A new democracy

Bermuda needs a new democracy, one which better represents the needs and desires of our people and once and for all ends this Us vs. Them battle that has ensured stagnation in the progression of our nation.  On October 10th, 2007, the Canadian province of Ontario will be holding a referendum alongside a general election to put the question of electoral reform directly to the people.  The choices shall consist of sticking with the existing winner take all system referred to as “First-past-the-post” or adopting a proposed “Mixed member proportional” system.  The decision of which best fits the needs of the people of Ontario will be placed directly in their own hands.  Could such an initiative benefit Bermuda and what could you be doing about it?

In tackling the question of how to improve the electoral process, the Ontario government resolved to create a “Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform” to address the questions of how to improve governance.  The composure and purpose of this assembly are best described on the assembly’s own website:

The Assembly was independent of government. It was made up of 103 randomly-selected citizens – one from each of Ontario’s electoral districts. With the Chair, 52 of the members were male and 52 were female. At least one member was Aboriginal.

Together, Assembly members examined Ontario’s electoral system – the system that structures how votes get combined to elect Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs).

Members of the assembly met twice a month for 8 months to examine Ontario’s existing electoral system.  They learned about systems in place elsewhere and consulted with the public through meetings and written submissions.  Using what they learned they recommended that Ontario adopt a new electoral system and submitted a report to the government.  The government is now putting the assembly’s recommendations directly to the voters in the referendum scheduled for October 2007.

What were the recommendations?  The citizens’ assembly considered many different electoral systems and compared them to their existing “first-past-the-post” system, which is very similar to our own.  In brevity, the “first-past-the-post” system is a winner take all popular vote of candidates representing Ontario’s 107 districts (comparable to our own constituencies) with winning candidates each being allotted a seat in parliament.  The recommendation proposed by the citizens’ assembly is that Ontario should adopt a “mixed member proportional” electoral system similar to that which has been used in Germany since 1949, New Zealand since 1993 and Scotland and Wales since 1999. 

What is a “mixed member proportional system”?  A mixed member proportional system is an electoral system where every eligible citizen is provided two votes on election day.  One vote is for a representative of their district and the other vote is a vote for a political party.  Winning representatives of the district votes then make up 90 seats of parliament.  Votes for political parties by contrast would be used to comprise a remaining 39 seats in parliament according to the proportion of votes made for each party with candidates being preselected by each party for this role.

Consider this in comparison to our own island where there has been a growing call for much needed changes to our electoral system.  More and more individuals are losing faith in our colonially inherited system and are desperately seeking change.  Bermuda needs to undertake a similar initiative to that of the people of Ontario by creating a Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform of our own.  One that can independently recommend the changes that will best benefit Bermudians with the question of whether to implement those changes being put to the people. 

The real tides of change rest in the hands of our people.  What can you do?  Write a blog post about it.  Write a letter to the editor.  Write your representative.  Write on facebook.  Call the talk shows.  Call your representative.  Tell your friends.  Convince every single Bermudian that it is time for change and that our leadership needs to embrace and be the catalyst to make it happen.

Take action today.



Further info:

Referendum Ontario


Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform


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23 thoughts on “A new democracy

  1. dennis – why is this such a hot topic now – under the ubp we went through a crack and heroin epidemic that the govt. seemed to nothing about, blk boys have filled up our persons through the 70s 80s and 90s, we had a crazy race riot, public education went to crap the races grew further apart etc etc yet everyone pretended everything was a okay – read cv woolridge’s book to really get an insiders view into how screwed up the ubp was in running this country – lois browne ans freddy wade fought tooth and nail to make the election process fair and with all of this no mentioned a need for a “new democracy” – why now?

  2. Vanz,
    Do you have a problem with people evolving, or must they remain shackled to the past to conform to your world view? Believe it or not there have been other players working on positive social change before your awakening, and prior to the 98 Election.

  3. I don’t think we want a system that allows members of the lower house to be in a situation where they are not directly responsible to the electorate. Already, with our appointed senate, we have parliamentarians who are not responsible to the electorate making decisions that impact all of us.
    Furthermore, why would anyone run for a regular seat when they could simply jockeu within their party for one of these plum seats? Think about it. They wouldn’t have to canvass, or be directly responsible to any constituents, yet would get the same remuneration and perks as those parliamentarians who do. Any does anyone doubt that these seats would go to rank party faithful that are unelectable in our current lower house elections?

  4. Vanz,
    This has very little to do with the PLP and much more to do with our overall democracy. A great many people are feeling that our colonial inherited democracy no longer properly represents the needs of Bermudians. It was designed for the UK, not for Bermuda.
    The core issue with our present democracy is that it is designed to be a two party system, the “Us vs. Them”. Quite unfortunately this creates more battles, less forward movement and less cooperation and frankly a great many Bermudians are apathetic about politics and sick of it.
    There are many good people who would consider running for government but not under our present system and not supporting either the UBP or the PLP. It is a shame that we lose good people who could really make a difference for our island.
    Actually, I disagree with you. If someone were to run for parliament as an independent under our present system they would be guaranteed to lose. Same thing with a new party. People would be too quick to vote along party lines out of fear that the other guys would win if they supported someone else. In the system Ontario is considering, it allows people to choose both a local rep and a party. That could make it easier for independents to get elected or it could even make it easier for whole new parties to get representatives into parliament even if they haven’t won any constituencies.
    A great example in Ontario is the Green Party. A great many people would support them but they’re too afraid of “the other guys”. Polls for the upcoming election place 6% to 8% of the popular vote in support of the Green Party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Party_of_Ontario) yet under the current system, even representing that high of the popular vote they will be guaranteed to win no seats. Under the proposed system, if they break the 3% mark they’d be entitled to at least one seat. The proposed structure would provide parties who attain a large enough proportion of the overall popular vote to still gain representation.
    However, the real point of the piece is not to say that the proposed Ontario system is better. Instead it is to suggest that we should create a “Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform” of our own and decide for ourselves under a similar manner what would best suit our own needs.

  5. good observation about the green party dilema dennis. i still believe that in the end dr. brown will prove to be a visionary leader for bermuda – unfortunately like bill clinton he has to spend so much energy fighting the haterz.

  6. Vanz,
    I’m desperately trying to find the original source of this quote (unless it indeed is anonymous) but:
    “In politics there are two truisms. A government is only as strong as its opposition and disunity is political death”
    Any failures of our present government are also failures of our opposition.
    Our system is not strong and I’m very sorry to say it, but if Premier Brown gets his desired 30 of 36 seats it could be the worst thing that ever happens to Bermuda.
    Before you jump to assume that this is a criticism of Premier Brown’s ability to lead, allow me to defend my case that this is a failure of the system itself, and not the people who enter leadership.
    A strong idea is one which can be defended against all opposition. If you can find no fault in my idea, it must be as great as it can be. If you can find fault in my idea, then my idea needs revision. If I cannot revise my idea to overcome your recognized fault, then I must consider that my idea is not a good one and possibly should not succeed.
    The issue with Premier Brown having 30 seats is that he would surround himself with a whole bunch of yes men. While this would be great for his mandate it would be absolutely terrible for our island.
    What we need most is a minority government and a strong and diverse opposition.
    Right now we have a majority government and a horribly weak opposition and between these two it is a constant Us vs. Them battle that yields no forward movement because opposition raised faults in bad ideas are condemned simply because they come from the opposition and they are so easily cast aside as “black hatred by the white party”. So bad ideas succeed when they really shouldn’t simply because they havn’t been defended enough to ensure that they are as strong as they possibly can be.
    What we need most is a healthy democracy that will provide survival of the fittest to only the best ideas and force the bad ideas to fail.
    If Premier Brown is a truly great leader that wants the best possible future for Bermuda and wants to leave the legacy of being the greatest leader Bermuda ever had he will be willing to give up power. By doing so he would gain a better and more effective leadership that is united in the goal of a better Bermuda, not divided over who wields the power.
    It is my great fear that the words of Lord Acton shall ring true. Those being that “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
    When the UBP held absolute power, it was a terrible thing. When whites held absolute power in history. It was a terrible thing. Just as when the Nazis held absolute power, the Romans and every other civilisation that has ever held absolute power and there is a reason why none of these still hold absolute power.
    The issue is that now that the PLP wield the power, they are now more willing turn a blind eye to how it may corrupt them. (Think about the one ring in lord of the rings as a good analogy). Would the founding members of the PLP have wanted the best possible future for Bermuda or to achieve the goal of controlling all of the seats? Why not strive for the best possible structure of democracy and how does it have anything to do with the past?
    I greatly fear any government which is given absolute power and the best possible thing for Bermudas future would be a healthy democracy and a healthy and diverse opposition that was not black vs. white (it needs to end) and instead it is Progressive vs. Conservative vs. Environmental vs. Other where even minorities have representation.

  7. There I can agree. Brown is a visionary leader. It is the particular vision that is problematic. Also by suggesting that people who criticize him are “haterz”, seems just another way of trying to deny them their right to express their own vision of what a democracy looks like. Democracy must not end upon the filling out of an electoral ballot. Recall that the PLP ran on a platform promising the sunshine of public scrutiny. Do not blame others if they took that for truth and not idle electioneering, which as it turns out…
    I have a feeling that if the UBP had wasted and misspent tens (hundreds?)of millions of tax payer dollars and were only now working out a plan for housing, that you would be frothing at the mouth and rending garments, along with other PLP apologists. This may be why some detect intellectual dishonesty in some of your representations.

  8. Vanz,
    With all due respect, you will never have any credibility as long as you dismiss the views of a very broad section of the community as “haterz” simply because they have legitimate complaints with how the island is run by the person or party you happen to support.
    In case you weren’t aware, a great many of those individuals also happen to be PLP supporters or unaffiliated to any party.
    If, as it seems, Dr. Brown can do no wrong in your eyes you aren’t blind to haterz, you are just blind.

  9. Let’s see. I think it can be inferred from your absolutes: “everyone thought everything was okay” and “no(one) mentioned a need for a “new democracy.” Young man. I will infer this, that you need to learn to do your own thinking and research.

  10. fast eddie where exactly did i dismiss the views of a very broad section of the community in my post here? – those are stated observations if not facts – how is that dismissing the views of a very broad section of the community?

  11. question – the ANC have a virtual lock on politics in south africa – they probably will for the foreseeable future – is that a bad thing considering their history. inn in The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall: by Ian Bremmer – it talks about how sa is probably (despite the crime etc.)is one of the best examples of a post colonial country making a transition from a racist unfair ruling govt.
    i think some bdans are in denial about how the island has changed – they delude themselves by thinking that if we can just get rid of brown it will be okay, or if we can just get rid of brown and his buddies it will be okay – bda has changed for good – and dr. brown is an example of that change not the cause of it – so i think people should get over it – because things have changed for the better and for good. jut like in sa.

  12. Example: “unfortunately like bill clinton he has to spend so much energy fighting the haterz.”
    Better example: “i see the same lies spread about dr. brown (cedar beams, secret deals, etc.) and again a blk role model is denied his chance to inspire without rumour”
    Posted by: vanz | September 04, 2007 at 11:01 PM
    Perhaps you would like to backpedal and redefine what a “hater” is or how those allegations are “lies” given that there is currently more information supporting them than not, but these and other statements made elsewhere (progressive minds) make clear that you are dismissing the validity of any criticism regarding Dr. Brown (and the PLP).
    These issues you list are all valid concerns which bermudians share regardless of political affiliation.
    You may not like it and choose to term those people “haterz” or the concerns “lies” but neither you, nor Dr. Brown, nor the PLP has come up with any reasonable explaination for those allegations. These issues deserve to be addressed in a serious way rather than suppression, race baiting, name calling, misdirection, or by simply ignoring them which is all that has been done to date.
    Only the most ignorant, self-interested, or closed minded will ignore these for one simple reason: Addressing valid criticism of the government is never unfortunate, it’s necessary. That truth applies no matter who is in charge.

  13. Vanz,
    I think you’re missing what people are saying.
    When you state “everyone pretended everything was a okay” you are stating things in a very broad general sense. You cannot speak for “everyone” without clear known fact that there was not one single person who didn’t share this view.
    If I may recommend, it is better for you to use other words to get your point across.
    You could say “most people”, “many people” and even if you’re wrong and it’s only 2 out of 100, you’re still leaving the opening for a few to disagree with your point and thus it is easier to be accepted than claiming everyone.
    Also, with regards to your point of “get rid of Brown”. If you in any way found this to be what I was suggesting in my piece, please accept my apologies. If anything I was trying to say we should “get rid of the colonially inherited form of democracy” which I ask, are you in favor of?
    Largely what I was suggesting is that in order to have a strong government you need a strong opposition. Right now we don’t have either.

  14. Jeez Vanz, I can’t even post before you add another quote to the pile!
    So, anyone who opposes Dr. Brown for whatever reason must be wanting to turn Bermuda into a colonial-era South Africa????
    You’re slip is showing mate.
    Has Dr. Brown ever made a mistake? Is he human? Is everything he is doing perfect with no room for improvement? Should we erect a golden statue of him now and make ready our offerings?

  15. dennis – your point is well taken – like some bloggers i tend to talk in generalities when making a point. sorry.
    silencedogood, all i am saying about dr. brown is that he is the most effective, charismatic, educated and visionary leader we have had in a long time. i was in university in dc when clinton was prez and i felt the same way about him and vigourously defended him despite monicagate, white watergate, etc. – clinton’s haters spent millions looking for clinton’s “cedar beems” – but in the end what did it accomplish? r. brown like clinton has flaws but he is a great leaders who needs to be given a chance.

  16. Vanz,
    There are significant differences between allegations of getting a blow job and allegations regarding missing funds, government property, and abuse of power.
    Its the fact you assume that people are raising these issues simply because they are “haters” that I have a problem with.
    When Dr. Brown loses at the Privy Council, and I assure you he will, is that because the House of Lords are Haterz?
    But I digress…sigh and grow tired of this pattern of extreme statements, then retreat, then another extreme statement, then retreat. Its boring and I don’t think you are fooling anyone.
    Since all leaders deserve a chance, I assume you will go on record here stating that, if Michael Dunkley is the next premier, you will “give him a chance” should he ever be accused of corruption, abuse of power, misuse of public funds, etc.?

  17. Dennis,
    Sorry that this post has derailed. In regards to the topic, which is surprisingly not Dr. B, I agree that the system of government doesn’t fit Bermuda.
    I think fixed elections are a must.
    I would give people more chances to vote as well. If you look at the last US election they were able to signal displeasure with republican policies in the middle of the presidential term by giving the democrats control of the house and senate. That’s a useful tool as a voter because you get to influence the course of policies more often than once every 4-5 years. Not sure if the best way would be to have a % of the House of Assembly voted on every two years—particularly given the tenor of Bermuda elections. But maybe if the period were long enough.
    I would definitely separate voting for a party in the legislature from voting for the leader to enhance the separation of powers and allow those who, for example, like the PLP but dislike Dr. Brown to vote their preference.
    The public should be able to propose a binding referendum if certain criteria are met. Perhaps a certain # of signatures, constitutionality, and sign off by the governor (which would likely be a rubber stamp).
    The public should be able to institute a recall vote for elected officials if a certain # of signatures are acquired.
    I would also ramp up civics education in schools so that people get interested and think for themselves in this area.

  18. silence is good – 1st – i was referring to not just the bj but all of the serious allegations that hounded clinton that proved to be false- i suggest you watch the documentary “the hunting of a president” top see what i mean – 2ndly, thinking that the privy council will go against the plp is wishful thinking – remember a few years ago the stevedores wer equally as smug but ended up w/ egg on their face:
    “The BIU’s lawyers went to the Privy Council and eloquently argued that the basic rights of the workers should not be overridden by the stevedores’ claim of negative economic impacts on the community. The esteemed judges of the Privy Council not only ruled in favour of the BIU but it blasted the Bermuda Court system for abusing the legal process in it’s actions against the BIU. And to make the victory even sweeter to BIU president derrick Burgess, Lordships of the Privy Council ordered the Stevedores to pay all of the BIU’s legal costs, a figure well in the six figures.”
    if u so mad about the govt., u should just emigrate – like i did.

  19. 1) “Silence is good”–very mature. Name calling is the last refuge of a bad argument and seems to be your first instinct. Very, very telling.
    2) Clinton–I’m well aware of the various clinton scandals. If you think that the most egregious examples of partisanship related to his financial dealings rather than almost being impeached for getting a bj, fine, but that’s just another example of your lack of judgment.
    3) Privy council–we’ll see won’t we. I’m confident.
    4) immigration–just because you don’t like my views doesn’t mean I have to leave my home. Congratulations, you’ve just joined a long list of rednecks, bigots, xenophobes, etc. who, when confronted with arguments they can’t overcome through logic or reason respond by saying “if you don’t like it, then git out”.
    Honestly, you make me laugh Vanz.

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