Letter to the Editor: Reply to Paul Wells interview with David Johnston

The recent Macleans of Sept 18 had an interview of David Johnston by Paul Wells.

Based on that interview I sent the following letter to Macleans’ editors.

I have heard nothing from them and suspect they will ignore this letter.

I know it’s not easy to get letters accepted, especially if the editors have a bias against the ideas presented.

However, our discussion group emphasized we must keep doing everything possible to keep ER and the government’s broken promise out there in the media and in front of the public and the MPs.

While some strategies may wait until closer to the election, letters to the media can be ongoing and frequent at every opportunity.

If possible, social media connections could be useful as well.

Dave Arthur

In Paul Wells’ conversation with David Johnston in the September 18 issue of Macleans, Johnston states that, if you wanted to name countries around the world that seem to have government that pretty well satisfies the needs of the vast majority of people and has a degree of trust, you’d probably have on that list: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Canada. He asks what’s common to those? They’re all constitutional monarchies with vigorous parliamentary democracies. So, according to Johnston, something has been working well for us.

Johnston also states that in the Edelman Trust survey, for the first time in eight years, Canada is a “distrustor nation.” More than 50 per cent of our population don’t trust their public institutions. So we’re now in the middle of the pack on that. We used to be in the top third.

I point out that all eight countries, with the exception of Canada, have stronger representative democracies than Canada with the use of proportional representation PR. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, and New Zealand have fully proportional democracies. Australia uses a proportional system for their senate and ranked ballot for the house of representatives. Although the United Kingdom uses first-past-the-post for the house of commons, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland use proportional systems for their own parliaments created in 1998. These countries join 90% of all EU and OECD countries that use proportional representation.

Trudeau promised that 2015 would be the last federal election using first-past-the-post. He set up a special committee on electoral reform that received testimony and written submissions from thousands of Canadians and held town hall meetings across Canada. The vast majority of those supported proportional representation. They did not support Trudeau’s preference for a ranked or preferential ballot, another winner-take-all system that would have clearly benefited the Liberal Party. As a result, Trudeau broke his promise and dropped electoral reform saying there was no consensus.

I join the many Canadians whose trust in our flawed and unfair electoral system has been further diminished by our prime minister’s broken promise. His promise to base policy on evidence does not warrant trust. Evidence from other countries shows that PR countries have better representation for all citizens, more cooperation and consensus, better long range planning, less partisan politics, fewer distorted results, and better government in general.

Dave Arthur

Fair Vote Canada and Democracy Watch File Joint Ethics Complaint against Prime Minister

For Immediate Release
Oct. 12, 2017

OTTAWA — Yesterday, Fair Vote Canada and Democracy Watch jointly released a letter that was sent to federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson, filing a complaint and requesting investigations and public rulings concerning Prime Minister Trudeau’s dishonest and improper actions concerning electoral reform.  

Set out in the letter to Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson, is the evidence that makes it reasonable to conclude that Prime Minister Trudeau’s statements and actions violate rules in the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons (the “MPs Code“) and in the Conflict of Interest Act.

In the lead-up to the 2015 election and beyond, Prime Minister Trudeau promised unequivocally to end the first-past-the-post voting system and replace it with a system that would “Make Every Vote Count.”

The promise to change the voting system was repeated more than 2,000 times and was a key plank in the Liberal election platform.

For five months, the MPs on the Special Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE) heard overwhelming evidence and heartfelt pleas from Canadians to change the voting system to one that would reflect proportional representation.

Thousands took their time to participate in good faith.

After hearing months of testimony from academics, experts and citizens, the Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE) submitted a majority report that reflected the recommendations of experts invited to testify. The ERRE heard 180 experts in total and of these, 107 expressed themselves on the choice between keeping our current system  or adopting a proportional system. Fully 88% of these expert witnesses called for a proportional system, according to a detailed compilation undertaken by Fair Vote Canada.

http://www.fairvote.ca/strong-mandate/

and

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1m25MnHAKVJ_3KxLx3_JbK7JD5M5GL4WZaHcsw3lsUxM/edit#gid=0

This consultative process was the fifteenth of its kind in Canada. Every one of these recommended to make the system fairer and more representative by moving to a proportional voting system, including the federal process initiated by the Prime Minister.

Yet, our Prime Minister ignored all of the evidence and decided arbitrarily that “all forms of proportional representation would be bad for Canada.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-electoral-reform-wherry-analysis-1.4179928

This abrupt reversal of the promise made on electoral reform, and the complete rewriting of the facts show a lack of integrity. It suggests that Mr. Trudeau made his promise of electoral reform solely to attract voters in the first place and never intended to honour this promise. This becomes even clearer considering that both his election promise and the original mandate letter for the Minister of Democratic Institutions explicitly referred to proportional representation as an option, yet the Prime Minister now states he always thought proportional representation would be bad for Canada (see below).

Fair Vote Canada’s Executive Director, Kelly Carmichael states “Canadians need to feel confident that those we elect are honest and act with integrity and put the needs and desire of the citizens of this country before their partisan self-interest. In fact, in the Speech from the Throne, Prime Minister Trudeau appeared to agree with this sentiment as he he continued to laud his plan to unequivocally end first-past-the-post voting system when he stated “The trust Canadians have in public institutions — including Parliament — has, at times, been compromised.”

“If the Ethics Commissioner fails to investigate our complaint or finds Prime Minister Trudeau didn’t violate any rules with his dishonest statements and actions, it will show clearly that the rules need to be changed to prohibit politicians from blatantly misleading Canadian voters with false election promises and claims in-between elections,” said Duff a Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch

Both Fair Vote Canada and Democracy Watch want to see honesty and integrity in politics and both work to strengthen our democracy through better policy. The broken promise on electoral reform is a stellar example of why we feel it necessary to request investigations and public rulings concerning Prime Minister Trudeau’s actions on electoral reform. The policies are in place to protect citizens against dishonesty but they are only effective if  implemented and we hope Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson will use the tools at her disposal to restore integrity to Canadian politics.

-30-

BACKGROUND:

(The full request and evidence to Mary Dawson can be found here:

http://www.fairvote.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2017_10_Request_MaryDawson.pdf)

  1. Background

As the code clearly states, the purposes of the MPs Code as set out in section 1 are to:

(a) maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of Members as well as the respect and confidence that society places in the House of Commons as an institution;

(b) demonstrate to the public that Members are held to standards that place the public interest ahead of their private interests and to provide a transparent system by which the public may judge this to be the case;

(c) provide for greater certainty and guidance for Members in how to reconcile their private interests with their public duties and functions; and

(d) foster consensus among Members by establishing common standards and by providing the means by which questions relating to proper conduct may be answered by an independent, non-partisan adviser.

https://www.ourcommons.ca/About/StandingOrders/appa1-e.htm

  1. Request for ruling that Prime Minister Trudeau violated rules in the MPs Code

The MPs Code states:

  1. Given that service in Parliament is a public trust, the House of Commons recognizes and declares that Members are expected:

(a) to serve the public interest and represent constituents to the best of their abilities;

(b) to fulfill their public duties with honesty and uphold the highest standards so as to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interests, and maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of each Member and in the House of Commons;

  1. Request for ruling that Prime Minister Trudeau violated s. 8 of MPs Code, and ss. 4 and 6 of Conflict of Interest Act

The MPs Code also states in section 8:

“When performing parliamentary duties and functions, a Member shall not act in any way to further his or her private interests or those of a member of the Member’s family, or to improperly further another person’s or entity’s private interests.”

The Conflict of Interest Act (the “Act“), which applies to Prime Minister Trudeau, contains similar rules in sections 4 and 6:

Conflict of interest

4 For the purposes of this Act, a public office holder is in a conflict of interest when he or she exercises an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further his or her private interests or those of his or her relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests.

Decision-making

6 (1) No public office holder shall make a decision or participate in making a decision related to the exercise of an official power, duty or function if the public office holder knows or reasonably should know that, in the making of the decision, he or she would be in a conflict of interest.

http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-36.65/page-2.html#h-4

Sincerely yours in the pursuit of honesty and integrity in politics,

Fair Vote Canada and Democracy Watch File Joint Ethics Complaint against Prime Minister | Fair Vote Canada

A Liberal, A Conservative And A Green

Hello FairVoting Friends,

At the end of September, FVC-WR attended the Cambridge International Festival. We would like to thank Bryan May, Liberal MP for Cambridge for visiting our information table and having a straight forward 25 minute conversation with us about the politics of PR. We appreciated Bryan’s time and his willingness share his perspective on the process of electoral reform. Although we see things differently, our thanks to Bryan for continuing the conversation on electoral reform.

Elizabeth May and Michael Chong will speak in Guelph next Tuesday evening, October the 10th on reforming Canada’s democracy. “Turning Parliament Inside Out: Practical Ideas for Reforming Canada’s Democracy” is an opportunity to hear Ms. May speak about electoral reform and Mr. Chong address parliamentary reform. It should be an interesting evening!

Additional details about the evening are below.

Best wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Sharon for FVC-WR

Fair Vote Guelph presents

Turning Parliament Inside Out

based on the book edited by Michael Chong, Scott Simms, and Kennedy Stewart

Practical Ideas for Reforming Canada’s Democracy

featuring

Michael Chong
Michael Chong
on Parliamentary Reform
Elizabeth May
Elizabeth May
on Electoral Reform



Tuesday, October 10, 2017 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Harcourt United Church, 87 Dean Avenue, Guelph

Liberal and NDP representatives from the local riding associations have been invited to reflect on the main presentations

This event is free and accessible (through the back door to the church around the corner from the parking lot). All welcome. Audience participation encouraged. Donations accepted.