Breaking News! Federal Electoral Reform Committee Releases Report!
After months of consultation and deliberation, the federal Electoral Reform Committee delivered its report today (Dec 1) [download PDF (4MB)]. While there are a few positive points – the most important being that they recommended that the government develop and put forward a strongly proportional voting system rather than any half-measures – and while we greatly appreciate the enormous investment of time on the part of all committee members, overall we are disappointed that the Committee did not systematically evaluate each major voting system against the five principles it had originally laid out, did not clearly state which systems it considered to satisfy these principles and therefore be viable for Canada (as called for in its mandate), and, rather than expressing a clear preference or two from amongst the various options they considered (except in the NDP and Green Party’s supplemental report), asked the government to do this work of selecting an acceptable system. Furthermore, they recommended that any system chosen by the government be put to Canadians in a referendum (despite, and indeed without taking account of, the argument that it would be inappropriate to hold a referendum on a change intended to grant all voters their charter right to effective representation). Though the Liberal members issued a supplementary opinion that they felt a referendum would not be the right approach, they simultaneously called on the government to break its electoral promise that 2015 would be the last election held under our current voting system – what Minister Maryam Monsef described as “an antiquated system … not designed to operate within our multi-party democracy”. We were also deeply disappointed in Minister Monsef’s initial response to the report – while the Committee may not have given her as clear a recommendation as she appears to have wanted, the original mandate she gave the Committee was also not overly clear. She could certainly have interpreted today’s report as cross-party acceptance of any of the voting systems they described as being sufficiently proportional and promised Canadians that the Liberal government would be proceeding to select and introduce one of these systems. Indeed, we call on her to do precisely this.
We will have more to say shortly, but in the meantime we urge you to call upon your MP and tell them that since the committee recommended that the government choose a highly proportional voting system, that they do so as soon as possible. And since most members of the committee (particularly those from the Liberal, NDP and Green parties) agree that a referendum is not necessary, ask your MP (especially if they are from the Liberal Party) to honour their election promise to Make Every Vote Count.
“Each citizen is entitled to be represented in government”
– Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, explaining what our Charter right to vote means
Justice McLachlin once said “the Canadian tradition [is] one of evolutionary democracy moving in uneven steps toward the goal of universal suffrage and more effective representation”. But right now, our current voting system denies over half our fellow citizens a voice in Parliament – including Liberal supporters on the Prairies, Conservative supporters in downtown Toronto, NDP supporters in Atlantic Canada or Green Party supporters just about anywhere.
And just as we now all recognize that it was never right that women should ever have been denied the vote, it is increasingly apparent that it’s not right to exclude half the voters. After all, as McLachlin also said, the purpose of our Charter right to vote “cannot be less than to guarantee to citizens their full democratic rights in the government of the country”.
We invite you to read the sections below to learn more about why change is needed, what the main options for change are, and how you can contribute to the government’s current reform process.