Last week I pitched the idea of #OperationEarful, an effort to encourage a letter-writing campaign directed at parliamentarians, particularly the Conservative ones, informing them that a) we citizens think the Fair Elections Act is awful, that b) we think it’ll be bad for everyone in the long run, including Conservatives, and that c) it ought to be fundamentally amended or withdrawn immediately.
To date, I would characterize the initiative as being more critically acclaimed than a box office smash. I’ve never had a blog post get more clicks, but the “conversion rate” of people who read the blog and then actually clicked on the link to find their MP or Senator was… well, it wasn’t very good.
I’ve heard various responses to the post. In general, they fell into three basic camps:
1) Great idea! I’ve sent off my letter!
2) I think what you’re doing is well intentioned (admittedly this bit is sometimes only implied), but the Conservatives won’t care if they think you won’t vote for them anyways; and
3) I think what you’re doing is great and I’d like to help out too, but I lack the time and/or energy to do so.
To those in group 1), thanks! To those who argue point 2), I say you should at least read my case for why this law could hurt Conservatives too in the long run, and tell me it’s wrong. Maybe I’m wrong, but if so I’d like to hear why. I think there’s a good chance the Conservatives will reap the whirlwind over this law in the long run if it passes in its current form, once Canadians start to see their electoral processes breaking down, when they see fellow citizens turned away from the polling station, or are denied themselves, there will be hell to pay. I think it’s up to us citizens to point that out to them now, before those mistakes are made. This is not, at base, a partisan issue. It is simply about the safeguarding of Canadian democracy.
To those who made point 3), I say fair enough. What follows are a few time saving aids to those who would like to tell their representatives what they think of the law, but lack time and energy to do so.
First, here are those links to MP and Senator contact information again. Here too is the list of resources assembled by UBC’s Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, for those who want to do more research.
Second, here’s the letter that I sent to B.C.’s senators. You are welcome to use it as inspiration if you agree with the points I make. Of course, anything you do to make it your own is all to the good, and you probably want to remove the bits that are specific to me.
Dear Senators of British Columbia,
I am a resident of Vancouver, BC, and a citizen of Canada. I am also a PhD candidate in political science in the department of political science at the University of British Columbia. I write to you as representatives of mine in Parliament regarding the proposed Fair Elections Act, to which I object in the strongest terms.
From the soft disenfranchisement of marginalized voters, to changes in party finance rules that advantage some parties over others, to the injection of partisans into the selection of key election officials, to restrictions on the chief electoral officer’s (CEO) ability to communicate with Canadians—and this is but a partial list of bill’s most glaring defects—the Fair Elections Act is replete with measures antithetical to the principles of democracy. Likewise, the proposed act fails in matters of process, having violated the norm of consensus so crucial to the continuing legitimacy of our democracy when considering significant changes to the rules governing our elections.
As presently constituted, the bill threatens the bedrock principle of free and fair elections, equally accessible to all citizens. I feel it is important to write to you, who give voice to the province of British Columbia in Parliament, to communicate my considered opinion that this bill ought to be fundamentally amended or withdrawn completely. While I appreciate the hard work of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in parsing the current draft of bill C23 and recommending certain changes, unfortunately these in my view do not go nearly far enough in addressing the fundamental flaws found throughout the legislation.
You may be interested to know that I have publicly expressed some of my thoughts regarding the bill in the form of two opinion pieces published in the Ottawa Citizen.
One is entitled “The War on Experts,” accessible here: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/op-ed/experts/9641381/story.html.
The other is called “the Backbencher’s Calculus” and is available here: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/op-ed/backbenchers+calculus+Fair+Elections/9745030/story.html
Both speak to some of the dangers that the law represents to all Canadians, regardless of party. In the long run, we all stand to lose from the passage of this bill. Our democracy, and our country will be left the poorer for it.
Department of Political Science
University of British Columbia
Third, a suggestion. If you feel up to it, when you send a letter out, consider letting people know about it via your preferred form of social media (though perhaps snapchat is less than ideal in this particular instance, even if it is your very favourite).
A tweet along the lines of “I sent my letter” and the hashtag #OperationEarful ought to do nicely. (Shout outs to @MahmudNaqi and @maynecs for pioneering the practice!) Including the link to this blog post, or the original #OperationEarful, would be a nice touch as well. I’ll do my best to retweet all that I come across.
Fourth, attached to the bottom of this post is a list of senators sorted by province, along with party affiliation. That way you can relatively easily copy and paste addresses for every senator in your province, if you are so inclined.
Finally, to those still pondering the title of this post, the answer is of course that he’d write a letter every day for a cause he believed in. If that didn’t work, he’d write two. Above all, he’d never give up hope.