Category Archives: First-Past-the-Post is Evil

“I’m a geek, you’re a geek” • RaBIT on TV

Paikin_TV

This week, I had the privilege of spending some time with Steve Paikin, and talking about the merits of municipal ranked ballots and runoff voting.

Watch here.

Thanks for your support

UPDATE (June 2013) • Sometimes you just have know when to walk away.  Despite the positive update I posted in April (below), the situation at Fair Vote has gotten worse and I’ve decided to quit the organisation after seven years of volunteering.  I’m working with an amazing team of people to start a new national campaign for proportional government, called Unlock Democracy.

I’m not gonna go into details here, because we don’t need to air dirty laundry (and there is a LOT of dirty laundry here), but I’ll just mention four major turning points for me:

• The only group that actively campaigned against the RaBIT campaign, was Fair Vote Canada.  I’ve never seen a movement so committed to shooting itself in the foot, and attacking its own peers.

• The Toronto Chapter Executive didn’t hold a single meeting for an entire year.  Then they organised a rigged election for the 2013 Executive, by rejecting all the candidates they didn’t like.

• A recent meeting of the National Council ended with two young members in tears, after being verbally attacked by another member.  Sadly, this type of bullying and harassment has been happening for years.

• I reached out to one of the key members of the National Council, and offered to sit down over lunch or coffee to discuss the situation.  The offer was repeatedly turned down.  If people aren’t prepared to talk, then there is little possibility to build consensus.

For these reasons  – and hundreds more – I’m done.  I wish Fair Vote the best of luck.  There are some really good people working there, including the Executive Director Wayne Smith and the current President Doug Bailie.

But you gotta know when to fold ‘em.  And I’m folding. The movement is big enough for two groups, and hopefully we can all work together at some point.

UPDATE  (April 2013) • Good news, in regards to this story.  The National Council of Fair Vote Canada has voted to reinstate Desmond Cole and Katherine Skene on the Toronto Chapter Executive. Also, they have accepted the nominations (previously rejected) for National Council, for Sarah Lambert, Gautam Lamba, and others.

There is also now a comprehensive agreement in place that allows both RaBIT and Fair Vote to work collaboratively.

I want to personally thank Jim Harris who has been working tirelessly to forge a consensus and encourage a healthy dialogue and required compromise on all sides. He is truly a master of mediation.

As someone who is a committed volunteer for both RaBIT and Fair Vote, I’m thrilled to see everyone on the same page. Thanks Jim, and also thanks to our Executive Director, Wayne Smith. And thanks to all members of National Council who supported this positive step forward.

Now, let’s get to work. If you support proportional representation, and you’re not a member of Fair Vote… join today! It’s only $10:

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Original post:

Sarah_banned

Thanks for your support

A couple of weeks ago, three members of Fair Vote Canada were expelled from their elected positions on the Toronto Chapter Executive (myself, Desmond Cole and Katherine Skene).  One week later, three members were told that their nominations for the Fair Vote National Council had been rejected (Sarah Lambert, Gautam Lamba and Katherine) – simply because they had volunteered with an external group.

Des_expelledI’ve been involved with community organising for 15 years.  I’ve volunteered for dozens of groups in Toronto, I’ve been employed by about 15 non-profits, I’ve served as a Director on boards such as the Mayworks Arts Festival, and I’ve been a member of two political parties.  I’ve seen my share of conflict.  But in all that time, I can say that I’ve never experienced this kind of exclusionary, top-down, anti-democratic behaviour.  It’s stunning, and the worst part is that it’s happening within an organisation called “Fair Vote”.

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Joyce Murray: A catalyst for cooperation

Something interesting is happening. In a political culture dominated by fierce partisanship, a growing number of people are talking about cooperation.

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 5.23.04 PMDuring last year’s NDP leadership race, Nathan Cullen ran on a platform of cross-party electoral cooperation.  He didn’t win the race, but he attracted (and boosted) the support, energy and enthusiasm of a growing movement for a progressive alliance.

Now, the Liberal Party is having a leadership race, and they also have a candidate who’s preaching constructive cooperation.  Her name is Joyce Murray and when I heard about her campaign six weeks ago, I volunteered to organise her first public campaign event in Toronto.  The gathering was fun, positive, and attracted people from across the progressive spectrum.

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 5.14.51 PM

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City Hall: Now Welcoming Women

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about the lack of gender balance at City Hall.  I included a group photo of City Council’s Committee Chairs:

City Hall

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Yes, they’re all men.

But, since that blog post, things have changed at City Hall.  As of this month, there will now be one female Committee Chair at City Hall.  Jaye Robinson has been appointed chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, bringing the number of female Chairs on the Executive Committee up from 0% to 14%.

In honour of this breakthrough, I thought I’d reappropriate a recent (odd) marketing campaign from Mark’s Work Warehouse and design our own ad for Toronto:

Now_Welcoming_Jaye

click for full-size image

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PS: If you’re interested in boosting representation at City Hall, here are some groups working on democratic renewal and political accessibility:

WoTopoli  

An Evening with Mike and Friends • Tues Nov 27

I’ve always had trouble with partisanship.  In 2006, I was labelled a ‘promiscuous endorser‘ by NOW magazine for endorsing Adam Vaughn, Helen Kennedy and Desmond Cole – who were all running against each other. I thought each one of them would each make a fantastic City Councillor.

In my teenage years I was a young Liberal.  In my twenties I was a New Democrat.  For most of my thirties I’ve been multipartisan, or as I prefer to call it, ‘transpartisan’: transcending the notion of politics as a team sport and working towards less polarisation and more collaboration.

The prefix ‘trans’ is often used to describe a bridge between two places, or something that unites many things together (ie: the Trans-Canada Highway).

And so it is, on November 27th my highway will be taking an exit at the “Third Annual Evening with Mike and Friends“.  Mike who, you ask?  Mike Schreiner.  Mike Schreiner WHO, you ask?  Mike Schreiner – the leader of the Ontario Green Party, and you’re not to blame if you have never heard of him.  Mike is an articulate and inspiring leader, but he suffers under the weight of a political system that discriminates against new voices:

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The Election Quilt (Behind the scenes)

A couple of months ago, I was thinking about how difficult it can be to explain the ways in which our voting system is a total scam.  When given 15 or 20 minutes, it’s easy to break down the mathematical insanity that we call “first past the post”.   But if you’ve only got 2 or 3 minutes, it’s hard to describe the polarising, divisive and unfair characteristics of ‘vote-splitting’ and ‘strategic-voting’.

So I designed an “Election Quilt” that would allow someone to easily facilitate an interactive presentation, in mere minutes, that clearly shows why our voting system is a national disgrace.

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Transforming City Hall, with Paul.

17 recommendations going to City Hall this week

It’s been three months since I launched the ‘Fourth Wall’ exhibit, exploring ways to make local politics more inclusive, accessible and participatory.

The response has been overwhelming, with hundreds of people attending the gallery including student groups, City staff, City Councillors, journalists, the mayor of Calgary, and my mom.

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City Councillors standing up for fair & friendly elections!

Last year, just before the municipal election, I launched the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto (RaBIT) with a group of colleagues and friends.  Now, a year later, we’ve got great momentum, and the support of City Councillors from across the political spectrum.

Today we just announced our first ten official endorsements from City Council, and there will surely be more to come in the New Year!

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Hop To It! Meet RaBIT at City Hall this week.

In 2006 I produced a fun project called ‘City Idol’.  We encouraged citizens of all ages from across Toronto to stand on a stage and compete – not with songs, but with their ideas.  We attracted 70 candidates, and over 600 audience members.  It was one of the largest events of the 2006 city election.  We ended up with four diverse winners, one for each part of the city.  The ‘prize’ for each winner: an election campaign.  We helped all four candidates run for office in the real election.

I learned many things during the process. But the main lesson I took from the City Idol process was this: young candidates, female candidates and visible minority candidates suffer under our current voting system.  I saw with my own eyes, over and over again, how our elections result in vote-splitting, strategic voting and candidates being pushed out of races.

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STAR: Why fair debates matter in Ontario



This is an op-ed I wrote for the Toronto Star.  Read the original version here.
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As a teenager, I would occasionally become enthralled by televised sports. I wasn’t particularly interested in wrestling matches or hockey playoffs, but my eyes would be glued to the screen for hours as I watched a true blood sport: elections.

I remember watching poll results late into the evening with my father and I recall being particularly fascinated by leadership conventions. It was amazing to me that political control was decided not in a backroom, but live on TV.

During one of those conventions I became so impressed with a particular candidate that I pinned his election sign to my bedroom wall, hanging between posters of Pink Floyd and Def Leppard.

I tend to lean to the left side of the political spectrum but this election sign did not belong to Broadbent, Clinton or Rae. My political hero was Garth Turner, a leadership candidate for the Tories in 1993 – my last year of high school.

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