The (Right) News Rundown
- 3 weeks ago, I talked about the NDP's plans to change the electoral system, and that the referendum will be sent out a year from now requiring 50% +1 to pass. I also talked about the biased media coverage at the time, and how it didn't mention why the NDP and the Greens want electoral reform - because it will benefit both parties immensely. A pro-rep system would give a huge political advantage to smaller parties like the B.C. Green party. If the Greens significantly increase their number of MLAs, they could continue their minority governing alliance with the New Democrats and freeze the Liberals out of power.
- Because of that, it appears that supporters of the current first past the post system have found a champion in the BC Liberals. Before I go on, I'll explain FPTP. Essentially, under FPTP, the province is divided into electoral districts of roughly the same population. Higher population urban areas will therefore be geographically smaller, and more rural areas will be much larger in size to compensate for the lower population. For example,, roughly 90% of the province's geographic area outside of the Lower Mainland and Victoria is represented by roughly 25% of the legislature's MLAs.
- However, under proportional representation, the geographic area represented by an MLA will grow, to accommodate for the other MLAs that are elected either through a party list, through direct elections by party percentage, or by another mean. It's still unclear which particular system the NDP favour to replace FPTP.
- However, it appears that all of the BC Liberal leadership candidates are united in opposing the NDP-Green idea to change the electoral system. Michael Lee said, “British Columbians have already twice rejected changes to our voting system, but the NDP and Greens won’t take no for an answer. Proportional representation will lead to more minority coalition governments, like the mess we have in Victoria right now. It will create uncertainty for the investment community, negatively impacting jobs, growth and our prosperity.”
- Many BC Liberal MLAs from the rural areas of BC, including leadership candidate Todd Stone, were sharing a tweet from MLA John Rustad, which had a map of BC with the geographically small area of the Lower Mainland coloured in orange. The caption reads: "The population of the orange portion of this map is enough to change the voting system for all BC". It's clear the tweet was an attempt to unite rural British Columbians against the potential tyranny of the majority. It's also the reason why previous referendums on electoral reform were set at a 60% threshold to pass.
- Todd Stone has drawn attention to how the NDP’s rules for the referendum would undercut the voting power of the North and Interior. “The NDP has unveiled a shocking attack on our democracy and on rural British Columbians,” he declared in a video posted on his leadership website earlier this month. “The NDP’s plans mean a small percentage of people — mainly in urban centres — will dictate the results for the entire province. Rural B.C. will be effectively shut out of the process and will lose its say. This is not fair.”
- An anonymous member has suggested adopting the mixed member proportional system, where MLAs would partly be elected from larger electoral districts, and partly from party lists. He has suggested that for individual constituencies, the province would save time and effort by adopting the boundaries that are already in place to elect B.C.’s 42-member complement in the federal parliament. The remaining 45 provincial MLAs would be selected from the pool. Taking that scenario as an outcome, there would be a dramatic reduction in local representation, particularly in the regions being placed on alert by Stone and the other Liberals.
- Currently the Interior and North are represented by 23 seats in the legislature. That contingent would be reduced to just 10 if the New Democrats were to impose federal riding boundaries on the province. The entire northern half of B.C. — from Haida Gwaii to Pouce Coupe and including much of Prince George — would be reduced from seven seats currently to just two. The Okanagan and the Kootenays, now with 11 seats would drop to five. The Cariboo-Thompson would be reduced from five seats to three.
- Other regions of the province would lose local representation as well, of course. But New Democrats and their Green partners could readily be accused of not minding the reduction in local representation in the North and Interior, given that they hold only four seats there in the first place.
- Alberta's chief electoral officer sounded a warning that activities by third-party organizations could skirt provincial law and "create an uneven playing field" in the next provincial election. The next election is of course slated for 2019.
- Looking back to the last federal election we saw the highest number of third parties ever registered to campaign in an election. The good majority of these were targeted against the incumbent Harper government. The activities of these third parties is what led Prime Minister Stephen Harper to begin our longest election campaign ever. When that campaign began Harper stated, "Everyone is campaigning, everybody should finance their own campaign, and everybody should operate under the law and the rules for campaigns.”
- Looking forward now to the 2019 race we can see that similar issues have already been identified for Alberta. As of right now there are 10 third party political advertisers registered with Elections Alberta. The article from the Calgary Herald also highlights that the three running for leadership of the United Conservative Party all started their own "PACs" which is short for political action committees.
- One of the NDP government's first Bills was campaign reform which included new rules for third party advertisers requiring them to disclose on a quarterly basis their donations that are used for advertising as well as expenditures on advertising. The NDP also took action and banned donations from corporations and unions.
- The issue that arises is that these PACs can currently be funded by anyone. Any corporation, any union, or any group in Alberta. These PACs can then advertise at will for or against whatever candidate they see fit.
- Elections Alberta wants the province to amend the rules to the advertising rules to correct this issue. Elections Alberta also highlights that Alberta is the only province that extends the exemption from restrictions on non-commercial advertising online to corporations and groups.
- The chief electoral officer also wants the province to introduce a pre-writ period that would allow for increased regulation of third parties in the month prior to an election call.
- The minister for Democratic Renewal, Christina Gary said back in July that she would consider further legislative changes because there is a perception that groups are being formed to avoid existing rules. She further backed this up this past Thursday saying that the government will consider Elections Alberta's recommendations.
- Way back on Episode 32 two months ago, I talked about the federal by-election occurring in the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean to replace the retired popular Conservative MP Denis Lebel, and how it would be a test as to how each political party was doing. As well, it would be a major test for the new Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to hold onto the riding, and the new NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to make headway in Quebec where NDP support has been slipping since 2011.
- Located northeast of Quebec City, the largely francophone riding of Lac-Saint-Jean has traditionally been "bleu" – either of the Conservative or the Bloc Québécois hue. Since 1984, the riding, which has seen its boundaries grow over time, has voted twice for Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives, five times for the Bloc Québécois and four times for Stephen Harper's Conservatives.
- I also mentioned how Trudeau was very visible in the riding, and how the federal government promised millions for the ridings constituents to improve technological infrastructure. It was a gamble for the Liberals, as it gave the impression that the government was using tax dollars to buy off the riding.
- On October 23rd, Liberal candidate Richard Hébert pulled ahead of the BQ and Con candidates to win the riding of Lac St. Jean with just 38.6% of the vote. The Conservatives ended up with 25% and the BQ who were leading for the first half of the night ended up in third with 23.4%. The NDP candidate finished in 4th at a distant 11.7%. In the 2015 election, the NDP were in 2nd behind the Conservatives.
- The other by-election was in Sturgeon River-Parkland, which covers the outskirts of Edmonton to the west and north, as well as the towns of Spruce Grove and Stony Plain. Dane Lloyd of the Conservatives handily won with a staggering 77.4% of the vote. However, the media barely mentioned the Sturgeon River-Parkland result, and mainly focused their attention on Lac St. Jean. They pounced on the Lac St Jean election results and were competing with each other to get the best headlines. Globe and Mail wrote "By-election upset victory fuels Liberal hopes in Quebec", with the tagline "The Liberals surged, the Conservatives sagged and the NDP crashed." In the same article, the Sturgeon River-Parkland result was briefly noted in 2 sentences in the very last paragraph.
- The media mentioned that the Lac St. Jean result was a blow to Andrew Scheer, but in the grand scheme of things, it really isn't. The main test for the Conservatives, of course, will be in the next election in 2019. The party leader that should be most concerned is Jagmeet Singh. His candidate's dismal 4th place showing after coming in 2nd in 2015 should be concerning and may be indicative of Singh's plummeting popular support in Quebec. The only reason for the Conservatives to be concerned is that reduced support for the NDP may mean increased support for the Liberals.
- "This was a bad night for the NDP," said Karl Bélanger, a political analyst who is a former senior NDP official. "The results illustrate the challenges ahead for Mr. Singh and the 16 NDP MPs in Quebec when it comes to keeping their beachhead in the province."
- "This is not the result that we hoped for, obviously, but let's be clear, the people of Lac-Saint-Jean decided to send an MP to Ottawa who would sit on the government's bench," Conservative MP Gérard Deltell told reporters in Ottawa. "They voted for power, but [in the next general election] in two years time, it will be an entirely different story."
- Even though it finished in third place, the Bloc touted the fact its score had gone up five points in the riding since the last election. "I have no doubt that in 2019, we can win that riding," said Bloc MP Rhéal Fortin. "Justin Trudeau's honeymoon period is coming to an end."
The Firing Line
- U.S. Proposals, bluff or no bluff?
- Standing with Mexico vs. Standing for Canada
- Progressive priorities (Right Side 31, 33)
- Softwood lumber
- Bombardier Tariffs
- Government’s response
- Lisa Raitt
- Anonymous source: “It’s a bit sad” and the purpose of anonymous sources.
Word of the Week
PAC (political action committee) - a type of organization that pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to campaign for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Nap Pac
Teaser: BC Liberals oppose the rural attack of the NDP’s electoral reform, third party foreign PACs could impact the next Alberta election, the media speculates on the Lac St. Jean by-election, and the American perception of NAFTA and their threat to pull out.
Recorded Date: October 28, 2017
Release Date: October 29, 2017
Edit Notes: None