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Monsef announces public hearings and town halls on electoral reform

Canadian Federation of Students chairperson Bilan Arte and Council of Canadians political director Brent Patterson met with the Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef on April 20, 2016.

The federal Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef has announced the federal government will hold public consultations on alternatives to the current electoral system.

The government’s notice states, “[The committee will] identify and conduct a study of viable alternative voting systems, such as preferential ballots and proportional representation, to replace the first-past-the-post system, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting.”

The Toronto Star reports, “Under Monsef’s proposal, the committee would conduct a ‘national engagement process’ over the summer and fall months including ‘comprehensive and inclusive consultation’, including written submissions, committee travel, and online suggestions. The proposed committee would look at the prospect of an overhaul of the entire electoral system — the first in Canada’s 149-year history — through five lenses: 1- Increasing the effectiveness and legitimacy of federal representatives; 2- Fostering greater civic engagement; 3- Making voting accessible and inclusive; 4- Maintaining public faith in the integrity of the voting system; and 5- Ensuring that the principle of local representation is maintained.”

And the news report adds, “Alongside the committee’s work, Monsef is proposing that each member of Parliament be invited to hold town halls in their riding to discuss electoral reform. Those MPs would have to offer a written submission to the committee no later than October.”

As such, the timeline appears to be:

  • June-September – committee’s ‘national engagement process’ including written submissions, committee travel, online suggestions

  • June-September – MP town hall meetings

  • October 1 – deadline for MPs to send their submissions from the town halls to the committee

  • December 1 – the committee reports to the House of Commons

  • May 2017 – the deadline for the Liberals to introduce legislation on electoral reform

  • October 21, 2019 – the next federal election under a new electoral system

In terms of process concerns being raised:

  1. The Toronto Star reports, “The Liberals have set aside less than seven months to consult Canadians on a brand new voting system.”

  2. The 10-person committee reviewing this issue would have 6 Liberals, 3 Conservatives, 1 NDP, and Greens and Bloc Québécois each having 1 non-voting member. NDP critic Nathan Cullen has suggested the membership of the committee should be reflective of the popular vote. He’s asked for a 12-member committee with 5 Liberals, 3 Conservatives, 2 New Democrats, 1 Bloc and 1 Green.

  3. The Globe and Mail reports, “The Conservatives say electoral reform should not proceed without a referendum.”

The Council of Canadians will be mobilizing its supporters to call for proportional representation.

We have long supported proportional representation. We believe it ensures a fairer representation of votes cast, and prevents a governing party from holding total power after earning only a small percentage of the popular vote, which is the case now with the first-past-the-post system. In April 2010, we commissioned an Environics poll that found that 62 per cent of Canadians support “moving towards a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections.” Additionally, we oppose the ranked ballot system of voting as a winner-takes-all system that is less representative of voters’ wishes than proportional representation.

Our Guelph, Nelson, Penticton, London, Peel and Peterborough chapters met with their MPs earlier this year to call for proportional representation.

Further reading
Council of Canadians calls on Trudeau to implement proportional representation (November 1, 2015)