21 October 2008

Harper Govt 2007 "Public Consultations" on Reform a Sham

In 2007 and all within the space of five months, the Harper government began and completed "Public Consultations on Canada's Democratic Institutions and Practices," issued a call for tender for the "independent" overseeing of same and as part of this project, had 12 Luntz-style forums held across Canada, a "national telephone survey" done - whose response rate was 11 percent - and produced a final report, two appendices and a participant workbook.

The purpose of these public consultations?

To learn the view of forum participants (after they'd 'studied' the issues) and survey respondents on, in the words of Peter Van Loan when he submitted the final report to the House of Commons on September 10th, 2007, "a wide range of issues, including" - i.e., far from limited to, these topics:

  • Citizen participation in a democracy - including discussion of voting and volunteerism
  • House of Commons
  • Senate
  • Political parties
  • Electoral reform

The twelve forums were each held over the course of a single 24-hour period. In other words, less than six hours of actual study was done.

From the final report: "Video presentations by subject matter experts were presented at the forums. Each topic began with a presentation, typically involving a video and brief questions and answers. This was followed by extensive discussions in breakouts. Breakout groups then re-assembled for concluding discussions."

It took the citizens assemblies of British Columbia and Ontario up to ONE YEAR to study various electoral systems alone. Yet forum participants in these "public consultations" were expected to provide an informed answer on their voting system preferences after ONE HOUR and at the end of an intense session at which other topics had been thrown at them.

“Canada’s New Government committed to consult Canadians on the state of our democracy,” Minister Van Loan said. “With the release of the report, we have fulfilled that commitment.”

“We approached the consultations process with a clear goal: to move beyond the vested interests, entrenched institutions and powerful lobbyists in Ottawa to determine the views of average Canadians, whose voices in this day and age often aren’t heard,” said Minister Van Loan. “I am pleased to say we have achieved that goal.”

No doubt the Harper Conservatives were pleased. The design of the forums ensured the results they wanted.

Am going to write much more about this. However, I just wanted to get this stuff out there now.

As calls for reforming our electoral process get louder and more frequent, Harper & Company will most assuredly argue that they've consulted Canadians and learned that we're happy with the electoral system the way it is.

No doubt the Liberals (or the power-brokers among them) will sing the same tune.

You know the song: "Been there, done that and results align with our view."

So, too, will the corporate media, whose owners also have part ownership of our two major political parties.

Fellow bloggers, please have at it.

Download for posterity the full report, Appendix 1, Appendix II and workbook.

Dig into:

  1. the tendering process and the backgrounds of the people/organizations who conducted these consultations;
  2. the methodology of the forums and survey, including recruitment and payment to participants - I couldn't find the number of participants who attended the forums anywhere;
  3. the questions asked, and their number and order in the survey (Appendix 1);
  4. the authorship (COMPAS Research/Frontier Centre for Public Policy) and content of the workbook - electoral reform was treated last, over three pages and there's clear bias;
  5. the conclusions made in the final report, with a comparison of them to the framing and order of questions and how the forums were conducted.

Am going to start my own digging expedition and shall be reporting back...

Recommend this post