US democracy and FPTP (November 8, 2020)

Good Sunday Morning!

Well, the agonizing wait ended yesterday morning with the news that Joe Biden is President-Elect.  

I am so relieved in so many ways, but particularly to know the US will rapidly re-join the Paris Agreement.  Just as Trump did not go through the US Congress to exit Paris, neither does Biden need congressional approval to rejoin. And there are rumours that the next head of the US EPA could be Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a champion of protecting Southern Resident Killer Whales (a way better track-record than our government!). Under Inslee, the State of Washington has filed official opposition to the TransMountain pipeline and increase in tanker traffic, as well as opposing the planned off-shore U.S. Navy tests threatening marine life on our coast. By the way, I asked again on Thursday during Question Period why Canada has not done so receiving another evasive non-reply:

So, Pacific Northwest issues may be receiving increasing attention with President Joe Biden and the climate crisis certainly will be.

The United States of America is not out of its state of crisis, its galloping COVID health emergency (a new high for a single day was recorded yesterday -126,000 cases), its economy in turmoil, but worse, its deep divisions.  A record number of Americans voted, with defeated President Donald Trump receiving over 70 million votes and Joe Biden over 74 million votes.  It is more than disturbing to realize 70 million human beings could think Donald Trump was their choice for four more years.

It is not always the case that the winner of the presidential election has received more votes.  Political scientists call it the “wrong winner” problem.  It has happened in four presidential campaigns in US history, most recently, and tragically, in 2000 when Gore had more votes than Bush, and in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote with a margin of 2.8 million more votes than the “winner” – Donald Trump.

That’s because the United States, like Canada, uses a First Past the Post “winner take all” electoral system.  In Canada it applies riding by riding (or using our current terminology “electoral district by electoral district.”)  In the US, it applies state by state with an additionally weird layer called the “Electoral College.”  American voters, state by state, actually elect unknown citizens who serve as “electors” and are bound to vote as determined by “winner take all.” The bizarre system was developed by the successful revolutionaries in the early days of the newly created United States.  There had been a preference for the Congress to elect the president. They feared voters across a much smaller group of states could never know the one person to be elected president. And the system gave a decided advantage by population to slave-holding states. Slaves were counted toward the population totals, but, of course, slaves were not allowed to vote.  Pressure to abolish the Electoral College is growing, but it would take a constitutional amendment. Not easy.

Easier than abolishing the Electoral College would be to decide on the electors based on the percentage of the popular vote each candidate received – proportionally.  So instead of Trump “winning” all of Florida’s 29 votes, he would win 50.2% to Biden’s 49.8%...And instead of Biden winning all 20 from Pennsylvania, those electors would also be decided based on how people actually voted Democrat or Republican. It would not have made a difference in this election, but fair voting would have kept both George Bush and Donald Trump out of office.

There are many other problems in US democracy: the hard-wired two-party system, enforced by rules in every state that virtually lock out third-parties, as well as a well-entrenched pattern of gerrymandering – enhancing one party’s chances through extremely partisan drawing of lines to capture party strongholds. Reforms there and getting rid of unlimited corporate campaign donations are desperately needed south of the border.

Back home, we also must get rid of First Past the Post. It continues to reward cynical politicians, like John Horgan, with “false majority” governments. The BC NDP received 45% of the popular vote, but will hold 55% of the seats, and 100% of the power. The BC Greens received 15% of the popular vote and 3.45% of the seats. Oh to be more like New Zealand! Still, it is a little known reality for Canadian Greens that we have had far more electoral success than Greens in any other country with FPTP.

On to other good news, one small Canadian environmental group, one close to my heart, Ecology Action Centre of Halifax, was part of a court victory in the US, striking down US FDA approval of GM-salmon for human consumption!

And somewhat randomly, I want to share some medical journal articles. I am taking extra Vitamin D. This comment should not be seen as critical of the public health advice we have. We must adhere to public health advice. I wear my mask, I keep my distance, but I also take vitamin D.  The evidence is sufficiently persuasive that it may help, and unless one takes way too much, it cannot hurt:

And in closing, with Remembrance Day on Wednesday, I wanted to share my tribute to our veterans delivered virtually in Parliament this week.  Wear your poppy, even indoors and just by ourselves.  Remembrance Day and Veteran's Week.

All for now,

Stay safe. Virtual hugs!

Lots of love,



I think you might want to watch this one.  During debate on C-9, I had a five-minute round of questions with the Minister of Finance and raised specific concerns of the tourism industry, the outrageous profits of commercial banks, as well as impacts on charities.

Marking the 2021 entry into force of the U.N. Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons: Elizabeth May: Canada has still not ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

And questioning Minister Bill Blair on racism in the RCMP and CBSA:


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