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Going for the Right Thing


( A note to Fair Vote Canada)

Hello, voting reformers.

I just came on something that should interest you people. It is found at http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29593

This is the Global research network, which is the best source of factual information I can find on the web these days. You need to get on its mail list if you want research and analysis about issues instead of "news".

The topic is constitutional reform. It is in the Uncle Sam context but it is all relevant to Canada as well. We have the same disease as the U.S.; that there is no means of amending the constitution of the country. As well, a large part of the population thinks the fundamental laws descended from heaven and are unchangeable for all time.

In the case of Canada we have had some bad precedents for reform of the constitution, creating the charter of rights, and so on. The idea has got set in that amending is done by the provincial premiers getting together, and they have to be unanimous. This is ridiculous, but we also have the "seven provinces with half the population" formula for less critical decisions. Everyone in English Canada fails to notice that Quebec has never agreed to it.

What has always bothered me about the voting reform movement in Canada is that it is focussed on achieving one reform, and keeps talking about how it can be done without amending the constitution, because everyone knows that is impossible, and so on. But the real issue is the process of amending the basic laws, whether covered by the BNA act or not. You are never going to get a really satisfactory reform about voting or anything else until you take the process away from the politicians.

The article refers to how other countries with much more advanced political systems than ours or the U.S. have dealt with this problem. Even one of the framers of the original U.S. constitution discussed it. The fundamental laws should be renewed every twenty years. Each generation should be able to buy into it, make it their own.

So, instead of arguing about this voting system or that, which really is not our right, what we should be asking for is a system of amending. We should not be perpetuating the idea that reform is done by a bunch of politicians getting together and deciding how to placate a public demand. Or worse, how to solve their own bureaucratic/administrative problems. Or, one bunch pushing something on another bunch of politicos by getting them in a hotel room at midnight and "rolling the dice" a la Mulroney.

I recall that, over some years, I have been suggesting this, but it was not well listened to. Maybe at some point the voting reform people will start to take a look at their lack of success or unsatisfactory results, and rethink their basic approach. Lately with the Federal liberals we have seen politicians proposing "phony reforms" which solve their problem but make the problem much worse for the rest of us.

The demand all along should have been for a constitutional assembly to examine whether reforms are needed, and if so, a binding referendum on them. At this point, many Fair Vote types will be pointing to the referendae in Ontario and B.C. and saying "no good! The politicians will just rig it." Well, the politicians can rig anything, slant anything, if the public lets them get away with it. This leads to the question of why the response to the rigged referendae were so timid?

This leads to the discussion people on the Fair Vote list are having again lately about strategic voting, and how to get the opposition to cooperate to defeat Harper. First of all, I do not see why people assume that the Liberals or the NDP would be that much better than the Harperoids when in office with a majority. Second, I do not see how people ever expect to have real influence over politicians if they are not prepared to get loud and aggressive in large numbers.

I have said that the big problem with "the public" in Canada is that everybody is so terrified of seeming "unreasonable" that they nullify themselves. People are convinced that if they come off as too "militant" they will "not be listened to". This is self defeating and a self fulfilling prophecy.

There is also this "non partisan" thing in Fair Vote. If we do anything that is seen as against a particular political party, the members of that party who are in Fair Vote might leave or work against us. Again, self neutralizing; it allows the operatives of any party to shut us down. Such people need to be told to make up their minds whether they are going to be a party person or a voting reform person.

Now, the idea of the "meta party" or political movement. Political parties are not likely to implement reforms which the public really wants or needs without a serious social movement to back up the demand. Such a movement acts like a meta party, sitting above political parties. It backs whatever party supports what it wants and withdraws the support if the party does not deliver. But of equal importance, it works against the party that is hostile to what is desired.

So it is becoming understood that a coalition of "progressive" parties is going to be needed in order to get the conservatives out, before voting reform can happen. Somehow they all have to be made to form an electoral alliance.

But they will not do this voluntarily. Most political scientists will tell you that the right wing tends to be numerically inferior but unified. The left is more numerous but divided. This, incidentally, is why the Conservatives are never, ever, going to accept voting reform; winner take all elects conservatives, proportional elects "center left" governments. So, talking about getting voting reform is basically talking about forcing the center to left to unite long enough to put it through.

And the word is "forced". There must be one candidate running against the conservatives in the next election in each riding. If the parties will not sort it out among themselves it must be sorted out for them; and then enforced! That will get quite noisy and "unreasonable".

I am not going to enumerate here what kinds of things will have to be gotten into to achieve this. Some people talk about holding some sort of "primary" to determine the strongest candidate. You certainly do not want some committee "picking winners".

But when we have finally gone through all this and got a fairly simple reform passed, what next? There are other things in the constitutional set up of the country which also need to be fixed. Is every last one of them going to take twenty years and a vast expense of the public's time and money?

What we need to be squawking for is a system of constitutional reform first, then a voting system. If you get the first one first, the second one will be much easier. But if you simply try to get the second first, you will not get what you really want because you do not have the first.

I have been squawking for a long time to get Fair Vote people to pay some attention to the process of democratic reform in Canada, and to ask why we do not have one. Mostly, they just do not seem able to grasp it.

But would it not be so much better if we had what is recommended in the cited article? We should have a system of automatically renewing the constitution every twenty years. Needed reforms that have become apparent during that time can be dealt with then.

So you see, Fair Vote people, that talking about just Voting reform is too narrow. I want to talk about getting the process of reform right and getting it into place.

Enough said.