Election of Federal Liberal Candidate for Yukon

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The federal Liberal Party will elect their candidate for the 2015 federal election on October 4, 2014. The nominations for the position are Tamara Goeppel, Gurdeep Pandher, Ben Sanders and Larry Bagnell.

While I am not a member of the Liberal party, I am a supporter of anyone who wishes to work for the benefit of Canadians. As such, I sent those who are running a couple of questions that were on my mind, and judging from my discussions, also on the minds of others.

The questions are:

1. Will you work toward an electoral change to a proportional representation system that will not only ensure that we receive a true majority but will also protect minorities?

2. A number of months ago, according to the media, Justin Trudeau suggested being in favour of free votes for MPs, as long as it doesn’t harm the party. (Not sure how to interpret the dichotomy) Are you in favour of free votes in Parliament and are you willing to stand up to a leader if they disagree? e.g. absolutely no party whipped votes.

Three of the four vying for the candidacy responded to my query. I haven’t received a response from Tamara Goeppel.

The responses are in the order I received them and are presented unedited.

gurdeepGurdeep Pandher

Thanks for your great questions! Sorry for my delayed reply!

1. Will you work toward an electoral change to a proportional representation system that will not only ensure that we receive a true majority but will also protect minorities?

My Answer: Yes, I will work towards it. I do feel that our voting system needs housekeeping. More than 60% of people did not vote for conservatives in last federal elections, yet the they enjoy a majority of seats at the parliament hill. Also, Green Part won 1 million votes, and got only 1 seat. People didn’t vote for Stehpan Harper, but he still became PM with clear majority. The proportional representation system can fix this when actual % of votes will be counted and candidates will be elected accordingly.

Also, there are several branches of proportional representation system. We still need to debate which one will work best for Canada.

2. A number of months ago, according to the media, Justin Trudeau suggested being in favour of free votes for MPs, as long as it doesn’t harm the party. (Not sure how to interpret the dichotomy) Are you in favour of free votes in Parliament and are you willing to stand up to a leader if they disagree? e.g. absolutely no party whipped votes.

My Answer: I advocate idea of free voting. That will reflect true views of every member at house of commons. Everyone has his/her own opinions, it’s great to have free voting to express those opinions. Second part of your question is if I would stand up to leader if he/she disagrees. It will depend upon nature of an opinion/bill. If a bill is totally against interests the people of Canada, I communicate with my leader about this.

10bsanders-300x199Ben Sanders

Thanks to YOU for engaging the candidates and asking really important questions. Not sure if you wanted really short answers, but I’ve been giving this a great deal of thought and wanted to share my deeper considerations on these matters.

1. Will you work toward an electoral change to a proportional representation system that will not only ensure that we receive a true majority but will also protect minorities?

I believe that progressive electoral reform is the most important change we can fight for and it’s a big reason why I’m running. I believe it holds the key to increasing voter participation and restoring our faith in the political process.

Every government across Canada – federal, provincial and municipal – is elected with an antiquated voting system called first-past-the-post. It’s a terrible system that distorts results, pushes out new voices, and encourages negative campaigns and strategic voting.

It does not make sense for any party or candidate to attain all of the power with only a small fraction of the vote. When the Green Party earns 10% of the national popular vote but doesn’t elect more than a single seat, something seems broken and far too many Canadians feel that their vote and their voice have not been heard. It should be more balanced.

In theory, I think proportional representation has a lot going for it, but in practice, I feel there are also some big obstacles to overcome. Depending on the exact flavour, it’s generally a more complicated model involving multiple lists, where your elected candidate doesn’t necessarily have local ties to the riding, and in some cases the actual selection of candidates is dependant on the order of preference determined by the party and not the people.

Another progressive option is the ranked ballot. It’s actually what Liberals will use for the nomination vote this week.

You rank the candidates in order of preference (1, 2, 3, 4). Someone has to get 50% +1 to win, so until that happens, the lowest place candidates will successively drop off and when they do, anyone who voted for them will now have their second choice come into play instead.

It might not have all of the advantages of a truly proportional model, but it’s simpler to explain, easier to understand, and therefore stands a much greater chance of being adopted. Plus it’s way better than what we have now so I would favour a move towards ranked ballots as a first and immediate step, with greater exploration of potentially better, more proportional models after that.

The one weakness of ranked ballots is that they are not necessarily more proportional, but they are used around the world and have been shown to eliminate vote splitting, reduce strategic voting, ensure majority support, discourage negative campaigning, and provide more choice for voters. Because I think it’s also a more achievable goal than proportional representation, I think ranked ballots are the best next step.

Back when I lived in Toronto my roommate at the time started an initiative to encourage ranked ballots there and not only has the city passed it in a preliminary form, the province is now on the verge of tabling legislation which would open the door to empowering all 444 municipalities in Ontario to adopt ranked ballots for their elections in 2018. That’s nothing short of historic and I’d like to see ranked ballots here in the Yukon and across Canada too.

So to answer your question directly, I would work toward electoral change with an open mind on all options, but a preference on ranked ballots *before* prop. rep.

2. A number of months ago, according to the media, Justin Trudeau suggested being in favour of free votes for MPs, as long as it doesn’t harm the party. (Not sure how to interpret the dichotomy) Are you in favour of free votes in Parliament and are you willing to stand up to a leader if they disagree? e.g. absolutely no party whipped votes.

I am definitely in favour of relinquishing more power from the leader and empowering individual MP’s to carry a stronger voice. This absolutely essential if we are to make Parliament work again.

And I’m optimistic based on several moves Trudeau has spearheaded to relinquish control, introduce greater openness, and empower more direct grassroots influence. For example, earlier this year he did more for Senate reform (from the 3rd party position) in a morning than Harper has done in over 8 years in power. By releasing senators from the Liberal banner, they are now entirely free to vote however they see fit.

Furthermore, the Liberals nominations are more open than ever before. Even existing MP’s have to win the right to continue representing the party in their respective ridings and this leads to a much healthier, more robust, more democratic experience as we are witnessing here in the Yukon. The federal Liberal nomination hasn’t been this exciting in the Yukon for more than 15 years!

In keeping with this, I am definitely in favour of more free votes in Parliament, and while I do understand there are some areas where the team needs to be united (especially on key charter-related issues which are core to the party’s values) I am prepared to stand up and vote against the leader/party if it is unambiguously clear that a majority of Yukoners want me to vote that way – even if it means getting kicked out of the party. That said, I don’t believe this should be threatened regularly and only considered in cases where it is truly merited. In order to get things done in Ottawa, one also has to consider the bigger picture and aim for progress over a longer-term arc, including a collective period of votes rather than threatening to depart over every minor dispute. Compromise is a natural and integral part of any collective decision making so it will always have a place and shouldn’t be considered as a failure, but ultimately I believe we’d be better represented by an independent who really stands up for Yukoners than someone who is just blindly following the party whip.

Hope that gives you some clarity on where I’m at. Thanks again for being engaged and involved, though I don’t see you registered for the vote. How come?

Bagnell (resized)Larry Bagnell

1. Will you work toward an electoral change to a proportional representation system, that will not only ensure that we receive a true majority, but will also protect minorities?

The first thing we need, to protect minorities, is to get the Harper Government (and any attempts at voter suppression) out of office.

There are many changes we need, and I spoke to one, to the 20 or so people at the Fair Vote meeting a few days ago.

Justin’s position, on electoral change, is that we need a wide public examination of all the ideas, including proportional representation, and I will be supporting Justin’s efforts re this public dialogue on electoral systems. When I hosted Justin Trudeau last Summer, for most of a week in the Yukon, one item he mentioned, at our jammed packed public event at Mt. Mac,( not at a secret location!) that he is quite interested in is preferential ballots: we are actually using these in our Vote this week to choose the Liberal candidate for the next federal election. As you know, I helped Dave Brekke refine his well thought out proposal. You probably heard a couple of weeks ago, that CBC did a big piece on mandatory voting. I see both upsides and downsides to this, and I’d be interested in any views people send me on this.

2. A number of months ago, according to the media, Justin Trudeau suggested being in favour of free votes for MPs, as long as it doesn’t harm the party. (Not sure how to interpret the dichotomy) Are you in favour of free votes in Parliament and are you willing to stand up to a leader if they disagree? e.g. absolutely no party whipped votes.

I would be happy to be elected into a Parliament that had more free votes.

Prime Minister Paul Martin had a very progressive voting system, similar to Westminster, with which I was quite happy with the change from our old system. Basically it was a 3 line Whip. On the very few standard items like Budgets and Throne Speeches, the vote would be whipped. For the second line, most Government legislation, there would be a Government position that they would like you to follow, but no severe punishments or repercussions if you didn’t. And then a whole bunch of votes (including most private members bills) would be totally free votes.
This made it much more comfortable for me to vote a number of times against my Party in favour of Yukonners. Not that I didn’t do it before, but it was just more comfortable under that system.
I do have an objection to the way the Liberals, NDP, and Conservatives treated Private Members Bills, when I was in the House of Commons. They had totally different Party requirements for voting on these, as opposed to other Legislation, perhaps by Convention, which defines many of our Parliamentary procedures. But to me, the end result of the passage of both types of Bills is the same: they become Laws of the Land ! So why do we treat them differently ?

I certainly support, and have been a strong advocate for, having more free votes than were available for a number of the years that I was in Parliament.

Thank you for presenting these important questions Norm.

Please take the time to comment on your candidates’ views on these issues by using the comment section below.

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