On behalf of all the members of the committee and the staff, I'd like to say how wonderful it is to be in Whitehorse. People have been so friendly and warm, and it's such a lovely setting. It's a great opportunity for us to learn more about how people in the territory feel and what they think about electoral reform.
It's our thirtieth meeting. We held hearings in Ottawa during the summer and now we are travelling for three weeks. This is the first day of hearings in our second week of travel. Tomorrow we're off to Victoria.
I'll give you an overview of how we've been proceeding. Each witness will be afforded 10 minutes to present. We're a bit tight for time in this panel, so if you can do eight or nine minutes, you certainly get brownie points from the chair, let's put it that way. But you do have a full 10 minutes. At 10 minutes we have to stop the presentation, but it doesn't mean you won't have an opportunity to express your viewpoint during the question and answer period.
After the presentations we have a question and answer period where each member of the committee is allotted five minutes to engage with the witnesses. The five minutes include answers. Sometimes only 30 seconds are left for an MP in that five-minute segment.
I would suggest to the members that if you're at that stage, you might want to use the remaining 30 seconds for a statement or a very rapid-fire question, because before you know it we'll be over the five-minute mark.
To the witnesses, if we are at the five-minute mark and there's no time to answer, please don't worry. You'll have an opportunity the next time you have the mike to answer the previous question, if you wish. We're pretty flexible that way, but we do have to keep to some strict rules about time limits.
We have three witnesses with us this afternoon. Appearing as individuals we have Mr. Kirk Cameron and Mr. Peter Becker. Then appearing on behalf of the Green Party of Canada, Yukon section, we have Mr. Gerald Haase.
We'll start with Mr. Cameron for 10 minutes, please.
Thank you, committee chair and members. Welcome to Yukon. It is indeed a pleasure to appear before you on this important national matter.
Ten minutes is short, so I'll jump right into it. I will not spend time on the various models that you are considering; you have had and will have many informed experts speaking about these. My general thought, however, is that a different model that more exactly aligns popular vote with representation in the House of Commons is laudable, and should be what guides you as you wade through the plethora of options that will be before you.
What I wish to speak to this afternoon relates largely to three of the principles you have been asked to explore in your mandate statement, specifically, principle two on engagement, principle three on accessibility, and principle five on local representation. I am coming at these three areas with a northern bias that I hope you will consider as you address the broad interests and issues of this large and complex nation of ours.
Relating to principle two on engagement, I will highlight that, among other things, you are to encourage participation, enhance social cohesion, and offer opportunities for inclusion of under-represented groups in the political process. With respect to this principle, I would suggest you consider the following.
In our Canada of today, we have set as a very high priority working to find a path of reconciliation with the first peoples of this country—first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. One avenue that is open to you to contribute to this reconciliation is to consider some form of guaranteed representation in the House of Commons for aboriginal peoples. I do not know if New Zealand's chief electoral officer spoke to this unique aspect of the New Zealand parliamentary system, but they have had guaranteed seats for the Maori dating back, interestingly enough, to 1867. Today there are seven Maori seats in its House of Representatives, which is determined through a mixed member proportional system. There are two rolls, one for Maori voting. Maori can choose whether they wish to vote on a general or on a specific Maori roll.
I'm not suggesting this particular model. It's only to say that this is an example of where a parliamentary system has embraced a unique approach so that a first people—in the New Zealand case, the Maori—can, quote, see themselves represented directly in the system.
I am reminded of Jean-Pierre Kingsley's presentation to you. The fifth point that he asked you to consider is that the “Canadian reality must be reflected in the system of representation.” As well, “Canadians must be able to see themselves in their representatives and in the system by which they choose them.”
I believe there is no better way to achieve this than by your committee actively engaging with aboriginal representative groups such as the Assembly of First Nations, and Inuit and Métis organizations, among others, to determine if there is an avenue forward that would achieve this principle for the aboriginal peoples of our country. I do not know if you have hearings set with these groups, but if not, I would suggest that you reach out to them.
I note there is aboriginal interest in reform at the parliamentary level that would build linkages between our aboriginal citizenry and Parliament. You may be aware that in 1996 the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended that a house of first peoples be established as a third chamber of Parliament. The details on its role and responsibilities are set out in the commission's report. In brief, it is recommending a chamber with legislative responsibility over bills that have substantive impact over Canada's aboriginal peoples.
In addition, in its 1996 Four-Ten Declaration of Dedication and Commitment, the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, a body representing all aboriginal groups with modern land claims agreements in Canada, called for the creation of an independent implementation and review body, perhaps similar to the Office of the Auditor General, reporting directly to Parliament on progress of land claims implementation matters that relate to today's modern treaties.
This proposal is not about the electoral process, per se, but I use this example, along with the RCAP proposal, to underscore that the aboriginal first peoples see Parliament as a fundamentally important institution relating to their relationship in Canada. In short, I would suggest you consider how electoral reform might assist in our reconciliation journey in Canada.
Principle three on accessibility and inclusiveness calls for change that would support access by all eligible voters. This takes one immediately to the consideration of online voting. Indeed, in the first paragraph of the committee's mandate, online voting is expressly noted as a matter for the committee to consider. I wish to bring to the committee's attention that there are many communities throughout the north that do not have reliable communications infrastructure that would reliably support this voting option.
Indeed, even in Yukon if a backhoe in northern British Columbia takes out our one fibre optic cable, the entire territory goes dark. A second line is being worked on, but I use this reality that Yukoners face to raise the point that rural and remote areas of Canada do not have the same level of access to or reliance in this mode of connectivity. Online voting may help many areas of Canada, but do not assume that it is a good option for all regions and communities.
I’ll turn now to principle five on local representation. It recognizes the value that Canadians attach to community, to members of Parliament understanding local conditions and advancing local needs at the national level, and to having access to members of Parliament to facilitate resolution of their concerns and participation in the democratic process.
Here I would like to provide a brief history on Yukon’s democratic journey. It has not been straightforward. Some of this history I am going to recount to you is not about Yukon’s relationship with Parliament, but it is a governance backdrop to consider when reflecting on the interests of a subnational jurisdiction in Canada, that being Yukon.
Our democratic journey has been inconsistent, to say the least. In the late 1890s, the population of the territory jumped to over 40,000 due to gold seekers in the Klondike. Between 1898 and 1908, Yukon’s legislature, at that time referred to as the Yukon Council, grew to a body of eight representatives. This was a wholly elected assembly, in keeping with the evolutionary track most provinces followed throughout their histories. Due to a massive drop in population combined with extreme fiscal pressures on Canada during World War I, this, quote, normal evolution of representative government in the Yukon took a nasty turn.
In 1918 Yukon’s Constitution, otherwise known as the Yukon Act, federal legislation, was amended to give authority to the Governor in Council to abolish the elected council and turn legislating authority to an appointed body. Although this did not happen, given considerable pressure from Yukoners, the Yukon Council was reduced in number from ten to three. This rump stayed in place until 1951, when the number of council members increased to five, and today we find ourselves with nineteen.
In the intervening years there was another event that threatened the very existence of Yukon as a distinct subnational entity in Canada. In 1937 a deal was announced between British Columbia’s Premier Duff Pattullo and Canada for the annexation of Yukon to British Columbia. Only thanks to a particularly thorny political issue around Catholic schools did this deal not go through. We were very close to becoming just another northern region in the province of British Columbia.
This is important to note because Yukon’s political rights journey has been turbulent, to say the least. We do not want this current process on electoral reform to take away any of the advancements that we’ve fought for over these many years. I recommend, in light of this uncertain evolution of political development in Yukon, that you be very careful in determining how a form of proportional representation, if that is indeed what you hone in on, will impact not just Yukon but the three northern territories.
Without a doubt our identities are distinct. In 1995 I co-authored a book with Professor Graham White, from the University of Toronto, called Northern Governments in Transition. A conclusion we reached was that:
||…the Yukon, the Western NWT and the Nunavut region differ markedly from one another. At the same time, complex cultural and lifestyle differences are found within each region.
Just as you might risk life and limb if you were to suggest that there are few differences between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, or between Alberta and British Columbia, you may wish to be careful suggesting that the three territories are of similar social, ethnic, economic, or political character. Indeed they are not.
As a consequence, I would caution that whatever model or models you wish to propose, you should not suggest a commonality across the northern region. I suspect you would not think of proportional districts that would overlay a number of provinces. Similarly, do not consider “north” as a homogeneous political state that can be addressed as a single political entity. Doing so would be a profound mistake and completely contrary to the local principle that you are asked to uphold in your deliberations over your model of choice.
We recognize that each territory is privileged in that each has one representative in the House of Commons despite our relatively small populations. However, this is about regional character and distinction. This recognition of the Canadian identity, a collection of its many regions, should not be lost in an effort to find the right proportional mix.
There is a final point I would like to make, and this has nothing to do with the unique fabric or character of the north. I believe that the former Clerk of the Privy Council, whom I briefly had the privilege of working with while I was Yukon’s cabinet secretary, expressed to you a view that I too hold. The selection of candidates in a proportional system should align with the interest in voter preference. In other words, as Mr. Himelfarb suggested to you, it should be “voters rather than parties [that] determine order of candidates”.
Although parties are incredibly important to provide choice to Canadians on public policy options, I agree with the former clerk that we should not hand to parties the ability to choose who we would like in our House to represent us on matters of national importance. That is our job as the electorate in Canada.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, committee members.
Thank you to everybody who is here. Thank you to the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, on whose territory we are meeting. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
In my opening statement, I would like to add context to a discussion that perhaps too often is overly technical. Therefore, I'll start off with only one particular observation of detail. The following six words are the first point I'd like to make that concern the public communication of this project. We should try to build consensus in our country by building on the familiarity with the current system. These six words are “first past the post will stay” as part of electoral reform, with possible components such as proportional representation and preferential ballots.
This should be the headline—those six words. Coming consciously from the foundations of Canadian democracy, it is what I believe will decide the outcome of this courageous project also by making it survive, hopefully past another election.
In Canada and beyond, there's a dangerous malaise of disenchantment and cynicism with political representation and political leadership. Electoral reform can become a constructive element of wider democratic restoration. Part of the Prime Minister's good fortune during the election was that he touched on the aspect of technocratic authoritarianism with regard to his father, and Michael Pitfield's Privy Council procedures.
Since those days of Trudeau senior, a shift from a marketplace of ideas toward a dictatorship of ideas has gone much further. Many people don't look at the corrupt and protectionist details of so-called globalized free trade, which is not about trade, and simply blame these democratic crippling flaws on politicians as a quasi-evil species.
Serving the brevity of the occasion, if it were possible to reduce this problem of cynicism, which is relevant to electoral reform, to one source mechanism, we might have to call it out as investor-state dispute settlement that serves up protectionism for big pharma and big oil cartels, etc.
With a triple punch, ISDS allows multinational monopolies to de facto legislate and cripple the reputation and integrity of parliaments, as well as ruining the honour of the crown. One, break the law. Two, raid the Treasury with arbitration panel penalties. Three, make off with or destroy livelihoods and poison land.
Recently, the Prime Minister, certainly as far as North American government positions are concerned, presented us with another novelty by stating that ISDS might have to be removed from CETA, the comprehensive trade agreement, and the European trade agreement, as it has become an absolute no-go with all remaining European Union member governments.
Well, that's coming along.
Following through on removing anti-democratic ISDS provisions from agreements could evolve into a mark of wisdom for the Canadian government, as it would clarify that electoral reform is not meant to be a fig leaf for democratic health.
I might add that I certainly hope that our member of Parliament, Mr. Bagnell, will take up the Prime Minister's inspiration. He could have beat him to the punch anyway, since he was well informed over the years on what ISDS is all about.
We need to reverse a dictatorship of ideas back to a marketplace of ideas that can be identified. In the current fashion of political elites who ignore the language, any language, of our country, and who instead favour artificial, deceptive language solutions such as globalization, which in reality is not internationalism but merely European provincialism of Chicago economics, it will continue to backfire. ISDS may attack again and attempt to penalize, with extortion, electoral reform legislation itself.
Carbon pricing is the enabling twin of social licence to do harm to economic and ecological survival by pushing back renewable, sustainable economies with oil and gas subsidies. One result is that protectionism and trade restrictions against renewable investments may continue, such as the 2011 NAFTA chapter 11 attack on domestic procurement in Ontario energy development. Racialized finance colonialism against the G77 countries, who pursue renewable leap-frogging and oppose the shackling to oil imports by carbon pricing in conjunction with other structural adjustment penalties in the Paris agreement, could have been avoided.
Canada is the country of Lester Pearson's imaginative diplomacy, of Harold Innis, and of Marshall McLuhan, who inspired high-tech as well as language awareness. Canada can provide substantive climate leadership as a historic pioneer of the climate crisis awareness.
How is it possible that the Treaty No. 3 first nations' final note to Energy East on their lands does not even reach the radar screen of the political pipeline coalition if not a lack of fair representation? Here is a very important aspect as to why first past the post needs to be augmented with such items as preferential ballots and proportional representation.
I think the details of those systems go beyond the scope of a 10-minute presentation, but I do come from some substance here. In the first half of my life, I grew up in West Germany, which actually has a first past the post mixed representation system. I know it in substantial ways. A lot of the flaws that are pointed out can of course easily be avoided by percentage thresholds. We don't want a fragmented House of Commons with 57 parties, like in the Weimar Republic. These things are easily taken care of.
After introducing the vote for women, first nations, non-Caucasians, and non-landowners, electoral reform once again is just catching up a bit further with old aspirations of fair representation. With old aspirations, it is important to invoke the spirit of the foundations of our country, which go back to the great ministry of our first prime minister, Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and his deputy, Robert Baldwin, who between 1848 and 1851 basically threw out the British landowner system and massively widened the voter base in Canada. This was perhaps the first really significant electoral reform in Canada.
Good evening, honourable members of the special committee, and members of the public. I want to thank the committee for coming to Whitehorse and incorporating northern voices into these very important consultations. Thank you also for providing me the opportunity to make this presentation on behalf of the Yukon federal Green Party.
My name is Gerald Haase. I am and have been the riding president of the Yukon federal Green Party for the last two years. That's right: this is the federal party that perhaps was impacted the most by strategic voting in the federal election of 2015. Locally our vote percentage went from 19% in 2011 to 3% in 2015. We were told by many of our supporters that they felt that they had to vote strategically to wrest control away from the previous government.
Some people are saying that Greens across Canada would benefit the most from the move to some form of proportional representation. This may be true at present, and certainly would have been true during the election last October. Most common forms of PR would have awarded the Green Party of Canada more seats than one. However, I think it's clear that the New Democratic Party would have benefited just as well from pretty well any form of PR and certainly, in given circumstances, the Liberals and Conservatives would benefit from proportional representation.
Please reference the Canadian federal election of 1993, in which the Progressive Conservative Party received only two seats despite a 16% popular vote across Canada. The Bloc Québécois, by the way, had 13.5% of the vote and garnered official opposition status with 54 seats. In these cases, the electorate could have benefited by having a governing body in the House of Commons that is significantly more representative of the will of the Canadian people.
Citizens of Canada, the numbers speak for themselves. Even in this great country, where elections are carefully regulated, single member plurality or first past the post does not result in fair election results, especially in current times where more than two political parties run for office.
I think anyone who says that first past the post is the best electoral system for Canada is ignoring a large body of evidence that says otherwise. The Green Party of Canada recognized some time ago that the present electoral system cannot accommodate the cultural diversity and political realities of Canada. We strongly support the present government in its efforts to develop a system of electing the federal representatives that reflects these realities. First past the post is a system of the past for many reasons.
Canada's current first-past-the-post system results in a monopoly of decision-making powers in a rapidly changing global environment where adaptability will be key for successful governance. Really, why should we continue to use a system in which a government chosen with 35% of the popular vote could possibly govern, without checks or balances, a citizenry that basically rejected the policies of this government?
First past the post also can result in, and indeed has resulted in, huge policy swings. Do we really want social, economic, and environmental policies to change radically at the whim of the latest government?
A byproduct of using the first-past-the-post system is the trend of decreasing voter turnout. With many voters turned off by a feeling of disempowerment, and others just seeing no reason to become engaged, fewer citizens are voting. I don't see how anyone can see this as a positive situation.
The winner-take-all scenario that arises from first-past-the-post voting is an illustration of what not to do in political science surveys. Thanks to the work of academics Arend Lijphart, Salomon Orellana, Dennis Pilon, and others, we have social science studies that illustrate that proportional systems outperform first-past-the-post systems in a number of key ways. By trying to make every vote count and allowing for a wider range of views to be represented in Parliament, PR empowers ordinary citizens. This can be expected to have an impact on inequality and access to social services over time and could determine how a country deals with diversity more generally.
This point provides the central argument in a recent book by Salomon Orellana in 2014. The following information comes from Fair Vote Canada's website, where Orellana argues that increased opportunities for diversity and dissent allow PR countries to outperform in four key areas. The number one stated area is policy innovation. One example is how quickly the public accepts and the government can act on new and innovative ideas. The other side of this coin is that these new ideas are vetted by a wider range of participants from varying ideologies, strengthening the innovation.
Point number two made by Orellana is that PR mitigates the pandering of politicians in the pursuit of voters by promising quick-fix solutions. This point I think speaks for itself. A word about that word “pandering”; I searched for a kindler, gentler word to use in a room of politicians, and Microsoft Word gave me nothing. It's buying votes, and we know that this can lead to quick-fix solutions.
Point number three made by Orellana is that PR increases the political sophistication of the electorate. Is this not a laudable goal?
Point number four is that proportional representation limits elite control over decision-making.
In closing, I'd like to commend Fair Vote Canada and say to the committee that this organization has done a lot of groundwork in its presentation to the committee and in providing resources to Canadians engaged in electoral reform. Fair Vote Canada suggests three different electoral systems for consideration. I'm not speaking on behalf of the Green Party at this point, but I believe that each of these systems, as well as the preferential ridings proportional system suggested by Dave Brekke of Whitehorse, would be a huge improvement over our current system.
Voters in over 90 countries around the world are smart enough to figure out PR systems. I'm confident that Canadians are too.
Thank you for the question.
You raise a very interesting point. I was in a recent conversation with some individuals, both women, by the way, who were interested in running for city council here in Whitehorse. I was a former city councillor. In both of their cases, they say that life is far too busy for them to take on a role as a city councillor. We thought about whether there are ways in which we could perhaps go after the territorial government to allow some flexibility through the Municipal Act that would allow two individuals, two women, to run for one seat on council, as a novel thought on how to do it.
I realize it's reaching. It's way out there as far as a notion goes, but I think what we have to do is strip away the normal, if you will, and start looking at some creative ideas for those who are economically disadvantaged, those who are life-challenged—I would put a lot of single parents in that particular department—and those individuals who may need some stretching of the boundaries. We have to consider unique ways in which to have them step forward to take on these critical roles within our state and in our society.
In our case in the Yukon territory, we have another level of government. I don't know if you're aware, but thanks to land claims agreements that have been settled in the territory, we now have 11 self-governing Yukon first nations. Interestingly enough, they're reasonably well represented by women in chief and council roles throughout the territory, but I do know that is a very serious consideration. It's a big-time commitment to be involved and engaged at the political level within first nations government, municipal government, territorial government, and indeed federal government here.
I think Larry Bagnell's lifetime commitment to spending his time in airplanes is one of the inhibiting factors we have in such a massive country, where we expect our members of Parliament, certainly at the farthest reaches of the country, to fly the distances they do to be able to be here to represent and speak with Yukoners and bring those thoughts back to Parliament.
That's just scratching the surface. For every topic and for every subject, there's a host of ways in which we could start discussing different avenues to try to accommodate or engage citizens who experience those kind of additional challenges to be reflected in our institutions of government.
We'll have a chance to do that tomorrow, so your comment is timely.
I wanted to highlight the practical difficulty. Just looking at those two models.... We are at the point now where I get to make a comment. There won't be enough time for you to respond to this, I think. It appears to me that there are things that distinguish New Zealand and Maine from us. Number one, they are a unitary structure, whereas we are federal, and our seats must respect our.... So that's one thing.
Second, in New Zealand their problems are simplified by the fact that they have a single treaty for the entire country, the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Maori are effectively a single nationality. Whether it would be correct to say that they are a single ethnicity, I am not sure, but they are certainly much more homogenous than our Canadian aboriginal people, who are about as homogenous as, say, the people of Europe are.
You suggested using treaties, and it looks like that is what they have done in the case of Maine. They have basically said that the specific separate groups, regardless of population, get a representative; we won't worry about an equal representation in terms of numbers, but it doesn't matter because they are non-voting.
I will stop there because we are out of time, but you have raised some interesting questions. I think that, if we as a group are going to tackle this, we need to be thinking about those kinds of broad questions.
Thank you to our panel. Thank you to the Ta'an Kwäch'än and the Kwanlin Dün, who allow us to do our business on their territory today.
I also welcome Larry, a friend. We have a long-standing debate as to who has the most beautiful riding in Canada. I argue that Yukon is a very close second to Skeena in the northwest of B.C., where I was this past weekend. We had a town hall, talking with Taku River Tlingit and some of the local folks in Atlin. At one point I had to get online while I was in a meeting, and I asked at the coffee shop how the Internet was that day. She said it wasn't bad; it wasn't raining. When it rains, the Internet slows down, because they're on a microwave feed out of Atlin to another tower, to then hook up to the main line, which is a single line south. One mistake and that's it. We all go back to a cash society, trade and barter, and all sorts of those good things that are solid.
I will start with you, Mr. Cameron. I think Mr. Reid asked some very good questions about the practicality, or even the desire, with the first nations leadership and people I work with as to whether they would want allocated seats in the House of Commons. I am not convinced of that yet, but I am open to hearing that conversation, and it is good for the committee to consider.
In terms of the practicality of online, we have been struggling with this. It is a risk-reward question. What reward do you get from allowing greater accessibility and perhaps more people participating versus the risk of either the system being hacked and interfered with or the connectivity to people? Would you imagine the possibility of some sort of hybrid, where some people would vote online and some people would vote in the traditional way? Is that something you would be open to?
Thank you to our witnesses. It's good to see all of you again. I happen to have met you all before, so I'm very happy to be back in Whitehorse again and back in Yukon.
I'm always drawn to Robert Service. As you were testifying, Kirk, I was thinking, boy, there were strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moiled for gold—like trying to steal your democracy over and over again. That didn't ever get celebrated by Robert Service, but it's a timely reminder.
I want to put a question to all three of you. One of our witnesses was our former chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley. I don't know if you've seen his evidence, but I'll summarize. He proposed that for practical purposes, a way to provide proportionality in our Parliament and eliminate unfair voting without increasing the number of seats in Parliament and without creating a politically driven list system would be to cluster those ridings that you can in urban areas in southern Canada through single transferable vote, and leave the territories alone. This of course raises the question of how people in the territories would feel about knowing that all Canadians were going to get fairer voting except the territories.
Does that speak to the importance of the point that you made, Kirk, that we don't want to do anything that is disrespectful to the identity of northerners, who have a very distinct and different political past?
I think I'll just go down the row and start with Gerald, then go to Kirk, and then Peter if that's okay. With any luck, I might still have time for another question.
Thank you for that question.
First let me comment on the fact that I'm also very clear that I don't speak for all Yukoners either, or for that matter any group across the north.
Your question is well taken, because I think it is important, at the end of the day, when you form your approach, to reach back out to Canadians, that you have some tool or some mechanism to gain receptivity across the country. I would say that includes the north. I like a multi-stage approach to this. I like an avenue where you could come back out and test the waters, not necessarily through a formal, blinding referendum or other form of voting system, but to test the waters so see where and how Canadians are happy with what you are proposing.
I believe, in the case of New Zealand, they took four models back out to citizens and said, okay, tell us which one you like the most and give us a sense of your views of the others. They got that more informal feedback first, before the formal question was put to citizenry around a single model, as in “Do you accept or reject the particular model that now seems to be your preferred approach?”
I like that. I think something of that nature would work quite well in Canada, especially given the diversity of regions that we face here in the country. You'd be able to get a good feel of where Canadians are coming from, depending on their region and depending on how they look at their place within this country.
Fellow members, witnesses, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to say what a great privilege it is for me to be here with you today.
I'm a guy from Quebec City. I've lived my whole life there. Nevertheless, I would say it's always been not so much a dream—so as not to overstate things—but, rather, a secret ambition to one day come to the Northwest Territories or Yukon in Canada's north. And now I've realized that ambition. Long live democracy and long live Canada. It illustrates this country's strength, vastness, and power. Your being here today is a testament to this community's vitality. I want to express my utmost respect for my fellow member , who not only represents his constituents, but also takes on so much work and travel to represent them in Ottawa.
Mr. Cameron, you raised a question because of the quite good question raised by my colleague from the Bloc Québécois, Mr. Ste-Marie, about how we could deal with the fact that this is a big issue here. We could open the door sometime to having proportional representation, but it's quite difficult to have proportional representation where there is only one riding for one territory or province.
You said that Yellowknife and Whitehorse are quite different. This is not a scientific example, but this morning I woke up very early to enjoy the fact that I was here. I took in some tourism, but first and foremost, I spoke with people. I took a coffee break at a famous Canadian coffee restaurant and I chatted with some people. Those people were à la retraite from CBC—so, natural friends of ours, that you can believe.
I told them I was very pleased because in three days' time I would be going to Yellowknife. Geez, what did I say? It was such a great mistake. They said, “Don't compare Yellowknife to Whitehorse. It's incredible. It's more than Quebec City to Montreal.” Then we talked about the Quebec Nordiques and the Montreal Canadiens, the good old days. For a story it's funny, but it's the reality.
Mr. Cameron, I want to again ask you the question of Mr. Ste-Marie from the Bloc Québécois, which was quite accurate. How could you deal with the fact that you want to have proportional representation, even if you have only one riding in Yukon, one riding in TNO, and one riding in Nunavut?
I'd like to thank the witnesses joining us today as well as those who have gone out of their way to be here for this important discussion. This is a fundamental debate that will have an impact on our democratic quality of life.
I'm very glad to be in Whitehorse today, my first trip here ever. This morning, like Mr. Deltell, I took advantage of our visit to go for a long walk and take in the incredibly impressive landscape.
I represent a riding in Montreal, probably the polar opposite of yours. My riding is home to 110,000 people who live in an area that spans 11 square kilometres.
I was going to ask a question along the same lines as those of Ms. May, Mr. Ste-Marie, and Ms. Sahota. In other words, I was going to ask about the Kingsley system and two possible ways of distributing seats within the federation. You provided a rather thorough answer, aside from the nuances still needed in terms of an MP representing a possible northern super-riding.
You could say the committee's mandate is to achieve proportionality, but its mandate is actually to replace the first-past-the-post system. One way of doing that is to combine ridings so that four, five, or six MPs represent a larger area.
Obviously, no one here is considering merging Yukon or the Northwest Territories with anything. That would be totally ridiculous. Don't worry. In Montreal or Toronto, however, that would work quite well. Voters probably wouldn't even notice.
Mr. Cameron, without setting aside seats for first nations people or the Innu, what can we do to improve voter turnout among those communities and encourage more of their members to stand as candidates? I'm referring to a system that resembles the current one. Do you have any ideas in that regard?
That's a difficult question.
First of all, this is a bit of geography. It is 440,000 square kilometres for Yukon—I don't know if you knew that—as compared with your 11 kilometres.
That goes back to the point that Mr. Kingsley raised in his presentation to you about this whole notion that Canadians must be able to see themselves in their representatives and the system by which they choose them. I think that's at the very heart of where I come from as well. I believe he very articulately stated that to you.
Right now, in many respects, and in many parts of the country, first nation and aboriginal people do not see their connection to the institutions of government in the country. I think we're light years ahead in Yukon because so much of the premise behind the land claims and self-government agreements that we have negotiated here in Yukon are about co-management and about the reflection of identity inside institutions of public government that have been set up under those treaties and documents.
A good example, and I happen to sit as a federal representative on it, is the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. There's a very elaborate process through which federal, territorial, and first nation governments appoint or recommend appointments to that body so that it is truly an independent, co-managed structure in the Yukon territory that does all environmental assessment for all parts of the territory, whether federal, territorial, or first nation lands. That's a big deal, because now, if you can imagine, first nation citizens may not like what that body does in terms of an environmental assessment, but at least they see their connection to it. They know there are people they can go to and complain to who are there in every respect representing their interests, or in some respects. We have the water board, which has its own jurisdiction as well, set up in a reflection under the land claim agreement.
So many of the aspects of land and resource management in the territory find their way to connect the aboriginal interests and identity to the institutions of public government. I think we need to drill into that as to whether it's possible at the parliamentary level as well.
Good afternoon, everyone.
I would first like to say thank you to the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council for hosting this event on their traditional land, and to the Parliament of Canada for giving us the opportunity to submit our thoughts on reforming our country's electoral system.
As you may know, our current system, often called first past the post, is in dire need of revision. Essentially, it makes it possible for a party that won a minority of the possible votes to form a government, and sometimes a majority government—in fact, a good deal of the time a majority government—that can impose its will despite the fact that the majority of the citizenry voted against it. The only voters who have an effect on the formation of the elected governing body are the voters who voted for the winner of their riding.
It doesn't have to be that way. All votes could count. A majority of first world nations, with the United States and Great Britain being notable exceptions, have replaced this less than democratic system with systems designed to more accurately reflect the will of the majority of their citizens.
The system I am submitting for consideration would go a very long way toward redressing the current unfairness of first past the post and yet would be simple in nature. Fundamentally, the number of ridings would be cut in half by joining adjacent ridings.
Maybe before I go any further, that was a major focus of the responses I received from people, that we don't want any more politicians; that you get so many in there, and then nobody has any effect; please, no more politicians.
The number of ridings would be cut in half by joining adjacent ridings, so we'd end up with paired ridings, but the number of representatives from the overall area would remain the same. One candidate would be elected as a result of a preferential ballot count for the riding. The second would then be chosen from the remaining candidates to reflect the percentage of votes won by the political parties running in that electoral area.
I'd just like to say that the goal of this preferential ridings proportional system is to use inclusion and connection to build community into governance. I don't know of anybody who wouldn't like to see that. It is my hope that this new combination system is helpful to the special committee in designing Canada's future system. This preferential ridings proportional system is PRP. PRP is a hybrid system with desirable aspects of several systems. It has ridings, and it has preferential voting to select the most wanted candidate in each riding and also the party for proportional representation.
Reorganization is needed for implementing this system, but I think it's very simplified by using the present boundary lines and election structure. It would fit relatively easily into the present electoral structure that we have, which I think is a great benefit.
I wasn't able to get our Chief Electoral Officer to respond to me, but if you would like to put it forward, I'd certainly appreciate that. The question of what we could save here, in time and cost, will come later.
If we now look at the first handout, it's the 2008 election results for the Ottawa electoral area. Applying this system to those results in 2008, the number of effective voters—people who could point to a member that they elected—went from 47% to 91%. That's without their second- or third-choice votes, which we now have, or would have.
Does everybody have the example of Ottawa to look at?
Right. Okay, thanks. I put it in your email, but I couldn't translate it into French. I'm sorry.
In the 2008 Ottawa election results, using the current first-past-the-post system, we dealt with six riding seats in Ottawa. The popular vote was Conservatives 39%, Greens 8%, Liberals 36%, and NDP 16%. Sorry to give you all these numbers. At any rate, this is what we ended up with. The Conservatives won three seats, so they got 50% of the representation with 38% of the vote. The Greens, with 8%, got zero. The Liberals, with 36%, received two, so they ended up with 33%, which is pretty close. The NDP received one, and they were very close, with 16% to 17%.
The total effective voters at that time was 47%. That means 47% of the voters could point to somebody that their vote helped to elect. And that's voters, not eligible voters. Those are the people who went out and voted.
Now, how are the proportional seats won using the PRP system, the preferential ridings proportional system? I've asked if it's simple enough. I hope you're going to find it simple enough, but you might not. I'm sure you'll let me know if it isn't. The electoral area of Ottawa had six seats, each seat to represent 16.7% of the vote. Instead of the six riding seats, by pairing the ridings we end up with three riding seats plus three proportional seats for Ottawa. There is no change with the popular vote, but since we only have three ridings now, two riding seats would have been won by the Conservatives and one by the Liberals. We have three proportional seats left, so the Conservatives now have 33% of their votes represented with two seats out of six, and the Liberals have 17% of their votes with one out of six seats: fair enough? The representation was 33% and 17% respectively for them.
What we're trying to do here is to give meaning to the people whose vote is not yet represented. For the unrepresented votes remaining, the Conservatives would have 5%, the Greens 8%, the Liberals 19%, and NDP 16.18%, not quite enough for a seat. We look, first of all, at fully supported proportional seats. There would only be one fully supported proportional seat, and that would be by the Liberals. When they receive their seat, what's the percentage of unrepresented votes remaining? Well, it's 5.6%, 8%, 3%, and 16%, not—
To those of you on the committee who are new to the Yukon,
To those of you who are returning, welcome back. I know your stay here will be very short, but I hope it is productive.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that we're on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.
My name is John Streicker, and I'm speaking to you as a Yukoner and a Canadian citizen. By way of introduction, I'm the past president of the Green Party of Canada. I've run twice here in federal elections in the Yukon, representing the Green Party of Canada. I recently served a term as a Whitehorse city councillor alongside Kirk Cameron, who you heard from just a moment ago. Currently I'm nominated as the Liberal candidate for the upcoming territorial election. I was also one of the first members of Fair Vote Yukon when it began.
I'm sharing this background with you, but I'm not here to represent any particular partisan point of view. I'm here first and foremost, as I said, as a citizen of Canada and the Yukon.
I would like to thank you for the important and, I would say, critical work you are undertaking to consider the issue of electoral reform. Thank you as well for coming north of 60 to the Yukon today but also to the NWT and Nunavut coming up. As northerners, we really appreciate that you take an interest in our perspectives.
An opportunity to shape and improve Canada's voting system does not come around very often. Therefore, I would also like to acknowledge the significance of the makeup of your committee. I note that it is not a reflection of the seats in Parliament. Rather, it is in some way a reflection of the popular vote from the last federal election. I know it is not precisely proportional, but it is not lost on those of us who take an interest that the committee's composition nods to the idea of proportionality.
I suspect that you take your collective role as a committee seriously, and that is only right. I would indeed hope that you do not rest on the fact that you have proportionality in your composition. I encourage you to go further: to think, deliberate, and represent, and ultimately to propose, beyond the normal constraints of your partisan stripes—of all of our partisan stripes. Designing a strong electoral system for Canada deserves that you think as Canadian MPs first and as partisan MPs much further down the road.
I believe strongly in the democratic process, warts and all. As such, I firmly believe that the design of our electoral system should come blended from the diverse views of all Canadians. We don't always agree, but when we respectfully share that diversity, I think we have stronger outcomes.
When I referenced a strong electoral system for Canada, I used the word “strong” and not the word “best”. It's very specific. I don't believe any voting system can accommodate all issues and concerns. I do think our current electoral system can and should be improved. How do we make sure our system is fair, straightforward, and inclusive? How do we use the system to capture the intention of the voters as well as possible?
In recent decades, our world has grown, shrunk, and become more diverse. I think this is reflected in how people vote. We vote for a party and a leader, we vote on a range of issues, and we still vote for the local person. This is the single clearest reason, in my opinion, to move to proportional representation.
I do not believe proportional representation solves everything. There will still be strategic voting, but not as much. There will still be vote-splitting, but not as much. I think proportional representation is most important because it will encourage people to vote for what they believe in. I can't stress how important I believe this to be. It is important both because it will generate more voting and more engagement—I think we will have more people voting—and because it will create a closer representation of the intention of voters.
Having said that I believe in a grassroots process to generate Canada's system and that I personally support proportionality, I now come to the main reason I am here to speak to you today.
By the way, I heard the earlier presentations. I recognize that I will be repeating some things that were said, but emphasis is good.
As a riding, the Yukon has only about one third the number of citizens that the average Canadian riding has. Northwest Territories has slightly more, and Nunavut has slightly less—I think it may be the smallest riding by citizenry in the country. I would have to check on P.E.I. to be sure.
On the other hand, the three northern territories make up 40% of Canada's land mass. Representation takes on a whole new meaning when communities are so far apart. You could ask Larry or your other colleagues from NWT and Nunavut, and they will tell you that in the north we think of ourselves as communities. We will talk about the Yukon, but really, how we interconnect is as communities. You have to imagine how hard it is to talk to your citizens over that kind of distance.
One of the things that we share and in some ways appreciate, as northerners, is that we are far away from Ottawa. This brings me to my main point. No matter what system you ultimately propose, please do not lose local representation for the north.
I will just state for the record that it is my understanding of the Constitution, although I am guessing you are all aware, that we have one MP per territory, according to the Constitution Act of 1975, for here and NWT, and the Nunavut Act of 1993. Further, the number of MPs for a province or territory shall not be less than the number of senatorial seats, and we also have one senator from each of the territories. Yet it could be possible, under some proportional systems, that a non-local person could be chosen to represent some ridings. At all costs, I urge you to design and recommend Canada's electoral system so that this is not the case here. This would go hard against the growth and development of the territories, the history of us. I believe it would also contradict the spirit and intent of our land claims and self-government agreements.
It is avoidable. There are many ways to achieve proportionality or near proportionality while still maintaining local representation for those ridings that strongly identify as stand-alone. I look over to Mr. Cullen; his riding might also think in this way.
In all likelihood, the preferred solution will be a made-in-Canada blended approach. Maybe it will utilize suggestions put forth by Jean-Pierre Kingsley, or maybe it will be based on the system proposed by Dave Brekke, Yukon's own electoral reform advocate.
For a moment, I will just try to give you the example of here. If we used Dave's PRP system here, we would see that there are many ridings.... For example, just across the bridge here, we have Riverdale North and Riverdale South, but really, they think of themselves as Riverdale. You could have two representatives from there: one chosen by first past the post or preferential ballot, and another chosen as a proportional representative from that local list. I listened to your questions earlier, and I don't believe you have to sacrifice local representation for proportionality.
We also have one riding in the far north of the Yukon called Vuntut Gwitchin, and we would never want that riding to lose its identity.
I will close out my remarks to the committee. I'm happy to discuss through questions the potential details of a blended made-in-Canada system. My main points are for a system derived from Canadian citizens, with proportionality, while maintaining local representation, for distinct distant ridings.
When Minister facilitated an electoral reform discussion in this very room one month ago, she affectionately called us all democracy geeks. I will think of you that way affectionately as well. I'm happy to wear that moniker because, as she put it, democracy can't be taken for granted.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for the question.
I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to answer in English.
I'm not as big a fan of lists. I actually like Dave's system, to a point.
Let me say one thing to begin with. If we have a system that's adopted, and the Yukon remains not...either first past the post or preferential, or whatever the base level is, it does not mean.... I heard Mr. Cameron's response, and I want to emphasize it. The Yukon would still participate, or can still participate, in the proportionality side of the question, especially if it is national proportionality.
Mr. Brekke's proposal is not really national proportionality, it's these subregions of proportionality. He's choosing a small granular size of about four, but as Mr. Reid points out, it could be much larger. You could use your electoral boundary commission to try to choose what regions form. I think he has very smartly chosen that you don't need to rejig the rest of the boundaries, right? You just use natural boundaries as they pre-exist.
In terms of the list, my favourite is to use local representation. Mr. Brekke and I sat down to discuss the system and to talk it out ahead of today in a couple of meetings. One of the things that I would prefer is that.... The way it works in his system is within that region, you would use proportionality and you would grab the highest vote for those parties of people who are not elected. It's great as long as...and the reason he keeps the number small is that you still get the local.
But you could have local; for example, you could come up with or you could choose to say—I'm the son of two math teachers, so bear with me for a second—that we'll do pairs of ridings, or threes, or whatever. Just combine the ridings, as he suggests, wherever it makes sense. Keep them standalone wherever it makes sense, because the Yukon is its own thing, or elsewhere. Then you could say, all right; proportionality, we'll ask for that vote, and we will maintain proportionality across the country while maximizing the local vote in each riding. There are a lot of combinations at that point, but the math can figure it out. What that would mean is that you would take the highest vote.
Now, some parties with a lower percentage of the overall vote would get picked, and they wouldn't have a high representation necessarily within those ridings, but you would get the higher numbers of those people. You would still have local representation.
I don't like the list system. So if you're asking me to compare the two, I would take Ireland.
I do think that there is a choice we face here, whether or not to push or pull a system where we seek a diversity in our decision-making bodies that reflects the diversity within our communities. I do think it's incredibly important that we get more female representation, more first nation representation; well, I'll use the word indigenous, because in the north it's not all first nation. You will figure that out as you go across the north.
I don't know; part of this question, for me, comes back to the Senate. We had an idea about what the Senate was supposed to do, and clearly things are afoot with the Senate. I don't know where it's going to land. I don't know what you will eventually choose for Canada. As soon as we start to open up those questions I get nervous, because then you could change some things around, such as the number of seats in the north.
I'll come back to this point about the extra seats. Just ahead of this meeting, Dave and I met, and we sat down to discuss the system. He said he was going to put a pitch in for one more proportional seat per territory, and I said “Good luck”, not because I don't wish him good luck, but because I think you would have a challenging time proposing that. I think if you came to a system that was more or less there but had, as its one need, a few extra ridings for the north, you might get away with it.
But wherever you draw the line, the north isn't defined by the 60th parallel. That's the territorial definition, but that's not northerners' definition. I would not go to Old Crow and say that I live in the north. I'd be very careful there. It's a relative definition. So it's a very hard line. I would defer to Mr. Cullen as well, who has to deal with this issue.
Because of that, it's challenging to add those seats. I can appreciate that three is a modest number given that we just added 30, but I would be worried if we opened a can of worms.
We'll “have” to go to Mr. Cullen? It's not the warmest introduction I've ever had, Chair.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Nathan Cullen: But I'll get my five minutes, I guess.
Mr. Pat Kelly: Unfortunately.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Nathan Cullen: Yes, unfortunately we'll go to Mr. Cullen now.
Mr. Brekke, I very much appreciated one of the last comments you made. I think it's not the first time you said you were attempting to give meaning to people's votes. It will be worth looking at, I think; that goes for both of our panellists today.
An Elections Manitoba study came out looking at their last provincial election and asking non-voters why they didn't vote. One of the leading reasons was that they didn't feel like their vote would make any difference. Asked if they had a proportional system in which votes were tallied in another way, where their votes did mean something, half of the non-voters polled said they would vote.
Yukon celebrates enormous voter turnout compared with the rest of the country. You should be celebrated for your love of democracy, both at the territorial and federal levels. I'm looking at ways to make each vote make a difference, and you've given us another innovative model, which I very much appreciate.
I wanted to turn to Mr. Streicker for a moment. In the sense of what the voter sees, this is important. We often take it from the perspective of how Parliament's going to look, what it means for the parties running, and how the votes are tallied, but what do the voters see as the result in governance? Better policy, more balanced opinion? What is it that you believe is at the heart of why we need to move to the proportionality and away from the current system that we have?
I feel like I should give you guys the respect you deserve, because this is a great thing you're doing, and let me acknowledge that. I'm not trying to be disrespectful to your positions here.
I don't know if I have a clear answer on the way in which we should test the Canadian public. I feel our partisan differences coming out around this question. It is part of the challenge. I hope you make that recommendation, as you do...if you are to propose a system. Who knows? You may end up with a bunch of minority reports because you may not, as a committee, be able to reach a consensus.
What I would like to suggest, though, is that as you consider how that testing of the Canadian public goes, if it is a referendum—and that may be the best place to go—I hope you do it in a way that is not trying to prejudge which way you want it to go. That's to any of you; I'm not trying to talk to you specifically, but to you as a committee. I hope you don't have a sense of, “ Oh, I want it to go this way, so let's do it like this”. I really hope that the essence of how you pose that question is to test Canadians' will generally.
With regard to Brexit, you're right, it was the narrow vote, but it was also whether or not people were fairly informed about the system. Mr. Cullen asked Mr. Brekke—when Nathan asked Dave—about how we help people to learn these systems. They're not that complex. They're different. Canadians are smarter than that. We're multi-faceted. We can figure this stuff out. One practice round and we'll be away.
As we enter into this system, I hope that the public is well informed, because when you don't have a well-informed public, then you do not have the foundation of a democracy.
Hello, and thank you very much for hearing me.
I want to thank our government too for responding to the call by so many Canadians on the need for electoral reform. So many Canadians have come to see that there's a tremendous problem with the system that we're presently using, the first-past-the-post system.
That is precisely the way I see it. I think I speak for quite a few Canadians that the false majority it creates, when we concentrate power to parties on a minority of votes and give them total power, really brings into question the democratic character of our political institutions. When we grant this total power to a party on a minority of votes, it makes election promises seem to fall by the wayside and the will of the people seems to get ignored. Parties can too often run away with their own agendas. I think this is a problem that so many people see.
Another problem that compounds it is that an effective opposition is very essential, and that seems to be thrown out the window. I think that leads to the framework wherein our parliamentary systems have become so rancorous and argumentative. I think it's precisely because of that problem. One party has all the power, and they don't have to compromise anymore. Opposition parties that are actually representing a majority of the electorate in our multi-party system are ignored and a party can run away with their own agendas. I think this is a big problem that so many Canadians have come to see.
When we grant parties a system where the percentage of the seats represents the percentage of popular vote that they attained, then they have representation. Yes, we're human beings and we get argumentative and whatnot, but when parties see that they have a goal, an agenda, a means of accomplishing a goal, it leads to co-operation. That's a very important thing. Even if a party only has 8% or something like that, then they have some influence on the outcome, albeit kind of small, but they do have some means of affecting policy. I think this has been proven in systems that use proportional representation, that they do produce more policy in the end.
The Chair: Thank you—
Mr. Jimmy Burisenko: I'd like to give you quick examples of that. In Scotland and New Zealand, the last couple of countries that went to proportional representative systems, there were reports done.
Thank you to the members of the committee for taking the time and putting in the effort and energy that you are putting into this process. I know it's exhausting, and it's probably one of the most important things that we as Canadians will address.
I also will keep my comments very general instead of addressing any particular model. I have lived in quite a few jurisdictions in Canada, and I've voted in every municipal, provincial, territorial, and federal election since I've been of voting age. I'm concerned that in the first-past-the-post system of voting, my vote has not counted. It has not counted because the governments formed have often been false majority governments. The number of seats elected in majority government often far exceeds the proportion of the popular vote. The parties I've voted for have rarely been in the majority, and have been under-represented in Parliament.
We can see in the campaign that's going on in the United States right now how destructive it is to have only two parties who exchange control of the government every few years.
I would like to have a voting system that would give every voter and every vote an equal voice in our Parliament. I believe that the proportional representation system would provide the voice that I want. A party that receives 5% of the votes in the country should have 5% of the seats in Parliament. A party that receives 40% of the vote should never have a majority of the seats. Please recommend to Parliament that Canada adopt a proportional representation system of voting.
Also, I am not in favour of having a referendum on this issue. There was a referendum last October, in essence, when over 60% of Canadian voters supported the Liberals, NDP, or Greens, all of whom had electoral reform as a key component of their platform.
Thank you for coming to Whitehorse to hear our concerns, and thank you very much for this opportunity to participate in our democratic process.
I'd like to begin by thanking you for coming. I don't ever remember a group of federal politicians from various parties, including all parties, coming, sitting, talking, being willing to listen, and then to go away and work together to come up with an answer to problems that people are having and that people have expressed. I think it's a first, and it's wonderful.
I'd also like you to take back a thank you to , who was here in this very room with a large group of people. She used great skill, she spent a lot of time with individuals, she was non-political, and she encouraged us to learn more about how the voting system works and the ways that we could affect it. She was wonderful and very warm. People warmed up to her, learned, and carried on. We have carried on talking since, and trying to learn. The actual learning falls a little short, which you will hear when I'm explaining what I would like.
I would like first past the post changed. I would like some type of proportional representation. I am not sure what will work best—you have greater minds than I do—but I would like you to work on it together and to come out with a solution that would allow most people to be represented.
As to the referendum, we absolutely don't need one. Why put the money, the effort, the time into that? We had a referendum at the election, and we all voted to give a majority government. Some people ran to the Liberals, other people ran away from something else, but together we gave Justin Trudeau a majority so that he could act. We would like you to go back with that majority and work together to come up with a solution that works for all Canadians.
Changing the voting system creates greater choice for more Canadians, creates greater options towards a better quality of life for all, ultimately our children and grandchildren. Why are we doing this? It's because we care. We love Canada, we love our families, we love our children, and we want them to have a future that's safe, that's productive, and that gives them a life they can value.
My name is Richard Price. I'm a professor of native studies at the University of Alberta. I've been living here for about four years.
I support proportional representation because I think it's a better system for our democracy than the current system. I think proportional representation overcomes the problems of first past the post. We often have a government elected with 35% to 40% of the vote, and this ruling party often has many more members elected than that percentage. If this ruling party governs as the Harper government did, seemingly only concerned to appeal to their own base of voters, this leaves the rest of us feeling very left out of the political process and any chance to influence new policies. This situation creates anger and resentment, and even, I would say, disillusionment.
I believe proportional representation develops a feeling among citizens to be more included in the political process. It overcomes the sense of not being adequately represented in Parliament, especially for those of us who tend to vote for smaller parties on the left, such as the NDP or the Greens.
In addition, under a new proportional system, more chance will be given to a person to vote for the party they believe has the best leadership and policies rather than compromising by voting strategically for the person most likely to get elected.
I had some experience observing the process of electoral reform in New Zealand while I was there on sabbatical in 1992, and in subsequent research visits. As you know, in 1992 and 1993 they had two referendums and they voted to change their system of election. Then they moved away from the first past the post to mixed member proportional.
Subsequently, in 2011, 57% of New Zealanders affirmed their support for this new system. In 2012 the electoral commission recommended even further important changes.
Thus, I believe that the New Zealand experience has been positive, and as we search for improvements in Canada, we could well learn from the experience of another member of the Commonwealth.
Thank you very much for this opportunity.
The first-past-the-post system has been in place in Canada for quite some time, and now we want a change. We want to adopt a proportional or mixed member proportional representation system.
People are afraid of change, generally speaking. That's to be expected given that change represents the unknown. We are used to the current system, which elects majority or minority governments. In the case of a majority government, the system works well. But in the case of a minority government, a coalition, it doesn't work so well.
As a teacher, I've been to Quebec City, Victoria, and Ottawa with my students. I'm sorry to say this, but when we look at the way MPs work in Parliament, it becomes clear that you aren't the best role models.
Our Prime Minister, who was also a teacher, almost surely never told his students that, when working together, they should work against one another and not listen to what the other person has to say. No way. As teachers and parents, we tell our students and children to work together in the spirit of co-operation and not against one another because that gets us nowhere. Conversely, by working together, we would get farther than we are now.
The politics we practice—and it's worse in the United States; we won't get into that—do nothing to advance Canada's political movement or Canadians' ideas. Given the statistics cited by other speakers, I think that, if we opt for a system that supports mutual assistance and adopt a proportional system, we will begin to think differently, in the hope that members will work together. They won't have a choice if they actually want the country to make progress.
Thank you for being here today. I'm a new resident of the Yukon, so it's very exciting to part in a local engagement process.
I'm a teacher, and I'm nervous speaking in front of you, which is weird. I haven't had stage fright in a while. I teach students aged five to 18. I'm a social studies specialist. One of my goals is to engage students in every way as young as possible and as frequently as possible.
In high school, I actually was pretty sure I was going to be prime minister, but I eventually decided to be a teacher so that I could make a difference. Hopefully, I will be proven incomplete in my perspective and this will be a great example of making a difference at a higher level.
I've been pestering my friends, annoyingly, to vote since our first election when we could vote. I have been met with endless disillusion and apathy, as it feels like our voices are minimized or outright ignored. I know that's not necessarily the intent, but it certainly feels that way. Once I got a driver's licence I offered to drive people to the polls, but people would just be like, “Well...I don't know.”
The hope of electoral reform gives the opportunity for a revitalization of public engagement. I know that my friends and students are suddenly animated about the idea that our votes mean something. It's not just exciting; I believe it's the only way we can continue along the path of promises I make every day to my students, and our Prime Minister has made to us, that the voices of all Canadians matter.
Thank you very much.
My name is Shelby. I'm here on behalf of BYTE-Empowering Youth Society.
For those of you who are visiting the Yukon, BYTE is a by-youth, for-youth organization that has been invested in Yukon youth for nearly 20 years. Through our work, we aim to empower youth, have youth voices heard, and help youth create change in their communities.
We do this in a couple of different ways, one of which is through a campaign called Yukon Youth Want. We talk to youth in the Yukon about their vision for Yukon's future, and we typically do this around campaign time. We post those photos to our social media to try to show politicians what youth are thinking.
I was invited here today to speak a little bit about youth engagement. After several years of conducting this campaign, we know that the notion that youth are apathetic towards political and civic engagement is a myth. We see this every day in our territory, and there have also been some formal studies that prove this as well. I'm not sure if you guys have read the Samara Canada study, but it found that rates of formal political engagement among youth in Canada are actually much higher than among their older counterparts. The report also looks at other forms of civic engagement such as activism and volunteering for charities. Some of those participation rates among youth are much higher as well.
That leads me into a question many of you are asking: if youth are so engaged, why don't they vote? Probably nothing I'm going to say today will come as a big surprise, but I think there's a vicious circle of youth not voting because politicians don't speak to them, and politicians not speaking to them because they don't turn out to vote.
Turnout for youth contacted by political leaders was 15% higher than for youth who weren't contacted, so parties and candidates really have a direct line to improving the youth voter turnout. As well, youth are more likely to vote if it's easy—if they have the required documents, know when and where to cast the ballot, and can get there easily. It can be difficult for a lot of youth to prove their address, especially if they are in university or college or since they are moving around nearly yearly. In some cases polls might not even be accessible. I heard of a community that didn't have a polling station in their town, and people were expected to drive to a place an hour away to cast their ballot. A lot of youth are not going to be able to do that.
That brings me to the topic of electoral reform. I strongly believe in lowering the voting age. Young people pay taxes, and they are affected every day by the policies we're engaged in. In our territory, they are politically and physically engaged. They form social justice clubs at their schools. They raise money for issues that are important to them. As well, there's that study that proves they are engaged.
Additionally, voting is a habit. If we teach them to vote when they are in high school and there are fewer barriers since they have a permanent address and they have the school and their caregivers who are able to help them, we might be able to form their habits at a younger age and then increase their voter turnout as they move forward.
Another thing I would like to add is that youth voter turnout goes up when youth believe there's a big issue at stake and when they believe that every vote counts. I think we're all here today because we know the first-past-the-post system does not count every vote equally.
In closing, I would just like to say, as a representative of youth and also as a voter under 30, that as young people we want to be contacted by our politicians outside of election time. Aside from electoral reform, we want voting to be more than a transactional experience. We want to hear from our representatives not only when they want something from us. I think a way to engage youth in bigger voter turnout is to be there the other years of your term.
That's it for me.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, honourable members of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. As you know, we are meeting on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün and Ta’an Kwäch’än first nations.
Thanks for coming to Yukon. Having been engaged over the years in various panels and commissions, there always seems to be one constant: it's just never the right time to visit. Yukoners at this time of year are, of course, busy preparing for the imminent royal visit, which begins tomorrow. Our many political junkies are either with us here tonight or watching the Clinton-Trump debate. Many of our sports fans, of course, are immersed in World Cup hockey. It's getting down to the last chance for Yukoners to get that moose in the freezer. The real burning question for Yukoners is whether they really have enough wood cut to get through the winter. My wife wouldn't come tonight, because she's busy getting those last lowbush cranberries in before the first snow falls. So the crowd you've gathered here tonight shows the interest in electoral reform in the Yukon, considering all these other options available to Yukoners on a night like tonight.
I concluded my report to the Government of Yukon as their senior adviser on electoral reform on February 1, 2005, by expressing my opinion that at some future point in Yukon history, the Yukon public would loudly and clearly let their leaders know that the time had come to examine electoral reform, and suggesting that any such initiative could only be successful with the total involvement of the Yukon government and all the Yukon first nation governments. The report also indicated that Mr. Dave Brekke, a former Yukon federal returning officer, was suggesting organizing and promoting a Yukon citizens for electoral systems change that could possibly herald the beginning of a Yukon first vote movement. I understand that you heard from Mr. Brekke this afternoon. These thoughts from a decade ago have certainly now come to some fruition in the Yukon.
You've also now heard from national and international experts on the some 300 different schemes of proportional representation that have been devised all around the world. The two most popular are the STV and MMP system. You'll be happy to know that I have absolutely no intention of trying to compete with their expertise in front of you tonight.
I would simply hope, not to take too much of your time, to offer some northern and Yukon perspectives that you will have to deal with during your deliberations. I have no problem with the proportional system of electing members to Parliament. I just at this time see no obvious solution to true proportionality in the large, sparsely populated Canadian ridings.
I have a few Yukon facts that you probably already heard sometime today. The voting population of Canada's three northern territories combined, containing over a third of the land mass of Canada, does not equal the voting population of many of the ridings all across our country. Yukoners elected the second ever woman to sit in Parliament, Martha Louise Black. Yukoners selected the first woman leader of a provincial-territorial party, Hilda Watson. Yukon MP Audrey McLaughlin became the first woman leader of a national political party; 76% of Yukon eligible voters voted in the last federal election, second only to Prince Edward Island at 77.4%; and over 75% of Yukon eligible voters have voted in the last 10 territorial elections. Yukon electoral boundaries commissions over the years have judiciously crafted districts that have sensitively accommodated communities of interest. This has generated high voter turnout that all Yukoners can justifiably take pride in and most other jurisdictions in Canada can only envy.
Let me quickly explain how Yukon's version of electoral reform has been a big part of Yukon's constitutional development over the years. In 1969 the territorial council and the commissioner journeyed to Ottawa to debate the formation of an embryo Yukon cabinet with Prime Minister Trudeau and the Minister of Indian and Northern Development, Jean Chrétien. Negotiations proved successful and the executive committee was formed, comprised of two elected members of council, two assistant commissioners, and the commissioner as chair.
In 1973 the Council of Yukon Indians presented their land claim, “Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow”, to the federal government. There remained, however, an impossible and impassable roadblock to responsible government for Yukon. Even though, quote, status Indians had been enfranchised in 1960, no first nation member had ever been elected to the territorial council.
To their credit, the federal government recognized that without sweeping changes to the Yukon Act, in order to create districts that could elect first nation representatives, this was not about to happen in the near future. However, sweeping changes to the Yukon Act finally happened in 1974. The size of council was increased to 12 members, and the commissioner in council was permitted to increase the size of council to up to 20 members. On April 18, 1974, the council gave final reading to the Electoral Boundaries Commission, which, for the first time, asked the commission to take into consideration the demographic makeup of the Yukon in establishing new electoral districts.
The commission ended up recommending 12 districts where, for the first time, at least three of the districts comprised a majority of first nation voters. Boundaries were further adjusted with the Electoral Boundaries Commission report of October 28, 1977, which allocated 16 districts, at least five of which contained a majority of first nations voters.
The election of 1978 was the first held along party lines in the Yukon, the first to be run entirely by the Yukon government, and the first ever to elect first nation representatives from the Old Crow and the Kluane ridings. I've spoken to some of the principals on these commissions. Although all of them would maintain that they were never, of course, requested to gerrymander districts, they were totally cognizant that the progress of Yukon towards responsible government and a settlement of the Yukon land claims were important considerations in their decisions. It has been less than 40 years since the first first nations were elected in Yukon, and it should be recognized that the 1974 and 1978 electoral boundaries decisions forever changed the face of Yukon politics and Yukon elections.
I make these points only to give you some idea of how Yukoners have dealt with important electoral decisions on their own in the past, urging changes to federal legislation and then using the processes finally open to them to dramatically effect major reforms to Yukon government institutions.
In conclusion, I know that you have been looking at hybrid systems to overcome the problems of sparse populations in huge geographic areas in mostly northern ridings. These types of different ridings—some single member, still first past the post, and multiple member constituencies under some form of proportional representation—were rejected out of hand by the British Columbia citizens' assembly. The assembly members were against creating two classes of voters and two classes of members.
If I remember correctly, in the STV referendums in B.C., the northern ridings were the most outspoken against losing their first-past-the-post status, and voted strongly against the STV recommendation. It will be interesting for northern ridings to see how your committee attempts to reconcile this very obvious problem. I'm just not able to get my head around how any true system of proportionality can be fashioned for the huge, sparsely populated areas of our country. I think most would agree that the ranked ballot system is just tinkering around the edges of the first-past-the-post system. I don't think there is a true proportional system that doesn't require, for its practical application, multi-member constituencies. Is this possible in urban ridings? Of course. Is it possible in northern ridings? I just don't see, at this present time, how it can be accomplished.
Thank you for your interest in coming to our busy, beloved Yukon. You have incredibly important, meaningful, and difficult work ahead of you. I just don't think I'd like to be in my friend Larry's shoes on this one.
Voices: Oh, oh!
It's a pleasure to see many of you again, this evening. Thank you for visiting me in my new home.
Since I am representing the federal NDP here, I will be doing most of my presentation in English, but feel free to ask me questions in whatever language you want. I'll just speak French sometimes.
Like many Canadians and Yukoners, I believe our first-past-the-post system is outdated. Too often it makes people vote against what they don't want rather than vote for what they want. It also seems to fuel voter apathy by making Canadians feel like their vote doesn't count and that their voice isn't being heard with our first-past-the-post system where a bunch of votes are discounted. Of course, many of those Canadians ask why they should go vote if their vote will not be counted. Proportional representation, where every vote makes a difference to the outcome of an election, would make our Canadian democracy stronger.
Proportional representation can take many forms, many of which maintain regional representation, which is important in a country the size of Canada and most certainly very important in the north as well. As a long-time member of the NDP, I'm very proud to be part of a party that believes in constantly striving to make our political system fairer and more representative.
Back when I was still an MP and sitting alongside some of you, my colleague Craig Scott put forward an opposition motion in December 2014. It sought immediate and sweeping electoral reforms, calling for the current voting system to be replaced by the mixed member proportional system. Although his proposal wasn't adopted, it did meet with some support.
That shows how hard and how long the NDP has been working on the issue of electoral reform.
The NDP is a firm advocate for electoral reform that makes every voter count. We believe that proportional representation is the best choice for Canada and for Canadians.
This system offers Canadians the chance to truly make their vote count. Instead of a system that only requires a certain threshold of support to be met, whether it's a simple majority or a clear 50%-plus-one majority, proportional representation ensures that political parties with popular support are given a fair share of the seats in Parliament. It is not the case right now. It hasn't been in Canada since the foundation of this country, and it's definitely time for a change.
Proportional representation is a tried and tested voting method. Over 80% of OECD countries use a form of this method, including countries like Germany, Sweden, and New Zealand. Many countries that have proportional representation also have local representation, which is essential in a geographically large country like Canada.
Political parties working in proportional representation systems have learned to do something we all want to do more: work together and find areas of common ground.
The current system promotes partisanship. I saw that during my time in Parliament, and, colleagues, you no doubt still experience it on a daily basis. Oftentimes, defending a particular ideology takes precedence, becoming more important than standing up for the interests of Canadians. And yet that is the very thing parliamentarians are elected to do.
By voting for a party and a candidate, Canadians would also get to vote for their preferred local representatives instead of having to choose between local advocates and a political party, which is very often a hard choice to make.
Electoral reform is an important issue also for equality-seeking groups like women in Canada. Nancy Peckford wrote in a 2002 report for the National Association of Women and the Law that Canadian women would be well represented in a proportional representation system. Canadian women have fought for the right to vote and the right to run for office. We're still fighting for equality. Having a structural change in our voting system would give women a better chance of having their voice heard and being represented. Right now women are still under-represented in Parliament. Key decision-makers and elected representatives have not always been responsive to women's demands for political, social, and economic equality.
I would suggest that if there were more women in Parliament, we'd probably already have a national program for affordable day care. But we're still very under-represented, so there's still a lot of work to be done there. It's possible to have lists where you would include more women, so a more representative electoral system would result in greater numbers of women in office. As well, other jurisdictions with a proportional representation electoral model are more co-operative across party lines to achieve equality for women.
Proportional representation is a unifying principle among a variety of voting systems, so many countries require party lists to have equal numbers of men and women presented on the list. This is one kind of structural reform that is needed to promote women's equality. An important first step was done by the federal government by creating a gender-equal cabinet, but there's still a long way to go.
In conclusion, I just wanted to say a few words on ranked ballots, or alternate voting. It's been presented as a system that would be more fair and give Canadians a chance to be heard. But that's only on the surface. Ranked ballots are simply a variation on first past the post ballots, so even though ranked ballots ensure that one candidate needs a 50%-plus-one majority to win, the other 49% of voters are left without a voice in the new Parliament. We're basically very close to the situation that we're decrying right now. That's why ranked ballots, to me, and for the NDP, don't seem to be a solution. They only perpetuate the flaws in the current electoral system that people want to see changed.
With proportional representation, each party receives the same share of voices in a Parliament as the votes that people cast for that party, so it's fair.
Our current first-past-the-post system distorts the outcome of an election by giving false majorities to parties that haven't won the confidence of the majority of voters. This exaggeration of electoral results has created an unfortunate sense of voter apathy. With a vote under proportional representation, every vote counts, because your party vote is tallied whether your chosen candidate wins or not.
Thank you very much for your time.
Welcome to the committee, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to extend a special hello to Élaine Michaud, the former member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, the riding next to mine. I think the last time we saw each other was at a debate at CHOI-FM almost a year ago. When I was in the provincial government, she was my joint MP, if you will, at the federal level. A third of my provincial riding was in her federal riding.
I always thought to myself that I could never be the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, because it was way too big of a riding. It covers nearly 75 kilometres, running along the St. Lawrence all the way up to L'Étape. It's crazy. I thought it was an enormous riding until I came here, to Yukon, of course.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to address Mr. McKinnon.
I want to pay my respects to you, sir, for what you have done for your country, especially here for your territory and for your land. I deeply appreciate what you have done. We all remember that 11 years ago, in 2005, you were the senior adviser of an electoral reform committee, tabled by your government at that time, and you published a report in 2005.
First of all, what can we learn from from your experience 10 years ago that we can put to advantage today in this committee?
I've been in the Yukon for over 50 years. I came here as an educator, as a school principal, and retired as a school administrator. I have always been involved in politics in one shape or form.
I really took advantage of that when I retired and decided maybe I have something to learn. I went into politics and became a minister in the government at the time, in 2000. I only lasted two and a half years as a minister, because basically I challenged the system. I challenged the leader.
What we have in first past the post is almost a dictatorship if you have leaders who don't know how to deal with people. You have to remember that I was a school administrator, so I dealt with people all the time. Basically, collaboration, working together, was the issue, not trying to set up your own strength. We're very fortunate here to have an MP who does collaborate, but that doesn't happen all the time. Basically, in territorial politics, it's even worse. We hear many people in the Yukon—I've been to many doors—say, “We don't need party politics here in the Yukon”. When you're looking at 15,000 voters, you have a lot of issues. We meet these people all the time, whether you win, lose, or draw.
The important part for me is that we need a change. I'm not going to tell you what kind of change we need, because there are many models. Today we've talked about that.
I appreciate being able to share my concerns. Many Yukoners want a change. It doesn't matter what it is, but I think we will have to make sure it's something that reflects what the north is.
First of all, I want to welcome all of you and thank the committee for coming to Whitehorse. As well, I'd like to thank everybody else who's been participating in this process in a thoughtful and respectful manner.
No solution will be perfect, and not everyone will be happy with whatever the outcome is of what you put forward or what the government will end up putting forward. If something is adopted, there will be a number of Canadians who still aren't happy for various reasons.
I feel we need a system that will guarantee local representation and be consistent across the country, as we need to also defend whatever the system is. It must work in rural and urban ridings. One of the questions that was asked about the north is that if we get special status, then that's something we have to defend. About a third of the ridings in the country are rural. It's just something that needs to work across the country.
The system must also be easy to understand and communicate, as some of the proposed systems mentioned have been anything but easy to understand and communicate.
There are also constitutional issues, as a number of jurisdictions are guaranteed a number of seats based on the number of senators. Some of the proposed changes could run into problems around the Constitution. I don't think there's any desire to open up the Constitution.
Looking at the Yukon where we have only one seat, as with our sister territories, or even for some of the smaller provinces that have four, seven, 10, or 11 seats, we see that not all the proposed solutions are workable while maintaining local representation. With proportional representation or mixed member proportional representation, how would any of the single-seat territories elect their MP? Therefore, there are only two potential solutions that would work in the territories. One is the current first past the post. As we've seen since 1979, all three territories have elected members of all three national parties. The process has worked for all the major parties. The other potential option is the ranked ballot. I think the majority of the pundits and those who have talked about a ranked ballot favour the Liberal Party as a centrist party over the rest of the parties.
Just dealing with the issue of a referendum, there's been an argument that 68% of Canadians voted for one of the parties that proposed change in the electoral system. But the three parties didn't propose the same type of change. We've also seen recent polling that had between 55% and 73% of Canadians in favour of a referendum if we're going to change the voting system.
Last but not least, our democracy is far too valuable to let fewer than 1% of Canadians decide how we will elect our government for generations to come.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak.
Hi. I'm talking to you tonight both as a parent of two teenagers, one 16 and one 18, and also as someone who grew up in southern Ontario, in the ridings where there are a lot of people. I also moved north. I lived in the Northwest Territories and experienced that system, and now I also live in the Yukon.
I'm also speaking to you as a policy analyst. With that in mind, I was speaking with Mr. Aldag at the break. We here in the Yukon do things collaboratively. It's the same in the Northwest Territories. Basically, because you don't have the population, you have to work together. We do know each other on an individual basis. Half of the time someone will ask me what someone's last name is: “I don't know. It's , our MP.” That's how it works here. We need each other.
But the other thing, too, is that when we had to basically come to some really tough decisions, we did it, even though it was a complicated answer, by basically identifying first the values that we wanted to keep and the principles. After that, we sat down to figure out the formula. It was a mathematical formula; it was not one simple system. In order to account for the rural communities, in order to account for the larger municipalities, that's what we had to do.
Once we did that, then we took it back out to everyone, because it was everybody's right to know and to have a voice on it. Then we were able to say, as a checklist, “Oh, and by the way, it meets these values. It meets these principles.” We could prove that. We did have to basically do up a calculator as a tool for the spreadsheets so the people could see what it did for them. They need that kind of an example.
As far as the youth go, I'm sorry, a big part of it, yes, is the education system and having them walk through it. Even though it was kindergarten, you remember that event. But we also dragged our kids out every time we had to go to vote.
Good evening. I am honoured and truly excited to be able to address the committee tonight. Your being here and your mandate are amazing. It gives me hope.
I have three points I want to make. I hope I can make them in two minutes.
First, regarding the proposal to have the decision ultimately put to a referendum, which I understand is being floated by at least one party, I strongly oppose this. I think this is really a backdoor and slightly cowardly way of trying to avoid change to the system. The Liberals were elected on a clear platform for change of the electoral system, and that is all the mandate that is needed to actually change the electoral system.
Second, I am strongly in favour of proportional representation. I do not have a specific system I'm endorsing, as I'm not an expert in that, but I do want to share with you my experience with first past the post. I have voted in every election that I was eligible to vote in except for this last one, when I was travelling. I have never had someone for whom I voted get elected. That could be because my values do not align with those of a lot of Canadians. At the same time, my values, my opinions, and what I want to see our government do—I think I should have a voice in that.
Third, just because a large number of the committee members seem to be focused on the issue of local versus proportional representation, and on Mr. McKinnon's testimony specifically, I want to address that. In our current system, with votes and centralized power in the PM's office, I do not personally place a large degree of importance on local representation, and certainly not in having a proportional representation system implemented.
I would note that I worked with Fair Vote Yukon for a number of years. We got hundreds of signatures to petition the territorial government to look at electoral reform, so I'm not alone in prioritizing, if it comes down to a choice, electoral reform over having perhaps strong local representation.
Thank you all for your work here. It really is hopeful that we're discussing this.
I have been involved in elections since I was 10 years old. I grew up in Edmonton, and I've lived here now for 16 years. I've done a lot of door-to-door on both sides of the spectrum.
I really believe people need to have their vote count. We need a form of proportional representation, possibly the mixed one, but I'm not an expert in that. I don't know how it would work in the Yukon, but we really need a fair and proportional vote.
When a government that doesn't have a majority can assault the environment the way a previous federal government did, there's a serious problem; we don't have a working democracy. There are many other examples of that. When the people who form the government can steamroll over all opposition, that's wrong. At least with a minority government people talk and have to co-operate, compromise, and listen to all views. That is more fair—not perfect, but far more fair and far more right and just.
I do not think there should be a referendum. was very clear that the election we had last October would be the last first past the post one. There is a mandate for change that should go ahead.
I also believe there should be no forced vote in which people are fined. People who don't want to vote tend to be people who really don't know what's going on, so I don't think they should be forced to vote.
I've just left work...for many years with people who are somewhat disadvantaged and have difficulty with housing at times. We're also in a very tight housing market. In that situation, where people need to have an approved address to vote, it is not fair. People are disenfranchised by that.
Thank you for your attention.
I'd like to thank you and the Special Committee on Electoral Reform for hosting this meeting today.
I wish I could tell you that I'm pleased to be here this evening to take part in perhaps the most important dialogue Canadians have ever had on Canada's democracy, but I'm not pleased, Mr. Chair. In fact, I'm far from pleased to be here. I'm here today because the Liberal Party of Canada is trying to change Canada's democracy without the consent of the people.
Canadians need to know that the Liberals are planning to change Canada's democracy simply by a Liberal majority vote in the House of Commons. Canadians know that how we vote is one of the most important rights we have in this country. Canada's democracy is one of the most stable and admired democracies in the world, and the Liberals plan to push through unprecedented change and reform to our democracy without the consent of the people.
Voters must have a say. If there's going to be a fundamental change to Canada's democracy, there must be a direct popular mandate. The only way to ensure that every Canadian has a say on change this significant is by way of a national referendum on electoral reform. A national referendum on electoral reform is the only way to ensure that every Canadian has a say, but the Liberals are refusing to hold a referendum.
The simple fact that the Liberals are even considering changing our democracy without a referendum, that simple fact, clearly demonstrates the Liberals' complete disregard for the will of the electorate—the people, Mr. Chair, the people. Our democracy belongs to the people and not the Liberal Party of Canada.
There is already provincial precedent to hold referendums when voters are faced with an option for electoral reform. British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Ontario have all held referendums on electoral reform. These discussions and meetings are simply the Liberals' attempt to validate their illegitimate process and ignore the will of Canadians. This so-called consultation process cannot and will not deliver a direct popular mandate.
Mr. Chair, this is about the value of our vote. There is only one way to consult every Canadian. There needs to be a national referendum on electoral reform.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.