Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Libs falling off electoral reform bandwagon


Electoral Reform Committee member Liberal Sherry Romanado floated the idea of implementing "federal solutions" "without changing the voting system itself" at ERRE meeting #16 yesterday. She was pitching how to achieve at least some of the committee's mandate set in motion by Justin Trudeau's campaign promise to make 2015 the last election under FPtP.

This is one step further along from her more usual complaint that any version of proportional representation multi-member ridings would mean people would be confused as to who their MP is.

Liberal John Aldag asked “Is FPtP the only solution for Canada?”, while Liberal Ruby Sahota recommended giving voters the simplest voting system possible, presumably if not FPtP then its even worse majoritarian cousin, Alternative Vote. 

Liberal Chair Scarpaleggia wrapped up meeting #15 earlier with a nice paeon to the status quo, opining that a government's majority power under FPtP is not absolute - no, it is kept in check by "the courts, provinces, the media, and unions". 
You'll notice that other parties did not make his list. 
Scarpaleggia :
"Our system doesn't give absolute power to a party that has less than 50% of the vote, it just gives a stronger hand to one party to negotiate the obstacles in its way in trying to exercise national purpose."
National purpose that does not include obstacles like proportional representation.

Between Libs falling off the electoral reform bandwagon, the Cons and Bloc still banging on about referendums and moving the whole issue forward to be voted on in the 2019 election, and the inordinate amount of time wasted discussing internet voting - which Elections Canada has said we will definitely not be getting for the next election - it really is not looking good for electoral reform at the Electoral Reform Committee at this point. 

Fun fact : From the e-voting proponent witness : "Estonia is the only country to deploy internet voting in a national election." 
I wonder why that is.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Loopholes and Libya

Really? Because a mere two weeks ago, Steven Chase was reporting: 
Ottawa rewrites mandate for screening arms exports
"The Canadian government has quietly watered down its own mandate for screening the export of military goods, rewriting parts of the only substantive public statement available on Ottawa’s responsibilities for policing foreign sales."

Previous policy on military exports : Canada’s export controls are meant “to regulate and impose certain restrictions on exports in response to clear policy objectives.” 

New policy :"export controls are intended “to balance the economic and commercial interests of Canadian business with the national interest of Canada.”

So it's jobs, jobs, jobs vs "Canada prohibits the export of arms and related materiel to countries that are under United Nations Security Council arms embargos "

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's guarded "hints" above yesterday come in response to this item two days ago

"Earlier this year, a UN report criticized the Streit Group, which has a plant in Innisfil, Ont., north of Toronto, for the "illicit transfer" of 131 armoured vehicles in 2012...   At least 79 Typhoon and Spartan patrol vehicles were delivered to the effectively lawless nation in 2014
"Streit's sales were brokered through middlemen. At least four separate companies, one American and three from the United Arab Emirates, purchased the vehicles."
This brokering through middlemen to a third country is called diversion, which was prohibited by Global Affairs until it changed the rules this year to allow it.

In 2012 and 2013, the United Arab Emirates was, according to Global Affairs, our second largest destination for military exports after Saudi Arabia. 


Report on Exports of Military Goods from Canada - 2012
United Arab Emirates     $277,116,557  No armoured cars but $251,134,882 for : 
"Aircraft, lighter-than-air vehicles, unmanned airborne vehicles, aero-engines ...specially designed or modified for military use"

Libya            $3,116,000     "Ground vehicles and components" 
United Arab Emirates       $4,038,373  of which $1,659,530 was for "Ground vehicles"

Table 4: Exports of Military Goods and Technology - 2014
Libya            $2,681,000      "Ground vehicles and components"
United Arab Emirates    $10,204,844 - of which $5,205,000 were "Ground vehicles" and another $3,706,563 was for "Imaging or countermeasure equipment, specially designed for military use"

Nothing for Libya
United Arab Emirates   $3,629,728 worth of "Military Goods and Technology" but no mention exactly what was shipped.        

So are these ground vehicle sales part of the Streit Group shipment to Libya and South Sudan, or some other shipment altogether?

Well we're unlikely ever to know who shipped what where because of another change made this year to our government’s policy governing the export of military goods :
"The names of exporting companies are now specifically protected."
Neither will we know how much happens to find its way to "lawless nations" through the US, where Streit happens to have a plant, because :
"The tables do not report exports of military goods to the United States, which are roughly estimated to account for over half of Canada’s exports of military goods and technology each year."

*** Fun fact : Following the $347-million Libya * mission* and a few months after Steve had his very own Mission Accomplished moment, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird signed off on $2.68 million in armoured vehicle export sales to Libya during the UN investigation. 

Because it's 2016 ... just like it was in 2012.

Balancing jobsjobsjobs with destroying the planet

Brilliant one minute speech New Zealand MP James Shaw made to an almost empty house. Before going into politics, Shaw was a consultant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers and HSBC.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Dear Jason Kenney and Scott Reid

Watching you two in the ERRE committee dragging your feet on implementing electoral reform, I'm reminded of your pioneering work arguing passionately and intelligently in favour of it in the HoC in 2001.

Here's you, Jason Kenney, deploring that "Canada is now the only multi-party advanced democracy in the world that has a system of voting designed in and for 16th-century England" and arguing in favour of "a greater reflection of the diversity and plurality of political views" : 

And you, Mr. Reid, you left no doubt as to your position on our current FPtP system :  
"I will start by making the objection that the system in Canada really is broken at this point" 
and called for "a special all-party committee to examine the merits of various models of proportional representation" :

All excellent points, Mr. Reid!
Three and a half hours later you were on your feet again making a pitch for the Single Transferable Vote System 

Presumably this past advocacy in favour of changing our voting system to some form of proportional representation explains why the only objection to it available to you now is to keep banging on about referenda instead.  

I ask the ERRE committee to enter Mr. Reid and Mr. Kenney's excellent arguments in favour of electoral reform into the current record.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The BC Shell Game of Public Funds

In the 2013 BC Election, the Liberal party pledged the LNG industry would create $1 trillion in economic activity and a $100 billion prosperity fund. Tagline - "It's no fantasy"

Martyn Brown, Gordon Campbell’s former Chief of Staff, reckons Christy Clark and the BC Libs were 'patsies', repeatedly 'duped' by petro industry's sparkling promises of new investments, lots of jobs, and an endless supply of unicorn meat.

Sure, let's go with 'duped'.

"It is difficult to get a premier to understand something," as Upton Sinclair might have put it, "when her salary depends on her not understanding it."

BC In-Sights blogger and researcher extraordinaire Norm Farrell excerpts from Martyn Brown's Energy News Corp column on Clark's LNG fantasy and the gutting of BC's "2008 climate action plan":
"The Petronas precedent also gave those Asian state-oil monopolies a special 25-year indemnity that is underwritten by B.C. taxpayers.
That indemnity will save them harm from any so-called “discriminatory events.”
It assured the LNG industry that any companies covered under such project agreements would not have to face any industry-specific carbon taxes or any new industry-specific GHG reduction initiatives for at least 25 years.
If any future government changes those locked-in tax rates and benefits at a cost to those companies that is greater than $25 million in any year, or more than $50 million over five years, they will be entitled to full compensation, courtesy of B.C. taxpayers.
Similarly, any changes in government policy that impose new rules or tougher standards specific to the LNG industry, which entail higher costs relating to carbon taxes or to greenhouse gas emissions and reporting requirements, will be fully compensable above that threshold."
So what happens to that legislation now that a world glut of LNG and it's non-competitive BC market price has choked on Christy's unicorn meat? Can we repeal it?

Norm is on Canadian Glen's blogtalkradio show The View From Up Here tonight at 6pm PST to discuss the BC Hydro/Site C Dam con and the LNG debacle on The BC Shell Game of Public Funds. That's the question I'm sending in.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Why party strategists are threatened by electoral reform

Tom Parkin on bastions and battlegrounds ...
"There’s a reason traditional political strategists argue so fervently to keep the first-past-the-post system.

Yes, it can give them 100% of the power with only 39% of the vote. But that’s not the worst.

More worrisome is the thought the beloved political bastions and battlegrounds created by the first-past-the-post system might be destroyed – rendering useless all the manipulative political strategies they’ve successfully developed to exploit them."
Strategies like ignoring voters in the 1/3 to 1/2 ridings where an election outcome is a foregone conclusion to concentrate their micro-targeting tech and pork-barrelling on just the close ridings. Strategies like dogwhistling voters into two-party strategic voting.
"Proportional representation wipes out bastions because it makes every vote count. Everyone – even in what was a bastion – has a reason to vote, and all parties now need to pay attention."
Very good article. Go.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Another Clark Park Day in BC

So remember this?

"The 2007 document has surfaced one week after it was revealed that the Premier was a partner in her former husband’s lobbying firm, which formerly listed its office at her residence and boasted such clients as Enbridge and B.C. Rail.
In the fall of 2007, Ms. Clark entered into a two-year agreement as chairman and board member of RCI Capital Group’s RCI Pacific Gateway Education Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the investment firm.
Since becoming Premier, Ms. Clark has actively promoted RCI on official trade missions to Asia — recently signing a memorandum of understanding on behalf of the B.C. government in securing $1-billion in overseas investment..."

No I never worked for RCI said Christy, and RCI Capital's John Park gallantly came to Clark's defence, saying he'd never so much as even met her back then, much less paid her the first of three annual director's fee installments of $4,000 due her within 120 days of her RCI appointment. 
No, it was her then husband, Mark Marissen, Stephane Dion's campaign manager, that Park had hired. 
I guess that's just a spousal Chairman biz card then.

In December 2013, Clark appointed RCI managing director Tenzin D. Khangsar as chair of B.C.'s Multicultural Advisory Council. Khangsar was a former chief of staff to both Jason Kenney and Tony Clement and a key CPC ethnic campaign strategist for the Cons in 2011. 

Bob Mackin, July 2014 : 
"John Park hired Khangsar to be managing director of his RCI Capital investment bank after the Tories were re-elected in 2011. RCI’s board includes retired Conservative MPs Stockwell Day and John Reynolds. Day represented RCI on last fall’s trade mission led by Premier Christy Clark to China."

Still with me? Ok, flash forward to the Vancouver Sun two days ago featuring yet another Clark Park Day photo op :

"A B.C.-based company says it has brought $2 billion to Canada under the Quebec government’s cash-for-visa program, a scheme that some say is a factor in Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis.
Vancouver-based RCI Capital Group, which helps resource companies develop strategies and raise money in Asia, has a Montreal-based subsidiary that has been active for years in the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program.
The Quebec program has become increasingly controversial in Metro Vancouver as critics point to it as one of the drivers of sky-high housing prices, since the vast majority of successful Quebec applicants immediately establish themselves in Toronto and Vancouver."

The Tyee : 'China Syndrome' Paralyzes Politicians in Housing Affordability Crisis
Huge impact of foreign buyers can't be ignored, and raising the issue isn't racist.
"...the province won't act as long as the real estate industry that profits enormously from selling homes to foreign buyers also contributes huge amounts to the BC Liberal Party. Josh Gordon, Simon Fraser University public policy professor, even refers to the influence of Bob Rennie, the real estate mogul who also heads Premier Christy Clark's fundraising efforts.
That would be the Rennie who recently suggested action to curb foreign real estate investment would start a trade war. "China buys $6 billion a year in British Columbia exports," he said. "Are we going to tamper with those jobs and our economy?"
Gordon calls out those who fund political parties.
"The fundraising is being dominated by prosperous developers and others closely tied to the housing boom," he writes. "This is the second lesson about housing market politics from the past decade: inside players, with large vested interests, are willing to shovel over massive amounts of money to political parties to keep the boom booming."

Ian Young, South China Morning Post : Leak reveals secret tax crackdown on foreign-money real estate deals in Vancouver
"Confidential briefing for CRA auditors outlines strategy to tackle suspected tax cheats who do not report global income or who ‘flip’ homes – but reveals that last year, there was only one successful audit of global income for all of BC."
Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun : B.C. politicians almost alone in seeking foreign donations
"B.C. is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that welcomes political donations from foreign individuals and corporations.The B.C. Liberals have in recent years received hundreds of thousands of dollars from offshore real estate developers, mining companies, railways and others. At least indirectly, the B.C. Liberals have even received donations from foreign governments, specifically China."

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The strategy of the fly

"A terrorist is like a fly that wants to destroy a china shop. Small, low, fly is unable to move not even a cup. So she found an elephant, enters his ear and buzzes until mad with fear and anger, it sacked the shop. Thus, for example, the Al-Qaeda fly led the American elephant to destroy the china shop of the Middle East.

Why are they so sensitive to terrorist provocations? Because the legitimacy of the modern state is based on its promise to keep the public sphere free of political violence. A regime can withstand terrible catastrophes, and even ignore them, provided its legitimacy is not based on preventing them.

Today, a government may turn a blind eye to high levels of domestic and sexual violence, because they do not undermine its legitimacy. Rapists and abusive husbands are not perceived as an existential threat to the state, because, historically, the state did not build itself on the promise to eliminate sexual violence. In contrast, the much rarer cases of terrorism are viewed as a deadly threat, because over the last few centuries modern western states have gradually built their legitimacy on the explicit promise to maintain zero political violence within their borders."

Read the whole article from Yuval Noah Harari in French, or in English 

h/t Line Merrette Vincent


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Hissy fit on #ERRE committee

in which CPC MP Blake Richards uses up his timeslot on committee to berate the Liberals for not reading out twitter questions submitted by the public about holding a referendum ... instead of just reading those questions aloud himself. 

As noted by the Chair, the purpose of this Electoral Reform Committee meeting was to question and hear testimony from former Elections Canada CEO JP Kingsley. 

Richards is replacing Jason Kenney on the #ERRE committee while Kenney is off saving Alberta. 
When the idea of allowing public input to the committee via twitter was first proposed, Mr Kenney dismissed it as :
"We are not here to be conduits for twitter or other platforms of social media in which there is sometimes a robust and vulgar public debate..."
Perhaps this explains why Mr Richards declined to read out those twitter questions himself.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

5th Electoral Reform Committee meeting - JP Kingsley

in which the Conservatives only want to talk referendum and the Liberals mostly want to talk about online voting, which we aren't getting for the 2019 federal election, in part because the Liberals have not rolled back Fair Elections Act provisions that prevent Elections Canada from pilot testing it.

JP Kingsley gives his personal suggestion for a new combination electoral system - urban MMP and rural FPtP - and the CPC MPs launch the dismissive phrase "consultations in cafeterias" to refer to any discussions with Canadians about electoral reform that isn't a referendum.

Since May 2010, Kingsley, former Elections Canada CEO from 1990 - 2007, has been Chair of the Executive Advisory Committee of Dominion Voting, a Canadian company selling electronic voting machines and tabulators. In May 2010, Dominion bought the infamous Diebold Election Systems from Election Systems & Software. 
From 2007-2009, Kingsley was President & CEO of the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems, which "provides assistance and support for elections in new and emerging democracies" in 135 countries including Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Nicaragua, and Yemen.

Lest you think his position at Dominion Voting inclines Kingsley toward online voting for the next federal election, it does not. In a presumed response to Lib Ruby Sahota's comparison to online banking and Sherry Romanado's comment in the previous meeting that :
"I can order pizza online. On the day of the vote, it may be raining, I might be busy. Online voting gives me an option"
Kingsley, who thinks online voting is eventually inevitable and even necessary to engage the young and "differently abled" and voters not in their riding, said in his excellent opening remarks to the committee:
"Online voting. The analogy with online banking and purchasing I heard this morning is flawed. Banks hedge the risk from the person - a margin of error is acceptable against which they hedge. What margin of error is acceptable in elections?" 

The ERRE committee has not yet posted July minutes or transcripts so here's some notes on the Kingsley Q&A meantime : 

CPC Scott Reid : Referendum. He begins by quoting KIngsley from June : "You can only hold a referendum on a constitutional matter. Changing the electoral system is not a constitutional matter." Did you mean the Referendum Act would need to be changed to hold a referendum?
Kingsley : Yes, that's what I meant.
Reid : In 1992 you held a referendum 4 months after passing Referendum Act. Could you do it in 4 months again because Mayrand says he would need 6 months?
Kingsley : Easier then. Defers to Mayrand's 6 months.

NDP David Christopherson : Unlike Mayrand who is still in office, you can give opinions. Why should we move from comfort zone of FPtP to "something that more accurately describes the will of the people"?
Kingsley : "I can't think of a country that went with FPtP when installing a democracy because of its known difficulties. If you do not come out with a new system, then the people complaining about the system in place now will have to live with it."

Bloc Luc Theriault : More equitable state funding for small parties would address vote inequality.
Kingsley : We should return to previous system of $2 per vote per party annually, even if at $1.50 not $2. 
Theriault : Funding means smaller parties can make themselves heard in between election campaigns. 
Kingsley : My suggestion : Given size of Canada, remote vast rural ridings would keep FPtP to elect 40 to 60MPs. For urban ares, group 4 -5 current ridings and voters would choose their 4 or 5 MPs based on the vote. Everyone would vote for one candidate or one party. The party would be chosen by the new riding association from the grouped-together 4 or 5 ridings. To achieve gender parity in say 5 available seats, there would be 3 men and 3 women coordinated alternating man-woman-man-woman. Voters would vote for one man or one party - they would only have one vote. If 60% of people vote for Party A, they get 3 seats or 60%.

Elizabeth May : Given distortions we experienced under FPtP, do you believe our democracy will be improved when we get rid of it? 
Kingsley : Democracy will be improved when committee has done its work, when we have best system or least worst system as Shakespeare would have said. The process itself is important.
May : Power of PMO is unique to Canadian system. 
Kingsley : Concentration of power under Pierre E Trudeau was to ensure unity of direction, that ministers would not go contrary to what party wanted. That machinery over time created more authority of Prime Minister. Not directly related to issue but feeds into it.
Holding any referendum vote would require rewriting the outdated law but it was a good act re free broadcasting time - 1 1/2 hour to both sides. 

Lib Sherry Romanado : Simplicity of ballot, link between elector and elected, parties should be national coast to coast. Please elaborate.
Kingsley : Some parties are under-represented so there's bodies missing in caucus. In Quebec, eastern Canada there are fewer Conservatives than should be there. It's at caucus that national decisions are made for the rest of Canada - proportional or mixed proportional would address that but no system will be perfect.
Romanado : How would coast-to-coast parties affect intraparty competition?
Kingsley : Open list, choosing among candidates within the same party- electors rank within the same party which one they prefer. If only 4 to be elected in that riding, I would bust my proverbial to be among 1st four. There will be temptations but party discipline will address that. 
Romanado : I had 7 candidates in my riding and I benefitted from FPTP - that's the reality - but now I represent them all. 
Kingsley : With my suggestion, [ridings with several MPs] , after election, electors could choose who among those 4 or 5 they choose to take their issue to.

CPC Girard Deltell : Referendum. What is more important in consulting Canadians - a referendum or "townhall consultations in a cafeteria"?

Lib Ruby Sahota : Using compulsory attendance [not compulsory voting], would a new electoral system increase voter turnout?
Kingsley : I don't believe in compulsory voting, rather compulsory attendance. However "I don't know if 50% attendance at the polls is sufficient to lend legitimacy to a government."
Sahota : Twitter question : How much higher is voter turnout in countries with proportional representation?
Kingsley : One study by Prof Blais (sp?) found about 7%. I may be wrong. Might be marginal.
Sahota : Simplicity of ballot to increase voter turnout.
Kingsley : Youth are not voting. 58% turnout in last election; 39% in one before. Failure to engage. If we are to keep voluntary attendance at polls, we must do better at getting across *why* to vote. They don'y watch tv; why do we still do tv?

NDP Alexandre Boulerice : Public education needed. People think they are voting for a PM.
Kingsley : Must listen to Canadians. Social networks will create snowball effect. Canadians capable of understanding what democracy is about. I don't endorse any particular system but whatever you come up with must maintain link between MP and community.

CPC Blake Richards : Your suggestion of two systems - one urban, one rural - why is that a good system? 
Kingsley : People in rural areas accustomed to link with elected MP; a proportional system represents more difficulty for them because geography. 

Lib John Aldag : How do independents fit in to any new system?
Kingsley : A problem internationally with some PR systems but not mixed member. Chances of being elected the same as they are right now - low.
Aldag : Online voting. Mayrand not seeing it for 2019. When then?
Kingsley : Both later and faster than we think. All-pervasive technology must asssure integrity of elector identification. Mayrand said not in 2019 because he needs permission from House and Senate to even think about it never mind test pilot it; used to be just from PROC.
Aldag : Do you have preferred approach for a pilot test for say people with disabilities? How can we phase it in?
Mayrand : Could not apply to all Canadians - too broad a test. Could try people with "differing abilities" or mobility issues or a few ridings. Could then check to see how well we performed.
Aldag : What margin of error is acceptable?
Kingsley : Canadians will say if we have online voting - must be 0% error.

End of first round questioning. Might get to second round later if there is any interest in this first round.

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