Monday, April 14, 2014

Baby Steps

I've been following the so-called "Fair Elections Act" lately and I have yet to see a bill so unanimously and vehemently opposed by such a wide range of characters. The chief electoral officer of Canada did a particularly good job picking the proposed legislation apart, as did a group of international researchers  with no personal interest in our country's politics.

Not that anyone's opinion matters: the Tories are well-versed at ignoring expert testimony, especially of the scientific variety.

And while everyone is busy pointing out the various problems with the Fair Elections Act, that beady-eyed little rodent Pierre Poilievre insists it's a terrific piece of legislation.

A face only a mother could… actually, not even.
I don't know what it is about Poilievre. The mere sight of that smug, smarmy smile makes me want to punch him right in the nose. I know it's uncalled for. I don't care. We're all entitled to our irrational moments.

Reading about all that's wrong with the Fair Elections Act, one has to wonder which part of this monstrous omnibus bill Poilievre thinks is "terrific." Is it the fact that it makes it harder for people to vote? That it could hurt plans to increase voter turnout? Wait, I think I know. Is it because it muzzles Elections Canada, the organization tasked with ensuring that no funny business takes place come voting time?

I could paste link after link about all that is wrong with this piece of garbage--how it creates loopholes for campaign spending and party fundraising; how Stephen and his friends didn't bother consulting the leading expert on election law while crafting the bill; and how the Tories moved to shut down debate an hour after the bill was introduced--but I'm not going to. I like to cultivate positive thought and my heart's already racing from looking at that photo of Poilievre's face.

Instead of criticizing and mocking, I'd like to congratulate MP Kennedy Stewart whose e-petition bill passed by a vote of 142-140 on January 29th. Why is this worthy of congratulations? Let me summarize:
  1. Stewart is a rookie MP
  2. He's a member of the NDP, aka the opposition
  3. The Conservatives, aka the majority government, opposed the bill
  4. Several Tories decided to cross the party line and voted yes for the motion, causing it to pass
Typically when a motion put forth by the opposition lacks the support of the majority government--especially one that is notorious for whipping its members into voting along party lines--it is thoroughly squashed. And that's what would've happened to Stewart's e-petition bill if a few Tories hadn't broken rank and supported the motion.

You may also recall that I mentioned Kennedy's motion in one of my first posts where I claimed it was a step in the right direction. Here's an excerpt from Stewart's page:
Currently, only paper petitions can be accepted in the House of Commons. Online petitions receiving thousands of signatures from Canadians cannot be submitted and often go unanswered. I believe this system needs to be brought into the 21st century through electronic petitioning – as has already been done successfully in several provinces and numerous other countries.

My motion also proposes that short debates be triggered in Parliament in cases where a petition receives a significant number of signatures and is sponsored by at least five MPs. Not only would Canadians be able to easily express themselves by signing petitions online, their views and concerns could then be directly addressed by Members of Parliament.
And now to quote myself from 7 months ago: " I propose that we wrest control of our nation away from the crooked politicians before it is too late and that we drag this democracy of ours into the 21st century."

Maybe I was being a little dramatic with the "wresting control" part but I am totally serious about modernizing our political system. This ought to be our main priority! Imagine going to the corporate head office of some massively successful transnational company and finding that the receptionist is using an IBM 610.

Let me find you in our system, sir. Should only take 4 hours.
Our political system is the equivalent of an IBM 610. It's old as shit and needs to be massively upgraded.

Kennedy Stewart's e-petition bill may not be the complete overhaul we sorely need but then again no single bill can be. The process of modernizing out political system will have to be done one step at a time, and this bill is a worthy first step.

My man-crush on Stewart only got stronger after I heard about Bill C-558, Stewart's new project. Also from Stewart's page:
After years of muzzling, mismanagement, and misuse of science by the Conservative government, this new office will promote real transparency and ensure decisions made in Ottawa are based on the best available scientific evidence.
And me, again: "Transparency is the best weapon against corruption; eliminate all the hiding places and politicians will have no choice but to behave."

The part about making decisions based on the best available scientific evidence also pleases me a great deal. The government is supposed to represent and work for all Canadians equally regardless of personal belief, ethnicity, genre, culture, etc. How can it hope to do this if it makes decisions based on subjective beliefs held by some people and not others?

It's not to say that subjective opinion and belief shouldn't play a part in political discourse, only that they should be layered atop a foundation of objective facts. Ideally, here is how the decision-making process should take place (props to /u/ddkv on Reddit for breaking it down):
  1. A policy is challenged or in need of modernization.
  2. A group of experts is consulted on the options moving forward and their recommendation
  3. The government acknowledges the expert opinion (the technocrat solution) and includes their broader view of social, political and legal concerns in making the decision
  4. The decision is made, and if it runs counter to expert opinion, the over-riding reasons are clearly stated, and the experts are invited to give advice moving forward based on the decision made.
  5. With any new advice from the experts based on the new direction, the policy is written.
Once again, Stewart's new bill doesn't eliminate belief-based decision-making but it's certainly another step in the right direction.

I'm glad that there's at least one person in parliament who appears to share my concern with the way our system is misfiring and breaking down at every turn. I don't expect anyone, least of all a rookie MP from Burnaby, to swoop in and fix all our problems; I'm just looking for baby steps in the right direction, and so far Stewart is the only guy laying those steps out.

Keep up the good work Kennedy, and congrats on the win.