Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Definitely not

The government has created a website.

When I first heard the government would be doing a survey I assumed there would be some code on the postcards to ensure that people could only vote once, and the government could avoid the self-selecting sampling that happened with the town halls the ERRE committee did.  This didn't happen, making the website statistically invalid.

When I started to fill in the survey myself I cut-and-pasted the questions and my answers, which I then intended to comment on.  The survey was so bad I won't be doing that in detail: I include my answers at the end for curiosity, but they have no meaning.

With a useful survey you work hard to avoid leading questions, so you can get an idea of what people think without answers being tainted by the question itself.  Most of the questions in this survey are leading questions that direct people to specific answers, which causes the person taking the survey to ask who the author was and why they are biased towards specific answers.

Many of the questions ask about the government.  In a Westminster system we don't vote for a government, but vote for parliamentarians.  Parliamentarians then form government, and under a properly functioning Westminster system can form different governments between elections (including as a result of byelections, floor crossing, or coalition forming).

Questions about the forming and function of government are outside of the scope of a questionnaire intended to get views from Canadians about how we count the votes used to elect parliamentarians.  Unlike changing how we count in parliamentary elections which doesn't require constitutional amendments, changes to how government is formed would. Inclusion of these out-of-scope questions only confuses what the current debate is about.

If the goal is to ensure reform is impossible by bundling all issues together, then that goal will be achieved rather than modest incremental reform which is the only type of reform that will be possible.

The questions about government were also leading questions, intended to claim that only if there is a strong centrally lead executive branch is there accountability for decisions.  While this might be useful in a debate towards a constitutional amendment to separate the executive branch from a legislative branch as has been done in other countries (such as the USA), it is not a remotely helpful line of thinking in attempting to choose between different methods of voting in parliamentarians.  These leading questions are effectively perpetuating misconceptions about how parliament and the government function in a Westminster system.

With all this bias, leading questions, and perpetuating of civics misconceptions, and insecurity of the survey itself we really have to ask ourselves what the purpose of this survey is.  If I was Vox Pop Labs I would be embarrassed to have my brand associated with it, and I am embarrassed as a Canadian to see what at least one branch of government thought would be a legitimate process.

My answers from first time through survey

They provided a link...

 Q: There should be a limit to the length of federal election campaign periods.

(Strongly Agree)

Q: There should be parties in Parliament that represent the views of all Canadians, even if some are radical or extreme.

(Strongly Agree, even though I don't believe parties represent views.  Parliament should represent Canadian society, so if the population is divided and the parliament is not then it can't be claimed to be a representative parliament or Canada having a representative democracy.)

Q: Members of Parliament should reflect the diversity of Canadian society, even if it means putting in place special measures to increase the representation of certain groups.

(Neutral, as I would need to see the special measures before offering an opinion.)

Q: It should always be clear which party is accountable for decisions made by government, even if this means that decisions are only made by one party.

(Strongly disagree, as I believe decisions should be made by parliamentarians after study and not imposed by a government, cabinet, or party)

Q: Members of Parliament should always support the position of their party, even if it means going against the wishes of their constituents.

(Strongly disagree)

Q: A ballot should be easy to understand, even if it means voters have fewer options to express their preferences.

(Somewhat disagree -- being a leading question it suggests that plurality is easy to understand, while ranked ballots or other systems wouldn't be.  Few really understand plurality vs majority, so while there isn't much choice with the current ballot it is not "easy to understand")

Q: Eligible voters who do not vote in elections should be fined.

(Strongly disagree -- but I might think differently if there was a "none of the above" mandatory on any ballot, voting day was a mandatory civic holiday, and there was a secure way for voters to vote at other polling booths if out of the district during the voting period.)

Q: Canadians should have the option to cast their vote online in federal elections, even if it is less secure.

(Strongly disagree -- far more technical education is needed before we can useful results on this.  The "less secure" isn't a cryptography question, but about their being audiences in the "ballot booth" and with nearly all online voting systems being proxy voting.  If we don't talk about risks associated with switching to proxy voting, especially if most voters don't even realize there is a proxy, then the election can be easily corrupted.)

Q: Voters should be able to express multiple preferences on the ballot, even if this means that it takes longer to count the ballots and announce the election result.

(Strongly agree)

Q: Canadians should have the option to cast their ballot online in federal elections, even if this increases the cost of elections.

(Strongly disagree -- disagree that people should be voting online, and also disagree that it would increase costs.  Unless they are talking about the necessary costs for public education and training, but that is true of basic civics lessons needed for Canadians to finally understand the current system.)

Q: A party that wins the most seats in an election should still have to compromise with other parties, even if it means reconsidering some of its policies.

(Strongly agree)

Q: There should be greater diversity of views in Parliament.

(Neutral -- I don't believe parties offer greater diversity, which appears to be what is being asked/presumed)

Q: It is better for several parties to have to govern together than for one party to make all the decisions in government, even if it takes longer for government to get things done.

(Strongly agree - it's called democracy, and also why some countries separate legislative from executive branches of government to avoid this type of confusion)

Q: The day of a federal election should be a statutory holiday.

(Neutral -- this is tied to the mandatory voting question)

Q: Members of Parliament should always act in the interests of their constituents, even if it means going against their own party.

(Strongly agree)

Q: Online voting in federal elections would increase voter participation.

(Strongly disagree)

Q: Eligible voters should not be forced to vote.

(Strongly agree)

Q: Ensuring that more individuals are elected from groups that are currently underrepresented in Parliament should be a top priority.

(Somewhat agree)

Q: Governments should have to negotiate their policy decisions with other parties in Parliament, even if it is less clear who is accountable for the resulting policy.

(Strongly agree)

Q: The voting age for federal elections should be lowered.

(Strongly agree)

Q: A government where one party governs and can make decisions on its own OR a government where several parties have to collectively agree before a decision is made?

(Several parties have to collectively agree. Ideal is if parliamentarians, not parties, were who were making the decisions)

Q: One party governs and is solely accountable for policy outcomes OR several parties must cooperate to govern and they share accountability for policy outcomes?

(several parties)

Q: Ballots should be as simple as possible so that everybody understands how to vote OR ballots should allow everybody to express their preferences in detail?


Q: Members of Parliament that do what their party promised, even if it means going against what their constituents want OR members of Parliament that do what their constituents want, even if it means going against what their party promised?


Q: No further action needs to be taken to ensure that those elected to Parliament better reflect the diversity of the population they represent OR further action needs to be taken to ensure that those elected to Parliament better reflect the diversity of the population they represent?

(further action)

Q: Canadians should have the option to cast their ballots online in federal elections, even if the security or privacy of online voting cannot be guaranteed OR Canadians should continue to vote using paper ballots at a polling station, even if it is less accessible for some voters?


Q: Voting in federal elections is an obligation OR voting in federal elections is a choice?

(Choice -- but I would answer differently if there was at least a "None of the Above" mandatory on any ballot.  Forcing people to answer a question they don't have an informed opinion on only invalidates the results.)

Q: Having many small parties in Parliament representing many different views OR having a few big parties that try to appeal to a broad range of people?

(Small, with the ideal being individual parliamentarians who can think independently)

Q: Members of Parliament that spend more time in their constituency working with constituents OR Members of Parliament that spend more time on Parliament Hill working on the issues that matter to their constituents?


Q: Members of Parliament that always support policies that they think are best for their constituents, even if their constituents disagree OR Members of Parliament that always support policies their constituents want, even if the MPs themselves personally disagree?

(they feel best)

Q: Please select the priorities from the list below that are most important to you.

15 options...the more you click on, the less you think any are a "priority".

(collaborate, link between voter intention and election of representatives,  Governments that consider all viewpoints before making a decision, ensuring security of voting process)


Q: What occupational area do you work in?

(Natural and applied sciences?  None of these options were close, so no idea what they were trying to ask.  I also don't know the combined income of our household, and am not willing to spend the time to research that so just picked something in the middle.)

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