Sunday, October 30, 2022

Canada’s Charter Challenge for Fair Voting and the Urgent Climate Clock

Even though I believe that Canada’s grassroots supported Charter Challenge for Fair Voting will not be able to improve our democracy fast enough to prevent Canada from inflicting a high degree of climate devastation I still strongly believe that it’s still necessary for the long term.

Regardless of whether or not there is a livable, or partially livable, climate future to look forward to, we still have to prepare for the possibility of there being a livable, or partially livable, future.

Let’s face it: There’s a strong possibility that it’s likely to be a badly damaged future with much suffering, many dead, and much sorrow. But even if we can’t save everything, we need to save as much as we can.

The New Normal: A Changed Eaarth

In 2010, Bill McKibben wrote a book entitled, Eaarth, Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. He points out that we have already set in motion the physical process that will change our “Earth” into “Eaarth,” a planet that is qualitatively different than the one we know now. The subtitle implies that we must make the best of life, given these circumstances. The back cover of the book reads as follows: “…our hope depends on building the kinds of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on the essentials, and create the type of community that will allow us to weather trouble on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance.”

Here’s an excerpt from his last paragraph (p 212): “The momentum of the heating, and the momentum of the economy that powers it, can’t be turned off quickly enough to prevent hideous damage. But we will keep fighting, in the hope that we can limit that damage. And in the process, with many others fighting similar battles, we’ll help build the architecture for the world that comes next…”

Canada’s grassroots supported Charter Challenge for Fair Voting is an essential part of trying to build that “architecture”:

I believe that a better democracy will result in better climate policy. That’s why I’m involved in Canada’s grassroots supported Charter Challenge for Fair Voting.

Nevertheless, our court date of Sept 25, 2023 is not soon enough to change our undemocratic electoral system by the 2025 federal election.

If the First Past The Post electoral system is declared unconstitutional then a new electoral system could be in place in time for an election in 2027 – not 2025. This 2027 date is possible even if it takes four years to put a new system into law and into place logistically.

How does that legal time frame fit with the urgent climate clock? 2027 is only three years away from the IPCC deadline for having to reduce emissions by 45% to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Regardless of how bad the physical effects of climate change that are set into unstoppable motion by 2027, we must nevertheless also set into motion the legal proceedings that lead to a relatively better democracy that can improve or ameliorate the situation that that future brings.

Foresight and Hindsight: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago:

Here’s an analogy: In Manitoba, a Red River Floodway, meant to divert excessive spring floodwaters around the city of Winnipeg, was started in 1962 and completed in 1968. Building it took years and was very expensive, but the demand for it finally became absolutely necessary when a flood of unprecedented proportions happened in 1997. It was three decades later that everyone was glad that it had been built.

Analogies are never perfect, but the story of the foresight and preparatory work of the Red River Floodway speaks to the story of the foresight and preparatory work of the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting:

It will take time to establish an improved democracy, but it’s likely that an increased demand for that improved democracy will likely become apparent by the physical effects of climate change in the next 5 years. It’s likely that an improved democracy in 2027 will then speed up a government response to the suddenly increased demand for action on climate that is expected in the coming 5 yrs, including in 2027.

Making  a Silent Majority into an Effective Majority

When I mention a “sped up” government response, I’m referring to this:

A critical mass of people who recognize the dangers of climate change is already forming today in 2022. But translating that critical mass of the public into government action is difficult with our current disproportional electoral system. That critical mass is not being proportionately represented in our governments. In other words, our disproportional electoral system continually transforms a majority voice for the environment into a silenced majority voice for the environment.

The dangers of such an electoral system are magnified by the urgency of the climate crisis.

With the future proportional representation of the people, then it’s likely that the govt’s habit of disproportionately listening to oil lobbyists will be improved, relatively speaking, from what it is now.

Of course we need a change in the Lobby Act, and many other necessary ingredients. But proportional representation is at least one of those necessary ingredients.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Timeline scenarios for Charter Challenge

A grassroots supported CharterChallenge for Fair Voting has finally won its day in court: Sep 25, 2023.

However, this doesn’t leave enough time for a new electoral system to be implemented by the next federal election, which is only 2 years away: Oct 20, 2025 (1)

Here’s one possible timeline scenario showing the various blocks of time required for each step:

First: Time between Hearing and Judgement = 5 mos? (2)

Second: Time for the government to act on a declaration that First Past the Post is unconstitutional = One year to 18 months (3)

Third: Appeals and Stay (3) = ?

Fourth: Electoral Officer’s required time for logistics and voters to learn new system before voting = 2 years (4)

When you add up these blocks of time, here’s what you get:

If there is no appeal, then here’s a rough calculation of a one possible timeline:

6 mos for court to rule

+ 18 mos for govt to make new law

 + 24 mos for Electoral Officer to set up the logistics of a new electoral system

Total =  48 mos (4 years)

If there is an appeal, then the total time is even longer.

Therefore we will almost certainly not have a new electoral system in place for the 2025 federal election.

Nevertheless, if the 2025 election produces a minority government instead of a majority, then, according to past experience, there will likely be another early election in only two years (2027)  instead of a full term of four years (2029).

If the First Past The Post system is declared unconstitutional then a new electoral system could be in place in time for an election in 2027 even if it takes four years to put a new system into law and into place logistically.

The wild card is this: What if an appeal takes place, and how long would that take?

But here’s a card that’s not so wild: Such a precedent set at the federal level will almost certainly affect the future of all provincial electoral systems.



Footnote 1: Fixed election date

Quote: “the maximum duration of a parliament by ensuring that it ends no later than October of the fourth calendar year after its commencement, while leaving the possibility of an earlier end unaffected.”

Date of Oct 20, 2025:

Footnote 2: Time between Hearing and Judgement

Past record shows:

2 months in case of same-sex marriage:  

4 months in R v Morgentaler  

5 months in Vriend v Alberta

Footnote 3: Time for the government to act on a declaration that First Past the Post is unconstitutional: One year to 18 months:

See video ” Voices from the Movement, featuring Jesse Hitchcock, Nicolas Rouleau & Antony Hodgson”

See 57:59: “What we’ve asked for in the challenge is a declaration that First Past The Post is unconstitutional. A declaration is a court order …so it means the government is back to the drawing board and would have to come up with a law that wouldn’t be unconstitutional.

See 59:59 “Within a year we’d have a new law.”

See 1:03:16: Question from Dave Meslin: “How long does a government usually have to update their legislation?”

Quote from constitutional lawyer Nicolas Rouleau:

“The [previous case of] ‘Medical Assistance In Dying’ went past the deadline. I think they got two extensions…For big laws like this that are struck down the government gets a year. I forget whether we asked for a year or 18 months of suspension in our notice of application but basically within a year or 18 months you’d have a new law in place unless there was an appeal in which case there’d probably be a stay pending the appeal.”

Footnote 4:

Star article from July 8, 2016: Chief electoral officer warns time running out on overhauling system: Paul Wells.

Quote from article: ““We need at least two years,” Mayrand said”