Monday, February 28, 2011

Politicians determine the rules of their own election game

An example: Canadian federal politicians, at least a majority of them, determine the electoral rules and laws for Canadian federal politicians.

Isn't this a blatant conflict of interest?

This apparent conflict of interest is defended in the Canadian Supreme Court Decision, Harper, 2004:

"Parliament had to balance the rights and privileges of all the participants in the electoral process. The difficulties of striking this balance are evident and, given the right of Parliament to choose Canada's electoral model and the nuances in implementing this model, a court must approach this justification analysis with deference." (pg. 4-5)

Why does Parliament have to strike a balance between competing interests, instead of simply abiding by core democratic values such as fairness as enshrined in the Canadian Constitution?

Though Parliament may have the right to choose the electoral model, why should it be allowed to decide the nuances?

If fairness is the key to electoral democracy, then isn't an egalitarian model the only correct electoral model?

The libertarian electoral model is based on unfairness of means for say, despite equal freedom of say.

Further in Harper, it states that "perception is of utmost importance in preserving and promoting electoral regime in Canada.... Electoral fairness is key. Where Canadians perceive elections to be unfair, voter apathy follows shortly thereafter." (Paragraph 82)

In other words, perception of fairness, rather than fairness itself, is of utmost importance. This is troubling because it means that an unfair electoral system is all right, as long as Canadians perceive it as fair.

Back to the first question, should the Canadian electoral laws be determined by a majority of federal politicians, which in turns favor dominant parties, status quo, and creates of conflict of interest based on deciding the rules of one's own electoral game? Should a judiciary committee or citizens committee determine the nuances of the Canada's electoral laws, in order to make the system as fair as possible for candidate and parties and voters?

Fair in terms freedom of say and equality of means for say.

In Canadian Constitutional law, there is an inherent conflict in the electoral legislation between freedom of expression and equality of say.

Every Canadian has freedom of expression, within limits, which is limited by an equality of say. No Canadian should have an unfair advantage in terms of political say. There should be an equal playing field for candidates and parties, and between voters.

Is it fair to restrict someone who has a greater means to influence and/or manipulate an election outcome?

Weakens freedom of expression, but creates an unfair system.

Premise--more media and financial power, more control of say. (In contrast, in dictatorships more military power and might, and ability and willingness to use it, more say.)

Enforce an equality of political say OR weigh competing interests as stated in Harper, and create a perception of fairness (though it does not really exist)?

Fairness versus perception of fairness?

* In the coming month, the FDA will be producing a barometer for electoral fairness in Canada and other countries. The barometer results will be posted on this site.

Harper Supreme Court Decision

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Thank you for sharing your perspective.