What's your prescription?

How can we make our democracy more responsive, relevant, inviting and inspiring?

All across the world, people are organising for positive change. They're fighting for better voting systems, participatory budgets, democratised schools, campaign finance rules, reclaiming public spaces, horizontal power structures, less partisanship and local neighbourhood democracy.

Which ideas excite you? Please provide any links you can (groups, articles, interviews, etc).

And what are your ideas? If you could change ONE thing, to transform our democracy... what would it be?

Please share!


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Replace the Senate with a People's Assembly

What if we replaced unelected the red chamber with a People's Assembly?

Step 1: Abolish the senate in its current form; feel no regret

Step 2: Divert one year's Senate funding toward the construction of a People's Assembly residence within walking distance of Parliament Hill (furnish it with individual suites, bikes, a cafeteria, and a pool)

Step 3: Establish a formula for randomly selecting Canadians to serve as Assembly members on one month terms (build diversity into the formula); start recruiting for a series of scheduled sessions

Step 4: Permanently divert Senate funding to the maintenance of the People's Assembly; provide ongoing funding to bring groups of 60-100 Assembly people to Ottawa to serve one month terms reviewing legislation proposed by the House of Commons

Step 5: Make it possible for the  People's Assembly to conduct their work in the former Senate Chamber; assign professional researchers (from the Library of Parliament) to brief Assembly people; allow Assembly people to call expert witnesses as they see fit; give the Assembly authority to send any legislation back to Parliament for amendment

 

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Let me choose where my tax $ are spent

I file my taxes online like many, perhaps most, Canadians do.  

What I'd like to see is a page that gives me high level choices about how I'd like my tax dollars allocated.  A certain amount has to go to 'keeping the lights on', but there are many places where voters could give direct choices.  Perhaps I'd like to see more money go to Education than to the Military, or to Health Care, or the Environment.  Being able to record my choices would give me a direct say and a sense of ownership and commitment to it.

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Another Senate Reform

Our Senate is based on geography; there is a certain number of Senators from each Province and they have to own real estate in that Province to qualify.  In the days when our Parliament was designed that made sense because our country was regionally divided and a large number of people were farmers.  Wealth was defined by owning land and our economy was based on Agriculture and resources. Getting from one end of the country to the other was arduous and time consuming. Communicating with one another involved someone physically carrying a letter over long distances.

Our reality today is different. We are still somewhat regionally divided, but there are many groups that share characteristics just as important as those which define our regions that are widely dispersed across the country.  As an example, consider people with disabilities.  Statistics tell us that 1 in 7 of us has a disability and that the percentage is growing.  Yet a group that forms less than 15% of the population in a constituency rarely gets a voice let alone a seat at the table.  While the challenges faced by disabled citizens in a rural town on the prairies are somewhat different than those faced by someone in Toronto, they have much in common and in our modern connected world they often do share experiences through national organizations and social media.

I propose that a number of Senate seats be created to specifically represent these communities.  I suggest that any community that can identify members in each Province, define the characteristics that make them a distinct group, and get a significant number of signatures on a membership roster (say 50,000 for example), should be considered for a Senate seat.  This could be done by petitioning the Governor General and the seat should be voted on by the existing Senate.  Once the seat is created the group itself should identify their Senator by a fair electoral process. 

I think this would lead to more people feeling that their specific circumstances and issues are being addressed and their voices heard in debate.  When choosing an MP/Party we get a single vote and it's often based on just a few issues; rarely does one person or party platform match all of our desires.

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Reform Canadian Senate

A Canadian Senate made up of ordinary citizens, picked by a lottery. Each province could run there own. Certain criteria would probably need to be met, like age, education level and legal status. No need to radically change our constitution. No appointments by a Prime Minister!

 

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The Value of Matters/Word Matters/Image Matters/Caring Matters

I believe the only way to live in hope is by knowing my friends, neighbours, community.  It is important to reach out, be a friend, make a friend, define friendship.  On Sunday evenings, The Cabbagetown Community Music Centre offers a jam session to those that love to play and instrument and sing.  It is greater than its own circle, it is the force that builds community, connects.  The Soka Gakkai International (meaning Society for the Creation of Value) offers conversation and encouragement to those seeking a better world, a betterment of themselves through the philosophy of the 13th century sage Nichiren.  The Secret Handshake Gallery offers a place for artists diagnosed with schizophrenia to come and create.  How can people consider change, like a better voting system, democratised schools, reclaiming public spaces etc, if they can't articulate their own concerns and vision.  I am excited by those who reach out and teach on a grass roots level like the Stop Community food Centre that not only offers meals to hungry people, but a place to grow food in 2 public parks.  I believe when people sing together, write and then offer their poetry, prose, ideas, pictographs, cartoons and other forms of expression, we have started to take the first step on the road to a greater world.  Let's humanize each other and then decide for the group, what is it that the group needs?  If we, as a society, don't start with one another, the rest of it becomes an exercise in intellectualism.  I like action, I like people, I like society and I love this world and our Mother Earth.  We are all stewards!!!

 

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Honey for votes

I hear it every year there’s an election: “It’s your civic duty as a citizen to vote.” And every time after the election is finished and I read about the voter turnout, I realized that civic duty was not enough.

If duty alone is not working, we may be left with either negative or positive reinforcement to change the behaviour.

Compulsory voting is enforced in some countries around the world most notably in Australia, Argentina and Brazil. In Australia a citizen can be fined between $20 to $50 for not voting!

A quick look on Wikipedia reveals that the voter turnout in the last national election in Australia was 94%, 82% in Argentina and 80% in Brazil. Compared to 61% in Canada and 58% in the US.

While the high voter turnout in compulsory voting countries is evident, the idea of the government forcing its citizens to vote seems paradoxically anti-democratic since it infringes on the rights and freedoms associated with a democracy.

My Remedy: “Remunerated Voting”.

In a Remunerated Voting democracy citizens would be rewarded for voting.  That’s right! Voters would be compensated and recognized for their time and effort to understand and select candidates.

Instead of wasting millions of federal dollars in party propaganda, voters could be rewarded with say $50 for first timers to $100 for frequent voters.  

As the  proverb goes, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar".

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Listening to One Another at the Local Level

This is part of an article that I wrote for the ICA International newsletter, Winds and Waves, which will be published in the next few weeks.

"I believe that facilitating methods that guide local people to think beneath the surface and listen to each other can give us a way forward.  In 2002, Margaret Wheatley wrote a book “Turning to One Another”.  She urged people to gather their neighbours and have dialogue around kitchen tables.  She didn’t say how to have those conversations, but her idea is a vital one.  The hard part is finding and inviting people who think very differently to come together.

Once they come together (over food if possible), the “talking stick’  tool  supports  dialogue.  Sitting in a circle, each person has a turn holding the stick, and speaks without interruption while holding it.   When finished, they had the stick to the next person in the circle.  More than one round is possible so that all the ideas are out on the table.

The Focused Conversation method helps people listen to each other, keeps a conversation moving, and digs beneath the surface for deeper understanding.  The decisional level doesn’t have to be complete agreement.

Guiding any process on a difficult topic does require the facilitator to be totally detached from his or her own opinions. The facilitator must be prepared to intervene if anyone starts to cut someone off or argue with them, referring back to any ground rules set at the beginning.  

I once said to the members of a City Council, “If you ask people for their wisdom and you really listen, they will think YOU are wise!  And they will re-elect you!"

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More recognition of how technology can help citizens stay informed

What I really want are Canadian equivalents of the following resources promoting direct, active democracy in the US:

  1. Call the Halls guide by Emily Ellsworth - https://gumroad.com/l/callthehallsguide - this former congressional staffer's tweets containing advice on how to effectively contact American politicians went viral after the election. "Call the Halls" is a revised, expanded eBook containing advice for US citizens about researching and contacting their members of congress, as well as useful scripts and email templates, information about town hall meetings and more. It also includes worksheets that readers can print out and complete to keep track of their progress and research.

  2. Email newsletters with activist suggestions like those provided by My Civic Workout (https://www.mycivicworkout.com/) and Flippable.org (https://www.flippable.org/). Both of these organizations send recurring emails with suggestions about activities they can undertake to address pressing political issues, whether it's calling politicians about bills under debate, contacting rights and advocacy organizations, and more.

  3. The Countable app (https://www.countable.us/): "Countable makes it quick and easy to understand the laws Congress is considering. We also streamline the process of contacting your lawmaker, so you can tell them how you want them to vote on bills under consideration." You can search for information based on your location or on which issues are important to you.

Now that the US election is over, activists that I follow on Twitter are full of ideas and advice on what lawmakers to contact, what phone numbers to call, and what to say about upcoming legislation. There has been no equivalent groundswell of advice for Canadians who are equally curious about how to improve things in their country. If engineers, developers, and marketers in Canada were able to take the frameworks provided by the tools above and adapt them to the Canadian context, I think it could lead to a lot more transparency and engagement.

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Institutionalising dialogue support for politicians

Good evening, 

My idea is that we should use mediation and dialogue experts to help politicians engage in more constructive and inclusive dialogues to represent the majority interest.

Eventually this type of support should also be a requirement in the process of policy-making: each piece of reform or legislation would be assigned a mediator who would ensure there is proper consultation and representation as well as quality conversations leading to an agreement to disagree sometimes but an agreement that is embraced by all.

First though is to focus on Parliament and the Government and try to fly away from polarisation, welcoming professional mediators that would help political parties to deliver for the country and the world. Eventually that would spread to a culture of dialogue throughout.

Florence 

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Eliminate political donation tax credit and increase voter subsidies

1) I'd like to see research on how much the political donation tax credit costs each level of government.

2) The vote subsidy should be dramatically increased, possibly to an equivalent amount of tax revenue lost due to political donation tax credits such that there's no net change in cost to the government. This would literally ensure everyone's vote matters regardless of their socio-economic status and provide a powerful free market incentive for politicians to be engaged with their communities. 

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Why not BOTH Ranked Ballot AND Proportional Representation?

How it would work.

In a Ranked Ballot system, voters rank local candidates 1-2-3 and the bottom vote getter drops out at each counting and his or her supporters' 2nd ranked selection gets added to the remaining candidates vote count until one candidate has a majority (50%+1) of votes.

In Proportional Representation, typically additional candidates are assigned to parties whose number of elected MPs are below their popular support. These are often referred to as at-large representatives because they are not necessarily tied to one riding.

In my proposal, we would first run each riding election on a Ranked Ballot system.  Whoever wins with a majority of Ranked Ballot votes gets elected.

Then we assign at-large candidates based on the proportion of 1st rank votes (that is, regardless of whether your candidate dropped out on the first count and your vote assigned to your 2nd or 3rd preference). 

We can put limits on minimum voter support and all that, but basically, your 1st ranked vote decides how many representatives get assigned for the Proportional Representation round.

My preference if a form of Close Runner Proportional Representation (I have a separate post on Runner Up PR on this site), where the party bosses don't choose the at-large members, the voters do.  Basically the candidates who lost by the smallest margins get assigned to the at-large seats, so nobody gets into Parliament without running for a seat.

 

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Politica Donation Democratization (Political Financing Reform)

Ontario is currently looking at reforming its Political Financing Rules after the ruling Liberals got caught in a newspaper expose. Going with the Federal regime would be a good start, but there are other ways of improving the system.  This is just one suggestion among many things we could do.

`Money`should not be `Speech`in Canada.

What if we put all donations, of whatever amount, into one giant pool.  Each person who donates into the pool gets one vote of where the money should go. We then divide the pool among Political Parties and/or candidates according to the percentage of votes.

Donate lots, and you risk having some of your money parceled out to people you don`t like.  We set a floor for a minimum donation to get a vote (don`t want people donating other people`s money for a buck (it should be an amount you would not donate as a joke - say $20).  Eventually, people will start to aim to donate near the average`amount if they don`t want other people to benefit from their donations.

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Political Donation Blind Trust (Political Financing Reform)

Ontario is currently looking at reforming its Political Financing Rules after the ruling Liberals got caught in a newspaper expose.  Going with the Federal regime would be a good start, but there are other ways of improving the system.  This is just one suggestion among many things we could do.

Political Donation Blind Trust

Right now a rich individuals (or Corporation or Union, unless/until they are banned) can donate lots of money to lots of politicians at different levels. I suggest this system:

1) A cap on how much any one individual Donor can contribute to all parties and candidates in total in a year. The Donor can give all the money to the Party, or split it up between the Party and the local candidate, or between different Parties

2) Instead of donating directly to the Party or candidate, the money is issued to a Blind Trust, which issues the tax receipt.  The receipt can state the amount of the donation for tax purposes, but doesn't specify the recipient(s).

3) Without a way to prove you donated to a particular politician/Party, how can you get a quid pro quo? I could donate to the Conservatives and tell the governing Liberals that my donation was for them, how would they know?

4) No more meet and greets tied to donations

5) The Blind Trust distributes donations to the politicians/Parties without disclosing who the donors are.

6) We can pay for the cost of administering the Blind Trust from thee donations. No cost to taxpayers

 

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A Triple S Senate. Senate Selection by Sortition.

Very simple. Every year, 1/6th of a province's Senators would have their terms end and their positions would become open.

Rather than appoint Senators, or even electing them, we pick them at random from all Canadians of voting age. 

Canadians could decline the nomination, but random selection would ensure that real everyday Canadians would get to look over our laws and proposals and stop the more silly aspects of the more silly laws.

Since only 1/6th are renewed each year, there would always be a body of Senators with experience, and since 6 years would be a term, career Senators would be impossible. 

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Mandatory voting with NOTA

Simple; make a law that says everyone has to vote.

One big problem with this is what if - for example - a socialist ends up with 3 capitalist parties on his ballot?

Also simple; add a NOTA option. None Of The Above. If NOTA wins the election, the seat is vacant, and a by-election will need to be held later.

This can be coupled with some form of alternative vote, some form of proportional representation, some form of voting on different days (like a weekend) or simply keeping everything as it is, monday FPTP.

I feel that without a NOTA option, mandatory voting is unethical, so by adding it, we remove that ethical problem, and as such, I feel this is a great idea.

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Replace Senate with Assembly of First Nations

...Or find some way to properly integrate First Nations voices into the Federal Gov. decision making.  Maybe ask AFN what they envision first -- could be a certain number of set seats etc. 

 

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Force Government Bureaucracies, Including CSIS and CSEC to be Accountable to Canadian Taxpayers

Earlier this year, I reviewed the Canadian Security and Intelligence Services web page which is supposed to inform the Canadian General Public about Terrorism and related security issues in Canada.  I found that the article had numerous and very significant omissions about some influential, Middle East dictatorships and the huge amount of support that these dictatorships provide to Islamic Extremist terrorists operating in many parts of the world. 

I prepared a sixteen page letter which outlined the major omissions that I had observed, backed up with an 80 page supporting document which I wrote using highly credible references, and sent the letter to the Director of CSIS, cc. Prime Minister Steven Harper, Mr. Thomas Mulcair and Mr. Justin Trudeau.  The 16 page letter included numerous questions related to each major omission, including requests for answers as to why the correct information was not being provided to the Canadian general public on the CSIS public web page. 

Three months later, I received a one page letter from CSIS with non-answers (e.g. we cannot discuss this for confidentiality reasons).  To date, I have never received any response from any of the three major political parties in Canada. 

This is just one example of how a very important and expensive bureaucracy which is supposed to be safeguarding security for all Canadian citizens and taxpayers yet is misleading the Canadian public by complying with political partisan dictates.  Until organizations such as CSIS and CSEC are forced to operate independent of political partisanship and are thoroughly and regularly 'audited' by politically independent and competent oversight committees, our tax dollars will continue to be used for highly unethical and dishonest purposes. 

It seems that the only way Canadians will be able to enforce appropriate levels of oversight will be to implement a common, American Business System (American B.S.) approach and implement class action lawsuits against the individuals (e.g. Directors) who are responsible for operating these organizations.

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Encourage News Media to Report Honestly

I regularly read, listen to and watch news media publications, including CBC, BBC, Globe and Mail, National Post, The Guardian and the Washington Post.  I have observed that Canadian News Media publications, including the Canadian taxpayer subsidized CBC (approximately 62% of their operating budget), often does not provide their customers with fully honest information.  In some instances, their is deliberate misleading information which complies with political party, partisan rhetoric.  In general, I find that BBC is one of the best news media outlets as it tends to provide in-depth, honest background information about major events which influence and affect millions of people's lives in many parts of the world. 

If Canadian News Media would provide their audiences with more honest and ethical news coverage about important issues and events which affect Canadian citizens lives and the country's future, I strongly believe that this would assist us in regaining democratic principles and actions amongst politicians in all political parties.  Honest and ethical news coverage of important events and issues will help to hold politicians and bureaucrats to account.

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Ranked Ballots, Online Voting & Plebiscites

Ranked ballots for all of the reasons already stated; especially to avoid wasted strategic votes (e.g. Chow/Tory) and to eliminate the situation where a majority can be achieved with only ~35% of the vote. It would also help to elevate the level of discourse while campaigning as candidates/parties would attempt to be a second choice.

Online voting to encourage younger & time pressed voters to participate in the democratic process and to more easily enable more economical plebiscites for critical issues. ~91% (2013) of the population has internet access. We securely access banks and tax records online, online voting shouldn't be a problem.

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Start with the political parties

I'm the founder of the Federalist party of Canada. I don't want to run it or lead it or run as a candidate. But I do want to be an active member in a political party where by direct democracy I have my say and vote in the Party's constitution, by-laws, and policy resolutions. All registered members of the party are members of the National Assembly. The approval of this assembly is required for all by-laws and all policy resolutions. The Assembly votes twice a year by online voting. I founded the Federalist party of Canada in August of 2009 and have kept at it for 6 years though I'm the only active member.

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Crowd-source e-democracy

A group in Yellowknife is trying to create, 'The world's first-ever direct e-democracy.'

Their idea is to run a slate of candidates (for city council) who will harness the enabling power of technology to empower citizens to influence and even decide how they (collectively) vote on the more controversial decisions. They're building a web platform/tool to run referendums online. It's an innovative experiment from Canada's North.

IserveU, made-in-Yellowknife website, aims at crowdsourcing democracy (CBC)

www.iserveu.ca

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What if we voted Senators "Out" instead of "In"?

Call it Survivor, Centre Block Edition.  There are currently 105 Senate Seats, distributed by Regions:

Ontario - 24 Seats; Quebec - 24 Seats; Maritimes (excluding NFLD) - 24 Seats (N.B. - 10; N.S. - 10; P.E.I - 4); Western Provinces - 24 (6 per Province); Newfoundland & Labrador - 6; Territories - 3 (one per Territory)

Suppose, at each election, the voters in each region (or Province) is able to "retire" one Senator from their own region.  The ballot question might look something like this:

  Which, if any, of the following sitting Senators from your region should retire from the Senate after this election?

   a) Servative, Connie) (CPC) (appointed 2012)

   b) Earl, Libby (Lib.) (appointed 1986)

   c) Pea, Andy (NDP) (appointed 2018)

   d) Green, Pardy (Grn) (appointed 2020)

   e) Pendant, Indy (Ind) (appointed 2022)

    ...
   m) None of the Above (Keep all sitting Senators)

*Note: There are currently no "Liberal" (all kicked out of caucus), "NDP", or "Green" Senators, of course.  I'm just trying to show an unbiased example.

I would put the year of appointment on the ballot so voters can have an easy way to decide which Senator is getting "a little long in the tooth." 

Any Senator who announces, before the election, their intention to "retire" (for "health", "personal" reasons, whatever) will be held to their word and removed from the ballot.  This will set up a dynamic where a bad apple looking avoid personal humiliation will open their colleagues to additional risk -- a good push and pull.  We could give Senators appointed less than two years a break by taking them off the ballot (to give rookies a chance to establish their worth), or just throw them out for judgment along with everyone else.

If we could only eliminate one Senator per region or Province per election, a lot of the most egregious scandal- and gaff-prone behaviors would diminish.  I would go so far as to say eliminating just one at a time might be better that getting rid of them by the bunches.  After all, it is way more embarrassing to be singled out as the lone "loser" out of a field than being able to blame those fickle voters.  There is no doubt, when we get rid of just one person, that the voters think you are the worse.  If there are two notorious Senators, either the "runner-up" will shape up over the next 4 years, or their colleagues can give a sigh of relief.

If they know that they can be voted off, Senators will have to work harder at, not just working hard at whatever it is they do in Committee, but communicate better with voters about what they are doing to earn their place in the Senate, as well.  It will no longer be good enough to say you voted with your Party, or even that you showed up for votes from time to time.  When the really bad apples are gone, Senators may have to take up causes just to get enough positive press to avoid the chopping block.  They will have to become "the Veterans Advocate"; "the Arts Advocate"; "the Native Affairs Advocate"; "the Security Issues Specialist", etc. so that voters won't think of them as deadwood.  It will give individual Senators something useful to do without directly competing with the elected House of Commons. 

Party Leaders can signal displeasure with particular Senators, by kicking someone out of the Party caucus, without turning Senators into sock-puppet rubberstamps for Party policy.  (Personally, I find Justin Trudeau's removal of all Liberal Senators a rather useless, and somewhat opportunistic exercise.)  If a Party Leader turfs a Senator and the voters keeps that person, but votes out another Senator from the Party, it can be a way to rebuke a high-handed Party Leader.  

One of the reasons the NDP prefers to abolish, while the Liberals prefer to reform the Senate is that the NDP simply doesn't have any "skin in the game" right now (there are no "Liberal" Senators, as such, but there are Liberal appointed Senators that they can count on for votes).  There are no NDP Senators to upset.  I'm not suggesting the calculations purely mercenary or Machiavellian, but it certainly plays a part.  Vacating a bunch of seats by the "retirement" process will guarantee any incoming government the ability to appoint Senators to represent each Region/Province, which is a good thing.  We probably need to take other steps to address the imbalance in the Senate.

By voting only up to one per region/province out at a time, most of the hardworking Senators will not be constantly following the voters' mood swings as the House of Commons does. Which is what you want, if the Senate is to be a place of "sober second-thought".

The "None of the Above" option needs to be there, or we will be voting perfectly competent, hard-working (future) Senators out, change for change's sake.  Senators in smaller regions/provinces/territories might feel that they are at above average risk of elimination, but the counterpoint is that if they do a good job, voters are more likely to vote them confidence with "None of the Above", and a stronger vote for "None of the Above" would give these Senators a stronger hand when they make their case in Committee.

The day "None of the Above" out-polls all the names will be a good day for democracy.

 

 

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Senate Lottery

The Problem: Lack of Representation.  If you've never been the governing party, you never get to appoint any Senators.  Hence there are no NDP Senators and there will never be a BQ or Wild Rose Senator.  What if every Party has a chance of appointing the next Senator, proportionate with their seat distribution? (If we had Proportional Representation, the chance would equal level of support for the Parties).

Idea: At the beginning of every parliamentary session, every Political Party in Parliament submits lists of proposed Senators for each province.  Parties cannot add names to the list during the session.  Any candidate who fails to meet the appointment criteria during the session (moves out of province, loses property, dies, etc.)  gets dropped off the list.  When a Senate seat becomes available, we take 50 or 100 candidates from the lists for the appointment area, and have a lottery draw.  

We can distribute the candidates according to each Party's seat distribution in Parliament overall, or in the province only (a regional party like the BQ might prefer lottery base numbers be based on Province-by-Province seat distribution, but using country-wide seat distribution might be simpler). 

If the distribution of seats is 53% PC-31 NDP-12 LIB with a smattering of Independents and other parties, as in the last parliament, then 53 candidates come from the PC list, 31 from NDP's and 12 from the Liberals'.   Elections Canada selects which candidates go into the hopper with another draw (in my example, throw every name put forward by the PCs and pull out the first 53 names at random, then the same for the other Parties that qualify for the draw).  In my example the numbers don't add up to 100 because there were 8 Independents, 4 vacant seats, and the Greens, the BQ, and the Forces et Democratie had 2 seats each.  In a parliament of 308 seats, you need 3 seats to qualify for the draw.  You could allow the Independents and smaller parties to caucus together to make an Independent's list and pull 4 names from that list in my example to make up a base of 100 candidates for the final draw.

The Prime Minister and the leaders of the other Political Parties can agree informally that the PM will recommend for appointment whoever wins the draw.

Since the PM still technically makes the appointment recommendation, I'm not sure a full-on constitution amendment would be required.  It would certainly be easier to get agreement from 4 or 5 party leaders than the amendment formula under the Constitution.  

This still won't fix corruption problems in the Senate, but the fact that the next appointment can go to anybody from any Party (even an Independent) would certainly give the House of Commons some "sober second thoughts". 


Alternative Lottery Scheme: Do a draw of all the MPs with a seat in the Province with the vacancy, whoever wins nominates the Senator and the PM recommends to GG for appointment. (Added after initial posting)

Wildcard Idea:  If the Senate is truly the "Taskless Thanks" that embattled Senator Mike Duffy once dubbed it, maybe we should open it up to everybody on the voters lists in each province.    Hell, we could even televise the draws, right after the lotto telecast!  Just Imagine, You could be on  Cloud 6/49!

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Vote for What's Good for Other People - Avoid Populism

Populism on both the left and right of the political spectrum have been rising in recent years, as it did after the Great Depression.  (See Silvio Berlusgoni, Donald Trump, and Toronto's Rob Ford)

When times are tough, the tendency for all of us is to forget about our "Fellow Man", and to start looking out for ourselves and our kin.  Populism exploits our anxiety for our own current survival at the expense of others ("Stop immigrants, they're stealing our jobs"; "cut welfare, we just can't afford feeding other people when we don't have enough for ourselves"; etc., etc.).  We become mean without realizing it.

The irony is that by taking away the safety beneath the Other, we are unconsciously knocking out the foundation under ourselves, too.

I don't know how to stop this.  I get that feeling sometimes, too.  All I can say is: Take a breath, from time to time, and before you decide who to cast your ballot for, take a moment to ask, "Is this vote good for other people?" instead of "What do I get?"

 

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Close Fixed-date Election loopholes: Set Campaign Period and Advertising Limits

The fixed-date election is a great idea.  Governments can no longer dodge upcoming scandals and diving economies by calling unnecessary early elections.  However, as the 2015 election proves, there is room for improvement.

1)  Why have an election that is almost twice as long as it needs to be?  The minimum campaign period is 37 days.  We can stretch it out to between 37-44 days, say (1 week window) for dropping the writ and save all the jockeying.

2)  Fixed-date elections also tend to lead to endless campaigning, regardless of the actual campaign period.  Parties have a spending limit, but it currently only applies from the date the writ is dropped, so if you can afford it, you can drop millions on the day before and it doesn't count.  This just doesn't make sense.  Campaign spending limits should be set based on the 37 day campaign period by Elections Canada, but partisan advertising up to 6 months or so prior should count toward this limit.  That way, if you want to launch pre-emptive attacks on your opponents 6 months out from the election, knock yourselves out, but when the writ is finally dropped and people actually start paying attention, the guys who kept their powder dry get to outspend you when it counts.

3)  Government advertising should also come under Elections Canada up to 6 months ahead of the writ drop.  After all, everybody will know when it drops, right?

4)  Outside partisans should also have their advertising limited in a similar way to prevent PACs from turning elections into a spending arms race.

 Amendment:

5) It occurred to me after my original post that we could further discourage premature "elec-ulators" ("Election" + "Elocution" = "Eleculation"???) by counting pre-writ advertising at a higher rate (say $2 for every $1 spent) toward a party or candidate's spending limits.

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Participatory Democracy

In the information age, we are able to access information like never before. We are able to share ideas, opinions, and beliefs. We can also email our elected representatives about current and drafted legislation, expressing not just concerns and a feeling of frustration but also express content and satisfaction. As we start to engage more and more on the internet, we can explore Direct Democracy. Imagine what would have happen if MPs were bound and held accountable on voting for legislation the way the their constituents want them to vote.

 

The idea is simple. Have a website that allows you to vote on drafted legislation. Present the draft bill and possibly any media coverage of the bill on the same page, so constituents can make an informed decision. If a quota is met, the MP is bound to vote the way the constituents want them to vote. If not, let the MP go along with their party. There is one political party that is committed to this method, PACT (Party for Accountability, Competency, and Transparency, formerly the Online Party of Canada https://www.onlineparty.ca/).

 

By making the vote online to be binding at a specified quota, you are ensuring Canadians participate outside of election time and engaging them during the whole legislative process. It is very similar to public consultations that municipalities host, but on a provincial and/or federal level.

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Single Member Direct Proportional Representation (SMDPR)

Under this system, voting remains unchanged. But within Provinces and Territories, each party is allowed a percentage of existing seats equal to their percentage of the vote total in the Province or Territory. The seats are filled by the most popular candidates within a given party according to the votes cast for them, and mostly in the riding in which they ran. Accountability is improved over first past the post and representation is direct, no new MPs are required, and no one is appointed from party-hack lists—but proportional representation is achieved.

For example, the popular vote split for parties in NS in the 2011 election was

CPC / LPC / NDP / GPC / Other = 36.7 / 28.9 / 30.3 / 3.9 / 0.1

Under SMDPR, the share of the 11 seats in NS would then have been

CPC / LPC / NDP / GPC / Other = 4.04 / 3.18 / 3.33 / 0.43 / 0.01

With this result the seats would have been divided

CPC / LPC / NDP / GPC / Other = 4 / 3 / 3 / 1/ 0

The eleventh seat would have gone to the GPC, based on it having the largest fractional result.

The actual seats would have been distributed based on highest popular vote, as follows

CPC

  • Peter MacKay (21,593) Central Nova
  • Scott Armstrong (21,041) Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley
  • Gregg Kerr (20,204) West Nova
  • Gerald Keddy (17,948) South Shore St. Margret’s

LPC

  • Rodger Cuzner (16,478) Cape Breton—Canso
  • Geoff Regan (16,230) Halifax West
  • Scott Brisson (15,887) Kings—Hants

NDP

  • Megan Leslie (23,746) Halifax
  • Peter Stoffer (22,483) Sackville—Eastern Shore
  • Robert Chisholm (15,678) Dartmouth Cole Harbour

GPC

  • Jason Blanch (2,109) Sydney—Victoria

Only Jason Blanch would have represented a riding in which he did not run in this instance. There were no instances in NS of two candidate from the same riding being elected; in ON however, there would have been 18 such ridings. The riding Jason Blanch would have represented split evenly between the LPC and CPC

LPC / CPC / NDP / GPC = 14,788 / 14,023 / 7,049 / 1,191

Over all, seats in Parliament would have split approximately

CPC / LPC / NDP / BQ / GPC = 123 / 59 / 95 / 19 / 12

This would have resulted in a coalition or minority government—as is appropriate when the country doesn't agree on which party should govern.

The reason proportional representation is desirable is that it leads to consensus government, a form of democracy that has been shown—in reference to a couple of dozen indexes such as GDP deflator, budgetary deficit, GINI index, voter turnout, etc.—to be absolutely better at managing the democracy and almost certainly better able to manage the economy (Arend Lijphart). Consensus is also a more stable form of government, requiring fewer elections than our current first past the post majoritarian system in Canada. Even Italy and Israel, the poster cases for unstable government, have had respectively four and three fewer elections than Canada since WW II, at a cost to us of over a billion dollars.

As to accountability, the cornerstone of accountability is that someone who does not perform well should be removed. But with a plurality system, depending on the number of candidates running and strategic voting, the incumbent may be elected on as little as 20 percent of the vote. A system in which the will of 80 percent of the electorate is denied cannot be called accountable. For this reason, SMDPR is more accountable than first past the post.

SMDPR would be easier to explain than many forms of PR because there are no new ridings or MPs necessary, no amalgamation of ridings necessary, and no change to how a person votes. But there would be no value for strategic voting, and gaming a majority out of a minority position would be a thing of the past. 

In other words, we would have addressed a big part of the democratic deficit in Canada.

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Public Financial Disclosure of expenditures and corporate affliations for MPs and Senators

"Following the money trail" is imperative for a democracy.  With the disclosure of all tax payer funded expenditures and corporate affiliations there would be less opportunity for politicians to utilize their position for personal gain.

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Public Financial Disclosure of expenditures and corporate affliations for MPs and Senators

"Following the money trail" is imperative for a democracy.  With the disclosure of all tax payer funded expenditures and corporate affiliations there would be less opportunity for politicians to utilize their position for personal gain.

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Senate Reform through mutual agreement

Everyone acknowledges that it will be tough to change the Constitution to achieve Senate Reform.  But why do we have to?  The office of the Governor General was completely changed through mutual agreement with The Crown.  Why can't we have people "run" for the Senate?  The government then agrees to abide by the wishes of the electorate and appoint the winners.  Perhaps there could be a few Honourary Senators appointed as well, but everyone would agree to a limited term with no pension.  Perhaps the Senators would resign and "run" again in every Federal Election, or resign to make way for new Honourary Appointees.  Granted, the arrangement would not have weight of law, but breaking the deal would bring down Public Outrage on the Government or Individual as surely as if the Queen decided to unilaterally appoint the next GG.

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Change the electoral system to one that is suited to Canada.

Changing to PR will be a tough sell so keep everything the same except the allocation of seats. Complicated ballots and seat allocation are a turn off for people who are already disinterested.

An open list system that allocates seats in each province based on the percentage of the total vote each party gets in each province, above a 5 percent threshold.  (MMP is not supported by MPs and is unnecessarily complicated.)

The open party list would comprise the candidates that receive the most votes in their riding arranged in descending order. If you do not attract enough votes you do not make the cut. If you want to send your candidate to Ottawa make sure you vote.

Such a system would ensure that the five parties who currently have seats would be represented in most provinces. (except Bloc  )

Some ridings might not have a candidate who makes any party list. Parties would find it advantageous to provide support to those constituents in the same way that they do for cabinet ministers or MPs who are only interested in party activities at present. Samara found that 85 percent of constituency help was provided by the office staff.

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Nominations and Elections Canada

As a former nomination candidate, I strongly feel that Elections Canada should manage the Nomination meeting vote in every riding.  

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national political parties

Every national federal party must be represented in each riding of every province and territory not just one region.

The auditor General of Canada should have the power to enforce change. as he or she sees necessary in balancing or repealing expenses of the peoples treasury.

 Members of parliament may not cross to another elected party, they should resign and have a bi election to have voters from his/her riding choose a new member or reelect same member.    

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Rules for Debate

In any public discourse, especially in parliament, no criticism of another party's idea, policy or platform is allowed unless a positive alternative is also proposed.

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Force an MP to Table a Private Member's Bill that was Petitioned by Voters in His Riding

Democracy is a system 'of the people, for the people and by the people'. If people garnered enough signatures (in an MP's riding) on a draft proposal, then the MP must table that proposal (in the correct format) for a vote in parliament. Priority must be given to such voter-developed proposals, so that they are dealt with ahead of MP-developed private member's bills.

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Provide a Means to Remove an MP (even the PM)

If a given number of signatures was gathered on a petition, then a vote should be required to either remove or retain a sitting MP or MPP. To remove an MP or MPP, the petition must have names of people in that politician's riding. This could even apply to the Prime Minister or Premier within that person's riding. 

NOTE - The petition must state the reason(s) for removal.

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Provide a Means to Remove an MP (even the PM)

If a given number of signatures was gathered on a petition, then a vote should be required to either remove or retain a sitting MP or MPP. To remove an MP or MPP, the petition must have names of people in that politician's riding. This could even apply to the Prime Minister or Premier within that person's riding. 

NOTE - The petition must state the reason(s) for removal.

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Provide a Means to Remove an MP (even the PM)

If a given number of signatures was gathered on a petition, then a vote should be scheduled (within two months) to either remove or retain a sitting MP or MPP. That given number will be a percentage (perhaps 15%) of the eligible voters in that specific riding. To remove an MP or MPP, the petition must have names of people ONLY in that politician's riding. This could even apply to the Prime Minister or Premier. 

NOTE - The petition must state the reason(s) for removal.

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How to fix the cartels and their governments.

The price of gasoline at the pump should be 1% of the price of a barrel of oil. As it is now, the price has no relations to the market price of a barrel of oil.

Governments pretend they can't prove a cartel is fixing prices because they want the too-high taxes. Which in Canada don't even go to transportation infrastructure but are essentially a slush fund for the government: All tax monies from hydro-carbons should go to the maintenance of infrastructure, with say 10% of that dedicated to setting up the infrastructure for electric vehicles, like charging stations within 100 km of each other on every major highway in the country. Thus the hydro-carbon economy would pay for the green economy of electric power. And the economy would boom with new technology companies and employment.

If the market price of oil is $100/barrel then gasoline at the pump would be $1/Litre ($4/gallon). Thus $60/bbl = $0.60/L; $120/bbl = $1.20/L, etc.  

The price would be set weekly or monthly at a set day and time and remain fixed at that for the week or month. Then everybody would know what the price should be. Fair to customers, good for business; everybody can plan a budget more precisely. And we are not susceptible to the whim of speculators or the greed of corporations.

If any government wanted to introduce an additional carbon tax they would have to do by direct democracy; a plebiscite voted upon by the people.

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If we continue to vote using

There are well organization groups to join, that are determined to change our system of voting from First Past the Post to Proportional Representation.

Evidence that supports Proportional Representation -

http://campaign2015.fairvote.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Why-PR-Review-of-Evidence-updated-version-2015-03-17.pdf

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Reform First-Past-The-Post Into Something Workable

 

While most suggestions for electoral reform so far have involved scrapping FPTP I feel the system is still salvageable. Here is how:

This idea keeps First-past-the-post system largely intact. Voters still cast a single vote in a single-member constituency. The candidate who receives the most votes still becomes the MP. The next step is different. Rather than have each MP in Parliament cast a single vote you give each MP a vote proportional to their party's share of the
popular vote.

The formula would be Popular Vote / # of MPs in party = Voting share of each MP.

I would like to draw your attention to the 2011 Federal Election. The Conservative Party won 166 seats (53.89%) with 39.62% of the popular vote. The NDP won 103 seats (33.44%) with 30.63% of the popular vote. The Liberals won 34 seats (11.03%) with 18.91% of the popular vote. The Bloc won 4 seats (1.29%) with 6.04% of the popular vote. Finally the Green Party won a single seat (0.32%) with 3.91% of the popular vote. Using my system each Conservative MP would have a vote valued at 0.23, each NDP MP vote valued at 0.29, each Liberal vote valued at 0.55, each Bloc vote valued at 1.51, and the single Green vote valued at 3.91. 
Voting power in Parliament under the proposed system:
Conservative voting power: 38.18
Liberal voting power: 18.7
New Democrat voting power: 29.87
Bloc voting power: 6.04
Green voting power: 3.91
As a result the FPTP electoral system will have been rendered mostly proportional.

Some eagle-eyed readers may note that the totals above do not equal 100%. This is true. For starters only 99.11% of the popular vote went to parties who won seats. So were did the remaining 3% that is missing go? I think this is due to not rounding numbers on my part. I will do so now. Below are the new voting power totals (with MP share rounded and in brackets):
Conservative voting power: (0.24) 39.84
Liberal voting power: (0.56) 19.04
New Democrat voting power: (0.30) 30.09
Bloc voting power: (1.51) 6.04
Green voting power: (3.91) 3.91

Again, slightly off at 98.92% which is better than the previous 96.7%. But in either case does this matter? As a percentage of 96.7 the Conservatives totals of 38.18 is 39.48%. If rounding is included 39.84 is 40.27. For the NDP it works out to 30.88% & 30.41% respectively. The Liberal totals come to 19.33% & 19.24%. In all three cases it would seem that rounding to the second decimal place provides little in the way of overall change to voting power. Only in the tightest of minority situations would it even matter. As such, not rounding the totals is acceptable. 

Advantages of the system I have proposed:
-The voting system does not change at all for Canadian voters.
-It is as understandable and simple as FPTP is.
-It renders the House of Commons mostly proportional.
-It is no more expensive than FPTP is.
-It benefits (or at least does not harm) all of the main political parties in different ways.
-It makes votes for parties in ridings where they will never win matter.

Now, this system is not perfect. It should also be noted that votes for parties that do not win a seat still do not count. At the federal level this should not be an issue since such parties generally receive less than 1% of votes cast. The Green Party's high of 6% being somewhat acceptable as well.

So how would things like confidence votes and picking a Speaker work? Surprisingly well as it turns out.

Picking a Speaker (and other scenarios)- Under the current system picking a Speaker lowers the vote total of his or her party. However, under this system I foresee a rule that states the voting power is recalculated at the beginning of each day. In short a Speaker would simply have to drop his party affiliation and his party's total would not be affected. Likewise, re-calculating the numbers each day means vacant seats would not affect a party's total vote (which they currently do). I would not extend this rule to MPs who end up as independents for one reason or another due to potential loophole abuse. At the same time, poaching MPs from other parties will no longer be advantageous as having more MPs will not mean more voting power.

Forming a Government- While voting power should be based on popular vote I feel the formation of governments should remain based on seat count. The reasons are simple: regional representation and a larger talent pool to draw on.

Confidence Votes- I would keep explicit confidence motions and the Speech from the Throne as being based on seat totals but have all other legislation based on voting power. Implicit confidence motions such as a whipped vote on a government bill would be based on voting power. This allows a stable government to form but requires them to deal with the other parties fairly. It also avoids the other extreme of deadlock.

Concluding Remarks
I don't think this is a perfect system. I do however think it is an improvement. As far as I can tell this is a new idea. I called an earlier draft of this idea The Bennett Method but refer to this one as Single Member-Proportional Vote

 

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Corporate accountability to democratic principles

I think corporate self-interest and irresponsibility is a major undermining factor to Cdn democracy. I would like to see power back in the hands of the people who elect governments and not in the hands of corporations that manipulate governments. To that end I would like to see legislation revamped and/or created that removes the ability of corporations to supersede the will of the people/ and their elected reps to make decisions in our country's best interest ie. Trade pacts, environmental legislation etc. and not necessarily in the interests of any specific corporation. Perhaps we need to change the laws that allow corporations to act as though they were persons under the law.

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Remove private funding from political parties

Any political party with enough support (could be a certain number of signatures) should receive governmental support, and only governmental support, for their campaign. After all, if a party has better ideas than other parties, they should be able to convince people to vote for them without having to outspend the others! It makes no sense that people and organisations with more money can, in essence, pay the party of their choice to promote their ideas.

Even better, give funding directly to local candidates who collect a certain amount of signatures. Candidates would then be free to contribute part or all of this funding to their political party, if they so wish. This would remove a good deal of the control and power that parties have over their candidates--parties in fact would be dependent on their candidates, and not vice-versa!

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To Reform the Senate of Canada

As a constant, but minor, theme in Canadian politics, the question of Senate reform remains an unresolved irritant. As an irritant, it can either distract from or aggravate other issues with more pressing need for resolution. Public discussion focuses mainly on the question of why to reform the Canadian Senate and I will not delve into that question now except to acknowledge that the former Reform and Alliance parties both recognized the issue as important. In the past, further discussion sought to identify some principles around which a reformed Senate would function. These include the frequently cited "triple E Senate," and some effort to replace Senate appointment with election from provincial jurisdiction. I am not aware of any suggestion of how a reformed Senate may actually look and function. As a very ordinary Canadian, I would like to offer a suggestion for total reformation of the Senate.
The strength of a bicameral legislature lies in the capacity of one legislative chamber to serve as a check on the other and preserve balance in parliamentary deliberation. To achieve such ability to provide "sober second thought," the constitution must define each chamber very differently one from the other, the basis for membership in one chamber starkly different form the basis for membership in the other. Thus, Canada has an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. In the United States, the House of Representatives, made up of localized representatives within the various states, and the Senate, made up of state specific representatives, are, in practical terms, almost indistinguishable one from the other in behaviour and function. I think Canadians accept need to move from undemocratic appointment of Senators but hesitate to duplicate the House of Commons.

By looking at the House of Commons and issues of representation that recur with each election, I can see an alternative organizational structure for a replacement to the present Senate. Historically, the House of Commons is the chamber of the common people in contrast to the British House of Lords, the chamber of the (largely) hereditary landed aristocracy. Having no hereditary landed aristocracy, Canada opted for the current Senate, effectively a chamber of distinguished people, distinction defined neither constitutionally nor by any objective means but at appointment with a suggestion of representation by province. Therein lies its inability to serve Canada effectively. The House of Commons acts, in reality, more as the chamber of our common interest. Members get elected to represent roughly equal segments of Canada's whole population, distributed among highly localized segments of Canadian geography. Each Member of Parliament sits as a Canadian and as a Canadian only, the choice of Canadians within the geographical constituency that member represents.

From time-to-time, concerns circulate that Parliament is not sufficiently representative. There are too few women, as women, in Parliament (despite the fact that the total count of men, as men, in Parliament is zero); there are too few First Nations people, as First Nations people, in Parliament (despite the fact that the total count of non-First Nations people, as non-First Nations people, in Parliament is zero); there are too few disabled people, as disabled people, in Parliament (despite the fact that the total count of fully able people, as fully able people, in Parliament is zero); there are too few people, as members of many and various subsets of Canadians, in Parliament (despite the fact that the total count of people of any other subset of Canadians, as members of such a subset of Canadians, is always zero). Such representation concerns often accompany a suggestion of either quotas on representation in the House of Commons or that selected Commons seats be reserved for representatives of identifiable sub groups of Canadians. Clearly, such special designations would severely distort the House of Commons as a chamber of our common interest.

In contrast, these suggestions may have merit when we consider reforming the Senate. One of Canada's great strengths lies with the diversity of our people. We are all Canadian, yet each of us also shares in various other identities. Perhaps the Senate should become the House of Our Identities. each member elected to represent the interests of the other identities Canadians hold. The House of Commons would remain largely indistinguishable from our current House of Commons, the source of the government responsible to the legislature and the senior of the two chambers, elected from geographical constituencies by openly scheduled general vote for terms of no more than four years. It could still question its own confidence in the government and precipitate an unscheduled election (nothing is more vital for truly responsible democracy than the power to question confidence in the government!). The House of Our Identities, able to review legislation initiated in the House of Commons and initiate its own legislation, not government legislation, is a novel concept, in response to our diversity. It also could question its confidence in the House of Commons and, potentially, precipitate an election for that otherwise senior chamber. In contrast members of the House of Our Identities would sit for rotating, fixed, and limited, terms.

I suggest we identify the five most significant distinct elements of identity to which Canadians hold. These may be by gender, age group, mode of making a living, ethnic derivation, level of education, religious affiliation, generation count since immigration to Canada, ability/disability, mother tongue, province of residence, et-cetera through the entire selection of identities by which all of us live. Every twenty-five years a commission, very like the Forum on Electoral Reform used recently in British Columbia, would examine Canadian society and identify the five areas of identity Canadians currently regard as most significant. The House of Our Identities would be divided into five caucuses with equal numbers of members, one for each of the accepted significant identities. Each Identity Caucus would include members elected to contingents defined by the identities that make up that caucus with the number of members of each contingent dependent on the numbers of Canadians who self-identify with that specific identity. Self-identification at voter registration would be vital to avoid having contingents hijacked by external identity related organizations. For instance, if ethnic derivation were considered a significant identity, the Ethnic Derivation Caucus of the House of Our Identities could consist of elected members making up contingents such as Canadians of French Canadian Origin (i. e. of ancestry dating back to French colonial times in contrast to Canadians of more recent French migration origin whose view of their identity may differ substantially with those of French Canadian Origin), Canadians of British Origin (or, perhaps, subdivided among English, Welsh, Scots, and Irish), Native Canadians, Canadians of Han Chinese Origin, Canadians of African-American origin, et-cetera through the entire diversity of ethnic origins within our current population, including Canadians who prefer to self-identify as of Mixed Ethnicity and a general contingent for Canadians who do not want recognition by any ethnic identity other than simply as Canadian. In the case of age grouping being considered a significant identity, contingents of children, elected by children, and of adolescents, elected by adolescents, could actually take seats in the House of Our Identities.

Large contingents would have to be subdivided by geographical locale while small contingents would get elected at large over the whole country. If gender were considered a significant identity, the Gender Caucus of the House of Our Identities could consist of two large contingents, the contingent of men and the contingent of women subdivided by an appropriate number of paired geographic constituencies for men and for women. If religious affiliation were a significant identity, then Zoroastrians might elect a contingent of one Member of the House of Our Identities for the whole of Canada while Catholics would elect a large contingent from many Catholic constituencies all over Canada. This identity would also have to provide a contingent for those who eschew any religious faith and a general contingent for Canadians who hold their religious beliefs as wholly private.

The actual membership structure of the House of Our Identities would be defined and reviewed every twenty-five years to keep the chamber relevant to Canadian society, with some identities dropped (identities with large general contingents would be prime candidates to get dropped) as no longer significant and others added as newly significant. Each identity caucus within the House of Our Identities would be elected for a fixed five year term, one caucus at a time in succeeding years (this would require that one fifth of the existing Senate retire in each of the first five years of the new House of Our Identities). No member of the House of Our Identities should hold a seat for more than a single term. This would give a fixed schedule election every year and a turn over of chamber membership independent of of the membership turnover in the House of Commons. The first five years after each identity review would be a transition period with each previous identity caucus giving way to its successor identity caucus at each identity caucus election.

The system may be more complex than our present Senate, but it would give real voice for us to express both our common interests as Canadians through the House of Commons and our special interests as Canadians of diverse additional identities through the House of Our Identities. This suggestion offers a dynamic and very real function to a replacement for the current Senate without diminishing the House of Commons.

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Grow empathy

Road rage, corruption, violence, greed, income disparity..... These are all symptoms of a lack of empathy. 

We need to find ways to develop empathy in every person.

One effort is the "Roots of Empathy" program, where a baby is brought into a classroom every month for a year. The children naturally learn to understand the baby's feelings and appreciate its development. We need to find ways to grow empathy at every age. 

We need daycares in every school, with the children visiting and helping (under close supervision, of course) - learning non-violent childcare.

And we need good meal programs in every school so that no child is forced to go to school hungry. We need adequate affordable housing for everyone, and a guaranteed annual income. When basic needs are met, people feeel cared for and can look beyond themselves to care about others. 

We need an end to segregation - an end to schools based on religion or wealth. All children need to be in our public schools, so we all learn to celebrate our diversity, instead of learning to stereotype others.

Only when I can sense your feelings and see myself in your shoes, can I care enough to curb my greed, nastiness, rage, violence... and take your needs into account.

When politicians and corporate bosses  lack empathy, they behave as ours do now.

 

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Use Citizen Deliberative Councils

This is a radical suggestion . . . but we need radical change. Athenian democracy was based largely on rule by citizens chosen by lot  . . . to avoid control by the powerful and wealthy. Some 90% of "employees" were chosen by lot . . . and they did the heavy lifting.

Citizen Deliberative Councils give citizens a paid shorter term job to input meaningfully into the democracy. A number of ways citizens could serve are here. They include ensuring sober public evaluation of controversial legislation, reviewing candidates for office, making recommendations and much more. The more weight they're given the more useful they become.

Politicians are also good people but their role is a little like a priest's: they often render those served relatively powerless and disaffected.

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Electoral reform

We need a more representative parliament. Proportional Representation can do it but results frequently in countries where it's tried in unwieldy coalitions. I prefer the system of run off elections. In every riding, the first past the post and the second past the post candidates if neither has achieved at least 50% face off in a run off. This will ensure that the candidate who wins has 50% plus one of the vote.

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Preferential ballot and Select the Senate from the Order of Canada

For many people, the most important characteristic of the government that they desire is its philosophical approach to governing Canada.  There are endless criteria that could be employed for characterizing any given political party, such as concern for the environment, valuing voters' opinions, sharing wealth and so on.  A convenient way to characterize our current political parties is to use their position on the left-right continuum whereby the NDP and Green are seen as leftish, Liberals centralish and Conservatives rightish.  Currently, there seems to be a feeling that the next government should be anything but the conservatives (i.e. anybody but Stephen Harper).  In past years, the sentiment was either the Reform Party or Conservatives should govern.  In such situations, many voters used their ballots strategically by voting for the party or candidate that was seen as having a realistic chance at winning the seat and not because they were perceived to be the most desirable candidate.

I suggest that we adopt some form of preferential balloting so that voters can express their wishes for a specific candidate as well as his/her political philosophy.  Voters would not have to "waste" their ballots via strategic voting.

Like many others, I feel the Senate is broken.  If we can't abolish it, let's change its makeup entirely.  I humbly suggest selecting our senators from the Order of Canada?  These are all Canadians who have distinguished themselves in many different ways in the service of our country and the world at large.  This has the potential of restoring respect to the upper house.

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Progressive Voters Bloc Canada

A progressive nonpartisan voting bloc large enough to dictate who wins in any election.  This block is specifically for the people for whom  democracy is not working  and the economy is not helping: the 99%.  The margin in most elections is fairly small so the group in each riding would not have to be very large.20 to 25% of the eligible voters in any riding would be able to decide who wins.  All they have to do is flip a coin between the two front runners.   It wouldn't matter very much what party the member belongs to because it would be the people will have the power, not the political party.  That is what I call democracy.  Lincoln said it best.  Government of the people, by the people,  for the people.  If a government is for the people it governs in the interest of the people. I believe this is a very powerful idea and I am trying to spread it far and wide  so that it will take root  and grow strong enough to create a democracy in Canada.  Canada, at this time, is not a democracy.  Canada is a de facto dictatorship.  The people can change that.  Power to the people!

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Bill C51 Anti terror bill

It is time to challenge this bill in court.  There are some parts of the bill that I agree with, but much of it is strictly fear mongering and gives far too much power to CSIS.  No one has the right to challenge my basic freedoms of free speech without a court order.  This is going to lead to a police state similar to what we see in many dictatorships.  Harper's whole aim is to create fear similar to what George Bush did in the US in order to push his undemocratic ideals.

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Put an end to "Secret Negotiations" as occurred with the TPP

We are a democracy. No elected official, prime minister or otherwise, has the right to negotiate on the country's behalf in secret and in so doing potentially commit the country to a long-term agreement that the citizens, or future generations, might not agree with. We need a policy whereby the terms and conditions of significant agreements are made public and importantly are open for discussion. Railroading through decades long contracts just because a majority leader can do so does not make it right, or democratic.

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If we want effective representation then we need to vote for effective representation.

The Reform Act was a good fist step in turning Canada towards a true representational democracy but, until people really understand just what they are voting for, not much will change. People think we vote for a leader or a party or a policy but elections are really about selecting the best representative possible - for everyone. By not focusing on effective representation, we are taking our power away from our representatives and giving it to something else. That's why it appears like our vote doesn't count sometimes. Democracy is about building consensuses that satisfy the greatest number of people possible. It's not about having one idea dominate the agenda and ignoring the concerns of the minorities. The best representative is the best representative for the entire community and not the champion of your ideals.

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The Senate & Governor General

Canada has a Senate that is a weird hold-over from the 19th century, dominated by patronage appointments and spending scandals. We also have a head-of-state who is, oddly, appointed by our Prime Minister. And we have a constitutional amending formula that makes it almost impossible to do anything about these anachronistic oddities. Almost. We can make changes in how we use these institutions without necessarily going through the pain of constitutional amendment Here's my prescription: make the Senate a purely honourary body (members with no regular salary, no regular legislative role) composed of distinguished Canadians from any and all walks of life. The body would have only one or two official roles. First would be choosing Governors General. Perhaps secondarily confirming Supreme Court justices. And occasionally members could be tasked with an investigation or commission or something (in these cases Senators would get reasonable travel allowances and daily honoraria). Two problems would be solved this way 1) the Senate's role would be clarified, if limited; and, 2) the GG's potential conflict-of-interest with respect to the PM would be resolved. (If you don't think there's an issue here, consider how a more independent GG might have responded to a request to prorogue parliament to avoid a confidence motion). These reforms won't make Canada's democracy the envy of the world, but they could be achieved with relatively little fuss, and they would improve a weakness in a fundamental area. Oh, and ranked ballots too, please!

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Proportional Representation

Canada needs to learn about PR, and extensive public education process.  Then a referendum, so the 2015 is the last one that is first past the  post.

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Cleaning the Augean stables

For those who don't know their mythology and the reference, this was one of Hercules' seven tasks. The stables had not been mucked out for years. Hercules' solution? Divert a river to wash them out.

We need to see something similar. Flush out the professional politicians and replace them with truly local representatives. These elected (non partisan!) men and women would serve a single four-year term, then be retired. While elected, they would draw a competitive salary and have a fixed annual expense budget. (No need for auditing or unlimited spending!) They would also have a small, efficient professional civil service support staff. After a term out of office, the individual would be eligible to run again for a second term. No individual may serve more than two terms.

A committee would be elected from among those elected to replace what are now styled 'cabinet ministers'. This cabinet would elect, from among themselves, a national leader, currently termed 'prime minister'. Any proven malfeasance of any representative, in addition to any legal consequence, would bar them from holding public office again for life.

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Create a Parliamentary Policy and Programming Performance Office

To help make MPs accountable, there should be legislation which creates a statutory budget with sufficient resources to set up a Parliamentary Policy and Programming Performance Office which tracks the progress (or lack thereof of) the implementation of the policy/program commitment over time. The Parliamentary Budget Office or federal/provincial Ombudsman offices could be used as models and the government should not be able to alter the funding or mandates of the office. Assessment criteria should be laid out in the legislation including such criteria as the measure of reducing negative social indicators (e.g. poverty, illness, gender inequalities, systemic barriers, etc.); increasing positive indicators  (graduation rates, good health indicators, funding level commitments, etc.).  I f the government makes a policy commitment and, over time, does not enable the commitment to be fulfilled, there should be penalties against the MPs of the ruling party or coalition parties. These penalties should be modelled along the lines of the employee performance assessments of federal employees, including the range of sanctions available for poor performance.  

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Electoral Reform

Plurality voting systems (ie. First Past The Post) not only disenfranchise voters, but also distort the makeup of Parliament. Parties are encouraged to speak to appeal to a narrow base, because winning in an FPTP election is often as much about "vote efficiency" as it is gaining significant voter support. In other words, a party who sees they can gain high vote efficiency in some regions of the country will tend to concentrate efforts, and create policies, that benefit those regions. The government that is inevitably formed will place much more emphasis of ridings and regions where it can gain the most efficiency, and have the best shot at electoral victory next time around.

Only six governments since Confederation have won majorities with over 50% of the vote. FPTP is fundamentally incompatible with an electoral system of more than two significant parties. Rather than inevitably see are parties march towards a muddy American-style two party system, it would be better to pick a new electoral system that encouraged a healthy multiparty democracy that better reflected the will of the voters.

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Ban Political Parties and Campaign funds

Members of Parliament serve their Party's interests first and those of their constituents, second, if at all. In municipal elections we vote for the person we think will represent us best. Why cannot this work Provincially and Federally? We could also vote for a person to head the government (Prime Minister or Premier) who would form a cabinet from those members he or she thought best. The interests of the party are, unfortunately, tied to the people who pay for the campaign fund. That needs to end as well. We need independent MPs and a government not run by business.

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Ranked Balloting

Introducing a ranked ballot is the simplest voting reform we could implement that would have the largest impact. No longer would we need not to vote for our preferred candidate because he or she is not one of the top two! Various proportional representation options have constitutional and complexity problems, and have failed in referenda (that were set up to fail, but that's another story). A computer-screen prompted, printed ballot can be easy to use:

  1. Select your favourite candidate.
  2. Indicate your second favourite candidate, if you like. Repeat as required.
  3. Print.

Runoff counting is done automatically and is immediately available at the close of the poll. The anonymous printed ballot record indicates selected candidates in order, for the voter's verification and for auditing purposes. First-past-the-post fixed.

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Half day off during the week to vote

In order to really promote and support democracy people need to have a half day off on voting day during the work week for each level of government: municipal, provincial and federal.

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Popular Constitutional Assemblies

What we need is a national debate leading to a series of popular constitutional assemblies that rebalanced governance responsibilities between the three levels of government so that there is way more power at the municipal level where most people live...as well greater recognition and distribution of power to First Nation treaties and Quebec.

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Online and Mobile Voting

How can we increase youth votes in elections if we don't advance the technology used to vote? In 2015 we are able to pay our bills online, do our taxes, register for school etc. Our private and work lives involve online elements, voting should too. Similarly, so much of our lives exist on our mobile devices. We should be able to vote using the tools that are already such a large part of our daily lives. So many great youth organizations exist in Toronto that are already working towards increasing civic engagement amongst young people. I have had the honor of working with the Toronto Youth Cabinet to make politics more accessible to all ages. You can read about us here: www.thetyc.ca

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Open-minded, practical experimentation

In today's society, democracy has become synonymous with elections and, in a few cases, with direct democracy. We believe that both approaches have major limitations that prevent everyday people from meaningfully participating in community decision-making. In trying to solve these problems, we advocate for open-minded, practical experimentation to develop better ways to democracy. Because the overarching approach to democracy today is elections, we think it is important to test out and modify a range of other promising alternatives that have so far received limited use. For example, we believe there is great promise in randomly selecting representatives and rotating them. These practices have a long history dating back to Ancient Athens and show promise in facilitating sincere deliberation, increasing representativeness, fostering skill development, and limiting corruption. The British Columbia and Ontario Citizens’ Assemblies on Electoral Reform are powerful examples of how, in the right conditions, randomly selected citizens are able to tackle difficult questions in an informed, deliberative, and representative way.

For the last year, we have been experimenting with replacing elected student governments with those that are randomly selected and rotated. Although it is still early on, we have been excited by our findings (http://www.participedia.net/en/cases/democracy-practice-democratic-student-government-program-cochabamba-bolivia). We are now hoping to expand our use of these and other promising practices beyond schools to other contexts and are really excited about the potential. Happy to discuss our work with you all to bring about real, lasting change.

Cheers,

Democracy In Practice

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Require politicians to publish disallowed expense claims

There is a move afoot to allow Senators to resolve disputed expense claims by paying back the money without admitting the claim was improper in the first place.  This is a terrible idea.  If I rob a bank, but offer to pay back the money when caught, do I get to go home and try again another day when the cops are hopefully busy?

When a politician makes an improper or disallowed expense claim, whether deliberately or in error, it should be published.  The politician can withdraw the claim before it is ruled upon, or pay it back if disallowed, but it should remain on the permanent public record in an easily searchable database.  

Made a mistake?  Didn't mean to claim that $15 glass of juice?  Meant to pay for it yourself? Misunderstood the rules?  We understand.  Post it with an explanatory note: "Claimed in error - withdrawn"; or "Claimed in error - refunded amount."; but it stays on your permanent record.  Why post it when you've already paid it back?  So you will think twice before walking into the next bank...  

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Take "Watchdog" Appointments away from Politicians

We can't hire and fire the HR Director who evaluates our performance; why can politicians?

Auditors General, Ombudsmen, Complaints Commissioners; anyone whose job it is to evaluate complaints against government or the performance of government (Municipal, Provincial or Federal) should be appointed and/or re-appointed by an arms-length process not involving the politicians themselves.  All-party committees are simply not good enough.

Some suggestions:

1) Legislative bodies should create Watchdog Positions and define their mandate, but not do the actual vetting and appointment.  The politicians can appoint a third party, arms-length professional HR firm on a payment for service basis, give it the candidate qualification requirements and thereafter be forbidden from participating in the hiring process.  Interfering with the appointment process of a Watchdog Position after it has been let to the HR process should be a criminal offence.  The offence has to apply to elected and non-elected political operatives alike.

2) Once a mandate is created, it should be easy to expand, but difficult to narrow.  One possibility: where a change of mandate is objected to by the appointed Watchdog, a super-majority is required to enact the change.  If the current Watchdog's term expires before the issue is resolved, the objection stands.

3) If a replacement is not appointed when a Watchdog's term expires, the current occupant of the position is deemed extended for an interim period until a replacement is appointed.  If a Watchdog dies or retires and no action is taken to fill the position, his or her deputy (appointed by the Watchdog upon his or her appointment) is deemed appointed for an interim period until a replacement is appointed.

4) Preferrably, the Watchdog Position is for a single term of significant duration, rather than subject to re-appointment, so that a Watchdog can perform his or her duties without fear or favour.  Where re-appointment is a possibility, the mandate creating the position should set out the criteria for renewal clearly, and re-appointment should be the default position.

5) Watchdogs should be prohibited from running for political office for a term of years after, and former politicians should not be appointed to Watchdog Positions for a similar amount of time after stepping down from their respective offices.  Political partisanship should be either a disqualifying factor, or deemed to be a minus when evaluating two candidates of similar qualifications.  For the proscribed period, former Watchdogs should also be banned from taking any position whose appointment is in the hands of politicians (ambassadorships, etc.).  Watchdog positions should not be seen as a way to jump into politics or vice versa.

 

 

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Create Tools To Help Voters Be Informed

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I am a huge fan of amazing groups that are making it easier for us to become informed in the lead up to elections.  Human beings are busy. We can't possibly keep up with all of the issues that are being discussed politically. That's why I love ideas that help us to find the information we need quickly and that don't chastise us for not bein more informed but invite us to learn.  

As a former teacher I know that having information that is accessible is also hugely important.  The majority of Canadians read at a Gr.6 reading level therefore, we need to make election information easy to navigate for a 12 year old. Some of my favourite ideas include Vote Kit's 30 Days to Vote the CBC's Vote Compass and Student Vote's voting kits for classrooms.

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100 changes in 12 key areas

Every government in Canada has 100 undemocratic flaws and loopholes in 12 key areas of their decision-making and accountability processes (each government is better in some areas and worse in others).  See the list of the 100 changes needed to the federal Canadian government at: http://democracywatch.ca/summaryofloophole/ and see the campaigns pushing to correct the flaws and close the loopholes at: http://democracywatch.ca/campaigns/

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Educate our Country's Youth

 

I am part of my province's youth parliament, and organization that no only educates teens on parliament procedures, but educates us on political and current events, stimulates social activism, and encourages community involvement. With each debate in session, another individual sparks an idea for change.

Check out the British Columbia Youth Parliament's website at bcyp.org.

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Equip civic society organizations with tools to engage newcomers

The Agincourt Community Services Association has created The Inclusivity Audit Tool, which "is intended to act as a conceptual framework for enabling the inclusion of newcomers in civic activities." This tool should be widely shared and distributed to help organizations in their efforts to engage newcomers to Canada in civic activities. 

For more information and to view the resource, please visit http://capacsa.weebly.com/

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Introduce voting buses!

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In the 2013 municipal election in Calgary, mobile voting stations were introduced to make voting easier for commuters. I propose that this idea of voting buses be implemented in more cities in Canada.

Check out these articles for more information:

http://globalnews.ca/news/895902/mobile-voting-station-proves-to-be-a-hit/

http://calgary.ctvnews.ca/city-rolls-out-advance-vote-bus-1.1478718

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"I Voted" Coupons

You can't give coffee coupons (it would be biased and not everybody drinks coffee).  How about a coupon worth a few bucks ($5? $10? $20) off your tax bill when you vote?  In the form of a refundable amount (not credit, but just a straight dollar amount) when you file your taxes?

Too expensive?  You can pay for it with a revenue neutral "Democracy Levy" (less than $5 per year for a $20 coupon over a 4 year election cycle, assuming close to 100% uptake).  That way people who don't vote will subsidize those who do.

You might be able to choose to use it yourself of donate it to the local candidate of your choice (not necessarily who you voted for) to help defray campaign debts.  You could also give it up to General Revenue (i.e. government coffers) like you can with your tax refund).

Policy-wise, one could make donations beyond what is required to pay down campaign debts go to General Revenue or to the party of your choice, depending on which policy we decide is best as a society.  You can prevent donations to a candidate from a different riding with serial numbers on the coupons (or not).  You have to retain the coupon like a charitable or political donation receipt.

Taxpayers under voting age and non-citizens are exempt from the levy and ineligible for the refund from the coupon.  You already tell the government how old you are (your d.o.b. is required on your tax form) and whether you are a Canadian citizen (your Social Insurance Number), so no privacy concerns.  Maybe a check-box on the tax form to make it easier for computers to process.  You get the same refund whether you voted Conservative, NDP, Liberal, Green or other, so no privacy concerns.  The coupon that you donate to a candidate (or back to General Revenue) is not tied to you, but only to the riding (if we do that), so you are not disclosing how you voted.

Better than threatening people with fines or jail if they don't vote, right?

 

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Tie Politician Pay to Canadian Average Income

Proposal:  Every few years, we adjust the politicians' pay by taking the average Canadian income and multiply it with a multiplier (I would be okay with 150-200% of Average Income, but we can debate what is the appropriate level).  When the average income goes up, the politicians' pay goes up, when it goes down, they get a pay-cut.  We should be able to get the base number from Statistics Canada or Revenue Canada.

This is not just about rewarding a job well done or docking pay for a bad job (although I'll admit there's an element of that).  It's about instiling a sense of leadership in our leaders.

First, some definitions.  By Average, for the statistics geeks out there, I am referring to the mean (add up everybody's income, divide by the number of people), not the median (whatever the person in the middle makes) or the mode (the income range that has the most people).  I use this measure because it is the statistical measure that is most sensitive to changes in our most disadvantaged, and to changes that affects large swarths of the population.

By Income, I mean including the income of everybody who qualifies to file Income Tax forms, including those on social assistance and Employment Insurance (You may or may not want to exclude non-citizens, depending on your social views).  This will result in a lower base number than the average Wage (of everybody working), but you adjust for that by using a bigger multiplier (more on that below).

When the Germans bombed Buckingham Palace during the Blitz, the Queen Mother said, "I'm glad we have been bombed.  Now we can look the East End in the Eye."  

There are legitimate policy reasons for our politicians to hold down the average income (eg. wage and price controls to ward off profiteers in times of national crisis or run-away inflation).  There are legitimate reasons to give money to select groups which does not result in immediate improvement for most people (eg. to spur innovation).  Sometimes, it is even necessary to cut back on support for our most needy when times are tough (eg. when faced with the stark choice between austerity and national insolvency - viz. Greece).

We need our leaders to be willing and able to make tough policy choices, but we don't want leaders to say, "You need to take the hit for the national good, but I am entitled to my entitlements."  We need leaders to say, "I know you are getting scalped.  It's necessary for the common welfare, but I will at least take a haircut".

Tying the politicians' salaries to the average income should not mean they never make tough policy decisions that require short-term pain.  It does mean that when they do make these choices as our representatives, they will give thought to how it affects the people, just as it affects their own personal bottomlines.

As to where to set the multiplier (and why we need one).  Firstly, by using Average Income, as opposed to Average Wage, that means our base number is less income than what the average working person is earning.

It is sometimes rationalized that we need to pay our politicians more in order to attract the talent of bankers, lawyers and businesspeople, who can earn way more in the private sector.  I think this is wrong-headed.  You don't pay your entire construction crew engineers' wages when you need to build a bridge.  The job of Member of Parliament does not even have minimum educational requirements (as it should be).  We have farmers and teachers and former pub managers serving (with competence and diligence, I presume).  You don't pay 300 farmers and teachers and shop stewarts bankers' wages so you can have a competent Minister of Finance.

Rather, we need to pay our MPs and Senators enough so that the farmers and teachers and mechanics who will lose seniority and opportunities in the work-a-day world can afford to represent their fellow citizens.  The bankers and lawyers should take a paycut, knowing that their service will contribute to a better functioning society, which in turn is good for business.

Sometimes politicians like to compare themselves to executives in a large corporation when they justify their pay.  I would think a more apt analogy would be a board member of a large non-profit, where you serve for the prestige, the connections you make, and because you believe in the cause (in this case, the Nation).  You don't expect to make a career of it.

When independent consultants look at political pay, they invariably, as with all guild-like professions where there are few comparable jobs to compare it to, rely on "what the other guy's getting".  Our politicians are better than the worst, so they need to be better paid than the bottom 50% of lawmakers in other jurisdicions; then they are doing a decent job, so maybe they need to be in the top quartile....and then the salary arms race begins when the Swedish or Belgian lawmakers compare what they make to "those Canadians over there".  

Let's get rid of all this and pay them the average income times X.  You wouldn't even have to adjust for cost-of-living (it's built in).  

 

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Vote, or else (not a modest proposal)

We value our democracy, but few appear to appreciate the value of that idea (based on registered voters who actually vote). Suppose instead the voting system we claim to treasure above all others reflected a duty to defend it. A few adjustments to the current system might be worth considering: 1. Make voting mandatory. How you'd enforce that is unclear, but the Australians appear to have some ideas. 2. Require voters to pass a simple test of the policies put forward by those they're voting for. Should you be able to demonstrate you have actual knowledge of a candidate's platform and proposed initiatives, then your vote counts. Fail, and your vote goes into the trash and you pay a small penalty for wasting your role in democracy. 3. Require voters to stand by their choice - no more anonymous voting. Here, you can answer to your neighbour as they answer to you. Don't want to pay a vehicle registration tax? Fine. Your use of infrastructure is plainly spelled out as a burden you expect everyone else to carry.

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Runner-Up Proportional Representation (NOT Party-List Proportional Rep

I like PR, but the idea that you make the House more representative of the vote by appointing members seems disingenuous to me.

My solution:  Close Runner-Up PR

How it works:  Instead of the Minority Parties appointing people from a list, you choose your At-Large MPs from the candidates who lost by the smallest margin, until the proportion of Governing MPs reflect the overall vote.

 First, what's wrong with Party-List PR?  The "At-Large" MPs that are supposed to make up the voting percentage for the minority Parties are selected by the party leadership, which means:

  a)  They are beholden to the leadership (too much like the appointed Senators in Canada that everybody hates, but don't know what to do with, excepted appointed by Minority Leaders and sitting in the Commons instead of the Senate).  If the at-large MPs ALWAYS vote with the leader, why not just let the leader vote count more times and save the salaries!?

  b) You end up with a bunch of what I call "Bums You Can't Throw Out".  The Party Leader and a few Party stalwarts always end up on the top of this list.  What if you are in a star candidate's riding, but can't stand the person?  Well you and your fellow voters trounce him/her by a wide margin and s/he gets to sit in the House anyway, because s/he's at the top of the Party's list.  (John Tory faced this situation in Ontario when he was Provincial Conservative Leader).

Rationale for Close Runner-Up PR:  

  a) It's more fair - In the most polarized ridings, 50-50% split by having two MPs who will consistently cancel each other's vote on the most divisive issues.  You make up for the nullifying effect of this split vote by having double the voice on issues that everybody in the riding agrees on.  Other ridings don't have this double-voice, but they also don't have the nullifying effect of two MPs voting against each other.

  b) The close runner-up is more "deserving", certainly than the unelected Party-List appointee.  If you lose by 10 or 20 votes to the "winner", can it really be said that s/he has more of a mandate from the people than you do?  You will have more competitive campaigns and candidates are more likely to modify their stance on various issues from the party-line to suit the local mood (think Red-Tories and pro-gun NDPers) - more representative that way.  It will also mean that every At-Large member ran a "good" campaign to get elected (beating out the neighbouring runners-up in the ridings next door) and will be more able to stand up for principle in a free vote when the Party leadership is going the other way.

  b1) Chips away at incumbent's advantage.  Imagine a riding split between two (or even three!) candidates; come next election, everybody will be able to put up "Re-elect Me" signs. (Added since original posting)

  c) It will encourage voter turn out.  Voters stay away because they don't think their vote will make a difference.  It's certainly true in the first past the post system in "safe ridings".  But in the Runner-Up PR system, you might know that the candidate you support will not come in first, but if you can get him or her closer in votes to the winner than the runner-up candidate in the next riding over, then you get your runner-up candidate an At-Large seat - if your vote gets your runner-up to within 200 votes, and the runner-up next riding over lost by 201, your runner-up wins.

  d) You can have Independent members elected at-large.  In the Party-List PR system, Independents will be shut out unless they can come in first.  Suppose candidate X has an argument with his/her Party Leader, but is a really popular former local mayor?  Well, X can split the vote with his/her former Party's candidate and let a dark horse come up, as in the first past the post system, or maybe split the vote evenly enough to come in second with a narrow margin.  The fact that "anything can happen" means people will want to come out to vote.  True, it may be that the Minority Parties may come a little bit short of absolute PR, but the existence of independent voices is, I think, worth it.

  e) You can have Government At-Large MPs!  Suppose Governing Party has a candidate who lost by 20 votes to a Minority Candidate.  Well you appoint that candidate as an At-Large MP.  In a House of 300+ MP's, that's not necessarily even going to increase the number of At-Large members significantly (at most one or two more Opposition MPs).  It won't happen most of the time, but the fact that it can happen makes it all the harder for a Government to claim that At-Large MPs are less "legitimate" than riding elected MPs.

You can modify this by dividing larger provinces into regions and ranking them according to disparity from actual vote to ensure At-Large MPs from more areas of the country.

Amendment: You can also simplify this by doing what you would normally do in PR, except give the At-large seats to the best performing candidates for the Parties that require the top-up. (Added since original posting) 

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Ubiquitous Voting Access

If we want people to participate, let's make voting easy, easy, easy.

With people busier than ever, limited advance poll access and a one day election day no longer make sense and in fact blocks people out of the process - in many instances some of the most vulnerable communities - single parents, people juggling multiple jobs, folks with physical impairments.  

We know that increasing voting access impacts turn out - just look at Toronto's last municipal election. The city went from having only six advance poll locations in 2010 to forty-four in 2014 and turn out in AP doubled.

There are lots of simple ways to make it easier for people to get to the ballot box. 

1. Make Advance Polls open for longer: more days and for a longer period of the day. Advance Polls in Mississauga were open for 13 days versus only 7 in Toronto. Polls in Toronto opened at 10am and closed at 7pm. It should be 7am to 9pm. 

2. Have more Advance Poll locations - using the example of Toronto, we should double the number of locations from 44 to 88 - two per ward. Research shows that we find that small differences in distance from the polls can have a significant impact on voter turnout

3. Enable telephone and internet voting - the City of Toronto started down this path but ran out of time - lets get it right for next time

4. E Day voting from 7am - 9pm is a no brainer! 10am to 8pm is far too limiting.

Recent Canadian research suggested the impact of extending AP might be limited, but the recent Toronto election shows others. Regardless, this is low hanging fruit. 

 

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Publicly funded elections

That's right. No donations at all. Not from corporations, unions, individuals. Elections are funded by the public. Anyone running (party or individual) is eligible for a certain amount of funding (based on XYZ criteria) and then they are funded to run.

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Participatory budgeting

Participatory budgeting (or PB) gives citizens a direct say over how public money is spent in their communities. Here’s how the process usually works. The government sets aside a small portion of its infrastructure budget. Citizens from a local community generate ideas for how that money should be spent. The ideas are developed and costed by officials, and then put to a vote. The government implements the idea or ideas that get the most votes.

Pioneered in Brazil and now used in over 1,500 places globally – including New York City, Boston, and Toronto – PB addresses several democratic deficits at once. It engages citizens with their governments in between elections; experience shows that when there is real money and real control involved, participation rates are much higher. PB also demystifies and democratizes government budgets, a sphere of public activity that is extremely important yet alien to most normal people. PB empowers communities to develop a shared understanding of their needs, encouraging citizens to think collectively and improving the quality of local spending decisions.  

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Community Art Programs for Children and Youth

This may sound simple but art, the act of creating is a very powerful tool in building community and self-esteem in young people. It can also open up necessary conversations that cannot be communicated in other ways. Art-making develops critical thinking skills, it teaches young people to find uncommon solutions to problems and it offers often a necessary escape for situations that can be overwhelming. It also can teach young people that collaborations can be exciting and invigorating. This gives them the tools to be a participatory member of the democratic system and building community. Sketch in Toronto offers street youth the opportunity and access to an art studio and community artists and the results have lead to people finding their creative and life path. It also offers a space that is beyond survival where they can view themselves as a complete person outside of a homeless or street-involved youth. I have been trained as an artist and although I may not create art in my day to day life I found the critical thinking skills I developed from that training has served me in many work/life situations. And working directly with children and youth in art making I've seen first hand the extraordinary and positive impact it has had. That is difficult to match in any other way. Art should not be about a few people being 'good' and 'talented' and most abandoning it if they are not. We all need to draw, make crafts, paint for all the positive ways it relaxes us, improves our brain function and mental health and again teaches us problem-solving skills that can apply to all aspects of our lives. 

Finding success through the arts

  • 82% of students who participate in structured music programs finished high school, compared to 68% of those who did not.[36]
  • At-risk students who got involved in the arts, compared with students who had little or no arts exposure, have higher secondary school graduation rates; higher overall grade-point averages; higher math grade-point averages; higher test scores in science and writing; and are more likely to pursue post-secondary education.[37]

Arts Facts (TAC)

http://torontoartsresearch.org/artsfacts/

What children/youth gain from the arts: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/22/top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/

Arts Education:

http://blog.artsusa.org/2012/09/13/does-the-common-core-develop-creative-problem-solving-and-communication-skills/

Art gives kids life-long problem solving skills:

http://dowser.org/interview-bob-bates-on-how-art-gives-kids-lifelong-problem-solving-skills/

Art improves our brain:

http://hyperallergic.com/136378/study-finds-making-art-may-keep-our-brains-healthy/

How Art builds community:

http://comm-org.wisc.edu/papers96/arts.html

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Ranked Ballots for Municipal Elections in Toronto!

While I'm interested in remedies for connecting citizens to their governments in between elections, we know that currently elections are when engagement peaks. The use of ranked ballots would make our elections more fair and friendly. Let's focus on the issues & integrity of our candidates, and eliminate vote-splitting rhetoric, with this simple change! www.123toronto.ca

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Guaranteed subsidiarity

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms should enshrine the right for people to be governed at the most local possible level. Higher-level governments should be largely relegated to governing the local governments.

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Lower the voting age to sixteen

Why don’t we lower the voting age to sixteen and make young adults’ first election a big teaching opportunity in our schools? Lower voter turnout is both a symptom and cause of declining health in a democracy and one of the strongest influences on whether a person will vote is whether they voted in the last election. By showing students that elections are important and can be interesting, we can help them form good political habits that will stand them, and our democracy, in good stead right from the start.

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Proportional Representation!

Until we have PR, our elections will continue to deliver distorted results. We need more choice, more diversity in government, and fair results. Most European countries use some form of PR. Why don't we? First-Past-the-Post works great, in a two-party system. But as soon as you add third party… or fourth… or fifth (!).. it breaks down. Let's make this happen. www.UnlockDemocracy.ca

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Democratic schools

When schools are run from the top down, students learn to dislike authority and think passively about themselves in their school community. When students run the show, schools are more creative, promote student happiness, and teach all of the benefits of community engagement. www.idenetwork.org/index.htm

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Debate Reform

Can we include more voices in our election debates? In Canada, the Green Party should be in all the debates. And in the US, we need to start seeing at LEAST a third option. Two choices is boring and dull. Here's a good article about the Canadian context.

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