Steve Dyck and Ken MacKay on Guelph Politicast with Adam A. Donaldson

On 24 June 2016 Adam A. Donaldson, the Guelph Politico, interviewed Steve Dyck and Ken MacKay of Fair Vote Guelph.

elxnreform.mp3 (53 MBytes, 46m17s)

From GUELPH POLITICAST #41 – Fair Vote Guelph on Electoral Reform | Guelph Politicast:

You might have heard a lot of discussion in the news about electoral reform, but what is it, what are we reforming, and what are we reforming it into? All good questions that also have the virtue of not being easy ones to answer as well. This is the podcast that, at least initially, aimed to answer those questions, but if you’re not sure where to begin on electoral reform, then this is as good a place as any to start.


The following Q and A session is between myself and Steve Dyck and Ken McKay, two of the organizers of Fair Vote Guelph. Electoral reform’s been on my radar for a while, and it’s a topic that has a lot of traction in Guelph, which has had many people working hard on the issue since the robocall incident in 2011. The general feeling being that a less partisan Parliament – less dependent on winning a few bell-weather seats to achieve majority government status by tapping out at 39 per cent national support – would mean less illegal shenanigans to encourage people not to vote. Oh yes, and it will also help to create a more democratic country that better reflects its citizens and bring Canada in line with other western democracies that already use some form or proportional representation.

Approval of 2015 AGM minutes



Hi everyone: At our Annual General meeting on Monday, 27 June 2016 I did not bring printouts of the minutes for the previous Annual General Meeting in 2015. I made a motion that we defer the approval of the 2015 AGM minutes, that they be published online and to the Discussion List, and that the Fair Vote Waterloo membership approve them online.

I’ve now published the 2015 AGM minutes at and included them below.

Please read through the minutes and let us know of any typos, other errors, missing items of discussion, and any other necessary additions, corrections, or deletions. Please send your corrections by Friday, 8 July 2016 to (but feel free to use the Discussion list if you want to discuss the minutes). Kevin Smith (Secretary for FairvoteWRC) will compile the corrections and the corrected minutes will then be posted to

Also, on behalf of Co-Chair Sharon Sommerville and myself, I’d like to welcome two new Executive Members: Donald A. Fraser and Mo Markham as Members-At-Large, and congratulate the returning Executive Members: Aden Seaman, Treasurer; Kevin Smith, Secretary; and Shannon Adshade, Member-At-Large. Shannon has served tirelessly on the Fair Vote Waterloo Executive Board every year since it was founded in 2006. Thank you, everyone!

–Bob Jonkman
Co-Chair, Fair Vote Waterloo

Audio of Vote For Canada hosted by #FairVoteGuelph

On Tuesday, 28 June 2016 the Fair Vote Guelph chapter put on an event called Vote For Canada.

Presenters: Steve Dyck and Byron Weber Becker; Moderator: John Lawson

Steve Dyck and Byron Weber Becker provide information about voting systems (First-Past-The-Post, Multi-Member Proportional, Mixed-Member Proportional), and take questions from the audience.

Additional information is provided by guest speakers.

Presentation slides are available at Presentation: Make Every Vote Count.

This is the audio of the event. Video will be available in a few weeks.

2016-06-28 FairVoteGuelph – Vote For Canada-NR-TS-Lev.mp3 (97.4 MBytes, 1h53m)

Other audio formats are available from 2016 06 28 Fair Vote Guelph Vote For Canada : Fair Vote Guelph : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Vote For Canada - June 28th Explore Your Options

Fair Vote Guelph event from 28 June 2016

Recorded for Fair Vote Guelph by Bob Jonkman and Laurel L. Russwurm. Licensed under a CC BY-SACreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 by Fair Vote Guelph, Bob Jonkman and Laurel L. Russwurm.

On Referenda, Consultations, and Postcards

I was quoted in Luisa D’Amato’s column on 28 June 2016:

The Record logoD’Amato: Despite Brexit, we need a referendum on electoral reform (Mirror):

Bob Jonkman, co-chair of the Waterloo Region chapter of Fair Vote Canada, says there is barely time to put a new system in place, let alone ask people what they think of it

Ms. D’Amato and I had a 20 minute conversation and that’s only a brief and under-representative quote of what we spoke about. Among other things, I expressed my opinion that a referendum on Electoral Reform isn’t necessary because:

  1. Parliament (and provincial legislatures) may change the electoral system with a vote in parliament, as they have done for every other electoral reform issue such as giving the vote to women (1917-1918) or First Nations people (1960!). The Conservatives changed the rules for elections in the Fair Elections Act (2014), and nobody uttered a peep about a referendum.
  2. A referendum on electoral reform is not a constitutional requirement. The only issue that affects constitutionality is seat allocation to the provinces, and that requirement is easily met by not extending electoral boundaries across provincial lines. (We didn’t discuss it, but there have been many electoral boundary changes, notably before the 2015 election, which didn’t go to a referendum and were perfectly constitutional)
  3. That an effective and equal vote is a right, and that the First-Past-The-Post system violates that right, and rights issues are never decided by referenda.

I spoke of the rarity of referenda in Canada, that the only national referenda have been on issues like prohibition (I thought that was in the 1930’s, but it was in 1898), and the separation of Quebec (1992). Ms. D’Amato pointed out that we had a municipal referendum on fluoridation, and pointed out the many provincial referenda on electoral reform.

We talked about the 2007 referendum in Ontario — that example is a great reason to avoid referenda on these topics. Although the McGuinty Liberals made it an election promise in 2003, the Citizens’ Assembly wasn’t formed until 2006, leaving them only six months to become experts in voting systems and make a recommendation. Elections Ontario did not have enough information documents available; Fair Vote Waterloo members went door-to-door, and we ran out. Elections Ontario themselves were prohibited from giving out information on the proposed voting system (because informing voters was considered “biased”), and when voters went to the polls in October most didn’t even know there was a referendum on.

I expressed dismay that it took the Federal Liberal government eight months to form the current All-party Parliamentary Committee, that the Committee’s proposal is due on 1 December (and consultations need to wrapped up by 1 October), that the time it would take to move a bill through parliament could be as much as year, what with debate, multiple reading, and senate approval, and that Elections Canada will need a year to re-tool for a new electoral system.

And that whole conversation was distilled down to the one sentence.

Someone subsequently wrote:

Philosophically the public should be consulted on this issue, but not without widespread public education about Proportional Representation (PR). First educate the public, then hold a vote.

Dear Minister Monsef and members of the electoral reform committee, I want a proportional system so every vote will count in 2019.

Send a postcard to the All-party Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform

And they are being consulted. This is what our postcards are for: to send our opinions to the All-party Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform. While it may help to send another postcard to your local MP, I’m told they just forward them to the Committee. If anyone reading hasn’t sent a postcard yet, pick one up at one of the festivals this summer, or let the FairvoteWRC Executive know at and we’ll get you one. Or several, if you have friends. You all have friends, right?

Although the public should be consulted, it’s not in anyone’s best interest for the public to make the decision. We saw the results of the four provincial referenda on electoral reform (BC held two), the outcome of the fluoridation referendum that completely ignored best public health care practices to the detriment of all Waterloo residents, and the Brexit referendum that was decided by people with no knowledge of global economics or foreign policy (I’ve read that some people thought the “Leave” option was to make the Muslims leave the UK).

The only way a referendum might work is in three parts:

  1. Do we want to change the current system (and that’s already been decided in the 2015 election by the 63% of voters casting a ballot for a party supporting electoral reform);
  2. after extensive study and education, asking which one of these voting systems (maybe STV, MMP, P3) should be used;
  3. after two or three election cycles asking if that system should be changed (and if “yes”, then start the whole process over again).

Reality Check: Can the Liberals call a referendum on electoral reform?

Jean-Pierre Kingsley: You can only hold a federal referendum in Canada on a constitutional matter. And changing the electoral system is not a constitutional matter.

But Canada’s electoral system does not allow a referendum on this question. There would have to be a new bill passed in parliament to modify existing referendum legislation, and that will take months to pass, never mind the time taken for the referendum itself.

Besides, Canada has a representative democracy, where we elect representatives (our MPs) to study these matters and make the best decision for their constituents. But that doesn’t stop me from letting my MP know what would be best for this constituent!


Portions of this article originally appeared on the Fair Vote Waterloo Discussion Mailing List. Sign up and join the discussion!

Reminder: Fair Vote Waterloo AGM tonight (Monday, 27 June 2016) at Angels Diner



Hi everyone! Just a quick reminder of the Annual General Meeting and Discussion Night on Monday, 27 June 2016 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. Note that this is an hour earlier than our usual discussion nights!

What: Fair Vote Waterloo Annual General Meeting and Discussion Night
When: Monday, 27 June 2016 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Where: The Board Room of Angel’s Diner
Location: 751 Victoria Street South, Kitchener, Ontario Map
Facebook: Annual General Meeting and Discussion Night

We’ll be having elections for the Fair Vote Waterloo Executive Board; this is your chance to depose me as Co-Chair! All positions on the Executive are open for re-election: Two Co-chairs, Treasurer, Secretary, and up to three Members-at-Large.

If you’re unable to attend the AGM in person you can designate someone as a proxy to make nominations and vote for you. If you’d like to run for a position on the Executive you can nominate yourself, by proxy if need be.

You must be a paid-up member of Fair Vote Canada to vote or be on the Executive, but we’ll accept membership fees at the meeting ($25 for returning members, $10 for a first-time member)

Here is the agenda for the AGM portion of the meeting:


  1. Review minutes from 2015 AGM
  2. Statement from the Chair (year’s review)
  3. Old business
  4. Receive a current financial statement from the Treasurer
  5. Amendments
  6. Elect the Executive
  7. New business
    1. Sean Haberlin: Proportional Representation (PR) in the backyard

Vote For Canada - How Voting Systems WorkAlso, I would like to remind you about Fair Vote Guelph’s event on Tuesday:

What: Vote for Canada
When: Tuesday, 28 June 2016 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Where: Hope House, 75 Norfolk St. Guelph, Ontario Map 2
Facebook: FairVoteGuelph: Vote For Canada

It’s a panel discussion on Singe Transferable Vote, Mixed Member Proportional, and First Past The Post.

Audio of Fair Vote Guelph “Vote For Canada” now available

Hope to see you at the AGM, and again in Guelph!

— Bob Jonkman
Co-chair, Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region Chapter
Phone: +1-519-635-9413

Audio of Dufferin-Caledon FLA Panel on Electoral Reform

On Sunday, 19 June 2016 the Dufferin-Caledon Federal Liberal Association held a panel discussion on Electoral Reform with Dennis Pilon, Barry Kay and Philip Olsson.

Here is the audio of the event. Video will be available in a few weeks.

2016-06-19 Dufferin-Caledon FLA – Electoral Reform panel.mp3 (91.6 MBytes, 1h41m)

Other audio formats are available from 2016 06 19 Dufferin Caledon FLA Electoral Reform Panel : Dufferin-Caledon Liberal Association : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.

Dufferin-Caledon Liberals Hosting a Lively Panel on Electoral Reform

Licensed under CC BY-SACreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA 4.0 by the Dufferin-Caledon Federal Liberal Association, Bob Jonkman and Laurel L. Russwurm

“Ranked Ballots” in Australia

Mock Alternate Vote BallotSTV mock ballotAustralia uses “ranked ballot” systems at every level of government pretty much universally,.in much the same way we in Canada use the Single Member Plurality “First Past the Post” system.

The big difference between us is that Australia employs a mix of “ranked ballot” systems.

Distinguishing between Preferential Voting Systems

It is important to distinguish between Proportional and Winner-Take-All voting systems because their outcomes are so very different.  The Australian Senate’s Single Transferable Vote system can best be described as “quota-preferential,” since candidates need only reach the required quota to win a seat in the Legislature.   Likewise, Australia’s lower house uses the Alternative Vote, a system better described as “majority-preferential,” as candidates need to win a majority of votes to win the seat.

Australian Senate

The Australian Senate bears little resemblance to our own.  Their Senators are not appointed, but instead elected using the quota-preferential Single Transferable Vote form of Proportional Representation. Each territory elects 12 Senators with the STV (Single Transferable Vote) form of Proportional Representation. In this way, the voters in each territory actually choose the representation they want, and elect them in a manner which reflects the voters’ preference.

Until recently voters were obliged to rank every candidate, a fairly rigorous task with 12 seats to fill.  Failure to do so resulted in a spoiled ballot.  To make it easier for voters, the ballot was divided into 2 parts, and voters could instead choose to vote “above the line” a much less onerous task where they simply choose a party instead.  The disparity in difficulty resulted in only about 5% of voters ranking (and voting for) specific candidates, a problem which has been challenged and finally remedied in time for the 2016 election.

But even with such party games since its adoption in 1949, Proportional Representation has resulted in an Australian Senate that actually represents the constituents in their regions, unlike Canada’s Senate, where time and again we’ve seen Prime Ministers stack our Senate and/or appoint party hacks from Toronto to “represent” the citizens in PEI.  Canada’s Senate was created to guarantee proper regional representation, but fails to actually provide it in its  current incarnation.

The Proportional Representation Society of Australia explains the new way of voting for the Australian Senate in this video:

Australian House of Representatives

On the other hand, Australia’s House of Representatives does bear a fair bit of resemblance to our own House of Commons because it uses the majority-preferential Alternative Vote winner-take-all system introduced in 1918.  This winner-take-all system was introduced in an attempt to prevent the two right wing parties from splitting the vote and allowing the upstart Labor Party to win.  Although replacing one winner-take-all system (First Past The Post) with another (Alternative Vote) didn’t actually stop the third party from gaining power, Australia has kept this winner-take-all system longer than any other country.

The most important lesson we’ve learned from Australia is winner-take-all systems produce very similar results whether or not ballots are ranked.  For real change you need Proportional Representation.

Election explainer: how are lower house votes counted? And what is ‘the swing’?

by Nick Economou, Monash University

Australia’s House of Representatives. It was first used at a federal election in 1919 to allow for the anti-Labor votes in rural areas to be split between the Nationalists and the newly emerged Country Party. The first-past-the-post vote system was in use prior to this.

Preferential voting requires electors in single-member electoral districts (”seats”) to numerically order candidates starting with the most preferred (who would get a “1”, or primary vote) through to the least preferred.

At federal elections, voters must cast a preference for all candidates. Failure to do so, or failure to give an ordinal list of preferences, renders the ballot informal. This means it is not counted towards any candidate and is set aside.

How are the votes counted?

When the count for the seat is undertaken, electoral officials begin by counting the primary vote won by each candidate. The successful candidate needs to win 50% plus one vote of the total formal votes cast in the seat. For example, in a seat where 90,000 votes are cast, the winner needs 45,001 votes.

If no candidate has achieved the threshold, the candidate with the lowest primary vote comes out of the count. The eliminated candidate’s ballots are inspected and allocated to the next preferred candidate at full value.

A tally is taken again. If no-one has reached the benchmark, the elimination process continues. The candidate with the smallest total of votes is eliminated; the ballots are inspected and allocated to the next preferred candidate who is still in the count. At all times, the preferences that are allocated retain a full value.

This process continues until a candidate achieves an absolute majority after the allocation of preferences.

The Australian Electoral Commission has done a full allocation of preferences for all seats since 1984. This means election results are expressed in two ways:

  • how many primary votes the candidates and their political parties won; and
  • the result of the election as a contest between the party that wins a majority of lower house seats and the next best.

This outcome, in turn, will be determined by the result in each seat after the distribution of the preferences cast by those voting for candidates other than those representing the two major parties. This is the so-called “two-party vote”, and is usually expressed as a result comparing the Liberal-National Coalition and Labor.

What is ‘the swing’?

There are 150 lower house seats. The Liberal or National parties comfortably win about one-third of these. Similarly, Labor wins another one-third of these with margins that range from five to 20 or more percentage points.

The final third of the seats, however, have very close margins. These are the seats that the parties fight over, meaning whichever party wins these seats will probably have the lower house majority required to form government.

In each election some voters will change the choice they made in the previous election. They may vote either for the other major party or for a minor party or an independent. The shift in voter alignments between elections is known as “the swing”.

Analysts keep an eye on two types of swing. The first is the primary vote swing. This swing indicates how the voters have responded to the major party in government, and whether the other major party is the beneficiary of shifting alignments. If the other major party is not picking up “swinging” voters, then the shift in support will be going to the minor parties and/or independents.

The “two-party” swing is arguably the more important swing to be observed. This will determine which party wins the close seats. This swing shows the shift of support from the party holding the seat to the candidate who is challenging for the seat after the preferences from voters for all the other unsuccessful candidates in the contest have been allocated.

The ‘how-to-vote’ card

The alternative vote system is quite complicated compared with first-past-the-post voting, for example.

To assist voters in identifying their candidates, political parties publish how-to-vote cards. These leaflets are offered to voters as they arrive at the polling booth and advise those wishing to vote for that particular party on how they should rank their preferences for all the other candidates.

This practice is known in Australian politics as “directing preferences”. However, these leaflets are simply advisory; voters can choose to accept or reject them.

Not everyone requires them, but to a voter who does not know which electorate they are in, does not know the candidates and does not understand how the electoral system works – but wants to cast a valid vote nonetheless – the how-to-vote card is indispensable.

Given these leaflets also advise on the Senate, their usefulness to the uncertain voter is even greater. Scope exists for the parties to try to influence results through the advice they give on preferences.

For major parties, the main purpose of the how-to-vote card is to ensure voters fulfil the requirement of casting a preference for all candidates so that their vote is formal. The preference rankings made by electors voting for minor party candidates, however, may decide which major party candidate will win the seat.

Scope exists for the parties to horse-trade on preferences, provided they are not bound by ideology (it is inconceivable, say, that Family First would direct preferences to the Greens) or rules (the Democrats had a rule never to direct preferences to the major parties).

If wheeling and dealing can be done, it will be undertaken by party secretaries and presidents. This gives the process an opaque, backroom feel to it. It can also seem politically irrational when apparently sworn enemies are shown to have entered into what the party executives will hope is a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Such deals can be the difference between winning and losing seats – and winning and losing executive power.

The Conversationcc by-ndElection explainer: how are lower house votes counted? And what is ‘the swing’?” by Nick Economou, Senior Lecturer, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0) license.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

The “Ranked Ballots” in Australia introduction by Laurel L. Russwurm is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.CC-BY

Barry Kay, Philip Olsson and Dennis Pilon Debating — Sunday, 19 June 2016

Hello FairVoting Friends,

This Sunday, June 19th at 2 pm, Barry Kay, Philip Olsson and Dennis Pilon will be part of a panel discussion on electoral reform in Caledon. FVC will have a representative on the panel and there will be a panelist defending FPTP. It should be an interesting event!

The panel is being hosted by the Dufferin-Caledon Liberal Association and is open & free to the public. More information is available at Liberal Party of Canada » Dufferin-Caledon Electoral Reform Panel Discussion.

We are organizing a car pool so if you want to attend but don’t want to drive, please be in touch.

Thank you so much for your support!

Best regards,
Sharon for FVC-WR

Dufferin-Caledon Liberals Hosting a Lively Panel on Electoral Reform

Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote – Video

On Thursday, 7 April 2016 Fair Vote Waterloo hosted a panel discussion with professors Dennis Pilon and Barry Kay, debating the merits of Proportional Representation and Alternative Vote. The evening was moderated by Diane Freeman.

Two of Canada’s leading experts on electoral reform, Prof. Barry Kay (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Prof. Dennis Pilon (York University ) discuss “Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote”.

This timely interesting and informative discussion was moderated by Waterloo City Councillor Diane Freeman. The experts took audience questions after the initial discussion.

This Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region Chapter event was recorded in the Council Chamber of Kitchener City Hall Thursday, 7 April 2016

The video has been edited for watchability; you can listen to the uncut audio of the entire event at Audio of Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote Panel Discussion

Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
© 2016 by Laurel L. Russwurm/Libreleft Pictures is released under a CC BY-SA 4.0Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Special Thanks to our Panel:
Barry Kay,
Associate Professor Political Science,
Wilfrid Laurier University

Dennis Pilon
Associate Professor Political Science,
York University

and Moderator Diane Freeman
Waterloo City Councilor


to Marianne Shilling and the City of Kitchener

Sound Recording by Bob Jonkman
Sound Technician David McLaren

Music: The Gloaming by Josh Woodward
Music Sharing Policy – Josh Woodward
©2002-2016 and released under a CC BY-SA 4.0Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

You can listen to The Gloaming, written, performed and produced by Josh Woodward on his album The Wake in its entirety.

Find out more about electoral reform from

Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region Chapter:

follow @FairvoteWRC on Twitter:

like Fairvote WRC on Facebook:

Fair Vote Canada:

If you’re new to the discussion (as most Canadians are) check out Laurel L. Russwurm’s Proportional Representation for Canada Whoa!Canada series.

Political science Professor Dennis Pilon is a leading expert on Canadian electoral reform at York University in Toronto.

Read more on the constitutionality of electoral reform in Mr. Pilon’s February 2016 National Post article: You can’t hide behind the Constitution to spare us electoral reform

Follow Mr. Pilon’s Wrestling With Democracy blog

get the book Wrestling with Democracy – University of Toronto Press

Always check your local book store first, but if needed you can get Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the 20th Century West (Studies in Comparative Political Economy and Public Policy) (2013)

from Kobo Wrestling with Democracy eBook by Dennis Pilon – 9781442662742

or Amazon: Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the 20th Century West: Dennis Pilon: 9781442613508


The Politics of Voting: Reforming Canada’s Electoral System (2007)

Amazon: The Politics of Voting: Reforming Canada's Electoral System: Dennis Pilon: 9781552392362

Emond: The Politics of Voting: Reforming Canada’s Electoral System

Visit Fair Vote Waterloo at Open Streets

Fair Vote at Open StreetsSunday June 12th
Open Streets, Uptown Waterloo