(in response to a recent email I received from the Ontario Liberal Party asking for donations of time, money, etc. to “help strengthen our Party and help our province stay on the right path”. This email started off with the line “Politics is not a game. It’s about our lives”)
Dear Kathleen Wynne,
You’re absolutely right, politics is not a game. The policies our government makes affect us and our future tremendously.
The problem is, you undercut your message by putting so much importance on the weight of the by-elections in 5 out of the 107 ridings. The vast majority of us can’t vote, and can merely watch as the balance of power could be decided by a fraction of a fraction of voters. Our First-Past-the-Post voting system has put parties into this position.
What I really want, before I can donate my money, time, and enthusiasm to the Liberal Party is for you to absolutely commit to electoral reform. We need a fairer electoral system where a party can’t have a majority of power with barely 40% of the popular vote. We see this in Federal politics, and we almost had it here in Ontario save for 1 riding. Every election, almost 50% of the votes cast don’t elect anyone, and fewer and fewer people even bother to vote – largely, I believe, because they know their vote wouldn’t count anyway.
We have tremendous challenges to overcome, with health-care, education, pensions, infrastructure and public transit, and (most importantly, in my mind), the environment. We need policies that can be forward-thinking, for multiple sessions of government without the risk of them being torn down completely and reworked in the “games” of winner-takes-all politics that FPTP voting creates. We need the voice of the Green Party in the House. We need a balanced cross-section of Ontarians so we are properly represented. Proportional representation systems are used in most evolved democracies, and generally lead to more stable governments with more sustainable policies that evolve over time rather than the “slash-and-burn” policies that new governments in our system do as part of their “mandate”. Germany, Norway, Finland, Scotland – they have robust economies and are rising to the challenges of the 21st century.
Ontario is doing well, comparatively. We have a fairly clean electrical grid, for one. I am encouraged by efforts to phase out coal power and expand hydroelectic, solar, and wind projects. I am eager to see improvements to our rail network, and other public transportation initiatives. I want to see more go to eco-Energy projects and more incentives to phase out gas vehicles and encourage cleaner technologies. I am largely supportive of the Liberal Party of Ontario’s policies, but I feel we should be setting an even better example for the rest of Canada too. Part of that means moving from our archaic First-Past-the-Post electoral system to a fairer system. We owe it to ourselves, and our future.
McGuinty held a referendum in 2007 on adopting an MMP system, but – for various reasons, the motion failed. I think the initiative could have been handled far better, but here we are, six years later, and I feel the subject deserves to be revisited.
I’m always confused by NDP supporters who refuse to vote Liberal in a riding where the LPC has the best chance of winning against a Conservative candidate (& Liberals who refuse to vote NDP). Or GPC supporters who have similar sentiments about voting for the NDP or LPC.
I understand how a vote for another party than one has traditionally supported might feel unprincipled. Perhaps they feel the that other party have some poor ideas, or have had a negative experience with that party being in control provincially or nationally in the past. But it should be apparent by now to everyone in the Liberal, NDP, and Green camps that our electoral system is hugely flawed. Every election, about half the votes cast are orphaned – they don’t count towards electing anyone. Your vote for another non-Conservative candidate when another non-Conservative candidate could have won was as useful as staying home (indeed, many disillusioned people have stayed home, feeling there’s no point in voting at this point).
Yes, it may have been nice if your party’s candidate won in your riding. But even if they did, it doesn’t matter at this point – because of how First Past the Post skews voter intent, and thanks to the larger combined support the right-wing enjoy since they merged the Reform and PC parties, they now control 100% of the power with less than 40% of the vote.
I urge NDP, Liberal, and Green supporters who feel negativity towards another party to put aside that sentiment. If you dislike what Harper and the Conservatives are doing to Canada – and there’s plenty to dislike – we have to work together. These aren’t sports teams we can share in the highs and lows with – this is the future of our country, and future generations. Nothing is gained by any of us if we don’t end up with more than 50% of the seats in the next election, and far more will be lost in the years following with the Conservatives continuing to enjoy complete control.
Joyce Murray understands this. Elizabeth May understands this. Nathan Cullen does too – and Thomas Mulcair has to feel pressure to cooperate from Cullen supporters and the more than 50% of LPC, NDP, and GPC members that want cooperation. Trudeau doesn’t – and feels that he can win enough seats to bring the Harper government to a minority, despite polls showing a statistical tie with the NDP and many analysts saying this is a recipe for another Conservative majority. Trudeau also supports the Alternative Vote, which may not benefit the Liberals as he believes, and certainly isn’t as fair as any Proportional Representation system. I also have heard from a friend with ties to Alberta that Trudeau is not well-liked there – Murray is from the west, and may enjoy more support.
I know Trudeau is exciting, charismatic, and brings a fresh dynamic. He could attract many voters, but at what cost? If he can attract new voters, certainly it might help, but if he attracts them at the expense of the NDP instead of the Conservatives (shown to be very loyal to their party), they’ll have no power. There’s also 30 more ridings in the next election – many of them in suburban neighborhoods, more likely to lean Conservative. It’s a large gamble to risk everything on.
Strategic cooperation is the sensible approach. Some might see the idea of a LPC, NDP, or Green candidates not being available to vote for in their riding as “taking away choice”, but it is a practical solution to let the Liberals, Greens, and NDP have some say in government as opposed to none. Whether you like the non-Conservative candidate in your riding or not, the fact that it would result in your party having a share of power is more important.
With shared power, we can finally fix our voting system so we never have this situation again – we can get proportional representation, and in future elections you can be assured that your vote for your party of choice has a strong chance of counting, instead of being among the ~50% that don’t currently.
It’s an emotional subject – I know. But if there’s anything Liberals, NDP, and Green supporters can agree on, it’s the need to wrest control away from the Conservatives. If we want cooperation and civility after an election, let’s cooperate before as well. Let common sense prevail. Support Joyce Murray (register before March 3rd!) – and please spread the word!
Sorry for the lack of updates. I’ve been busy with various other things that have stolen my attention from the important issue of orphaned votes and electoral reform.
However, there have been some important developments in this space, and I felt I should note them here.
First, the amazing team at LeadNow.ca have recently launched a new campaign: Cooperate for Canada. Building on the momentum of Nathan Cullen’s bid to become leader of the NDP, and the demand from progressives in the NDP, Green, and Liberal camps (over 50% in each have expressed their support of cooperation, and almost all of the LeadNow supporter base!), they are calling on the three parties to cooperate in the next federal election to defeat Stephen Harper’s government. Please sign their petition!
And tying in to that – there is a Liberal Leadership race currently underway. Of the nine candidates, only one of them – Joyce Murray – is advocating a sensible strategy of cooperation in key ridings, much as Cullen did last year. Pundits are saying the race comes down to Murray, Garneau, and Trudeau.
And we have an amazing opportunity to support her. You can donate at her website, but – crucially – if you aren’t a member of another party, you can register to support her (without paying a thing if you choose), after which you can register to vote. But you have to register before March 3rd!
Please circulate this information to all progressive-minded people you know who are tired of cynical politics and the Harper “majority”.
As most (hopefully) should know by now, the Harper Budget is a huge bill that makes many, many changes to our Environmental laws, Employment Insurance, health care, and more. Harper was hoping to sneak a lot into the Bill, get it passed, and move on without people noticing. But people have, and we’re making our voices heard.
On June 4, many sites across Canada will be darkening their websites in an effort to raise public awareness of the issue. I’ll be doing the same – I don’t think this is a hugely trafficked website, but I didn’t want to do nothing.
Please, if you have a website or blog, consider doing the same. And even if you don’t, please tell your friends, family, and coworkers about the Harper Budget.
Dear Mr. Mulcair,
Congratulations on your election to Leader of the NDP! I was impressed during your campaign by your commitment to progressive ideals, electoral reform, and the environment. I really hope you can engage young voters – who historically don’t come out to vote in large numbers – and also reach out to the millions who have given up voting entirely.
I’m writing to you to ask that you don’t discount the powerful idea of cross-party cooperation called for my various organizations such as LeadNow, Avaaz, and fellow NDP member Nathan Cullen during his campaign. Nathan’s strong showing in the race, and increased discussion of the idea inspired many polls that clearly show that the idea of cooperation among parties to oust Harper is popular – especially in certain ridings – and I feel it would be a tremendous shame to dismiss this fact going forwards.
The election of Elizabeth May last year, and the NDP’s surge in Quebec, was small consolation for the false majority government we ended up with. What good is gains like that when progressives effectively have 0% of power? And I’m intimately familiar with how vote-splitting in a relatively few number of ridings caused the CPC majority to happen.
I know there’s time before the next election, and lots can happen. Maybe the Liberals will fade completely, making the notion of cooperation unnecessary. Maybe support for the Conservatives will collapse over some other scandal – although their supporters seem remarkably indifferent to the myriad of scandals and lies that have been exposed already. But maybe, despite the NDP’s best efforts, the Liberals gain enough traction to again set the stage for disastrous vote-splitting again in the next election, resulting in another false majority for Harper.
Should that happen… I would hope the NDP, Liberals, and Greens recognize the grave danger such a scenario presents to Canada, and work together for not just mutual gain, but for Canada. And then when you get power, please fix our voting system so we don’t have to endure this kind of false majority ever again!
Dear Mr. Rae,
Regarding your recent email, where you said:
The bullying and the thuggishness need to stop.
We need to talk directly to Canadians about Harper’s failure on the economy, about an election fraud scandal that has shaken Canada’s faith in its democracy. And yes, about a Prime Minister who has cheapened and tarnished Canadian politics.
I couldn’t agree more. Harper’s tactics – including what I feel should be illegal campaigning when we’re not in an election period anyway – are horrible, and very much why I think many Canadians “switch off” from politics. And once they’re turned off, it’s hard to bring them back… and this suits Harper just fine, as Conservative supporters are less likely to give up.
However… I disagree with some of the Liberals tactics. We absolutely know that our broken electoral system is a huge reason why Canadian politics has deteriorated to this point, and why Harper now enjoys a “majority” despite getting less than 40% of the vote, and why the Liberals are under-represented in the House.
I point to things like the recent by-election in Toronto-Danforth, to replace Jack Layton’s seat. Why raise so much money, fight so hard against the NDP in that riding, when ultimately (a) this was the NDP’s riding under Jack, and it would have been nice to respect that, (b) getting one extra Liberal seat from the NDP wouldn’t change the balance of power in the House, and (c) it just perpetuates this antagonistic, win-at-all-costs mentality that – at a national level – causes more people to turn away, or fear their vote for the NDP, Liberals, or Greens in their riding would contribute to vote-splitting that would allow the Conservatives to win. We saw this in 2011, over and over.
Yes, it may have been an ego-boost to win that seat, but at what cost?
It’s great that the Liberals polling numbers are rising. But that’s at the expense – mostly – of the NDP. This situation could easily lead to disastrous vote-splitting again in the next election, should the NDP and Liberals be even remotely close, especially in Toronto. Even in Quebec, with a resurgent Bloc, there’s great potential for even more vote-splitting that would allow Conservatives and the BQ to gain seats.
This cannot be allowed to happen. Harper is stripping away what makes Canada so well-respected internationally, enacting policies that harm the environment, privatizing everything, taking away benefits from seniors, introducing online spying legislation, spending billions on prisons and overpriced fighter-jets, and the list goes on and on and on… all while lying to us and making a mockery of our democracy. And you’re content to continue old-school politics, fighting the Greens and NDP, feeling that a Liberal majority is possible again.
It isn’t. The fact is the Conservatives united the right of the political spectrum to game our First-Past-the-Post voting system, and their supporters are going to be very hard to budge. Meanwhile, we have three (four in Quebec) centre- or centre-left parties all trying to get a majority of votes in each riding.
There is a growing number of Canadians desperate for change, desperate for a new type of politics. We can’t afford to let Harper win another term. We don’t want – or need – a merge of the left parties, a shift to the bitter two-party politics we see in the US. What we need is a strategy that will actually beat the Conservatives at the electoral gamesmanship: cooperation for mutual gain.
Admit that there’s a problem, and explain it to Canadians. Work with the other parties to reduce the chance of vote-splitting. We’ve seen in the campaign of Nathan Cullen for the NDP leadership that the idea of cooperation is popular – even if he doesn’t win (I hope he does, though). People are hungry for it.
And when you win a shared majority, give us Proportional Representation. You have to to avoid any chance of the Conservatives coming back in the next election with a false majority. Better yet – enacting PR would likely fracture the Conservatives themselves, into the more moderate Progressive-Conservatives and the more neo-libertarian Reform party that took over.
Please. I’m asking not as a Liberal, NDP, or a Green (although there are elements of each party’s platforms I respect!). I’m asking as a concerned Canadian who, since immigrating here in 2000, has watched the country I love get destroyed by our voting system and ruthless ideology.
Thank you for your time.
It’s hard for me to explain without getting emotional why Nathan Cullen is my first choice for leader of the NDP.
I’m originally from Bermuda, and although it’s a wonderful place to visit, I found it small and stifling after living there all my life. In addition, I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality – although homosexuality wasn’t illegal there, there was certainly a general undertone of homophobia.
I had many choices on where to move. I’m British, and have right-of-abode in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I strongly considered and started the application process for Australia too. But ultimately, I chose Canada. I had friends from University, and Canada was well-respected on the world stage as an advocate of peace, was advancing gay rights, had public health care, and seemed to me a country moving in the right direction environmentally and in social values.
I got my Permanent Residency and moved to Canada in 2000.
I couldn’t vote until I became a citizen in November 2004 (although I volunteered for the local Green candidate in the 2004 Federal election). Since then, there have been three Federal elections (2006, 2008, 2011), and two Ontario elections (2007, 2011).
- In 2006, I voted Green. No Green MPs were elected.
- In 2007 (Ontario), I voted Green. No Green MPs were elected.
- In 2008, I voted Green. No Green MPs were elected (our local MP had a good chance in a by-election, before Harper cancelled that with a general election).
- In 2011, I wanted to vote Green. But I was terrified of a Conservative majority. I tried a “vote swap”, and voted for our Liberal candidate, who won. But the Conservatives won a false majority regardless.
- In 2011 (Ontario) election, I voted for the NDP (my candidate didn’t win).
To say I’ve been disillusioned with our voting system is an understatement. I’ve known for years how awful the First Past the Post system is, how badly it skews voter intention. That’s why I made this site.
I followed the referendum for MMP in Ontario, and watched how badly that effort unfolded. The Liberals didn’t really back it, Elections Ontario wasn’t funded properly to educate people, and the question itself was confusing.
I’m frustrated. I’ve always voted. But I’ve never felt that it really counted.
And in the meantime, I’ve watched Canada, this country I fell in love with and decided to move to, fall to a virulent, win-at-all-costs, Republican/neo-conservative ideology under Harper.
A party that claims to be “conservative”, but is anything but (yet former Progressive-Conservative supporters still vote for them because… well, who knows why? I honestly don’t think they really know what they’re voting for half the time, they just vote that way out of tradition and misinformation). A party that seems to care more about Big Oil, corporate subsidies, and tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy, and wilfully ignores the environment, despises public services like the CBC and health care, and has been ignoring education. A party that centralizes power in the PMO, lies to Canadians, scoffs at election laws, builds expensive prisons and buys overpriced jets, joins wars, tacitly endorses torture, and has made our country among the very worst offenders on climate change talks.
The election of Elizabeth May in 2011, and the NDP’s surge in Quebec, was small consolation for the false majority government we ended up with. What good is gains like that when they effectively have 0% of power? And I’m intimately familiar with how vote-splitting in a relatively few number of ridings caused the CPC majority to happen.
Nathan Cullen came to my attention in January.
His proposal – joint nomination meetings in Conservative-held seats – spoke to me. It makes sense. From a purely logical point of view, if we want to remove Harper, the only safe way to do so is for the opposition parties to work together strategically for mutual gain.
I know some in the NDP might consider being “forced” to vote for a Liberal in their riding anathema, but here’s the thing: there’s time to grow the NDP numbers. If you can swing your riding to be more NDP than Liberal, great – win that nomination meeting and get an NDP candidate to vote for! If not, the safe, smart thing to do is to remove the element of vote-splitting, and support a candidate that isn’t Conservative. Our voting system has been twisting voter choice for too long. Winning a progressive majority so we can fix our voting system once and for all is key.
Cullen was – and still is – the only candidate in the leadership race proposing a cooperative approach to politics to defeat Harper. But as I read more about him, I learned he was so much more.
He was the NDP’s environment and natural resources critic. He opposes Big Oil, standing up to powerful interests with the Enbridge Pipeline, fighting for the communities that stand to be affected by it. He’s pro-business, and has fantastic ideas to keep Canada competitive while also transition us to a much-needed Green economy.
I watched him in debates, then saw him in-person when he visited Kitchener. He is smart, tremendously charismatic, funny, and sincere. He is young and his fresh ideas and optimism surely will draw in at least some of the disillusioned who gave up voting long ago, and attract new members to the NDP. Quebec likes him and his plan for cooperation. He can build working, cooperative relationships with the Liberals and Greens that can give Canada the progressive government we deserve. I dare say he could swing many “small c” conservatives too.
And I think he’d absolutely wipe the floor with Harper in a debate.
He gives me hope – something I’ve had so little of lately.
Please vote for him. And if you can, donate and/or volunteer for his campaign.
For the rally for Nathan Cullen in Kitchener: after receiving some feedback, I’ve refined the design somewhat. There will be two main versions with the “Arrow” graphic or Map, and each can have different slogans and information text beneath. I’m going to try making a leaflet version too.
I hope people like them…
Through my support for Nathan Cullen, I’ve contacted the Citizens for Cross Party Cooperation in Kitchener/Waterloo. I’m hoping to see Nathan in-person when he visits Kitchener on Thursday; it was requested that I try to come up with ideas for materials for that group to show and distribute at the rally.
This is an idea I quickly came up with – just wanted something simple to show how together, the NDP, Liberals, and Greens can win over Conservatives in their ridings (the numbers in this image are from Kitchener Centre).
Don’t have much time before then, but I’d appreciate input on the slogan(s), general look, etc. One person expressed uncertainty over the “Progress. Together.” line, thinking it reminded her of McGuinty and wasn’t sure how NDP supporters might take that (even though she liked the simplicity and meaning of the two words)…
Some other slogans I considered:
- Better Together
- All For One
- Strength in Numbers
- Cooperation = Harper’s Nightmare
- Fight the Conservatives, Not Each Other
- If a Coalition is okay after an election, let’s collaborate before
- Together we Stand, Divided we Fall
Thoughts? Please Tweet me at @orphanedvoter
, or use the comment box below.
Following my previous post in support of Nathan Cullen, I decided to take my cartogram tool, and simulate how Nathan Cullen’s plan might work based on the past election results. I know how public opinion can change, and – who knows – support for the Conservatives may plunge, rendering the idea unnecessary… but I like that Cullen has even proposed it. It shows he can think strategically, and can adapt to changing political realities. Besides, the point here is simply to show visually how cooperation can be mutually beneficial to the NDP and Liberals and Greens.
So, I made 7 maps, showing how ridings may swing from Conservative to NDP or Liberal based on assumptions on how votes might be if a joint candidate was run. I have data using an average of 15-35% of “second choice” being Conservative, to 80-40% being to another NDP/Liberal/Green candidate (weighted to each based on the EKOS data).
Click here to view the tool and read more