Tuesday, December 29, 2020

"Party popular vote" vs Indigenous self-government and sovereignty

While I've been thinking about electoral reform since the 1990's, I learned quite a bit since that time and thus changed my opinion with new knowledge. I wrote an article discussing one of the major changes since 1997 and 2017 when Canada was having consultations and had an active committee on electoral reform.

This year I have been learning about Canada as part of my antiracism training. Learning about pre-contact Turtle Island and the First Nation, M├ętis and Inuit civilizations that exist in parallel with Canada and the USA on Turtle Island is critical to knowing what Canada is.

As with electoral reform, I can remember what I thought prior to my learning.  I can recognize missing knowledge in other people that I also lacked, and want to share with them what I have learned.  What I can't do is unlearn and go back to what I thought in the past.  Please share with me any new information, but please don't expect me to go backwards to my lesser informed self.


During the One Dish, One Mic talk radio show (archives available as podcasts) they enable listener interaction via text messages. While they were talking about a specific provincial government minister, they said they didn't have the right to do that "with only 41% of the vote".  I sent in the following text:

41%? Ontario doesn't have a king. We currently have 124 seats in a parliament which should be elected by ranked ballots. Talking about the concept of "party popular vote" puts executives of parties in control, which is bad for democracy.

I posted a followup message to the One Dish, One Mic forum. It is an example of something I've been interested in for decades mixing in with something I've only recently started to learn.

I threw that comment in about party popular vote.  I've spent decades studying governance and voting systems (as a volunteer - it is not part of my job). I'd like to see that discussed on the radio show at some point.

I've looked into the participatory democracy of Six Nations, and I'd put that as an ideal.  Properly trained people act as facilitators to come to consensus, and there are spokespersons rather than top-down people dictating.

I know that other nations use other systems, and I'd like to hear more about those other systems.

Whenever there is a ballot question that has more than two possible answers (Yes/No), then voters should be able to rank.  Otherwise it is not the answer that the most people support that "wins", but the answer that is the most different from everything else (where votes aren't "split" between choices that more people approve of, even if it wasn't their first choice).  This isn't remotely a fair system to have a single X when there is often 5 or more possible answers.

Moving away from the participatory democracy ideal, you have "elected councils", "parliaments" or "assemblies" where a smaller number of people get elected by a smaller percentage of the community.  Those "elected" people then get to claim to represent an entire group without any requirement to consult the group or get consensus. This puts more power in the hands of fewer people.   This European representative system, even when it works in an ideal setting, is not perfect if representing the interests of the community on each issue is a goal. It sacrifices accountability for decision making efficiency.


I know that SNEC (Six Nations Elected Council) is particularly problematic because it isn't accountable to voters, but to the Federal Government.  Thus voter turnout is around 5%.

A better example would be the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut which elects representatives as independent candidates (no parties), who then seek to form consensus within the assembly. Similar advanced governance is used in the Northwest Territories as well as Nunatsiavut. While representative rather than participatory, it is still one of the better options available.  It isn't self-government, as it is still considered subservient to the Dominion of Canada government.

As a voter in Ontario, I'm extremely envious of their system which is far more democratic.  It would be great if Ontario could graduate to that system in the future as it matures!


Moving further away from participatory democracy you have political parties, where you have some representatives accountable to voters and some accountable to the party. Too much control within parties puts more power in the hands of even fewer people.

Things have been moving further and further away from a more ideal democracy within Canada and its provinces.  It was P.E. Trudeau that put party names on the ballot federally, and put the leader of the party in charge of signing nominations.  Since then parties have moved from the leader being chosen by caucus members (and thus always accountable to caucus in parliament) to being elected outside by "members" (political tourists) making the leaders unaccountable. The mainstream national media has pushed this harmful idea forward (See: Participatory democracy vs corporate media).

Every mention of "party popular vote" grants these unaccountable leaders more power, and allows them to push forward policies which most people disagree with.  With no way to hold leaders accountable between elections, they have become periodically "elected" dictatorships.

This appears to be a typical European worldview problem, where there seems to be a claim to want strong decisive leadership rather than building consensus.  Makes sense, as much of these worldviews come from a history involving the Roman Empire and the later building of various other European empires (such as the British Empire, which Canada was explicitly created to promote  -- it is all right there in the British North America act that allegedly "created" Canada).

I was born here and loyal to this homeland. I don't want to rebuild European Feudalism and want something more democratic.  I don't expect Canada to ever be willing to go to a full participatory democracy as Canadians are generally disengaged from politics, but lets at least always push for a person representative democracy and not a party representation system.

My opposition to party proportionality, and optimizing electoral processes toward a low Gallagher index measured against the notion of "party popular vote", has become even stronger this year with my antiracism training.  We can't fix the flaws in the design and implementation of "Canada" by doubling-down on the harmful European worldviews at the core of those flaws.

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