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With two months to go in the Conservative party leadership campaign, things are still crowded and messy. There’s been name-calling, postmodernist Facebook videos, and general tomfoolery. Amidst all the chaos, we had a chance to sit down with Red Tory and Conservative candidate, Michael Chong. Here’s what he had to say. 

 

The Prime Minister is a proud feminist, and his campaign message was all about Canada being strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them. Recently, he’s been criticized for not being vocal enough about either of those messages when it comes to Donald Trump. Do you think he’s practicing careful diplomacy or willful ignorance?

Well, I think a Canadian Prime Minister, as head of government, always has to tread a fine line between defending our relationship with the United States while at the same time disagreeing on matters where we don’t share common interests. We live next to a giant. The United States is not just ten times our size in population—it’s also a very inverse trading relationship. Twenty per cent of our economy is based on selling goods and services to Americans. Only about 1% of their economy is based on selling goods and services to Canadians, so we’re far more reliant on the United States for economic growth and jobs, than they are on us. That’s always a challenge for any prime minister to manage, that relationship.

 

While you reject Kellie Leitch’s attempt at Canadian nationalism, you also rejected the Harper government’s recognition as Quebec as a ‘nation within a united Canada.’ Do you think Canadians should put their national identity before any sort of family or community heritage?

Yes, I think the thing that binds us all together as Canadians is our common citizenship that’s based on a common set of rights and responsibilities, a shared history, and shared institutions, and I think that is the thing that unites as Canadians.

 

The Liberals came to power on the promise that their election would be the last under the current voting system, and now we know that has been all but abandoned. Do you see electoral reform as a high priority?

I see democratic reform as a high priority. I’m not surprised that the Liberals have broken their promise on electoral reform. This has been a pattern of deception on part of parties and leadership candidates, and opposition leaders for the last 20 years, where in opposition, parties promise reform to the system, but once they gain power, they quickly abandon these promises. I believe in democratic reform. I think my record demonstrates that I will fight for that reform in government, and I believe we need to introduce further reforms to rebalance power between prime ministers which have too much of it, and elected members of parliament and grassroots party members which don’t have enough of it. So, I think part of my campaign is based on democratic reforms that will deal with the concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s office and ensure that we strengthen our democracy, to make it a lot more participatory, and ultimately to give power back to the people, and to grassroots party members.

 

The leadership race has heated up, bringing in a wealthy businessman who is famous in the US for his role in a reality TV Show. Do you think that having him in office could hurt the country at all?

Well, I don’t think he’s the right leader to take the party forward. I think I’m the right leader to take the party forward. That’s why I’m in this leadership race. I think we have to build a much bigger Conservative party that’s inclusive, that includes Canadians of all races, religions, and creeds, that’s not focused on circus-like antics or reality TV show tactics, but rather, is focused on a serious, economic agenda to create jobs and prosperity.

 

On that note, the government seems to have underestimated our yearly deficit by several billions of dollars. Did they forget to carry a few ones and zeros, or are they just irresponsible?

I think the Liberals’ plan for economic growth isn’t working. The proof’s in the pudding. In the last year since they took government, they have tried to stimulate the economy through a massive expansion of government bureaucracy. They have increased taxes in order to try to pay for that increased bureaucracy, and growth has flatlined, and unemployment remains high. So, clearly their plan isn’t working. They’re now more than 25% of the way through their mandate, and we need a new plan. That’s why I believe that the government should focus on getting the deficit under control, returning our budget to balance, and introducing large income tax cuts. I believe that large income tax cuts—both to personal and corporate income taxes—will provide an immediate stimulus to the Canadian economy, and get our job creation engine and economic growth back on track.

 

Will you make Canada great again?

Canada is already great, and I want to make it an even greater place.

 

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

  • voting

    Mr Chong talked about democratic reform, in terms of members of parliament and grass-roots party members but he made no specific reference, in replying to a question on electoral reform, to the voters or electorate.
    Richard Lung. “Democracy Science” links to 3 free e-books on election method.

    • As much as I would like to see modernisation of our voting system to use ranked ballots in multi-member districts, far too many outspoken activists were clouding the issue with party proportionality. As Mr Chong mentioned when I saw him speak in person, even the variations of STV being proposed for Canada by the most vocal activist groups included top-up seats for political parties.

      Granting political parties more control over the political process is the wrong direction to go, and the reforms Mr. Chong has been pushing for are prerequisites in the unfortunate regressive scenario where electoral reform allows *any* top-up seats.

      We may both understand that ranked ballots in multi-member districts without top-up seats doesn’t privilege parties and could be safely done in parallel with Mr. Chong’s reforms. We were unfortunately in the minority of electoral reformers that were making this proposal (as well as rejecting party proportionality and the GIGO Gallagher index as being a relevant measure of how representatives a parliament is).

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garbage_in,_garbage_out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallagher_index

  • I posted a longer comment on why I joined the CPC to vote for Michael Chong. I haven’t been a CPC member, but was a PC party member back when David Orchard was running.

    Mr Chong appeals to those of us who are both fiscally conservative and progressive on social issues — people who haven’t seen themselves represented by the CPC under Harper or by the Liberals.
    http://mcormond.blogspot.ca/2017/02/why-i-joined-cpc-to-vote-for-michael.html

  • Funny how the political foxes i) can tell us a part of the truth without telling us the truth and ii) then promising to fix something without telling us what’s wrong and exactly how they’re going to fix it.

    i) I’m not surprised that the Liberals have broken their promise on electoral reform. This has been a pattern of deception on part of parties and leadership candidates, and opposition leaders for the last 20 years, where in opposition, parties promise reform to the system, but once they gain power, they quickly abandon these promises.

    (And then the mother of all sweet nothings…)

    ii) I believe in democratic reform…

    i) In this indirect manner amusing how Michael Chong fingers his own former leader as part of the 20 year deception crowd.

    ii) So what’s wrong with our electoral system that Michael Chong refused to identify?

    Considering any First Past The Post electoral voting district where a majority of say 5 out of 9 voters do not like candidate C but split their vote between two similar candidates so that candidate A gets 2 votes and B three. When C receives the remaining 4 votes, C slips up the middle and is falsely elevated to declared elected status as if having a majority. A clear example where four votes carries more weight than five!

    The vote123 ranked ballot corrects this and ensures that the majority of five choose who will be elected, not the four.

    However we as voters have within arm’s length the power and capacity to ensure that we and not the parties have the final say as to who will be elected simply by conducting our own voluntary vote123 poll just prior to election day and with this information on election day be able to have the final say as to who will be declared elected.

    • voting

      Hello, Eduard, I think you have an original idea here: conduct your own unofficial preference poll. It requires consensus, tho, and the voters are too partisan to agree to it.

      • Mark Henschel

        The real problems are organization and buy-in. Essentially, what Ed’s suggesting is a form of the 2015 ABC efforts made by Leadnow: polling (via that preferential ballot) and announcements of a recommendation (the results of the RB poll) to shape the vote for a particular result.

        So far Ed has one person signed up: Ed. To be informative and productive there would need to be a large sample size participation rate that just isn’t there.

        And even that dedicated ground-floorer — Ed — did not conduct a “vote123 ranked ballot voluntary poll” in his own riding in 2015 (Well, I asked and he didn’t disagree that he hadn’t). So… not much start-up energy or inventor conviction there.

        If I was gonna organize voters to effect change I’d organize them to tell their MPs that if they supported sufficient electoral reform (aka STV) now despite the fact that it would benefit the office of the MP rather than them personally, we voters would vote for them again in the next election (after that it would be everyone for themselves). Even that is daunting and “wishful”.

        In the final analysis, a Charter challenge is the better option.

        • You Mark and I, all three of us talk of the ranked ballot being a significant improvement over the current situation, however where we differ is that as a first next step I explain how the ranked ballot is a small physical step with a huge improvement while the two of you seem intent on trying to divert attention away from this fact.

          I think the good people here deserve an answer. Especially in light of you making comment to me which I understood as toxic and gave Mark, as can seen from his profile the cover that he has made a consistent practice for over a year now of stalking my comments and providing unsupported but spurious opinion.

          Do the two of you not see yourselves as shooting yourself in the foot in that you advocate STV which clearly needs the ranked ballot, but in your efforts disparage the positive democratic value of the ranked ballot when added to our current system?

          In closing, I note your subterfuge behind your comment to me is made more explicit in your upvote of Mark’s hostile remarks.

      • You Mark and I, all three of us talk of the ranked ballot being a significant improvement over the current situation, however where we differ is that as a first next step I explain how the ranked ballot is a small physical step with a huge improvement while the two of you seem intent on trying to divert attention away from this fact.

        I think the good people here deserve an answer. Especially in light of you making comment to me which I understood as toxic and gave Mark, as can seen from his profile the cover that he has made a consistent practice for over a year now of stalking my comments and providing unsupported but spurious opinion.

        Do the two of you not see yourselves as shooting yourself in the foot in that you advocate STV which clearly needs the ranked ballot, but in your efforts disparage the positive democratic value of the ranked ballot when added to our current system?

        In closing, I note your subterfuge behind your comment to me is made more explicit in your upvote of Mark’s hostile remarks.

        • Mark Henschel

          I don’t know which of your two comments is “real” so I’ll cover my bases:

          Ed, what the good people here deserve is the truth.

          Truth is, you’re wrong.

          We do not agree with you and you misrepresent our philosophy, our definition of the problems we’re trying to solve and what might constitute a sufficient solution — which is the only step (large or small) that we should be talking: a measure to actually correct the problem.

          We certainly differ on our evaluation of what the problem is. As noted above I happen to agree in large part with the Prime Minister and Michael Chong. From that starting point I think that Richard, Russell and I have made a good argument for STV as well as pointing out why preferential ballots in single-member districts is insufficient.

          As far as your problem and your solution… you’re on your own.

          As far as your conspiracy theories.. that’s what you get when you never take your eyes off your own image in the mirror.

          Have a nice trip!

          Best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • voting

          That might be called an up-tight remark. I dare say a little touchy. I cannot make a better defense than Mark has just done.
          Best wishes.

  • Mark Henschel

    It’s ironic.

    With respect to democratic reform, Michael Chong is (and has been for a while) quite in accord with Justin Trudeau (as leadership hopeful, Leader and PM) in terms of the definitions of the fundamental problems.

    From his extensive touring of the country and consulting Canadians Justin Trudeau concluded that people wanted a voice — an equal voice — and that they wanted their MP to represent them to the party and to/in Parliament. He stated that he was intent on democratizing parliament such that the PMO would be less authoritarian.

    In his on-line leadership bumph — chong. ca/democratic_opportunity (scroll down and open up the “backgrounder”) — under the rubric “Power to the People”, Michael Chong argues:

    The real problem is what happens to elected Members of Parliament when they get to Ottawa: They are too controlled by party leaders and the Prime Minister.

    Both understand that the cure for our democratic deficit is more democracy and that entails empowering the people… and their stakeholder proxies in our House, the MPs. It’s about the redistribution of power.

    But, ultimately, neither quite get it either. Certainly their thinking doesn’t seem to have made the transition from “problem” to “solution”.

    In a democracy the source of power is the electorate and their vote. The legitimacy and efficacy of a democracy depend fundamentally and inextricably on our electoral institutions. Our problem — the real problem — is that a) we have electoral institutions that produce weak MPs and b) typically half the voters wind up without their rightful voice in parliament where where they should be guaranteed their rightful stakeholder voice and vote.

    So when the PM casually tosses out the idea of electoral reform and almost negligently mentions “ranked ballots” (which are, funnily enough, ballots and not an electoral system), because electoral systems are a highly diverse set of things, he hasn’t really connected the problem-solution dots (or demonstrated that he is drawing a causal line between the correct dots).

    And Michael Chong, who observes that electoral reform “is a solution in search of a problem” appears to have broken his pencil too.

    A proper solution must deliver equal legislative power to voters and to MPs as individuals representing their particular constituencies. Most every voter should get a rep they voted for and each MP should represent more or less the same number of voters to whom they are responsible and accountable. This would change the dynamic in Parliament significantly and significantly for the better.

    There is only one electoral system designed to do this… STV.

    But what’s a voter to do?

    One leader cannot seem to identify the system design that will achieve his goals and the other — wanting the same thing — seems blind to solutions outside of the typical conservative “rules” mindset.

    We need to get these two guys on the same page. We all want the same things. The conclusions of the mydemocracy. ca survey were particularly clear (the report used the word “emphatic”) on that.

    Let’s put the partisanship aside and take the step that will make our democracy truly work for us all.