Doug's Blog

Electoral reform

In the last year, electoral reform has been a frequent political topic. I think that this is a topic that should receive constant review, rather than the occasional consideration. I will throw in the fact that my ideas of electoral reform probably don’t match of lot of those who use the term.

For example, I personally have nothing against the First Past The Post (FPTP) system. We live in a country with a Westminster style parliament and the purpose of our federal and provincial/territorial elections is to select the candidate who will represent our riding. We don’t elect a prime minister or premier. Selection of that position lies with the party that holds the confidence of the house. In the case of a minority, that party does not necessarily even hold the most seats.

“Parliament” came from English common law, although the word is derived from the French verb “parler,” or to speak. (Upper middle and upper class people in England at the time would have spoken the language of court, Norman French.) It was a body of representatives who spoke among each other to determine laws that would benefit the people… although at the time, that would be upper middle and upper class people only.

From those early bodies came our current parliament, where we elect a person to represent our riding, and hence, our concerns.

The current concern with electoral reform stems largely from the increase in people voting for other than the two main parties, and that confidence in the house or winning a seat both lay in winning a plurality, rather than a majority, of either seats or votes. A rule of thumb commonly used is that a 40% popular vote total should win a majority government in a federal election.

With additional parties in the mix and garnering support, there has been some call to deal with so-called “false majorities” leading to “wasted votes.” For example, 3.45% of the popular vote went to the Green Party, yet this resulted in 1 seat in parliament, or 0.3% of the seats. In contrast, the Liberal Party gained 184 seats, 54.4%, with a popular vote of 39.47%. This has led many to call for Proportional Representation (PR) in one of several models, where seats are distributed on the basis of earning the popular vote.

I strongly disagree with this for three reasons. First, in my own opinion, there is only one type of vote wasted and that is one that is not made in the first place. I understand that many are dissatisfied with the system and the results and don’t feel the desire to vote. However, I have difficulty with the idea that your vote for a candidate that did not win is a “waste.” With every election, as with every hockey game, there will be winners and losers. With a multiparty system, there will be more losers than winners, and more potential for your vote to not be for the winner increased. I tend to view PR as the participation trophy of democracy.

Secondly, where do we cut off the percentage of popular vote that would qualify for a seat? There were 19 political parties in the last election. Should each one that had members receive votes get a seat, or should there be a minimum percentage of popular vote required to qualify? Some countries use a minimum of as high as 10% as a cutoff, meaning no seats would be given to those parties not reaching that percentage of the popular vote. Most use 5%, meaning that neither the Bloc Québécois nor the Green Party would be eligible for seats at all.

My biggest complaint, though, is through how we would have to distribute seats based upon the popular vote. Remember that we are supposed to be electing our representative who will carry the concerns of our riding to government. In a federal election, popular vote can easily be skewed by geography. People in Atlantic Canada may well vote substantially differently from another region. Should their choice for picking their representation be biased based upon the popular vote from another region? Should a preponderance of votes from there be overruled by a preponderance of votes for another party in Quebec or Ontario, where there is a higher population? Using this formula, by the way, would give the Bloc Québécois 16 seats in the commons, rather than the 10 they won.

I also suspect that, given the potential to shift the choice away from individual representation by a full version of PR, essentially changes the very nature of our parliament. Such a change should have to be dealt with using the formula for a major change to the constitution, itself. A shift to this form of election may result in a concerted challenge under the Constitution Act.

That’s not to totally write electoral reform. There are other voting alternatives, such as preferential ballot. In this case, you would list first, second, third choice, etc., on your ballot and a when a candidate who did not get a clear majority, 2nd place ratings would also be used to determine an eventual winner. I could tolerate this since we would still be voting for our own representative; however, I would wonder how these would be reported. For example, does coverage list the alternative choice votes as well as the first choice ballots in ongoing coverage? Unless someone was winning with some of the margins John Crosby was used to in St. John’s West in the 1980s, it may be very hard to follow.

There is also the concept that this could work to the benefit of a centrist party over left or right wing ones. The line of logic behind that is that it is unlikely that someone who supports a far left party will list their second choice as a far right one. The alternative choice would tend to more support a centrist one, giving the advantage to them over the others. It is a viable worry.

There are other aspects that electoral reform could concern. For example, online voting would probably appeal to a broader range of voters. This might help cases where people may avoid voting due to the problems of mobility, or other aspects that prevent going to a poll. Younger voters may be more inclined to participate using a technology they are familiar with. There are security issues involved but this is mostly a case of details, rather than having the technology available. If you can be protected banking online, why not voting?

My biggest suggestion for electoral reform is the following. Maybe, to avoid your party losing, press them for policies that match the electorate. Insist they work together to achieve results, rather than partisan infighting. Make them recruit good candidates.

And remember, your vote may not win, but it does count…

Cat speak

Animal behaviourists has determined that, while a cat meow is a quite common thing, it’s not used by cats to communicate among themselves. Meowing is used by adult cats for communicating with people.

After a year and a half, I’ve found that Darcy and Furball both use distinctive meows for certain situations.

For example, Darcy goes “meow-wow” when she wants something not food-related. Usually, it means turn on the tap so I can drink from it or play with the drips. Another common one is a “mrrrrow?” with a very obvious question mark on the end. You often hear this one at about 3 AM and it seems to mean “Are you awake because I need a cuddle and if you aren’t, I’ll head butt you until you are.”

Furball has his own unique meows, too. A short meow apparently means “I want treats.” A longer, drawn out one that follows ignoring the former is, I suspect, “I’m dying of treat deprivation.” He also has a short meow with a question mark on the end that also means, “I want to play with the water from the sink.” And, if I go to bed before he does and the downstairs lights are off, you’ll hear this long drawn out mournful wail. “You left me all alone!!” Calling him is instantly followed by the sound of feet running up the stairs and the thump of him jumping on the bed.

There are few non-verbal ones, too. Darcy will lay on her back and using her claws, pull herself on the floor around the bed. I’ve come to learn that this means, “I want you to play fight with me.” (She’s a scrapper, to say the least, as her long suffering brother has learned. Being about 3 pounds heavier and about 10 inches longer hasn’t helped him in the least.)

She’ll also climb up on your chest with her front paws on your shoulder. This definitely means, “I’m standing here so you can rub my belly.”

Furball’s most distinctive non-verbal clue is what my sister-in-law, Dianne, refers to as the “drive by.” If you head to the kitchen, he’ll run in front of the cupboard where the aforementioned treats are stored and just fall over on his back.  Treat deprivation is a terrible thing to live with.

The other thing to understand about meowing, by the way, is that different cats have different meows with different meanings. There’s really no cat-human language. Nope. No cat speak.

The main takeaway from this is that it is true that cats really do have servants.. And, in the case of my cats, one that seems to have been easy to train…

A win for me

While it took a lot of frustration, and probably cost more in terms of what I’m paid per hour than the cost of the computer, Dell has accepted the laptop for refund. I sent it back yesterday.

It was perfect timing to get the email on their decision, since I got it when I got home and my first after dinner plan was to put together a charge complaint to the Competition Bureau for failure to live up to a promised warranty. This probably would have resulted in more time, but sometimes I might see principle as being more important than other things.

So, that’s over with a happy ending…

The end addendum

I just received a phone call from Dell that, since I live in a “remote area,” they cannot provide the next day warranty service that came with my new computer. They tell me that they are willing to repair my computer. I refused, brusquely, but not impolitely.

I posted the following in the Dell community forum this morning:

After more than a month of trying to get warranty service, I surrender. This morning, I purchased a new laptop computer. I can no longer wait for service. I teach for three colleges online and functioning without one has been a nightmare.

And, no, it was certainly not a Dell.

Your warranty and service support is non-existent. Your “techs” and social media are useless. How you can function as a business, selling products for which you can’t even provide the warranty you sold me, is unconscionable.

I suspect that you will not refund my purchase, and that is just a further indication of what a fly-by-night organization you run.

I doubt that I will get anything more out of this. But, I also doubt I will ever buy one of their products again…

The end

I suspect I have decided to do what Dell has been trying to get me to do all along. Give up. And, I have.

I need a computer to function, and it’s been more than a month of waiting to have my new one fixed. I can’t wait any longer. Last week I ordered a new computer and picked it up this morning.


Therefore, I surrender. Sort of. Now comes the unmitigated pleasure of trying to get a refund, but, that’s bound to be a completely different, and equally frustrating, story in itself…

Full circle

So, yesterday I received the following email from Dell:

Hi Doug,

From the Tag information I see the system has an In Home service warranty. We will go ahead and send out an engineer with the parts.
The service call is booked under the reference number : 321808235.
Kindly note that the Onsite technician will contact you to schedule the appointment once he receives the parts. Please go ahead and have the appointment scheduled accordingly.
Note : The Service is subject to parts availability and the working hours of Onsite technician are from 9am-6pm Mon-Friday.

Farooq Ahmed
Social Media and Community Professional

This is rather easy to say, since the person saying this is in another country and probably has no idea of where Whitehorse is, to say the least of knowing whether or not they actually have someone here to service the computer. This is the third or fourth time I’ve been told I get onsite service.I responded with:

Interesting, since I don’t think you have an authorized technician here and haven’t for about 10 years.

This morning, I get this:

Hi Farooq,

As our customer, Doug Rutherford, stated previously (please review his original Dell Community Forum post below), there has not been a Dell technician in his area for the last 10 years. Unless you have a definitive contact that can service Doug’s system, please arrange for his system to be returned for the Repair Depot and please schedule a box to be sent for his convenience.


Lorna McNamara
Customer Support Specialist
Dell | Social Media Support
USA Customer Care Board<>

I get two things from this email. First, they obviously can call for onsite service without actually knowing whether or not there is someone onsite. How do you do that without having a specific contractor to choose from? Two, someone else is “sending me a box.”

We’re now in a loop, and this is the fourth or fifth person to say “we’re sending a box.” Just like they did the first time, on the morning of September 9th…

Why would you own a Dell?

The official Dell apology count is now 9. This, however, brings me no closer to having my system replaced or repaired.

Apparently, the two last conversations, one with a social media rep and one with the person who handles their community forum, have led to me to believe that the warranty expires next August and they’re trying to hold out until then. (That’s being facetious, but I suspect that will be the end result.)

My service file was indeed closed. Apparently, this is because I didn’t send it back within 10 days of it being booked. Since I am still waiting for the packing box and information they told me I had to send it in for a month now, I’m not that willing to accept the blame for that and pointed it out. I have yet to hear back on that one.

Also, the forum manager has said no refund since I’ve had the unit for more than 30 days. The fact that it arrived on the 15th of August and I’ve been trying to get it repaired for a month seems to have no relevance to that at all. I’ve asked to have it escalated to someone who has the authority to override that. I have yet to hear back on that one, too.

Oh, well. I’ve already ordered my new laptop. I pick it up Tuesday morning. I have, however, gotten rather tired of backing up and reconfiguring new computers in the last little while, though.

As I note, I did check my warranty. I am supposed to have next day, on site warranty repair. Maybe I should be insisting they send a tech from Vancouver or Prince George to repair it…