Yes, I will slow down a bit.
I won't repeat what I said, but what I do want to pick up on is the important distinction between what the two main electoral system families do.
Proportional electoral systems of any kind, and there are many different ways of achieving proportionality, will create greater participation by way of greater electoral turnout. In other words, if that's an important consideration for our electorate to have, to have greater electoral participation, mandatory voting may not be a necessary alternative to resort to. Proportional electoral systems will reduce the number of wasted votes in the electoral process and will lead to, holding everything as equal, greater electoral participation.
Of course, proportional systems do this at the cost of weakening government. Single party majorities will be gone, for all intents and purposes, if you have proportional electoral systems. Countries—Canada will be unlikely to be an exception—that embark on a proportional electoral system will have some type of coalition structure, as the name of the governance game. That's the cost.
Majority electoral systems work in exactly the reverse. They tend to promote and lead to strong single party governments, typically. Of course, they achieve that at the cost of a greater number of wasted votes in the electoral process. Unless electoral competition is tight, which typically gives voters an incentive to turn out in larger numbers, electoral participation and turnout gets lower.
What I would like to do is pay quick attention to three electoral system alternatives, two of which have been around particularly in recent discussions in the media and in general. One is the alternative vote. Another one is a particular version of the mixed electoral system. The third, which gets a little bit less attention perhaps in this round of discussions is the single transferable vote. I'm going to make the argument, with the exception of integrity which I will treat separately, that the single transferable vote system seems to be meeting the other four principles somewhat better than the other two electoral system alternatives. Then I will close the presentation with a pitch, if you will, or at least with a call or an argument in favour of political or electoral integrity legislation, which could be conceived as a compendium to electoral reform.
I want to say a few words about the alternative vote. As you know, the alternative vote is a preferential vote system, which would, of course, be very easy for Canada and Canadians to get used to, because it preserves many of the features of our current electoral system. Specifically, it continues local representation. The constituency feature of the system remains in place. There continues to be one winner per district.
However, it's important to note that the alternative vote is not a proportional electoral system. It's characterized and defined by a district magnitude of one, which means there is one winner per district. If you have one winner per district, you cannot be proportional, because the winner takes all. You cannot divide the one seat among multiple contenders, so it is not a proportional system.
Because it's not a proportional system, it is unlikely to lead to greater participation, greater turnout. It's important to note, of course, that voters would have more choice than they currently have. Currently, voters have a categorical choice, which of course the preference ordering would alleviate. If you look at the literature and if you look at the findings, countries that use AV, and there are not many around, don't tend to have a greater turnout than we have.
Mixed member systems often come across as a very intuitively appealing alternative, because they promise the best of both worlds. A mixed system, bringing together a majority/plurality electoral system with some kind of a proportional component or tier in the legislature, seems to be offering both stable, efficient government, on the one hand, and greater participation through proportionality.
However, electoral reformers need to be very careful about mixed member systems. Mixed member systems come in two main variants. Depending on how you mix those two components, depending on how many proportional seats you have in the legislature, how you allow the proportional and the majoritarian tiers of the system to cross-fertilize and cross-contaminate, you may end up with very unintended consequences.
I also do want to say that while at the turn of the millennium, mixed systems were often considered as the electoral system choice for the next century, if you look around, many of those mixed systems are now gone. It's not a stable electoral system choice. I'm happy to go into the details if there is any interest
Germany seems to be the only one that has had that system on the books for a long time, pretty much since the end of the Second World War, both nationally and at the subnational level. New Zealand switched to the German-style mixed member proportional system, but even New Zealand is seriously considering replacing it, as the referendum a few years ago would show.
Mixed member systems clearly introduce a far greater complexity. Depending on how you design the system, it may ask voters to vote twice, once for a party and once for a candidate. The idea of ticket splitting and cross-party voting may be much more confusing than what we are used to today. Participation would be greater, and if you designed the mixed member system well, then distortions in the electoral process would be reduced.
I have a point about the mixed member system and how it really works. The functioning of the technical design of the system is very sensitive and that requires a lot of technical expertise and attention.
The single transferable vote requires none. The single transferable vote is known in the Anglo-Saxon world, and it is for good reason known as the Anglo-Saxon PR. Ireland, Malta, upper house Australia, it's well known in the Anglo-Saxon world. It preserves local representation. It's complex to administer but fabulously easy to use. It's not more complex for the voter than the alternative vote would be. It would be more difficult for the electoral administrators to actually calculate the votes and take care of the administration of the vote transfers.
STV does lead to greater participation, we also know, largely because it's proportional. It's important to remember that unlike the alternative vote, STV is proportional. It has multi-member districts. It has, therefore, more than one winner per district. The more you increase the number of candidates who can win per district, the more proportional STV can get.
I want to close by saying that if you want to treat electoral integrity as part of this exercise to change Canada's electoral system, I think it would be prudent to take a look at earlier efforts to bring in electoral political integrity legislation that would penalize or at least discourage floor crossing in the House. I say that because when a number of countries changed electoral systems—New Zealand is a very important example—they actually suffered.... When you change electoral systems, the dynamics in parliament change; the nature of governance versus opposition changes; coalition politics is all too rapid, and floor crossing may become too attractive for some of our elected representatives.
New Zealand learned the hard way by introducing later on a political integrity law to penalize defections. It was on the books for five years, which gave enough time for New Zealand's representatives to get used to party discipline cohesion once again under the new system, and under the sunset clause it could expire.
I think that may be something also for our leaders to consider.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Quebec, and thank you very much for your invitation.
This commission has been given the mandate of recommending a voting system that both incorporates proportional representation and maintains local representation in a non-complex manner, yet all the many systems that have been proposed to this commission involve unacceptable trade-offs between these two criteria.
Let's take two examples. In the party list methodology, one votes for the party, not the candidate. While achieving proportional representation, many ridings are assigned candidates from a different riding or a different party instead of the candidate the majority wanted. That's an unacceptably high cost for proportional representation.
The second popular contender is the MMP methodology, in which one has two classes of representatives, constituent and list. The list members provide the necessary seats to approximate proportional representation. But the cost here, according to Professor Massicotte, whom you know, is either to reduce the number of constituent members from 338 to somewhere between 160 and 200, or to increase the number of seats to somewhere between 500 and 675. The cost of achieving PR in this context is either a much lower level of representation, or a much larger, more expensive bloated House of Commons. Neither is going to be a political blockbuster; in fact, there would be quite the converse.
Canadians simply don't like these alternative systems. B.C. rejected STV by 61% in 2009. Ontario rejected party list by 63% in 2007. P.E.I. rejected MMP by 63% in 2005. They just don't like it.
So where do we go from here? Winter is coming. December 1 is getting close.
There is a huge number of these methodologies, but ultimately, they are all ad hoc and they all have unacceptable costs, and they all fall into the same trap. The concept of requiring that the number of seats held by a party matches the percentage of votes that is received by that party is not the appropriate metric. The relevant metric is that the voting power of a party in the House matches the popular vote that party received. If a party receives 40% of the vote, then its voting power in the House, its clout, has to be 40%.
This can be easily achieved by simply mandating a weighted vote. If the Conservatives have 50% of the seats and 40% of the vote, then each member of the Conservative Party is given a weight of 0.8 when voting. The vote in each party is simply the percentage of the party vote divided by the percentage of the party seats: 40 over 50 is 0.8.
If the Conservative Party votes as a bloc, it has 40% of the vote, 0.8 times 50%, which exactly matches the 40% it got in a popular vote. If the Green Party receives 5% of the seats and 10% of the votes, then it would have a weight of 2, for each member of the Green Party. This I call fractional representation. It's first past the post with weighted voting in the House: instant, painless, proportional representation.
As for precedents, in Quebec we have 11 agglomeration councils, regional councils, in which each municipality has a weight proportional to the population of the municipality.
The Council of the European Union similarly uses weights, where the weight is proportional to the size of each member state. The IMF and the World Bank—they're significant, aren't they?—have weights, and those weights are proportional to each member's contribution. Of course, in every public company, when you vote in a proxy vote, you have a weight that's proportional to the number of shares you hold.
Weighted voting is something that we are all familiar with, and there's nothing unusual about it. How you assign the weights is simply a matter of what your criteria is. Our criteria here is proportional representation.
The advantages are clear. It is well understood, since there is no change required from the existing electoral system. It's familiar, since proxy voting occurs for every company. It provides a one-to-one relationship between a riding and its elected representatives. It provides exact proportional representation at the party level. It does not require any new administrative structure. It can be implemented immediately and it is far and away the most cost-effective method of achieving proportional representation.
Let me go through a couple of details and then we can take it from there.
Who forms the government? Government is formed in any system by that party which has the most clout. Under our current one, it's the party with the most seats. Under this one, its the party with the highest proportion of the popular vote. Minority governments would form coalitions, as they do today.
Is change complicated? No. At a general election, the weights are ascertained in the way I've described for each party. Those weights are then assigned to each riding and are fixed until the next general election. If there's a by-election, the weights stay the same for that riding. If a member decides to cross the aisle or become an independent, again, the weight is fixed and doesn't provide any incentive for such a move. The weights change once every four years.
Regarding free votes, the government can declare that it will treat a particular item, excluding the budget, as a free vote, and defeat does not amount to a vote of non-confidence. If all parties permit a free vote, then it's no longer a party vote; it's a unitary vote, and that would be appropriate. You can't have some parties having unitary votes and some parties having weighted votes. That's illogical. A free vote with unitary voting would only be permitted if all the chief whips unanimously agreed.
Constitutionality is a good question. Democratic rights are covered by sections 3, 4, and 5 of the charter. Section 3 gives every citizen the right to vote and doesn't change under this system. Subsection 4(2), which permits the continuation of the House of Commons beyond five years, would require a unitary vote. There's no constitutional right to have a vote counted in a certain way, so there's no provision that will make fractional representation unconstitutional.
Every PR system has a threshold. Typically, a threshold would be a minimum percentage of votes, say 5%. If a party receives more than 5%, more than the threshold, and does not have a seat, then a compensatory seat is provided. However, irrespective of the threshold, a party gains representation if it gathers at least one seat.
Let me summarize.
The concept of requiring that the number of seats held by a party match the percentage vote received by that party is not the relevant metric. What is important in proportional representation is that the voting power of a party matches the vote received. A fractional representation system does exactly this. In a simple and direct manner, it maintains the current, well understood system with local representation, without any additional complexity, and at no extra cost. Since it maintains the current electoral system, it does not create dissent, neither from the public who generally don't like change, nor from MPs fearful of losing their seats under the new system. It's politically acceptable.
Ultimately, the recommendations of this committee, if they're to have any impact at all, must be such that consensus is assured.
Each party is going to look to protect its own partisan interests, so anything radical will be rejected out of hand, or at least require a referendum which, based on past history, will also be rejected. By making a small incremental change through a weighted vote, fractional representation presents the best chance of ensuring the consensus that is necessary to make any change to Canada's federal election process, certainly within a realistic time frame.
May I propose to you that fractional representation which is an incisive, intuitive, and innovative solution that satisfies all five principles of your mandate be seriously considered as a viable alternative federal voting system for Canada.
Thank you very much.
On this beautiful afternoon in Joliette, I would like to thank all those in attendance for having come to hear the committee's work.
Mr. Breslaw, yesterday, in Quebec City, someone described to us a mathematical system in which the weight or value of each elector is modified based on the election results, to achieve a certain proportionality. This was rather shocking for most of us, because that system would prevent each citizen's vote from being equal.
You, on the other hand, are considering the other end of the equation. It's in the election results that you identify a distortion between the weight of the votes and the equality of the members' votes. That's a lot less shocking for the public, but it's still quite shocking for us. I have to say that I would find it difficult for my value, or my weight, to be different from that of Ms. May, for example.
You cited companies and the FTQ Solidarity Fund as examples. Indeed, the weight of each actor is not necessarily equal in these examples.
However, I'd like to know whether this system, in which not all members have the same weight in the House, has been adopted in certain countries.
Sure. Thank you very much.
When we talk about a weak government, we need to be careful, so let me nuance that particular claim.
PR typically leads to avoiding a majority parliament. In other words, if there is a party that wins a majority of the votes, PR will reflect that, but that's rare. What normally tends to happen is that you have an undominated legislature, which is a legislature with no single political party having a majority. Then you need to either form a coalition government or have minority governments.
Whether a coalition government is going to be weaker than a single party majority government is a function of many variables. Two or three political parties that are cohesive and that are ideologically close to each other on various policy dimensions may be no less strong and no weaker than a similarly united, strong, single party majority government. Whether a coalition government is weaker or not is a matter of how ideologically aligned the coalition parties are.
What I do want to stress, though, is that the preponderance of such coalition situations is far greater with proportional representation than with the plurality or majoritarian system. It's not that there are no exceptions, because there are.
With respect to the single transferable vote, there is a reason it has been popular as a proportional choice in the Anglo-Saxon electorate and political world. It's largely because it preserves local representation, and largely because the identification of the voter with the candidates continues. That remains, but it gives you choice. In contrast to the alternative vote, it does become proportional because each district has multiple seats assigned to it, so you are able to allocate and offer proportional rewards among the candidates of the various parties in reflecting the number of votes they have received.
The transferring of the votes when you start calculating the votes of candidates who didn't qualify and who are not meeting the electoral quota—which is a term that's used in order to determine whether a candidate is entitled to those seats—becomes complicated, but that's a question for administration. Our colleagues in Australia know more about it than anybody else. You can get around that. Australia offers instructive lessons in that regard by giving the opportunity for voters to essentially entrust their choice to a political party.
Very quickly, thank you very much. That question is very, very dear to my heart and central to my current work, as a matter of fact.
There is good reason why Edmund Burke, a few hundred years back, speaking to the electors of Bristol, actually argued something very similar to what you said. When you elect your representative, he should be free. He should be your agent, representing according to his wisdom of expertise what he thinks is best for the constituency.
You would think, and you should think, that should include the right to cross the floor, to leave a party if that can be defended on justifiable grounds to accord with the changing needs and preferences of the constituency.
The problem is that in the intervening more than 200 years, political parties have developed—functioning, modern political parties. When you have a functioning party system, that accountability, the linkage that you so eloquently described connecting the voter and the representative, gets complicated and becomes triangular, because all of a sudden you have a political party that also galvanizes interest, that also wants to capture the preferences and the interests of the voters, and that also has the representatives to become the representative. That direct connection becomes triangulated.
That's why countries and parliaments around the world, and more and more of them, are grappling with this issue.
I'm in favour of STV precisely because of the Canadian context. If Canada wants to have a more proportional electoral system that changes as little as possible what we are familiar with and that is dear to us as voters and as the political class, which are set out in the five-point mandate, then for the reasons that I mentioned, this is the system that would come the closest, certainly closer than the other two.
The alternative vote is just not proportional. The MMP is too technical. This is the least complex system that introduces proportionality and still keeps those values intact. It's not my favourite system choice, but that's not relevant.
The mechanics of it, as far as the voter is concerned, are really quite simple. You are presented with a ballot, not unlike what we already have in any Canadian riding, except that you can rank order the candidates. Similar to the alternative vote, you are rank ordering the candidates in terms of your preferences.
Because there are multiple seats assigned to the district, political parties will be running multiple candidates. It is possible, as a matter of ballot design, to actually leave it up to political parties to determine how your preferences are going to be handled. That's an important detail that makes is easier for voters who may not be as informed about the choices to figure the system out. However, let's leave that complexity aside.
The system fundamentally works as such. You take a mathematical formula. It can be as simple as V over M plus one. The number of votes cast, divided by district magnitude plus one, which gives you a quota. That quota will essentially determine the threshold, the number of votes that will guarantee any candidate, any party, that gets that many votes from the electorate will be entitled to a seat. However, there will be surpluses and there will be candidates who are well beyond or below that threshold. Their preferences are going to be transferred in the order of the preferences that the voters themselves determine. The choice, fundamentally, in terms of who will be the beneficiary and who will benefit from these vote transfers, is automatically in the hands of the voter. It is proportional because of multi-member districts and because the quota I mentioned guarantees that.
Again, when you have many candidates running, and you have many candidates with a small percentage of the vote, those will still need to be transferred. That's why I said the administration of it can become time-consuming and complex. However, there are algorithms also now to work with that.
I want to stress that the system is not foolproof. If you follow current Australian debates about precisely looking at ways of changing the Australian system in place for the upper house, they are picking up on this issue. Therefore, the system is not foolproof, but given the mandate of the committee, it's still as close as it gets to meeting those principles.
I thank all the witnesses for being here.
And I thank the good people of Joliette for welcoming us to their lovely city.
Mr. Breslaw, you have mainly spoken about the potential system. I find you very original, and I like the "keep it simple and stupid" approach. In essence, that's the approach you are proposing, because you seem to be saying that your system is straightforward, and easy to implement rapidly.
Systems aside, Canada will be 150 years old next year, and the political party that has just been elected as a majority has decided to consider the possibility of changing the electoral system by saying, during the election campaign, that 2015 would be the last year Canadians would use the current voting system.
Do you believe that we 12 members of this committee, who are taking part in roundtables throughout Canada to meet the public, can and should have the mandate to change the electoral system?
Moreover, there are eight weeks to go before December 1, and the Chief Electoral Officer told us that it would take at least two years to implement a new electoral system.
Do you think the time for reflection is a bit short? I think our electoral system can be improved. In fact, everyone agrees with that.
Mr. Breslaw, do you think the time is a bit too short to make all these changes before the next election?
Let me begin by thanking you for your invitation. I should mention that my remarks to you today will be contained in a more formal brief; what you have, for the moment, are merely my speaking notes.
As I mentioned, I have been advocating voting system reform for a long time—at the Quebec level, since 2003—but always with a view to achieving a combination of objectives. The idea is not just to achieve proportionality, but rather, a set of objectives. I have the same democratic aspirations for the Parliament of Canada and the National Assembly of Quebec. In my opinion, for the federal government and parliament, the compensatory mixed proportional model is best adapted to the situation, because it best meets the different objectives you have set as a committee, and best meets the objectives I will present to you.
In my view, all the founding components of a society need to take part in decision-making. That is not the case at this time. We have values of fairness, equality and inclusion, but this is not reflected in Parliament. In order for these values to become a reality, institutional mechanisms—that is, mechanisms that are part of electoral law—will need to be implemented at the same time as the voting system is changed.
Essentially, we are referring to a gender-differentiated analysis, and what might be termed a differentiated inclusion analysis. This implies a multicultural, multiracial vision. In my opinion, this must be included in the analysis of electoral system reform, and in the content of the voting system to be implemented. I will therefore focus on this aspect, which I believe the committee has heard little about so far. I will provide examples of how this is being carried out elsewhere in the world, and of how it could be carried out here.
The proportional family of voting systems offers a better chance of diversifying representation, but in order for the results to be truly consistent, mechanisms that set objectives must be included from the outset. The modalities must be chosen based on their ability to achieve two goals: to respect each vote, and respect each voter. A multitude of countries have implemented proportional systems to achieve diversity. I will present some numbers derived from the analysis of the documentation regarding women. They can simply be transposed for the purpose of applying them to the representation of racialized persons as well, because there is obviously a representation deficit there, too.
My figures are generally for the year 2016, and are for the Commons. We've heard it said, many times, that Canada was in 62nd place for women's representation in national parliaments, but little has been said about what happened in the countries that achieved better rankings. Of the 28 countries in the world that have elected at least 35% women, 25 have proportional systems. This is no accident. Fourteen of those 25 countries have combined the proportional method with other modalities. This includes mixed proportional models. In other words, 14 combine the proportional method with mechanisms aimed at achieving equality. These countries include Rwanda, Bolivia, Senegal, Mexico, Ecuador, Finland, Nicaragua and Spain, to name a few. There are others.
Let's zoom back out to a global view. Eighty-six countries have implemented mechanisms aimed at achieving equality between men and women. That's 44% of the world's nations, or, if you prefer, 37% of OECD countries. So this is not marginal. What characterizes these 86 countries, in comparison with the roughly 100 others that do not have mechanisms favouring equal representation, is that they are much more likely to have proportional voting systems. Fifty-eight of the 86 countries have proportional systems plus those mechanisms. On average, they elected a greater percentage of women than the countries that do not have mechanisms: 24% versus 18%. If one examines the performance of the countries that have adopted proportional systems plus those mechanisms, one finds that they have achieved 27% representation for women.
That's a great deal better than countries with majoritarian systems, where the figure is roughly 17%. The countries that have adopted the combination to which I've referred—that is, proportionality plus a mechanism—have made better progress. From 1999 to 2016, they increased an average of 14 percentage points, compared with 6.7% for countries that did not use such a combination. So this produces much better results than when the mechanisms are combined with a majoritarian voting system, and, needless to say, much better results than when a majoritarian system alone is present—something we would absolutely not propose.
Bear in mind that the global average for women elected is 20.7%. In the countries with a proportional system, one specific combination, namely, gender alternation on lists, achieves 34% female representation, in a context where there are, of course, several types of mechanisms. That's major.
What might that look like here? Broadly speaking, although the systems and mechanisms are varied, there are two major categories of mechanisms: mechanisms that set objectives for the percentage of female or racialized candidates, and are therefore about the efforts made by political parties; and objectives concerning the representation achieved in the election results. After the mechanisms are established, the rules to ensure compliance with those mechanisms must be put in place.
Currently, an elections statute regulates each stage of the electoral process. Everything, including time periods, is addressed. It would make sense to include the rules intended to implement the principles which we, as a society, have deemed important. Given that we allocate public funds to political parties for the good of democracy, it would make sense for us to demand accountability from political parties in terms of the results they attain. It would also make sense for us to demand accountability for their use of the funds. The socio-economic conditions of women and racialized persons are much worse than those of the population as a whole; this must be taken into account when considering the obstacles to running as a candidate.
I will not make some very concrete proposals. We must protect our principles from shifting winds and affirm the principles of equality and inclusion in the important documents; we must include the mechanisms in the elections act. We must act on two fronts, efforts and results, and thus, on both the percentage of candidates and the percentage of persons elected. More specifically, in a compensatory mixed proportional system, women and racialized persons must be encouraged to run for office. In order to do this, we could increase the extent to which their election expenses are reimbursed, and take their socio-economic differences into account. We could encourage political parties to present teams in keeping with the principles we establish. We must ask them to achieve targets and specify rules for that purpose.
In a compensatory mixed model, there are, of course, two components related to seats: the constituency list and the compensatory list. There are mechanisms that are good for both the constituency candidates and the compensatory candidates. If the value of equality is enshrined properly in the statute, we can then include a rule that the parties must present no less than 40% and no more than 60% of candidates of a given gender. This would apply both to the block of constituency seats, and the block of compensatory seats.
A part should also table a fixed percentage of candidates who are racialized persons. This percentage is easy to establish; there are statistics. The statistics vary by region, so the territorial distribution of racialized persons should be taken into account to establish the objectives. This would apply both to the constituencies and the compensations. The target percentage would therefore be based on pertinent data.
There would be specific mechanisms applicable only to the candidates on the compensatory list. I am referring to the alternation between both genders throughout the list. Rules could even be specified. There can be all sorts of variants, each aimed at ensuring that racialized persons are not at the bottom of the list.
In order for public funds to be used to achieve our objectives of equality, inclusion and non-discrimination in a broad sense, the reimbursement of election expenses should be increased based on the performance achieved, the percentage of women elected and the percentage of racialized persons elected.
There would be a way to have mechanisms based on the situation at election time, and a process for increasing the representation of these groups by level, by step.
How much time do I have left, Mr. Chair?
My name is France Robertson. I am an Innu woman from Mashteuiatsh, in the Lac-Saint-Jean area. I have been living in Montréal, an urban environment, for 23 years. I am the director of the Lanaudière Native Friendship Centre and vice-president of the Quebec federation of native friendship centres.
First of all, I'd like to note that we are on Atikamekw territory. I thank the Atikamekws. The Manawan community is right next door. I think it's important to underscore that.
The Native Friendship Centre movement has been active in Canada for more than 60 years. There are 118 such centres in Canada, including six provincial and territorial associations, as well as the National Association of Friendship Centres, or NAFC. In the province of Quebec, the provincial federation is called the Regroupement des centres d'amitié autochtones du Québec.
The Native Friendship Centre movement has been present in Quebec for more than 45 years. The first friendship centre opened in Chibougamau, in 1969. During the 1970s, centres opened in Val-d'Or, La Tuque, Montreal, Senneterre and Quebec City. The Joliette centre is relatively new; it opened in 2001. These cities were already meeting places for indigenous citizens, who converge there to get access to services, and settle there permanently.
More and more indigenous people are leaving First Nations communities, which you call reserves, to settle in urban communities so they can study, work, or have a better life, or for health reasons. In the Joliette area, 60% of the indigenous population are Atikamekw who still speak their language.
We are the largest First Nations services infrastructure in Canadian cities. The Native Friendship Centres have a shared vision, namely, to improve the quality of life of Aboriginal citizens who live in urban areas or are transiting through such areas. They are multi-service centres in urban environments for indigenous clients—that is, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people—but they have an open-door policy without distinction based on status, nation or place of residence.
We are Aboriginal democratic and non-partisan community organizations, and we work in a spirit of complementarity with the partners in our communities. Our movement's strength is based on our democratic structure, which enables all indigenous citizens to express their aspirations and take part in the decision-making process aimed at achieving objectives, by sitting on our boards of directors and attending the annual general meetings, and which takes their experience as consumers of services into account so that the services can be improved and made more responsive to their needs.
Our management and governance structures are oriented toward indigenous citizens. Accordingly, our primary commitment is to indigenous people who live in or are transiting through cities.
The trend of indigenous people moving to the cities continues to grow: 60% of indigenous people live outside reserves. In Quebec, more than half the indigenous population—53.2%—live in a city. The trend is getting more pronounced. There is a lot of talk about Quebec's aging population, but our own population is young: 55% of us are 25 or younger. More and more young people are settling in the cities.
I'm going to digress for a moment. Although it's considered a civic duty, I've only voted twice. When I left my community, I felt there was no point to voting—that it was not about indigenous people. I saw no interest in doing so, and felt it didn't concern me. I questioned what it would change, given that the candidates who get elected are not indigenous people, and that the Indian Act remained in force. That was always my attitude. But one day, an elder told me that if we want to change something, we have to change our attitude, get involved, and go vote so that things will change. I've voted twice, and am proud of it. I also talk to my children about the importance of voting. I would never have thought that I would talk about voting systems one Friday afternoon in Joliette. Thank you, Mr. Ste-Marie!
I know that you'll be hearing from very few indigenous people, but in my opinion, it is very important to hear them.
I heard Mercédez discuss the voting system in considerable detail earlier. For our part, we are making great efforts to raise our sisters' and brothers' awareness of the importance of voting. But we need the voting system to adapt to our approach—to our way of doing things.
In the most recent election campaign, the 2015 campaign, the Friendship Centre movement put a lot of effort into raising indigenous people's awareness of the importance of exercising their voting rights. We created an elections program to help indigenous people understand that they needed to vote—that it's a civic duty. We really mobilized. At the Joliette centre, we met with the candidates from each party, to ask them questions. We asked them which elements of their election platform affected indigenous people. They shared with us the issues that were part of their party's platform, but they also shared their personal preoccupations about Atikamekws and their families living in Joliette.
Later, we organized a workshop. We invited our members—our families—to come hear the presentations of the various candidates. We analyzed each party's platform. Our purpose was not to tell people to vote for a given person or platform. Rather, it was to present our issues, and to see what importance each party and each candidate was according to those issues. We also wanted to explain to participants how to get on the voter list, and to share with them the reasons it's important to vote and to determine which party is closest to our Aboriginal values. That's the kind of reflection we had with the families.
It's not enough to tell families that it's important to vote, and that it's a citizen's duty and right. That's not how I was made a voter. I was made a voter when I was told that a certain party thinks Aboriginal people are important, that it listens to them, and that, for these reasons, it's important to go out and vote—to cast a vote for a certain party, or a certain candidate. Those are the points we raised, and our people went out and voted.
We knew that Aboriginal voters had to surmount a variety of obstacles in order to exercise their voting rights. We knew they were unfamiliar with the electoral process, and had trouble finding information about parties and candidates. We knew that the cards we could submit as proof of identity do not make reference to a place of residence, and that our nations are still largely nomadic today. Even though we have reserves, many families remain nomadic. So, at the polling station, presenting the elector's card with a residence address is a challenge. Some people lose it, while others don't go and get it, or don't feel like it. Aboriginal people often tend not to vote when an obstacle arises. For all these reasons, we looked for a way to facilitate the process, in order to encourage indigenous voters to exercise their civic duty.
In order to counter the lack of motivation and interest among indigenous people, we invested a lot of effort in motivating them to exercise their right to vote. We shared easy-to-understand information about the way the electoral system and the voting process work. We also used social networks to mobilize our members. This included Facebook, a powerful communication tool. We facilitated sharing of information about political parties and local candidates. I thought that was very important, and I thank the parties and candidates, who were very cooperative. Aboriginal people accord considerable importance to the interest shown in them, and can anticipate the impact their votes will have.
In addition, we offered transportation to the polling station on voting day. It's banal, but important. We generally offer transportation to our activities, and we decided to do that on election day as well, to encourage our members to get out and vote.
You now know how much importance we ascribe to raising indigenous voters' awareness about voting. Friendship centres are non-partisan organizations, and it's important to respect that fact.
The most important thing for us is that people be able to vote.
Few indigenous people vote in federal or provincial elections. According to Elections Canada, 30% of First Nations living in Quebec communities were able to vote in the 2011 federal election, compared to 63% in the rest of Canada. We know that in the last election, there were Aboriginal candidates—there was talk of this—and we were very proud of them.
The important thing to us, truly, was that people be able to vote, and not just for a party running Aboriginal candidates. We certainly hoped Aboriginal candidates would be elected, but it was more important to us that changes be made to programs. For example, right now, urban populations are a growing challenge. This was important to us.
I hope that, one day, by exercising my right to vote, we will achieve nation-to-nation dialogue. This won't happen tomorrow, but I hope that, one day, each First Nation will be told that it can vote and that everything is possible. I know that the Indian Act won't be abolished tomorrow, but if Aboriginal people are called upon to vote, it could happen one day.
I thank the witnesses for being with us.
Ms. Roberge, we are meeting with a lot of experts, university professors, citizens and organizations that have access to considerable documentation. However, the data often contradict each other. In this context, I'd like to know if you have documents that confirm your figures and assertions.
Just yesterday, a university expert, who came to speak to us about voting systems, asserted with certainty that in the countries that had proportional voting systems, those systems had no impact on the participation of women, or on the number of women elected. He said that it was not that, but the measures deployed to change the political culture, which brought about change.
I remember that, last week in Ottawa, a woman affiliated with a university— in Vancouver, I believe—appeared by videoconference. Each time we spoke about voting systems, she repeated that if we show the will, and impose strict rules, the desired results, including 50% women candidates, will necessarily be achieved.
We are trying to achieve many things. We want to change the voting system. If the objective is truly to obtain 50-50 representation, and the majority of the public is not preoccupied about voting systems—indeed, it has been said that the discussion interests only 3% of people—then in order to truly change things, perhaps we must resort to more modest means.
We are talking about women and minorities. Yesterday, a witness said something that really struck me. It was the first time I became aware of those issues. Based on what he said, we want women to have the same representation as their share of the population, which is 50.4%. There are now more women than men.
He asked whether all religious groups, minorities, immigrants, homosexuals, transgender people, youth, seniors and indigenous people—perhaps a variety of groups in the case of indigenous people—would be represented, and where the line would be drawn so that people can make decisions and take their place.
My question is somewhat broad. I'd like to hear your comments on the subject.
I will expand your question to include the consultation process. I find it absurd that after almost 30 meetings of this committee, we're only the second group made up exclusively of women. That shouldn't have happened. Your committee should have conducted a gender-based analysis at the start of the process.
From an outside perspective, it has been very frustrating to wait for you to be given expertise, because that's the goal of the consultation process. The committee has deprived itself of significant expertise. I'm not speaking only of the presence of women, but also of racialized people and aboriginal people.
Concerning validation, I'm not in favour of a referendum to validate the result of your work. We're trying to work on electoral legislation. Electoral legislation is legislation. Not all legislation must go through a referendum. Why is this legislation in greater need of going through a referendum? I can't find anything conclusive on that subject, especially when people would be asked a question on something they know nothing about and have not experienced. It seems to me like an attempt to wreck everything and maintain the status quo.
I'm not against reviewing, after three elections, whether we've made the right choices. It's different. At that point, we can talk about it again. We can then determine how to improve the situation. For the moment, it's legislation and you're responsible for submitting a report. I hope you will supplement the expertise that was not provided so it contains the analyses I talked to you about, not only my analysis, but other analyses on a larger scale.
I also think you're responsible for suggesting the next steps, not only in terms of validation, but also in terms of reflection. I certainly can't speak for the first nations. However, it would be worthwhile for the committee to show openness to holding discussions to see whether aboriginal people want mechanisms established to improve their representation. I developed mechanisms and others did as well. While doing so, we took into consideration that we couldn't speak on behalf of aboriginal people, but we could ensure that the mechanisms weren't detrimental and were transferable.
So it's important for the committee to raise the issue and establish that any claims made by aboriginal people as part of the current electoral reform should be taken into account. If no claim is made, the committee could still start looking at ways to reach out to the first nations.
At the start, it was noted that, from 2003 to 2010, Ms. Roberge was the chair of the Mouvement pour une démocratie nouvelle. Thank you to the two witnesses for their presentations.
I want to tell my colleagues that Ms. Roberge sparked my interest in electoral reform. If I remember correctly, in 2008 she led a workshop in Sainte-Hyacinthe where I first learned that while we use a certain type of electoral system, other systems could help us ensure that each vote counts.
Thank you, Ms. Roberge, for emphasizing the fact we should take the opportunity to reform the electoral system to increase the number of women in the House of Commons. We currently represent 26% of elected officials.
Esther Lapointe from the Groupe Femmes, Politique et Démocratie told us that if we wait for things to happen naturally, we'll be waiting another 100 years. In addition, there's no guarantee things will be done. We must take the opportunity to establish terms and conditions. Things won't happen on their own. In the last election, the NDP had 43% of the women candidates. Equity rules needed to be established, adhered to and very clearly imposed.
Also, Ms. Roberge was awarded the Prix Réformera in 2014, in recognition of all her work. She took up the challenge and went all over Quebec to speak about electoral systems.
Ms. Roberge, at the end of your presentation, you quickly spoke about the impact of ratios in a compensatory mixed-member proportional representation system. I want to have a better understanding of this notion.
I will talk to you about my personal experience.
I live in Pointe-aux-Trembles, in the Montreal region. I kept myself informed during the latest election campaign. I was familiar with the candidates in the Joliette riding, where the Centre de l'amitié is located. We made efforts to raise awareness. But when I had the ballot in my hand, I saw candidates' and parties' names. Of course, I voted for my preferred party even though I did not know the candidate. I also didn't know whether aboriginals were part of his concerns.
The party is important, but we first have to know the candidate. I thought it was unfortunate to be voting for a party without knowing the individual. Actually, the person whom I voted for and who was elected has no interest in aboriginals. I found that out later. To my mind, that is something of a failure.
As for ballots, we can sometimes see the candidate's photo or their name, and that's helpful. However, an awareness-raising process must first take place.
Some ridings have very few aboriginals. I smiled a little when I saw that Michèle Audette was running in the Terrebonne riding, which has very few aboriginals. It's a shame, but she certainly had no chance of winning the election. It's sad to see that aboriginal candidates are often chosen in such places.
Why not find her a riding that's made up of mostly aboriginals? We are definitely favourable to aboriginal candidates. I personally believe in that.
Thank you. Welcome to Joliette.
With all that I've listened to today, I'm still trying to figure out why we're having this discussion on voting reform. I've become a cynic. How will a change in the voting system impact governing parties from taking decisions in Parliament, such as back in February the vote against the Palestinian occupation? To me, I don't get it. You have human beings who are militarily occupied, and parliamentarians in a majority said that's okay.
How do you vote for a governing party that is planning to support TPP? Ms. Freeland, I understand, wants it. Here you have a trade partnership where Canada's going to give up its soul in exchange for corporations to be able to sue government if ever they don't have the profits they're expecting to get. There are 37 lawsuits right now. Many of you are aware of this.
There's a governing party that supports a justice system which Canadians, for financial reasons, don't have access to. Beverley McLachlin, in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association, said that the system isn't working. People are showing up, they have no representation, they're representing themselves, and they're getting their asses kicked in the court system. It's not fair.
You have a governing party that changes nothing in CRA secrecy and how they operate.
Our Parliament supports an economic system where we have the Bank of Canada, which is our national bank, and instead of using it as we did in the 1930s and 1940s to build Canada, we're now using a dishonest banking system that has fraudulent banking where money is created from nothing.
These are the issues I'm concerned with. How will a modification to the voting system, whether it's proportional representation or another, impact the change and the philosophy of governing parties? That's my issue, and that's what I have to say for my three minutes.
Thank you for your patience.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. You are very generous. We usually get only two minutes to speak.
I would like to come back to the referendum issue. I feel that a referendum must be held on the double-majority option—one for Canada's anglophones and another one for Quebec. If that is not done, Justin Trudeau will definitely adopt the preferential formula because it will benefit him. That is how this works. People never want to lose power. They never get enough of it, and the population ultimately always pays for it.
I am trying to get this message across. It is directed specifically to the federal government. This should be based on three pillars so that the population would manage the finances, which would be managed by it and for it. I will give you an example. I am trying to get my message across to Quebec and to the Parti Québécois.
I see that you are listening very carefully. Let's say that 125 members were kept as as a mainstay and there were 125 wise ones, who have proven themselves as volunteers—usually, we don't get robbed by volunteers—and another group of 125 people, who would be elected a sort of a popular jury. In other words, our elected representatives would no longer have any financial authority, and those 125 individuals would make decisions on bills, acts and finances.
Justin Trudeau's spending power is fine, but we see what he has done to raise his image with NATO, the world's biggest war machine. I don't know whether you were aware of that. What will it ultimately lead to? It will protect African mines. Do you understand what I am saying? We don't have enough mines here in Canada. There are no more royalties, and drones can no longer even be used to determine how much material is being taken out per cubic foot.
In terms of forests, for example, when the Coulombe commission was doing its work in 2000, $22 billion was needed to obtain royalties. So $22 billion was needed for a $90 million royalty. In the end, we reforested. Do you see how rotten the system is?
As for Panama Papers, what are they concerned about? Are they concerned about the mafia? There is no more investigation. That concerns all capitalists.
At least you are listening. I must admit that I am hard of hearing, and it is difficult for me to understand what I am saying. It's great that the sound is coming through and you are listening.
There may be another benefit for society. The flow of money has no purpose. Credit cards actually leave a trail. Only change is left in circulation. I don't know what will be done with that mountain of money.
I will give you another example that has to do with the courts and the SharQc operation. The criminals were not sentenced, and they are free. Only honest citizens come before the courts.
I have a feeling that my time is up. Thank you for your generosity and for listening to me.
I want to begin by thanking the committee for coming to our region. I think it is very good that you are travelling across Canada in order to find out whether people prefer the status quo. I hope that not many of them will tell you that they wish to keep the status quo.
My goal today is not to suggest mechanisms on the proportional voting system, but rather to make a strong push for you to recommend that a referendum be held when you make your main proposal.
I don't know why that word frightens so many people. Yet, the dictionary defines a referendum as a consultation of the people. Consulting the people is a beautiful thing. You consult the population to get ideas, but unlike the lady who spoke earlier, I feel that the people are intelligent enough to make a decision once you have proposed something to them. That may be one or two scenarios—I don't know what your work will lead to—but when a decision has to be made on how representatives will be elected, I must have my say. I feel that Canadians—be they Quebeckers, Manitobans or anyone else who is part of Canada—must have an opportunity to share their thoughts on this.
I would never use the Americans as an example, but I have friends who live in California, and they are frequently consulted. They are not afraid of the word “referendum”. They even have their say on issues I find silly, but they are consulted and are very proud of it. In Canada, 175 or 200 people will decide how we will elect our representatives who will work for us over four years.
I really hope that the consultation will not be limited to asking us to express ideas. You will do a good job, and it would be nice if you were to put your proposals to Canadians and ask us what we think.
I really hope that will be the outcome, so that democracy would go all the way.
Thank you for listening to me.
My name is Linda Schwey. I was born and brought up in Montreal and I came here today because I think these meetings and hearings are just fabulous.
I lived for many years in Denmark where there is a proportional system of voting. This is common in many European countries because they have so many parties. When I came back to Montreal in 2005, Denmark had eight political parties and a population of 5.5 million. Now it's not so terrible. Where I lived we never had an MP who lived in my district, but it didn't really matter, because Denmark is a very small country. It is two and a half times the size of Lake Ontario.
If someone who represented me didn't live in my district, the person lived not too far away. In Canada this would never do. You cannot have a person representing you who doesn't live near you at least. In Denmark there is a list of people who would be voted in as MP if they got all the votes because it's not tied to the place where they come from. I don't think the people in Joliette would like to have an MP who lives in Montreal. This wouldn't be right.
Aside from that, when you find out at the end of an election that you have 40% to achieve proportionality, you would say that the NDP, for example, should have five more MPs. Where do you get these MPs? They are from a list that the party itself makes. It does not have any input from the people themselves. The people have the list of who's going to be elected MP, but it is the party that makes these lists. Usually, the people, the voters, agree with who's on the list; however, sometimes the party gets an idea that they want to reward somebody and so they put that person's name on the list.
It's not just a matter of having your name on the list, there is also competition as to where on the list your name gets put. If you're number 10 on the list, and you're only going to end up getting five extra MPs, then you're never going to become an MP. If you're higher up on the list, you have a bigger chance.
What we're doing is throwing away a system that elects an MP who got 38% of the vote, and we're accepting a system where we get an MP who got zero votes, because the MP came from a list and was not somebody who was elected.
Mr. Chair, thank you for giving me the floor.
In terms of the form, I would say that the current system is pretty suitable for the representation of voters in a riding by an elected representative. Although proportional representation would guarantee a better distribution of seats to the parties based on the vote, it would be unrealistic arithmetic for voters. They would see their choice of candidates from the party they chose based on a preferential list.
The only proportional correction I see as an option would be separating the party leader form their riding by having them elected based on the votes cast for the same party. In other words, they would automatically have a seat in Parliament if they obtained at least 1% of the Canadian vote, and the leader would remain the incarnation of their party during the vote.
As for the substance, I would say that the measure I am proposing to remedy the inequality of the vote would be twofold. Although a party would have more chances to form a majority in Parliament, as it is currently the case without obtaining the majority of votes, it would still be required, as much as possible, to have another level of legitimacy by ensuring that it would obtain the consent of enough parties in the House to form a majority based on the election vote for any legislative measure.
The dual approval would increase the scope of the legislation. It would be akin to moral support and rallying that would trump any partisanship. In addition, the speaking time for each party, regardless of which party it is, would be based on the percentage of votes that party obtains in the election. The House of Commons would thereby recognize the equality of the parties without any other privileges assigned, except letting the party that led the ballot maintain its right to govern and to set the stage for legislative measures.
Moreover, as in the case of party financing, research budgets for parliamentary business would be prorated to the election support parties obtained. The parties with fewer elected members, but a strong voting percentage, would benefit through all those measures from larger visibility, would support or denounce government measures and would occasionally get credit for them.
What I have in mind is no less than a true revolution of our political mores. Our differences and our interests aside, could we create a Canadian brand of democracy?
On behalf of the Réseau FADOQ, I thank you for inviting me to appear before you. I'm very happy that seniors can have a voice in today's consultation.
In 2014, the Réseau FADOQ submitted a brief on the electoral reform, a reform that the former government had already begun. I have drawn heavily on that brief to share a few ideas we have developed. One of the things we want to stress is the importance of the voter information card. Seniors actually often no longer have an ID card as such—in other words, their photo no longer appears on their health card. In addition, many seniors no longer have a driver's license. It is difficult for them to properly identify themselves.
Those people should have a voter information card. I think that it exists, but it is not well-known or used. That could be a democratic way to encourage more people, especially seniors, to vote, even though seniors tend to be the ones who vote the most, as we know. However, the fact remains that some of them may be hindered by the difficulty of identifying themselves.
Seniors often sell their house to go live in residence, and having to travel in order to vote can be very complicated. Establishing polling stations in residences could be a worthwhile solution.
As for the matters of inclusion and accessibility, we feel that anyone who lives in Canada should have an opportunity to vote according to the precept established by everyone—in other words, with the respect due to them.
We at the Réseau FADOQ are also worried about the funding of political parties. As in certain provinces, contributions should be capped. That could help prevent some of the abuse, and parties would be more equal when it comes to the money they can use to conduct an election campaign.
Regarding participation and the promotion of the right to vote, changing the chief electoral officer's role was considered at some point. That idea is of concern to us. I don't know whether it is still planned, but it was in 2014. We feel that the chief electoral officer's role is very important because, over a period of time, that person educates all Canadians about their actions at the polls.
In addition, we would like the parachuting of certain individuals to be better defined because, in some regions, candidates are often people who don't live there and are pitted against the people who do live there, as is the case in Lanaudière, among other places. That is done to the detriment of residents who are rooted in their community and could shed a different light than an outsider might. As the person is prominent, the party decides to send them to a particular riding because that is to its benefit. However, for the region in question, it's not as beneficial to have someone who is not from the community and is not familiar with all of the constituents' needs.
The Réseau FADOQ submitted a social contract in support of seniors two years ago. That social contract was backed by the World Health Organization because that body felt that the four pillars set out—well-being, health, security and a sense of belonging—are important.
Of these four pillars, three can easily be implemented in the electoral reform we are talking about. Easy access to polling stations should be provided for everyone. That access, as I said earlier, has to be facilitated.
There are many seniors who live in Lanaudière, especially in the northern part, and they find it more difficult to get around. Public transport is different here. We are not in Montreal and there are no subway cars or trains available. There are various factors that prevent many people from voting. Access to polling stations is another topic we would like you to address.
It is important to include everyone, to make sure that everyone's voice can be heard and that this is not just an occasional thing, as the lady was saying earlier. Today we have your attention, but we should also have it during the election.
I also spoke about being able to count on the Chief Electoral Officer to ensure that the voting and balloting process is well overseen and monitored. The voting period may be very short, but it can also be very long if things are not done properly.
Basically, we feel it is unfortunate that very few people avail themselves of their right to vote. When you see the percentage of Canadians who vote as compared to number who are entitled to do so, it is deplorable. If there is one right that belongs to us as individuals in a democracy, that has to be our right to vote. There might be a way, without making it mandatory, to encourage people more strongly to avail themselves of their right to vote.
This could provide a different outcomes than what we have seen over the past few years. People were elected and that is a good thing, but if everyone who has a right to vote exercised that right, we might see some changes. The results would probably not be the same. There may be some mechanism you could consider to encourage citizen participation.
Let me go back to access and to the possibility of having polling stations close to where people live. Students could vote on campus. That is done in certain places. Why could senior citizens not vote in their environment? This would probably encourage more people to vote and to be more concerned with their democracy.
I may not have used the 10 minutes I had at my disposal, but my statement is complete. That is what I wanted to share with you.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I thank the committee for allowing the youth of Joliette to express its opinion in this consultation.
This debate has gone on for quite some time at the Regroupement des étudiants et étudiantes du Cegep de Lanaudière. We consulted several organizations that advocate electoral change, such as the Mouvement pour une démocratie nouvelle. We also listened to the point of view of the students of the Fedération étudiante collégiale du Québec, the national federation we belong to. We came to the conclusion that the current voting system is no longer representative and adapted to current needs. After consulting our members, we decided to advocate the implementation of a compensatory mixed proportional system with regional compensation. I will provide further details about that.
We are opposed to pure proportionality, for the simple reason that that system is ideal in a country with a homogeneous population. However, since in Canada there are anglophones, francophones and first nations people, we felt that that system would negate the weight of each group.
We decided to add the preferential system because it favours bipartisanship. Often, the two parties that alternate in forming government are the second choice of electors. The use of a preferential system would ensure the continued existence of the two parties that have been in power in turn over the past 50 or so years.
As for the mixed proportional voting system, we chose a system whereby one-third of members would be elected from electoral lists and two-thirds would be elected as they are now, that is to say through the use of a single member plurality system. They would represent the local riding.
As for the regional lists, we do not want a single electoral list for all of Canada. As in a strictly proportional system, which we do not advocate, we want to avoid seeing Canada's language groups drown in the critical mass. The idea is to make room in Quebec for anglophone communities and first nations.
Each province would adopt an electoral list containing a certain number of members prorated according to the province's population. The lists would be drawn up by each party at a provincial convention. A given party would hold a convention in each province and the members of that party would adopt an electoral list for the province. That list would provide the order in which members would be elected.
The Chief Electoral Officer would provide an additional allowance to parties whose list contains an equal number of men and women, at least 10% of candidates of less than 40 years of age, and members of first nations. Since we cannot force people to stand for election, there would be no obligation. That allowance would be granted by the Chief Electoral Officer to encourage gender parity, and the representation of first nations and young people.
Regarding the vote, in a mixed system, each citizen would have two votes. They would vote for a riding member, who would represent local interests and ensure the representation of the riding in Parliament. The other vote would be cast for the party that would defend national issues and best represent the government's overall program. In this way we would avoid a relatively frequent situation, which is that electors vote for a candidate but do not like his party. It can also happen that electors like a given party but consider that the riding candidate does not represent a region well enough. We would prefer to avoid that situation by allowing for the expression of two distinct votes. Electors could vote on the same ballot, but there will be two types of members of Parliament.
The lists would be closed. Consequently, the party would choose the order of the members. This would be maintained according to the election of each member. As I have already said, there would be one vote for the riding, local issues, the experience of the members and the program of the party at a more local level, and a vote for the party, basically at the national level.
We decided to adopt a one-third, two-thirds ratio to keep the compensation balanced and to avoid creating overly large ridings. If we grant too many votes through a compensation system, the current ridings of the members would be too big. Consequently it would be harder to reach people.
We advocate, rather, electing one-third of the MPs through electoral lists and two-thirds using the first-past-the-post system. Candidates would have the right to stand for election in both systems, but they could of course only accept one of the two positions. We would like to see a dual candidacy system for the simple reason that the electoral list legitimizes the election. However, people should not say that those who are elected through the electoral list do not have as much legitimacy to sit in the House of Commons as members who are elected in a riding.
This would also allow us to maintain the ratio of men and women, and youth and first nations people, as I mentioned earlier.
As for the representation threshold, many countries that have adopted the mixed proportional system have established a minimum threshold of representation to avoid having parties that only obtained 0.5% of the votes from being represented and having this divide the House of Commons. We looked at Germany, for example, where the representation threshold is 5%. The first member elected in a party that has been elected through the electoral list must have obtained at least 5% of the vote. We find this figure too high and think that once again it strengthens the two-party system. And so we propose a 3% threshold in order to control the division somewhat, the fracturing of the House of Commons, but also to allow new parties to take their place.
Gender parity has been achieved in the countries that have adopted this type of voting system. Male-female representation is much more equal and is maintained more easily without coercive measures. We find this very interesting. It is also good for the parties themselves. Indeed, if party members had to choose the MPs who would be on the electoral lists at provincial conventions, this would encourage people to join political parties. We know that the number of members in all parties has been on the decline for 50 years. This could increase those numbers, in addition to ensuring a higher level of citizen participation.
I use the House of Commons as an example. We are not necessarily in favour of revising the number of MPs. We would keep the current number of seats at 338. There would be 225 ridings, and 113 members would be elected through the electoral list, by compensation. Those 113 seats would be divided according to the weight of each province, in order to avoid having 113 seats come from Ontario or western Canada, and to ensure representativity even in compensatory seats.
Also, the regroupement is opposed to any measure to make voting obligatory. If this were to be debated again, we would be against any obligatory vote or any type of compensation for people who do vote. We are against imposing penalties on those who do not vote, or providing financial rewards or other compensation for those who do. We think that this undermines the whole principle of the right to vote. It must not become a duty, an obligation, but should remain a right. People must have a choice, they must be able to decide on their own. And so we are opposed to that.
Moreover, whatever the type of voting system that is recommended by the committee and chosen by the House of Commons, we are in favour of a referendum. The population needs to be consulted on the voting system. Of course, a referendum will be held only if the decision is made to change the first-past-the-post system. We would like to see a national referendum on the issue, with a double majority, that is to say that one option would have to obtain 50% plus one among citizens for the referendum to pass, but also among the provinces, to make sure that the bigger provinces do not decide on the voting system for all of Canada.
We think it is important that we be democratic in trying to reform the democratic process.
I want to draw the committee's attention to principles that are important to me regarding local representatives, namely, their obligation to be accountable, their accessibility and their representativeness. It is important to have an MP you can approach and whose role is to provide services to the constituents, even if it means reducing the size of ridings and increasing the number of MPs, if necessary.
It is also important that your final plan be submitted to the public through a referendum. I think it's essential that a referendum be held and that it include a regional component. I would be very concerned to see electoral reform adopted if English Canada was in favour of it, but Quebec was against it. We've already been through that situation.
I would also like there to be no preferential voting. As we know, it favours bipartisanship. We prefer a mixed member proportional system. Everyone is talking about a two-thirds and a one-third proportion, but I suggest that the committee try to form a three-quarters and one-quarter. One-quarter might be enough to set things right. What we want from a proportional system is for it to correct the defects of the current system and represent the total percentages.
It is also essential that the banks of candidates provided by the parties are national, not regional. This kind of formula has already been proposed in Quebec. The fact that the regions would vote in a block for one party would end up distorting the percentages. That's a very important point.
I'm also suggesting an innovative idea, which is that these lists not be submitted by the parties. That way, we would keep the establishment of a party from controlling the lists and certain candidates, by running in both a riding and on the list, from being guaranteed of being elected. Instead, it could be a list of the best runners-up. Each member would have to run in an electoral campaign, meet with the public and take part in debates. If, in looking at the election results for the ridings, we saw that three Conservative candidates were missing to correct the percentages, we would determine which one received the most votes or the highest percentage in his or her riding. I think that approach would ensure that all elected officials were equally legitimate. I don't think this would be the case if we were given a list that could be put together in various ways.
I also think it's very important to recognize all the parties. A party with a single elected official should have the same budget as a party with 150. With this, we are recognizing the problem facing the Bloc Québécois, which currently has 10 MPs.
The public financing portion should be restored to ensure a plurality of voices. This is fundamental.
Perhaps we could also take the opportunity to regulate election signs and stop polluting the environment with coroplast. In fact, we are arguing the need to pay attention to these issues, to use electric cars, and so on. But there's a contradiction there.
I'm putting forward the idea of a citizen-initiated referendum. I don't know if this is the appropriate place to do it. If a government is elected after making speeches and promises, but three months later is doing the exact opposite of what it had announced, the public has to deal with that government for four years. Is that democracy? I don't think so. Perhaps the public could have a right of recall or be able to demand a vote or consultation on the matter.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen MPs.
Good evening, everyone.
First, I would like to say that I am in favour of having some proportionality in Canada's federal election system so that serious small parties could be represented.
Second, I am in favour of members for federal electoral districts being elected on the principle of 50% plus one.
Third, should an electoral system that includes a proportional component be chosen, I would be in favour of candidates elected on the proportional principle being candidates who were not elected in the election, going from the highest percentage result to the lowest. That's what the person who spoke before me explained in one part of his comments.
Fourth, I am in favour of strengthening the criteria for a party to be officially recognized in Ottawa. For example, the requirement could be a minimum number of members in good standing, a full political agenda and 75% of candidates in the 338 electoral constituencies. The goal would be to prevent recognition of small parties that aren't serious or parties with sometimes extremist ideologies. It doesn't add anything good to the debate.
Fifth, when someone runs for election, there should be more selection criteria. This mainly has to do with buddy candidates, naturally. The person should be proficient in the language spoken in the riding in which he or she is running. We need to avoid the election of an anglophone from western Canada in a French-speaking riding in Quebec. I think we've seen this already, but I'm not sure.
That concludes my comments. Thank you for listening.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen MPs, and everyone here.
I'm going to give my personal opinion.
During the elections, I'd like there to be proportionality. Say, for example, that 10% of voters vote for the Bloc Québécois, but the party only manages to have five MPs elected. I'd like five other members from that party who weren't elected to be given a seat to better represent the proportion of the 10% of voters who voted for candidates for that party. A seat should be given to candidates from that party who received the most votes. Perhaps a Conservative member was elected with 9,000 votes, while the Bloc Québécois member wasn't elected, even though he received 8,000. I would like those people to be elected to represent their voters.
Voters' choices aren't currently being respected. People vote hoping that a certain party wins, but it doesn't. In the end, there are only five or 10 MPs who reflect their values and represent them very well. If 10% of the population wants MPs of that quality, MPs who represent their values well, those MPs need to be elected.
Canadiates also need to be verified. I don't know how members from very special parties can be allowed to stand for election. I think it's absurd.
I have nothing more to say. I absolutely want the people to be considered. They need to be respected. They're the voters who elect the MPs.
I also think the party's mission shouldn't change. The fact that elected MPs change their mind and don't respect their agenda is totally offensive.
As parliamentarians, you all know that words matter.
Mr. Chairman, I didn't see in your words where you suggest that the decision will come from the people, and it must come from the people.
In my earlier intervention today, I wanted to add my personal view. I told you I've become cynical in my old age. I'm now 65. If voting mattered, it would be banned. That's my view. Therefore, if the people don't make the decision through a referendum, then this exercise is rhetorical embroidery. Think of that one: rhetorical embroidery.
The wrote a mandate letter for electoral reform to , and he said, “As Minister of Democratic Institutions, your overarching goal will be to strengthen the openness and fairness of Canada's public institutions. You will lead on electoral and Senate reform to restore [Canada's] trust and participation in our democratic process.”
Well friends, let me tell you something. It's going to take a lot more than a way to change a vote to restore trust and participation.
I agree completely with Mr. Green, who made a comment earlier. If there is no unanimous decision, by all the parties, this exercise will be bogus. You are too honourable human beings to turn this exercise, which is so important, into something bogus. The last word goes to the public, to the people, and nothing else.
Good afternoon, members of the committee.
I heard a commentary on Radio-Canada that said that demographic change in Quebec was soon going to mean that when an election is held, the baby boomer generation, generation X and generation Y will each represent one third of electors. This means that it will be one of the first times that young people will be able to have a bigger influence on electing a government.
I would first like to talk about preferential voting. Something that I like less about that option is that it eliminates small parties. The message that sends to young people is that if you vote for someone and you get shut out, you may as well stay home because there is no point in voting. In fact, small parties are as good as the big ones; democracy speaks. No one party is worse than another; it is the people who choose. If a party exists only in Quebec and nowhere else, I think it has as much right to exist as other parties in the West or that are more independent.
Now let us talk about funding political parties based on the votes they get. I think it should be restored. If the parties are short of money, the public is going to pay at the end of the day. The public will take the financial losses and I think it is important to fund these parties again.
Recognizing small parties is also important. Whether it is one or two or 150, they are all entitled to be recognized.
In the case of the mixed proportional system, I am afraid we will always end up with centrist governments, with the same old deadwood in the same place, and we will never manage to get rid of it. This means we will always end up in the same place. At the end of the day, there is always a province, the aim is to reduce its influence and it still seems to be a war between two peoples.
Essentially, I think democracy and a referendum go hand in hand. Democracy means asking the people what they want. I do not understand why some people call themselves democrats and do not want a referendum. I do not know who you are talking to, but I think it is important to see that it is the public who decide, who elect you, who give you a job. I think it is important to ask people what they want.
Essentially, I am neither for nor against. I think some work has to be done to present us with what is good, the advantages and the disadvantages. It will then be up to us to choose what we want.
Hello. I have the good fortune not to be a parliamentarian, so I do not have to beat around the bush.
I get the feeling that we are all a little out of focus. There is your committee, which is sitting today, but ask around with your neighbours to see who knows what you are doing. Not many people, except those already in the know, those who are informed, who are in the loop, who know what is happening.
And yet any change in the voting system is going to affect us all. It is said that the devil is in the details, but details are what we are not being given, because no matter what voting system is chosen, there are different ways of getting there. There are hundreds.
During the election campaign, the government promised to change the voting system. It made many other promises for which we have not yet seen results. If we are going to place our trust in someone, we have to be able to determine whether the person is capable of delivering on their promises. So far, not many things have been accomplished.
Second, how is this reform to be applied? As I was just saying: there are thousands of ways of applying it. When a proposal for reform is presented to the public, we will have to be told exactly what it is, and not just have an broad proposal put to us. At present, the government is not proposing anything. It is gathering ideas, and then, someday, it will present us with its proposal.
Even the government whip,, has stressed the importance of having a discussion with the public and not with a few members of the public. He says that the Liberals' seven months in power — at the time he said it — was ultimately not very long at all for holding a complete and inclusive consultation. So this is improvising of the kind we saw with the process for medical assistance in dying. We know that subject is still being debated, even though the law has been enacted.
The bill to legalize marijuana is to be introduced in the spring, but the public is not being consulted to this extent.
So the government really has to prove itself.
Your committee is rather small. There are not many of you around the table. As well — given that I do not have to beat around the bush — there are people who are on their cell phones right now. There are others who do not understand our language well. This does not promote consultation.
I propose that each political party be able to consult its members and be subsidized by the government for doing that. Prof. Kenneth Carty of the University of British Columbia has said he is afraid that the changes made will weaken the country.
If the goal is to improve the system by making changes, you should start by changing yourselves, stopping the systematic hypocrisy and lying during debates in the House, and having regard and respect for your adversaries. The last time I attended parliamentary debates, a government member told a third party member that he was eager to see his party disappear, and that that party was worthless. I think when we have this kind of language, we are not ready to talk about proportional voting or anything else of the kind.
Hello. My presentation comes at the last minute, but I wanted to take the time to listen to the others before I said things of little significance. I hope that my remarks will not be insignificant
There is something that concerns me. We have talked about mixed proportional voting, geographic voting, regional voting, MPs, and so on, but I have not heard anything about the realities of nations in Canada. I know that the subject of the nation is sensitive, in Canada, but it is also unavoidable. Whether or not one is a sovereignist, we have to "cross the Rubicon", as they say. I think that a reform of our institutions should include this aspect.
I will start with the First Nations. I worked for a time in Manawan, with the Atikamekw, and because they are spread over several regions, they are always in a minority. We therefore need to create a firmly rooted place for the First Nations. I know this is complex. How could we do this? In spite of the fact that the subject is taboo, we have to address it.
The other factor concerns cultural communities. Again, I know that people who favour a national approach will say that this is part and parcel of Canadian multiculturalism. However, with all due respect to the sovereignists, it exists. There are a number of cultural communities here; we are not just individuals. The sovereignists have some work to do on recognizing those communities, and people who are not sovereignists also have a way to go, to recognize that a Quebec Nation and First Nations exist.
That is what I wanted to say.
I went quickly earlier because I wanted to have the time to say everything.
I talked about the list of second-best candidates. Essentially, there would not be two different candidate lists. All candidates elected would have campaigned and met with the public. I think that is important in our political system. It is also important that people be able to reach their member of Parliament and that their member be accessible.
In the present system, there are 338 ridings. I think it was Mr. Boulerice who talked about twinning. That might be possible in urban areas, but maybe not in rural areas. I was a candidate in Berthier—Maskinongé, and I can tell you that it is a large riding. The election campaign was long, but it was not long enough for someone to whom it is important to meet everyone in their riding.
Mr. Généreux, you said your riding was enormous, and that argument struck a chord with me. This makes no sense. We have to reduce the size of ridings, to bring members closer to their communities and raise our level of democracy and the importance of getting out to vote. If the candidate I vote for is not elected, but their party does well at the national level, it might be appropriate to go back and try to get them in a kind of second round or second chance.
Not changing the voting system has one big advantage when it comes to seniors. We must not end up with a ballot that looks like what they have in the United States, where people vote for eight things at the same time, with the result that they get all mixed up. People should vote for the candidate of the party they have chosen, and the rest would happen afterward.
I encourage you to consider that possibility.
For those who do not know, I was an intern with Mr. Scarpaleggia during the summer. I traveled back and forth between Pointe-Claire and Ottawa for the entire time, and I was happy that it was the other way around this time.
When we work on the other side, we do not have access to microphones. I will therefore take the opportunity I am offered this evening.
Like Mr. Scarpaleggia, I have been to Latin America. I spent five years there. I returned to Canada in April. Politics there works somewhat differently. There is an example there that I thought was worth considering. On the question of holding a referendum that has come up several times, the idea is to conduct a public consultation but without focusing on one question.
If a referendum were eventually considered to be a good idea, I would personally think about including more than one question. For example, "Do you want electoral reform?" "Should there be a maximum time for which an MP can be elected?" Please do not pelt me with tomatoes. There could be a dozen questions included.
As long as we are going to spend public funds on a referendum, it could deal with more than one question. That might be worthwhile. A witness said that including more than one question would confuse people. However, if there are clear questions, presented as a relatively distinct set, for which the answer was yes or no, it could be useful. I think we could explore various topics and resolve issues that are, as was said earlier, somewhat sensitive.