Fair Vote Nova Scotia


Trudeau Liberals Betray Voters on Key Election Promise

HALIFAX - A declaration by the Prime Minister that electoral system reform was "no longer in the mandate" of the Government sparked shock, anger and sadness amongst many Nova Scotia voters.

"Today, Justin Trudeau betrayed voters by breaking his election promise to replace the First Past the Post voting system by 2019 and to 'make every vote count'" said Andy Blair, President of Fair Vote Nova Scotia. "Rarely has such a crystal clear promise, supported by so many, been killed so cynically for partisan gain. Voters who cast their ballots for the Liberals in 2015 will be wondering just what election promises they can count on."

Claiming there was no consensus on the issue, Trudeau stated that he could not go ahead with promised reforms nor hold a referendum. Reform proponents countered that it was obvious for any that care to look that there is a consensus:
  • a consensus within Parliament's cross-party Electoral Reform (ERRE) Committee, which recommended moving to a more proportional system of representation and holding a referendum;
  • a consensus amongst expert witnesses (88%) and ordinary Canadians (88%) expressing a preference before the ERRE Committee who also favoured proportionality;
  • a consensus in most (69%) of MP town hall meetings across the country where a majority of constituents asked for PR;
  • and even a consensus expressed in the Government's own flawed MyDemocracy.ca survey where the majority (70%) wanted "several parties to cooperate to govern."

    "This follows 13 Citizens' Assemblies, official commissions, and public consultations since 1977 all recommending PR," noted Blair. "It is as strong a consensus on an issue as anyone is likely to see in Canadian politics."

    "Unlike other election commitments, the Trudeau Liberals apparently need unanimous support on democratic reform to fulfil a promise they were elected on," remarked Blair. "Yet they deny the consensus that exists and refuse to seek a consensus by referendum. It's clear they just want to kill this at any cost; the question is why?"

    "The way we elect our Parliament impacts voter participation, the political climate, governance and virtually every decision made," said Blair. "Because of this, electoral reform is the litmus test of whether the Trudeau Government really is about 'Real Change' ...or just about promising anything to get elected. As the recent U.S. election abundantly showed, Canadians should be concerned about a 'winner take all' system that disenfranchises half the electorate, forces people to vote strategically, and distorts the will of voters in the results."

    Fair Vote Nova Scotia is part of Fair Vote Canada, Canada's national multi-partisan citizens' movement promoting fair voting reform at all levels of government.

    :: posted 01/Feb/2017

    Voting System Distorts Voting Choices of Atlantic Canadians

    HALIFAX - A single-party sweep of the entire Atlantic region in the 2015 federal election highlights need for democratic reform.

    Canada's winner-take-all voting system has significantly distorted the will of Atlantic Canada's electors, causing a complete sweep of all four Atlantic provinces by one single party.

    "Nationally, Liberals earned the votes of 39.5% of Canadian voters," said Andy Blair, President of Fair Vote Nova Scotia. "Yet the voting system handed them 54.4% of the seats in the House of Commons. This is a majority government...on only a minority of the vote. The desire for change was clearly evident in the results, but our winner-take-all system granted the Liberal Party many more seats than their vote merits - and shut out other voices to do so."

    The 'first-past-the-post' voting system yielded the Trudeau Liberals a solid majority, elected or leading in 184 ridings, more than the 170 threshold for a majority. On the East Coast, a number of experienced long-time Members of Parliament were swept away with the Liberal landslide.

    "Atlantic Canada's votes were distorted even more than normal," continued Blair. "Of the 1,309,257 votes cast by electors in Atlantic Canada, 58.7% went to Liberal candidates, 21.8% to Conservatives, 17.9% to the New Democrats, and 3.5% to Greens. But 100% of Atlantic Canada's 32 seats went to Liberals. The one-third of Atlantic Canadian voters that voted for candidates or parties other than Liberal probably do not feel well represented after last night's election results. If we had a voting system that accurately represented the wishes of voters, they would be: we would have 19 Liberal MPs (instead of 32), 7 Conservative MPs, 5 NDP MPs, and even one Green elected."

    Last month, over 500 Canadian academics, including several Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, 29 Canada Research Chairs and two Professors with the Order of Canada, called on all political parties to work together to bring in a fairer electoral system.

    "It should no longer be acceptable to have a system that disenfranchises a third of the electorate, forces people to vote strategically, or distorts the will of voters." Blair added. "It's time we modernized our dysfunctional democracy so that election results truly reflect they way electors vote."

    Fair Vote Nova Scotia is part of Fair Vote Canada, Canada's national multi-partisan citizens' movement promoting fair voting reform at all levels of government.

    :: posted 20/Oct/2015

    Minority of Nova Scotia Voters elect a Majority Government in Nova Scotia

    HALIFAX - Now your vote counts. Now it doesn't.

    A minority of voters elected a majority government in Nova Scotia yesterday exposing the basic flaw in the voting system, says Fair Vote Canada.

    Unofficial results show the Liberals received 45 per cent of the vote but 65 per cent of the seats. The NDP slightly edged out the PCs in the popular vote (27 per cent versus 26 per cent respectively), the NDP received four fewer seats than the PCs.

    All three major parties in Nova Scotia have unfairly benefited from the current 'First-Past-the-post' voting system at different times, which often turns a minority of votes into a majority of seats for one party.

    "Phony majority governments are a common outcome of the current voting system," says Doug Bailie, president of Fair Vote Canada. "Political leaders may be okay with that. But voters are wondering why their votes count in some elections but not others."

    Canada is among a handful of countries still using the antiquated First-Past-the-Post system. Most democracies use voting systems based on the principle of proportional representation, which ensures each party’s share of the seats reflects its share of the popular vote. As a result, almost every vote cast helps elect a candidate and governments represent a majority of voters.

    "Nova Scotia is unique among Canadian provinces for having three political parties that have all had a turn in government and regularly receive a significant share of the popular vote," says Bailie. "The current voting system is not designed for that type of competitive, multi-party system. We are often left with a winner-take-all outcome that does not reflect the will of voters."

    Steve Caines from Fair Vote Nova Scotia agrees, "Adopting proportional representation for provincial elections would treat everyone's vote the same. It's fair and it's the best way to renew democracy in Nova Scotia."

    Fair Vote Canada (FVC) is a grassroots, multi-partisan citizens' campaign for voting system reform. FVC promotes the introduction of an element of proportional representation in elections at all levels of government and civil society.

    For a look at what the 2013 Nova Scotia election results would have looked like if Nova Scotia had free and fair elections, visit FVC National Secretary Wilf Day's Blog.

    :: posted 10/Oct/2013

    Nova Scotia NDP State Support for Electoral System Review

    HALIFAX - In their response to Fair Vote Nova Scotia's election-time questionnaire, the Nova Scotia NDP have indicated they will support the striking of a new electoral reform commission to consult with Nova Scotians on the way the province's electoral system functions.

    "We're happy to see the NDP state their support for a provincial electoral system review," said Steve Caines, Secretary with Fair Vote Nova Scotia. "This was a very significant recommendation in the NS Electoral Boundaries Commission report last year and government should follow through on it."

    Verbatim versions of the completed questionnaires have been posted to www.fairvotenovascotia.ca. Two of the four registered parties responded: the Liberal Party (download PDF response) and the NDP (download PDF response).

    "While they expressed some interest the questionnaire responses from the Liberal Party are, along with some of the NDP's, evasive," stated Caines. "Among other things, the Liberals have not specifically committed to holding the electoral system review, which we feel is key."

    The Green Party of NS did not complete the questionnaire, however correspondence was received from party leader John Percy, confirming that the Greens continue to support electoral reform in the province.

    "Other than now via this questionnaire, to our knowledge, the Green Party is actually the only party running in the election that has spoken about electoral reform. It is definitely the only party that has publicly stated support for proportional representation so far," stated Caines.

    "Members of the provincial NDP leadership including Darrell Dexter have spoken is support of proportional representation in the past. However, they have been silent on the issue over the last four years. Representatives of the NS NDP with this party survey had an opportunity to clarify their position on proportional representation, but they haven't done so."

    "The NDP's commitment is positive," said Caines. "But whichever party forms the government after this election, it will still be up to citizens of Nova Scotia to hold feet to the fire and ensure an electoral review is held and a more democratic and fair voting system is developed."

    Update: the NS Progressive Conservative Party provided a response (download PDF response) on Oct 7, 2013.

    Fair Vote Nova Scotia is a Chapter of Fair Vote Canada, a grassroots multi-partisan citizen's campaign for voting system reform.

    :: posted 02/Oct/2013

    Fair Vote Nova Scotia Sends Questionnaire to Party Leaders in Lead Up to Election

    HALIFAX - Fair Vote Nova Scotia has submitted a questionnaire to each party leader in advance of the October 8th Nova Scotia election to determine where each provincial political party stands on the issue of electoral system reform.

    "We have requested that each party leader respond to the questionnaire by Oct 1st and following this date, we'll be publicizing the responses or lack thereof on our website" says Fair Vote NS secretary Steve Caines. "People should know where the parties stand on electoral reform before the election. The party responses to the questions, if they choose to respond, should pretty firmly determine where they stand. And if parties choose not to respond, that will still be telling."

    The way Nova Scotia's elections function once again came under the microscope recently, following the most recent redrawing of provincial electoral district boundaries. Significantly this time the protected constituencies that were established to more effectively elect members of the province's African Nova Scotian and Acadian communities were altered. Much of the FVNS questionnaire revolves around the issue of minority representation. "Do the parties see this as a real issue or not? What ideas and plans do the parties have for adequate representation of these groups?" asks Caines.

    Fair Vote Nova Scotia has also included a few questions related to election financing. "Current rules don't require campaign financing information to be released before people cast their ballots," states Caines. "We want to know if they're willing to change that, in the interest of transparency."

    "Next week is Democracy Week, as declared by Elections Canada. And we've got an election coming up in Nova Scotia in less than a month. We feel these are pertinent questions to be asking."

    Visit Fair Vote Nova Scotia's website at www.fairvotenovascotia.ca to read the full questionnaire.
    Download the Questionnaire: Fair Vote Nova Scotia Questionnaire for Provincial Party Leaders [PDF]

    Fair Vote Nova Scotia is a Chapter of Fair Vote Canada, a grassroots multi-partisan citizen's campaign for voting system reform.

    :: posted 14/Sep/2013

    FVNS Launches Petition Campaign for Fairer Representation in Nova Scotia

    It my have been doomed from the start. Controversy erupted as soon as the Nova Scotia Electoral Boundaries Commission released their final report, changing the province's riding map and drastically altering electoral districts created to ensure adequate representation of Acadian and African Nova Scotians in the House of Assembly. The changes are likely to diminish future representation in the House of Assembly of minority groups that are already often under-represented. In the wake of this controversial new riding redistribution proposed by the Commission, Fair Vote Nova Scotia is launching a campaign for a new public process to improve democracy in the province.

    "The province's Electoral Boundaries Commission recognized that under our current voting system it could not satisfy both the need to give Nova Scotians an equal vote and adequately represent Nova Scotia's linguistic and cultural minorities," said Andy Blair, President of Fair Vote Nova Scotia. "This is a central problem with 'First Past the Post' and is one reason Nova Scotians deserve a real public investigation into improving their democracy."

    "Though it is not part of the Commission's mandate to study electoral reform or to recommend changes to the current electoral system, there were a number of submissions on this topic in the public consultation process" noted 7 of the 8-member Commission on page 21 of their final report. "Reforming the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system was suggested as a means of improving Nova Scotia's representative democracy, by more accurately translating voter preferences into seats in the legislature. The distortions introduced by the current system [...] with no allowance made for popular vote totals, can be a disincentive to political participation."

    "It is not enough to simply have a Commission play with riding boundaries when so many Nova Scotians are effectively disenfranchised," added Blair. "Our African Nova Scotian, Acadian, and Aboriginal communities are all too frequently under-represented, and likely to be even more so after these riding changes. They are not alone: shamefully, women make up only 23 percent of MLAs in the House of Assembly. And even worse, as many as half of all elector's votes are wasted - they don't go towards electing any representative for those voters. It's time for a citizen-driven process that will examine all options to make our democracy fairer, and not just look at electoral districts."

    "There appear to be significant democratic benefits to be gained from incorporating some measure of proportional representation into the current FPTP electoral system" wrote the Commission, which recommended that the House of Assembly:

    • "establish a process for consulting with key minority groups, in particular the Acadian and African Nova Scotian communities, for the purpose of determining alternative means for achieving fair and effective minority representation."

    • "that the Nova Scotia Legislature initiate a process involving both extensive critical examination and public consultation on the current electoral system as well as possible alternatives to it."

    "Fair Vote Nova Scotia calls on elected MLAs to ensure basic democratic minority representation rights are respected by taking action on these key recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commission," said Blair. "It isn't just the Commission: Nova Scotians are asking for an open, transparent, public process to improve their democracy too."

    To be introduced in the House of Assembly, the Petition for Fairer Representation must be printed and signed. Instructions are at the bottom of the petition, which may be downloaded in English or French via the links below:

    Fair Representation for Nova Scotians: Petition to the House of Assembly [PDF]

    Une représentation équitable en Nouvelle-Écosse: Pétition adressée à l'Assemblée législative [PDF]

    Fair Vote Nova Scotia is part of Fair Vote Canada, Canada's national multi-partisan citizens' movement promoting fair voting reform at all levels of government.

    :: posted 20/Feb/2013

    Referendum Option A Chosen by Majority

    In February 2013, Fair Vote Canada members were consulted in a national membership referendum between two options: namely whether Fair Vote should maintain support for Proportional Representation (PR) or change to support the Alternative Vote (AV) in addition (AV is also known as Instant Ranked Voting or IRV). Fair Vote Nova Scotia members, as part of Fair Vote Canada, joined members across the country in a healthy debate and in voting. With nearly half of all members casting ballots, this is the highest participation rate for any internal democratic exercise in Fair Vote history. Voting closed Feb. 2nd.

    The results were:

    Option A: 55% Fair Vote Canada's mandate is to promote Proportional Representation and that Fair Vote Canada only support systems that are proportional, at all levels of government.

    Option B: 45% "Fair Vote Canada supports the Alternative Vote for municipal council elections where no parties exist" and that line be added to the paragraph on Proportional Representation in the Statement of Purpose.

    As Option A was selected by the majority of members, Fair Vote Canada will continue to support only proportional systems for electing assemblies at all levels of government: federal, provincial, and municipal. While Fair Vote Canada will continue to regard the Alternative Vote as an acceptable system to be used when electing single-winner positions (such as mayor or party leader), we will not support it for the election of representative bodies. For more information on the Alternative Vote, consult the Fair Vote Canada Alternative Vote position paper (PDF).

    Thanks to all Fair Vote Canada members who participated in this important members' referendum.
    :: posted 4/Feb/2013

    Nova Scotians launch campaign to reform 'dysfunctional democracy'

    Citizens' group to push for fairer democracy, voting reform.
    HALIFAX - Atlantic Canada's newest citizens' group, Fair Vote Nova Scotia, launched its campaign for democratic reform on Saturday with a public meeting and talk on the current state of the nation's democracy given by guest speaker Megan Leslie, MP (Halifax). The grassroots organization announced its intention to push for changes to the current voting system, called "First past the post," to allow for more accountable governments and election results that more accurately reflect the will of voters. The public event was one of many held across the country as part of Canada's Democracy Day, September 15.

    "Nova Scotians have a lot to be proud of," said Andy Blair, elected President of Fair Vote Nova Scotia. "Nova Scotia became the first representative democracy in North America - and the Commonwealth - with democratic elections in 1758. Since that time just about every aspect of our civil society has evolved, from our laws and justice system, to universal suffrage, to responsible government. But our voting system has stayed stuck in the 18th century."

    "It should no longer be acceptable to have a system that disenfranchises half the electorate, severely under-represents women and minorities in our parliaments, forces people to vote strategically, or distorts the will of voters." Blair added. "It's time we modernized our dysfunctional democracy so that election results truly reflect they way electors vote."

    The NGO invited Canadians to reflect on their democracy during Canada's Democracy Week, Sept. 15 to 22, 2012.

    "Canadians need to start a national discussion on democratic reform," said Vice-President Sahar Yousefi. "Many are concerned about recent abuses of their democracy: undemocratic omnibus bills, Parliament prorogued to avoid votes, contempt of Parliament by government, and even potential electoral fraud on a country-wide scale. All this is taking place in a toxic political atmosphere where one party can get 100 percent of the power with less than 40 percent of the vote, and thus ignore all other voices. It discourages cooperation and good policy ...and it turns people off voting. It simply can't continue. As a country we must start looking at our options to make Canadian democracy more accountable to voters the way most other Western nations have already done."

    Fair Vote Nova Scotia is part of Fair Vote Canada, Canada's national multi-partisan citizens' movement promoting fair voting reform and proportional representation at all levels of government.

    :: posted 15/Sep/2012

    Voter Suppression Revealed: the stealth attack on democracy

    "Most of us have heard about the "robocall" electoral fraud allegations and Elections Canada's investigation into what happened during the 41st General Election. Halifax's own Chris Majka uses statistics and insightful analysis to determine whether voter suppression likely occurred in the 2011 federal election - and if so, how many seats changed because of it. Read the story.
    :: posted 20/Sep/2012

    Fair Vote Nova Scotia Launch & 2012 Annual General Meeting
    Democracy Day, September 15, 2012
    As part of events being held across Canada this Democracy Day (September 15), the public is invited to Fair Vote Nova Scotia's Launch & Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday, September 15th. The AGM will feature a talk by Halifax MP Megan Leslie on the current state of Canada's democracy, followed by a public discussion about what we can do about it:

    Fair Vote Nova Scotia
    Launch & Annual General Meeting
    Time: 2:00 pm AGM
    2:30 pm Public Talk: "Canada's Ailing Democracy"
    with guest speaker Megan Leslie, MP (Halifax)
    Date: Democracy Day, Saturday September 15
    Place: KTS Lecture Hall, New Academic Building
    King's College, 6350 Coburg Rd, Halifax, Nova Scotia (near Dalhousie) Click for Google map

    The AGM is a re-launch of Fair Vote Nova Scotia (a Chapter of Fair Vote Canada), first initiated in 2004 to advocate for fairer elections through voting system reform. The Fair Vote Nova Scotia AGM will include the election of a new executive and the approval of organization bylaws (download the draft bylaws from the left menu).

    The AGM and talk are open to the public. Any Fair Vote Canada member in good standing may run for elected position on the executive or vote in the election at this meeting. Individuals can sign up or renew their membership online at www.fairvote.ca or in person at the meeting.

    Refreshments will be served. For more information contact: Andy Blair tel. 902-718-9656 or andy.blair-at-fairvote.ca.

    :: posted 30/Aug/2012

    Making Every Vote Count: Fair Vote Nova Scotia Interview

    "There are two basic tenets of democracy: everyone has an equal voice, and the majority rules. Our current voting system violates both of those fundamental principles." Read the Halifax Media Co-op interview with Fair Vote Nova Scotia on the need for electoral reform, proportional representation, the Occupy protests, and more. Read the story or the full Question & Answer interview.
    :: posted 01/Sep/2012

    Stop Wasting Your Votes

    Ever feel your vote doesn't count? For most of us, it doesn't! Each Canadian election, over seven million votes are wasted - they don't go towards electing anybody! It's no wonder voter turnout has been dropping for years. But it gets much, much worse: check out the seven ways our electoral system is actually pulling our country apart.
    :: posted 03/Sep/2012

    What's the Solution?
    Our current voting system actually evolved hundreds of years ago in Britain, when it suited the politics of the time. Canada is one of the last few western democracies still using a Westminister-style 'winner take all' system to choose its government (called First Past the Post). Not surprisingly most modern countries have abandonded this antiquated system and today use something much more fair: systems that include an element of proportional representation. Old, dysfunctional systems were replaced in most countries by motivated & concerned citizens, and it can happen in Canada too. Here's what you can do for a fairer system today.
    :: posted 11/Sep/2012