I am honoured to be here to talk about what I think is an extremely important topic. I am going to present only a tiny fraction of the material today, because I have just updated 36 variables on this question, which I understand would give me about 18 seconds of questions to talk about, so I'm going to mercifully spare you that and just give you the highlights.
I am also going to try to embed this in terms of some of the long-term shifts that have been going on. We've been tracking many of these questions for a long time. They look at the state of the relationship among citizens, democracy, and their governments, and it's very different today from what we saw in the past.
Also, the reason I think we need more than single questions is that these issues are complex. There are no simple answers to questions about whether we should be moving ahead today or delaying. To answer these questions adequately, I think you have to triangulate and look at several different kinds of variables.
I want to talk briefly about the broad state of health of democracy. Then I want to talk a little about the specific outlook on issues of electoral reform and the main options on the table. I want to broaden the horizon and talk a little about some other possible methods of improving the relationship among citizens, their government, and their democracy.
I would begin by noting that, even though things look a little better in our polling today than they did, say, a year ago, there is still a fundamental malaise. There has been a precipitous decline in trust in government over the past several decades, to the point where, in either Washington or Ottawa, the incidence of people who trust the government to do the right thing all or most of the time has gone from 70% or 80% back in the sixties to as low as 20% recently. It's risen a bit more. I want to point out that this change in outlook is not restricted to Canada. It's gone on in most advanced western democracies, and it poses very different challenges for the relationship between citizens and government.
Remember that our institutions were invented to deal with a nation of people who were working in farming, fisheries, and mining or extractive industries. They weren't particularly well educated. Those systems are showing considerable tension in terms of being able to deal with the pluralistic society we have today.
These declines are rooted in a much less deferential citizenry who are more skeptical, better informed, and looking for more than just a kick at the can every four years on election day. I'll talk a bit about that as well. There is a broad sense among Canadians that, in many cases, governments don't really care what they think. That sense of low political efficacy—“my views are really not important”—is a problem. Although it has improved somewhat in the last year, it is still a significant issue.
I would characterize the system as being in disrepair, but it is by no means hopelessly broken. In fact, we could use Churchill's famous adage about democracy being the worst system except for all the others. Canadians feel the same about their democracy. They tell us, “It has lots of flaws.” Would you prefer any others? “No, I think it's pretty good”. What we are looking at here is that Canadians want to rethink, not reinvent democracy, and that's important. They think it can be done in a way that will be fairer, more responsive, and more in tune with the current needs of the population.
On the issue of whether this is something of real importance, it depends how you ask it. This issue doesn't have the same visceral immediacy as issues around health care, climate change, or economic stagnation, but I argue that this is an issue of deep concern for citizens. In some trade-off analyses we've done, it comes out as the most important thing they would like to see governments doing.
Here's a question. I would stress that I have not actually been asking it that long. I've been around a long time, but this goes back to the fifties. It asks the question, comparing Canada with the United States, whether you can trust the government in Washington or Ottawa to do the right thing all or most of the time?
You can see that things look very different today than they did in the past. Some of that is the end of this blind deference or blind trust. That's not all a bad thing, but it does produce serious tensions in how the public looks at their democracy.
You can see that there's been a significant spike upwards. We'll have to see where that goes. There's some sort of general competence in the result of the last election that has persisted for quite a long time, but I don't think it solved the fundamental problem that we see throughout these charts.
It's also interesting to note that Canada and the United States work in lockstep despite the fact that they've had very different event episodes. What's changing this is broad changes in cultural outlook—the decline of deference, the rhythms of post-materialism.
Here's another question that I think is representative of the way some people think. “I don't think the government cares much about what people like me think.” You can see that almost half the population agree. Only 34% disagree. That's considerably improved, but there still is a serious problem here.
To look at some more specific questions, if we were going to rethink our electoral system, or if we were going to create one from scratch, what would be the most important principles that the public would want to build it on? Our research showed that are three dominant and separate principles. One of them is legitimacy or trust. People want a system that they think is fair and that they can trust. The second is that they want, pragmatically, one that produces good government. They want it to produce a government that reflects the best overall equilibrium of the values and interests of most members of the public. Finally, they want one that produces equality. They want one where all votes are of equal value. We'll return to that, but I'd like you to keep those in mind, because I think they're quite important.
You can see that there are some variations. Now, on the case about whether we need to move forward, I think the lean is clearly, yes, it would be a good idea, and the timing is right. We've been talking about this for a long time, packing our bags for a trip we seem to never take. But the fact is that there are serious divisions on this question. One of the most important, I think, is the generational divide. The sense of confidence in the current status quo is much higher amongst older Canada. There's much less receptivity to that in younger Canada. You could argue that these changes probably will have to occur at some point because of the mounting pressures and the expectations of younger Canada. But you can see the lean here. To “I see no reason to make major changes...”, 38% agree and 45% disagree. There's a lean to make major changes, but it's not decisive.
To “Canada’s electoral system does a good job in representing the will of voters and doesn’t need to be changed” and “Canada’s electoral system does not do a good job in representing what voters want and needs to be changed”, you can see that you get a pretty clear lean to, yes, it is broken, and we need to do some things, but a pretty strong residual group out there says we should leave it alone. This is very much divided on a partisan basis as well as generational. Older Canada is comfortable with the current system, and Conservative voters are comfortable; everybody else, not so much.
We looked at some of the specific preferences for electoral reform. We tested them in a couple of different ways. These are updates of the same testing that we've done over the last few years. I can point out that there's almost rock stability in some of the questions when you ask them at an unreflective level, just providing minimal information. What we did here is we randomly divided the groups into some that received a little bit more information about the basic pros and cons and other who didn't. We did find some differences. The results suggest that the first-past-the-post system did perform a little better on the detailed descriptions. That might be a result of the fact that there are complexities in trying to find some points of consensus, but the clear lean, in our view, is to go ahead with some form of proportional representation that meets the ideal of a more equal democracy. This will certainly leave some groups unhappy, but it's quite possible that a much larger group will be unhappy on the other side of the equation.
The public expects the government to deliver on its current promise. In terms of asking what they need to do to move forward, voters say, to the tune of almost 60% versus 25%, that the government promised this and they should actually deliver it. There's a clear lean to wanting this solved before the next election, but the margin isn't huge. There is concern that we do this with great care and deliberation.
You can see in here the results of the different testing on proportional representation. I think the way we present it is pretty fair and accurate, with preferential voting and first past the post. In the one where there wasn't a lot of information, the overwhelming lean was toward proportional representation. The pattern seemed similar when we gave them more information on pros and cons, but the case became more mixed. We would like to return to this sample, provide a ballot after we share the results, and get them to actually vote on this. The sample is representative of all Canadians.
To “Electoral reform is something the Liberal Party campaigned on, so they should deliver on this promise”, it was 59% to 29%. That's a pretty clear lean. On whether electoral reform was “too important to be rushed”, so we should be doing more careful consultation, people agreed with that. But to electoral reform being “crucially important” that should not be delayed to the next electoral cycle—that's one of the money questions right now—you can see there is a lean of 47% to 32%. So it's yes, but there are some who will be offside.
Now, I suggest that if we restrict our attention to just our voting system and just these three options, we will probably miss some of the opportunities to really improve the state of relationship between citizens and their governments and public institutions. The public is very warm to other innovations—for example, mandatory voting, which an increasing majority of Canadians think would be a good idea, and an online ballot. There's a strong case for doing both. The public is overwhelmingly of the view that it's time to have an online ballot.
We do our banking online. We buy our music online, and we shop online. We should be voting online. I'll look at the case for that shortly.
There is a huge demand as well.... This is less obvious. It's not what we do during elections but between elections. The public say they would feel much better about government if it regularly consulted with people like them on a reflected and informed basis. This process of citizen engagement, which really hasn't been a part of government, may be top priority for Canadians.
A number of countries, such as Australia and Brazil, have implemented compulsory voting, where citizens are required to vote. Would you oppose or support? You can see the numbers are rising. Only 29% disagree. The divisions here are not as strong across partisan or generation lines as they are in some others. We can get into this in the questions. I would argue that, as we've moved into the era of the permanent campaign, and campaigns focus on how to get my vote out and how to keep your vote home, we've had an unsavoury shift in focus from trying to define the public interest to “dark ops” and other techniques to get this vote out and keep that vote home. It would be nice to relieve that pressure. In Australia, 93.5% of people show up, and 85% support it in the same polls. It doesn't seem to favour any political party in particular. This might be something well worth looking at.
The case for online voting is even stronger. What's interesting about this is that there are no divisions across demographics. Older and younger Canadians are equally warm. If you actually did this in the next election, far more people would vote online than in a polling booth. You probably wouldn't even need a polling booth the next election after that. It would go the way of the buggy whip.
Think about some of the advantages in terms of creating a digital infrastructure that would allow this to happen. It could also be used to secure information and preferences of the public between elections, perhaps on referenda. We could talk a bit about that.
Also, the debate about rigged elections and maybe Mr. Trump's supporters showing up to monitor things would again show the advantages of doing that from a smartphone at home and not worrying about that.
When we put it all into the hopper, with the question of what the best way of improving democratic health in Canada would be, it is instructive that regular government consultation with Canadian citizens that is informed, reflected, and representative tops the list. There is a menu, a recipe of a number of things that people feel. There isn't a single magic bullet that is going to restore trust in government. They are very receptive to proportional representation. They also like the idea of online voting. Mandatory voting fits into the mix as well. The preferential ranked ballot, not so much.... It's something that people prefer somewhat to the status quo, but it really doesn't seem to be as favoured.
That's a quick tour of our findings. I think the public wants reforms that will enhance legitimacy, equality, and good government. There is no need for recklessness or speed, but there is a will and a need to move forward to the next level, and the leaning is to do that before the next election.
Thank you very much.
Before we start, we're just going to show you a short 40-second video.
We started this process with a commitment from our Prime Minister to make every vote count.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the committee, and we are here to celebrate the government's progress in carrying out one of the most important election promises.
Fair Vote Canada is a grassroots, multi-partisan, and citizen-run organization. We are supported by over 65,000 Canadians, 35 prominent advisers, 40 regional teams and chapters, and over 500 Canadian academics.
Recently, we helped found the Every Voter Counts Alliance, which represents millions of Canadian, and independent organizations who care deeply about this issue, and are calling for equal and effective votes.
I grew up in the riding of Lac-Saint-Louis, and lived in the riding of Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie. I moved to Toronto–Danforth, and I now reside in the stronghold of Kawartha–Haliburton–Brock. I used to ride my bike across my riding, and now I have to pack an overnight bag.
Every riding, every province, and every territory in this country offers a unique cultural and geographic experience.
Every Canadian is equally invested in the future and well-being of our country, and our beliefs in equality and diversity have set us apart from the rest of the world. It's written in our Constitution.
When you take a closer look at our country and the way we run our elections, you soon discover that we are not all that we profess to be. We do not live in a system based on equality, and we do not respect the diversity of this country. In fact, we cast aside half of the votes in every election, labelling our neighbours losers.
Voters should not be systematically advantaged or disadvantaged in choosing elected representatives because of who they voted for or where they live. Ridings should not be divided into strongholds and swing ridings. Minority voters should not be able to construct a parliamentary majority. We need a level playing field.
Your vote should be equal to mine and mine to every other Canadian. That is fair and democratic.
Electoral systems matter, a lot. They shape the way we do politics, politics shapes our laws, and our laws shape society.
Canada has over 35 million inhabitants and 25 million eligible voters. You often hear us talk about 39% majorities, but that number reflects all of the voters who cast their ballots for a winning party.
The truth is that just over 4.6 million voters, 20% of the electorate, elected 184 MPs who now have all the power. A fraction of Canadians get to decide on the policies that affect our lives.
Our single member ridings make our country look regionally divided, when, in fact, most parties have support across the country. Canada's democratic deficit manifests itself in other ways as well.
Government accountability and legitimacy is undermined when 51% of the voters elect no one. Canada's democratic diversity, including women, is not fully respected in the House. Voters feel compelled to vote negatively to block the election of a less-desired candidate, and unrelenting party discipline has fostered an increasing concentration of power in the PMO.
Then there's the issue of policy lurch, where governments spend their time undoing policy of the previous government, which is an incredibly ineffective way to govern. Then you get skewed results. For instance, in 2008, when the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party both achieved about 1 million votes, the Bloc got 49 seats, while the Green Party got zero.
We recognize two families of voting systems: majoritarian systems and proportional systems. One family distorts results, provides false majorities, and leaves half the electorate unrepresented. The other family corrects distortions, has a capacity to create stable majority governments, and provides effective representation for most.
We draw on the experience of over 90 countries, 85% of OECD countries, and a wide range of experts. We know PR ensures that a country's leadership and policies reasonably reflect the values and choice of a voting majority by providing representation in proportion to votes cast.
Research shows that PR outperforms winner-take-all systems on measures of democracy, quality of life, income equality, environmental performance, and fiscal policy. Canadians have asked for real change, and I believe they have given you a mandate.
Justin Trudeau promised to make all our votes count. He doubled down when he promised to deliver on all promises. Cynics are already lining up and saying you can't find consensus. The honest truth is the consensus has already been delivered to you.
Three parties stated that 2015 would be the last election using first past the post. Three parties stated that they would make every vote count in 2019. Many Canadians feel 2015 was the referendum because 63% of voters voted for parties that said they would make every vote count. In this process, over 90 of your experts have recommended proportional representation. Only five have asked for the alternative vote.
Thirteen commissions and studies have said proportional representation. Citizens turned out en masse at town halls to ask you to implement a system that is fair. Millions of Canadians are calling for change under the Every Voter Counts Alliance.
We believe that if this committee truly listens to Canadians, if it relies on an evidence-based process, and if it wants to design the best system for Canada and its citizens, it can only choose a system of proportional representation.
If democracy flows from the people, then this committee has no other choice but to recommend a system of proportional representation. This being the only body that truly reflects the way Canadians voted, the minister and the government have a duty to respect and implement your recommendation. Parties have a responsibility to work together on behalf of all Canadians. We expect you to keep your collective promises to make every vote count. The only legitimate choice is proportional representation.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak. I am a volunteer for Fair Vote Canada and was recently elected president of the organization. A lot of you already know me. I've met you in this room many times. I live just down the street, a 10-minute bike ride away, even when it rains.
I'm going to talk about the last section of our brief, which is on the different systems, MMP, STV, and rural-urban, and I'm going to do that in two and a half minutes, which is about how much time I have left.
Our general approach is to bring forward more than one proposal simply because we're a very complex organization and people have different preferences, but we are unanimous in one thing. We're unanimous that we want proportional representation and we're unanimous that we want serious proportional representation, real change not just cosmetic change. However, we've limited ourselves to three options here that are options that have been tried somewhere else in the world.
Rural/urban, you might wonder, has that been tried anywhere? Yes, it has been tried in Sweden, and it combines MMP and STV, which are systems that themselves have been tried. As a combination, it's something that we can be fairly comfortable with.
I'd like to talk about two values that when we consult Canadians, because we've been consulting with Canadians on this for 15 years, are primary for them. The first one is fairness and equality of every vote. That criterion is extremely important, because when we look at what's wrong with our current system, that's what's wrong. That's what has to be fixed. So anything that we put forward has to perform strongly on that criterion of equality.
You saw the simulations yesterday that Byron Weber Becker put forward. All three of the systems that we are putting forward have high levels of proportionality, but it does depend on how they're designed. If in this committee room, if in Parliament, you want to keep the multi-member ridings fairly small, you want to keep the top-up regions relatively small, you're going to have to sacrifice proportionality. So how do you manage that trade-off, and that's where rural/urban comes in.
Rural/urban gives you very high levels of proportionality by combining both multi-member ridings and top-up seats, and that allows you to have slightly smaller electoral districts. That's valuable if it's what you're after, so that's one of the basic arguments there.
The other thing we've heard a lot of is the importance that voters accord to voter choice. In terms of MMP, this means two things. They like the two votes that you get in MMP and they like open lists. We hear this over and over and over again. We also hear that a lot of voters like the idea of STV, once they know something about it, because STV maximizes voter choice. They like the fact that they can vote preferentially, even across parties if they want. They like that they can elect independent candidates if they want. They like the idea of having more than one MP who they can turn to and they like that all MPs are accountable directly to local constituents.
If you like voter choice, if it's an important value for you, under rural-urban PR, you can use STV and you can use ranked ballots, so it gives you those options, and you can use best runners-up for the top-up seats. In conclusion, we recommend that the special committee should propose whatever option among the three they consider most democratic and acceptable to their fellow parliamentarians.
I'm open to questions about any of these systems during the question period and we can look at other values, other desiderata, if you like, such as simplicity or local representation. I had those in my first draft, but I had to take them out because I just didn't have enough time. I also have some thoughts on designing a system that could be most politically acceptable at this particular historical juncture. That might be a question that might interest some of you to tease out with me.
Thank you. Good afternoon.
I am Ann Decter. I am the director of advocacy and public policy at YWCA Canada.
We appreciate the invitation to appear before the committee as the oldest and largest women's multi-service association in the country. The first YWCA was founded in 1870, making us pretty much as old as Canada. Our national association was founded in 1893, before women were legally persons in this country, and decades before any women were allowed to vote in federal elections or to run for election to Parliament.
YWCA Canada, our national association, was created to advocate for women's equality and continues to advocate for women's equality to this day. Developing women's leadership in all spheres of society, from girls' empowerment, to young women's leadership, to supporting campaigns to elect more women, is a major focus of YWCA Canada's work.
Our entry point to discussions of federal election reform is the lack of progress on women's equality in elected positions generally, and specifically in the representation of women in Parliament. Almost 100 years after Agnes Macphail became the first woman elected to the House of Commons, women's representation stands at 25%. At that rate of increase, it would be another century before we achieve equality in numbers in the House of Commons.
Contrast that with progress on women's equality in other spheres. A slight majority of Canada's population is women, and we are essentially an equal portion of the workforce. Young women became the majority of post-secondary graduates in 1990 and continued to graduate from universities and colleges at greater rates than young men, including in highly skilled professions like law and medicine.
While there is still a substantial income gap—women earn about 72% of what men earn for equivalent, year-round, full-time work—it is much smaller than the equality gap in Parliament.
Canada ranks number one in the world in women's education, but 62nd on women's political representation in national parliaments. With the best-educated population of women on the planet, our House of Commons remains almost three-quarters men. I think we can all agree that it is less than ideal.
We need to address the failure of the current political system to ensure progress towards women's equality in the House of Commons for women generally and also to ensure representation of the cultural and racial diversity of women in Canada. To help address the gender gap in elected representation in the House of Commons, YWCA Canada supports electoral reform that would include a change to a made-in-Canada system of proportional representation that includes local representation.
We also agree with Equal Voice that changes to the electoral system can and should include changes to the nomination process. Nomination processes have been identified as a barrier for women interested in seeking political office.
Evidence shows that proportional representation results in more women elected, particularly in countries where there is strong support for women's equality. Again, I think we can agree that Canada is such a country. A recent poll showed that over 80% of Canadians think women and men are equally good political leaders.
The current 26% is a record representation of women in the House of Commons, but it's only 1% higher than the previous election. The pace of change has slowed to a crawl. Over the 20 years and five elections from 1974 to 1994, the percentage of women MPs more than quadrupled, increasing from 4% to 18%. The six elections between 1997 and 2015 produced a 5% increase from 21% to the current 26%.
We believe that a proportional representation system developed with a gender lens—that is, attention to gender differences between women and men in politics—can change that.
I mentioned nomination processes. Only one-third of nominated candidates in the last federal election were women. In 98 ridings, or 29% of all ridings, all of the candidates were men. The percentage of women candidates nominated by party varied widely from a low of 19% to a high of 43%. Equal Voice has identified the current nomination process, overseen by the respective federal parties, as one of the major barriers to opportunities available for women who seek to become candidates.
Women have reported that the cost, lack of predictability, and lack of transparency of nomination processes are for some a major disincentive. We would like to point out that some proactive measures have been successful in nomination processes. One federal party has instituted a practice of holding off nominations until riding associations either have an equity candidate, a group which includes women, or until they can demonstrate that they have actively canvassed women and other under-represented groups for a candidate.
This strategy has been successful. In 2015, 43% of the candidates running for that party were women, compared to just 31% of the Liberals, and fewer than 20% of Conservatives. In fact, that party, the NDP, often returns the highest percentage of women in its caucus, with the exception of the Green Party of Canada, for obvious reasons.
Representation is not only an equality issue, it's a policy issue. It's generally accepted that the tipping point for policy change that reflects women's lived realities is at least 30% women in a legislature. More equitable representation of women in Parliament means that women's diverse interests are more likely to be taken into account in policy frameworks. This would include, for example, across-the-board application of gender-based analysis to federal government policies, implementation of pay equity, a well-supported national child care system, and strong representation of racialized and aboriginal women in Parliament.
YMCA Canada supports electoral reform that would include a change to a made-in-Canada system of proportional representation with local representation. We believe it will support the election of more women, and Canada needs more women elected. We need the full advantage of our well-educated population of women, and we need to build a country that truly works for all women.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for inviting the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada to give this presentation today.
Founded in 1975, the FCFA is the main voice of the 2.6 million francophones in minority communities in the country's nine provinces and three territories. The FCFA has 20 member groups: 12 provincial and territorial representative associations, and 8 national organizations representing various spheres of activity and clients. It also coordinates the Leaders Forum, a group of 42 organizations committed to the development of francophone and Acadian communities.
The members of our communities are engaged, aware of their rights, and want to be better represented in Parliament. In October 2015, they elected 16 MPs whose primary language of communication is French, and many others who are perfectly bilingual and familiar with francophone issues. This representation is very important to us. That is why the FCFA commissioned an impact study of the various electoral reform scenarios.
Our message today is the following: it is imperative that any new voting method take into account the realities of francophone minority communities in order to uphold their constitutional right to effective representation in the Parliament of Canada. To our knowledge, we are among the only ones to bring this perspective to your study.
You have before you a brief from the FCFA, which is largely based on the impact study we commissioned. The first part sets out the constitutional foundations of the representation of francophone and Acadian communities. The second part examines the impact of two models that could replace the current voting method, including a proportional representation model.
A model of proportional representation in which there would be fewer, but larger, constituencies would weaken the influence of francophones and diminish their political voice. In my riding of Saint-Boniface, 13% of my constituents are franco-Manitobans. If my riding were combined with the five neighbouring ridings, which are predominantly anglophone, this would considerably reduce the relative weight of francophones.
Another feature of the various proportional representation models is the awarding of seats based on the results of the popular vote, using candidate lists previously created by the parties. The parties would not in any way be required to include Francophone candidates on those lists. Maintaining the ability to effectively represent francophone minorities could in that sense be seriously jeopardized.
How can we ensure that francohpone minority communities continue to have a voice and a place under a proportional representation system?
Given the wide range of possible voting methods, we believe that, in analyzing the potential models, the committee should ensure that consideration of the francophone minority vote be included in its list of criteria. Perhaps measures would be needed to ensure that the party lists include a minimum number of francophone candidates or perhaps a percentage of MPs selected from those lists must come from our communities?
These remarks are of course made without the government having yet put forward a concrete proposal for electoral reform. That is why we recommend in our brief that the government launch a series of consultations on the concrete reform proposal or proposals once they have been decided upon, and that these consultations include a separate series for francophone minority communities. Any concrete electoral reform proposal must also be subject to an analysis of the impact on minority groups, including francophones. Moreover, governments must ensure that the voting method chosen makes it possible at least to maintain, but ideally to increase, the effective representation of our communities in the House of Commons.
As I said before, the members of our francophone communities are engaged, and that includes young people. In support the current campaign by the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française, the FJCF, the FCFA recommends that the Canada Elections Act be amended to change the voting age to 16. Like the FJCF, we think this could plant the seeds for a long-term commitment to civic participation among our youth. This commitment would be good for the francophonie and good for Canada.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, Canada's francophone and Acadian communities are much more than minorities. They are an integral part of Canadian identity. It is thanks to them that we can truly talk about linguistic duality from coast to coast. Our communities believe in justice and fairness and are thus always open to the idea of the Parliament of Canada being more representative of the richness and diversity of Canadian society. Yet the specific realities of our communities also mean that any reform intended to achieve that objective must also include measures to preserve their voice in the House of Commons.
Many thanks to the witnesses and to the community members for being with us this evening.
As my colleague mentioned, we're going to stay calm and ERRE on because, as we know, the Prime Minister has reiterated his deep commitment to this process, so rest assured we are soldiering on.
On that note, I would like to talk a little about some of the information we heard. I'll start with Madam Carmichael. You mentioned women, and I know I bring this up often because as a woman who ran in what you would call a non-stronghold, I must have been elected because of the electoral system. Rest assured that my decision to run for office had nothing to do with the electoral system. It had to do with the job itself. I just wanted to mention that.
You asked how voters can know if a party is running candidates. I'm pretty sure if they were to go on the party website they could see who the candidates are. I'm pretty sure people do look into that kind of information.
First of all, I would like to thank you for being with us today, Ms. Lanthier. As Quebeckers, it is very important to us to be able to communicate with citizens in their preferred language. The fact that you are here is very important to me. This is the first time we have had the opportunity to hear from someone about the reality of francophones outside Quebec.
We held a public consultation in the village of St-Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba. We were very proud to be there. I also spoke with someone from the QCGN, which represents the anglophone minority in Quebec. So we heard about that reality.
In any case, thank you for being here this evening.
Now I'd like to go back to the issue that we've been talking a little about. We've heard a lot about the importance of the nomination process. Regardless of the gender, when someone decides to run for office, there are two things. The first is getting the nomination, and the second is then winning the election.
In the testimony we have received, we've heard that women don't have a problem getting elected once they get the nomination. We're really good at winning, which is great, but it's to get the nomination. We've talked a little about fundraising, in that women may not have the means to put forth the required funding for their campaign. There are also issues with respect to day care and being able to take time off work and so on.
I know that some initiatives have been taken. I note, for instance, that in the Liberal Party we have a fund that is available for female candidates to help them. In fact, in our nomination process as well, there is a criteria that the electoral district associations must make every effort and prove they've done everything they can to find a female candidate. I'm quite happy about that as well.
The question of enticing people to run for office, though, is not always as easy because of the actual job itself. For instance, if you happen to live in Calgary, you're thinking of running for office, and you have a young family, the idea of the commute can probably be a barrier for you, the idea of not being near your family, and also, there are the long hours and so on and so forth, as well as the tone in Parliament.
I'd like to get your opinion on this. Do you think there should be more weight put on the nomination process and those barriers rather than the actual electoral system? I'm just talking about getting women elected. I'm not talking about all the other things that we can be doing. I'm just saying that I don't think it's the electoral system alone; I think it's a suite of things that we need to do.
I'd like to get your opinion, Ms. Decter, and then of course yours, Madam Carmichael.
What I think the public is saying in our surveys is that they feel a voting system that produced an equal impact from all votes would be one with which they would feel considerably more comfortable. But I do believe that the research that we've been doing over the years suggests that we should extend the horizon beyond that question, which I think we should do. The public thinks we should look at some other methods for improving the relationship between citizens and their governments.
Even though it's way outside the realm of electoral reform, when we put these things into a forced choice hopper, the public is saying that it's great to make the elections every four years as equal, fair, transparent, and valid and produce the best...That's great.
However, the skepticism and cynicism which characterizes the citizenry today, who are much better educated and have access to a blizzard of other types of information that wasn't available in previous eras, doesn't make them comfortable with the idea that they just get a kick at the can every four years. They want some kind of method between elections where the voice of citizens can be heard.
By the way, we've tested this quite carefully over the years. Even though they heartily approve of consultations where those people who have a point of view can make their views known, they also understand that they need something that is more representative, that would look more like what everybody would look like if they all showed up.
Frankly, when you're doing things like open web consultations or town hall meetings, you're going to give additional emphasis to the voices of those who are most concerned, who are perhaps most knowledgeable, who perhaps have an axe to grind, or to other types of vested interests.
We need to have an approach—and I think the tools are there and available to do this brilliantly, inexpensively, and rapidly—to provide representative, informed, and reflected input from citizens as well.
I don't want to belabour that, but this would be an important ingredient for dealing with some of the skepticism. I can show you all kinds of other indicators about how deep the scepticism is. Only 10% of Canadians trust politicians. That's cartoonishly low. When I ask if they trust people like you, well 75% trust. Well, from where are we recruiting these politicians? They must be coming from Mars because they don't look anything like the good stock of average Canadians. It's really not healthy at all.
I have one final point. Our research suggested that if you were to do routine citizen engagement, there would be an important role for MPs, which would expand the kinds of things they do. This would be a natural combination for MPs to be involved in this process of citizen engagement. It would be a really interesting additional responsibility to give to the MPs in addition to the other duties they have.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.
Mr. Lavergne, hello.
Mr. Lavergne is a regular here. I think everyone has seen him often, in the hallways, at the entrance. He always says hello.
I noticed that you were very attentive yesterday. I a previous answer, you were able to quote one of the witnesses from New Zealand word for word. I will come back to you later.
Mr. Graves, my question is for you. You did some polling research about many issues. We welcome that kind of investigation, and that kind of result.
I would like to get back to the specific issue of an electronic voting system. We are ready to make millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, for some business and banking transactions, but we are very afraid to move toward an electronic voting system.
I can speak for myself. I have an open mind, but first of all a sheet of paper can be put in the computer and it's all right. But by computer, by telephone, or something else, even by iPhone, I don't know why, maybe it's because I'm 52 years old, but I am very afraid of that.
Let me give you this example. Two weeks ago there was a huge political event in Quebec politics, the leadership race of the Parti Québécois, the official opposition. Believe it or not, it was by an electronic system and believe it or not, they had some problems.
This is why the call for the new leader was postponed for almost a full hour. Everybody wondered what happened. I got a cue from some friends there, and I still have friends even in the Parti Québécois. I'm not a separatist. Don't get me wrong, even if I do respect their position, I don't really share it.
I was told that the system crashed. Based on your polling, what do you have to say to us?