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I still just don’t know what to say about the electoral madness taking place in Toronto.  Today, CTV News is reporting further (dangerous) idiocy.  Apparently, in the wake of the vandalism, and cut phone, cable, and brake lines, now there have been menacing phone calls to Liberal supporters, warning them that they “will be next” if they don’t take down their Liberal campaign signs.

I blogged about the first rash of incidents on Sunday.  And I’m still totally shocked that this sort of thing is happening.  Apparently, some people have asked that their Liberal campaign signs be taken away;  others (a surprising amount) are asking for signs to be brought to them so they can display them.  Huzzah for those who are standing up for their democratic rights to support whomever they damn well please.  I just hope that the fanatical menacing either ends, or those responsible gets caught.

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CTV News is reporting that vandals hit at least 25 homes in Toronto this weekend, cutting telephone and power lines, spray painting property, and cutting the brake lines on several vehicles.  According to the Liberal party, every home that was vandalized was sporting a lawn sign supporting the local Liberal candidate.

The police are stating that it is too early in the investigation to speculate about motives.  However, one of the vehicles belonged to the local candidate’s official agent for the campaign;  he discovered that his brake line had been cut after his car was unable to stop at a stop sign.

According to the story, Liberal supporters in two other ridings were also victimized during two by-elections held earlier this year.

WTF is going on here???  This is not the Canadian way, at least not that I’m aware.  Intimidation through violence is not supposed to happen here.  And cutting brake lines?  I am horrified at the thought.  Spray painting is one thing, but this is outrageous.

When I first heard this story on CTV Newsnet, I was half-asleep.  I got out of bed and went to the laptop to verify that I’d heard correctly.  It was too soon for the story to be online, though, so I thought that my mind had just concocted some weird combination of news stories.  But I kept checking, and sure enough, the story soon appeared on their website.  The fact that this is real… you could knock me over with a feather, dude.

What does everybody else think about this?  Is it the inevitable erosion of politics in Canada, or is it really as inconceivable as I think it is?

Stop telling me what’s wrong with all the other candidates.  Tell me what you will do, what you stand for.  For a change, let us vote for some party, rather than against all the others.

Up here in Canada, we too are in the midst of a federal election.  Thank goodness that our election campaigns only last a couple of months!

It’s amazing what a difference the interwebs can make:  There is a group on facebook that is organizing a vote-swapping campaign to make sure that the Conservatives (and Stephen Harper, our current Prime Minister) don’t get a majority government.  This group has 6,304 members, which says something.  I’m just not sure what, exactly, it does say.  Maybe I’ll have some idea (and some point) by the end of this post.

For anyone who doesn’t know much about Canadian politics, a quick primer.  (Warning:  Extremely boring paragraphs ahead.) We don’t vote for our Prime Minister the way Americans vote for the President.  We vote for a candidate in our local riding (an area that is represented by a Member of Parliament, our ruling body), everybody else does the same, and the party that wins the most “seats” in Parliament becomes the federal government.  The Prime Minister is the leader of that party.

Now, just because a party wins the most seats, doesn’t mean that a majority of Canadians voted for them.  For instance, right now the Conservative party is our government.  But they did not get 50%-plus-one of all the votes cast in the last federal election.

This gets a bit complicated to explain, and also very dull.  So, I’ll try to illustrate by example.

Suppose that in the Riding of the Loops, Candidate A gets 38% of the votes, Candidate B gets 31% of the votes, Candidate C gets 24%, and Candidate D gets the remaining 7%.  (Does that add up to 100%?  Ummm, good.)  Candidate A will be the one elected as a Member of Parliament, because he/she received more of the popular vote than any of the other candidates, even though 62% of the voters actually voted against Candidate A.  The winning candidate does not need a majority of the popular vote, just a higher percentage of votes than any other candidate.

Expand this across the country.  Many, if not most, ridings have at least three candidates running.  A candidate can, theoretically, win with 34% of the popular vote.  I haven’t done any research on this, but I feel comfortable with the assertion that very few ridings are actually won by candidates with at least 50% of the popular vote.

This leads to a very odd situation here in good ol’ Canada:  Party B may actually receive a majority of the popular vote, added up across the entire country, but because they came in second in the majority of local riding elections, they are not the government.  As long as Party A won the majority of ridings (and remember, they don’t need a majority of the popular vote in an individual riding to win that riding), they will form the government.

(Gah, this is turning into the most boring post ever.  I studied Poli Sci during my undergraduate degree, and one prof strongly encouraged me to go to graduate school so I could teach it someday.  I’m glad I didn’t, because explaining the Canadian political system is, to me, endlessly boring.  And, I would probably have to pay closer attention to what goes on.  Ick.  And, I don’t seem to be so good at it!)

Soooo, if Party A wins more than 50%-plus-one of the ridings (and therefore, seats in Parliament), then that party forms a “majority government”.  If party discipline holds (which it often does in Canada), then that party can pretty much have free rein.*

If Party A wins less than 50%-plus-one of the ridings, but still has more seats than any other party, then that makes a “minority government”.  The so-called ruling party requires the cooperation of other parties to do anything, because they have to get to the 50%-plus-one mark to pass any legislation.

Woah, I’m so bored myself that I think I’ve forgotten my point.  No doubt you are fast asleep, or checking out somebody else’s blog.

Yeah, my point is this:  the current government is a minority one, so lots of compromises with the other parties had to be made in order to get anything done.  And many Canadians (at least 6,304 of us) want to make sure that the Conservatives do not get a majority government this time.  I think they’re kind of conceding that the Conservatives will have a minority government, but at least then they have to compromise somewhat.

And because of our peculiar way of running elections, we have this vote-swapping phenomenon on facebook.  The idea is that:

…it allows voters in different ridings to swap votes to best ensure the Conservatives don’t win. Let’s say your preferred candidate has no chance to win your riding. You can swap that vote out with someone else in the group who will vote for your party in a riding where it has chances to win, while you’ll vote for the party that has the best chance to stop the Conservatives in your own riding.

So Jane in Riding ABC wants to vote for the Green Party, but the party has no chance of winning.  But the Liberal Party does have a chance of beating the Conservatives.  So Jane swaps votes with John, who lives in Riding XYZ.  In Riding XYZ, the Green Party could very well beat the Conservatives, so John’s preferred vote for the Liberals will be “thrown away”.  John casts a vote for the Greens, Jane casts a vote for the Liberals, the numbers are all supposed to work out so that each party’s percentage of the popular vote is the same as if everybody voted the way they wanted to in their own ridings, BUT the Conservatives are edged out because the votes have all been cast strategically in ridings that are expected to be close races.  And the Conservatives lose seats because we are all so strategical, and another minority government is born.

I don’t know if you follow all this.  I don’t know if I follow all this.  Check out the facebook page if you’re confused, and if you care whether you understand this.  Or, look at the CTV news story that indicates that Elections Canada has determined that vote-swapping is not illegal but still recommends against it:  first, because people might be misled by “someone acting under multiple or false identities to trick them into voting for a particular candidate”;  and second, because what if the person you swap with doesn’t follow through?  (Ed. note:  How would you even know?  And you can always trust a Canadian, lol.)

Quite a tempest in a teapot, if you ask me.  (You didn’t ask me, but it’s my blog and apparently I wanted to write a long and extremely boring post today.)  But one thing that it does show is that Canadians are tired of feeling like their votes don’t count.  Tired of having governments that more Canadians actually voted against than voted for.  And dammit, if nobody else will do anything about it, facebook fans will!

Also, it shows that Canadians (at least 6,304 of us) really do believe that other Canadians are trustworthy.  Such a nice, Canadian, attitude!

*Except for things like changing the Constitution, and probably other stuff I can't think of right now, that require more than a simple majority of votes to do.  There is a complicated formula for constitutional change up here, but 50%-plus-one won't do it.  Trust me, you don't want to know.

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