Is PACT (Online Party) the Uber for Canadian Politics?

TORONTO, Oct. 9, 2015 /CNW/ - Newly registered Federal "Online Party" PACT – Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency imagines the politics of the future, where voters can cast votes and share opinions online, where their votes actually count for something and their opinions are welcomed.

Michael Nicula, founder of PACT, has created an online voting machine that uses existing legislation to provide a simple mechanism designed to identify voters with maximum accuracy, and to allow voters to cast votes online in a secure, private and verifiable manner. Once the online identity of a voter can be guaranteed and verified, the possibilities are unlimited; we can get rid of the political parties, undue influence of money and lobbies,  and most other flaws of our current electoral system. Voters will be able to vote directly on every issue individually and not be forced to pick a 'mixed bag' platform, traditionally a collection of a few good things plus a lot of bad things, false promises and lies.

PACT hopes to bring the same disruption to the Canadian politics that Uber brought to taxis and AirBnB has brought to hotels -- but all without PACT even having to enter the Parliament.

Michael Nicula explains: barriers for smart thinking revolutionary ideas in politics wanting to enter the Parliament are big but he wants airlines to anticipate the kind of smart disruptive interventions that a start-up political party could make.

"What we wanted to do with PACT is envision those disruptions now so that the big traditional parties operating today can start implementing them," Nicula says. "The current political system and how parties operate both present a lot of opportunities for reinvention."

"A lot of these opportunities -- like how voters can have their say on various issues they care about -- are obvious because the current model is broken or, at the very least, doesn't serve voters very well. Other opportunities are less obvious and require some big thinking about what will happen a decade from now."

Basic improvements like minimizing the cost and effort necessary to collect votes are achieved by an website feeding real-time information. Every vote is tracked safely by a private tag, so that it can be verified and audited in real-time – from the privacy and comfort of a voter's home or a public polling station such a voting kiosk in a mall or library – and then used by our government to make the right decisions aligned with the will of the voters. (See more about PACT and the benefits of online voting.)

Nicula says PACT's website VotePACT.ca would focus on providing an attractive, engaging voter experience, replacing the ubiquitous 'strategic vote'. While all votes are equal and there's no discrimination of any kind among voters, there are four levels of website access: "Guest access" -- where literally anyone with a pulse and a computer can vote and comment -- is joined by a "Elector access" for verified voters, 'Editor access' for those who want to post a wider range of issues and 'Representative access' reserved for those who want to run for public office or to represent the voters in a different capacity. The voting machine is so designed that the convenience is top priority, and reports and audits fall naturally into place.

READ: FAQ: Online voting in Canada: What's the status?

For Nicula, the challenge was to offer a better experience for voters by reducing associated costs at the same time, in public domain where budgets are typically limited. Interventions that increase voter participation -- by eliminating unnecessary trips to the polls on a certain date -- and a more granular selection of options for each issue rather than picking an 'omnibus' Platform that very people can support in their entirety are among PACT's suggestions. Nicula explains that "everything we did was focused on helping Elections Canada improve the voter experience while also improving their participation and engagement."

It might only be an outline of "the party -- or the political system -- of the future" but Nicula wants the parties to listen, and Elections Canada's relatively modest improvements over the decades on the look and feel of the voting process backs him up.

READ: Will e-voting boost turnout in Ontario's municipal elections?

Nicula explains what PACT hopes to achieve, without the start-up ever having to start up.

What do you hope these changes will achieve?

Michael Nicula: We want to create a vision for a different way forward. One of the reasons we worked very hard to demonstrate PACT as an actual, real-life political party was to show how that vision could be implemented. More than anything, we want other parties to look at PACT and find inspiration for how they could change how they do things for the better, now and in the future.

We wanted to prototype innovations that the big parties could make their own. The innovations we're showing with PACT are meant to provoke important discussions inside those traditional parties about how they operate, because our present is not necessarily our future. In my opinion, innovation is always about challenging the status quo and illuminating a better way forward. That's what we did with PACT.

How would the government be different if you redesigned the political system?

The Parliament would be a lot better at delivering legislation aligned to the voters' aspirations. We call this "Participatory Democracy." The point is to create responsive, accountable, competent and transparent government, in touch with the voters and engaging them in shaping up policies that would benefit everyone.

Is this something that's really going to happen?

Yes, but maybe not in the ways people might expect. The ideas at the heart of PACT will ultimately be accomplished within parties operating today and perhaps a few other start-up parties, and they'll happen more gradually than if PACT was elected in power this year.

The innovations we're talking about will absolutely happen, but it will be up to individual parties to sort out what those innovations mean to them specifically. We believe these ideas are better for parties and better for voters. Implementing them will take some time. But we wouldn't have brought them to life through PACT if weren't absolutely convinced that these disruptive ideas will happen one way or another.

PACT is the Online Party of Canada; a registered federal political party represented in the 2015 elections in Spadina – Fort York.

SOURCE Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency

Image with caption: "PACT - Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency (CNW Group/Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20151009_C5556_PHOTO_EN_517753.jpg

For further information: Media@VotePACT.ca | Phone: 416 598 7777, Website: www.votepact.ca, Facebook: /votepactca, Twitter: @votepactca

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