Thursday, October 22, 2015

On rush jobs

Yes, one of the Libs' first orders of business in government should be to rein in the worst excesses of C-51. But they instead seem to be limiting their plans to something else entirely:
A key feature of the replacement legislation is expected to be the creation of a multi-party, joint House of Commons-Senate committee, sworn to secrecy and reporting to the prime minister and through him to Parliament. It would have a full-time staff, access to the necessary secret information and be tasked with strategic oversight of every government department and agency with national security responsibilities, according to a source familiar with the content.
The Liberals say a three-year automatic review, or sunset clause, of the entire Anti-terrorism Act of 2015 act would be added.

As well, they want to narrow some of the “overly broad” definitions of what constitutes a threat to national security, including defining “terrorist propaganda” more clearly.
In other words, there's no indication the Libs plan to do anything about the parts of C-51 which actually affect the most Canadians directly, including both the wholesale collection and sharing of information based on the flimsiest of security pretexts, and CSIS' secret powers of disruption.

Instead, their main plan is to let a few more people in on the secret. Which means most Canadians still have no idea what rights are being trampled - and the few MPs and staffers who do will be powerless to do anything about it.

Needless to say, an added layer of bureaucracy over the same program doesn't represent any real change from the Cons' desire to pour more resources and power into a security state. And it's well worth pointing out if the Libs are trying to get away with doing as little as possible on this among so many other key issues.


  1. This comment is perhaps marginally off-topic, but it does have to do with the things that Trudeau should feel responsible to do.

    Unless he's politically obtuse, he must realize that one of the main things that kept the Liberals from finishing second is that people who would normally vote for their NDP candidate held their noses and voted for the liberal, to try to forestall the catastrophe of another Conservative government. These voters did so knowing that he has promised to address the flaws in our voting system.

    Accordingly, one of his first priorities should be to get rid of the FPTP system.

    "Ah", you must be thinking, "you foolish child".

    Of course, as is always the case, he is the immediate beneficiary of precisely that system.

    Sadly, I believe that there has never been any reason to believe that what he has said about this need be taken seriously. If we get anything on the voting system from the Liberal government, it will be another designed-to-fail piece of window dressing, such as those that have previously been presented to the electorate by other, previous beneficiaries of the current system.

    In the fantasy world I would love to be naive enough to believe in, I think that the most sensible alternative is a ranked ballot, rather than an explicitly proportional system. There are many reasons for this, among them:

    - It's the smallest change to the current system that would adequately address the issue. Keep it simple, stupid.

    - It preserves the relationship between a member of parliament and his/her/its constituents. The citizens actually vote for a person who in theory, they might even be able to speak to. Constituency work has been considerably debased as a component of an MP's agenda, and representing the people to the Government, rather than the other way around, is considered a quaint notion, but the value of these things is not absolutely zero.

    - It avoids transferring power into the unaccountable hands of back-room party operatives.

    Although my sympathies, over the years, have often been with the NDP, I am not in any deep sense partisan, and I am deeply suspicious of partisanship.

    It's good to keep in mind that the fundamental relationship between a Parliamentary system and a Party is that of host and parasite. It is not the confidence of Parties that must be maintained, but the confidence of the House - its individual members, who it is expected (remember, this is a fantasy) will conduct themselves in good faith toward their best understanding of the informed will of their constituents.

    Parties are inevitable, but they are secondary to the basic idea of a Parliamentary system.

    Finally, the authority of Government derives from the consent of those governed. The delegation of that consent needs to be respected.

    For a political party to prepare a list of people, some number of whom will be appointed to Parliament based on a proportioning of votes, severs this inheritance of consent from the governed.
    People appointed in this manner will all but inevitably act in the interest of the party, the people be damned.

    1. Rather more than marginally off topic, Mr. Smith.

      I understand very well that the topic of electoral reform is a difficult one, especially since it is so different than the 16th century system we are used to. But if you really want to talk about Proportional Representation, it is essential to have a grounding in the subject.

      The first thing you must to understand is that there two families of electoral systems:

      (a) systems that deliver Proportional Representation, which means 39% of the popular vote will only give a party 39% of the power in Parliament,


      (b) Winner-take-all systems (like our own First Past The Post) which give a disproportional amount of power to a single party, as we saw in 2011 when the Harper Government won 100% of the power with 39% of the popular vote, just as today's Liberal Government has won 100% of the power in Parliament from a mere 39% of the vote..

      The second thing you should know is that a ranked ballot is not an electoral system, nor is it Proportional or disproportional. It is simply one element of an electoral system.

      Ranked ballots can be used in:

      (1) a winner-take-all system known as "Alternate Vote" (dubbed "Preferential Ballot" by the Liberal Party of Canada). Like our own First Past The Post, Alternate Vote gives a single party all the power.,


      (2) ranked ballots can be used in a Proportional System known as Single Transferable Vote (STV). This was the form of PR which a clear majority of BC citizens voted to adopt.

      Your concern that a PR system would somehow deprive you of local representation is mistaken. Although there are many ways of achieving Proportional Representation, every PR system that has ever been recommended for Canada (by various Citizen's Assemblies and Law Commissions) over the past decade or more has incorporated local representation.

      One thing you have right is that the authority of a democratic Government does indeed derive from the consent of those governed. With a winner-take-all system in which 40% of the electorate derives representation in Parliament while 60% do not, it is very clear that 60% of the voters have given no consent, so adopting a proportional system is necessary if we are to rectify this democratic deficit.

      The first thing I recommend to interested citizens is the "John Cleese on Proportional Representation" video readily available on YouTube. You can also find a wealth of information about PR available from Fair Vote Canada.

  2. Tim Burden9:54 p.m.

    Except that ranked ballots heavily favour the party perceived to be in the centre.

    Image a simple contest in a riding with three candidates. The first ballot comes down 40% CON, 40% LIB, 20% NDP. The NDP are eliminated and those ballots go to the second choice. Where do you think they go?

    1. Where do I think they go?

      Well, firstly, as I said, political parties are parasites. While they are an inevitable consequence of Parliamentary democracy, They distort the decisions of MPs by requiring a fealty stronger that that to the people. The votes will go to a candidate that the voters are willing to have as their representative. What's wrong with that?

      Secondly, That 20% of NDP votes don't count the people who couldn't vote their conscience, because they were aware of the 40% Conservative vote potential, and felt the need to counter it. Very likely, if Canadians could have a choice, they'd go for a Northern European Welfare State (in the best sense of the term), and the most progressive party would do quite a bit better than the NDP does now.

      Thirdly, in an explicitly proportional system, the votes would effectively go to whatever back-room sleeveen (see ISBN 0-8020-5570-2) had managed to get the highest position on the list of party-sanctioned names. Not someone who is likely to take into account the intentions of mere voters.

    2. More than 80 countries use Proportional Representation in one form or another, and that includes Europe, Mr. Smith. Denmark, Germany, Scotland and New Zealand all use forms of open list MMP, the system the NDP was considering.

      You seem to be describing closed list MMP, which was not on offer.

      Even so, both the FPTP system we use currently and the ranked ballot winner-take-all system Alternate Vote use closed lists offered by the party.

      I myself share your distaste for parties, which is why I advocate Proportional Representation. In a proportional system every vote counts, which in itself begins to make MPs more accountable to their constituents.

    3. Les Smith8:00 a.m.

      ...and this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how you have a civil discussion of your differences in opinion.

    4. Glad to see some discussion of electoral reform, as I share the concern that the public will need to push hard to hold the Liberals to their promise.

      And while I agree with Laurel as to the relative merits of open list MMP and any ranked ballot system (on the premise that I'd rather people vote, and representatives be elected, fully based on what people want as a first choice rather than what they're prepared to put up with as a lower-ranked choice), I'll agree as well that any of the reforms on offer would be an improvement over our current FPTP.