Quebec Court Denies Claim That FPTP is Unconstitutional

Our friends at ARDD (L’Association pour la Revendication des Droits Démocratiques, or the Association for Claiming Democratic Rights) have just informed us that the Quebec Court of Appeals has turned down their motion to have Single Member Plurality voting declared unconstitutional.  Although the court did not accept their claim, they also did not explicitly explain the basis for countenancing the self-evident denial of representation to millions of voters and thereby, according to ARDD’s legal team, have left open the way for an appeal to the Supreme Court.  We invite you to join us in fundraising to support this appeal – please visit the link on the right to offer your support.

The information we received from ARDD is copied below;  please visit their website for more details:

Dear Friends,
Not surprisingly, the decision did not support our motion to have the electoral system declared unconstitutional.  However, In rendering his decision, Judge Dufresne did assert that the lower court judge had erred when saying our case wasn’t judicable.

In summary, the Appeal Court accepted what was obvious, the first-past-the-post voting system distorts the popular vote, but declared that this in itself wasn’t sufficient to grant our motion since all voting systems produce distortions.

Well then, what about the scale of the distortions and the manner in which they are produced?  We provided expert testimony that demonstrates that the level of distortion is beyond that of the distortions caused by other electoral practices and were subsequently declared unconstitutional and that the manner in which it is done is unclear violation of the equality guarantees of the Charter.

No matter, this evidence wasn’t given proper consideration.  In the lower court decision not a word was devoted to our most compelling evidence in the analysis and the Appeal Court Judges decided that this slight of hand did not constitute a judicial error.

Again, we would accept the decision if it had been demonstrated that we had erred in claiming that the fact that first-past-the-post denied effective representation to as many as a million voters that voted for the Greens in the 2008 federal election was an infringement of their democratic rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But this was not done.  They simply dodged this inconvenient fact with dismissive silence concerning how such an electoral anomaly could be countenanced.  To date, the contestable prejudice caused to those who have their votes discarded by an electoral system that is unique in that it doesn’t possess a mechanism to aggregate votes or voting preferences has not been addressed and thus gives us grounds for an appeal.

Moreover, Judge Dufresne went on to make two outlandish statements that suggests that he doesn’t believe that fundamental democratic principles apply to the Charter Right to effective representation.

The first was to suggest that the fact that the reversal of the democratic result of the Quebec 1966 and 1998 general elections (the party that won less votes than another went on to form a majority government) and the fact that almost a million voters who voted Green did not gain any representation in the 2008 federal election did not constitute an impairment of effective representation.  At the same time, Judge Dufresne uses a statistical outlier, a once-in-a-hundred year electoral result from the 2007 Quebec General Election (the three major parties gained more or less representation proportional to the popular vote) to demonstrate that the distortions inherent to first-past-the-post are not systemic, yet he ignored that two smaller parties that together garnered 7% of the vote in 2007 were denied any representation at all.

He then suggests that the most recent federal election in which the Conservatives form a majority government with only 39% of the popular vote and in Quebec the Bloc is reduced only 4 out of 75 seats despite amassing 25% of the popular vote while the the NDP gains 70% of the seats with only approximately 40% of the vote is evidence to the contrary.  In making such a claim, Judge Dufresne again asserts that effective representation does not require that each and every vote carries relative equal weight.

One has to wonder what is the frame of reference being used to apply the concept of effective representation for each and every citizen.  Do the egalitarian values inherent to democracy enter the equation?  Apparently not in Quebec at this time.

Consequently, we will be filing an appeal to have our case heard at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Respectfully,
Brian Gibb

Host a Video Night to Celebrate National Democracy Week Sep 12-18

Invite Your Friends and Neighbours

Fair Voting BC invites you to host a video night with your friends and neighbours during the week of September 12-18 to celebrate National Democracy Week;  this is a great opportunity to break out the popcorn and talk about an important issue that doesn’t necessarily come up in everyday conversation.

Check out the great lineup of suggested movies we’ve put together (see below), along with our “Hosting a Video Night” checklist.  Head down to your local video store, grab one of these movies, and enjoy an evening of stimulating conversation.

“Hosting a Video Night” Checklist:

Before the event:

  1. Pick a date
  2. Pick a movie (see below) and buy popcorn
  3. Invite friends and neighbours, or post a notice (if you’re ambitious, book a room at a community centre, school or church)
  4. Add details of your event to our map (see below – just click the ‘Add’ button)

At the event:

  1. Welcome people and collect their contact information (ask if they’d like to sign up for our monthly email newsletter)
  2. Show the movie
  3. Discuss the issues;  talk about what people might like to do to respond
  4. Follow up with us at Fair Voting BC – let us know if you’ve decided to do something, or would like help from us to get something going (send a note to president@fairvotingbc.com)
Click map to see Video Night locations (click 'Add' button on map to add your own event)

Map of Video Night Events:

Click on the map to the right to open a full-size view. If you’re hosting an event, please add your event to our map by clicking on the ‘Add’ button (include contact information if you’re open to more people joining you).  If you’re looking to join an event, browse through the event markers in your area.

Note:  the ‘Add’ button is a little hard to find – look for it under the row of buttons at the top right of the map.  When you enter an event, you will get a little popup menu – click the top entry to confirm.  You should also add event details on the second tab in the dialog box (you can ignore the other tabs).  Finally, save your marker’s URL if you want to edit your information in the future.

Movie Suggestions:

Note about our suggestions:  Fair Voting BC is a non-partisan organization.  Some of the following films have a definite partisan slant, but we have included them because they deal more or less explicitly with some aspect of democracy, not because FVBC endorses any particular film.  By and large, the text is drawn from the films’ websites.  Please let us know if you have other suggestions for us.

Films About Canada:

  • Democracy 4 Dummies (2007).  This documentary shows curious cynics and aspiring politicians how to run for office with little or no money. Full of laughs and satirical commentary, this election adventure should leave even the most skeptical viewer thinking, “If these guys can do it, so can I!”  Democracy 4 Dummies follows the campaign trail of Dylan Perceval-Maxwell, an eccentric Green Party candidate and vegetable oil car driver in Montreal. While Dylan ultimately loses to federal opposition leader Gilles Duceppe, he gets the most votes of any Green Party candidate in Quebec.  Dylan and other Green Party candidates show us how to raise funds and collect signatures with dogs, skirts and anything else catchy.
  • Encirclement:  Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy (2008, B&W, 160 min) Drawing upon the thinking and analyses of renowned intellectuals, this documentary sketches a portrait of neo-liberal ideology and examines the various mechanisms used to impose its dictates throughout the world.
  • Democracy à la Maude (1998)  A Canadian woman leads the fight against unjust corporate globalization, and for social justice.  Bullfrog Films, NFB

Films Based in the USA

  • Gerrymandering (2010) – order through their website.  Takes a hard look at the framework of our democracy and how it provides our politicians a perfectly legal way to control electoral outcomes by altering electoral district boundaries.
  • UNCOUNTED (2008) is an explosive documentary that shows how the election fraud that changed the outcome of the 2004 election led to even greater fraud in 2006 – and now looms as an unbridled threat to the outcome of the 2008 election. This controversial film examines in factual, logical, and yet startling terms how easy it is to change election outcomes and undermine election integrity across the U.S. Noted computer programmers, statisticians, journalists, and experienced election officials provide the irrefutable proof.
  • Murder, Spies & Voting Lies (the Clint Curtis story) (2008) Whistle-blower Clint Curtis, a computer programmer by trade, sticks to his claims that he was asked to make vote-rigging software for electronic voting machines by former US Congressman and loyal Bushite,Tom Feeney (R-Fl). Tension rises when the vote-rigging scandal dips into a murder mystery. While Clint Curtis testified to a Congressional Judiciary committee caucus in December 2004, and passed a lie detector test shortly thereafter, mainstream media has paid scant attention to his story. Independent filmaking is filling that gap.
  • Hacking Democracy (2006).  The disturbingly shocking HBO documentary HACKING DEMOCRACY bravely tangles with our nation’s ills at the heart of democracy. The film the Diebold corporation doesn’t want you to see, this revelatory profile follows a tenacious grandmother from Seattle, Bev Harris, and her band of extraordinary citizen-activists as they set out to ask one simple question: How does America count its votes?  This movie starkly reveals a rotten system riddled with inaccuracy, incompetent election officials, and electronic voting machines that can be programmed to steal elections.
  • CAN MR. SMITH GET TO WASHINGTON ANYMORE? (2007).  The inspiring story of a modern-day Mr. Smith’s quixotic campaign to win the 2006 Missouri Democratic primary with little more than political savvy, tireless work, and passionate leadership over a committed group of grassroots volunteers that grows from a few friends to more than 500 by election day.  When twenty-nine-year-old Jeff Smith decides to run for the congressional seat of the retiring Democratic party leader Richard Gephardt, his family and friends think he’s crazy.
  • Recount (2008):  HBO docudrama about the hanging chad controversy in Palm Beach County featuring Kevin Spacey as Gore advisor Ron Klain and Laura Dern as Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.
  • Recount Democracy (2002)  Forget the hanging chads and butterfly ballots. The Presidential election drama of 2000 is still a mystery to most Americans. “Recount Democracy” investigates charges of disenfranchisement and 180,000 uncounted Florida votes cast largely by the working poor and people of color, uncovering racial exclusion, voting rights violations and the subverting of a recount in the most contested and controversial election in U.S. history.
  • DEFLATING THE ELEPHANT: FRAMED MESSAGES BEHIND CONSERVATIVE DIALOGUE (2009) teaches us how language impacts our lives and more significantly, our political discourse. Language is influenced by what is known as framing, meaning every word is connected to a concept. How those concepts are used and repeated have proven to shape ideology, behavior and thought-process.  George Lakoff, author of Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know and Liberals Don’t and Don t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, dissects the conservative dialogue and provides explanations and examples on how they have spent the last 35 years perfecting their ideas and their language. Framed messages is a system and strategy that works. The key is to understand why it works. Features Sean Penn.
  • Electile Dysfunction (2008)  The mere fact that political consultants who make their living manipulating voters are willing to analyze their tactics onscreen without fear of repercussion sums up the problem with the modern electoral process. Public disapproval of politics and politicians is at an all time high, and for good reason. Cynicism and distrust are the hallmarks of this public disenchantment. The unholy alliance of special interest money and public policy has produced government that is perceived to be out of touch with the reality of everyday citizens and unresponsive to their needs.
  • Dear Oprah: Non-Voting America’s Wildest Dream (2008)  Almost a hundred million Americans don’t vote. Even when they’re electing their president and, with that, the most powerful political leader in the world. A year before the presidential elections of 2008 a crew of young European filmmakers goes on a journey all across the country in a little old motor home to search for America’s missing voters.  Who are they? Why don’t they vote? Can a young and fresh presidential candidate as Barack Obama make them vote? How would American politics change if more young people, single women, poor white people, African-Americans and Latino’s would start voting?
  • Media Malpractice (2009)  The 2008 Presidential election was historic in many ways. For the first time, the vast majority of mainstream media decided to openly back one candidate. Media Malpractice tells the entire story of this precedent-setting and dangerous media reality. In just four years, Barack Obama went from being a little-known State Senator, to being elected President of the United States. This film explores the role of the media in facilitating the victory that shocked the world.  While the media did everything they could to elevate Obama, they took a very different view of John McCain s VP nominee Governor Sarah Palin. With an interview of Palin done exclusively for this film, Media Malpractice examines the real story behind many of the media-created perceptions used in a blatant attempt to destroy her credibility.
  • Frontrunners (2008), is a charming, candid, and almost scary glimpse into the advanced levels of student sophistication in America’s top high schools. In this case, filmmaker Caroline Suh, who has copious experience as a documentary producer, put her documentary research skills to use at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, an elite school in which students who aren’t admitted to Top Ten colleges are considered total rejects by their peers. Frontrunners charts the arc of the student government elections, starring four kids who want the presidency.
  • The War on Democracy (2007):  Award winning journalist John Pilger examines the role of Washington in America’s manipulation of Latin American politics during the last 50 years leading up to the struggle by ordinary people to free themselves from poverty and racism. Since the mid 19th Century Latin America has been the ‘backyard’ of the US, a collection of mostly vassal states whose compliant and often brutal regimes have reinforced the ‘invisibility’ of their majority peoples. The film reveals similar CIA policies to be continuing in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon. The rise of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez despite ongoing Washington backed efforts to unseat him in spite of his overwhelming mass popularity, is democratic in a way that we have forgotten or abandoned in the west.
  • MANUFACTURING CONSENT (1993) explores the political life and ideas of world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist Noam Chomsky. Through a dynamic collage of biography, archival gems, imaginative graphics and outrageous illustrations, Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick’s award-winning documentary highlights Chomsky’s probing analysis of mass media and his critique of the forces at work behind the daily news. 

  • Keys to Good Government (1993) In recent years, American government has been plagued with a burgeoning number of scandals and corrupt public officials, yet for almost two centuries American government had been characterized as sound and morally untainted. What caused the change? Unfortunately, we disregarded and lost much of the specific advice given to us by those distinguished men who formed our original government.  Discover the keys to good government by investigating the wise counsel and instruction given to us by leaders like William Penn, Benjamin Rush, Noah Webster, John Witherspoon, John Adams, Fisher Ames, George Washington, and many others.

Films About Other Countries

  • Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas (2008)  What is democracy? Freedom, equality, participation? Everyone has his or her own definition. Across the world, 120 countries now have at least the minimum trappings of democracy—the freedom to vote for all citizens. But for many, this is just the beginning not the end. A look at new democratic institutions and experiments in both North and South America.
  • The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard (2006) This UK-based mini-series follows Mrs Ros Pritchard, a successful manager of a supermarket. When a couple of politicians make a spectacle of themselves outside her shop, Ros decides to stand for election herself, just to prove that she could do better. Her story grips the nation and eight weeks later no one is more surprised than Ros herself when she wins the General Election and becomes the next Prime Minister.  Six 1-hour episodes.
  • Please Vote for Me (Chinese, with subtitles) (2007).  Two males and a female vie for office, indulging in low blows and spin, character assassination and gestures of goodwill, all the while gauging their standing with voters. The setting is not the Democratic presidential campaign, but a third-grade class at an elementary school in the city of Wuhan in central China. “Please Vote For Me”, which is on the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences documentary feature shortlist, packs its fleet hour with keen observations. Chroniciling a public school’s first open elections – at stake is the position of class monitor – filmmaker Weijun Chen has crafted a witty, engaging macro-lens view of human nature, China’s one-child policy and the democratic electorial process as the ultimate exercise in marketing.
  • Frontrunner (2008)  The setting: Afghanistan’s first democratic election ever. In the aftermath of 9/11, America’s military might has set the stage. But who will determine the fate of democracy in Afghanistan? Is it possible, a woman running for President? Where unspeakable cruelty to women had become part of day-to-day life under the Taliban? Vote for the mother, Dr. Massouda Jala shouts to the crowd. FRONTRUNNER tells the heroic story of this medical doctor and mother of three and the first presidential bid by a woman since the ouster of the Taliban.
  • Sex, Drugs and Democracy (1994).  This feature-length documentary film explores the limits of personal freedom by taking an uncensored look at the unconventional approach to morality and politics in Holland.

Other Ideas:

For more ideas, check out this list of over 20 political films compiled by the Springfield City Public Library and this list of 10 documentary films shown in 2004 as a package called “Why Democracy?”.

Fair Voting BC Guide to Smart Voting

Fair Voting BC has long opposed the vote-splitting problems created by our Single Member Plurality (First-Past-the-Post) voting system.  All too frequently, voters are forced to choose between voting for the candidate they most support, but who they feel has relatively little chance of being elected, and another candidate who they like less, but who has a better chance to beat a candidate the voter truly dislikes.  If the voter decides to vote for a less-liked candidate to defeat their least-liked candidate, we say they are voting strategically.

FVBC does not explicitly endorse strategic voting, but we recognize that for many individuals it is a perfectly rational response to the flaws of SMP.  With that in mind, we would like to give you a list of websites you might find useful in your quest to make your vote count as much as possible:

Websites Presenting Computer Models Predicting Riding-Level Outcomes

These sites are non-partisan in their orientation and useful for all voters.  The details of the prediction methods vary, but all are explicitly described, so the reader can make their own judgements about their reliability.

  • Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy – An academic website presenting results of their “regional swing model” predictor.
  • Three Hundred EightAn excellent seat estimator for the 308 seats in the House of Commons.  Has a helpful chart showing the current estimates of their model on a riding-by-riding basis.
  • DemocraticSpace – Another excellent seat estimator.  Has downloadable PDF files predicting outcomes on a riding-by-riding basis.

Websites Describing Strategic Voting and Offering Specific Advice on How to Do It

Warning:  The following sites are all explicitly anti-Conservative and target Liberal, NDP and Green supporters seeking to prevent a Conservative win or majority.  FVBC is non-partisan and so does not endorse strategic voting targeting a specific party.

  • Pair Vote – Offers to match voters in different ridings who can’t cast an honest vote in their own riding without it being rendered useless by our SMP system.  Although it is explicitly anti-Conservative, we believe they would honour requests to swap votes on behalf of Conservatives who live in ridings where their vote would not help their local candidate.
  • Project Democracy – A new website in this election, it appears to have emerged from the voteforenvironment.ca website in the 2008 election.  Has an explicitly anti-Conservative stance, offering advice on a riding-by-riding basis about who to vote for to prevent a Conservative majority.
  • Catch 22 – Also an explicitly anti-Conservative site offering advice about how to vote locally to prevent a Conservative majority.
  • Swing 33 – Refers to the number of seats needed in 2008 to have swung the election from a Conservative to a Liberal minority government.  In addition to providing strategic voting advice, this site also suggests the idea of strategic donations – ie, contributing in close races to prevent a Conservative from winning
  • Avaaz – Presents a different interface to the estimates provided by Project Democracy

The following article is generally neutral, but the publication itself is left-leaning:

  • The Tyee – Presented a guide to the guides for strategic voting, including references to some academic papers on the subject

Critiques of Strategic Voting

Related Websites

  • Lead Now – a youth-oriented voter-engagement website.  They led a public participatory process aimed at identifying top priorities for whichever new government forms.
  • CBC Vote Compass – this site asks you to answer several policy questions and rate their relative importance to you and produces a map showing where you lie relative to the positions of the various national parties.  Close to 2 million voters have used this tool during this election.

FVBC Invites Point Grey Hopefuls to All-Candidates Meeting

Fair Voting BC to Host All-Candidates Meeting Tuesday, May 3rd

Visit our Facebook Event Page

On April 13th, Premier Christy Clark called a by-election to be held in Vancouver-Point Grey on May 11th.  By the close of nominations on April 23rd, six candidates had registered to run:  Christy Clark (Lib), David Eby (NDP), Francoise Raunet (Green), Danielle Alie (BC First), William Gibbens (Ind) and Eddie Petrossian (Ind).

All but one of the candidates have agreed to join us at St. Helen’s Anglican Church (4405 W 8th Ave, Vancouver) on Tuesday, May 3rd from 7-9 pm (Premier Clark’s office has told us to expect to hear back from them shortly).  We encourage all participants to come early (~6:30 pm) for informal discussion and the opportunity to vote online for which issues and questions you’d like to hear the candidates address (or click on the forum image below right to provide your input right now).

Priorities and Proposals:  Public Input on Topics and Questions Invited

Click above to suggest and vote on issues and questions for the candidates.

The meeting will have two main components:

  1. In the first hour, we will ask the candidates to lay out their priorities – that is, what they perceive as the issues Point Grey voters feel are most significant in this by-election, what their analyses of these issues are, and how these issues would fit into their own personal priorities if they are elected.  We are inviting the general public to use our website (see instructions below) to raise issues of concern to them and to vote issues up or down so that the candidates can focus on the ones of greatest public concern.
  2. In the second hour, we will ask the candidates to outline their proposals for dealing with the problems identified during the first hour and to field questions posed by the general public online (again, see instructions below).

We trust that some or most of the candidates will stay behind afterwards to respond to personal questions.  Fair Voting BC members will be present to discuss informally democratic reform-related issues.

Make Your Voice Heard Online

To ensure that candidates are addressing the issues of greatest public interest, we warmly invite the public to visit our Issues and Questions Forums to suggest topics for the candidates to discuss and specific questions you would like to hear posed.  We have seeded these forums with a few ideas, but please feel free to add your own suggestions and to vote on ideas already submitted.  We will put the ones which rise to the top of the list to the candidates.

“Trying to shape the world using FPTP is like trying to change a tire using a curling iron”

We strongly suggest you read Ottawa Citizen columnist Kate Heartfield’s wonderful article entitled “Our voting system makes no sense” in which she says it all.  Among her numerous memorable comments are the following:

  • “The system twists our intentions, sending MPs to Parliament even if most of their constituents voted against them.”
  • “I will vote for purely symbolic reasons.”
  • “in every riding, there are voters who trudge quixotically to the polls knowing their votes will not make a difference.”
  • “All the self-righteous public service messaging urging us to “have our say” or “make our voices heard” refuses to acknowledge this crazy incentive structure”
  • “”Shape your world.” Sure. Trying to shape the world using a first-past-the-post ballot is a little like trying to change a tire using a curling iron.”
  • Criticizing UK Prime Minister Cameron’s claim that the Alternative Vote under consideration there “means not all votes count equally. Well, if he can tell me how a vote for the NDP counts for as much in Nepean-Carleton as in Ottawa Centre, I’ll shut up about electoral reform.”
  • “Our system reflects the diversity of Canadians geographically, but not ideologically. And that’s just stupid, because what I want from my government has a lot more to do with my ideology than my postal code.”
  • “I keep doing it [arguing for electoral reform], because voting feels a lot like banging my head against a wall too, and it shouldn’t.”

“Did He Really Use The C-Word?”

House of Commons
House of Commons

The current federal election campaign has been notable for a sustained dispute not only over the legitimacy of a coalition (C-word #1), but, at a deeper level, over the foundational principle of parliamentary confidence itself (C-word #2).  Fair Voting BC believes that it is crucial both for the future of our current democratic system and for future voting reforms for Canadians to properly understand these two notions.

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Worst of Both Worlds: Why First-Past-the-Post No Longer Works

Click to Download IPPR Report

The British Institute for Public Policy Research today released a report entitled “Worst of Both Worlds: Why First-Past-the-Post No Longer Works“.  The abstract for the report is as follows:

“In a time of greater political pluralism, British politics is no longer well served by a voting system that was designed for a two-party era. Nor are the interests of British democracy. 

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Help Take First-Past-the-Post to Court! FVBC Fundraiser Now Underway – Internet & Live Townhall Meetings on Feb 5th

The Quebec Court Challenge

Canadian Supreme Court, where this case may be heading.
  • Click here or button to right to register for the online presentation (webinar) (not necessary now, but appreciated as it helps us estimate how many people to expect, particularly for in-person events)
  • Click here for instructions on joining webinar (we suggest you check in 10-15 minutes in advance)

A court challenge aimed at invalidating the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system is now before the Quebec Appeals Court. It was launched in 2004 in response to the repeated failures of civic actions through political means. The case focuses on the two main components of the right to vote as defined by the Supreme Court: meaningful participation and significant representation. Both are systematically violated by the current FPTP voting system. The case will be heard in the Quebec appeals court on February 8, 2011 and could be before the Canadian Supreme Court before 2012. The plaintiffs are seeking financial support for legal fees.

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