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campaign statement ( long)

Below is what I wrote for my campaign for the national council. It is relevant to the local council as well. I have some things to say speciific to local council as well, here

My answers to the campaign questions for Toronto chapter are here

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The Primary Issue

Here are several articles expanding on what I say about the realities of the voting reform movement in Canada. Proportional Representation makes sense and is the key to solving the systemic problems we have now with democratic governance. But there are very powerful people who like things the way they are.

These people have done some very nasty things to defeat any voting reform and to intimidate whoever promotes it. We have seen some referenda on voting reform which were set up to fail by the tried and true method of suppressing the "yes" argument and pouring the "no" case into the information vacuum.

That has not worked. Most people now have some idea of what proportional representation is all about. So now the tactics are to send professional "activists" to set up a phony reform and present it as the "easier" solution, and to destroy from within any organizations promoting PR.

The phony reform of choice is the "Alternative Vote" system, which has been adopted as official policy by the Liberal party. This is no reform at all, but a way of trying to restore a two party system and locking it in place for good. A basic principle of PR is that one person cannot represent a whole area, and multimember districts are necessary for real democracy.

In Toronto, a group called "Rank Ballot Initiative Toronto" (RaBIT) was set up to try to establish AV at a local level. Its members also joined the local chapter of FVC and worked to take it over or to prevent it from criticizing AV at the local level. They did not succeed in the first goal, but have been effective at the second one.

It is hard to be sure what went on from outside the loop, but that is a part of the problem with Fair Vote; it has been too closed off and elitist. The members of the local chapter in the past three years say that the national council has failed to support them in dealing with RaBIT. It seems part of this board wanted to find some compromise.

This reached a climax when the national council ordered a referendum on whether to advocate for voting reform at the local level. It was not a referendum on AV as such, though the AV promoters treated it as one. The option to promote PR in local government passed, but not by much.

It seems that much of the membership had the idea that what the council wanted was a way out of advocating for PR in local government. This seems to be an accurate perception. However, to do that would be the end of FVC.

The RaBIT group left the Toronto chapter after a conflict of interest policy was published. But now some of them are running for national council; the three I cited as unacceptable and perhaps others I do not know. They are energetically spreading misinformation, and seem to have deluded a lot of people into thinking that AV and PR are the same thing, that RaBIT were supporters of FVC, and they have been banned from attending meetings due to racism, sexism or whatever "ism" serves.

They are also threatening the national council with lawsuits, a good way to intimidate middle class career people. Many of the candidates seem to be such people. Thus, the primary issue is the need for people on the board of FVC who can provide much tougher leadership.

Secondary Issues;

After the leadership issue, there are three other priorities which FVC must address; building up a member and funding base, a better public education campaign, and restructuring for more openness and resilience.

1) Membership and Funding. This is necessary to the success of the other two priorities. I think FVC had 2000 members recently. I think some have dropped out over the referendum debacle. The goal should be 100,000 members. We need to open many more local chapters.

To achieve that, FVC really needs to get serious about engaging people outside narrow circles of those who want to debate the intricacies of various voting systems, or who are only interested in high level lobbying. People keen to do ground level organizing seem to be passively discouraged.

There is a need for a regular electronic newsletter that keeps people informed about and connected to the movement, and that counters misinformation and gives people good talking points.

Those opposing us have a lot of money. We will never match their funding, but we have to have some funding. We need more paid staff, and we need an office, which should be in Ottawa.

In addition to member fees, we need to look at other funding, at least in the short term. It is not hard to arrange things so as not to become dependent on one funding source.

2) Public Education. FVC needs a much better web site that is a real resource for those who want to learn about voting systems. I would like to see a printed handbook on voting systems published. As well, a regular newsletter needs to be established. People are not going to remain members of a group they rarely hear anything from.

In past, FVC has been hamstrung in public education work by internal disputes over what is a valid voting system. For example, we had the cat fights between STV and MPP supporters than only now seems to be dying down. The thing that people need to understand is that the public should decide democratically what form of PR we will have.

It is not for a little group of voting systems nerds to decide and then "enlighten" politicians, who until now were in darkness and will then carry out the designs of the wise ones. It is not about debating an ideal system at all; the form of PR should be worked out in a "citizen's assembly" according to the model established for this, and approved by the public in a referendum. The purpose of public education is to explain what are the basic principles of PR, so that the public will not be taken in by phony reforms.

In short, the members of FVC and of the general public must start to be treated with respect by those who take leadership positions.

3) Restructuring. The present structure of FVC is too closed, centralized, and bloated in proportion to actual resources and membership base. In any nation wide organization which must be democratically run but whose members cannot afford to travel to functions, direct elections do not really work. As you can see in this election, it is hard for the members to know who they are voting for, or what the real issues are.

When FVC started, the founders were hostile to the idea of local chapters. The chapters were gradually forced upon them. Now we need to be reorganized by chapters.

Each chapter should have one delegate and be responsible for sending that delegate to a once yearly council, which will appoint an executive for that year. The executive should be only three to five people who are able to meet frequently and do extensive work for the organization.

As the number of members and chapters grows, we will need to establish regional or provincial councils as well.

The criterion for membership must be made clear. The basic principles of any PR system must be spelled out, as well as the operating principles of FVC. It must be made very clear that no conflicts of interest will be allowed.

This means that if you are a member of FVC, and particularly if you hold an official position, the aims of FVC are number one for you. If those aims conflict with any other group or political party you are involved with, you decide whether to leave it or to leave FVC. Given the reality of the way in which many political actors operate in this country, such rules are essential to the success of FVC and to the dignity and peace of mind of its members.

This is what I can say about what I see as the primary issue in this campaign for the national council of FVC, and the three secondary issues. I encourage electors to contact me and to try to contact and question the other candidates.

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Further reading;

( remember to hit "back" on your browser to return to this web site. )

A good place to begin to learn about voting systems

FVC's official position on AV

FVC's new "conflict of Interest policy"

Stuart Parker on AV

Stuart Parker at the end of patience

Wilf Day's excellent blog article about these issues

My ideas about voting reform and Toronto government

A short fable I wrote for the edification of some FVC officials

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