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Tag Archives: By-Elections

By: James Rimmer

On Aug. 30 I attempted to vote at the advanced poll for the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection located in the University of Waterloo SLC. I was turned away because as a co-op student I had no current documentation indicating I held an address in the riding that I have lived in since 2008.

My question is this: how could I have voted? How can I ensure this does not happen again? Would it be possible to broaden the documents accepted to allow students like myself to vote?

I am a University of Waterloo co-op student. I move every four months between school and work terms. As a result, I have all my mail — bills, T-4s, tuition statements, postcards, and letters — sent to my parents’ address in Ottawa as it would be far too much effort to constantly update my address. Due to the short nature of my residency I, and many other UW co-op students, tend to sublet and do not sign leases.

What am I to do? How could I have voted? At the polling station they indicated that documents indicating residency was now required even for the oath. Is this true?

I honestly do live in Waterloo. I wanted to honestly vote and engage in our democracy. Yet because of the educational path I have chosen, because I am a co-op student, I was denied the vote. I am not alone in this. Many co-op students do not vote because they simply can’t meet your evidence requirements.

We students need to vote in our university town. Practically, it is much more difficult for us to vote in our parents’ ridings. We must either travel extensive distances or mail in our votes if we are away at school when an election is called. To be truly participatory a democracy must be accessible — that is why returning officers are sent to homeless shelters and seniors homes. Yet I must take an eight hour bus ride or mail my vote across the province?

More importantly, we must vote in our schools’ ridings because for us to vote in our parents’ ridings would be a fundamental misrepresentation of our democracy. A riding is meant to be the representation of a community; an MPP is a leader who speaks for the people who make up a community.

When co-op students vote in communities where they no longer live it alters those communities and disengages students with the community they are actually apart of, their university town.

Denying students’ residency only sends the message that we are unwelcome and that we do not belong; that we have no voice in decisions that greatly impact our lives such as public transportation and zoning.

Would it be possible to issue a new document, or accept other documentation like student cards to allow my friends and I to vote? Could we be ruled homeless and be allowed to register with a shelter? I understand preventing voter fraud is important and necessary, but surely something can be done to allow us, active, engaged youth who wish to be part of the communities around us, to vote.

Let us in. Let us vote.

Originally posted in Imprint, UW’s Student Newspaper, 14 September 2012

http://www.theimprint.ca/article/2029-open-letter-to-elections-ontario

By: Clement Nocos

With the ruling parties of Quebec and Ontario awarded with minority governments in recent elections, the Canadian media has consistently reported these electoral victories as “glasses-half-empty” for the Ontario Liberal Party and the Parti Quebecois. Because the governing party cannot achieve majority status, it apparently cannot deliver all that it promises. There has been more talk about what a minority government cannot do rather than what a minority government has the potential to do and what it means for Canadian democracy.

Premiers Marois and McGuinty “won” elections, with their respective parties winning a plurality of seats in recent elections. Are they, however, “losers” because they have merely won minority government mandates?

The PQ, for example, cannot get anywhere with its sovereignty project with a weak mandate. This assessment neglects that with a minority government, though the party cannot unilaterally motion to a sovereign Quebec, it can set the agenda and generate discourse on the subject which has been neglected for the past 15 years. In the meantime, a minority PQ government can move ahead with its economic agenda of alleviating Quebec’s debt while maintaining the social programs and institutions, such as a distinct education system, that keep Quebec within the federation. In order to do this, the PQ will obviously have to work with the LPQ, CAQ, and QS across the floor of the National Assembly. A PQ minority works to the advantage of federalists while moving forward with the economic and social interests of Quebeckers.

In Ontario, the OLP apparently cannot take on its measures to balance its budget by failing to win a majority after the 2011 general election and last week’s by-elections, according to the punditry. What the media neglects, however, is the inter-party discourse and real politics that have happened as a result of minority governance. With a majority, it would have been much easier for the OLP to drastically cut social spending. Because the OLP does not have its majority, instead of unilaterally making decisions for the Ontario teachers’ union, the government has had to gather Parliament early out of its summer break in order to debate the issue. Are the OLP necessarily losers because they have found common ground to cooperate with the Ontario PCs to pass Bill-115?

Canadian pundits have continually pressed the idea that majorities are the best type of governments for our Parliamentary system. Historically, however, majorities have not proven to be the most democratic thing for Canadian politics. The recent federal Tory Omnibus Bill C-38 and the OLP’s ongoing Ornge Scandal are some examples of majority governance gone awry. Majority governments lack the oversight, transparency, and debate that are essential for an effective Canadian democracy. Politics become an exercise of agenda rather than a discussion of the best course of action for Canadians as a whole.

Minority governments promote debate, compromise, and cooperation; in effect they are quite possibly more democratic. The governing party cannot push its agenda through with their tyrant majority status. They have to work across party lines in order to continue to set their agendas. In having to work with the other federal parties, the CPC received much popularity and approval as a minority government. As a majority, the CPC appears only to be in decline as they neglect to consult with the opposition and continue on with their agenda-based politics.

Lastly, what’s wrong with coalition governance? I don’t exactly mean party mergers along identical ideological lines as Canadian pundits tend to think, but a government based on the cooperation of two separate parties. Most parliamentary political systems throughout the world function on coalition governments that combine the efficiency of majority government with the oversight of minority governance. Some might argue that coalitions themselves are undemocratic; voters didn’t vote for interparty compromise, they voted for their own party’s agenda. This characteristic of Canadian political culture, however, only encourages the hyper-partisanship and cynicism that has marred Canadian politics for the past two decades. Coalition governance is never considered in Canada, leaving minority governments as effective losers in the eyes of Canadian political commentators when it is the cooperation and compromise that accompanies such a government that could reinvigorate Canadian democracy.