The referendum tomorrow

October 9, 2007

It’s a rainy tuesday morning and it feels like fall again.  There’s something about leaving the windows open overnight and waking up to a light chill.  The coffee’s hot, the cat is cuddly, and I’ve got a completed funding application in my hands ready to submit to uni-money-people today…  This should be a lovely morning, but listening to the radio messed that up.

One day before the Ontario referendum.  One day.  And the conservative party makes it’s move on the mmp (mixed-member proportional).  I’ll admit, I was expecting this a few weeks ago, but it makes a certain kind of sneaky Harper-govt sense to wait til today.  The “John Tory” party is urging its supporters, as of right now, not to vote for mmp.  The reason they offer is this: they want to get rid of governments (just like the twin party platform in the U.S.).  They’re saying that mmp would give ‘too much power to party politics.’

Makes sense, I guess.  If your goal is to let corporations run Ontario.  Or if the current system creates phony majority governments (the current government won 70% of the seats with only 46% of the popular vote), and you really, really aren’t prepared to give that mess up.

While I’m not particularly proud of the Canadian government’s capitulation to big business, the solution is not to roll over and offer up parliament on the NAFTA altar.  Still, this conservative party move will resonate.  Two voting groups I can think of that might take the bait: 1] people who are genuinely disillusioned with Canada’s government, but think the only way to fix the system is to elect more party members who profess to hate politics as much as we do (if I wasn’t familiar with the mmp already, and didn’t have such a hate-on for scary Harper, this conservative strategy might sway me); and 2] people most likely to say things like, “We can vote with our dollar!”  As an example: people who think the solution to chronic underfunding of our healthcare system is to offer ‘consumers’ (read: citizens) the ‘choice’ (read: free trade market) to sell their health as a commodity to big business.

Besides all that, it’s just sneaky and more than a little slimy to wait for the day before the referendum to push your agenda.  Just another marketing strategy disguised as party politics…

An interesting thing is that the conservative party is not united on this.  On that point, neither are any of the others.   Reason being, there’s two ways to handle proposed governmental change: stick to parroting the party line (or lack thereof), or think for yourself.

Example:  here’s a joint statement from 3 people you wouldn’t expect to ever issue a joint statement: Conservative Hugh Segal, NDP Ed Broadbent and Liberal Carolyn Bennett:

“The three of us reflect three competing, democratic, partisan traditions in Ontario.  We strongly unite, however, in our commitment to an electoral system that is democratic in more than name.  The Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform produced an imaginative and practical proposal that will give us more choice, fairer results and stronger representation.  We urge all Ontarians to come together and vote for MMP.”

My only question.  After we vote tomorrow, how are the ballots going to be counted?  Seriously.  Will it be the usual horse-race, or will they be counting every vote before claiming a win or lose?

an excellent rabble article & apologies from a student blogger

September 28, 2007

I’ve been away for a few weeks. 

Like most students, not incurring a 50,000 dollar debt is important to me… and near impossible.  With scholarship, grant, and graduate assistant-ship applications, as well as doing administrative work for my department (& even classwork when I can), I’ve been offline for the past while.

Also, I just found out that word-press deletes comments if I don’t visit this site and do that moderation thingy.  Stats page tells me that a few comments have been deleted in the past while.  If they were yours, huge my bad.  Please try your call again, as I’ll be working on this site at least once a week and more when I can. 

In the meantime, I suggest Andrew Mindszenthy’s article at Rabble from September the 19th: Big Media AWOL as Referendum Approaches. 

Don’t you love it when the government tells you that politics are boring and no, you wouldn’t be interested? And then the media feels compelled to relay how much you, as a Canadian, don’t care what your government is up to?

Every party, every level of government, and every media outlet that hasn’t explicitly explained the cases for voting mmp or not is actively impeding the democratic process through conspicuous inaction.

46% = 70%: math for Ontario voters

September 13, 2007

I got a flyer in the mail today about the first-past-the-post vs. mixed member proportional system referendum coming up on October 10th.   “Make sure you understand the question” it told me in all-caps.  And “Understand your choices before heading to the polls.”

It’s a good flyer, dispite the usual governmental paternalistic tone.  Unfortunately, it avoids talking about two things that I think are completely central to My Big Decision: 1]  What was the Citizen’s Assembly? and 2] Why do they recommend this change?  The flyer is just a sheet of bland definitions.  I understand that explaining the reasons the Citizens’ Assembly proposed MMP on an Elections Canada flyer would be seen as supporting the proposal made by the Citizens’ Assembly, and that’s something that elections canada has to be really careful about.

In a previous post here -Big Vote Thingy- you’ll find a video that the Citizens’ Assembly put together to explain who they are and what they did.  Again, it’s an excellent overview & it helped me understand alot more than I would if I’d only had this rather obscure (read: impartial) elections canada info to go on.

They’ve got a full website as well.  From the FAQ page:

Who asked that Ontario’s electoral system be reviewed?

” In 2005, the Ontario legislature established an all-party committee to study electoral systems. The committee made recommendations regarding the Citizens’ Assembly and the referendum. In March 2006, the government filed a regulation providing for Elections Ontario to select one citizen at random from each of Ontario’s 103 electoral districts to form the Citizens’ Assembly. “

So the Citizens’ Assembly got together a bunch of times and got LOADS of information about Ontario’s current voting system, and other voting systems.  They had numerous discussions with each other about the info they got, and went to some public forums to discuss voting systems with people not in the Assembly.  If you’re wanting all the info they got, it’s on their library pages, divided by week.

One of my favourites is the Panel Discussion they got with 3 profs: 1] Dr. Leduc, a political science prof from the University of Toronto who wrote a book about comparing democratic systems, 2] Dr. Docherty, a dean at Wilfred Laurier University who wrote a book about reforming parliaments, and 3] Dr. Smith, chair of the political science department at Dalhousie University who focuses on comparative federalism.  More on them on a biography page.

Here’s a full pdf transcript of the panel discussion.

My favourite part of this talk came from Leduc.

“… PR [proportional representation] systems tend to be more competitive; people can see that their votes count, even if they vote for small parties. So you don’t get the dilemmas in those systems that you get in First- Past-the-Post where people look at a constituency and say “oh, that’s a safe seat. I know that party X is going to win, so therefore, what’s the point of my voting”. Or they look at it and say that “I’ve got to vote strategically. I’ve got to vote for some party that I don’t really want to keep some other party that I don’t want even more from getting in”. That’s the kind of dilemmas that we face in First-Past-the-Post, and you don’t have those dilemmas in PR systems, because people have a realistic range of choices to make, they can go out and vote for those choices, and they know that those votes are going to be counted, and that their representatives are going to be sitting in the Legislature articulating their point of view.”

More than the panel (10 minutes each to propound), the transcript of the Q&A that followed was really helpful for me.  I know that Ontario’s elections are horse races, but that doesn’t tell me a whole lot.  People in the Citizens’ Assembly came up with some good questions, and the answers were really helpful.  The full transcript of the Q&A is here.

Even better, a Fact Sheet has been put together by the Vote for MMP group.  So this is the case against the Horse Race group.  They reminded me of something I’d completely forgotten:

The current government won 70% of the seats with only 46% of the popular vote.

The fact sheet itself is two pages of quick reading, and if you’re living in Ontario, I think you should read it.  (BTW, If I can find a citizens’ group or info page that supports the Horse Race, I’ll blog about it here at a later time. If you know of one, I’d love to hear about it.)

On another note.  Something bugs me about elections here in Canada (beyond the electoral system): Why in the world do we have them in the middle of the week!?!  October 10th is on a Wednesday, and that’s idiotic.  You want to increase voter turnout?  Hold elections on Saturday.

If I had my d’ruthers, elections here would be national holidays, with only emergency, governmental, and transport services open.  Especially for this referendum.  How many people don’t vote because they’re in work all day, have to make it home, and don’t have time (or the energy) to go and vote?  How about folks working in 7-11s?  And so many people lament the ‘youth vote’ and the fact that in horse race systems, the numbers keep going down.  I’ve got a solution: cancel classes.  No papers due.  And I bet you the numbers of youth voting would just explode.

If folks can consider fining citizens who don’t vote, a la Australia, certainly we can consider rewarding those who do.  No, having a voting holiday wouldn’t ensure that people would vote, but I’m absolutely frikkin sure that it would increase the numbers who do.

Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

September 10, 2007

Star article about nuclear waste program, by Allan Woods.

 “The initiative proposes that nuclear energy-using countries and uranium-exporting countries band together to promote and safeguard the industry. Under the proposal, all used nuclear fuel would be returned to the original uranium-exporting country for disposal.”

My knee-jerk on this is a very firm and gutteral no.  Canada exports alot of uranium.  Environmentally, this proposal would turn Canada into one big nuclear waste dump.  But then, where should the nuclear waste go?  Is it a NIMBY thing where we’re going to be led by mass media discourse into an empty-headed Anywhere But Here stance?

A related problem is the very racist discourse here.  If Iraq might have an aluminum tube, it’s apparently time to invade.  If any country that’s not an American Friend is trying to build a nuclear power plant, it’s reason enough to talk about bombing them to smithereens.  To say nothing about the use of nuclear products and waste as weapons euphamistically called ‘high-density penetrators.’

Nothing about this question is simple: What do we do with all the nuclear waste?

I think the only sane questions to begin with are: What the hell are we doing contributing to or creating nuclear waste in the first place?  And, given what we all know about our hurting environment, why are we making more?

Naomi Speaks!

September 3, 2007

Or writes.  Either way, I’m overjoyed when she does.  Ms Klein first published this in The Nation, but I picked it up from Rabble.ca.  You can find the full article here.

It’s about the spp summit in Montebello, and a particular kind of wierdness I had no idea was going on (not being there and all): folks were speaking their piece into a camera which was then fed into the Chateau.  This, the leaders said, upheld the protestor’s right to be seen and heard in a protest.

Naomi Sez:

“It is an argument with sweeping implications. If videotaping activists meets the legal requirement that dissenting citizens have the right to be seen and heard, what else might fit the bill? How about all the other security cameras that patrolled the summit—the ones filming demonstrators as they got on and off buses and peacefully walked down the street? What about the cellphone calls that were intercepted, the meetings that were infiltrated, the e-mails that were read? According to the new rules set out in Montebello, all of these actions may soon be recast not as infringements on civil liberties but the opposite: proof of our leaders’ commitment to direct, unmediated consultation.”

Then she ties it into the Security agenda of the spp and sums it up with what I think should be the epitaph of 2007:

“Security is the new prosperity. Surveillance is the new democracy. “

Again, the whole thing is well worth a read.

Big Vote Thingy

August 30, 2007

In my first blog here, I mentioned a big vote thingy that’s coming up here in Ontario on October the 10th.  We’ve got, right now, a first-past-the-post voting system.  What that means is your vote may not count.  Diebold doesn’t have to do a squat to get rid of lose votes here.  Ontario’s regular electoral process has been doing that since the 1700s.

So the vote we’re having is about changing that.  We’re voting to decide whether to have ‘mixed member’ proportional representation (MMP), like in a democracy where all the votes get counted and the person and party with the most votes gets elected (utopian hippy-talk, I know), or whether we have a horse race.

This is from the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform (it’s about 9 minutes long):

How ’bout teh funky beats?  Honestly, I think they’ve done a brilliant job in putting this together.

There’s another website (govt), with a title I hate: Your Big Decision.  (But then, I called this blog Aporia, so who am I to judge?)  On page 1, I found out that on the 10th we’ll be getting two ballots.  One is for the General Election, where we do what we normally do and vote for whoever.  The other is the Referendum ballot where we decide to scrap the current system for the new one, or not.

So if we do this.  And we manage to keep Big Business Banking/Tallying machines out of the operation.  I might just get to see, in my lifetime, a parliament that reflects how a majority of Ontarians voted.  That’d be nifty.

Black Bloc Poseurs

August 25, 2007

Some Black Bloc protestors and a Union man named Dan Coles have outed a few police officers who were pretending to be Violent Anarchists last weekend at the spp protests in Montebello, Quebec.  If you watch the video, you’ll see some interesting stuff, like:  a fake ‘protestor’ refusing to put down his rock, even when being yelled at by other protestors; and, the same fake protestors leaning into the wall-o-cop to be saved (or, fake arrested) before the real protestors got a chance to rip the masks off of ‘em.

Once again, supercanuk from GNN (Erik Halliwell) has written up a brilliant article about this :  Canadian Activists Catch Police Dirty Tricks on Video.

But now, the spin.  The police in question put up a public statement on their website:

“Following the widespread distribution of a a video recording on Youtube.com, possibly implicating members of the Sûreté du Québec who were at the Montebello Summit, we would like to make some clarifications. Having analyzed police video, it can be confirmed that these individuals were police with the Sûreté du Québec. They had the mandate to identify and pick out militant demonstrators to avoid a ruckus. The police were outed by the demonstrators at the point at which they refused to throw rocks.“At no time did the police of the Sûreté du Québec act as agents provocateurs or commit criminal acts. Furthermore, it’s not the policy or practice of the police service to use these tactics. At all times, the SQ police fulfilled their mandate to maintain order and security.”

So the short story from the Authorities?  Yes.  They did it.  But no, they didn’t do anything wrong.  Surprised?  … Yeah, me neither.

About Canada’s Mass Media…

August 22, 2007

This was going to be a blog about what different mass media outlets had to say about the spp protests and the meeting in Montebello.  But no surprises.  Most of them: refer to a U.S. government ‘fact sheet'; report dismissive comments from Harper and D’Arquino without criticism; focus on the violence while ignoring the cause; call every dissenter (save for the Council of Canadians) an anarchist; and the investigative journalism amounts to ‘The protestors don’t even know why they’re here.’  I think the last might come from reporters’ inability to write about the intersections of war, racism, imperialism in a corporatocracy, etc (without getting fired?).

So instead, I’m going back to a December 2006 Canadian Senate report* on the conglomeration/consolidation of our mass media:

There’s a website that catalogues which companies own what media in Canada, much like FreePress.org does for the U.S,  and it’s yourmedia.ca .  While the rest of the website is fantastic, this fact page…  Well. There’s a long list of names and companies & it makes me dizzy just looking at it.  Ditto the numbers.  Ex: “as of February 2004 ‘there are 8 major corporate owners in Canada that own 10 community newspapers or more each.  Of the 701 community newspapers that are CCNA members, 276 are corporately owned.”

It’s a good list for reference, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot just looking at it.  Unless of course you’re a media-type person, or have been a journalist, or you’re good with numbers.  Of which, I’m none of the above.

But Huzzah. The Senate transport and communications committee did the work for me and put together a report stating baldly, that “the concentration of ownership has reached levels that few other countries would consider acceptable… neither the U.S. nor the U.K has the level of media cross-ownership found in Canada.”  There.  Simple.  With context and some perspective, no less.

As for the official government response to the committee and their recommendations, it was, again, predictable.  Bev -our Heritage Minister- Oda made some comment or other about business being competitive, and that was the end of that ‘debate.’

From Antonia Zerbisias’ article in the Toronto Star**:

“Big media is in the driver’s seat of big politics,” said Peter Murdoch,
vice-president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.
“When a Senate committee investigates, takes the time, listens to
citizens, listens to all the players, and then makes recommendations which big media may be concerned about, it’s clear who the government is listening to.
“It’s not just outrageous or appalling. It’s scary.”

Well put.

 

* Part 1 & Part 2 of the Senate Report. (Warning. This could take days to read.)

** The Toronto Star is a daily owned by the TorStar Corporation.  Other Dailies owned by TorStar include Guelph Mercury, Hamilton Spectator, Metro, Kitchener-Waterloo’s The Record, and Sing Tao.  In addition to owning over 70 Community Papers across Canada (as well as internet sites, 2 tv stations and Harlequin Press), TorStar Corp owns 20% of (David) Black Press Group Ltd.  But TorStar is still behind Quebecor Inc, the largest commercial printer on the planet, which BTW, bought up the Osprey Media Group (also huge) back in June 2007.

Media Release from the Council of Canadians

August 20, 2007

Reprinted from The Council of Canadians.  Click to read the full media release:

MEDIA ADVISORY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 20, 2007

Harper refuses to receive SPP petitions at Leaders Summit in Montebello

Ottawa – The RCMP has been informed by the Department of Foreign Affairs that the delivery of a petition to the Leaders Summit in Montebello, which was signed by more than 10,000 Canadians across the country, will be prohibited.

“This is clearly not a security concern but a political prohibition,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “This is yet another strong message from the Conservative government that they are not willing to hear the concerns of Canadians on the Security and Prosperity Partnership.”

End Quote

So that’s it, then.  This just confirms it: Harper thinks he doesn’t have to hear us, see us, or answer to us.  The only thing he’ll answer to is Big Business.  Let’s get this smarmy jerk out of office tout suite, eh?

But then, it’s not just a case of the Conservative Governement selling us out, is it?  When it was Martin, Fox and Bush, the agenda was exactly the same.  So the liberal party is just as culpable for this mess.  The problem is not with either party per se, but with corporate government at large.

“Corporations such as Wal-Mart, Lockheed Martin, Manulife Financial, Chevron and Suncor Energy certainly should not be deciding the future of our country and drafting government policy behind closed doors.” – from the petition, signed by over ten thousand of us.

Montebello Broadcast tonight, 7pm – CKLN against the spp

August 20, 2007

Toronto community radio station CKLN 88.1 FM will be broadcasting from Montebello tonight and tomorrow (Aug 20th & 21st) at 7pm.

To hook up, click here(& here’s a backup link to CKLN’s Listen Live page, JIC.)

In the meantime, you can check out the Independent Media Centre (IMC) in Montebello here, or jump over to the blog on YayaCanada’s website (highly recommended!) for her pics, commentary and links on actions in Ottawa.  Here’s one of hers:

“On Parliament Hill listening to speeches.”

& you can find more photos from CMAC.


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