Thursday, October 25, 2012

Electoral Boundaries Commissions and proportional representation

Electoral Boundaries Commissions commonly hear some members of the public asking for a more proportional voting system, and reply that the voting system is outside their purview.

The Nova Scotia Commission recently commented on the topic:

"Electoral System Reform

Though it is not part of the Commission’s mandate to study electoral reform or to recommend changes to the current electoral system, there were a number of submissions on this topic in the public consultation process. Reforming the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system was suggested as a means of improving Nova Scotia’s representative democracy, by more accurately translating voter preferences into seats in the legislature. The distortions introduced by the current system, whereby only one member can be elected per constituency, with no allowance made for popular vote totals, can be a disincentive to political participation. This happens because all votes for losing candidates are, in effect, “thrown out,” and only those cast for the winning candidate in each riding count in terms of electing a representative. Some element of proportional representation is recommended as a means to “make every vote count.”

Another rationale for electoral system reform concerns the difficulty of ensuring minority representation under the FPTP system. As noted above, this has become clear in the current electoral redistribution process with regard to Acadian and African Nova Scotian representation. The same point could be made for the small number of women elected to the legislature. Comparative literature on this topic clearly shows that political systems using some form of proportional representation perform better than FPTP systems in terms of minority and female representation in elected legislatures. The use of party lists, quotas, designated seats, and other mechanisms in proportional systems largely accounts for these differences. As well, the dynamics of the system, which tend toward coalition building, would promote more co-operation and accommodation among parties in terms of the legislative agenda.

There appear to be significant democratic benefits to be gained from incorporating some measure of proportional representation into the current FPTP electoral system. This no doubt explains why this option has been recommended by commissions and assemblies in a number of provinces over the past decade. The most popular recommendation in Canada has been to replace the FPTP electoral system with some form of mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, which combines some of the advantages of the existing single-member constituencies with greater proportionality.

The Commission is aware that the serious consideration and recommendation of alternative electoral systems is beyond its mandate. It is also cognizant that the adoption of a new electoral system represents a dramatic change to one of Nova Scotia’s key political institutions. It therefore suggests that the Nova Scotia Legislature initiate a process involving both extensive critical examination and public consultation on the current electoral system as well as possible alternatives to it."

The belt of 11 ridings outside the GTA from Leeds—Grenville to Simcoe—Grey and Muskoka serves well to show the need. In the 2011 election Conservative votes cast 53% of those votes and elected 91% of those 11 MPs. NDP voters cast 21% and elected no one. Liberal voters cast 19% of those votes but, thanks to them being concentrated in Kingston, elected one MP. Green Party voters cast 5%. Under the model recommended by the Law Commission of Canada in 2004, with seven local MPs and four regional MPs, if Liberal voters still elected one local MP, the results would have been six local Conservative MPs, one local Liberal MP, 2 regional NDP MPs, one regional Liberal MP, and one regional Green MP (assuming the highest remainder calculation method).  The regional MPs for each party would have been the party’s regional candidates who got the most regional votes.

Will the current Federal Boundaries Commissions consider making a similar recommendation? We can always ask.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Were most of the NDP’s 58 Quebec MPs “poteaux"?

Were most of the NDP’s new 58 Quebec MPs elected in 2011 “poteaux?” (Token candidates, or “fence posts” as they are called in Quebec.)

At the hugely attended remembrance yesterday for the late Patty Park, I ran into a respected NDP elder statesman, normally very knowledgeable, who had bought that media myth.

Other than Mulcair, those 58 were (with their ages on election day):

Eight Initial Stars (of which four were previous candidates)

Nycole Turmel, 68, a senior NDP and union activist for 20 years, past associate president (Labour) of the federal NDP, past president of PSAC, whom Jack Layton drafted out of semi-retirement to run in Hull-Aylmer (where Pierre Ducasse had run in 2008 and had won the Student Vote). Became Caucus Chair, then interim Leader, now Whip.

Former Liberal MP Françoise Boivin, 50, NDP candidate in 2008 (and won the Student Vote), lawyer, now shadow cabinet Justice Critic.

Romeo Saganash, 48, past Deputy Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, then Director of Quebec relations for it; now Shadow Cabinet critic for International Cooperation.

Alexandre Boulerice, 38, ran in 2008, a senior officer of Quebec NDP, communications adviser for the Quebec division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, now Shadow Cabinet critic for Labour.

Robert Aubin, 50, local star in Trois-Rivières nominated well in advance, teacher, union rep for his high school. Became Critic for La Francophonie. Now associate critic for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Guy Caron, 42, researcher and economist with CEP, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union. He was president of the University of Ottawa Student Federation and became president of the Canadian Federation of Students in 1994, and has a Master's degree in economics. He was born and raised in Rimouski where he ran for the NDP in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011. Became Quebec Caucus Chair and Shadow Cabinet critic for Industry, now associate critic for Finance.

Raymond Côté, 44, ran in 2006 & 2008 in Quebec City area. President of the Parents Committee of the Capital School Board from 2005 to 2007, NDP spokesman in regional media, became Shadow Cabinet critic for Small Business and Tourism.

Tyrone Benskin, 52, National Vice President of ACTRA for 12 years and artistic director of Montreal's Black Theatre Workshop, became Shadow Cabinet critic for Canadian Heritage, now associate critic for Official Languages.

14 more previous candidates (of whom five are now in shadow cabinet)

Anne-Marie Day, 57, ran in 2008, was co-chair of the federal NDP Policy Committee. As President of the Regroupement des groupes de femmes de la Capitale-Nationale, she signed the first two agreements specifically related to the status of women in the Quebec capital region in 2006 and 2010. Master's degree in local and regional development, director of women's employment centre. Now Shadow Cabinet critic for Employment Insurance.

Hoang Mai, 38, ran in 2008 when he was treasurer of the Quebec wing of the party (and won the Student Vote); lawyer with a Master’s degree in law; born in Quebec of Vietnamese parents; soccer coach, elected in his home riding in a Montreal suburb. Now Shadow Cabinet critic for National Revenue.

François Lapointe, 40, project coordinator. Ran in 2009 by-election in Lower St. Lawrence region. Now Shadow Cabinet critic for Small Business and Tourism.

Philip Toone, 45, ran in 2000 & 2004, notary in Gaspésie. Deputy Whip; and Associate Critic for East Coast Fisheries and Oceans.

Christine Moore, 27, ran in 2006 and 2008. Was Medical Assistant in armed forces; “until the day before the election, I was working in a small health care centre as a clinical nurse in the intensive care unit and the emergency room” in her northern Quebec riding. Became Shadow Cabinet Critic for Military Procurement and National Defence (Associate Minister), now associate critic for National Defence.

Alain Giguère, 52, elected after running in 1984 and every election since 1993, Montreal tax lawyer. Associate critic for pensions.

Denis Blanchette, 54, ran in 2006 and 2008 in Quebec City (and won the Student Vote in 2008), computer analyst, public servant, now Associate Critic for Public Works and Government Services.

Anne Minh-Thu Quach, 28, ran in 2008. High School teacher, served three years on the regional teacher’s union executive committee and represented it on the general council of the central CSQ; born in Canada of Vietnamese parents. Now Associate Critic for Environment.

Alexandrine Latendresse, 27, ran in 2008, getting 5,252 votes against Quebec City Minister Josee Verner before defeating her in 2011. Worked for Guy Caron in Rimouski and for Mulcair in the 2007 by-election. A dedicated environmental activist, she worked as a naturalist at the Ecology Centre in Port-Au-Saumon. Has a degree in Russian Studies from Laval University, also studied Languages, History and Political Science at Moscow State University. Associate critic for Democratic Reform.

Francine Raynault, 66, ran in 2008 in Joliette. Since the federal riding of Joliette is 36% the City of Joliette, another 12% small towns, and 52% rural, she is the NDP’s only really rural Quebec MP (although Philip Toone's riding is less than half urban). A founding member of the Syndicat des agricultrices de Lanaudière, a founding member of the local section of the Union des producteurs agricoles, entrepreneur, executive secretary, farmer, property supervisor, real estate agent, union organiser. President of a regional seniors' group, and has eight grand-children. She was regional president and provincial vice-president of the feminist group AFEAS (Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale). Great-niece of Adhémar Raynault, mayor of Montréal (1936-1938, 1940-1944) and member of the National Assembly of Québec (1936-1939). Her partner (retired teacher Jacques Trudeau) was the NDP candidate in Joliette in 1979 (when still a student), 1980, 1981 (byelection), 1984 in a different riding, 1997 in Joliette, 2004 and 2006. Far from an accidental MP. Raynault got 47.3% against the 34% of Pierre Paquette, so she was a giant-killer: Paquette was House Leader and Duceppe's heir-apparent, but eventually declined to run to replace him.

François Pilon, 52, ran in 2004, 2006, 2008, union local vice-president in Montreal for seven years.

François Choquette, 37, ran in 2006, adult education teacher in Drummondville, has a master’s degree in literature and has been the director of multicultural theatre troupe.

Jonathan Tremblay, 26, ran in 2008 in his home riding in Quebec City area, brickmason.

Jean Rousseau, 49, ran in 2008 in his home riding in Sherbooke area (and won the Student Vote), industrial relations counsellor and minor hockey coach. Now Shadow Cabinet critic for Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

12 Credible new candidates now in Shadow Cabinet

Sadia Groguhé, 48, was a municipal councillor in France from 1995 to 2000, and anticipated becoming an MP there. Born in Marseille (France) to Algerian parents, arrived in Canada in 2005. She has a master's degree in psychology and works as a guidance counselor. Deputy House Leader, and associate critic for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

Hélène Leblanc, 53, agronomist and project manager, was teacher and museum guide, candidate for Projet Montreal for borough councillor. Now Shadow Cabinet critic for Industry; was Critic for Science and Technology.

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, 55, Archaeologist and museum guide in Montreal, co-founder of her union, union officer, M.A. (Anthropology). Now Shadow cabinet Critic for Housing, previously for Skills Development.

Pierre Dionne Labelle, 55, was President of the Association des artistes de la musique et du spectacle Laurentides; active in anti-poverty group, columnist. Native of Saint-Jérôme where he still lives, in the riding of Rivière-du-Nord (where the NDP won the Student Vote in 2008). Shadow cabinet Critic for Francophonie, previously associate critic for CRTC, Copyright and Digital Issues. “I have a bump here that dates back to the first lockout I took part in at Commonwealth Plywood some 30 years ago.”

Marie-Claude Morin, 26, a community development coordinator in Saint-Hyacinthe, and an actress (with a diploma in theatre). Shadow Cabinet Critic for Housing, and Chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Mathieu Ravignat, 38, MA in political science, ran in his home riding of Pontiac (where the NDP won the Student Vote in 2008), worked for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council focusing on aboriginal and environmental issues. Shadow Cabinet critic for Treasury Board, previously for Public Works and Government Services, previously associate critic for International Trade.

Hélène Laverdière, 56, Foreign-service officer, Ph.D. Critic for Americas and Consular Affairs.

Matthew Dubé 23, ran in his home riding of Chambly--Borduas, was president of Quebec Young New Democrats and co-president of McGill NDP, BA in political science and history, volunteer coach for local hockey and soccer teams. Now shadow cabinet critic for Sports, was associate critic for Post-secondary Education.

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, 27, an accidental MP but was a native of her riding (so not really a "poteau") in West Montreal, Pierrefonds--Dollard (where the NDP won the Student Vote in 2008), campaigned minimally by commuting from Trois-Rivieres where she was doing a Master’s degree and working in a community-based organization that advocates to help people living in poverty improve their quality of life. Now Shadow Cabinet Critic for Seniors, previously associate critic for seniors.

Pierre Nantel, 47, researcher and commentator at TVA and Radio-Canada, worked with Cirque du Soleil for twenty years. Nominated the previous year, in a Longueuil nomination contested by Dr. Djaouida Sellah. Was critic for Sport (Minister of State), now Shadow Cabinet critic for Canadian Heritage.

Manon Perreault, 45, was a municipal councillor for seven years, trainer and administrator. Shadow Cabinet critic for Persons with Disabilities.

Claude Patry, 57, president of large Alcan union local in Saguenay, became Shadow Cabinet critic for Employment Insurance.

17 more credible new candidates

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain, 31, lawyer, Innu band member, municipal candidate in 2009 in Sept-Iles, ran in home riding on remote north shore of Gulf of St. Lawrence. Now associate critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Paulina Ayala, 48, teacher, first Chilean woman elected to the House of Commons; fought in Chile for democracy and respect for human rights, a leader in the student movement and in citizens’ rights organizations under the Pinochet dictatorship, immigrated to Canada in 1995. Became shadow cabinet Critic for Americas (Minister of State), now Associate critic.

Dr. Djaouida Sellah, of Algerian origins coming to Canada in 1998, President of the Quebec Association of Doctors Graduated outside Canada and the United States, and co-president of the Quebec NDP Women's Committee. Elected in the south shore suburb of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert (where the NDP won the Student vote in 2008.) Associate critic for health.

Tarik Brahmi, 42, born in Lyon (France) of Algerian ancestry, came to Quebec in 2002, engineer, active environmentalist, public servant. Ran for municipal council in 2009. Ran in home riding of Saint-Jean south of Montreal (where the NDP won the Student Vote in 2008), says he was elected MP despite his "Arabic name, his French accent and his baldness.” Became associate critic for Consumer Protection.

Sylvain Chicoine, 40, ran in his home riding. Security officer, worked two days a week for the union for security guards for six years, member of the union executive. Became associate critic for Public Safety, now for Veterans Affairs.

Jamie Nicholls, 40, ran in home riding, owner at Jamie Nicholls Landscape Architects, first joined the NDP at age 18 and worked on Mulcair's last two campaigns. Associate critic for Natural Resources, previously for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Annick Papillon, 30, journaIist and public servant, from a political family in Quebec City region where she ran (her father was the campaign organizer for her Liberal opponent). Associate critic for Consumer Protection, previously for Veterans Affairs.

Dany Morin (Chicoutimi-LeFjord), 25, chiropractor, ran in his home riding, associate critic for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues.

Ève Péclet, 22, law graduate, an impressive head-table presenter at the Vancouver convention, organized Amnesty International group while in high school, joined the NDP at age 18, worked in previous campaigns, her uncle had been an NDP candidate, she always thought of becoming an MP one day, Amnesty International Chairperson at law school, campaigned in her riding. Now associate critic for Foreign Affairs.

Rosane Doré Lefebvre, 26, joined party four years earlier, environmental activist with a degree in political science and geography, ran in her home riding, was a retail shop assistant about to begin Masters in Environmental Management, was a Master of Ceremonies at the 2012 leadership convention, now associate critic for Public Safety.

Pierre-Luc Dusseault, 19, president of university NDP club, ran in his home riding. Now Chair, Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Pierre Jacob, 58, ran in his home riding, college teacher and lawyer, retired criminologist, member of Quebec NDP Environment Committee.

Marc-André Morin (Laurentides-Labelle), 60, ran in his home riding where he is editor of a Citizens’ Journal, born in the Laurentide region to a politically active family, claims not to be a political neophyte having been involved fighting locally to preserve trail areas from development.

Réjean Genest, 65, ran in his home riding, a gardener for 40 years, has written on horticultural and agricultural issues for 12 years, has produced the website, taught organic agriculture in a school of herbology, has travelled throughout Quebec as a judge for the Villes, Villages et Campagnes flower contest for 15 years.

Isabelle Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grace–Lachine), 27, high school teacher of French language education and drama at a school in the riding, President of the NDP Youth Caucus, cyclist and transit advocate.

Élaine Michaud, 25, a public servant in the Quebec City region where she was elected, campaigned in the riding. She calls herself a « career politician » because she has been an active NDP volunteer since age 18.

José Nunez-Melo, 54, Quebec public servant, Steward of the Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec, publisher. Born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he was administrator of a large hotel complex in Puerto Plata. Immigrated to Canada in 1990 and earned a Bachelor’s degree in management.

7 Talented “poteaux” (one of whom is now in Shadow Cabinet)

Charmaine Borg, 20, McGill NDP co-president, was labour relations officer for the Association of McGill University Support Employees. Franco-Ontarian, in 2008 received the Ontario Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award for founding a drama program for at-risk youth. Shadow Cabinet critic for Copyright and Digital Issues. Did not campaign in her suburban riding.

Laurin Liu, 21, co-president of Quebec Young New Democrats, was Vice-President of Internet Communications, founded NDP club in CEGEP, McGill NDP officer, parachuted into suburban Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. Became associate critic for Environment, now for Science and Technology. Did not campaign in her riding.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau, 27, “Vegas”; did not campaign. Has flourished and excelled in her accidental role, and is now associate critic for Agriculture.

Mylène Freeman, 22, was Projet Montreal candidate for councillor in Outremont, parachuted into Argenteuil--Papineau—Mirabel, research assistant, editorial assistant, president of NDP McGill, Franco-Ontarian. Did not campaign in her riding.

Jean-François Larose, 39, parachuted into a suburban riding. Was Vice-President of his union local.

Sana Hassainia, 36, did not campaign in her riding. Came from Tunisia to Canada in 2000, got Master’s in French Literature and Language in Tunisia, has a certificate in Journalism from the University of Montreal, has been an Editor, French teacher, printer, project leader, radio host. Was three months pregnant at her election, gave birth to a son on 14 November 2011. In February, 2012, brought her three-month-old son, Skander-Jack, into the chamber for a vote related to the abolition of the long-gun registry.

Lise St-Denis, 71, ran in 2008 in her home riding, retired teacher, parachuted into Saint Maurice in 2011 as a “poteau,” an unhappy accidental MP who then joined the Liberals.