6 Ways to Improve Government in 12 Months

I was recently on vacation in the Azores (archipelago of 9 islands about 1,500km from the coast of Portugal, in the Atlantic Ocean) and late one night I got the spur to begin writing my next blog entry. Though it’s taken me this long to finally sit down and begin fleshing it out, at least I’ve finally gotten to it.

After being exposed to nothing but European news for almost 2 weeks, I began thinking about ways that Canada could improve it’s government in (probably) 12 months or less. Some of these require lengthy explanations, others don’t because others have done the explaining family. So let’s get right into it!

1) Proportional Representation
Though I hate to see the type of power fringe groups on both the left and right-wing of the political spectrum might obtain, the fact is people vote for them and therefore they deserve a seat at the table (as long as enough people vote for them to warrant handing them 1 out of 308 seats). For more information on proportional representation, click here.

2) Senate Reform
I’m not referring to the full-of-fluff Senate reform that Prime Minister Harper has been asking for. No, I’m referring to the Senate reform that I wrote about back in October 2008. Lower pay ($122,700 is far too much), fewer senators (105 unelected Senators is far too many for a country of 32 million people), they shouldn’t be able to hold other jobs and they should be elected. Much of the reasoning for these proposals are on that older post.

3) Actively Solicit Feedback on New Bills
The Canadian government, and Members of Parliament, should be actively pursuing public comment on new bills far more often and in a far more engaging way than they do now. While I don’t appreciate the waste of paper (and campaign-style leaflets), the Conservative MP in my riding actively sends out messages to his constituents. And why not? If he communicates more actively, the chances of him being re-elected are much higher and you also have a more highly educated constituency. That’s good for politics, despite the fact that it may not be good for most politicians.

The Canadian government needs to get involved in social media sites, and so do more MPs. The Canadian government needs a newsletter system that people can sign up to in order to receive alerts on new bills; it should setup accounts on sites like Identi.ca, Twitter and Facebook so that people can receive alerts outside e-mail; more MPs should be holding townhall meetings using their own websites along with social media sites to organize them; and the Canadian government should allow online voting of new bills on a secure site, ideally using a unique identifier (like your SIN) in order to prevent fraud, as a way to gauge popular sentiment for new bills.

4) MP Websites
Some published standards for MP websites, ideally giving them some standard templates to follow and a choice of 2 or 3 different content management systems for them to use. The website for Ed Holder, my MP, is horrendous. Irene Mathyssen’s website, on the other hand, follows the standard NDP template and is much, much easier to use. This way, if your riding elects a new MP, you can expect the new MP’s website to look at least somewhat similar to the old MP’s website, albeit the backend may be entirely different.

5) Fixed Election Dates
This is a no-brainer. October, April or May every 4 years. Why those months? Well October would avoid overlap with the American elections in November (if they fell in the same year), and April or May would place the elections out of winter for most of us (very northern areas possibly excluded). No one wants to trek to the polls when there’s over a metre of snow on the ground, and summer elections will negate the possibility of many people even being near home to participate in debates leading up to the election or being at home when the actual election happens. Those months just make sense to me.

6) Webcast CPAC
Actually, this one’s already happening. I had no idea until I checked, but CPAC is available in both official languages live online. Kudos to CPAC for getting that going! What disappoints me is that it’s encoded in Windows Media format, so it’s not available on every type of computer. If CPAC were to offer the stream in an open format, like Ogg Theora, that would be much better for the public at large (and their, and in the end everyone’s, wallets).

What do you think? What other quick-win ways could we improve government?