Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nader Questions the US Two-Party System or Oligopoly?

The FDA is committed to expanding electoral discourse and choice, with the purpose of increasing the voice of the will of the people. In this video, Nader echoes the FDA concern for example that Americans' electoral choice is limited to only two parties. Interestingly, the Conservative government in Canada has been pushing through rhetoric for less Canadian parties and has vilified coalition governments. Self-serving agenda? (In the FDA electoral fairness audit on the US federal electoral system, the FDA shows that the US two-party system is a legislated creation which favors very significantly the Republicans and Democrats over all other parties. The point being that the US two-party system is a human creation, rather than a natural phenomenon.)


FDA Electoral Fairness Report on the US Federal Electoral System

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Harper Conservative Government Weakens the Canadian Health Care System?

Recently the Harper Conservative government made a unilateral health care funding announcement to the provinces (similar to a strategy taken with the recent union strikes by Air Canada and Canada Post Corporation, in which negotiations were abruptly shortened). Also, the Conservative government side stepped the Canada Health Act, thereby disconnecting federal health funds with national standards.

Political Background of the Harper Conservative Government: 

In the 2011 Canadian general election, the Harper Conservative government received 39.6 percent of those Canadians who voted, and 24.3 percent including non-voters. Yet, through the first-past-the-post system, the Harper Conservative government received a 54 percent majority of the Canadian parliament. (Currently, in Canada, in a clear conflict of interest, the majority of the MPs determine the federal election laws. Over the last few decades, the Liberals and Conservatives have a created the electoral system Canadians have.)

The FDA proposes the following electoral reforms to the Canadian federal electoral system in order to the increase the voice of the will of the people:

1. The majority of federal politicians cease to determine the federal election laws.

2. An independent, non-partisan, elected citizen body made up of the diverse regions of Canada determine the federal election laws, and which must be consistent with the Canadian Constitution and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

3. The Canadian mainstream media and broadcasters three months prior to an election period and during it, are required to present an equality of non-partisan political content of all registered political parties.

4. The creation of media ownership concentrations laws in order to promote the plurality of Canadian media. (Source: France, Norway, and Bolivia's media ownership concentration laws.)

5. No registered political party is given an unequal advantage prior to and during an election. All registered political parties begin an election from the same starting place in terms of finances and media access, and throughout the campaign.
 
6. Registered political parties should have public support of at least .5 percent member support from the voting population and have a national platform. The .5 percent threshold is a democratic means of limiting political access by unpopular political parties. The requirement of a national platform prevents interest and regional based political parties from having the same privileges as registered political parties. However, interest and regional based political parties would be allowed to be on electoral lists as long as they satisfy the .5 percent member support threshold. (Sources: ideas of FDA auditors; Venezuela, Organic Law of Electoral Processes, Chapter II, Article 9-10, .5 percent declared member support either national or regional; Norway, Political Parties Act, Chapter II, Article 3(2), party registration based partly on public support from 5000 person who are eligible to vote; France, Organic Law No. 2011-410, representation on electoral list requires support from 500 elected officials at any level of government, and new political parties need $10,000 in donations in a 12 month period to receive public funding; Bolivia, Bolivian Law of the Electoral System, Act No. 26, political groups must represent at least 2 percent of vote in last election to be registered in subsequent election; New Zealand, Electoral Law 1993, to be registered political parties need at least 500 members; Egypt under Mubarak, Law No. 40 of the year 1977 Concerning the Political Party System and Its Amendments, ban on political parties which are based on religious, class, sectarian, categorical, or geographical basis. Note, countries with minimal barriers to entry for political parties like New Zealand, Canada, and the United States have various barriers within their electoral systems which favor significantly established and large political parties.)

The 2011 Conservative Party of Canada's platform on health care: 

RENEWING THE FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL HEALTH ACCORD

We are committed to a universal public health care system and the Canada Health Act, and the right of provinces to deliver health care within their jurisdictions.

More work is needed to reduce wait times for other treatments and diagnostic procedures. And there remains a need for more timely and uniform reporting from the provinces and territories in order to measure progress.

Canadians expect and deserve timely access to high-quality health care services. To help achieve that goal, we will work collaboratively with the provinces and territories to renew the Health Accord and to continue reducing wait times.

In our discussions we will emphasize the importance of accountability and results for Canadians – better reporting from the provinces and territories to measure progress, and guarantees covering additional medically necessary procedures.

In the spirit of open federalism, when renewing the Health Accord we will respect the fact that health care is an area of provincial jurisdiction and respect limits on the federal spending power.

Recognizing asymmetrical federalism, we will follow the precedent of a separate agreement with the Government of Quebec regarding the implementation of the renewed Health Accord.

MORE DOCTORS AND NURSES FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES

We will help attract new doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners to these communities, by forgiving a portion of federal student loans for those who agree to practice in underserved rural or remote areas.

The result will be better health care and a higher quality of life for Canadians in rural and remote communities.

DEFIBRILLATORS IN EVERY HOCKEY ARENA IN CANADA


From the Council of Canadians (January 24, 2012):

Harper government abandoning public health care

Council of Canadians’ National Chairperson Maude Barlow and Health Care Campaigner Adrienne Silnicki joined other Council staff, members and chapter activists in Victoria, B.C. earlier this month as provincial and territorial premiers met to talk about the 2014 Health Care Accord and the future delivery of health care services in Canada.

At the meeting, premiers condemned the Harper government for its unilateral funding announcement that will limit the amount of money provinces can expect from the federal government to deliver health care services. The Harper government hoped the announcement would put an end to financial negotiations for federal health transfers. By stepping away from the Canada Health Act and not tying federal funds to national standards, the Harper government closed the door on any opportunity to improve Canada’s health care system through the new accord.

Public health care advocates were at the Premiers’ meeting in force, reminding politicians of Canadians’ strong support for medicare. Young activists lined up outside meeting, holding up red umbrellas to tell politicians that “medicare has us all covered.” That evening, the Council of Canadians joined the BC Health Coalition in hosting a public forum about the 2014 Health Care Accord and what it means to Canadians. Keynote speakers at the event included Maude Barlow, Diana Gibson of the Parkland Institute, and Mike Luff of the National Union of Public & General Employees.

The Council of Canadians will be working with public health care allies across the country to sound the alarm about medicare’s uncertain future. We will lobby governments to take a strong stand in support of this valued social program, and push the federal government to assume a leadership role that strengthens medicare – not abandons it – in the lead-up to the signing of the 2014 accord.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nenshi Pay Reduction a Political Ploy?

For the second year in a row, Nenshi takes a self-induced, non-anonymous pay cut.

His salary has been cut by 10% which means he will taking about $180,000 of Calgarians' tax dollars rather than about $200,000. Wow he must be hard up with such a drastic cut and modest income. (In 2010, the per capita income for Albertans was $70,826. (Statistics Canada).

In the 2010 Calgary Mayoral election, Nenshi never campaigned on reducing his mayoral income. He campaigned on his self-proclaimed eight better ideas (than all the other Mayoral candidates) and probably the entire world! Did he even look at the platforms of the other candidates? Would he concede that some of his and perhaps most of his ideas are not better; they are the best!?

Could Nenshi have his eyes and smile already on a reelection bid by manufacturing an image that he saves Calgarians' tax dollars? Did he save them when he spent 5 million of Calgarian tax dollars to merely and rashly replace the CEO of Enmax? Did he save them when he spent $60,000 of Calgarian tax dollars in a frivolous law suit against the freedom of expression of a Calgarian street preacher?  Is he saving Calgarians' tax dollars by pushing through an airport tunnel which apparently is 500 million over budget?....

From Macleans (January 11, 2012):

"Holy unreasonable: The City of Calgary spent more than $65,000 fighting a controversial street preacher in court over a $100 bylaw fine."

Nenshi takes pay reduction

Monday, January 23, 2012

Colbert echoes the FDA's findings on the US electoral finance laws

Colbert in blunt terms points out to Americans the severe unfairness of US federal electoral finance laws. In the FDA electoral fairness report on the US federal democracy, the US received a score of .5 percent out of 100 percent. The score means that the US finance laws are bordering complete unfairness.

Colberts's thoughts on the US campaign finance absurdity

FDA Electoral Fairness Report on the US Federal Electoral System

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Are there parallels between Alberta and Canada and Texas?

Ann Richards, former Texas governor, provides an interesting perspective on the history of Texas in terms of values, property rights, the environment etc., the Harper Conservative Party ran in the last federal election partly on increased property rights for land owners and weak policies on the environment as indicated by the recent withdrawal of Canada from the Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming. Also, about 40% of Alberta is privately owned (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_ownership_in_Canada) and the province is weak on the environment as showcased by the environmental disaster called the Alberta tar sands.

Bill Mayer responds to "quiet rooms" and envy....

Enjoy Mayer's humor and wit as he responds to Romney's views on "quiet rooms" and envy...


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ann Richards discusses the nature of the US politician

Ann Richards, former Texas governor, shares her insight on the nature of the US politician and behind the political scenes.


Troubling insight into the erosion of fundamental democratic principles

Republican nominee Gingrich voices his disdain for fundamental democratic principles such as the political right to disobey, protest, and criticize.

Insight into the leadership candidates of the US two-party political system

Republican nominee Mitt Romney dismisses issues of electoral fairness as rooted in envy, and that they should be talked about in quiet rooms. In contrast, the FDA believes that electoral fairness is rooted in a pillar of democracy called fairness, and that electoral fairness should be discussed and debated rigorously in public.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

FDA Updates its "About Us" Statement

This excerpt is taken from the "About" page on the FDA website:

The Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) is a non-partisan and independent democracy reform and advocacy organization. The FDA's reforms are centered on increasing the voice of the will of the people. FDA members embrace the following principles: progress, innovation, objectivity, and transparency. The mission of the FDA is to advance democratic processes all over the world in terms of transparency and fairness, thereby bringing the will of the people to the forefront of democratic discourse.

The FDA is divided into four departments: Finance, Marketing, Research and Project Initiative, and Technology. To maintain its independence and objectivity, the FDA only accepts donations and grants from individuals and organizations that do not compromise its independence and objectivity.

As a non-profit organization, we are always looking for members and volunteers. If you would like to help our cause, please click here.

Informing the public:

The FDA grassroots advocacy movement informs the public on democratic concepts and issues by engaging the public in dialogue and discussion. The FDA is active in social networking, podcasts, audio and video interviews, and collaborates with other organizations to achieve its purpose of democracy reform.

Collaborative, In-depth research:

The FDA conducts research on key issues in democracy including electoral processes and their application. This is done through analysis of constitutional and legislative material and real-world application. The intent of this research is to provide policy recommendations on electoral systems to key stakeholders and the general public. The FDA reports are based on defined methodology, matrices, and scoring scales. The FDA also researches both legislative documents and theoretical literature. The FDA audit process, comprised of audit teams and observers, forms the structure of the FDA reports.

Direct Involvement:

The FDA also is striving to conduct on the ground assessments on electoral systems to determine their legitimacy. Because the FDA values the concept of "the will of the people," the more fair, impartial and equitable an electoral system is, the more likelihood the will of the people will be represented.

History:

The FDA was founded in 2007 in Kimberley, British Columbia by Stephen Garvey, a Canadian activist, author and writer. In 2009, Mr. Garvey moved the FDA to the larger center of Calgary, Alberta. The organization started with five members, but since 2009 has grown to over 40 members and volunteers worldwide. Earlier FDA projects focused on Canadian issues, but now the FDA has evolved into an organization and grassroots movement that promotes democracy reform globally.

FDA Executive Body:

Mr. Stephen Garvey, founder, FDA Executive Director, and Director of Research and Project Initiative.

Mr. Garvey has been with the FDA since its formation in 2007. He has spearheaded numerous FDA electoral projects and initiatives, and he is fully committed to the FDA cause. He has a bachelor degree in Political Science from the University of British Columbia and a masters degree in Environment and Development from the University of Cambridge. Also, Mr. Garvey has written several books on political theory and decision-making as pertaining to democracy. Mr. Garvey has an interest in the role of audit and evaluative processes in the functioning of society, with special emphasis on electoral processes.

Mr. Dale Monette, FDA Director of Finance.

Mr. Monette has over 6 years of experience as an entrepreneur and over 3 years experience in finance and accounting. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and is currently undergoing his Master of Professional Accounting degree. Mr. Monette has a passion for democracy, and he realizes fundamentally that democracy requires attention and work by citizens.

Mr. Aurangzeb Qureshi, FDA Director of Marketing.

Mr. Qureshi has worked in a marketing and communications capacity in diverse industries such as health care, chemicals, technology and utilities. With a passion for international politics, he joined the FDA in 2010 and has since helped the FDA raise its profile in Canada and abroad. Mr. Qureshi is also a freelance writer, and his work has appeared in publications such as the Edmonton Journal, The Canadian Charger, Al-Arabiya English and AntiWar.com.

Monday, January 16, 2012

FDA's Key Electoral Fairness Definitions

These electoral fairness definitions provide a conceptual framework for the FDA electoral fairness audits:

Key Definitions:

Candidate and party influence refers to the opportunity and action of candidates and parties to campaign directly and indirectly in the public domain for elected positions of political representation. This opportunity and action occur before, during, and after an election period. Also, this concept may overlap with the political content of media, electoral finance, and voter influence. In the terms of the FDA electoral fairness audit, candidate and party influence includes:

  • Registrations requirements for candidates and parties.
  • Laws for candidates and parties access to media and and reasonable opportunity to take advantage of the access.
  • Regulations on access to major debates.
  • Electoral complaints process for candidates and parties.
  • Laws on donations/contributions to candidates and parties.
  • Procedures for formation of electoral lists and boundaries.
  • Procedures for the determination of elected winners in constituencies/districts.
  • Regulations on the political content of public and private media.
  • Laws on the structure of state bodies and their relationship in terms of political power.
  • Length of the campaign period.
  • Rules on right of reply in the media for registered candidates and parties.

Candidate and party influence only entails laws, regulations, procedures etc. which impact the influence of candidates and parties. For example, candidate and party influence does not entail procedures for electoral complaints by voters nor does it entail laws on voter assistance at polling booths.

(Source: Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

Electoral fairness refers to the impartiality, balance, and equitability of election law, regulation, procedure, access, opportunity, and action, before, during, and after an election period. In the context of the FDA electoral fairness audit, electoral fairness encompasses the concepts of political content of media, candidate and party influence, electoral finance, and voter influence: the impartiality and balance of the media's political content; the equitability of opportunity and action of registered candidates and parties to influence; the equitability of electoral finance laws and regulations in the case of registered candidates and parties; the equitability of opportunity and action of voters in terms of voicing their political views and/or influencing the outcome of an election.

Electoral fairness does not entail bias through for example legislation which gives a concrete electoral advantage to one registered party over another, or a mix of equitability and bias through legislated equal access to media while unequal reasonable opportunity to take advantage of that equal access. In contrast, electoral fairness would entail a broad, balanced diffusion of electoral propaganda by registered political parties during the campaign period, equal campaign finances (not just equal expenditure limits) for all registered parties according to the number of candidates endorsed, and the registration of parties based on reasonable popular support (rather than financial deposit or unreasonable popular support).

The underlying concepts behind electoral fairness are an equal playing field for registered candidates and parties so that they are distinguished by the voting public based on who their candidates are, and what their policies, visions, and pledges etc. are, and a broad, balanced electoral discourse in which the people as a whole are given the better opportunity to determine their political representatives. Electoral fairness as defined is a vision of what ought to be for democratic processes.

(Source: Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

Electoral finance refers to electoral finance law and regulation applied to registered candidates and parties before, during, and after an election period. Electoral finances encompasses campaign finances which are restricted to the campaign period.

In the context of the FDA electoral fairness audit, electoral finance includes:

  • Caps on electoral donations/contributions (or the lack of).
  • Caps on candidate and party electoral expenditures (or the lack of).
  • Procedures for financial disclosure and reporting of candidate and party electoral finances.
  • Procedures for the handling of electoral donations/contributions by registered candidates and parties.
  • Public electoral subsidies (or the lack of).
  • Laws on who can make electoral donations/contributions.
  • Laws for third-party electoral expenditure (or the lack of).
  • Rules for electoral deposits by registered candidates and parties.

Electoral finance does not include non-financial laws, regulations, procedures etc. such as laws on candidate and party equal access to media, political right laws like freedom of speech and assembly, rules on right of reply in the media, laws on the political content of media, and laws on voter assistance with the act of voting.

(Source: Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

Political content of media refers to the political content of radio and television broadcasters, the press, and online media such as news sites before, during, and after an election period. This content may entail news stories, editorials, articles, programs, and group analysis and discussion. It does not include electoral advertisements by candidates, parties, and third-parties. Electoral advertisements by candidates and parties are included in the concept of candidate and party influence, and electoral advertisements by third-parties are included in the concept of voter influence.

In the context of FDA electoral fairness audit, political content of media includes:

  • Registration requirements for television and radio broadcast companies and press companies.
  • Laws on the ownership concentration of media (or the lack of).
  • Laws on the political content of media before, during, and after a campaign period. 
  • Laws on freedom of the press and broadcasters.
  • Laws on the regulation of broadcasters and the press.

The FDA applies “balance” in the case of the political content of media as equal political content of all registered political parties. This application is based on the premise that voters should have balanced information on all registered candidates and parties, and that registered candidates and parties should be elected by the will of the people. The FDA does not support the idea of parties successful in the previous election being favored in media coverage in a current election, because this would create bias based merely on past results, and thereby weaken the process of capturing the will of the people in the present. Also, the FDA does not support unlimited freedom of broadcast and press media. The FDA believes that there is a misleading connection between freedom of broadcasting/press and democracy. The purpose of democratic elections is to capture as accurately as possible the will of the people. A broad, balanced electoral discourse supports the will of the people, rather than a narrow, imbalanced electoral discourse. Although the FDA acknowledges that imbalance in the media's political content could be canceled out if there were media ownership concentration laws which produced pluralistic media ownership and an overall balanced coverage of all registered political parties.

(Source: Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

Voter influence refers to the citizens who are eligible to vote and their opportunity to express through assembly, articles, letters to editors, blogs, advertisements etc. their political voice in the public domain and to vote (including the relative weights of votes). Voter influence applies to before, during, and after an election period.

In the context of the FDA electoral fairness audit, voter influence includes:

  • Laws and regulations on freedom of speech and assembly.
  • Laws on the registration requirements for voters.
  • Laws on voter assistance at the polling booth.
  • Rules on right of reply by voters in the media.
  • Laws on the inclusion of minorities in the electoral process.
  • Caps on electoral donations and candidate and party expenditures (or the lack of).
  • Caps on third-party electoral expenditures (or the lack of).
  • Laws on electoral complaints to the election authority by voters.
  • Laws on the ownership concentration in the media (or the lack of).
  • Laws on the political content of the media.
  • Registration requirements for candidates and parties.

Voter influence does not include procedures for the counting of votes. Also, in the context of the FDA electoral fairness audit, voter influence may include overlap with the concepts of political content of media, candidate and party influence, and electoral finance. The overlap is contingent on the impact of these other concepts on voter influence. For example, no caps on donations/contributions to candidates and parties will impact voter influence because the lack of cap will favor voters with more financial wealth, and thereby create inequity and imbalance in voter influence.

(Source: Foundation for Democratic Advancement)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

FDA Research on the Alberta Provincial Electoral System

This research is restricted to the legislative components of the Alberta Provincial Electoral System and the FDA's four categories of electoral fairness--media's political content, candidate and party influence, electoral finance, and voter say.

Additional research on theoretical sources will be included into the research.

This research will be used as the basis for the FDA's electoral fairness audit of the Alberta Provincial Electoral system on January 18th.

FDA research on the Alberta Provincial Electoral System

Friday, January 6, 2012

Free market tested and works?

The Canadian Conservative government under Harper and now with a majority government with less than 25 percent overall Canadian voter support, is on a campaign of changing Canada's ideology of reliance on public service to a reliance on the private sector. Evidences of this shift are the Conservative government's weakening of the Canadian Wheat Board by making participation in it voluntary, significant behind the scenes slashing of public service sectors such as Environment Canada in which many of the staff have been dismissed, increased government consultation contracts for Canadian right-wing think tanks, and remarks from the Conservatives like Harper that the market is tested.

The issue I have with the Conservative approach is that this organization fails to see the limitations and failures of the marketplace. For examples, the US recent economic recession was linked directly to the lack of regulation of the US marketplace, marketplace corruption such as Enron, market unfairness through favoritism, inequities, and illegal deals, and most important, a subjective valuation of things, objects, and life-forms.

The marketplace which the Conservative's put so much faith in is far, far from perfect.

In relation to democracy, the Conservative market approach does not apply. Based on the FDA electoral findings, there is a severely unfair free market democracy in Canada, in which established and large political parties through their own rules which must apply to all, have an enormous electoral advantage over smaller and new political parties. (See the FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Canada.) So much for an equal playing field and fair market democracy. To put this in context, the Conservatives offer nothing to deal with this electoral shortcoming, and instead focus of electoral reforms which benefit them such as cutting party subsidies (which would do more harm to the NDP and Liberals than the Conservatives).

My advice to Canadians over the next few years when you are being bombarded directly and indirectly with the free market ideology of the Conservative government and its right-wing think tanks, to think about how free and fair the Canadian marketplace is, how things are valued monetarily in it like water and air, and consider the idea that there is a failed disconnect in the ideology of the Conservatives and the free market when it comes to Canadian democracy.

I am not proposing to do away with the marketplace; however, checks and regulations are necessary, as an unrestrained marketplace leads to social inequities, increased environmental harm and corruption etc., and most important the marketplace due to biases, inequities riddled through it falls well short of an accurate valuation of things and people. We see this in the case of the polar bear which the Conservative government has so failed to provide any protection despite the bear's threatened existence or the government's failure to deal with mounting national and global environmental issues like global warming, and the lack of plurality in Canadian mass media. (Countries like France and Bolivia have media ownership concentration laws; Canada has none.)

FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Canada