Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is Harper's version of Fair Representation Fair for You?

Here we go again.  This time Stephen calls it “Fair Representation” and still the con pundits out west still whine and moan about Quebec getting “special treatment”.  Some of them even say that this “special treatment” is in the Constitution of Canada.

If it is, I can’t find it. 

I know our laws governing representation are odd, that’s because they are a compromise.  That seems to be the Canadian way.  Whining about compromise?  That seems to be about 30 odd per cent of this country’s way.

The first compromise was the Senate Clause, that no province would have less MPs than they have Senators.  The second compromise was the Grandfather Clause, that no province would have less MPs than they had in 1976.

Why the compromises?  The laws governing the allocation of seats in the House of Commons are entrenched in the Constitution of Canada.  In order to change them an Amendment to the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982 is required.  That means you must have the support of 2/3rds of the provinces’ legislatures representing 50% of the total population of all the provinces of Canada.  

That’s the 7/50 rule.

You also need majority support in the House of Commons and the Senate but that’s not an issue, the conservative majorities will do what they are told.

A bit of history now...

A few years back, a fellow named Brian Mulroney realized that the existing method to determine representation in Canada was a problem.  If the census people were right, we were going to have over 369 MPs after 2001.  The problems were that there would not be enough seats in the House to accommodate the MPs as well as offices for these folk.  There were also the costs involved.  MPs aren’t cheap.  They require staff and constituency offices and so forth as well as their regular pay.

So they sat down and came up with a new plan to slow the numbers increase in the House of Commons.  Simply take the population of the 10 provinces and divide that by the number of seats that the provinces held at that time to give us the “Electoral Quotient” or EQ.  279.  The population of each province would be divided by the EQ to determine the number of ridings.  Then to ensure that no one loses seats, they were guaranteed at least the number of seats they held in 1976.  That way the majority of the provinces would back the plan.  The population number would be from the census taken each ten years, like the 2011 census.

Stephen’s new plan is to take the population number from the 1991 to get his base EQ, and then uses a percentage growth to determine the new EQ actually used to determine the number of seats per province.  This allows seats to accumulate faster.

Instead of adding 7 MPs at the next reallocation, we magically end up with 30 more MPs at the trough next allocation.  That means an extra 23 nodding ninnies heads in the Marionette Theatre in Ottawa.

Quite simply, we do not need more MPs.  We need our MPs to do more.

We, the people of Canada, elected our MPs to represent us and our constituencies in Ottawa.  Not to march in lock step with their given leader.  I for one would love to hear a back bencher stand up and say the proposed law is not good for MY constituency and force the Minister to defend the legislation rather than waste Question Period time tossing softballs for these Ministers to try and knock out of the park.  They do it in the UK, why can’t we do it here?

If the farmers in your constituency support the Canadian Wheat Board, why are you voting to kill it?

The representation method was altered in 1985 using the Constitutional Amending formula.  The Harper gang seems to imply this is not the case, but that a simple majority in the House and Senate is enough.  They quote section 44 of The Constitution Act, 1982 but seem to miss the important part.  “Subject to sections 41 and 42”

Section 42 calls for the amendment to The Constitution Act, 1982 to alter the representation of the provinces in the House of Commons can only “be made only in accordance with subsection 38(1)”.

Subsection 38(1) is the 7/50 amending formula that needs to be followed.

This is to prevent a government from tweaking the act to ensure re-election the next time around.  No gerrymandering allowed.

The bottom line is it appears that the Harper crew is hell bent on trying to fix the next election by trying to pad the regions they think they can win.  This is an abuse of democracy.  By shrinking the number of constituents in a riding by basing their numbers on a 20 year old census is going to put more power into the big cities and the rest will just follow along.

In Ontario, around 41% of the seats in the province are within the Toronto and Greater Toronto Area.  This new method will put even more power into that area at the expense of smaller communities.  Calgary and Edmonton will eat up the bulk of the new seats in Alberta.

With smaller communities and rural areas losing population to the large metropolitan areas it will soon be the cities dictating all policy in the provinces and for Canada.  Recent provincial elections prove that out.  Win the GTA and you own Ontario, win Winnipeg and you own Manitoba.  Stephen thinks he can win the GTA again.

Stephen Harper’s conservatives call this “Fair Representation”.

Fair for whom?

By the way, the extra seats in Quebec?  Stephen’s idea.

The Constitution Acts 1867 to 1982:  Refer to sections 51 and 52.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Let's get rid of the automobile registry

To heck with the long gun registry, let's get rid of the automobile registry! Every year I have to register my car! Why does the government insist on treating honest car owners like criminals! Where is the government on this! I demand answers!

I mean, if I drove a shotgun to work, I'd only have to register it once! The only time anyone cares is if I buy a new shot gun or sell the old one!

And they have the nerve to charge me for this! At least the long gun registry is free to use. And I have to pay insurance And I have to have an Etest every two years.

Where is the justice in this? Why am I treated like a criminal?

I feel better now, thanks.

Sorry for being late with this... just one of those weeks

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ominous Omnibus Bill Rant

I am seeing and hearing quite a bit about the Harper government’s Safe Streets and Communities legislation. My MP thinks that it so important that he sent me a massed produced mailer extolling this bit of a Bill. He always sides with Stephen. It’s his job.

I have problems with this Bill of theirs on a number of levels.

It’s an Ominous Omnibus Bill.

Omnibus Bills leave a bad taste in my mouth period. If these are valid laws to be considered, they should be considered on their own merits. It is not like this is a group of feel good things like Grandparents’ Day or Cat Appreciation Day that are little more than making tiny tweaks and pointless points, but these are laws that can affect people beyond their intended scope. And I don’t mean just the “criminals”.

As far as Omnibus Bills go, this one is rather small compared to others that Stephen and Co. has put forward. But when you group Bills together like this, things get missed, errors get through. I won’t pretend that I understand what this bill entails in its entirety, it’s too big and I’m not a lawyer. We have people paid to go through bills and debate their virtues, offer amendments, ensure that these are good laws. They are the members of the House of Commons, our MPs.

Now, before I go any farther, I want to point out that I detest the “Marionette Theatre” that the House of Commons has become. Members need to read and consider and debate laws that come before them and vote based on what a proposed law does for their communities and the country as a whole. What we have now is grade school. Remember voting for “Class President”? The popular kids were named and you voted the same way your friends did.

Between this Marionette Theatre and the Omnibus Bills we end up with “Easter Eggs”. Computer folk know what these are. Little surprises you can find if you look through a computer’s programs. One of these Easter Eggs is that the Minister of Finance no longer needs to explain to the House why the government needs to borrow money in our name. He can just do it. But that bill was years ago and Stephen isn’t going to fix it now. What is in this Omnibus Bill only time will truly tell.

Why the hurry Stephen?

Omnibus Bills are a way for governments to pass a clump of legislation through quickly. Add to this the limiting of debate and you really start to wonder why the haste?

If these laws are so wonderful and good that no one should have any issue with them, there would be no need for packaging and pushing to get them through. Honestly, there will still be “criminals” to prosecute next week, next month, next year. I promise.

Haste makes Waste is an old adage that still holds true. It doesn’t matter if you are baking a cake, running a country or just doing your normal jobs, when you rush, things go wrong. Remember Murphy?

These laws have been through committees and so forth but we still need to have the government show us, the electorate, why THESE particular laws. That is why we bother to have a House of Commons. Our representatives need to be able to read, digest, and offer opinions and if needed (usually needed) amendments to help ensure the laws are good. And then they vote.

Take your time. Let’s get it right.

How much is this going to cost?

The opposition parties keep asking this. The fiscal watchdogs keep asking this. The answers are nebulous and are given without any proof to back them up. The latest one, a real beaut, “the costs are sustainable”.

When I look at what this clump of legislation entails, I see dollar signs. And not in a good way.

Stephen says we need more prisons. Our current federal prison system is over crowded. So are our provincial prisons detention centres. Keeping people in prison longer is not going to help here, it will make it worse. The only solution will be to make more prisons to accommodate our guests.

Does this mean the new laws make more people criminals? Perhaps, I can’t say for sure. But what I do know that if someone is convicted now, and they are good they get out early. In a few weeks (months?), no.

People who, in the past earned an early release will no longer be able to do that. They’ll still be in prison when the next crew show up. People who were determined to not be a risk and are given “house arrest” will also be crowding the prison system. Not just the Federal Prisons, the Provincial ones too.

We are building a new prison near Toronto. It will replace the Don Jail’s 650 spots with room for over 1600. It is going to cost Ontario over $1Billion to build this place. We will need more after this Omnibus Bill passes. All provinces will need more.

Stephen is forcing the provinces to spend money they don’t have on prisons they didn’t need before this law. Money that could be used to keep Colleges and Universities up to date, cash that could be used to fix our roads, dollars that could be used to lower our provincial debts are being redirected by Harper and his Ottawa pals to house people that Stephen thinks should be in jail.

Stephen wants to build federal prisons as well.

I’d rather build hospitals, or Seniors' homes, but that’s just me.

We all know it cost money to keep prisoners. Having more prisoners means spending more money on prisons. And less money is available to try and fix the problems that create prisoners in the first place. Don’t believe me? Ask California.

Running a Government regardless of whether it’s a Country, Province, State or town is a lot like running a business. When you have problems in business, you look to other businesses to see what they do differently and how well they are doing. You do what the successful businesses do.

California’s prison department is not doing well, so they are looking around and Canada is what they are looking at. California thinks our existing system is worth using as a model to fashion their system around. They cannot figure out why we are in the process of creating a system that looks like theirs. Theirs doesn’t work. It is expensive, there are far too many repeat offenders, it is broken.

And we are copying a broken system, a very expensive broken system.

Putting bad people in jail is kindergarten thinking. Punishment does not fix things. People do not commit crimes thinking they will be caught. Longer jail terms only makes honest people a bit more honest. A spanking for cookie theft does not stop a cookie thief. It only makes them more careful.

What we do know is crime rates are dropping. I even saw a report that said unreported crime is dropping as well.

We have many people in prisons and jails that have mental health issues that should be elsewhere, but we have no where else for them.

We do have real criminals in our jails as well. The questions are how to prevent crimes from occurring and what to do with people who commit crimes.

Education is a tool for both cases. Employment is a tool as well. We need to help the “criminals” become citizens. Move them from being a burden on society to being contributors to society.

The prison farm that Stephen Harper closed taught these people how to work. It was a reward for being a good prisoner and helped these people to rejoin society. Many prisoners have never had a “real” job so they have never learned how to work.

We need an economy where people can live on what they earn. If you have a decent job and you might lose it by committing a crime, the crime becomes less of an option. You don’t take a cab home because you have been drinking, you just don’t want to lose your car.

We need to move people from the fringes back into society. Diversity can cause a strain on society, but after that passes we are stronger for it.

And yes there are criminals that no matter what will be criminals. They are broken. We can try to help them, but some cannot or will not be helped. We will still need places for them.

If the answers were easy like Stephen seems to think, then the problems wouldn’t exist.

If I had all the answers, I’d be King, or at least Prime Minister.

My job is to ask questions.

I did not intend for this to be so long, but I had a lot of ground to cover in this article. If I made some mistakes, I apologize; I wanted to do this quickly since there is not much time before this Bill is voted on. I thank you for spending your time to read this.

It’s kind of an omnibus rant.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Vote Subsidy IS Fair. Stephen Harper is not.

To hear Stephen Harper’s take on it, the current funding for the Federal Parties is horrible, I mean your taxes are paying for the Bloc!!!

No Stephen, they are not.

I vote in every election I can. Because I voted for a candidate, that party gets $2.00. My friend votes for another party’s candidate. That party gets $2.00 for his vote. If you don’t bother to vote, you subsidise the $2.00 but that is your choice to not vote.

It’s fair and it’s even.

Now, if I can’t afford to give money to a party, my taxes subsidise the tax refund given to those who can afford to give. That’s hardly fair is it?

The government refunds 75% of the first $400.00 “donated” to a party, 50% of the next $350.00 and 33.33% on the rest up to $1250.00 I believe. That means that if someone gives $1000.00 to a party they get back $558.32.

Let’s say I don’t have the money to donate to a party, is it fair that my taxes subsidise the people who can afford to give to a party?

In 2007, according to Elections Canada, the conservatives raised $16,990,766.00 of the total $26,923,135.00 raised by all the parties. That’s 63.1%, very good, well done. Now I don’t know how many of these donations were over $400.00 so I don’t know how much was refunded at tax time, but I do know that the majority of the refunds went to your supporters. If I can’t afford to donate, I end up subsidising a party I don’t vote for. If I choose not to donate, I still end up subsidising a party I don’t vote for.

The Liberals were in second place with $4,537,966.00 raised or 16.8%.

The NDP were in third with $3,979,737.00 raised or 14.8%.

That leaves the Green Party and the Bloc with $984,605.00 and $430,061 respectively or about 5% between them.

So what does this mean? When the tax refund overlords start to ladle out the Political Contribution Refunds, the first ladleful is shared between the Greens’ and the Bloc’s supporters with 2 drops for one and one for the other. The NDP supporters get almost 3 whole “dips”. Liberal donors get 3 and 1/3 doled into their bowls. And the conservatives get over 12 ½ ladlefuls into theirs.

It gets better.

In the 2011 election, the conservatives amassed over 5.8million votes nationwide or 39.6% of the ballots cast. The Bloc, Greens, Liberals and NDP combined took over 59% of the vote, but the tax refunds go by donation, not votes.

Here’s the good bit.

It only stands to reason that Canada’s three largest provinces pay the most in taxes, with Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia being the those three. These three provinces also put the most into the pool for the Political Contribution Refund Pot.


Of the 3,801,690 votes cast in Quebec in the May election, only 627,961 were for the conservatives. That’s 16.5%. Quebec contains over 23% of the population of Canada. The tax payers of Quebec are paying the conservative supporters’ tax refunds for their donations.

Now, Stephen says it’s not fair that you should pay for the Bloc, how fair is it that Quebec should pay for a party they rejected in Spades?



British Columbia


Total Votes Cast





Conservative Votes





Percentage of Total





Source: Elections Canada

So what we have is the three most populous provinces containing over 75% of the people of Canada paying 75% of the tax refunds that go to the people who support a party that drew only 35% of their votes.

We have the start of a fairer system right now. As long as you meet the minimum requirements, your party receives $2.00 per vote. I’d argue that this money is earned and the system is fair. We can adjust it to inflation so no one gets left behind.

I think if you want to contribute to the party of your choice you should but the refund rate is out of whack. When a party only gets 39.6% of the votes nationally, it cannot be considered fair that provinces that reject that party still have to pay for it. That’s Stephen’s argument.

Elections Canada data shows the average donation is only around $106.00 so any refund should be based on a lower amount. Not $1250.00, not $1000.00. I’m thinking in the area of $200.00. You can give more but the cap will still be there. $1000.00 seems like a nice number.

Now Stephen says this isn’t fair and that isn’t fair, maybe in the interest of fairness, we should consider a fundraising cap for the parties. The cap would be based on the number of constituencies that a party runs candidates in and the cost to run a political organization as well as run an election. We can even leave a bit of room for surpluses for the over achievers. I can be magnanimous too.

Any donations beyond these caps would simply be applied to the National Debt. That’s the Debt, Stephen, not the deficit. Get it? Good.

The most frustrating part of this is when I was researching this on the internet, I found that a number of countries are looking at their own political fund raising rules. They want to make their own systems more transparent and fair, and the one that they keep looking at is the one that Stephen Harper wants to throw away.

It just doesn’t seem fair.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ontario, aren't we having an election?

What if they held an election and no one noticed?

That is what seems to be happening in Ontario right now.  With only days before the election there still is little notice in the papers about what is happening.  Not in the online newspapers anyway.

It seems to me that in previous elections there were many more stories, where the leaders are, excerpts from their stump speeches and commentary on those speeches.  There would be coverage of the local candidates, what groups they met with, what they had to say.  This time around I’m just not seeing it.

Things pop up on the radar and just as quickly disappear.

The Ford brothers in Toronto, expected to be a big story by a number of people have been very quiet.  The Hillier story about his tax problems has been put away.  What about the power stations the Liberals are moving or the wind turbine lawsuit?  Or the accusations of NDP financing issues and the Ontario Cornerstone Leadership Corporation?  Gone.

In an election where Tim Hudak went from a cake walk to a horse race, where the third party NDP could end up being the king maker, you would think this would be the biggest deal the press has seen in years.  There is even an outside chance that the NDP could end up heading the government.

When I went through my daily ritual of checking News Aggregators and local papers today I saw that the Liberals had introduced a new ad.  Wow.  Hudak raged about the “last minute” jobs plan of McGuinty and the only thing that anyone asks Horwath about is who gets the first dance?

We have three parties in the running, two of which are nose and nose in the race.  Each of these parties has a platform which has plusses and minuses in it.  All three parties have warts.  Is there nothing newsworthy here?

At least all three leaders are brushing aside the “C” word.  All three claim to be in it to win it but it would be nice if someone would step up and if the press would take notice.

It has just been a weird campaign.

It seems the “liberal” press is still backing McGuinty, the “conservative” press is apparently split between backing McGuinty and the Toronto Sun not backing Hudak but not coming out for anyone else.

The pollsters have the Liberals and PCs in a dead heat at about 34% and translating this to a one seat majority for the Liberals based on their Toronto-centric backing.  The NDP is third with 29.9% for 21 seats.  Interestingly the poll suggests there are 18 seats where the lead is 5% or less between the First and Second place candidates.

But then again, polls are often wrong.

Since this election has been pretty much a snoozefest, I’m going out on a limb and making a few predictions.
  • Percentage voter turnout will drop
  • Actual votes cast will drop
  • The number of people who don’t vote will alter the results from what the pollsters say
  • There will be a minority government in Ontario
  • The NDP will not join in a coalition but will opt for bill by bill support
  • None of the parties will want a quick election due to economic uncertainty in the world 
At this point, I hope that everyone who reads this will vote and will encourage their friends and acquaintances to get out and vote.  Don’t let me and people like me decide your future for you.  Decide who best represents you either locally or Provincially and support them. People the world over are trying to get what we take for granted.

Be a voter and show Ontario you care.