On Electoral Reform (First published: 2016)


The federal Liberal government appears to be leaning toward a ‘ranked-ballot’ system of voting. The general consensus among non-liberals is that the government’s motive is to advantage the Liberals.

The way ranked-balloting works: your choice of candidate under the traditional FPTP system now becomes your first choice under a ranked-ballot system; as opposed to voting under FPTP, you can indicate a second preference, a third preference, and so on, until you have ranked all of the candidates that appear on your ballot. The virtue is that, while under FPTP one need win by only a single vote to take it all (leaving the runner-up and the million voters who voted for the runner-up with nothing), in the ranked-ballot system those one million 2nd-place votes will still count for something. More of Canada’s voice will be retained from the election and represented in the House of Commons. How can anyone possibly find something wrong with that?

The problem is thus: given that the Liberals currently occupy the centre of the  political spectrum, with the Conservatives to their right and the NDP to their left, a ranked-ballot system would advantage the Liberals because they are in a position to attract the second-choice votes of Conservative supporters on their right, and the second-choice votes of NDP supporters on their left. The Conservatives and NDP, on the other hand, would not be so fortuitously positioned under a ranked-ballot system as the Liberals; being as they exist on either political ‘extremity’ and are very far apart from one another to boot, they would likely not attract the other party’s 2nd choice. They would be left dividing the second-choice votes of Liberal supporters between them.

The Conservatives and NDP would have only one ‘market’ to explore for 2nd-choice votes; whereas the Liberals have two.  To introduce a bias into the voting system, deliberately or not, is contrary to the principles of democracy.

If it is true that the ranked ballot system will introduce bias, then any government is sorely remiss in pursuing this. Whether you are a Liberal, NDP, or Conservative, you are firstly, Canadian; duty and honour bound to preserve our democracy. As a Canadian government, your greatest achievement lay in  making democracy work well for all Canadians – not just for you and your supporters. You must protect Canadian democracy from attacks;[i] attacks that are oftentimes quite subtle. This could very well mean on occasion to protect it from yourself.[ii]

It is beyond the intention of this article to discuss what the federal Liberals are now doing with respect to electoral reform; but I caution them about spending too much time rationalizing why they are doing it, or, if it goes the other way, why they are cancelling the initiative. Politicizing it even further accomplishes nothing of real value. Instead they should continue with their domestic and global agenda, openly and honestly, and in doing so, help to provide a clear choice for the Canadian voter in 2019. The other participants must do likewise. No party should have an agenda which is hidden from the public; but this is possible only if all voters engage in the political process to the point where they are knowledgeable of our Canada’s and our world’s political, social, and environmental issues.

I do not believe we need to change our current system –flawed as it may be, it has gotten us this far, and with our Senate in place to provide us and our elected officials the opportunity for ‘sober second thought,’ we are somewhat protected against a voter-hiccup akin to what we saw last November in the U.S. If the U.S. had a system like ours, an unelected Senate would protect the American people (especially minorities and the economically vulnerable) from the dark side of the President-elect’s views on government and geopolitics. Representation of regional and minority interests (as well as the reason Quebec signed onto Confederation in the first place) is already incorporated into our Senate structure.

Still, Canadians may justly feel that a configuration in the House more reflective of the popular vote is needed. We could address this systemic weakness by creating a certain number of additional seats, unattached to any specific riding, against which the voting breakdown may be applied on a pro rata basis to determine a fair allocation of the additional seats among the parties.


[i] Please consider reading Protecting Canadian Democracy: The Senator You Never Knew. Edited by Senator Serge Joyal.

[ii] Sir John A. fully expected the Senate would be under challenge by future governments simply because no one, but no one –especially governments-  likes it when something interferes with their agenda; any more than drivers like speed bumps. Fortunately, our first PM recognized this.


MacBeth: A Modern Rendering of an Old Political Problem


Act I Scene i

Three witches are gathered around a boiling cauldron; the third witch reading the Toronto Sun, the second witch reading the National Post, while the first witch is typing a message to the Globe and Mail on her laptop, in the midnight gloom.

First Witch: Rubble, rubble, toil, and bubble…

Second Witch: What can we do to cause the PM trouble?…

Third Witch: Remove his mask, and all of its day-old stubble.

First Witch: But lo! sister Jane and sister CC, a rider approaches…

Second and Third Witch [at the same time]: Sister Jody, it is MacTrudeau! [the witches scatter from the pot, and commune in secret behind the maple tree, as the rider enters].

MacTrudeau [dismounting from his horse]: What have we here? A boiling p-pott? [then, leaning forward to smell the soup]: Gadzooks! It has the aroma of the south end of my horse while travelling north. What manner of manure have the weird sisters thought to concoct this time? [then, looking around and espying these 3 amigos, diligently spying on him from behind a maple tree] Lo there! You 3! What fare do you prepare for our Canadian brothers and sisters this election?

First Witch: Dear PM, this is nothing about you.

Second Witch: Nothing about you, but everything about you.

Third Witch: Um…

MacTrudeau [aside]: This is most strange and unnerving. How can something not be, but still be? What they prepare has the smell of merde de cheval and the stench of veiled secrecy is round about. How can they expect voters to partake of the fare they have prepared? I must suss out their true purpose…[turning to the Witches] See hear! I can smell the horse manure you are cooking up from a mile away. Be careful that the good people you try to feed this to don’t bury you up to your eyeballs and over your lips in it in the coming cauldron cook-off! But never mind that for now. I need you to answer one simple question: Will we Liberals win the election?

First Witch [bending over the p-pott, sniffing to make sure it has enough parsley, sage, and bullshit]: No you will not. Enough have already partaken of our cauldron’s mixture of lies and misdirection, with a healthy dollop of bulroney on crackers for a side. They will look at you, they will listen to you, but they will see and hear Scheer or Singh. And they will vote for Scheer or Singh.

Second Witch [giggling with excitement and admiration for her big sister]: And those two will do their best to make themselves to look like prime ministerial, as you do.

Third Witch: Um…

MacTrudeau: But why is it that you do not cast spells to make Scheer and Singh look like me, the way you can make me look like Scheer and Singh?

First Witch: That is because the Great Bard thought it mete to provide us with only one cauldron, for all eternity.

Second Witch: We need more potts to cook up that much bull-oney.

Third Witch: We can ask for more money from our movement conservative brethren in the south to help us? The warlock is a citizen among them as well as here…

First and Second Witch [emphatically and in unison]: Shut up, already!

Third Witch [casting a downward glance]: Um…okay…[aside]: What’s wrong with what I said? I was only telling the truth [A look of revelation passes over her face]: Oh yeah, I forgot. Truth isn’t part of the recipe [then, turning to her sisters]: Um…sorry.






A Missive to Québec


Dear Québec:

I am half French-Canadian, half English-Canadian; but I am writing to you as whole-Canadian.

Ma mère was the best person I have ever known; mes tantes et mon oncle I always esteemed with love and admiration. They were born and raised in Québec. They came from a poor family. They had to grow up with nothing and sometimes at boarding schools. For all of that, they were the best parents to us kids that anyone could ever be.

Mom seemed to know what was important in life and in people; she took the good along with the bad, focusing on the good. As children, having her for a mom, though we were not wealthy, we never wanted for anything. Ever.

I am telling you this because I have seen the recent rise in popularity of the Bloq, and I know what that means to the chances of returning the PM to government: Yves-François Blanchette is a fine orator, relaxed, very much appearing like the Québec ‘everyman,’ appealing to most Francophone Québecers.

But the Bloq’s newly recovered popularity could come at great cost to Québec and to Canada, for two reasons:

  1. The Conservative support is static and firmly ensconced in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. It does not appear to be changing. The Liberal support nationwide is sliding, thanks to the erosion of Liberal support in Québec by the Bloq.
  2. The installation of a Conservative government nationwide will almost certainly invite another referendum in Québec, and this time the separatist side could win, and Canada would lose a third of its soul.

What would remain of Canada would not be the Canada of Lester B. Pearson or Pierre Elliot Trudeau, but the Canada of ‘big-oil’ – this being the ‘national vision’ of the Western Alliance, now called ‘Conservatives.’ This is the biggest con of all: they are not conserving anything but the wealth of the few out west, and this they care more for than they do about the nation built by the Indigenous, the French, and the English nearly two centuries ago and for which many young Canadians gave their lives and futures only a half-century ago. They will pay lip service, however, to anyone or anything which will provide them more votes, because that makes ‘business sense’ to them.

A Québec-less Canada is unimaginable. The Québécois culture existed before we did as a nation and contributed as much to the Spirit of Canada as the English and the Indigenous.

So much of how we identify as Canadian has come to us from our Québécois brothers and sisters:

It is Québecers we have to thank for our Maple Syrup. It is a souvenir staple for visitors from around the world. The only thing about snow I can look forward too (the Maple Leafs having been so dismal for so long) is pouring maple syrup on the snow to make toffee.

The Beaver was first popularized during the fur trade between the Indigenous folks and the coureur des bois; providing this nation with its first ‘economy.’

Both the Maple Leaf and the Beaver we venerate to the level of national symbols.

Both have a special connection with Quebec and Québécois.

Québec and Québecers have never been afraid to speak their minds, or to walk to the beat of their own drum, even if everyone else appears to be heading in the opposite direction. That’s what has helped to make Canada, Canada, since the rest of the world, going by what’s happening in the U.S. and in the Middle East, is given to going off the rails now and then, while Canada has been able to provide some grounding for the world. Where the Trumps of the world call for more bombs, violence, and misery to settle their affairs, Canada’s Liberal Prime Ministers call for peacekeeping and stand up for humanity’s rights, regardless of where they live or the colour of their skin. The latest example is when we opened our doors to migrants coming from all over, attempting to find safe haven from war for their children. Those on the right look upon this as a migrantocalypse, that is, if they cannot take advantage of their coming from poverty to underpay them.

Forming a third of Canada’s aspirational mix, Québec profoundly influences how Canada interacts with the world and how the world views Canada. Right now, were you to ask around, you would soon see that the Canada led by Justin Trudeau (a francophone Canadian, by the way ) is revered and respected, whereas the most powerful and influential nation in the world under Donald Trump is currently the object of ridicule and alarm among folks overseas.

Andrew Scheer is going to continue the harperesque initiative of making Canada un-great—Americanesque in a Trump-ish way.

My life and the lives of my father, siblings, and children have not been the same since my mother died. Even though she’s been gone for 12 years, I talk to her every day. My father says he dreams about her every night. Though we are each our own person, something of each of us left along with mom.

As a Canadian, were Québec to leave our family and leave us to fend for ourselves against the rightwing movement-conservative agenda, which continues with its eastward migration from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba after coming north from the U.S., the pain of loss, the kind one feels when mom dies, the kind of loss that goes right to your soul, your ‘holy of holies,’ would be more than I can bear.

From 1812 onward, we have managed to go our own way and keep above the fray of global chess; preferring things like peacekeeping missions and foreign aid contingents to dropping bombs on folks.

These are examples of the sanity Canada is blessed with and freely offers without quota to the world. It is a sanity formed of the alliance of three cultures which may be fairly described as one culture, immigrant-Canadian (for we all came from somewhere else in search of means to feed and care for our families), with three traditional facets(Indigenous, Québecois, and European-English), more recently incorporating a fourth (African), a fifth(Asian), and a sixth(Middle Eastern). We are all immigrants that call Canada, ‘home.’ We are all global citizens.

Canada is fast becoming a beacon of progress for the World. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is continuing a mission begun not by his father, but by Lester B. Pearson (the Peace Keeper PM and Nobel Laureate), who selected Justin’s father as his successor, and for good reason.

But we will become the nadir of the world’s hopes (and the hopes of its children) by electing a mindset that is taking the world into an abyss it will not be able to crawl out of. Ever again.

If we reject Justin Trudeau’s Liberals now, we will add Canada’s weight to the anchor that is going to drag the world of humanity down into a Fantasia-style black hole. Our ‘Never Ending Story’ and the world’s, will not end so happily as things did in the movie. We have our own Atreyu. Let’s give him  more time.

A Missive to My Local Conservative Candidate


Dear Madam/Sir:

It is not an easy job you are vying for. Very likely you are a good person, a good friend to your friends and even better as parent to your children; the sort of parent who will always put their children’s needs before their own [the way my own mother always did]; one who will fight like a cornered animal in their defense.

Now—I am hard pressed to reconcile the fine parent/friend/community member you very likely are, with the policies and values of the party you choose to represent.

As a parent, would you not beg, borrow, and steal, if that is what it took to put a meal in front of your children and a roof over their heads? The Conservative party would rather balance the budget first, and then feed Canada’s vulnerable children on what is left, if there is any.

Now—as you watch your kids weaken physically, intellectually, and spiritually from hunger, are you prepared to tell them ‘things will get better one day; but we must balance the budget first!’ I hardly think that you would. What’s all this ‘balancing the budget’ bulroney anyways? Whom does that benefit? Canada will still have a monstrous debt to pay interest on. Balancing the budget will not reduce the debt, nor the interest hit on the operating budget. The promise to balance the budget is a political tool the Conservatives resort to, in order to rationalize reductions in services-the kind that keep folks safe, healthy, fed, out of the gutters, and out of hospital emergency wards and jails.

As your parents age, they will require more of your time and assistance; the fine son/daughter in you would try to accommodate your parents by increasing your income and the time you spend with them.

Would you rather tell your aging mom or dad to get out and find a job; that no sloth on their part can be tolerated? No? Well, the CPC would raise their age of retirement, even as they allow inflation to erode the benefits seniors receive. Not a problem if you have lots of savings and you are not relying exclusively on CPP/OAS. Only wealthier folks can be unphased by this. Monthly CPP and OAS support might be only a drop in the bucket to wealthy retirees’ quality of life, but most Canadians do not retire with a whole lot of money in the bank. The support CPP/OAS provide is, for many Canadians, the difference between living with dignity, or roaming the streets pushing a grocery trolley filled with your life’s possessions.

Lonely and alone, infirm with old age, having worked and contributed for nigh on half a century—their mental and physical capacity eroded from long hours of work under unhealthy conditions—do you really believe they are able to manage without help; that you would not be putting them on a spiral downward into misery?

Of course you wouldn’t—not for even a moment. You would find a way to keep everyone sheltered, safe, properly fed, feeling secure and happy, just as your parents did for you while you were too young to look after yourself.

There is no one, save for this thing we call the Conservative Party, who is brazen and obtuse enough to believe that Canada’s economically vulnerable men, women, and children are not Canada’s to take care of.

When citizens are elected to serve as an MP, MPP, or Counsellor, an event of tectonic breadth occurs in their life trajectory: that person’s family has suddenly grown much larger. Every citizen in their riding becomes their mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son…

If you are the sort of parent who is comfortable giving more money and time to the child who has more than enough already, while at the same time withholding your money and time from your other kids, then you appear to be a match in spirit with the Conservative Party and its national ‘vision.’

I just don’t know of a single parent who has it in them to behave like that. Given that every candidate comes from a family, how is it that the Conservative Party is able to field even one?

How is it that you, the fine parent-daughter/son that you likely are, is able to align yourself with the CPC, when the CPC is prepared to deny so many of the Canadian family the basic rights to food, shelter, and safety?

Can you see yourself doing that to your kids?

Sincerely yours,