Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
I want to talk a little bit more about process. We've heard—I think my colleague here was saying it earlier—the question, what's the rush? I agree that a deadline shouldn't make for bad process. At the same time, I think we've heard from a number of witnesses that Canada actually has been talking about electoral reform for a very long time. As professors, I'm sure you'll appreciate the power of a deadline to get things done and will know that either you or your students, without a deadline, may.... You know: there's always one more book to read or one more chapter to write, and having some sense of urgency can help get something done—in this case, something that many people have been talking about for a long time.
Even if it's not always foremost on the mind of voters, I think there has been a long-standing sense that somehow our elections are not always producing fair results when it comes to the Parliament. Maybe people don't have a well-defined conception of how to produce fairer results or what tweaking would be necessary or how exactly it works out, but I think there is a sense—and some elections produce that more than others—that we don't have a system that is always conducive towards a particularly fair representation of where voters are at.
I would like to see action on this. We heard one of our witnesses before say that there's been a lot of talk and not a lot of action. It's something that I would like to see action on. I feel that this committee has an important role to play not only in going out and talking to Canadians, although that is important, and not just talking to experts, but in getting something done.
Can you share some thoughts with us on what you think needs to come out of this committee in order to have something that Canadians can see as a legitimate outcome for this stage of the process and that can actually launch us into further action rather than further talk? Do you have some thoughts about what we can do as a committee to precipitate change?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
I want to go back to the issue of process. I'll maybe start by thanking Mr. Deltell. By raising some examples of where parties have received a higher percentage of the popular vote and nevertheless may have felt they needed to cede power to another party, he made an excellent case for proportional representation. So I'll thank him for that.
I want to get back to the issue of process and give Professor Cyr the opportunity to weigh in on my earlier question, which Mr. Seidle had an opportunity to answer in his response to another question. There's a commitment by the government to make the 2015 election the last one under the first past the post system. To the extent that we want to help the government keep that commitment, what can this committee do within that timeline to move this process forward and come up with an alternative that would be seen as legitimate in the eyes of Canadians, and something that we could act on? If we don't do something here, it seems to me, barring our heading out into some kind of citizens' assembly process, which poses a challenge, given the particular timeline promised by the government, the alternative seems to be to have cabinet come out with its own suggestion. What do you think needs to happen here to avoid that possibility, which I think has some problems of....
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Do you think that the committee members should at least have an idea of the kind of system they prefer before they start traveling across the country, and that consultations should focus specifically on this model? If not, how do you see this process?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
I'll just throw it back to Professor LeDuc. If we are going to move towards change for the next election, do you think the ultimate proposal for that system ought to come out of this committee, or can it come out of cabinet and have Parliament vote on that? It's going to come down to a vote in Parliament. Is it cabinet's proposal or this committee's proposal that needs to...?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
If we did decide to go to some kind of mixed member proportional system, for example, it's seems to me that one of the really important questions would be the composition of the lists and how exactly you institute some kind of open list. So maybe you've got the most closed model where it would be the party leadership that decides who's on the list; or you've maybe got a model where voters can interject because they can kind of vote within that list for candidates.
I just wonder, Professor Milner and Mr. Himelfarb, if you want to talk a little more about what you imagine might be a good model for list choice in Canada.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
You say in a system where we have open lists, in the sense that voters are able to discriminate between candidates for a particular party in their vote, the law should be silent on how candidates get on that list, or do you think it would be good to prescribe in the law a system so that each party is—
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Thank you.
I'd like to pick up on the matter of the process. As I see it, there are two considerations. First, we have to look at how we go about reaching a decision on a concrete proposal at the end of the process. Mr. Kenney talked about that. Second, Mr. Cullen touched on how we come up with a concrete proposal that is regarded as legitimate.
The consensus, I believe, was that it would be preferable to present Canadians with concrete ideas and questions when the committee engages in public consultations across the country.
The makeup of our committee makes it rather unique. In that sense, do you think that, at the end of this whole process, we should put forward the system we believe the government should adopt and lay out its attributes?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
[Inaudible--Editor]...possible for this committee to come up with the nuts and bolts, at least, of a basic proposal for change.
From a process point of view, do you think it's legitimate, then, just to have cabinet come down with its own ideas: “You guys didn't come up with a proposal, so here's cabinet's proposal, and this is what we're going ahead with”?
If those are the alternative branches of the process tree, if you will, are they anywhere near equal in terms of having a legitimate outcome?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Thank you very much for joining us for what is our evening and for talking about your various electoral systems.
One of the witnesses we heard today, who is not an advocate for any form of proportional representation, said that one of the real dangers—and he seemed quite worried about this—was that under a proportional representation system of any kind, you would get a serious fracturing of the political landscape. He went so far as to suggest that every major municipality in Canada would develop its own political party that simply put the interests of that municipality first.
In New Zealand under the MMP system, or in Australia for the upper chamber, I'm wondering, is it the case that every major municipality in your country has its own political party that simply puts the interests of the municipality first? Was that a consequence of adopting the new system?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
So even in the New Zealand case, switching to a proportional system didn't mean the end of national parties. National parties continue to be relatively strong and haven't been usurped by regionally interested parties.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
I'm curious about the Australian case because the two houses are elected by different methods. Is there a sense in Australia that the verdict of the house that's elected by the alternative vote system is more legitimate? Do Australians relate differently to the two houses based on the way that those seats are elected?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
In Canada it's usually thought that the Senate, because it's not elected, should not impede the will of the lower house in any significant way. There's no corresponding priority rule in Australia, given the different way they're elected. Is that right?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
How does the government relate to that second house? The government is formed in the lower house, presumably on a majority or as a result of a coalition or as a minority government supported by other parties. How does it represent itself in the other house? Is it often the case that the governing party in the lower house will have something near a majority in the upper house?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Keeping with the tradition of the committee, I'm going to take a question off Twitter from Julien Lamarche, who asked what I think is an interesting question. In the MMP system in New Zealand, the question is essentially what happens if a list MP decides to leave the party. Do they take the seat with them, or are they really just resigning from the legislature at that point, and the seat gets reassigned?
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