Welcome to everyone. Welcome to our witnesses, and to members of the public who are here this afternoon.
This is the third day of our three-week cross-country tour that will take us to 10 provinces and three territories. We started in Regina on Monday, we were in Winnipeg yesterday, and today we're in the great city of Toronto.
Your comments will be recorded and transcribed, just as we do when we're in Ottawa. We have two witnesses, and each witness will have 10 minutes to present. This will be followed by one round of questioning. We've been doing one round on the road, where each member is afforded five minutes to engage with the witnesses. That five minutes includes questions and answers. Please don't be offended if your time is cut off when you haven't necessarily completed your answer. It's just the way it has to be in order for things to run smoothly.
The same goes for those who come to the mike during the open-mike sessions. We're allotting two minutes per intervenor. Some of you may say that two minutes isn't really enough, but it worked very well yesterday in Winnipeg, and it worked well in Regina. It's just a question of communicating directly your thoughts and feelings on the issue, and I can guarantee you that everything will work out well.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a mixup at the airport and Mr. Reid is on his way. He's on another flight, but through no fault of his own. He'll be here very shortly, and of course, his expertise on the subject is very important to us.
Today, we have Mr. Justin Di Ciano, city councillor, Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore; and Mr. Greg Essensa, chief electoral officer for Ontario. Each of you has 10 minutes, and then we'll have a round of questions.
We'll start with Mr. Di Ciano.
Thank you, and good afternoon, Chair, and committee members. Thank you for the invitation to address you today on any potential changes to Canada's electoral system.
The choice of electoral systems is one of the most important decisions any democracy can make. The long-term purpose of any electoral system is to develop institutions that are strong enough to promote stable governments, and flexible enough to react to changing circumstances.
According to the OECD's better life index, Canada is the envy of the world for our quality of life; our prosperity; diversity; health status; environmental quality; education and skill levels; civic engagement; and most importantly, our strong, stable governments.
For many Canadians, including me, the question is, why? What issues or problems are we trying to address with electoral reform? What imbalances currently exist in our electoral process that require such a change? Most importantly, what long-term consequences will result from our short-term political and partisan interests?
With recent polls showing that barely 3% of Canadians are engaged in this topic, the question I ask this committee is, are we searching for a solution to a problem that does not exist? As a politician in Canada's largest and most diverse city, I can assure you more than 3% of Canadians would be engaged if we were discussing a clear plan to strengthen the middle class, and build an economy that protects and creates better-paying jobs.
If we want to engage Canadians on issues, then our governments need to engage Canadians on the issues that need fixing. Our voting system works well. It provides representation from a geographical, descriptive, and ideological perspective. It produces stable and efficient governments capable of enacting timely legislation. It is simple to understand, ensuring every voice is heard, every ballot is counted, and a citizen's right to vote continues to be fully exercised.
The potential alternatives being proposed fall into two broad categories: proportional representation and ranked choice voting, or hybrids of both.
Proportional representation is purpose-built for instability. Say goodbye to stable, majority governments that think and govern long-term, and in the best interests of Canadians. Say hello to coalition governments, similar to Italian, Israeli, and Australian-style parliaments with constant protests, upheaval, and elections where single-issue parties, religious fundamentalists, anti-immigrant, and personal vanity parties must be courted to create coalition governments.
Did I mention constant elections? Italy has had over 30 prime ministers in 40 years. Australia has had three prime ministers in four years. Yesterday, spoke at the UN about the dangers of politicians exploiting people's anxiety. Proportional representation systems regularly provide single-issue or extreme parties a disproportionate influence over who forms government, and under what conditions. When you have a problem, who do you call? You won't have a constituency MP because legislators are picked by parties on lists. Say goodbye to local representation.
Is Canada really better off replacing an electoral system that produces stable governments capable of governing long-term in exchange for short-term coalition governments whose fringe parties hold the balance of power?
Alternatively, ranked choice voting has been shown to suffer from a number of democratic shortcomings that cannot be overcome. Data from jurisdictions that have changed to ranked choice voting clearly shows that it produces drastic increases in voter error by disadvantaged, ethnic, elderly, and non English-speaking voters. It is costly to administer, and requires massive education campaigns, not just once but before each and every election. It requires high-tech voting machines that use complex algorithms that make scrutiny and confidence in the system questionable. Say goodbye to hand counting ballots in exchange for a black box that spits out election results.
Empirical data shows that ranked choice voting continues to have a negative effect on voter turnout. A further review of ranked choice voting election results in the United States over the past 15 years shows no evidence to suggest that ranked choice voting helps elect more women or minorities to public office. There is also no concrete data that supports the argument that ranked choice voting reduces strategic voting and negative campaigning.
A quick Google search into any RCV race in the U.S. will show results in multiple media articles that demonstrate strategic voting and negative campaigning are alive and well in ranked choice elections.
Most importantly, contrary to media statements and coverage, ranked choice voting does not produce a majority result. Ranked choice voting is a plurality system just like first past the post. The U.S. ninth district federal court of appeals has gone as far as ruling that ranked choice voting is not a majority system and in fact remains a plurality system.
Under our current first past the post system, every ballot is counted, every voice is heard. Under ranked choice voting, only continuing ballots are counted. This means that in an election with multiple candidates, if you did not choose to rank the candidates who continue to the final runoff, your vote is eliminated; or if you made a ranking error somewhere along the line, your vote is eliminated. It is put into the trash can. Your vote is not counted anywhere. This is called an exhausted ballot. The ultimate winner does not get 50% of the original votes cast; they get 50% of the continuing ballots. That is not a majority.
Let me be clear. I am a lifelong Liberal. When the committed to electoral change, I was intrigued. I was for ranked ballots before I was against it; however, when I analyzed the data in jurisdictions where they have tried alternative voting systems, I realized there were serious flaws and drawbacks. After extensive time studying this issue, I have concluded that no system is perfect, but that Canada's first past the post system has served Canadians well.
I believe that any potential changes to our electoral system must build on the success of our electoral process of the past 100 years by continuing to ensure voting is kept simple and most importantly, a citizen's right to vote continues to be fully exercised.
Thank you for inviting me to appear today. I am pleased to provide whatever advice I can on the important questions before this committee, and I'd like to offer you my thoughts on four topics: one, citizen expectations; two, the governing principle; three, modernizing elections; and four, public consultation.
The first thing I will advise you is this, Ontarians are facing across-the-board changes in the electoral process. Municipalities may now choose to elect their mayors and councils using a ranked ballot system, provincial contribution and spending reform is being debated, and changes to the administration of elections are promised to follow. Federally, this committee is mandated to consider the adoption of a new voting process and other innovations.
I believe that all Canadians expect that there will congruence in their election laws when it makes sense. However, I also know from speaking with my colleagues across Canada that citizens look to their electoral agencies and to their legislators to learn from, build on, and improve on what they see in other jurisdictions. While change may sometimes be daunting, the interest in these issues speaks to the vibrancy of our democratic institutions.
Earlier this year I appeared before a committee of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. I spoke of Ontario being at a watershed moment. I noted that provincial legislators have an opportunity to strengthen the integrity and legitimacy of the electoral process. Canada is at a watershed moment, too, and this committee has the same opportunity. Legislative debate, by necessity, involves the sharp clash of ideas. I believe citizens expect and encourage this from their lawmakers. However, I also believe that citizens want partisan rancour and short-term political self-interest to be set aside when their election laws are written.
Election laws are supposed to put the interests of electors first. This simple proposition upholds the principle of responsible government. As Chief Justice McLachlin noted in a landmark voting rights case, “In a democracy such as ours, the power of lawmakers flows from the voting citizens, and lawmakers act as the citizens’ proxies. This delegation from voters to legislators gives the law its legitimacy or force.”
Our election laws must, above all else, respect and serve the democratic rights of electors.
In serving, the public election agencies must remain non-partisan; thus, I cannot come before this committee to say that Canada must keep or change its voting system. As an election administrator I must remain neutral; however, based on my 32 years of experience administering elections, I can advise this. Electoral reform, be it a change to election finance laws or a voting process, is best accepted by citizens when there is a widespread understanding of and agreement with its principles.
Academics can tell you that there are a variety of voting systems used in Westminster-style democracies. As a chief electoral officer I can tell you that a voting system works best when there is public consensus, and the electoral outcomes are thus legitimate.
The question of whether a nation, a province, or a local community should keep an existing system or adopt a new one is really a question for democratic debate. That debate can be in a legislature, an election, a referendum, or some other process. From my perspective, the most important outcome, whether or not the voting system is changed, is that electors have an electoral process that they know and believe is legitimate. An electoral system will be legitimate if, in putting the needs of the electorate first, it maintains a level playing field. All participants vying for public support or attention during an election should compete on an equal footing.
The concept of the level playing field must be applied in all aspects of elections, both in voting rules and campaign finance rules. Over time our electoral system has grown and changed to adapt to modern challenges. As an election administrator, let me speak of what this means.
We live in an era of innovation and transformation. There was only limited use of the Internet 25 years ago. Now, global connectivity is the norm. The applications and devices we use are replaced at a rapid pace. The ability of electoral agencies to keep pace is rightly questioned. We need to serve voters in modern ways, but must also be mindful of the opportunities and risks of technology. We are all aware that network voting applications and equipment do exist. The challenge is not the lack of technology, but the questions concerning the privacy, security, and reliability of these technologies.
Online access is a reality of everyday life, and so, too, is hacking, and large-scale data breaches. I have no doubt that everyone in this room, through no fault of their own, has experienced the inconvenience of a financial institution cancelling a debit or compromised credit card. It would be exponentially more frustrating to have your vote cancelled or compromised. There is little public appetite for election results to be annulled because of security or data breaches.
As I publicly reported in a 2013 report to the Ontario legislature, election administrators around the world are grappling with this question, and there is no commonly adopted solution.
I believe in change and innovation. I have piloted the use of technology and am requesting further authority to do so on a regular basis. Canadians must prepare for the day when network voting is a reality. That day is coming soon, but has not yet arrived.
Before I conclude my remarks, I would like to speak for a moment about the process of electoral reform. At the outset, I mentioned that there needs to be an opportunity for public debate when considering electoral reform. In Ontario we have seen all manner of debate on election laws over the last decade, and let me talk about three of these experiences from the perspective of my agency.
The first experience dates from 2007. Provincial voters were asked whether or not they wished to adopt proportional representation. This choice was put to them in a referendum, run in conjunction with the general election. That recommendation was formulated by a citizens' assembly comprised of representatives from every electoral district. John Hollins, my predecessor, was mandated to select members of the citizens' assembly, and our agency was then mandated to run a public education campaign on the referendum question during the general election. The referendum outcome was that Ontarians chose to keep their first past the post voting system.
The second experience involved the review of the Ontario election act that resulted in amendments in 2010. In 2008 the Legislative Assembly struck a select committee to examine Ontario's election laws. It commissioned research and held public hearings. Following its report, the government introduced a bill that enacted many administrative improvements and accessibility-focused measures. The process allowed for full public debate, incorporated the majority of my office's recommendations, and improved public satisfaction in the administration of general elections and by-elections since 2010.
The third experience involved recent changes the Ontario government proposed to our province's election finance laws. For many years, I have recommended that an expert commission be appointed to propose necessary changes to our election finance laws. Instead of establishing a commission, I was invited to sit with a legislative committee and asked to provide my advice. I am not aware of another independent officer in Ontario ever having been asked to sit with a legislative committee hearing a bill.
The bill is still working its way through the legislative process, and to date the committee has failed to reach consensus. I hope this changes. I think Ontarians share my hope.
I am sure the way the federal and provincial governments have chosen to embark on electoral reform will be debated by pundits and political scientists in the years to come. As an election administrator, let me share my perspective on two key points, one involves process and the other involves substance.
In terms of process, there are a variety of ways governments can consult citizens about electoral reform. Sometimes that process may require the involvement of an election agency, as it did in Ontario with the citizens' assembly and the referendum. If and when the process does require the involvement of an election agency, legislators need to afford the agency sufficient time and resources to implement those requirements. The process also needs to respect that election agencies can and should have a role in providing public education about elections.
By necessity, however, they must remain strictly non-partisan, especially if the agency is also required to administer a referendum or plebiscite on the issue. I firmly believe that an agency can only supplement a larger partisan debate with basic factual information. It must not be tasked with commenting on the ideological merits of electoral reform. To do so would violate the neutrality that agencies must, by definition, maintain.
Finally, when it comes to making recommendations on the substance of election laws, I can tell you that chief electoral officers across the country think long and hard before doing so. Government and opposition legislators may be focused on the immediacy of an upcoming election; however, electoral administrators take a more inclusive and longer-term view on the broad implications of proposed changes. I think citizens recognize and listen to what their election administrators recommend and the public questions when, without adequate explanation, those recommendations are not reflected in our election laws.
Thank you for inviting me to speak.
Before I conclude, I would like to publicly thank Mr. Marc Mayrand for the leadership and advice that he has provided to my agency and to all agencies across Canada. As Mr. Mayrand has announced he is retiring, I want to let Parliament know the great contribution he has made to this country.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
Thank you to our witnesses for being here, and a very warm welcome to the public who have gathered concerning this to us critical issue.
One thing I want to set out, which may not have been said yet, is that the mandate of this committee is, “...to identify and conduct a study of viable alternative voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system....” That is what we are engaged in. That is the frame in which we operate: to identify and study those.
In terms of Mr. Essensa's comment—I think he said “think long and hard”—I absolutely agree. I believe Parliament started thinking about this in 1921, with the first study on changing the voting system. We have had 14, 13—Elizabeth will correct me—national studies, by the Law Commission and others. I'm not sure that number 14 or 15 is going to do the trick in terms of evidence or of being able to study alternatives.
The frame I operate in is that we're changing. The questions are to what and how. I think those are legitimate comments brought up by both of our witnesses today.
Mr. Di Ciano, I want to start with a couple of things you said.
Your concern, particularly around the ranked ballot, the alternative vote, is that votes are wasted—as you said, put into the trash can. As you go down the voting process, some votes are simply not counted.
Am I misrepresenting what you said?
Thank you all for coming to meet with us today.
I would like to say hello to my colleagues and the team. I would also like to greet Mr. Boulerice, who is joining us today, and the people in the audience. Thank you for coming to listen to us. We look forward to hearing from you later today.
I have some questions for Mr. Essensa first and for Mr. Di Ciano afterwards if I still have time.
Mr. Essensa, according to what you said, for a change to be successful, a broad consensus is needed, which takes time. You said that the reform or the new system has to be clearly understood, accepted, and legitimate in the eyes of the people.
The government made a commitment to change the voting system by the next election. However the Chief Electoral Officer in Ottawa told us that, to do so, the system had to be voted on, agreed upon, passed in the Senate and referred back to the House by next spring.
In your view, is that realistic?
I want to thank the witnesses for being with us today and thank all the participants from Toronto who've come here. I hope we'll hear from as many as possible in the open-mike session.
I was pleased before we began this session, in chatting with Greg Essensa, to hear from you, sir, your appreciation for the fact that this committee is doing extraordinary outreach and more than parliamentary committees usually do in terms of open-mike sessions and travelling the country. It's certainly my hope that we'll provide the increased legitimacy in the course of our work.
I also want to thank you publicly, as Ontario's electoral officer, for standing up and offering your views on the Fair Elections Act as it was going through Parliament. It was important, I think, to focus attention on problems, like barriers to voting, and not on fake problems, like extensive voter fraud in Canada.
I wanted to ask a question first of Mr. Di Ciano. In your opening testimony you said that barely 3% of Canadians are engaged on this topic. I wanted to help you out with this. This is, I think, a misunderstanding of evidence that we had from Darrell Bricker, who's a pollster. He broke down a series of questions about how many people knew about the promise that 2015 would be the last election held under first past the post. That was a bigger number, and then it got smaller when he asked how many people are aware that there's going to be a public process on electoral reform. Then the smallest sample was about how many people know this process has started. The concern I have, frankly, is the lack of national media interest, or even local media interest, as we travel the country. It's hard for Canadians to know a process has started if a parliamentary committee travelling the country can't get even a local reporter to come to the hearings. The role of our media is an important part of democracy.
I just wanted to clear that up for you. You don't have any other source of information for the idea that only 3% of people care about this issue?
Okay, well then you'll be very relieved to know that one of the core principles guiding any recommendations that come from this committee is that we must preserve Canadians' traditional affection for, and familiarity with, the principle of local representation. I want to give you my word right now, as a member of this committee, that from all the evidence we're heard, and knowing my 11 colleagues, I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell that we could possibly recommend the systems used in Italy or Israel. They are completely inappropriate for Canada and they don't meet the threshold of the minister's five principles.
I know you're involved in a campaign called Keep Voting Simple. I hope you'll not use Italy and Israel as examples of PR because they are pure list systems with no local representation, so they can't possibly ever be recommended by this committee or the Government of Canada. I want to reassure you and I urge you to read those principles.
Do you feel better now about that? You don't have to worry about those things at all. Okay, good.
Mr. Essensa, one of our other core principles is public trust and integrity in the voting system.
One of our earlier witnesses, the head of the Institute on Governance, Maryantonett Flumian, spoke of democracy and voting and electoral reform as an ecosystem with many variables. You've raised one of them, namely campaign financing.
I know you've also been concerned about the ability of our federal elections officers and the elections commissioner to investigate crimes during an election. You, sir, I understand, have the ability to compel testimony in an investigation.
In the half a minute I have left for my time, could you speak to this issue of what Elections Canada should be able to do to investigate crime?
Yes. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed it. It is not a majority system; it is a plurality system, just like first past the post. It's not a one-two-three system, and if a voter doesn't correctly pick the final two candidates on their list on the ballot, their vote is exhausted.
In an election of first past the post, if 100,000 people voted, on the television screen, then, among the first, second, third, and fourth people there should be 100,000 people who voted. In first past the post, they're exhausted. You left dinner on the table, you left work early, you got a babysitter for the kids, you did what you had to do to go and vote, and under first past the post, if you didn't guess or select the right people, your vote is discarded; it's put in the garbage.
So it is not a majority system. They changed the denominator of majority. First they say the majority is 50% plus one, and then they say, well, candidates get taken off the ballot until someone gets a majority of the votes.
Well, it's a majority of the continuing ballots; it's not a majority of the total ballots cast. To me, it's just disingenuous to say that it's a majority system.
Thank you, everyone; thank you for your very interesting presentations. My thanks also to those who came here to participate in this essential and fundamental discussion on the quality of our democratic life.
Mr. Di Ciano, you may have wanted an electoral reform at one point, but I think you have since lost faith.
I have two comments. First, you said that our system must remain simple. We in the NDP believe that a very simple rule is to give a party that has 30% of the vote about 30% of the seats. It’s simple, it’s called proportional representation.
You have also suggested that the proportional voting system could lead to further political instability and more elections than the majority system we have known for 149 years.
I have some figures in front of me. Sweden, which has a proportional voting system with a distribution of votes called the “Sainte-Laguë method,” has held 21 elections since World War II. Ireland, which uses the single transferable vote system, has had 20 elections since World War II. Germany, which has a mixed member proportional representation voting system, has had 18 elections since World War II. Meanwhile, Canada has had 23.
So there is no correlation between the type of voting system and the number of elections that a country might hold, except perhaps Italy, which is the only example that keeps coming back.
Mr. Essensa, could you tell us about your experience as the Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario? What are the reasons generally given by Ontarians for not going to the polls, for not voting?
When I speak about electoral reform at all, certainly to my students, the devil is in the details. Of course, any change is going to involve many small decisions that will affect the trade-off between accountability and representation.
Today I'd like to provide comment on two aspects of representation that I think are really essential to consider when thinking of any kind of change, especially to a PR system.
The first is local representation. This is one of the principles outlined in the committee's mandate, and it's a fundamental feature—many would say a benefit—of our current system. I think it's very important to Canadians. Voters are used to knowing that there's a specific MP they can go to with comments, questions, or concerns, and having a local MP really gives a personal face to the government. The voter-MP link also facilitates accountability, because voters know who to blame in the next election.
Beyond that, having local representation is also very important for the activities of parties. Parties cannot ignore ridings if they want to be competitive in them. Campaigning matters. Furthermore, who the local candidate is can matter. Many voters take who they are electing into account, not just the party that they represent.
If Canadians were to lose that link between voters and local MPs, an important aspect of campaigning could be in jeopardy, and this would be detrimental to how much voters know about politics, how engaged they are, and whether they even care about elections. Political science research shows that personal contact is important and can mobilize. Given that engagement is also a principle of this system, it seems that the issue is quite relevant.
How does local representation factor into electoral systems? If the goal is simply to maintain the single-member districts we currently have, then the options are severely restricted: first past the post, ranked voting, or mixed system.
But it's not true that local representation cannot exist in PR systems. What matters is the magnitude or number of seats per district. Any number greater than one would lead to more proportionate outcomes than our current system, and many systems around the world have districts with low magnitudes. Experts would suggest that between three and seven is an ideal number.
Multi-member constituencies would certainly be a change for Canada, but they have been used in Canada before, and they would not necessarily eliminate all the types of local representation that Canadians are used to. Accountability is certainly clearest in single-member districts, but it can still occur when there's a small number of MPs. Further, constituency ties would be weakened in a multi-member district, but the need for candidates to campaign wouldn't be completely eliminated.
In fact, in multi-member districts, the incentive for candidates to encourage personal voting or to appeal to voters with their own credentials to represent the riding could be stronger. As most parties would put forward more than one candidate, there could be an incentive to distinguish oneself from others, depending on the nature of the ballot. This could actually increase the amount of riding-level campaigning that occurs.
In my estimation, it's very important when choosing an electoral system to be concerned that the incentive to campaign in individual ridings remain very strong, because it's an important aspect of our current system.
The second aspect of representation I want to mention has to do with under-represented groups. Earlier witnesses to this committee have made the point that electoral reform is neither required nor a guarantee that representation of such groups as women and visible minorities will increase. They are absolutely right—I shouldn't disagree with my colleagues, should I?—but there are several steps that could be taken even under our current system to improve representation. It's important to think that if we do move to a new electoral system, the features of those systems that make representation more likely need to be thoroughly considered.
We know that there tend to be more female representatives in PR systems. This outcome can occur usually by virtue of simply greater representation on candidate lists. This means that the identities of the candidates put forward by the parties are extremely important.
The extent to which representation would drive the construction of candidate lists could vary, but in a society such as ours, in which voters and the media pay attention to such issues, I think it's highly unlikely that it would go unnoticed if a party put forward an all-white, all-male set of candidates. Nonetheless, it could happen. The recommendation of supplementary policies to ensure that it didn't is a very important component of electoral systems.
Such policies, or how extreme they need to be, would depend upon any electoral system chosen, including our current system. Any financial incentives to comply with such official policies—or quotas, especially—would be a good idea.
In any system that involves a list of candidates, we have to start thinking about the placement of those names on the list. In a closed system, where the parties have full control over the order in which the candidates would receive seats, it's important that there is some kind of alternation, or that at least the under-represented groups aren't placed in winnable positions. In open list systems this is not as important. In some research I've done with colleagues, we found that letting people vote in an open list system, where they get to choose, increased the representation of women, which is of course good news, right? The disadvantage that women supposedly represent has not been supported with evidence.
An audience distribution of representation is more likely to happen in multi-member districts, but it's important that we be aware of any loopholes that exist. Parties want to win office, they want to govern as they desire, and this would include having their party stalwarts as part of their team. Without policies in place to prioritize representation over possible party interests, the representation benefits of a PR system could be lost.
As mentioned, I'm here to discuss issues pertaining to people with sight loss in Canada. It is important we remember that every Canadian has a right to vote independently, to be able to check the ballot to make sure that it's been correctly marked, and to be able to do this in secret. This is a right of every single Canadian.
I'd like to tell you, although I'm about to give you my age, that in the 51 years that I have been on this planet, I have never once been able to vote independently and in secret in a federal election. The election process currently as it stands is not accessible to people who are blind in Canada. We have Braille ballots, or at least the names in Braille, but the ballot is still a paper ballot. We have templates that we put the ballot into, but unless you're a Braille reader—and only currently approximately 3% of Canadians who are blind read Braille—you're not able to use the template. Even if you are, like me, a Braille reader and someone who can use the template, I can mark my ballot, but I cannot check it. I still need to have somebody with me in the polling booth in order to check the ballot.
Often what happens is I go to the polling station and the people there say, “Oh, we didn't realize that there was a Braille ballot”, and I now need to ask for assistance to vote. Often that person is provided to me. They're a perfect stranger, I have no idea who they are. I go into the booth, I tell them who I want to vote for, they check my ballot off, and we go and vote. In fact the last time I voted, somebody said to me, “Tell me who you voted for in the last election”, and I said, “Well, I can tell you who I thought I voted for, but I can't tell you who I voted for because I have no idea where the check mark was on the ballot”.
The person helping me, despite the fact that they take an oath..... May I remind everybody that a marriage vow is an oath, and that is not always upheld—
Voices: Oh, oh!
Ms. Diane Bergeron: —and maybe neither is the oath of the people who are voting for me. I don't know, they are perfect strangers, so their oath means little to me.
I think that as we look forward into the electoral process it's important to look at pieces like electronic and online voting. It needs to be accessible. Technology and adaptive technology has made the world open up to people who are blind or partially sighted. This doesn't mean it's going to resolve the problem for everybody, but it is definitely going to give the majority of Canadians who are blind and partially sighted the opportunity to vote independently in secret, check their ballot, and be considered equal citizens within this country, which I believe it's time that we are considered.
The other piece is mandatory voting. Although CNIB does not take a position on mandatory voting, I think it's important to remember that if you are not going to make the system 100% accessible to every Canadian, exceptions need to be put in place. I don't think it's right to tell me that I have to go vote, and then tell me, “Oh, but by the way you're not allowed to do it in secret because we don't have this accessible.”
First, I encourage the committee to consider electronic and online voting, but to please make sure it's accessible to everybody and to make sure that it is tested by people with adaptive equipment to make sure that it does work and it's not just a system that somebody says works. Second, please make sure that there are exceptions, so that we're not being told we need to vote when we're not being given the same rights as everyone else.
First, thanks to the committee for inviting me to speak today. I'm honoured to be here.
I am here as an advocate for more women in politics. I'm one of the founders of an organization called Equal Voice, which is a multipartisan organization that promotes more women in politics. I'm past national chair of Equal Voice and I'm also founder of a group called the Campaign for an Equal Senate. We're fighting for a gender-equal Senate for Canada. I'm also a pollster, a former senior vice-president of Environics Research. But I speak here today as an individual, not as a representative of any group.
I am not an expert in electoral systems and I dare not debate the very fine points of electoral systems. I look at our systems through the lens of how they help us advance women in politics. That is my lens for looking at our institutions.
I'm here to remind what the sad facts are of female representation in Parliament. Today only 26% of Parliament is female, and that has gone up only one point since 2011—over four years, only a one-percentage-point improvement. We must do better.
As well, Canada now ranks 64th. I just looked up the ranking in the Inter-Parliamentary Union stats. I can say that in all of my decades of being an advocate, I don't think we've ranked as poorly as we do today. We must do better.
Why do we care? Women's voices have to be there. It's a matter of democratic representation. Decisions are made in our Parliaments. Women have to be there. I also know from my career as a pollster that there are a number of issues on which women and men differ in their opinions, and if women are not there, their opinions, their views on public policy matters are not adequately represented.
How do we solve the situation? Electoral reform is one key to change, and we now have, with a government committed to change, a historic opportunity to put in place a system that would enhance women's representation.
As we know the facts of women's representation, we also know a great deal about the research concerning which systems are better for electing women. We know this from a report that Equal Voice recently did. Fair Vote Canada has done tremendous work. The IPU has conducted research, as well as the Library of Parliament and many other organizations.
The conclusion: majority systems, including first past the post, are poor at electing women. According to the IPU, women won on average only 14% of all seats in these systems in the year 2012. Overall, women hold fewer than 20% of seats in countries using these systems. When it comes to alternatives, preferential voting is no better. PR systems are best for women, and such mixed systems as MMP are somewhere in between.
According to a summary prepared by Equal Voice, women hold more than 25% of seats in countries using various PR systems and about 23% of seats in mixed systems. Of the top 10 countries in the world in terms of women in parliaments, nine use either PR—five of them—or a mixed system, four.
I also think we have to recognize that PR systems, whatever their elements, do not guarantee that more women are elected, and it is a fact that many countries with more women in their parliaments have adopted some form of quotas. According to a new Inter-Parliamentary Union report, more than 120 countries have some form of quotas for electing women, and among the top 10 countries in the world, seven have some form of female quota.
Even on their own, PR systems, I would argue, make it more likely that women will be elected. We can see this, for example, in Finland and Denmark. Research also shows that the act of changing a system is likely to increase the numbers of women elected, as we have seen in New Zealand.
Last but not least, we also have the possibility of creating our own Canadian system.
I'm not sure whether this committee has called former prime minister Kim Campbell to speak, but Ms. Campbell has proposed dual-member ridings with one female and one male representative for each riding and she has put this forward as a simple and effective way to guarantee gender equality. What Ms. Campbell says is that she feels that this system fits very closely our current system, and she speaks passionately and at length about the benefits of a dual-member system. In this system, we all vote for both candidates. It's not that women vote for the women and men vote for the men, but all of us vote for a female and male candidate in a riding. I urge you to speak with Ms. Campbell about her proposal, which I think is very innovative and of course Canadian-made.
In conclusion, we have the opportunity to change the way we elect Canadians, with a federal government that has committed to this. Let's choose wisely, and let's focus on a system that much better represents half of our population.
Thank you very much.
Good afternoon. Welcome, everyone.
I'll start with a comment to Diane Bergeron. By the way, you have the same first and last name as my grade 6 teacher, who was an extraordinary teacher.
Your testimony is very moving—I think I am speaking for the group. It is incredible to hear that, in your entire life, you have never been able to vote properly and confidentially in a federal election. I think that needs to change. We have taken good note of that today.
However, I will express some concern about online voting, which might eventually lead to fraud. We have heard a lot about cybersecurity, intimidation, identity theft and even vote buying. So we must remain cautious on that front.
I now have a comment and a question for Ms. Dasco.
The fact that we don't have 50% of the elected representatives in the federal Parliament and in the other levels of government speaks partly to the failure of the voting system, but primarily to the failure of our society. A host of measures need to be considered. This needs to change. I think the private member's bill from my colleagues' party is a step in that direction.
I would like to ask you more about the system put forward by Kim Campbell, who was actually in the only party that had perfect equity, with as many men as women. As we may recall, she was elected with Jean Charest at the time. In her model, the size of the ridings would be literally doubled and there would be two representatives. Is that correct?
Previously I wasn't able to give a shout out to my city, but it's nice to be in Toronto, and have our first female panel, and have all our committee together.
I was born in Toronto and I'm the member for Brampton North. I'm quite proud to say that in Brampton we outnumber the male MPs. We have 50% representation at the provincial level for the MPPs, and our mayor is a strong female role model, as well. We're doing quite well in the city of Brampton and I'm proud of that. I think mentorship is important, and since I've become a member of Parliament I've been mentoring a lot of young women to come up to Ottawa and spend time with me there to get some intrigue into politics.
When I first ran, I had a lot of people who weren't even in politics saying “Oh, I don't think you should run for federal politics. You would have to move away. Maybe you should look at the provincial level or the municipal level”. At a younger age I had people saying to me, “Oh, you're going to become a lawyer, and you're going to get into politics? Maybe you should be a school teacher. That's a good job for family life”. Throughout the campaign you hear stuff like, “Are you going to be able to handle the heat?” Those are the kinds of comments that are made to women often.
We are simplifying some of the things we're looking at here by saying one electoral system over another. We've had comments made that we'd have more compromise, or the political process will become more tame and more women will get involved. I think we're also perpetuating a stereotype once again that women don't want to be involved in politics, but there is a big problem. I put this question out to you, Ms. Dasco. Are women wanting to get involved, or are women not wanting to get involved, and if so, why are they not being elected in equal numbers? Do you think it's the electoral system, or do you think it's the quota that we need to get in place first and foremost, or a combination? What are the other barriers and factors that are preventing us from having an equal number of female representatives in the country?
Okay, that gives me a sense.
I appreciate you sharing your personal experience with us today. It was a powerful testimony for me.
I'm going to move now to Professor Stephenson.
I had read the same article that my colleague, Mr. DeCourcey, had read. In your concluding comments, you indicate that moving to a different system will generally benefit small parties. I've been sitting here mulling it over, and I'll give you a bit of a preamble, but ultimately I'm asking, to what magnitude would small parties benefit?
I'll give you a couple of examples of what's been going through my head.
In the neighbouring riding to me, the Libertarians ran a candidate. In my riding, there was a Conservative, a Liberal, an NDP, and a Green. A number of people who voted Green, for example, said that truly was their first choice. A number of other people voted Green because it was their protest vote, and they felt that it was the only way they could say that they were disillusioned with the system. They weren't going to support any of the main three parties.
Through the research that you've done, did you get a sense of how many people might move from that protest vote? You said strategic voting is 3%. I've seen strategic voting being more like somebody who decided at the last minute to vote for Liberal versus NDP so they could get the Conservatives out.
On the question of the protest vote, in the research that you've done, have you looked at that? I'm trying to understand if it could harm some of the small parties where people would say that under a proportional representation system they could win a seat. Would that swing them to a different party or to go in to vote a ballot spoilage instead of the protest vote? Does your research support any of that or provide any indication of what voters are thinking?
Thank you very much. I am delighted to have an all-female panel, and I just have to highlight that the government side of this committee did name two women MPs to this committee.
I hear a lot of testimony where folks claim that it is the electoral system that prevents women from running. No one has ever asked me, “Why did you run? How did you win?” I can guarantee that first past the post, MMP, or whatever had nothing to do with my decision to run for office, nor did it have anything to do with my winning. It was hard work; it was grit. I ran in my home riding, which was never going to go Anglo-Liberal, but I did it. I proved them wrong. I worked hard, and I did it.
As for the comment about the military, well, as the mother of two sons currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, I am also sitting on the national defence committee, so I can guarantee you that military spending is top of mind for me as well.
My point is that I really do not believe that our electoral system, the way we vote, has anything to do with women pursuing public office or winning. If we want to have more people, regardless of whether it is women or families with young children...we heard testimony that it is geography, location. If you live in B.C., flying 10 hours to get to Ottawa, twice a week, back and forth, has a huge impact on work-life balance. The fact that there is no maternity leave for women serving in the House of Commons is a problem. The fact that we only now have put in a day care is a problem. It has nothing to do with first past the post. In fact, I loved the competition: bring it.
I want to make sure we clarify that it has nothing to do with the voting system. I firmly believe that. If we keep trying to blame the voting system for it, we are never going to address the real problems.
I would like to get your ideas on this, because we heard testimony from Melanee Thomas that it has nothing to do with it. I would love to hear your feedback on that.
Hi. Thanks for the opportunity. I want to mention that I feel particularly represented on this committee with Ruby Sahota, one of our MPs from Brampton.
I want to start with my bottom line. Canadians need and expect equal and effective votes, and only a proportional voting system will provide this. We look to you, our MPs, to provide the leadership to get this job done. Canadians have many concerns: job security, providing for their families, the environment, health care, and so on. However, we cannot move forward on those urgent needs until we fix the foundation of our governance. We must have a government that's working for us and not against us.
I have to come to show you what one of the privileged 3% who follow electoral reform look like. I don't know if I'm typical or not, but I hear a lot about us.
I'm a retired tax accountant. Until I went on sick leave, my days were occupied with work and taking care of my three children as a single parent. I voted against PR in the Ontario referendum because that's what I gleaned from the media that I perused over my lunch hours. Now I have plenty of time to wonder why my children will not have the same opportunities that I had. I wonder why there's still so much poverty in our wealthy country, why the gulf between rich and poor is increasing, why climate change remains such a threat, why precarious employment and disappearing pensions have become acceptable, why corporations choose to park billions offshore instead of supporting their communities with their tax dollars.
Working in a Big Four accounting firm, I learned something about the culture of large institutions. In my experience, two things matter: the foundation and the leadership. We cannot have good governance based on a foundation that divides Canadians into winners and losers, that was intended to preserve a master-serf relationship, that frustrates our natural inclination for collaboration and compromise, attributes that have served Canadians so well in the past.
Proportional representation is a small change that can change the culture of our governance, that can make it truly representative of and accountable to Canadians. PR makes other badly needed changes possible. PR is a basic civic right that we expect. Canadians need PR now because we have so many other urgent needs and concerns that must be addressed.
My name is Scott Allardyce. I am the founder of the Canadian Disability Alliance. We are an advocacy group for people with disabilities. You can find us on Facebook. We have about 1,300 members across the country. We've existed since 2009. We don't support any political party and we're not opposed to any political party.
We've come up with five recommendations. I'll go through them very quickly. Even though I know the committee's mandate is to examine PR or other forms of electoral change, we would also like to impress upon the committee....
I think the previous panellists who were at the table with you talked about some of the barriers we face as people with disabilities. We would like to see the voting method changed to allow people to vote with other than the paper ballot. My recommendations, which I'll give to the clerk on my way out, spell out all the different examples we give.
We would also like Elections Canada to look at how polling stations are chosen to ensure they're as accessible as possible.
The most important thing is that we believe that Elections Canada should establish an accessibility ombudsman, so that when people with disabilities have difficulty in voting or difficulty at the polling place, there is a specific contact they can reach out to at Elections Canada to say, “Here are the problems and I couldn't vote” or “I felt uncomfortable in voting”.
Those are basically the recommendations we have.
I'd like to thank all the members very much. I think what you do is great. I know it's hard work. I wish you luck in your deliberations. Thank you very much.
I am representing approximately 900 women from six Toronto CFUW clubs. We are a non-partisan, self-funded women's advocacy organization, and we've been around since 1919. We have a national office, as well.
We are here in support of change from our first past the post electoral system. It results in false majorities, wasted votes, and strategic voting. Even the 3% that's come up in the discussion can be a significant number in a marginal riding, and there are marginal ridings in Toronto. It also creates adversarial election campaigns, which may be challenging for some, but they can be nasty, too.
Ranked voting in single-member ridings being another “winner takes all” is no better.
CFUW joins many other organizations in the Every Voter Counts Alliance in support of PR. We also stress that countries that use PR models routinely elect more women to parliament. This has been discussed, so I won't repeat the data.
What about Toronto, since we're here, and I am representing Toronto clubs? Toronto holds 7.5% of the population of Canada, according to 2011 census data, and Toronto is a perfect example of lack of proportionality. Torontonians have voted overwhelmingly Liberal and NDP in recent elections. In the former false majority Conservative government, the majority of the Toronto population was not represented in Ottawa.
As a result of the 2015 Liberal sweep, which is also a false majority, NDP and Conservative supporters are under-represented in Toronto. Toronto is a driving commercial force in Canada and a centre of innovation and diversity, like some of our other urban centres. All Canadians are affected by Toronto representation.
To the committee, we thank you for this opportunity, but we need fair representation from Toronto and government, which PR can deliver, and a higher representation of women in Toronto and across Canada.
Hi. Why do we vote? Why do we have elections? Some people would have you believe that it's to choose a government; in other words, the function of voting is to divide us up into winners and losers, which would be a few winners and lots of losers.
I would suggest to you that, even if that is what you think voting is about, our current system is not well designed for that purpose, because sometimes the party with the most votes actually loses the election. This has happened a number of times in Canada, in federal and provincial elections.
In fact, an election is not a hockey game. The purpose of having an election is to allow us to choose our representatives, and we are all entitled to be represented by somebody we actually voted for. To me, that is the definition of proportional representation.
Our current system does not do that for us, as has been pointed out. MPs get elected with 40% to 45% of the votes on average. Some of you get 70%. Some get elected with 26%. On average, 40% to 45%, which means that most of us are “represented” in Parliament by somebody we voted against. It's a screwy system.
Most MPs represent people who voted against them. When you're supposed to stand up for your constituents, which ones do you stand up for, the 40% who voted for you or the 60% who voted against you?
Proportional representation is sine qua non.
I would like to recommend to the committee that when you start your deliberations, do what the Ontario Citizens' Assembly and the British Columbia Citizens' Assembly did. Right away decide that, of course, we need a proportional voting system. Let's start with that premise and the rest of our deliberations will be about what sort of a proportional system we need, because there will be a thousand decisions to make about the bells and whistles.
Good afternoon, and thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today.
My name is Naureen Rizvi. I live in Milton, in the Halton region. I am a mother of two: a little girl in grade 2 and a little boy entering senior kindergarten this year. I am also the Ontario regional director for Unifor. Ontario has 160,000 members of our 310,000. I was elected in my regional council to represent and advocate for our members and speak on their behalf on issues that affect them. This includes, of course, education, working on social and community issues, campaigns and solidarity, and participation in elections at all levels. That is why I am here today.
At Unifor, we see all of these components as part of our democratic engagement, and I want to share some thoughts with you today.
I am here today because I believe electoral reform is the single most important issue to be addressed in Canadian democracy, especially for the generations to come and for the young voters who are so disenfranchised by the current system.
The opportunity is now. It will be a long time before these conditions come around again. I am here to tell you that our membership is ready for change and expecting you to lead that change. All of our political parties, except the Conservative Party, have already concluded that it is time for Canada to join the majority of the civilized world by holding elections on a proportional basis.
In my community, in Milton, the political outcome of the last election does not reflect the real wishes of voters. The Conservatives in Milton did not win majority, yet they are in place. While actively campaigning during the federal election, I had many conversations with neighbours in the community who confirmed that they were forced to cast a ballot not for the person they wanted to vote for, but for the candidate best positioned to defeat the candidate they disliked the most.
Canadians deserve to have a system in place where they actively campaign, support, and vote for the candidate they feel would best represent them. The integrity of engagement in our electoral process needs to be restored.
We want elections that make every vote count and that make extreme false majorities very unlikely or impossible. We want more co-operation in Parliament and less partisanship. We want fewer reasons to vote strategically and more opportunity to vote for a hopeful, progressive future. We want more reasons for young people, and all those who have been alienated from politics, to engage and participate.
My union, Unifor, has deliberately avoided focusing on a detailed model to replace the FPTP. Our national convention in August of this year overwhelmingly endorsed electoral reform as a proportional system that allocates seats in every Parliament in a way that gives weight to every vote. We expect this all-party committee to reach a consensus or a majority to recommend a PR system that is understandable and explainable to our members and our community.
My name is Michael Ufford. I am a retired city planner for the City of Toronto, and I represent myself.
Good afternoon and bonjour.
I oppose proportional representation systems, and I would like to explain how PR fails at least three of the tests that your mandate mentions.
First is voter intention, which a lot of people say PR is better at than first past the post, but I would like to say that PR produces coalition governments. Coalitions, as you know, are put together in closed-door negotiations to divide up cabinet posts to make accommodations and sometimes even reversals in party policy or priorities. All this occurs after the election, when further input from the electorate is not possible. It is in this phase, the coalition creation, where the voter intention often goes wrong.
Germany, an MMP country, is currently governed by a grand coalition, which—the politicians will know—is where the main party from the right and the main party from left get together and run the country. Equivalent in Canada would be a government of Conservatives and Liberals together at the same time. The voters who voted Conservative end up getting Liberals; the voters who voted Liberal end up getting Conservatives; and the NDP gets its worst nightmare, probably.
The second test is undue complexity. The complex single transferable vote requires mathematical formulas and models to establish the quotas that are necessary for candidates to win, and to deal with the complicated transfer of votes from the winners and the losers, and so on. You have the Borda count, the d'Hondt method, the Hare quota, and the Droop quota.
A lot of people will say that it doesn't make any difference, because they are just bells and whistles, or details, as I was hearing. I am not a political scientist, but the political scientists all say that election results vary depending on which one of these formulas you use. I am not sure I would want to rely on a system that had that kind of variation.
Third is local representation. I think everybody agrees that first past the post is best at this.
Hi, I'm here from Barrie, Ontario.
I came for three reasons. First, I'm here to listen to the committee and see how this process works. Second, I want to convey to you the results of a town hall that we held in Barrie. I've handed these notes to someone who promised me they are going to get translated and given to you as a group, so watch for “Non-partisan ER Town Hall Discussion”. That's the title. Third, I'm here to speak for myself as an individual.
You'll be able to see the notes of the results of our town hall, so I just want to summarize. We invited people from about five different ridings, and those who attended the meeting came from three federal ridings that included people affiliated with the NDP, the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Greens, and the Marxist-Leninists. We had members representing seven community groups including Barrie Pride, the Simcoe County Elementary Teachers' Federation, the Ontario Secondary Schoolteachers' Federation, Canadian Federation of University Women, the Canadian Association for Retired Persons, Fair Vote Canada, Fair Vote Simcoe County, and Environmental Action Barrie/Living Green. While we didn't have a lot of people at our meeting—we had 24—we sure packed a punch when it came to a broad spectrum of points of view.
What happened was that only one individual in the room spoke in favour of first past the post. Everyone else wanted some electoral reform and primarily some sort of proportional representation. I'm not going into all the reasons why people didn't want first past the post. I want to say, though, that once your committee decides on what we're going to do, people have to be educated. The media certainly aren't going to do it. There is no media representation here today. Elections Canada under the Fair Elections Act is not, as far as I understand, allowed to teach adults about our electoral system, so I'm not sure who's going to teach Canadians.
My name is Chai Kalevar, and I come from planet earth. I hope that most of you do. My Twitter handle is planetrypatriate, so if you want to know what I think, you can follow that.
I think we have a problem here. I'm very glad that we have so many people here, but we also have so many empty chairs. Coming in and out, we have to striptease a bit. It's not exactly a friendly situation. Even to go to the washroom, we have to striptease. If you have to also go for food, it is doubled. So please try to make it more friendly for participation.
Having said that, participation is a problem too on election day, because people are too busy, they say. Well, if they're too busy, what we can do is have election day as a holiday. Why can't we do that? We have Labour Day. We have Family Day. We have this day and that day. Why not an election day holiday? That's the first suggestion for you.
Having said that, I will say that if we are going to have some kind of referendum, I'm very sorry to see that Ontario's electoral officer is not here. He should have made the point that Ontario did a shoddy job by having the election and the referendum on the same day, for heaven's sake. The election took away from the referendum. The least you should do is confirm that you will not let that happen. The referendum day should not even come close to election day. They should be a year apart or at least a good six months apart.
Second, I will say that since we have trouble getting the young ones involved, because they don't understand it, we should have good civic education classes in high school, which we don't have. Why can't we get that done? The federal government gives money to the provinces. Make sure that civics is a primary responsibility. After all, on election day we spend our tax dollars, so for election day we should be spending our tax dollars in a way that gets people involved, especially the young ones. As they say, if you vote at 18, you vote the rest of the time, so let them get involved.
I have three points to make, and I'll try to be brief.
Every international ranking of democracy places Canada among the top 10, but those top 10 also include countries such as Sweden and Finland that use proportional representation. My point is that not every electoral system is good for every country.
Can a large and diverse country such as Canada need single-member constituencies? That local MP provides a vital link to Ottawa that makes government visible to people in, say, northern British Columbia or rural Quebec. Larger constituencies would be completely unwieldy, say in northern Ontario.
France provides a good example of a country that found an electoral system that suits its geography and its culture. For decades, France struggled with unstable governments and proportional representation. Along came President de Gaulle. He divided France into single-member constituencies with an alternate vote. That suits France very well. It has had stable and effective government for the last 50 years.
My second point is the fact that a diverse society such as Canada needs local MPs and constituencies. I love elections. I love going to the office of a candidate and seeing people work together to elect a local MP. You have someone in a wheelchair making phone calls; you have young people rushing out to put up signs; and you have all different people with different abilities and ethnic backgrounds working together.
If you have a list system in Canada that is so diverse, it wouldn't be long before you had a Muslim list, a Sikh list, a women's list, or whatever list there is, and it would divide our society. It would be very dangerous. We have had such success in integrating diverse populations. That's my second point.
My third point refers to the issue we've heard so many times about getting more women elected. I think it's very important in a Liberal democracy that every vote counts, that every voter is theoretically equal. Therefore, it doesn't matter. A male MP can represent women; a female MP can represent men. People from different ethnic backgrounds can represent each other. If we started having quotas for women, maybe we should have quotas for indigenous people, and then maybe we should have quotas for visible minorities, then maybe quotas for people with disabilities. Before long we would divide our electorate into different little segments.
My name is Linda Sheppard. I'm here because I've been involved in grassroots politics for many years, as you can tell from my hair.
I've been very frustrated at how difficult it is to make change. It's as a result of that experience that I'm coming here today to advocate for change to a proportional voting system.
Like a lot of Canadians, until about 12 years ago, I didn't actually think much about the voting system. I didn't realize that we could elect a majority government with 39% of the vote. At the same time that I started to be aware of what kind of a system we were using, I also learned about countries that use a different system, countries that I highly respected for their social policies and for the fact that they did elect more women regularly, countries like Sweden, Norway, and New Zealand.
As you know, in those countries, if a party got 39% of the vote, they ended up with 39% of the seats, which means that there is a broad base of political views represented in the Parliament regularly, much more so than under first past the post.
But for me, like other women who have spoken here, one of the cruxes of this is that many systems in countries that use proportional voting regularly elect more women, and certainly more women than countries that use first past the post. I think that, since we're over 50% of the population, I want a legislature that's about 50% women. That's not unrealistic, and we can do it. I think the best way to get there is to start with a proportional voting system because that facilitates parties putting up more women candidates, and we will elect more women.
I ask your committee to recommend change to a proportional model to facilitate this change and many of the other positive ones that will result when everyone's vote elects someone to represent them.
Thank you. I'm extremely grateful that this committee exists, and that you are a voting member, Ms. May. This is hugely important.
I don't believe we are here to debate whether proportional representation is a more equitable, fair, and just electoral system, for it is that by definition and practice. Rather, we are here to debate whether we, as Canadians, are ready for such a system. For my part, I am, and to me it's overdue.
What I mean by “definition” is only about the terms of reference. “Proportional” is equitable and comparable to, by dictionary definition, i.e., one vote equals a more equitable or comparable representation. That's it. It's more equitable than the current system, not perfect—we don't need to be perfect, just more equitable—but more proportion of our votes being reflected in representation.
Acceptance by Canadians is dependent, not on a unified understanding of any given system prior to the adopting of a new system, but rather a more unified will towards a more equitable and comparable system in general.
We humans are both resistant to and equally adaptable to change. Referendums of provincial pro-representation failed in B.C. mainly due, in my opinion, to having to have a 60% majority to pass. Election rules of a normal first past the post system of 51% majority to win were arbitrarily changed for that referendum. Let's not make that same mistake here.
One last point I want to make, since we have been talking about various systems, is about the idea of members of Parliament, whether it's three, four, five, or even one in any given riding—whatever you come up— moving about. You would get Conservative members who are now in Northwest Territories talking to and representing constituents who are mostly native. Then they go and they represent people in Shaughnessy, and then they go to the Downtown Eastside. When you have members listening to and having to talk to various different people in the country, they're going to start to learn how to work with those people.
Thank you. I am representing myself, but I felt that I alone could not get my voice out, so this is why I am a member here.
In all the elections I was voting in, I realized that I was voting for somebody I didn't really like, because the third person was even worse. A neighbour explained to me how there are different voting systems—and I went “What?”—and how proportional representation works—and I went “Wow, okay, that sounds reasonable; the voter is at the top of the pyramid.”
Somebody gave me the studies on electoral reform. They are just unbelievable. There was one by the Law Commission of Canada, and it said, way back in 2004, that proportional representation was the best. Who else do we have to listen to, even though there are tons?
Then PM Trudeau and the Liberal Party promised, prior to the election, that it was the last one with first past the post, and that we would have every vote count. It had been my experience that my vote didn't count. The voters agreed. They brought them to power, and they brought out a lot of young people because they believed in those promises.
On this electoral committee, you represent the public, because you are now the popular vote, which is proportional representation. You have been educated by experts. How can we possibly offer that to the public? We can't. You are legitimately representing the public as you sit here now, as a committee structure. There are many important issues. There were women's votes and health care, and those were legitimate acts of Parliament. That is why this issue could be a legitimate act of Parliament to bring in the new voting system.
A referendum is $300 million, and it could be wasted.
People in the Liberal Party, you hold the power to fulfill the promise you made and to bring in a change to first past the post. Do not disappoint and discourage these young people who had faith in you. You actually hold the power. Please be brave and courageous, as you were when this promise was made.
Before I start, can I take a quick poll? Has anybody on the committee ever hacked a computer system? Nobody has. We have women, we have men, and we have no computer professionals—and one of the things we are debating is whether to include computers in our electoral process.
I own two software businesses. One of my clients is actually Elizabeth May. She doesn't know it. She probably doesn't know the business by name—it's Guestlist, but that is not the point. My other business has worked with the federal government. During my time there, I disclosed multiple security vulnerabilities of a very serious nature, including the census and aspects of our military apparatus, as well as those of allied countries. We are not at the point where we can trust the computer systems we build with something as important as our election.
If you are choosing electoral systems, please consider non-computerization. If you must computerize it, please note that there is a difference between an Internet computerized voting system and a non-Internet computerized voting system.
There are four types of attacks: fabrication, theft, surveillance, and denial. Fabrication is impossible to stop with Internet-connected voting systems.
Russia is interfering in the American election right now, and it will interfere in ours unless we safeguard this process. If you must have an electronic voting system, make sure it goes outbound only—so radio or UDP connection outbound—and make sure you have a mandatory paper ballot that goes into the voting box and can be verified by any observer who can request a physical count at any polling station. Even using techniques like statistical sample sets will not guarantee a fair election, because an attacker can observe what polling stations to hit by using complex statistical number systems.
Thank you very much for your time.
I'm John Deverell, a retired Toronto Star journalist, a national councillor of Fair Vote Canada, a member of the Green Party of Canada, and speaking entirely for myself.
This isn't the first time you've heard it, but the basic fact is that half the voters in Canada under the current first past the post voting system elect nobody. This is a travesty. This is not representative democracy. It is inexplicable, except as propaganda for hiding a very ugly reality, why anybody would actually call a system “representative democracy” when half the voters have placebo ballots that have no effect on the House of Commons.
Now, fortunately, at least three political parties in this country have appreciated this fact and have promised to make every vote count. That would be the New Democratic Party, the Green Party, and as of June 2015, the big breakthrough, the Liberal Party of Canada. Justin Trudeau stood, surrounded by applauding Liberal candidates, and said, “We will make every vote count.” That is wonderful. That is what we are calling the historic opportunity.
A great majority of the members of Parliament committed to make every vote count. That leads me to a question for the Liberals on the committee. Why in all the town hall meetings that people are going to, town hall meetings organized by Liberal candidates, are we hearing a heck of a lot of discussions about the pros and cons of first past the post and the possible advantages of the alternative vote, which is first past the post's sister on steroids? There's no reason to be having those discussions. The discussions should be about how to make every vote count. I really wish the Liberal Party was showing more leadership in that respect because that is what you and your leader promised.
For the New Democrats, we know that you are strongly in favour of mixed member proportional representation. The question is, working as an all-party committee, are you really flexible, are you really devoted to getting rid of first past the post, and therefore, are you open-minded to other ways that make every vote count?
For all of you, could you please put aside partisan obstructionism and get on with making every Canadian's vote count?
My name is Ben Trister. I have had the pleasure of appearing before committees of the House of Commons and the Senate on behalf of Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the Coalition for Secure and Trade-Efficient Borders, but it's my first time here as a retiree, and I thank you for the opportunity.
Electoral reform is, in my view, the most important issue facing Parliament today, because the results of our elections shape our policies on critically important and even existential issues, such as climate change. Our electoral system, of course, is the very foundation of our democracy. I've looked at the various systems in use in other countries and I've found them too problematic for our purposes.
One of the issues with the electoral reform movement in Canada is that the proponents of reform have not been able to come together behind a preferred system because there are too many problems with them and they keep fighting among themselves as to which should be put in place. If our so-called democracy geeks can't agree to support a single system, how can we expect Canadians to do so?
Being a concerned citizen, as well as a retiree with too much time on my hands, I decided to see if I could create a made-in-Canada electoral system for your consideration. After more than a year of work and with the help of my brilliant daughter Rachel, I filed my brief and my proposal with your committee this afternoon. Our electoral system has to be as easy as possible to understand and has to produce accurate representation. Complicated systems, though they may have some merit, offer too much opportunity for misunderstanding and misleading anti-reform campaigns. If Canadians are not presented with a simple system, they may reject it and think things are better with the devil they know, and we will have squandered a historic opportunity.
I call my system ordered proportional representation. Under OPR, votes are cast, just like they are now, one vote in their own riding. What would change is how the votes are used to determine the seat winners. All the votes would be counted across the country, and seats would be awarded to the parties based on their share of the popular vote. After the votes are counted, Elections Canada would create lists for each party, ranking their candidates based on the share of the popular vote in their respective ridings. The candidate with the highest share of the popular vote goes to the top of their party list and the lowest goes to the bottom. Say the House of Commons had 100 seats and a party won 50% of the seats. It would obviously get 50 seats and those seats would be won by the top 50 candidates on that party's list.
Under the current system, the distortion in seat allocation for the House is 21.5%. Under OPR, the distortion is reduced to 0.3%. OPR complies fully with the mandate of the committee and the five principles contained in the motion that established the committee. There are other benefits, including, but not limited to, seats that are more broadly distributed geographically within each of the national parties. The percentage of women elected would increase, the House of Commons would be made up of people who earned more votes on average than is the case under the current system, and Elections Canada could easily implement a new system. As you'll see from my brief, the entire process takes half a page to describe in detail.
I'd be grateful if you would carefully consider the proposal. You have it. I'd be pleased to provide you with any underlying data you might want.
Thank you, first and foremost, for having us here, and my thanks to the government and the committee for this consultation process. That's great.
My name's Erin Harrison. I'm the Canadian Labour Congress's regional director in Ontario. Today I want to speak about the Canadian Labour Congress's position. We represent 3.3 million members across this country. Our position has been democratically voted on, similar to what happens in Parliament. All of our positions have to be passed through our decision-making structures within the labour movement. I don't think it would be news to anyone at this table that, for a variety of reasons, we are not in support of the first past the post system.
Here's why: in the 2015 election, there were nine million votes that did not count towards electing a member of Parliament, who is supposed to express the voters' political opinion. Many people in the room today, I think, were saying similar things. Far too often a party is able to achieve a majority under this system, even though they don't get more than 40% of the vote.
Our current system also generates tensions in the House of Commons and causes people to vote for things they don't necessarily favour. It thus creates some form of strategic voting at times within political parties. In consequence, people in our country don't necessarily wind up voting for what they really want.
What we're asking for is that the new system have three principles attached to it. First of all, no party should be able to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons without winning a majority of the vote. Second, any reform should ensure that the number of seats the party receives is proportionate to its share of the popular vote. Third, reform should also take into account the importance of local representation.
I want to mention specifically that we are asking for a model of mixed member proportional representation.
Thank you for the opportunity to be at the microphone.
My name is Mojdeh Cox. I'm with the Canadian Labour Congress, but just like my tweets, these views are my own.
Canadians have an opportunity to choose a fair electoral system that could better engage citizens in the political process. The simplest way to achieve a more representative system is for Canada to adopt one based on proportional representation, and so I will continue with giving reasons why it's time for that change.
With proportional representation, people get what they vote for. So a party that gets 30% of the votes gets 30% of the seats.
We also understand that our electoral system is outdated. It's sort of the dinosaur of all things democratic. Parties with less than 50% of the vote can get 100% of the power, and that isn't fair.
Proportional representation gives voters more power to set the government's agenda. It encourages people to vote for what they want instead of voting for who they think can win.
Proportional representation does in fact force parties to work together to accomplish goals. Rather than working together, parties fight for a majority of seats, which exaggerates political division.
One of our major barriers right now is that people think their vote does not count. That is a huge detriment to our democracy. Instead of voting for their first choice, people will often vote for another party. In other words, it's strategic voting, which can be almost equally disastrous.
Abuses of power are curtailed with proportional representation, as one party rarely controls all of the power. Governments with proportional representation are more fiscally responsible. Accountability is shared across party lines, and the risks of mismanagement are more costly. A party that loses support is guaranteed to lose seats and, as a result, political clout. So we need to move toward proportional representation.
Thank you very much.
I'm Mark Brown from Brampton North representing the Toronto and York Region Labour Council.
Thank you again for this opportunity.
At the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, we believe that every vote counts and it should count equally, but that's not how it worked unfortunately in the 2015 election.
More than nine million votes were wasted, and by wasted we mean that they were cast for a candidate who didn't win in our first past the post system. Therefore, the has pledged that 2015 would be the last year that an election is done with the first past the post method.
The Labour Council has long supported Fair Vote Canada in its effort to win electoral reform with proportional representation.
The vast majority of OECD countries elect their governments through PR, proportional representation, resulting in stable administrations that rule effectively.
There are different variations of proportional representation, but in 2007, the Labour Council supported a recommendation of the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform to move to a mixed member proportional system, the details of which are in the document in front of you entitled Make Every Vote Count.
Hi. My name is Brynne Sinclare-Waters. I work in the post-secondary education sector, and I'm also a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 1281.
I grew up in a society that has become increasingly unequal. Canada's 100 highest paid CEOs make, on average, 184 times more than the typical Canadian worker. Far too much wealth and power is concentrated among a smaller league, while the rest of us are struggling to pay off debts and working in low-paying jobs.
Growing inequality is feeding disaffection with both our economic and political system. I believe that democracy must act as a counter against these trends, but today's political system is not servicing us well in this regard.
In my experience, even many politically engaged people who care deeply about growing inequality and are actively involved in making the economy more fair, for example, by advocating for a $15-minimum wage, often do not feel that engaging in electoral politics is worthwhile, and that's a problem.
A proportional system can help overcome this lack of engagement and support building a fair society where political and economic power is less concentrated.
Research shows that countries with proportional systems have considerably lower levels of inequality, and when systems become more proportional, inequality actually decreases. This is because when the system is more representative, more people participate and the government becomes responsive to the demands of a wider range of voters.
Experts have also argued that proportional representation can help limit elite control over decision-making. Providing more avenues for people's views to be heard in Parliament makes it harder for governments to ignore issues that are important to Canadians.
As a young woman, I am also encouraged that countries with proportional systems have elected 8% more women to parliament. Guided by values of fairness and equality, I encourage the committee to recommend mixed member proportional representation, which could significantly improve citizen engagement and the quality of representation while also providing elected representatives with a personal connection to their ridings and the issues facing their constituents.
Hello, everybody. Thank you so much for being in southern Ontario. I truly appreciate it.
I'm your Twitter geek and democra-geek. I'm here as an individual, although I do work with a variety of groups.
I am a product of the past 28 meetings you had with experts. You heard a lot about education and the need for it. I am one of the lucky few who had civics 101 in the fifth grade. I was engaged in having an election. I ran for prime minister. I lost to somebody because I didn't promise the voters what they wanted to hear. I've been engaged in politics ever since.
Right around the Mulroney years with NAFTA is when I became pro PR. That is when I found out about it. I didn't like chapter 11. The more I've watched it all these years, the less I have liked our majoritarian system. PR is the way to go, you all know that. My reason isn't to discuss all the statistics of 39%, blah, blah, blah. I want to see consensual politics. I want to see civility, real civility. I want to see that members of Parliament are working together, like the ERRE committee has had to. I think that's what we need to grow this country the way it needs to be.
Having been married, had kids, and everything else, and being a grandmother always fighting for PR, I now live in a nation of what I see as electoral system laggers. We are the tail end of OECD countries that are willing to move to consensual politics with no more policy lurches and just people working together.
The last point I'd like to make is that while I appreciate how much has been discussed about civics 101, we also need to remember that parties and the MPs, who have had handbooks that have been written over the last 150 years...those need to be rewritten, and citizens need to support that, as well.
Hello. There's been a lot of talk about whether we should have a referendum on whether to change our system and which system to have.
In referendums, the government that phrases the question can do a lot to shape the result. The government can also shape the result by either educating or not educating the voters. If the voters don't have an informed choice, then they have no choice at all. Huge budgets need to be set aside for Canadians to learn about proportional representation before we even vote on it. With that kind of power, the government must be legitimate.
In my eyes, the only legitimate government is one that has been elected with a system based on voter equality. You see where I'm going with this. There's a catch-22. The current government is not elected with a system based on voter equality, and they do not have legitimacy to establish a referendum to find out whether the results of that referendum will be legitimate.
The Conservative Party has said, “okay, we need a referendum to legitimize the results of that referendum“, but if the government that phrases the question of the referendum is not legitimate, then we have a catch-22 situation, and we go in a circle.
Here's my solution. You, as a committee, make a recommendation that we switch to a system based on voter equality. We have one election with that system in place. After that one election, then that government, which is based on voter equality, will phrase the question of the referendum. You can have your referendum and carry on like that.
Thank you very much for the opportunity for individuals to be respectfully heard.
I'm Jane Garthson. I'm a Toronto resident and a governance consultant to public benefit organizations.
I care who represents me in Parliament. I'm here to support the single transferable vote, which I think can produce a Parliament very close to proportionate without the downside of list-based proportional representation.
In Ireland, STVs produce mostly stable governments, highly proportionate outcomes, and representation for small parties and independents while leaving power in the hands of individual voters. It's even helped figure out with whom to form a coalition, if need be.
I want all MPs to be directly accountable to a constituency—I've seen that constituency work matters—not to a party back room. We need to reduce party control, not increase it. I don't know a single Canadian outside of party back rooms who thinks we should increase the influence that parties have on who represents us in Parliament. Don't let lists put un-electable people into Parliament. STV will greatly improve civil discourse and positive campaigning. That matters to me. Candidates can't afford to alienate the supporters of other good candidates. That is not a benefit we would get from list-based systems.
With regard to simplicity, one of your values, I have experience with ranked ballots and found people understood them very easily. I think the same will be true for STV. Software can enable fast calculations. Just pick a system from an existing jurisdiction that has it working. Don't waste time and money developing from scratch.
I'm not an expert, but I've heard that list-based PR can be the crack that opens the door to the election of extremists, which almost all Canadians would find abhorrent. I know that many proportional representation supporters are thinking about environmentalists, but they might be skinheads instead.
Just about anything you choose would be better than the unfair and unrepresentative results we sometimes get from first past the post. I never want to be out promoting strategic voting again. I ask you to make a quick decision so that I never have to do that again. I trust you, the committee, to choose wisely for all Canadians.
I consider myself non-partisan from a political perspective, although in full disclosure I did run as a Rhinoceros candidate in 1980.
I absolutely support the need for electoral reform in Canada. I absolutely feel that we need proportional representation. I do not support the concept of ranked ballot. I really hope to see the end of the first past the post system.
I want the composition of our Parliament to reflect the total votes cast. As an example, I believe it is indefensible that 3% of Canadian voters voted Green and only one Green MP sits right now. There should be at least nine, although our current one does the work of about 50.
Voices: Oh, oh!
I want to see much more outreach and education on the factual details of electoral reform. I'm very disappointed that sitting MPs were encouraged, but not obligated, to hold town halls on the subject. I applaud the work and the efforts of this committee. I've worked in public consultation all my career and I know how hard it is to get the information out, to get people engaged. If the media is not taking the initiative to cover this effectively, I believe that federal money should be going to make sure there is better coverage, so that the people who may be vaguely interested but are confused get better information and to encourage Canadians to regard this as an important issue.
I am concerned that the timeline that the committee is working in is going to make it very difficult to do this job effectively; the fact that it took such a long time for the committee to get up and running. I know these things take a while, but the fact that it took such a long time for me who was really curious to even find anything on the web about this was really dismaying, given the fact that you have to have your report in by December 1.
On those lines I absolutely oppose the idea of holding a referendum prior to implementing proportional representation or electoral reform. If need be, I think that the New Zealand model where they implemented it and then had a referendum after the fact, when people had actually seen how well it worked, would be a far better process.
I'm a professor of computer science, and I'm impressed with how well you all sit and listen all day.
I have never had a person I voted for win, so I don't feel represented. I think it's important that everybody feels represented. What I'm proposing is to get rid of local ridings. Who I'm connected to in Canada is through social media, and the media is all across the country and it's not in my local riding. The advantage of that is you can have both parties and lots of independents run. The idea is that if one of those people gets one out of 338 fractions of the vote, then that person gets a win. In the various systems that I've heard about, you don't win until you get a third, or a fourth, or a fifth of the votes, but in this case you only need 0.3% of the votes to get a seat.
If you were to think about the topic that interests you the most and that you're most passionate about—maybe it's women's issues, or the environment issues, or pro choice, or black issues—then you can find somebody in Canada who you will feel represents you and can get 0.3% of the votes. That way everybody can feel represented.
There would be a huge list of candidates, but we can find them and learn about them through social media, through other media, and through political parties. You can still have political parties. I could vote for the head of the party, such as Trudeau, or a particular Liberal, and the fraction of them who get votes will still be proportionate.
Thank you for this opportunity.
I'm obviously another advocate for proportional representation. Minister Monsef, at the town hall meeting in Kitchener, said one of the things she really wanted to happen was that Canada could be recognized as a model for democracies around the world. There are 85% of EU and OECD countries currently using proportional representation. Canada is one of the 15% that isn't, with gross distortions, frequently wasted votes, and all of the other problems that people had cited. We are not currently an example.
I would like to focus on two specific things that haven't been mentioned much so far. One of them is the business of a threshold. Most countries that use proportional representation obviously have a threshold. People talk about proliferation of a single issue and fringe parties and so on. One must remember that aside from the five major parties in the last Canadian election, 17 single issue or fringe parties gathered less than half a per cent of the votes.
That problem, I think, is somewhat exaggerated. A threshold of 5% has often been mentioned as being used in some countries. My feeling is that's too high. In the 2008 election, five million Conservative voters got 143 MPs, and almost a million Green supporters got zero MPs, instead of the 20 or so that proportional representation would have given them.
Five per cent is a fairly high threshold considering that. The threshold could be much lower and still be recognizing up to half a million—200,000 or 300,000—Canadians who deserve some representation in Parliament. That's a major consideration.
With regard to the various systems, whether they're STV with multi-member regions, MMP with top-up MPs in addition to the single-member constituencies—which has a lot to recommend it—an MMP, I think, is getting a lot of traction as something that would work in Canada.
The simulations that have been done using various systems and looking at all the results seem to be consistently showing that the larger parties gained proportional representation; the smaller parties often do not and are often still quite under-represented.
I am recommending that whatever system is used, and if it involves regions in order to use top-ups and so on, it be large enough to guarantee proportional representation. Proportional representations for larger parties and not for small parties is not proportional representation.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening, it's an honour to be here. You've been listening to folks speak all day, so double thanks.
Expert witness Professor Wiseman, whom you heard in the early part of August, I think, described self-appointed electoral reform elites. Well, here I am; I'm one of those. But I would say that ER advocates aren't born; they're made. I became an electoral reform advocate on May 2, 2011, the night that Stephen Harper won his majority government. In his victory speech he said that Canadian values are Conservative values. That didn't really seem quite right, since 39.6% of the popular vote is actually 24.2% of the eligible vote. It's therefore not exactly the support of the majority by any means.
In the last five years I've become an electoral reform advocate and I've had the real honour and opportunity to speak with thousands of Canadians in my area, in high schools, university classrooms, community information tables, meetings and events of all sorts about our electoral system. In that time I learned that you can teach a 10-year-old how to use an MMP ballot in less than two minutes. I learned that many people see an MMP two-vote ballot as solving their problems. They say, “Great. I can vote for the candidate I like and the party I like. Super. That solves my problem.”
I learned that if you asked, “Do you think that 39% of the popular vote should result in 54% of the seats and 100% of the power?”, almost uniformly Canadians will say “No, that's not fair.”
There has been a lot of talk in the last couple of weeks about Canadian values. What are they? Do they even exist? I believe that the principle of fairness and equality is a fundamental Canadian value and a keystone in our democracy, and should be enshrined in our democratic system, which can only mean proportional representation. I would simply like to say one more thing—that's actually my thing about PR.
Only one more thing. Speaking to Ms. Romanado's point about whether the electoral system—you know, women, chicken, eggs, electoral system—not electoral system, but many people have encouraged me to run for office over the years. Would I like to serve the public good? Yes, absolutely. Would I like to participate in policy-making? Yes, very much so. Would I want to engage in a culture of adversarial politics? No way, José. Regardless of gender, an adversarial culture repels many good people. A renewed parliamentary culture based on collaborative and consensus policy-making—which is encouraged by PR—might draw different kinds of people to seek public office, and I think that would be a really good thing.
Thank you, everyone. Safe travel.
We heard a few moments ago a new proposal for first two past the post. I'd like to propose the first 10 past the post. Pretty much everyone wins. There would be about 3,000 MPs and they could fit easily in the TD Stadium or the Canadian Tire Centre.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Meslin: I just want you to explore that as an option.
On a more serious note, though, thanks so much for doing this. I've never seen an open mike like this for a federal committee. I think it's really innovative, and it's amazing for someone like me to be able to show up and speak to you. Thank you. It's really fantastic.
I've been working on voting reform for 15 years. I was involved with the 2007 referendum in Ontario, and I was the director of field organization for the 2009 referendum in B.C., on the yes side, so it's great to see this happening federally and to see a commitment from the federal party and from other parties to change the system.
I want to point out that not only is first past the post obscure within the OECD, we're actually the only country in the OECD that is using first past the post exclusively for all of our elections. No one else does it, just Canada. That's because it doesn't work very well, and that's acknowledged by other countries throughout the world.
I wanted to mention that in Ontario we just received legislation that allows for ranked ballots to be used in single-member districts, with a 50% threshold, or in multi-member districts using proportional STV. So this isn't something that's now obscure in Ireland or Australia; it's happening right here in Ontario. I hope you'll consider that proportional option.
I'm a huge fan of PR, either MMP or STV. You've heard from millions of people, though, who have said that, so I'm not going to emphasize that. I hope you do come to a consensus on some “Made in Canada” PR model. If you can't, though, which seems quite possible considering who's around the table, I want to urge you not to walk away and do nothing. I want to also urge you not to have a quick referendum with an uninformed population.
I want to throw two quick ideas out there. Two alternatives are having what I call a reform referendum, similar to the referendum we're having in P.E.I., except without first past the post as an option.
So the Conservatives and others are saying Trudeau might have a mandate to move beyond first past the post, but the Liberals can't pick their own system. Fine, let us pick the system. Have a referendum with MMP, STV, and AV. Don't have first past the post. Trudeau keeps his commitment, and the Conservatives' concern that parties shouldn't be rigging the system in their favour is all met. I think that would work. Do it in 2019, though; don't rush it. Spend millions of dollars on education, perform—
The witness, city councillor Justin Di Ciano, asked what issues we're trying to address here. I don't think he sees any issues.
Since I turned 18 I've had the opportunity to vote three times, but instead of making me feel like I'm participating in the democratic process, it's made me feel quite disempowered, because I haven't been able to vote for my first choice, because I knew that my vote would be wasted in the riding I was voting in. So I do see an issue there.
I also don't see my voice or my identity reflected well in our parliamentary system. Is Canada the envy of the world, as Nathan Cullen said before? We rank 64th in the world in the representation of women. That's not very good, from where I stand.
Finally, pro status quo groups and individuals speak to the instability of proportional representation, but over the past five years, we've had a government that passed sweeping legislation, removing environmental protection, making our elections less fair, and making two tiers of Canadian citizens. All of this happened without the support of the majority of Canadians and without consultation, because the Harper government had a false majority and could do whatever it wanted with it. It's the same as the false majority the Liberals currently hold. I'm still waiting to see what they do with it.
This isn't what I would call stable. It's quite the opposite. We need a system that more closely aligns with the popular vote, because it would mean a slower and more representative shift in the makeup of our government.
We need a system that encourages collaboration between politicians. This is what we elect them to do. I don't think we elect politicians to make sweeping decisions without the rest of their colleagues on board.
We have a rare moment right now, as the governing party has made a clear promise to change our electoral system. That's never happened before. This promise was made by three parties leading up to the election, and the special committee consulting us is proportional for the first time. It's obvious from the stance of each of the committee members that although strengthening our democracy should not be part of an issue, it has highly partisan implications. Moving to a proportional voting system may not benefit your parties, but it will give more power to the voters—more power to me—and it will make the tone and culture of Parliament better.
My name is Phil Pothen. I'm here to speak in favour of mixed member proportional representation. I oppose first past the post for all the reasons that have been expressed here so eloquently by the vast majority of presenters. Also, I want to emphasize that I believe that the ranked ballot would exacerbate the biggest problems of first past the post.
The problem with both of these systems is that they engender majority Parliaments that entitle the largest interests to effectively discount the others throughout the term of their governments. They can produce policies that pander to their own bases and to the marginal voter while essentially discounting the smaller interests.
Like a lot of your colleagues, and a lot of you, I'm a lawyer. In particular, I'm a land use planning lawyer. In almost every case, I end up advising my clients that it's better to strike a deal early on than even to win outright.
The best, most thoroughly thought-out solutions are those that are arrived at when all the parties are represented and have real bargaining power around the parliamentary bargaining table. That forces them to earnestly consider and accommodate each other's interests.
In the end, it doesn't help much if you win outright at committee of adjustment, because the opposing party is just going to appeal to the OMB, and your policy is only going to be overturned in the next election. Likewise, it doesn't help much if you come to some kind of consensus while some of the key, most effective parties have been excluded or under-represented at the table. If your solution isn't stable, you're going to have interests that haven't bought into it.
We need a system that gives all the parties a seat at the parliamentary table and real bargaining power. I think you will find that you can often find a solution that doesn't sacrifice your own interests and that can still accommodate the others'.
I support proportional representation. I think that a mixed member system sounds like a good idea. I don't tend to think referendums are a good idea. I think online voting and mandatory voting need more reflection than I know anything about.
I want to try to offer some thoughts towards the value of proportional representation that maybe haven't been offered. I'm certainly not a political scientist.
The notion of a representative democracy, which is what we have, is bad. There are too many people in the country for everybody to directly run the country. All the representatives go to the House and they debate amongst themselves. In some sense, at the moment that the election is finished, it should be a time for all of the members to act in the interest of all Canadians. No decision should be made on the basis of the fact that a certain party has the majority; it should be made on the basis of the fact that it's a good decision for all Canadians. But that view is not a broad...that is, many people are much more cynical about what's going on in the House than that.
I'm sure that all of you who spend your lives working to do the best for Canadians understand that that's a difficulty. That cynicism that's out there is a difficulty.
I am in support of proportional representation because I know many young people need to see a new system. I see 20-something-year-olds come in front of me as a teacher every year. They need some impetus for change.
I agree with many of the points as to why proportional representation might be more fair, but the opportunity that we have here is to say that this is the way that not all geographic regions will be represented, but all ideas, conceptual spaces, will be represented. They'll go into the mixture, the compromise, that the House is supposed to be.
Good evening. My name's Jeffrey Tighe. I'm a Toronto area lawyer. I want to speak tonight on why Parliament needs to seek a mandate for electoral change through a referendum. My paper on the subject is on the committee website, published on September 6.
Last week, Minister Monsef admitted that in her consultations she does not see a consensus among Canadians as to what electoral system they would prefer. Even if the majority of Canadians want change, it must be determined if they will accept the change that this committee puts forward over the old system. A new system should not be imposed on Canadians.
Some people have argued that there's no need for a referendum as the government and other parties campaigned on a platform of electoral reform. This position is tenuous given that it assumes voters only voted on this issue when, in reality, there were many issues and electoral reform was a very minor one during the election. Not every issue requires a referendum, but this issue goes to the very basis of our democracy and requires a direct mandate from the people.
The government did not campaign on any particular change, just change generally. It is anti-democratic to then translate that into a mandate to change the electoral system to whatever politicians decide. To have democratic reform while ignoring democracy cannot convince people that their vote really matters while you deny them a vote and you change the electoral system.
A recent Ipsos poll shows that 73% of Canadians want a referendum. Twitter and town hall meetings will not give groups that vote in lower numbers, like young people and new citizens, a greater voice than millions of them voting in a referendum. Some people have argued that a referendum is too complicated, and yet we have general elections where a dozen issues are discussed. Some people have argued that a referendum is too expensive or that there isn't any time before the next election.
A simple solution would be to have the next election under first past the post and hold a simultaneous referendum during the election on changing the system. Our democracy should not be held hostage by an artificial timeline based on a vague election promise.
Obviously, you are juggling a lot of different issues at the same time. I think there's one in particular that has an inescapable conclusion, and that's the subject of the referendum.
When we talk about a referendum, it's not just any old referendum. It has to be a fair and representative referendum. Otherwise, what's the point? The first conclusion that's inescapable on that subject is that it's impossible to have a fair and representative referendum before the reform.
You can see from previous reforms here in Canada and around the world that there can be reform. In the Brexit vote, for example, they managed to overcome the preference for the status quo, the strong power that the status quo holds, but the reasoning behind that was really xenophobia. It takes the wrong reasons to overcome the status quo power that systems have at the moment. You can say the same about the election in New Zealand. They were very resentful of the government at the time, and they voted for reform. Even in those two examples, the threshold was just met—51% or so.
There's no point in having any referendum at all before the reform. However, afterwards, it can make sense if there's a certain lapse of time that allows that status quo advantage to be nullified. One of the committee members mentioned that perhaps one or two election cycles should pass. I don't think that's enough. I would say at least one full economic cycle and perhaps, even after that, one more election cycle. That would give enough time so that the status quo becomes kind of a hazy question. The status quo after the reform: is it the 12 years or whatever number of years that we've been under the proportional representation system or is it the 150 years before that when we were under the first past the post system? At that point, it's possible to have a healthy and rational discussion about the benefits of each system.
This committee was constituted in order to foster engagement, national unity, and voter representation, and to eliminate cynicism, apathy, complacency... This is what a reform referendum does. That's another inescapable point: that we need to have a referendum if we want to validate anything that you do here, and that needs to be done after a certain time when the reform has been completed.
There's an interesting proposal before you from the Citizens’ Democracy Forum, in Ontario, called single-member party proportional. In the U.K. it's DPR. It's similar to the voting system in Scotland. It's simple, easy to understand and implement, and it meets the principles set out by this committee. It continues with single-member constituencies and requires no change in existing ridings. There's no party list to pick from, and voting and counting is simple and quick. There is no change in the overall number of MPs and no need for gerrymandering of ridings. It works by two separate votes on a single ballot. One vote for the constituency candidate is now on a separate vote for the party. The party votes determine the number of seats each party gets in the House and which party gets elected. Like pieces of a pie, each party gets a portion of the total House seats and the members are accorded equal strength within their party's portion of seats.
For example, in the 2015 federal election, Liberals received 39.5% of the popular vote, which under PR-SMPP would be 133.5 House of Commons seats with 184 Liberal members. That would give each Liberal MP .72% of a vote. The NDP got 6.5 House of Commons seats with 44 members elected, which would give a weight of 1.1 votes for each of their MPs. Voting thresholds of 3% to 5% and/or the election of at least one MP to give a party standing in the House could be in effect. If a party reaches the threshold but does not elect an MP, its percentage could be negotiated to another party, or, as in the U.K. model, its leader could be given an automatic vote in the House. The leader would have a vote but no constituency seat. On non-party matters or free votes, each MP would be accorded one vote—one member, one vote.
Your committee is also dealing with electronic and mandatory voting. I'd recommend a big no to both of these. Electronic voting has no guarantee of the security of the vote. As has been amply documented in the U.S., it is susceptible to tampering and hacking. Paper voting is traceable and manual counting is more accurate and reliable. Mandatory voting is a shabby way to make our democracy appear better than it is, removing responsibility from our political leadership to make the elections and issues meaningful and interesting to voters.
One way of increasing voter turnout is to improve our electoral voting system, making elections fair and giving people more of a sense that their vote counts.
Good evening, honourable members. Thanks for the opportunity.
My name is John Rae, I've been 41 years in the disability rights movement in Canada. I currently serve as first vice-chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. I understand you had a good session with some of my colleagues in Winnipeg last night. Tonight I appear as an individual to raise a number of topics.
I'll make three points. Number one, it is desirable that more Canadians participate by voting. I support that. However, I do believe the idea of mandatory voting would be disproportionately a problem for the disabled community, so I oppose it. What we do need, though, is to be more engaged in the electoral process. That requires additional amendments to the Elections Act to cover topics that are not currently included, things like mandatory requirement for accessible offices, accessible campaigning, all-candidates' meetings where sign language and interpretation will be the rule and not the rare exception, and so forth.
Point number two is a challenge. I have attended numerous meetings on the question of electoral reform and rarely, if ever, is the word “disability” even breathed let alone given any kind of serious consideration by those who are proponents of electoral reform. It is argued that a new system will bring more women into Parliament. It's hard for anyone to oppose that idea. I certainly support it. But if we're really talking about making our Parliament more representative of what our country looks like, then I challenge you, your colleagues, your research staff, to develop a system that will bring our percentage, which is 15% to 20% of the population, more in line in Parliament than we currently occupy.
Point number three. You who are currently temporarily sited can verify how you voted before you leave the poll. I can't. That directly discriminates against me. That's why people like me are so passionately supporting additional ways of voting, whether that be an electronic machine, online, or telephone voting.
Elections Canada has often asked me to prescribe which one I prefer. My issue is outcome, not so much approach. Any of those will do the job. Anything less than fixing that part of the discriminatory electoral system we currently have will simply continue barriers to the participation of persons with disabilities to this country. I submit in 2016, that is unacceptable.
Hi, my name is Dustin Su. I live and work as a professional engineer in Willowdale. I'd just like to share some highlights with you of a coffee dialogue that my wife and I hosted 10 days ago with seven of our friends. We really feel the core issue we're trying to address here is the distortion of the federal election outcomes due to the first past the post voting.
We believe it's unacceptable for a party that wins less than 50% of the popular vote to form a majority government and implement long-term agendas that don't represent the values of the majority of the electorate. In a new system, we want election results where the proportion of seats a political party earns is in close proportion to the percentage of votes cast for that party; where the ballot and method of counting seats are easy to understand; and where local representation is maintained, where MPs are accountable to voters who elect them.
I guess the other major concern from our dialogue is with regard to public engagement, as the previous gentleman said.
I'll just bring up an Ipsos poll that was released on August 31. Only 3% of all polled—and I think about 1,000 people were polled—were actually closely following this public engagement, 3%. Only one in five were actually aware that the public consultation was happening. So 20% actually are aware of it.
We believe that the government could be doing more to promote awareness of the national engagement process, as education is critical for the new system to be truly legitimate in the eyes of the electorate. We recommend that, once the committee decides upon a new system, the government should invest heavily in public awareness and education and promote further discourse so the electorate fully understands the system.
I will say I disagree with the last gentleman. I believe Canadians are smart enough to actually be able to use a system that you propose. I also suggest utilizing the CBC as a centrepiece for political discourse—assign a media personality to be a champion of public engagement, and create a dedicated time and space on television and radio and online for public engagement, discourse, and education.
Thank you for your time, for allowing me to speak, and for studying this very important issue.
Thank you very much for taking the time to hear from me. We've heard some very strong arguments tonight. I'd like to put a very personal face on this.
My name is Chris Tolley and I was the candidate in Toronto-Danforth for the Green Party. One of the most exciting things about the campaign was, by the nature of our riding, our team was made up of mostly young people. In many cases, they were people for whom it was their first time ever being involved in a political process. In some cases, it was even the first time that they had voted. Due to their energy and their enthusiasm, they were able to raise a tremendous amount of support and outreach and information about our beliefs and our ideas.
However, in the last two weeks, there was a massive shift. There was a desire for change. A lot of our supporters said, “We believe in what you believe in, and we believe in your values, but we're going to vote for change.”
In a system that works, normally the desire for change and the desire to vote for your beliefs and your values would work hand in hand. However, since our system is broken, they actually butt against each other. It's done this so many times throughout history and it's hit everybody across the political spectrum. We need a system in which the desire for change, and the desire to vote for your values, and who you believe in, go hand in hand. At the end of the political process, I saw a group of young, enthusiastic people come out of the process disillusioned and disenfranchised, and that was heartbreaking.
I believe that mixed member proportional representation is a system that would allow the desire to vote for someone who you believe in, and who believes in your values, to work hand in hand with the desire for change,
Thank you very much.
Good evening. My name is David Hwang.
I'm not with anybody. I'm just here as a constituent in Toronto, who wants a couple of things. First, I don't advocate for any system, because, right now, there obviously has to be more time. The system that is crucial to our democracy shouldn't be done with haste. It shouldn't be a campaign promise.
It should be done with the consultation of everyone. For anyone to say a referendum is basically consultation with an uninformed public, I take that as very insulting. At the end of the day, are we going to address people who don't speak English, for whom English is a second language? There are a lot of people who are new Canadians, and who don't vote because they don't know the system. And you want to complicate matters for my family?
I don't advocate for anybody. I don't advocate for any system. I advocate that everyone has a voice. Maybe it's not the voice that fits into my narrative. But let's be honest with ourselves, are we only advocating free speech and free votes because it falls into your narrative? And you're going to muzzle the people who don't fall into your narrative? That's a fallacy. That is wrong.
All I ask is that we have a referendum. Sure, you can have a referendum with every system, so let's have it with a really robust discussion, a great discussion. For people to say, it's going to take a lot of time, a lot of money. The last time I checked, a level of government was able to squander $300 billion. You're going to tell me that you prefer a wasteful $300-billion system over spending $30 million for a process that's going to change our system.
Tell that to the people of North Korea. Tell that to the people of China. Our democracy is very important. A referendum might not go my way, but I don't insult the electorate and say, you're stupid because my viewpoints are better. I don't think that way. I hope that people have the courtesy to think with free speech.
Hello. My name is Christopher Durrant, and I want to thank you all for the hard work you're doing.
I know you have a lot of work balancing values and what Canadians' values are, and I'm not going to talk to you about the legitimacy, diversity, and benefit to public policy that a proportional representation system would bring you. I know you have to think of other values Canadians have, and I was thinking, what are the other values Canadians have? One of them is that they like a representative who has a link to a geographic riding. They like someone they know, someone they grew up with, or at least someone friends of friends know, and they like having their MPs to be accessible. They like coming to your constituency office. They like hemming you in at the church picnic.
Matt DeCourcey, they're coming for you at the Fredericton farmers market. They have an issue, and they want to talk about it now.
What system could accommodate that value as well as the value of proportional representation? I think that would be the system that's known as best runner-up, mixed member proportional, and that's when...it doesn't change our ballots. In most cases we're still electing one member for one riding, but just to top up the proportionality of the House of Commons, the best runners-up from the parties that are under-represented in the House of Commons are elected as well, and they act as second representatives to the regions.
I think this can also be done in a way that represents Canada's special nature. It could be done on a regional level. The province of Quebec, and the prairies, and the maritimes could all be guaranteed that they would be getting a share of the top-up representation. I think it's a great compromise choice. I'm sure you've heard from some people who want to keep voting simple, and I think there is an advantage to that in terms of accessibility. This system would make voting fair and simple, so I urge you to consider it.
Thank you very much.
Hi. I was forced at the door to be either a participant or an observer. I decided to be a participant.
Actually, I'm a member of the Green Party, but I don't like politics. I'm only interested in public policy, and if any other party picks up the Green Party platform, I'd be happy to vote for it.
The reason I came here tonight is that my soul is being destroyed by the current system. I have voted many times against what I believe in just to avoid a worse alternative. I don't think I'm alone on that. I'm not in favour of any specific system, but I'm in favour of a proportional system. I think the system mentioned by the previous speaker was very attractive, and there were others that seemed good as well.
An earlier witness spoke about climate change. Which system is best for reducing climate change? I used to work for a company that had offices in Sweden. I've been there six or seven times. Every time I went there I noticed that Sweden was decades ahead of Canada in its action on climate change. Countries like Sweden and Germany have proportional representation systems. They have Green Party members in their Parliament. I think the nudging effect of the Green party is in everybody's interest. I think the Liberals would benefit from it right now. They can just blame everything on the Green Party.
I canvassed in the 2007 referendum in Ontario. I'd never done any political work before. The most common reaction was that people would ask whether a referendum was being held. Those people who did know about it were a little wary, and they preferred the devil they knew to the devil they didn't know.
That referendum was held at the same time as an election. I think that's a very bad idea. When we finally got 37% on that referendum, I was astounded. I was expecting 5% or 6% from what I'd seen. I actually thought it was a rather positive reaction, given the poor publicity around it. If a referendum is to be held, I would suggest that it be held after people have already experienced the new voting system. It's very hard to make a judgment without that.
Hello. Thank you for the time today.
This is a fundamental decision. A lot of people don't realize that. Before making such a fundamental decision, we need a referendum.
The precedent in Canada and in similar countries suggests that a referendum has to be held before the fundamental decision. I'm glad people have mentioned New Zealand, Ontario, and P.E.I. What do those places have in common? They held a referendum where all voters got to vote if they wanted to, before making a decision.
Town halls are not enough. You have 40 or 50 people—or maybe 100 people here. You'd have to hold thousands of them, and maybe even more, and you wouldn't get the input you would get in a referendum.
Furthermore, the minister always likes to fall back on inclusivity and wanting to consult with as many people as possible—immigrants, women, you name it. Yet she wants to deny immigrants, women, and millions of Canadian voters the chance to vote in a referendum. I'm an immigrant. My family are immigrants, and we'd all like to vote in a referendum.
Finally, I think it's a bad precedent to leave the decision in the hands of a few hundred politicians. They may be good people, but at the end of the day, they have some self-interest.
Along with this, former prime minister David Cameron, after the Brexit referendum, said that despite his side losing, he was proud that in his country they left fundamental decisions in the hands of the people. I hope that Canadians will be able to be proud of that, too, and that they leave this decision where it belongs, and that's in the hands of the Canadian people.
Hello. I'm an assistant professor in the department of politics and public administration at Ryerson University. I support any form of proportional representation that the committee recommends.
There are three problems I see in the current electoral system that I would like to see addressed by any new system proposed.
The first is eliminating the need for strategic voting. Personally, I absolutely hate not being able to vote for my first choice and always having to try to decide who the two top running candidates are in my local riding, and then to choose one of them.
Secondly, a number of people have spoken to this, I think a false majority that our current system creates is fundamentally anti-democratic, problematic, and something that would be addressed by some form of proportional representation.
Thirdly, I'm concerned about the low representation of women in the House of Commons. Currently they rank 64th in the world, with only 26% of women in the House of Commons. Many of the systems that rank near the top have some form of proportional representation. It's also easier to ensure that there are more women running with some kind of list. When parties have to put forward a full list, then they can guarantee that a certain percentage are of each gender, which is easier than dealing with just single-member electoral districts.
In closing, I think this is a huge, once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new electoral system. Thank you so much for being part of this committee, and I look forward to seeing what you propose.
I'm Ken Robertson from Barrie, Ontario. I feel honoured being here tonight. I didn't expect this. I was in Oakville this afternoon at a retiree's meeting. I was going to come here tonight because I knew about it, but I didn't think I'd get an opportunity to speak. I thank you for doing this and spending all day at it. A lot of people don't realize the work that MPs do put in, as well as MPPs, and I think they should know that.
The reason I got involved 15 years ago...my son had come home from doing an apprenticeship. It was the first time he was eligible to vote, and I asked him to get in the truck and we'd go vote. He said he wasn't going to go. He wasn't interested in voting because his vote wasn't going to count. He was curious as to why I was voting. He said, “I know how you vote, and your vote never counts”. I went out and voted. He didn't go. I got thinking about that. I did a bit of research and I found out about Fair Vote Canada, which had started up. I started looking at some of the stats. I saw that in most of our elections we were getting majority governments of 30%, 38%, and 40%. Bob Rae, I think, in Ontario, got 37%.
Whether it's in Alberta with Notley, or whether it's in Ontario with Wynne, or in Ottawa with Harper or Trudeau, it's the same result. It's a little insane when you think about it.
I joined the Fair Vote chapter. I lived in Oakville at the time. I'm in Simcoe now. I joined the Simcoe chapter, and we've been fairly active. We've gone into schools, we've gone to service clubs, and we've gone to union halls. The one thing that everybody gets...and I heard a comment here that electoral reform is complicated. You know when you go to service clubs, and you go to union halls, and you go to schools, and you tell them 38% represents 100%, they think that's complicated.
The one thing about our referendum—and I've heard this a lot tonight—you've got to remember a hundred years ago women got the right to vote. If there had been a referendum, then I can guarantee you men wouldn't have given them that right to vote. They wouldn't have done that.
Asian Canadians didn't get the right to vote until 1947-48. First nations Canadians didn't get the right to vote until 1960. There were no referendums. That was done without that.
I went to three town halls that our Conservative MP Alex Nuttall put on. He talked about a number of issues, including electoral reform. At those meetings he made the comment—and I heard it tonight from a gentleman who was up here to speak—that the MPs don't have the ability to make those decisions. I think you do. I have a lot of faith in him, and I have a lot of faith in you guys.
Hello, and thank you all for being here.
I learned about this very late, just today, and I don't have much prepared, like some of the previous speakers, but I think you can see the commitment to this issue that all of the people who have attended have expressed. I live down the block. People have come from a long distance. This is an important issue. To anyone who says it's a minor issue and no one cares, I challenge that. I care.
I voted for this, against my usual party, because I thought the candidate in my riding who had the strongest, clearest electoral reform message...it was a close call, but this candidate was the one who said more strongly, “We are going to change this system”. So I voted. I've never ever voted on a single issue before. That was my issue this time.
I will address a few comments, just my opinion, I guess.
I believe that the two major parties in Canada both benefit from first past the post. It's not just the Conservatives; it's also the Liberals. When the Liberal Party reluctantly kind of committed to it—and I don't think there were clear, strong statements from the Liberals until nearer to the election itself—that was when I thought, well, at least it wouldn't be terrible if the Liberals got in. I voted NDP. I usually vote Liberal, but I really wanted to see this issue addressed.
I'm wary of a referendum because of all the issues with the money in the referendums, the kind of messages, the confusion. People are apathetic and they don't always want to study and learn the rules. They just say, “Meh, whatever”. I have to admit that in my kind of demographic I benefit from the Liberals and Conservatives. Personally I benefit, but I see a lot of those policies that aren't beneficial to others, and that hurts me. It makes me feel un-Canadian when I see that.
If there is going to be a referendum, let it be a two-part referendum: Do you want to see change in electoral reform, yes or no? That's it. One question. If people say yes, well then, obviously first past the post isn't an option. Then you can present the other options perhaps as a ranked ballot.
I don't like the idea of a referendum. It scares me. But if there has to be one... Again I'm a bit wary because the Liberals do benefit from first past the post. So will this go through? I'm counting on you guys to make this really happen.
I've been listening for a while and it sounds as if the majority of those here, in this room, do want proportional representation. The people who are against it had their chance to be here and say so. If 51% of those people are here and were the majority and wanted to keep it, they'd be here, and they're not. So that has to say something about—
A voice: They didn't get the invite; that's why.
Mr. Ryan Germann: I got it the same way you got it.
Good evening, committee. My name is Raymond Li.
Time is short and ideas are complex, so I must gloss over some details. Most of these ideas I have posted on Mr. Dave Meslin's website, 100 Remedies for Broken Democracies, so you can find out more details about it.
The first idea is that ranked ballots and proportional representation are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. You can have a ranked ballot, then you count everybody's first choice for the purpose of deciding which parties get how many additional proportional members for the purpose of proportional representation.
A gentlemen earlier said that he didn't want ranked ballots, because then his first vote doesn't count because he's voting for a minority party. This takes care of that, because the first vote still counts for the proportional representation part.
The second idea is a close runner-up to proportional representation. A couple of other speakers have already alluded to this. Instead of having a party put a list together of people who are not elected or running a campaign, the people who lose by the closest margin should get those proportional seats from the party that gets the additional seats. In this way, in the riding where the contests are the closest, you get that additional member. The second member, the proportional member as opposed to the elected member, is going to, in most cases in a divided riding, vote against the first one, and they will cancel each other's vote out, so you don't get that double vote. On issues that are of mutual consent in a riding, where everybody agrees, those two members from that riding will agree.
You can also end up with a person who wins by a squeaker. Should somebody who wins by one vote get the whole voice from that riding? No, if you win by only one vote, your opponent also gets in, and then the next election, both of you can campaign as incumbents.
I have more reasons for that, but I won't go into them now.
The final point, just a quick side point is, right now we announce vote counts in the east coast way before the polls close in the west coast. The electoral officer has said this is a problem in an electronic age, but you can't close that down. The simple solution to that—
I just want to thank everybody for being here. I very much appreciate this opportunity for people to talk and members of Parliament to listen to us.
This is just a little background about me. I was born and raised in Romania in the late 1970s, and that involved being born in a dictatorship. So I know what being raised and living in a dictatorship means; I know what living in an undemocratic country means. So when I see that political parties can gain full control of the country with 40% of the vote, that to me is undemocratic.
It's very simple for me. Just pick up the dictionary and look at the definition of “democracy”. It involves the will of the majority, right? You get the will of the majority and then you implement the issues that the majority agrees upon. That's one point.
On the point of a referendum, with so little information, with so little education—I spent the summer just talking to friends, talking to people on the street, acquaintances, about the electoral system, and I've had many people literally ask me what first past the post is. If you don't understand the system that we have now, how can you possibly vote on whether you want change or not? I don't want to blame anybody; it just seems there's some sort of failure in the educational system maybe or, I don't know, engagement with people, and so on.
A referendum doesn't work when people don't fully know what's going on in the country and what it might change to. Perhaps, like many other people have said, a referendum afterwards might actually be useful when everybody knows what's going on.
Other than that, I don't know how mandatory voting would be enforced. It could lead to spoiled ballots. That's, I guess, something the committee could look into. Engagement in general, I think, should be promoted a little bit more, because people are just not aware of what's going on, altogether, on the street and so on.
My name's Ken. I support proportional representation in any form, including the one that was mentioned using each column. That sounds okay to me.
A list of points came from Fair Vote Canada in research that's over 30 years. You probably have heard all these points, right, but a couple sort of stand out. One is prudent fiscal management. That is something Canadians seem to care about a lot. Anyway, that was the one that kind of stuck with me, but it's really an important thing for people, especially Conservatives apparently, not to waste money in this policy lurch thing that's going on.
The thing that happened is—this was my number one issue in the election—a few of us who are associated with Fair Vote Canada went to our politician, our representative, Julie Dabrusin, and she seemed to know nothing about the issue when we first went there. The second time she threw back some kind of talking points, kind of throwing out flack, I would say. The third time, I attended a town hall meeting a week ago in her riding, and she was very well informed. The audience was very well informed. It was overwhelmingly for proportional representation, although there was a status quo movement there—planted, I believe.
The thing is that, after the meeting, I asked her if she could send out the notice of this meeting, today, this most important meeting in Toronto, I'd say, to the people who attended that meeting and maybe even the constituency list. She said that was a good idea. A couple of days later, I reminded her about doing that.
Evening, everyone. I hope everyone is having a wonderful time here. It's pretty nice. It's a good crowd. It's well-organized.
My issue is the fact that I see lots of empty chairs here. I did come in late, so I'm sure they were kind of filled up, and it's the end of the day. That's an issue to me.
I think when you're changing how people are going to be voting for their federal MPs, the people who represent them and Canada on the international stage, you can't get the opinion of the 3% of the people you're going to be talking to over the course of these town halls and then come to a decision through a committee.
I think, at the end of the day, we need a referendum. My family comes from the eastern bloc, and stuff like this.... When you have a committee more or less telling you how we're going to end up voting, we don't know what you're going to do. You know what you're writing down. If you want to walk away with it and say that this benefits us, so we're going to this, the Canadian people said this, this town hall said that, we would get blind-sided.
At the end of day, we need to talk to every single Canadian and have them vote, or anyone who is interested in this. I come from a family of five, and four of my family can't be here. My father is working, and my mother is taking care of my brothers. That's unfair, right? How many other people are in similar straits who can't make this town hall, whether because it was only announced today or they only got the invitation today because of whatever, poor coordination or whatever, or they're working, they're busy, they're trying to keep food in people's mouths, trying to keep the power on. Ontario is terrible for hydro rates. It's pretty miserable.
That's why I think we need to have a referendum. Thank you very much.