As we head into tonight’s English language debate, we wanted to share with you our report card on the federal parties’ platforms regarding electoral reform. As you can see in the table below, three of the parties (the Liberals, Conservatives and People’s Party) are essentially missing in action on this file. In our opinion, only the NDP and the Green Party have positions that could be considered acceptable to democratic reform supporters. Though there are some differences between the positions of these two parties that we discuss below, we can endorse both of them based on their overall positions.
Our Top Choice: The Green Party of Canada
Overall, we consider the Green Party to have the strongest position on voting reform of all the parties. On their website‘s page entitled “Demand Democratic Reform”, they say that “Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system must go” and they “demand proportional representation because Canadians want a fair electoral system.” On pages 90-92 of their platform, they call for a National Citizens’ Assembly to consider how to modernize our voting system, as well as several other proposed reforms such as lowering the voting age and mandatory and online voting. In addition, they propose related reforms such as restoring the per-vote subsidy and implementing “truth in advertising” rules for political advertising, as well as various initiatives related to integrity, ethics and transparency. Our only small concern is that they do not explicitly state a commitment to implement any recommendation from the Citizens’ Assembly directly and without a referendum (we would consider a referendum to be not only unnecessary, but ill-advised, as we believe that voters have a right to be represented in Parliament by an MP of their own choosing and that this right should not be denied to them based on a referendum). Unfortunately, the Green Party is not running candidates in all ridings, so not all voters may have an opportunity to vote for a Green Party candidate.
Second Place: The New Democratic Party
The NDP also has a strong position on voting reform. On pages 103-106 of their platform, they say that “A New Democrat government will bring in mixed-member proportional representation that works for Canada – and we will do it in our first mandate in government. We’ll establish an independent citizen’s assembly to recommend the best way to put it in place for the next election to ensure both local representation and a federal government that reflects the voters’ choice of parties. Once Canadians have the opportunity to experience the new voting system and compare it to the old one, we will hold a referendum to confirm the choice.” In addition, they propose several other reforms, including lowering the voting age, addressing conflict of interest, and banning cash for access events, amongst others. Our main concern with the NDP’s platform is that they have already decided that they wish to implement a mixed-member model and that they wish a National Citizens’ Assembly to focus more on how to put it in place rather than considering whether this model is the best choice for Canada in the first place (though MP Daniel Blaikie did take the lead in introducing and passing a motion in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs calling for a study on establishing a National Citizens’ Assembly to investigate electoral reforms without specifying any limitations on what reforms would be considered). We are also concerned that the NDP is willing to endorse a referendum following introduction of a reformed voting system, as we do not believe that voters’ right to representation should be able to be removed by a referendum.
None of the other three parties that are polling above a couple of percentage points have anything meaningful to say about voting reform – essentially ignoring the issue in their platforms. The Liberals, of course, famously promised that 2015 would be the last election run under the First Past the Post voting system, only to renege on that promise. The only small positive for the Liberals is that their members on the Procedure and House Affairs committee did endorse Daniel Blaikie’s motion to study establishing a National Citizens’ Assembly, which we believe is critical to re-establishing public dialogue about voting reform. The Conservative members of the PHA committee voted against supporting the proposed study of a National Citizens’ Assembly.
We hope you find this analysis helpful as you consider how to cast your vote in the next couple of weeks.
Yours for a stronger democracy,
President, Fair Voting BC