP passes a resolution supporting proportional representation.
- June – The Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto (RABIT) succeeds in persuading Toronto City Council to ask the province for permission to adopt a ranked ballot for municipal elections (as in BC, the province has not yet responded).
- July – Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre is appointed as the new Minister of Democratic Reform; Poilevre claims that Ottawa can proceed alone on Senate reform. [CBC] [G&M]
- August – The government prorogues parliament, allowing Bill C-21 (intended to close a loophole on political loans) to die for a fifth time.
- September – The federal NDP announces that they will run on a platform of electoral reform in 2015; NDP MP Craig Scott (Democratic Reform critic) starts a nationwide road trip focussed on democratic reform; look for BC visits in the spring.
- September – Fair Vote Canada launches their “Make Every Vote Count” campaign, starting the runup to the 2015 federal election.
- September – Elizabeth May launches her “Save Democracy from Politics” nationwide tour.
- September – Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer wins endorsement from the Union of BC Municipalities for a motion calling on the province to give Vancouver power to set campaign finance rules. [Details]
- October – The Quebec Appeal Court declares proposed federal reform plans unconstitutional.
- October – The BC Independent Panel on Internet Voting issued its preliminary report which recommends against using internet voting for the foreseeable future; Fair Voting BC submits response supporting main findings, but calling for increased use of electronic means for public consultation and pointing out that security concerns would be considerably reduced if we used proportional representation.
- October – Elections Canada sets up an all-party Advisory Committee to review and advise on conduct of federal elections.
- November – BC FIPA presents arguments in BC Supreme Court challenging the ‘gag law’; ruling expected in early 2014.
- November – The federal Supreme Court hears submissions on the government’s proposed Senate Reforms; their ruling is also expected in early 2014. [CBC] [G&M]
- November – Witnesses in Elections Canada’s robocall investigation say that Conservative staffer Michael Sona bragged about his role in placing fraudulent automated phone calls. The investigation’s report is due in late March. [National Post] [CBC] [Huffington Post]
- December – Independent MP Bruce Hyer (formerly an NDP MP) joins the Green Party, citing its commitment to democratic representation.
- December – Fair Vote Canada director John Deverell becomes Green Party critic for Democratic Reform.
- December – Conservative MP Michael Chong introduces a private member’s bill on Parliamentary Reform; key measures include giving caucus the power to vote out the prime minister and removing the requirement that the party leader sign nomination papers. While some of his proposed measures are controversial, the debate about empowering MPs is most welcome. [National Post] [Huffington Post] [The Star] [G&M] [Text of Act]
With various court rulings coming out this spring, the municipal elections in the fall and planning for making voting reform a major issue in the 2015 federal election all underway, we expect 2014 to be an exciting year for democratic reformers and we look forward to playing a significant role in driving reform efforts forward in the coming year.
Yours for a stronger democracy,
President, Fair Voting BC
President, Fair Voting BC