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PR and the Environment; Thursday at the Ralph Thornton Center Toronto

I participated in the Canadian Electoral Alliance event yesterday at the Ralph Thornton center in Toronto. I have been hanging around the CEA people lately. It consists mostly of one person who is doing all the work.

I helped a bit with phoning media to try to get a reporter out. I think a lot of independent media groups send reporters incognito, because I saw so many people scribbling in notepads or tapping on ipads. I found that CEA's contact list for the media was very out of date, and oriented to the establishment media. It needs to be brought up to date, which requires some researching.

Judging from the tables all around the room, there are many new groups trying to get started, dealing with the lack of democracy. However, they are still very amateur operations.

This was shown by all the petitions circulating around the room. They distracted people and there were so many on essentially the same topic that they confused people. I think a moratorium is needed on more petitions because they are not an effective method.

Nonetheless, I got tied up in circulating a petition around this crowded room; a hopeless task.

The speakers were interesting. Elizabeth May explained that she was only involved in electoral politics because a section of the Green party is obsessed with that. She would be happy to not sit in parliament if at the same time the Green agenda was brought forward.

This was in response to somebody who accused the Green party of electing a conservative in the close election in Manitoba. The Conservative won by 400 votes and the Green got about 1000. Yes, isn't it sad? But welcome to winner take all elections. Ever heard of proportional representation?

Stephane Dion started off with a very good point; it was not a good idea  to get voting reform tied up with another issue, such as environmentalism.  The theme  of the meeting  was PR as a way to environmental reform. 

Stephane Dion thought Canada is such a complicated country that the MMP system used in New Zealand or Germany could not be grafted on to it as is. That is true, although I do not know how his funny system would solve the distinct problems of Canada, either. He also said that a straight PR system, meaning treat the whole country as one constituency of 300 seats, would be a disaster for Canada.

Few people would argue this. Only a few small countries us the single constituency. For a country as big as Canada it would be hopelessly cumbersome. What do you have, candidate lists of 300?

But most PR systems would use multimember constituencies of about 5 or 6 up to 10 or 12. This would make it much easier to draw boundaries so as to reflect geographical realities, to not divide coherent areas. The constituencies could be of different sizes as long as the rule of about one seat per 100 000 people were held to.

We still have this funny rule that Quebec must have one quarter of the seats. So, rather than get into a constitutional amendment, give it to them. Personally, I have no problem with Quebecois votes being worth about 20% more; they tend to vote more than 20% smarter. Vive La Quebec.

What about the territories and P.E.I.? Maybe they should be left to decide how to appoint their one or two MPs. Frankly, if you have to elect just one or two people, an approval ballot makes the most sense.

But now I get to the topic I really would like to get discussion on. I was doing some lobbying about it at the meeting yesterday. How do we get a discussion of the options for local government in Toronto? Or do the Rabbit people still have FV Toronto totally intimidated?

I think they are finally ready to start thinking about it. I think the Canadian Electoral Alliance is too. I hear the new director of FVC, Kelly Carmichael, is talking about something like that.

It is time to start brainstorming about who would be a good presenter. Denis Pilon is an obvious choice; he was very good on the talk shows about the Ford fiasco and how a mayor should be chosen.

Somebody told me about a person called Brian Tangay, who happens to live in Windsor. I know nothing about him.

Funnily enough, I even thought about Stuart Parker. However, I do not think he comes to Toronto much anymore. It would be interesting to juxtapose him with somebody taking a more hard nosed attitude toward Meslin and company.

Another obvious choice would be Dan King, of C4LD, Province of Toronto, and various other initiatives which seek change to government structures. He is a very good speaker and presenter. So of course he is isolated out as some sort of complete flake.

To conclude, somebody was asking me why everybody is so worried about the RaBIT group when there are only a few of them. This is the excuse for total failure to challenge them? They are at least halfway to getting what they want because nobody is taking them on.

Take a look at their web site; http://www.123toronto.ca/roadtrip.htm It is very offensive that these people just keep rolling along with no opposition at all. If somebody could just stand up and show what the other options are...