Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fair Vote Canada

If you've ever read through my proportional representation FAQ, you've already heard about Fair Vote Canada, at least in passing. I myself stumbled upon the organization several years ago, after doing a google search to see whether there was an organization advocating for proportional representation in Canada. What I found was a multipartisan, citizen-based campaign for electoral reform on both the federal and provincial levels, run by level-headed citizens from all walks of life and all points on the political spectrum. I joined immediately, with high expectations that they've since only exceeded.

Fair Vote Canada is unique in that they don't argue for a particular electoral system that might favour one party over the others, but instead advocate for an independent, citizen-driven process that would allow Canadians to choose a voting system based on the principles that all Canadian voters are equal, and that every vote should count. When it comes to proportional representation, the devil is always in the details, and Fair Vote Canada maintains that the public good is best served when a non-partisan group of informed, randomly chosen ordinary citizens--as opposed to partisan politicians--designs an electoral system suited to each jurisdiction. This may sound like a lofty, idealistic goal, but due in large part to Fair Vote Canada's strong advocacy of this principle, a citizens' assembly was already created in British Columbia, and a similar process is presently at work in Ontario. The resulting B.C. referendum in 2005 fell just short of the 60% threshold required to change the system, but well over a majority did vote in favour of it, and as a result, another referendum is scheduled to be held in conjunction with the November 2008 municipal election. Ontario expects to hold its referendum in October of 2007, and there is a strong push now to implement the same process on the federal level.

Fair Vote Canada gets it--they know that proportional representation isn't a partisan issue, but a tool we as a democracy can use to make sure Canadians get the parliament they vote for. As a result, they bring together people from all parts of the country, all walks of life and both partisan and non-partisan advocates of a better Canadian democracy. And it works. With almost no resources and in only six years of existence, Fair Vote Canada has educated countless citizens about electoral systems and electoral reform, helped get proportional representation on the agenda of both local and national debates, and helped make things happen that naysayers had dubbed unachievable fantasies. Judging from near-daily mentions of the issue in the media, there's some impressive momentum here, and in large part we have Fair Vote Canada to thank for that. Who knows what they can achieve over the next six years.

So why am I telling you all this now? Well, they're currently holding a membership drive, and if you're someone who believes in the principles they advocate, I would strongly encourage you to join them. It only costs you ten dollars a year, and that ten dollars buys you the knowledge that you're really doing something to benefit Canadian democracy. This is an organization with almost no overhead and administrative costs, as it's entirely volunteer-run, so every one of your ten dollars will go toward their work on electoral reform. I'd say that's worth the price of a movie ticket.


Anonymous said...

IP, sorry for "picking your brains"! I just want to how the Fair Vote Ontario differs from the Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform. Do you know?

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


No problem at all!

Fair Vote Ontario is the Ontario arm of Fair Vote Canada, dedicated to electoral reform in the province of Ontario. The Ontario Citizens' Assembly is going to be a group citizens randomly chosen from the voters' list who will meet, learn about electoral systems, and then propose a one for Ontario. They will be from all over the province and (presumably) of all political orientations, and be chosen for gender balance (50% men and 50% women). The new system will then be put to the voters in a province-wide referendum.

Fair Vote Ontario supports this initiative of the current Ontario government, of course, but there is no direct affiliation. It would sure be funny if one of the Fair Vote Ontario people ended up on the citizens' assembly, though.

Anonymous said...

Ah ha... membership drive, eh? We knew there had to be some explanation. Of course, now I have NO reason not to join.

Is there a Calgary chapter? And what are the overall membership numbers like, just out of curiosity?

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Welcome! Most of Fair Vote Alberta (the Alberta wing of Fair Vote Canada) is run out of Edmonton, but there are a good number of interested Calgarians as well. As I understand it, they're just now starting to get together a new chapter. I'm sure they'd need you!