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Recent entries

  1. A podcast with Michael Geist on technology and politics
  2. Next steps
  3. On what electoral reform reforms
  4. 2019 Fall campaign newsletter / infolettre campagne d'automne 2019
  5. 2019 Summer newsletter / infolettre été 2019
  6. 2019-07-15 SECU 171
  7. 2019-06-20 RNNR 140
  8. 2019-06-17 14:14 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  9. 2019-06-17 SECU 169
  10. 2019-06-13 PROC 162
  11. 2019-06-10 SECU 167
  12. 2019-06-06 PROC 160
  13. 2019-06-06 INDU 167
  14. 2019-06-05 23:27 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  15. 2019-06-05 15:11 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  16. older entries...

Latest comments

Michael D on Keeping Track - Bus system overhaul coming to Guelph while GO station might go to Lafarge after all
Steve Host on Keeping Track - Bus system overhaul coming to Guelph while GO station might go to Lafarge after all
G. T. on Abolish the Ontario Municipal Board
Anonymous on The myth of the wasted vote
fellow guelphite on Keeping Track - Rethinking the commute

Links of interest

  1. 2009-03-27: The Mother of All Rejection Letters
  2. 2009-02: Road Worriers
  3. 2008-12-29: Who should go to university?
  4. 2008-12-24: Tory aide tried to scuttle Hanukah event, school says
  5. 2008-11-07: You might not like Obama's promises
  6. 2008-09-19: Harper a threat to democracy: independent
  7. 2008-09-16: Tory dissenters 'idiots, turds'
  8. 2008-09-02: Canadians willing to ride bus, but transit systems are letting them down: survey
  9. 2008-08-19: Guelph transit riders happy with 20-minute bus service changes
  10. 2008=08-06: More people riding Edmonton buses, LRT
  11. 2008-08-01: U.S. border agents given power to seize travellers' laptops, cellphones
  12. 2008-07-14: Planning for new roads with a green blueprint
  13. 2008-07-12: Disappointed by Layton, former MPP likes `pretty solid' Dion
  14. 2008-07-11: Riders on the GO
  15. 2008-07-09: MPs took donations from firm in RCMP deal
  16. older links...

All stories filed under elections...

  1. 2006-04-13: April 13th, 2006
  2. 2006-05-27: May 27th, 2006
  3. 2006-12-11: Proportional representation would be worse than the status quo
  4. 2007-01-29: My submission to the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform
  5. 2007-03-20: The trouble with parties
  6. 2007-05-30: Why I will vote against MMP this fall
  7. 2007-08-07: No MMP campaign gets underway
  8. 2007-08-09: Why no MMP?
  9. 2007-08-10: All the World's problems to be solved by MMP
  10. 2007-08-10: MMP change for the sake of change?
  11. 2007-08-13: The myth of the Kiwi Utopia
  12. 2007-08-14: Ten lies about MMP revisited
  13. 2007-08-15: A Dawg's bone
  14. 2007-09-13: The real truth about MMP
  15. 2007-09-25: The myth of the wasted vote
  16. 2007-10-01: On wanting the Third Way
  17. 2007-10-08: MMP contradictions keep adding up
  18. 2007-10-11: Ontario overwhelmingly defeats MMP; declares Liberal majority perfectly legitimate
  19. 2007-10-16: A short rant on electoral reform
  20. 2007-10-20: More assorted thoughts on the future of our democracy
  21. 2008-02-25: No MMP campaign issues final press release
  22. 2008-04-09: Does voter turnout matter?
  23. 2008-04-23: The Democratic Primaries and Us
  24. 2008-05-22: Why I do not support an elected Senate
  25. 2008-07-31: Jack Layton and Gloria Kovach pretend to have credibility on transit
  26. 2008-08-06: By-election thoughts
  27. 2008-08-20: What the ....
  28. 2008-08-23: Community service like no other
  29. 2008-08-29: Vandals threaten the lives of Liberal supporters in Guelph
  30. 2008-09-07: 45 days down, 37 to go
  31. 2008-09-08: Bloc, NDP, Conservatives against democratic debate
  32. 2008-10-05: Vandals threaten the lives of more Liberal supporters
  33. 2008-10-06: There is no morning-after pill for federal elections
  34. 2008-10-08: Day 76... 6 to go
  35. 2008-10-15: Election post-mortem
  36. 2008-10-24: Assorted thoughts on leadership, recessions, and highways

Displaying the most recent stories under elections...

Assorted thoughts on leadership, recessions, and highways

Today is the 79th anniversary of Black Thursday, the first of three miserable days on the stock market that signalled the start of the Great Depression. With that, rules for the Liberal leadership race about to come forward, and new developments on the highway construction front, there's lots to talk about these days.

First off, let me say that, given the choice, I want this man to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

With that out of the way, down to business.

This week, Ontario posted a deficit of $500 million for the first time in a few years. I have never made any secret of my disdain for deficits, and when I see a provincial government spending more billions on building new highways than you can shake a stick at go into deficit, I really have to scratch my head.

As I have noted many times before, Guelph is currently subject of, or is close to, four major highway projects: new Highway 24 (Cambridge-Brantford), new Highway 7 (Guelph-Kitchener), new GTA West corridor (Guelph-Brampton), and realignment and upgrades to Highway 6, in four separate sections each with its own EA, from south of the 401 to north of Guelph city limits.

Last night was the 4th Public Information Centre for the first of the four sections of Highway 6 to be upgraded. I am disappointed to, again, see no consideration whatsoever for the need to connect the Hanlon industrial park to the nearby rail network, which would involve crossing the Hanlon near one of the interchanges being proposed and therefore would need at least some level of planning or preparation within this environmental assessment. The changes proposed in PIC #4 for the Hanlon in their latest "preferred plan" call for a two-way service road to run between Stone and Downey Rd on the west side of the Hanlon, connecting up to Woodland Glen Dr., and the associated construction of a large retaining wall through several back yards along Old Colony Trail.

From a traffic flow perspective, it's definitely an improvement over previous plans, but from an environmental and social perspective for that area, it's a definite setback. This never-ending balancing act is frustrating to me.

I maintain that the investment in highways is a colossal waste of money if we are not also investing to at least the same level in transit infrastructure, which here and now necessarily means rail. If the as-yet unbuilt Hanlon industrial park were to connect to rail, which could be accomplished for the cost of one or two interchanges on the highway, the highway improvements would have a net long term benefit. The rail access would allow businesses to come to this industrial park to get material out of their trucks and onto the tracks, not just move it between trucks. I am all for road infrastructure improvements that help people and businesses get off the roads, but against highways for the sake of highways. Similarly, if passenger service were restored to the line between Guelph and Hamilton, some of the car pressures on Highway 6, which runs parallel to the nearly unused tracks for the entire affected area, would be reduced.

I found out just yesterday that there is an environmental assessment public information centre on Tuesday the 28th from 5-8pm at the Springfield Golf and Country Club on Gordon discussing upgrades to Maltby Rd, which would be an ideal right of way to connect the Guelph Junction Railway to the Hanlon industrial parks with minimal cost or disruption. Tracks could easily run on the edge of the road within its right of way.

With the recession coming very much as I predicted a couple of years ago, dead-end highway projects like the Halon may finally be put on hold. Given half a moment of reflection, if we are going to go into deficit to finance infrastructure and create jobs, then we should be doing so in such a way as to have high capacity, low environmental impact, low cost transportation solutions running at the other end of the recession. It remains my belief that our existing road system would be adequate if we invested properly in rail transportation rather than heavily subsidising roads while leaving rail to fend for itself.

The reality is, though, that we will continue to rip up rails in Canada and build highways nearby. This week, work began in ripping out the Kinghorn subdivision, a 195-mile railway line that was abandoned in 2005 connecting Longlac to Thunder Bay. The track itself was primarily used as a detour route in the event of problems in northern Ontario, but its removal demonstrates that we, collectively, have still not learned our lesson in rail removal. While difficult to prove, I believe Canada remains one of the few countries, if not the only one, left in the entire world still ripping out more railway lines than we are putting in.

Earlier this week, the first federal leader of a party to meaningfully recognise this reality and put it in a platform, was pushed out of the leadership of his party in a victory of politics over policy. The Liberal platform this past election included huge sums for infrastructure, and a plan to ban the removal of railway lines like the Kinghorn sub. While this horse has largely left the barn, the Kinghorn sub demonstrates that it is never too late to close this barn door.

This leads me to my next point, which is about the leadership of the Liberal party.

We should have rules handed down soon about the structure and length of the third Liberal leadership race in recent years within a few days. While pithy, Jamie's assessment is bang on and I hope some of the suggestions in his post are reflected in the rules.

Personally, I would like to see 50% of all donations to each leadership campaign be handed over to the party in lieu of a deposit, and no spending cap coupled with a ban on coming out with any debt whatsoever. We need a leader capable of fundraising as much as any other skill, and that is one way to weed out poor fundraisers. The debt lesson is a hard learned one as some of the last round of leadership candidates still have not finished paying theirs off, and I would suggest that to enforce such a no debt requirement, any candidate who still has outstanding leadership debt by the time they reach the convention be excluded from the ballot.

And on the topic of enforcement, you can read my latest presentation, this one to the Guelph Police Services Board on Thursday the 16th on behalf of the Community Volunteer Patrol, an organisation you should get involved with.

And by the way, why do so many drivers not normally get winter tires that requiring them in one province could cause such a massive shortage?

elections environment guelph highways leadership money musings politics transit 1155 words - permanent link - comments: 3. Posted at 10:35 on October 24, 2008

Election post-mortem

If I were writing the headlines this morning, and I were as biased as many papers seem to be around elections, my headline would read something to the effect: "'Not a Leader' keeps 'Cuddly Sweater Man' to minority." It was a long, tough battle in Guelph, with an 82-day campaign. Our writ was dropped on July 25th for a September 8th by-election, cancelled on September 7th, and postponed to October 14th. But our Liberal newcomer Frank Valeriote pulled it off and Guelph, almost alone in Southwest Region, stayed red.

While I did not get home from the victory celebration until almost 3 this morning, I should note that not a single one of the opposing candidates had the grace to congratulate Valeriote last night. I have a lot of thoughts about this election, both locally and nationally, to share.

I spent a good deal of the campaign volunteering, doing everything from sign crew to door-to-door to work in the office. I haven't really slept much since July. Our campaign had no paid staff on it, yet plenty of people there seven days a week. The hard work paid off as we defeated three strong candidates and six fringe candidates. Indeed, Guelph's campaign was the longest of any in the country, tied with St-Lambert and Westmount at 82 days. We had the most candidates of any riding at 10. We had the most high profile candidates, at four. As a complete aside, I want to note that several members of the campaign, including the Campaign Manager, CFO, and director of communications, along with many others, do not drive and in most cases don't have driver's licenses. That a campaign can function and win in those conditions makes me proud of our community's ever-improving transit system.

While much was made of the Green campaign in Guelph, I have to hand it to the Green supporters who think more clearly than the campaign they supported. While Greens in Guelph clearly felt they could take this riding early on, the results show them a distant third, ahead of the NDP, but well behind the second-place Conservatives. Greens and NDPers both understood the message about vote splitting, and I believe came through for the riding and the country in uniting to defeat our Conservative candidate here.

As a result of vote splitting and wide-spread strategic voting, however, Greens and NDPers especially will continue to raise proportional representation as an issue, under the guise of discussing electoral reform. As one who worked very closely on the campaign to defeat mixed-member proportional in Ontario, I will once again offer a compromise to proponents of electoral reform. I will meet you half way between STV and SMP, and support IRV, a system that would eliminate vote splitting and strategic voting, without introducing new problems to our democracy.

The NDP nationally, on the other hand, nearly achieved their goal. I have long believed that Jack Layton's goal has not so much been to become leader of the opposition, but to ensure a Stephen Harper majority. Having spent most of his campaign trying to unseat Liberals, even where the NDP itself had no chance of winning, Layton worked hard to ensure an unrestrained far right government which could ultimately lead to an extreme far left government in response to it with Jack Layton at the helm. For a party that claims to want to work with the other parties, as it does every time it offers during an election to be a coalition partner, it works very hard not to cooperate with anyone.

The Greens are going to be interesting to watch over the next couple of years. I expected them to sweep the protest vote nationally this election and come out much closer to the NDP at the end of the day. But I believe the Greens nationally understood that a vote for the Greens right now is a vote against action on climate change, and so ballot box guilt cost a lot of their support. The Greens will, however, need to ask themselves what they need to do to get their leader in the House. Running against an entrenched Conservative MP who is one of the few members of the Conservative caucus who would make strong leadership candidates when Harper moves on was not a brilliant strategic move for the party, but I appreciate the Green Party leader's decision not to run against any Liberal or NDP candidates where should would risk hurting progressives. While in any other party, with the possible exception of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, her decision would probably cost her the leadership of her party, I believe that what she accomplished in this election far exceeds what she lost. But to really make a difference, and they will hate me for saying so, I believe the Green Party should fold, and join the Liberal Party en masse, taking over some riding assocations and their policy committees, and using the vehicle of the Liberal Party to push through an agenda we largely share in common, rather than continuing an unnecessary national division.

The Conservatives, too, will have to do some soul searching. While conventional wisdom is that Stephane Dion was the big loser last night, in my opinion it was Stephen Harper. While he kept his own expectations down, he showed that with a carefully managed campaign where the public was not invited to a single campaign event from day one to voting day, where he spent millions of dollars successfully personally destroying his opponent outside of a writ period where there are few restrictions on spending, where his main opponents were essentially flat broke, and where his secondary opponents were working primarily to unseat his main opponent, he could not win a majority. If not against a broke Liberal party with what Conservatives see as a weak leader in Dion at the helm, then Consrvatives will have to ask themselves how they will ever win a majority. The answer they will come to will ultimately be: through a more centrist and less abrasive leader.

My sense of how things would go at the start can be summarised fairly simply. I felt that Canadians, by-and-large, wanted a majority government, and didn't really care who got it. The Conservatives' gaffes, with the exception of the arts and culture cuts, didn't stick. People didn't care, they just wanted an end to the minorities, something they still did not get.

The number of times I heard at the door and elsewhere through this campaign that "all politicians are liars" and therefore "I'm voting Conservative" really caught me off guard. There is only one party that ran a campaign based completely on lies, manipulation, and deceit, and people chose it over a party that offered a clear vision and honest assessment of where we needed to go and how we would get there, because they are tired of lies, manipulation, and deceit.

This brings me to our own federal party. Readers of this blog will know that I was a strong supporter of Dion through the leadership race, and have remained loyal to him since. I still strongly believe he is the only leader in the House who has any kind of vision or true leadership skills. He is not an eloquent speaker in English, but nor is Harper an eloquent speaker in French. That, to me, is his only major flaw. While we can thank Mike Duffy for throwing Ontario -- numbers in Ontario collapsed after his partisan intervention in the campaign -- people looking objectively at the video clip he posted would realise that the interviewer asked Dion a question, Dion asked for clarification ("if I were PM 2 and a half years ago?"), the interviewer repeated his initial question instead of simply agreeing to the clarification, and slipped on his answer, so asked to reanswer the question. Why that is such a big deal to people, I am not sure. I don't think there are many politicians or interviewers who have never restarted an interview. That all said, Dion's leadership is in danger. If we lose him, we will likely get some eloquent speaker with no vision or true leadership skills other than an ability to crack a whip, and people will rejoice that we have "a leader," while pretending that someone other than Dion would have done amazingly better this election. Against today's financial machine of the Conservative party, I do not see how any winner of the 2006 leadership race would have fared any better. Dion's numbers spiked after the debates. The number of times I heard complaints about Dion's leadership dwindled. It was the first chance Canadians had ever had to meet the real Dion and they liked what they saw. If perceptions were based on reality, not on smears and attacks, we would have a very different outcome.

Which leads me to my next point: money. The Liberal Party has precisely one thing to do between now and the next election. The party must convince every supporter in every part of the country who can afford to give a dime to the cause to give that dime. The party needs money to fight elections and inter-election battles. Millions of Canadians who believe in the Liberal cause must be asked to put their money where their mouth is. We have to learn to out-fundraise our opponents, and we have the base to do it if we make that our priority. That politics is decided by money and not ideas sickens me, but that is the context in which we must learn to fight.

The Conservatives spent millions of dollars on ads between elections, something that the Liberals simply couldn't afford to do. It had an obvious and direct effect as they beat the Liberals to the punch in defining the new Liberal leader by doing so, both immediately after the leadership convention and immediately before the general election. This problem would have been essentially mooted by having a well-financed party that could have fought back. It is your responsibility, and your friends, your family, and your neighbours, to ensure that this does not ever happen again.

But this brings us to a problem. I remember reading or hearing an analysis of attack advertising some years ago. It went something like this: If Wendy's released an ad saying Harvey's burgers were made of mice, then people would stop eating Harvey's burgers. If Harvey's responded by saying Wendy's burgers are made of rats, then people would stop eating Wendy's burgers. The result, ultimately, would be that people would stop eating burgers.

This approach to politics, more than any other factor I believe, is leading to the increasingly pathetic voter turnout we are seeing in elections. It isn't that people are disaffected by the nonsense of the "wasted vote" as some would have you believe, it is that voters are tired of having to choose between rats and mice. Elections should be fought on ideas first, last, and always, but almost never are. They're fought on personality, sound bites, and scored points. The result, ultimately, is that we all lose, every time. As Chretien used to like saying, "when you throw mud, you lose ground." This election was one of the dirtiest ever. With hate ads personally attacking the Liberal leader and offering no substantive reason for doing so dominating the airwaves, and with at least five Liberal ridings having homes and vehicles severely vandalised, in many cases resulting in a direct threat to life and limb, we have reached a new low in Canada.

Now that we have a Conservative government again, what becomes of policies like the Green Shift? My bet is that the Conservatives bring in a very similar but somewhat weakened policy that will not be revenue neutral in an effort to stem the tide of deficit that they have brought on us, early on in their mandate, and claim credit for it as the best idea since sliced bread. Nothing was made of the presence of a cap-and-trade system in the Conservative Party's hastily drawn up platform at the end of the campaign.

If Obama wins next door next month, this could well be the first extended period of time in which we have a Democratic president at the same time as a Conservative government. As Conservative governments tend to draw us closer to US foreign policy, this will have a tendency to limit the damage that Harper can cause to Canada if he is there for any length of time.

As we look toward the next election, which will not be more than a couple of years out, we must consider how we will go about winning. As I said before, fundraising is the key. For a party with the support and history that the Liberal Party has to be essentially out of money is ridiculous. For my friends who blog, but who make no other contribution to the party, I will say it very simply: you are not doing your part.

We have to work together to rebuild the party from the inside out, financially and organisationally. Chretien's return at the very end of the campaign was a sign of things to come and I believe the Liberal Party has woken up to the fact this morning that it really is only one party, not two, and needs to act that way if it hopes to return to power.

May we continue to live in interesting times.

elections politics 2250 words - permanent link - comments: 5. Posted at 10:41 on October 15, 2008

Day 76... 6 to go

We're now up to no fewer than 5 ridings having Liberal supporters' cars intentionally disabled, with Mississauga-Streetsville and Niagara Falls joining in. Yesterday also saw the introduction of the Conservative party's platform, and Guelph's televised candidates' debate, with 9 of our 10 candidates attending.

I read the entire Conservative platform shortly after it came out. It struck me as a slipshod document that the war room threw together after hearing Harper announce that there would be a platform available in a few days. It's not well organised as a document, and offers nothing of substance to a country struggling under the weight of a weakened economy.

The Guelph debate last night was rather bland. As we had so many candidates, only six questions were asked from the floor during the two hours of debate, at least five of which were asked by known partisans, three of those Conservatives. For the first time in this 3-month campaign, and to the chagrin of the Green candidate, the room was not stacked with Green supporters. I had not planned on asking a question, but I drew a number from the hat for kicks and was more than a little surprised to pull out the '1'. So I asked a question that I think should be asked in every riding at all levels of government. I first heard a variation of this question asked by someone else in a debate in the municipal election here in 2006:

Do you live in this riding? If so, do you believe candidates should have the right to run in a riding in which they do not live? If not, why are you running here?

At least three of Guelph's 10 candidates do not live in the riding, and it seems to me with such a requirement our ballot would be somewhat more manageable, aside from my personal disdain for the practice of parachuting candidates. One candidate chose to take it personally, describing me as "Frank's assistant" which is not entirely accurate, though I do volunteer for him and believe he is far and away the best man for the job of the 10 people on our ballot, before saying that he does not live in the riding but has close ties to it, and that he was nominated in Guelph-Wellington before the 2003 redistribution. That's fine, but when Guelph-Wellington was redistributed, it is disingenuous to suggest that he had to run in Guelph, as he still lived in one of the two resulting ridings: Wellington-Halton Hills, and could have run there (perhaps leaving Guelph to his stronger provincial counterpart, Ben Polley). Later, that same candidate declared his opposition to strategic voting, but by this earlier answer admitted that he believes in strategic running. Running in a riding where you believe you can win rather than one in which you live is opportunism, pure and simple.

On the topic of strategic voting, I do believe it makes sense to work within the electoral system you have, and not live in some dreamland where a different system exists in your head, but not on the ballot. Strategic voting in Single Member Plurality is a necessity when the ballot is over-crowded with people with similar values who have abstract reasons for running against, rather than with, eachother. Would I like reform? Ya, I think we should have a preferential ballot and make some other structural changes, but not throw the baby out with the bathwater as proportional representation advocates would like us to do. But that is not the system we have here and now, and we must work within the context of what we do have.

elections politics 612 words - permanent link - comments: 4. Posted at 10:14 on October 08, 2008

There is no morning-after pill for federal elections

In the five days since I submitted my latest column for today's Mercury, a lot has changed. Stephane Dion owned the French debate, Harper has been accused of plagiarising no fewer than three speeches, Liberal supporters in two Toronto ridings have had their homes vandalised and their lives endangered through damage to their cars exactly as happened in Guelph six weeks ago. But one key thing hasn't changed: Harper and the Conservatives, in spite of all evidence that they are permanently unfit to govern, still lead in the polls.

While Vote for Environment, a website dedicated to helping people reconcile split votes into a non-Conservative MP, warns that Guelph is one of the hottest ridings in the country, some people in Guelph point to an obviously bogus poll released by the Green party during the by-election showing themselves a distant second as evidence that this is not the case.

During the leaders' debate last week, Elizabeth May stated that her top priority for the country is electoral reform. We need proportional representation, she asserted, preempting any policy issues like the economy or the environment. I can understand the sentiment, but not the priority. Under single-member plurality, the proper name for what we have today, we have this problem with vote splitting. But it is the system we have, and the system that we will have on voting day next week. I am in favour of electoral reform, although against proportional "representation," and look forward to that national debate, but it is not the number one priority of this country.

While I am generally sympathetic to the Green Party and believe they have a major role to play in our democracy, their push for proportional representation irks me greatly. The notion was soundly defeated with nearly identical margins in referenda in PEI and Ontario and will be nationally if presented nationally. The electoral system we should be turning to is the one used by the lower house in Australia known there as Alternate Vote, or Instant Run-Off vote. It is, or is similar to, the system all parties use to select their candidates and leaders, and benefits the voter first, the party second. It gives constituents the right to choose their MP without worrying about vote splitting, without giving MPs the right to choose their constituents as proportional representation does. I also believe in other reforms, such as the banning of candidates from running in ridings in which they do not live, and the elimination of much of the role of the Party Whip.

My latest article to the Mercury bears this disclaimer: Editor's note: Community Editorial Board columnist David Graham is a member and supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada. He has volunteered with the Frank Valeriote campaign in this federal election.

It is true. I am a Liberal, and I put my money where my mouth is. I have never made a secret of that. I joined the Liberal party and volunteer for it because I believe it is the party best suited and most capable of governing this country, and I believe by being a member of it, and serving on its policy committees and in elections, I can help steer it toward the most productive policies, something I cannot do from the outside or by working against it.

Anyway, my column...

We can't afford another Conservative government

There is no morning-after pill for federal elections.

With the very real threat that we will wake up Oct. 15 to find ourselves tied to Stephen Harper, we have to ask ourselves: do we want this man who violates his own laws, while denigrating his opponents, to be in charge of our country and our economy?

Aside from the disdain he has shown for the rule of law by suing Elections Canada, the world-renowned organization responsible for ensuring our democracy, he is the leader of the first governing party in Canadian history to have its headquarters raided by the RCMP and has called this election in violation of his own fixed election date law.

Under that law, we were not scheduled to go to the polls until October 2009. As we know here in Guelph, our byelection was cancelled the day before we were to go to the polls, as Mr. Harper evidently feared losing here.

There are few countries in the world where elections are cancelled when the leader fears the result. Canada now counts itself among the members of this exclusive club.

Harper inherited a booming Canadian economy and a well-balanced federal budget from the Liberals less than three years ago. At the time, our economy was stronger than that of our neighbour to the south, and was the strongest of the G8.

Now, as the United States prepares to bail out an economy on the verge of collapse, we find ourselves with no more budget surplus in Canada and an economy no stronger than theirs.

This Conservative government has raised billions of dollars through the wireless spectrum auction and by selling off government assets to lease them back. The effect of this is to put extra money in the budget now, from the sale of our assets, and increase our expenses later by having to pay to lease them back.

It is a budgetary time bomb.

The claim that our federal budget is actually balanced is highly dubious. If we count the assets the Harper government has quietly sold, we are likely already in a substantial deficit.

Harper's actions are the equivalent of selling your house to pay off your mortgage.

This fits the pattern of federal Conservatives through this country's history.

By the end of Brian Mulroney's government, Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio had achieved its worst peacetime level since the Great Depression, something Jean Chrtien's Liberals had to remedy in their first term in office.

Before this current Conservative government squandered the healthy budgetary surplus left to them, the last time a Conservative government balanced a budget was in 1912, the year the Titanic sank.

Since then, not a single economic boom has taken place in Canada under a Conservative government, and that trend is set to continue under Harper.

We have seen this movie before.

The job losses in Ontario since Harper came to power in 2006 add up to more people than there are working in Guelph, after a decade of unprecedented growth under the Liberals.

We cannot afford Harper for the next four years. The last time we made the mistake of giving the Conservatives power, the result was a $40-billion deficit and a strong separatist movement in Quebec.

We sent a clear message and soundly rejected this approach to managing Canada then by leaving only two lonely Progressive Conservative MPs in the House. We should learn from our mistakes.

In Guelph, our choice is clear. We have a city councillor who claims she will take our voice to Ottawa, but she has already demonstrated that instead she will be Harper's voice here in Guelph.

Asked by this paper for her opinion on Guelph resident Steven Truscott's compensation for his wrongful murder conviction, she referred the matter to Stephen Harper's office to answer for her.

As a long-time member of council, one would expect her leadership on council to bring about the support of her colleagues, but at this time not one sitting member of council has endorsed her candidacy.

Voting for the Green candidate in Guelph, who does not live in our riding, does nothing to push Green values forward. As Elizabeth May herself said recently, she would "rather have no Green seats and Stephen Harper lose, than a full caucus that stares across the floor at Stephen Harper as prime minister, because his policies are too dangerous."

The reality in Guelph is that this riding is a swing riding, not the safe Liberal seat that some seem to believe. Voting for the Green candidate only helps ensure that the Conservatives carry this riding on the split environmental vote, and that the cause of environmentalism and good government is set back for years to come.

When you cast your ballot next week, consider the true ramifications of your vote.

You cannot take it back if you do not like the result.

columns elections guelph politics 1377 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 10:26 on October 06, 2008

Vandals threaten the lives of more Liberal supporters

Six weeks after vandals tried to kill Liberals in Guelph, they've done it in exactly the same way to Liberals in Toronto. Anyone still think it's random violence?

To add to the "coincidence," the Guelph attack took place exactly eleven days before by-election voting day, and the Toronto attack took place exactly eleven days before the general election voting day. h/t Scott.

elections politics 70 words - permanent link - comments: 9. Posted at 12:14 on October 05, 2008

Bloc, NDP, Conservatives against democratic debate

Three of four federal parties already in the leadership debate won't participate in it if Elizabeth May is allowed in. The Green Party has fulfilled all of the arbitrary requirements to participate in the debate, but the broadcast consortium responsible for organising them has allowed three parties to veto a decision that is not theirs to make.

I, for one, wish Elizabeth May luck in her now inevitable court challenge to get in to the debate. Even though I have no intention of voting for a party that pushes to change the electoral system to get in the back door of parliament, I believe it is the right of the leader of any serious party to attend televised leaders debates as a participant. The federal Greens have a slate, a platform, and a member of parliament. The time for excuses is at an end.

elections leadership 150 words - permanent link - comments: 8. Posted at 16:29 on September 08, 2008

45 days down, 37 to go

Well, as everyone who doesn't live under a rock by now knows, Harper has seen fit to cancel four byelections whose results he was afraid of in violation of his own fixed election date law. Here in Guelph, that means we're 45 days down, 37 to go. Tomorrow was meant to be election day. How symbolic for Mr. Harper to take a fleet of SUVs across the street to Rideau Hall to run over us all.

elections guelph politics 82 words - permanent link - comments: 4. Posted at 22:24 on September 07, 2008

Vandals threaten the lives of Liberal supporters in Guelph

The escalation in Guelph is dramatic. Last night, over night, someone, or some group, went to all parts of the city vandalising homes with Liberal party by-election signs out front. Houses were spraypainted with slogans on the brickwork, garage, doors, and windows. But worse, much worse, is the fact that these cowards keyed the cars in the driveways with 'L' and cut the brake lines in the cars in the driveways. At least six cars are known to have had their brake lines cut. This is wreckless endangerment. Disabling the brakes on cars is a direct threat to life and limb and is way beyond the realm of acceptibility.

graffiti1 brakeline1

This is completely beyond the pale. The night of my post last week about my lawn sign walking off in front of my nose, my own car was tagged with whipped cream. The intimidation level in Guelph is getting to an incomprehensible point.

Tagging homes and cars with an 'L' is clearly an attempt to label people in a deragatory way, reminiscent of many an oppressive rgime.

graffiti2

elections guelph politics 185 words - permanent link - comments: 60. Posted at 22:33 on August 29, 2008

Community service like no other

Here's my column in today's Mercury on the Guelph by-election.

We need a strong advocate for transit

London North Centre MP Glen Pearson was once described by Maclean's magazine as the last decent man in Ottawa.

His years of tireless work on issues he cares about, and his humble mission to accomplish rather than to take credit, looking for accomplishment rather than attention, has earned him this respect and reputation.

Frank Valeriote, the candidate for the Liberal party in Guelph's federal byelection, is another man cut from the same cloth.

Decades of community service, both at home and abroad, have earned him an enviable list of accomplishments and enormous respect. He has served the public in Guelph since the early 1980s.

With a budget comparable to the city government and equally difficult decisions, Valeriote sat on -- and for several years chaired --the local Catholic school board, forging unprecedented co-operation with the public school board. His list of volunteer commitments, overseas mission work, and unheralded contributions to Guelph is extensive enough to fill its own page of a paper.

Valeriote has never worried about his profile or his image in the city. He just does what needs doing without fanfare, and feels no need to brag about it outside of the context of an election.

He is not asking to go to Ottawa for himself. He is not looking for glory, and as a long-practising and successful lawyer, he is not going for job stability. He is asking to go to Ottawa very simply to represent Guelph, Guelph's needs, Guelph's issues, and Guelph's residents, not himself.

Valeriote is all about principle, not about power for the sake of power.

As I have made clear many times, my number 1 issue for the future of this region is transit.

When considering the land-use demands, energy requirements, tax-dollar strain, and general economics of cars and trucks as compared to buses and trains, it is hard to see how our current path is really sustainable. Shifting our way of thinking about our way of moving will take serious, long-term leadership and the placement of principle ahead of politics.

While none of the candidates is making a point of sending his or her sign crews out on city buses, all claim to support transit.

The NDP, the party whose provincial wing cancelled GO train service to Guelph 15 years ago, even brought Leader Jack Layton here specifically to tell us how they would fund city transit. Their solution is simple: tie transit funding to car use through gas-tax based funding.

If we drive bigger cars more, we will burn more gas, pay more gas tax, and fund transit better. If we drive enough to fund transit properly, we will no longer need to drive, and transit will lose its funding. It's not quite how I envision the future of transit.

The Conservative candidate here also made a point of saying she supports transit, but it does not take much digging to find evidence directly contradicting that. Apparently Gloria Kovach believes 40-minute bus service is preferable, as earlier this year she voted against instituting 20-minute service in the city as a member of city council.

So the question for me is pretty straightforward. If I want a candidate who will be in a position to support transit, who can I look to?

Valeriote fits that bill, too. As a candidate for the only party that has a serious and immediate plan for the environment, that recognizes that environmentalism is primarily an economic argument, Valeriote, who has stated his own support for the future of transit, will be in a position in Parliament to push, and push hard, for increased transit planning and funding.

If you are trying to decide who to vote for on Sept. 8, and like me you believe that the country needs to move forward with real, honest new policy and not power for the sake of power, Frank Valeriote is your man.

I want a member of Parliament who cares about Guelph, cares about the environment, and will be in a position to do something about both. Only one candidate fits that bill.

Why settle for anything less? I recommend a strong show of support for this man of character, accomplishment, principle, and vision on Sept. 8. We owe it to ourselves.

columns elections environment guelph politics transit 726 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 10:35 on August 23, 2008

What the ....

I just glanced out the window a few minutes ago in time to watch a long, loose-haired caucasian guy in his twenties pass my driveway, pick up my lawn sign, and nonchallantly walk on. By the time I got out to the road to see where he went he was gone, along with my sign, in broad daylight. Unbelievable.

elections guelph politics 62 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 12:29 on August 20, 2008

By-election thoughts

The by-election in Guelph is still in its early 'phony war' stage, where it seems only politicos are paying much attention, but there is enough happening to keep things interesting. Some of the Liberal signs are getting 'decorated' with swasticas, a rather lame way of protesting much of anything as it automatically invokes Godwin's law. Not only is it an ineffective means of protest, the people who did it painted the swasticas backward. Way to go.

swastica
There are a few interesting blogposts and stories out in the last few days.

Jason Cherniak weighs in with a pre-post-mortem on the Guelph by-election.

The Mercury has one of its best pieces to date on this by-election, poking some fun at all of the campaigns' for some of their actions to date. They've also done an interesting analysis of all the campaign signs from a graphic design/marketing point of view.

A fourth candidate has joined the race, which will make Mike Nagy the fifth one to register once he catches up with the "Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada" (h/t GuelphVotes).

After being on a negative offensive for nearly six months, the Tories, without a hint of irony, say the Liberals are being negative. Somehow the CPC candidate being unable to answer a question without PMO's help is the Liberals' fault, I suppose.

Also worth note is that both Ontario Young Liberals and the Young Greens of Canada are converging on Guelph this weekend, which should make for an interesting few days.

elections politics 252 words - permanent link - comments: 5. Posted at 12:12 on August 06, 2008

Jack Layton and Gloria Kovach pretend to have credibility on transit

The front page headline in yesterday's local paper is "Jack Layton promising transit cash". Interesting, considering he has no power to do so. It comes from an editorial board interview that the paper held on Tuesday with Jack Layton and Tom King (who the paper all but endorsed today), once a respected author, now Guelph's NDP candidate for the on-going by-election. The NDP's plan is simple: get people to drive more gas guzzlers farther, and use a tiny fraction of the increased gas tax revenue to placate transit.

For a party whose very survival depends on a healthy auto industry, their plan does a marvelous job of achieving their goals. The plan is to give one cent of the gas tax to transit. It's a paltry, essentially meaningless commitment, as its success depends on its failure. The more fuel people use in their cars, the more money we give to transit to get them out of their cars. If people switch to transit, that money goes away, transit becomes underfunded, and they return to their cars. Brilliant strategy from the NDP.

If the NDP were serious about transit and the environment, which they most assuredly are not, their push would be on endangered plants like the GM Oshawa truck plant to switch to the manufacture of light rail vehicles, busses, and that type of vehicle. The factory workers not needed to manufacture the smaller number of larger transit vehicles would certainly be needed to drive the vehicles in cities across the country.

If the market forces are not calling for that, then that is what the NDP and every other political party should be working to solve by ending the subsidising of cars and trucks through highway construction, and investing in our woefully inadequate transit infrastructure. Promising to spend one penny from each litre of gas used in cars on public transit, which doesn't even come close to matching the governments' collective subsidies for the cars burning the gas, is disingenuous and not a real transit solution. It is nothing more than politicking and solves absolutely nothing.

Not that Guelph CPC candidate Gloria Kovach has much more to offer on this score. Earlier this year, Kovach insulted Guelph, transit, and the environment by voting against public transit. But yesterday, she told the Guelph paper:

Investment in public transit is important to reducing our carbon footprint, Kovach said, adding the last budget from the Conservative government included $500 million for that purpose.

"That will be helping us here in the city of Guelph in our local transit, and also looking at interconnectivity between communities in the region, and also will help in bringing light rail to the city," she said.

On February 19th of this year, Kovach voted against the motion: "THAT 20 minute transit service be approved to commence July 7, 2008 from the start of service until the end of the PM rush." She voted in favour of leaving busses at the ridiculous 40-minute cycle they had at that time. Fortunately most of the rest of council does support public transit, and 20 minute service now runs. Fortunately for Guelph residents, she was in the minority. For her new position, I guess she had to ask Stephen Harper: "hey, what's my opinion today?"

elections politics 555 words - permanent link - comments: 4. Posted at 12:29 on July 31, 2008

Why I do not support an elected Senate

What value would an elected Senate provide to Canada that the current Senate does not?

In my view, absolutely none. Indeed, I think an elected Senate would be more vocal and less valuable than what we have today. Given the choice, I would opt to abolish the Senate outright if the alternative were to devalue the House of Commons with an elected Senate.

An elected Senate is an empowered Senate. A Senate that is elected must keep itself relevant. Its very background as a house of "sober second thought" is thrown out the window if the sobriety of not needing to seek re-election or a post-term employment position is lost. The Senate is a house of sober second thought precisely because it is not elected, and its members need not seek employment when they are done. Elections break the former, and term limits break the latter.

Indeed, if I could change anything about the Senate, it would be to bar senators from having any other form of employment while sitting in the upper house.

The real flaw in our Senate is the same as the major flaw present in our lower house, and would not be rectified by election. The introduction of partisanship over principle or independent thought has devalued both houses and largely rendered them obsolete, with the bulk of our country's power in PMO, most of whose members are, I should point out, not elected. Any reform at any level has to be to return independent thought and decision-making to our representatives, where their opinions and consciences are more valuable than those of their parties, where debate is actually about influencing one another's opinions, ideas, and decisions.

If a senator must seek re-election, or seek employment at the end of their terms, their judgements are no longer "sober". Their decisions risk becoming clouded with self-interest. To be re-elected, they must conform to their party line, eliminating that very sobriety our bicameral system exists to provide. Their decisions become what is popular and not what is right. The Senate becomes another elected body, redundant in the presence of the Commons, with a need to assert its own relevance and damage the value of the Commons.

I am happy with the status quo for Senate appointments, and I would also be happy if premiers were given the opportunity to appoint senators, if only to break any single party's majority in that Senate, but electing senators would be a huge step backward for this country and in no way improve anything but the optics of the house of once-sober second thought.

The Senate as an appointed body exists as a check on the power of the House of Commons and the Prime Minister's Office. That balance of power would be completely gone with an elected Senate. Senators would have to watch their own backs rather than those of all Canadians. Today, Senate is not bound by rules of the House of Commons. There are no confidence bills, Conservative tactics over the crime bill notwithstanding, there are no time-limits on debate and committee research. The Prime Minister cannot railroad a bill through Senate. Bills passed for political expediency without so much as a proof-read by the lower house stop in the Senate for a careful re-read. This is what it means to be the house of "sober second thought".

Some have suggested in the extensive thread that spawned this post that in the 21st century, there should be no appointed electoral bodies. As the quality of debate and the strength of our democracy is weakened by partisanship and lack of substance, I argue that it is now, in the 21st century, more important than ever to have this appointed body, not vulnerable to political whim.

Electing the Senate is, like converting to Proportional Representation, a purely emotional and self-interested argument. It is intellectually dishonest, putting partisan interest before the good of our democracy and the effectiveness of our governing bodies. We have an elected body today. It is called the House of Commons. Electing the Senate makes little more sense than electing the Supreme Court who wield at least as much power, yet few would consider electing.

If we are serious about reforming the Senate, we should consider meaningful reform. Stripping partisan labels from members to ensure that each is there on their own merit and not as a function of a lower house party, would be meaningful reform worth pursuing. A difficult but existing means of removal for useless or AWOL Senators would also be an improvement. Requiring the unanimous consent of the House of Commons and the majority support of the Senate would probably be ok, for example. Senators are like tenured professors in that they have work to do that may be unpopular with their peers that must be done, and they need a strong defence to be able to pursue it. That defence is in their lifetime appointment and lack of need to seek re-election.

What do we gain from an elected Senate, really? Why would the Senate be anything more than a carbon copy of the partisan self-interest of the lower house? The Senate will need to make itself more relevant in order to capture the media attention needed for its members to be re-elected. A more relevant Senate is a more activist Senate. A more activist Senate risks trumping the power of the House of Commons rather than only checking it. An elected Senate will be nothing more than another lower house, more than ever subject to the direction of the PMO and party whips. What we have works today works, but an elected Senate would be worse than no Senate. The "political legitimacy" of an elected Senate is nothing more than a straw man.

An elected Senate would, quite simply, hurt our democracy.

elections essays politics 975 words - permanent link - comments: 6. Posted at 09:06 on May 22, 2008

The Democratic Primaries and Us

I have to ask my fellow Canadian bloggers: if American bloggers had taken as keen and active a partisan interest in the Liberal leadership race two years ago, spinning and defending, insulting and chastising our candidates, how would you react?

elections foreign politics 45 words - permanent link - comments: 8. Posted at 10:13 on April 23, 2008

Does voter turnout matter?

One of the major (and wholly flawed) arguments in the referendum we endured in Ontario in October was that a change in electoral system would inevitably result in increased voter turnout. While there was no evidence to back up the claim, and the turnout in the referendum showed Ontarions to be completely uninspired by a referendum that should, by its proponents' logic, have had very high turnout, it does raise some important questions about voter turnout in the first place: Is voter turnout in itself important? What does a vote represent? Should there be a "none of the above" option, and what should it do? What can we do to address low turnout in a way that actually improves democracy?

I have more questions than answers, of course, but here are my thoughts on the matter.

1) Why wasn't the referendum's turnout higher than the previous election's?

It's a simple chain of logic, really. If MMP was going to increase voter turnout, then those people who would have come out to vote under MMP, who otherwise would not have voted, should have felt empowered by the referendum to come out and vote in that referendum. Had that happened in any significant numbers, the referendum would no doubt have turned out differently, but people were not inspired by what it offered and turnout dropped over the previous election yet again.

To me, that reinforces the view that while our democracy is severely lacking in participation, it is not strictly about the voting system itself, though there are certainly improvements we could make to it. What happens as a result of the vote is a lot more important.

2) Is voter turnout in itself important?

Many people will jump on this question and say "but of course!"... but is it? I think the question is a lot deeper than that.

We currently give our voters every opportunity to vote in every election. There are mail-in/absentee ballots, advanced polls, laws to ensure sufficient time off to cast a ballot, and substantial marketing of the balloting date, among other points I am likely forgetting. But in spite of this, voter turnout drops each election.

There are, in my view, two mutually exclusive ways to interpret the dropping turnout. The first is a satisfaction with the status quo, and the second is a dissatisfaction with the status quo. In the first, people trust their peers to make electoral decisions for them, being content with whatever decision is made. I include general apathy in this category. In the second, there is a feeling of disconnection between the vote and the results, a feeling that the vote that is cast won't make a difference regardless.

To me the subtext of the question really should be: are votes informed? I would much rather have a 40% voter turnout where most of those voters have taken the time to look into the differences between the candidates and decide which one best represents them and their views. The alternative is 100% of voters turning out to vote, with large numbers of them voting for the prettiest face, the best slogan, or the slickest campaign. None of those factors have any effect on how the winner will govern, or what they believe, yet they are the most tangible aspects of a disconnected voter's vote.

This leads me to my next question.

3) What does a vote represent?

When a voter goes to the ballot box to cast a ballot, what does that vote represent? For a significant number of people, the vote is for the person or party for whom they have always voted. While this is very appealing to political parties, it is an extraordinarily broken way of choosing a government. Non-judgemental loyalty to a party, rather than support for the candidate who best represents the voter, takes away the fundamental objectivity needed to choose a government that will govern as well as possible. For another large section of the voting public, a vote can be a vote for the prettiest face, best slogan, or slickest campaign.

I believe the segment of the population that votes completely objectively based on concrete factors of the history, present actions, and plans of a candidate is quite small. So when a voter does not cast a ballot, what does it really mean? I don't know. A tellingly small handful of people register their disgust with the options by showing up and spoiling their ballot, rather than lending their support to any candidate.

4) Should there be a "None of the above" option on the ballot, and what should be its effect?

It is my view that, in a representative democracy, a voter who is unsatisfied with all options on the table has an obligation to run. As such, I don't believe a "None of the Above" option is, philosophically, appropriate, as it says that not only does the voter not agree with any of the options, but is saying that he could not do any better. It is therefore incumbent upon a voter to select one of the options on the ballot.

That said, I consider some electoral rules and practices to be undemocratic, and a hindrance to the implementation of that philosophy. The presence of a political party's name on the ballot suggests that we not only accept that many people are not voting based on the substance of the candidate, but that this is ok and we should therefore give that voter a way to cast a vote without being sufficiently informed to know anything much about the candidate. This system presents a liability to independent candidates as they are fighting to get their message out to an audience that may not be interested in listening, and without the backing of any political party's organisation. A campaign's organisation and its ability to "get out the vote" are inherently undemocratic as a victory can be far more related to the quality of the volunteers and campaign staff than the quality of the candidates themselves or their ideas. The other problem is the deposit that most jurisdictions charge its candidates, generally a significant sum. If a certain percentage of the vote is achieved, the deposit is returned. It is intended to block frivolous candidates, but it creates unnecessary barriers to entry to those who have ideas rather than organisation.

So, with those problems, a "None of the Above" option may indeed be necessary for people to express discontent if they are not going to seek the office themselves. In this case there has to be a defined result for a "None of the Above" victory in the election.

That is, if more people vote for "None of the Above" than any of the candidates, what should happen? The easiest and most obvious answer is that the electoral district will go without any representation whatsoever until the next election. Perhaps that is indeed the best option, as it would give voters a chance to ask themselves seriously, is having no representation really better than the options presented?

5) What can we do?

Mandatory voting, a solution employed by some countries and advocated by some people, is, I submit, inherently broken. It does encourage voters to vote, but it does not address the fundamental question of whether the vote was an objective, informed vote, or a subjective one based on the abstract factors of the prettiest face, best slogan, slickest campaign, or a completely random selection, and does not allow the lack of a vote as a deliberate statement.

Adding a "None of the Above" option could serve to give voters an opportunity, as I mentioned above, to ask themselves: is no representation at all better than what we have? If the answer is yes, then our system is a lot more broken than I thought. I rather suspect though that such action would bring back to the forefront what having a democracy is all about.

Voter turnout has been dropping steadily in most democratic countries over the last half century. This is well known. Could one cause of this be that our democracies have not, collectively, been threatened lately? Nothing makes a person more appreciative of something they have than losing it, and with our democracies having remained stable for so long, they are largely taken for granted by the voting public. Having a "None of the Above" option that actually results in the loss of representation would be the first real threat to their democracy that most people would have felt and would likely, I suspect, result in higher voter turnout -- and few "None of the Above" votes -- the next time around. The often expressed belief that public policy has no impact on an individual could be rather seriously challenged by a total lack of representation.

Many people advocate for a change in the voting system as the solution. While my opinion of the first attempt of that offered here in Ontario is well documented and need not be rehashed, I believe that it could, indeed, have an effect, but only a minor one, and only with an appropriate choice of alternative.

I do not believe that it is the voting system that keeps people away from the polls, but rather cynicism about what happens after they have voted. We can all go to the polls and vote for an excellent candidate in our riding, but if elected as a member of a party, everything they stand for and everything we voted for can be changed on a dime once they arrive in their parliamentary seat. It is the party structure, the party whip, the party line, and the discouragement of public intellectual discourse by party members that creates that cynicism. The only people who have any real effect on policy are not the voters or indeed the election's winners, but the small proportion of the population that take the time and effort to join a party and work on its collective policies, along with the party's leadership.

Members elected to a parliament should, before all other considerations, represent their constituents and not their party, and be free to exercise the judgement their constituents have opted to trust. To me, using one's own judgement is an important aspect of representing a constituency. A failure in judgement should result in a defeat at the next election.

The only aspect of the voting system that I believe needs changing to decrease cynicism is the abolition of the single-choice ballot. Vote splitting and the strategic voting that results means that we spend far more of our voting time voting against, rather than for, candidates and ideas. A system that disempowers party structures and empowers voters to make an honest choice with minimum strategy and maximum principle is integral to reducing cynicism of the voting system. Preferential balloting is my preferred solution, currently employed in Australia's lower house, but changing the voting system will not on its own solve the problem. Weakening the party structure and strengthening the actual power of a vote will begin to.

So, is declining voter turnout a problem?

I don't know, but an uninformed, disinterested vote is a problem. Getting people involved and understanding the issues, having their say and having it mean something to them would be beneficial to democracy as a whole. Forcing people to vote or encouraging turnout for the sake of turnout really would not solve much other than to help us all feel good about what we will cynically call "public participation".

elections essays politics reform 1921 words - permanent link - comments: 5. Posted at 16:20 on April 09, 2008

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