Thanks, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee. Welcome to Victoria.
My name is Keith Archer. I'm the chief electoral officer in British Columbia, a position I've held since 2011. Prior to this appointment, I was a professor of political science at the University of Calgary. Mr. Kelly reminded me that he was a student in one of my classes back in the early 1990s.
Let me begin by setting out the terms of reference for my comments here today.
As chief electoral officer for British Columbia, my obligation is to administer electoral processes in British Columbia. As an electoral administrator, my role is to ensure that, whatever electoral system is used in my jurisdiction, it is administered to the highest professional standards, ensuring that all eligible voters can fairly and effectively exercise their franchise.
My remarks, therefore, do not take a view of one electoral system over another. My office would as readily administer a general election using single member plurality as it would any number of other alternative systems, such as proportional, mixed member proportional, or runoff systems. That's the role of my office.
An additional question that arises in discussions of electoral reform is whether changing the fundamental rules of the electoral process requires some level of public consultation. If so, should that consultation involve some type of public input process such as is being undertaken by this legislative committee conducting hearings across the country, or should it involve some kind of public input, for example, through the administration of a plebiscite or a referendum on the issue?
In my jurisdiction, the Election Act is silent on this topic, which means, of course, that from a legal perspective, the standard legislative rules apply. Since the Election Act is silent on this topic, then as the chief electoral officer, I'm not in a position to comment on the merits of any form of public consultation. The decision on whether and how to engage the public in a consultation on electoral reform is a matter for government and the legislative assembly; therefore, I will not be commenting on the merits of public consultation.
Now that I've outlined what I won't be speaking about and my reasons for doing so, let me turn to the things that I am prepared to discuss; namely, once the government and the legislature have decided to consult the public through a referendum or a plebiscite, what issues you may wish to consider.
Elections BC has administered three referendums and a plebiscite since 2005, and I would like to draw upon those experiences to highlight a number of issues worth considering.
First, why use a referendum or a plebiscite? Referendums and plebiscites are discretionary instruments of public consultations. A referendum is usually binding on governments; a plebiscite is not. Referendums and plebiscites are used when governments consider that an expression of public opinion is desirable.
Two of the referendums conducted in British Columbia in the past 11 years were on the question of electoral reform. The other referendum was on a proposal to rescind the HST and to return to a tax structure that included a GST and a PST. A plebiscite was held in metro Vancouver on transportation and transit options. Each of the referendums and the plebiscite had a different origin.
The 2005 referendum on electoral reform flowed from the recommendations of a citizens' assembly on that topic. The government had committed that, if the citizens' assembly recommended changing the electoral system and recommended a single alternative, it would consult the electorate through a referendum in conjunction with a 2005 general election.
The 2009 referendum on electoral reform was held because the government recognized, following the vote in 2005, that the electorate was unaware of the electoral districts that would be in use under the proposed alternative electoral system, that is, BC-STV, as it was known. Therefore, it charged the Electoral Boundaries Commission to propose new electoral districts using both SMP and BC-STV, and the commission did so. These districts then added some context to the referendum vote in 2009.
The 2011 referendum on the HST began under the Recall and Initiative Act, legislation that's unique to British Columbia. In the end, however, balloting was administered under the Referendum Act.
The 2015 plebiscite came about because a new source of funding was being proposed by the metro Vancouver mayors' council to fund transportation and transit in the metro area. The provincial government had committed that any such new funding would be subject to public consultation, and the plebiscite option was chosen for that purpose.
So the discretionary character of referendums and plebiscites means that the starting points may differ.
Second, what's a voting threshold or a decision rule? Well, the Referendum Act in British Columbia states that if more than 50% of the validly cast ballots vote the same way on a question, the result is binding on government. However, the act also provides that this rule is subject to change through regulation.
Recent experience in B.C. has shown a number of voting thresholds in operation. For the 2005 and 2009 referendums on electoral reform, the voting thresholds involved what I would describe as double supermajorities; that is, there were two thresholds. First, at least 60% of valid votes needed to be cast in favour of the change, and second, in at least 60% of electoral districts, more than 50% of the valid votes had to be cast in favour of change.
Parenthetically, in 2005, the second threshold was met, but the first was not. In 2009, neither of those thresholds were met. Therefore, the result was not binding on government, and of course, in the end, the electoral system was not changed.
For the HST referendum and the plebiscite on transportation and transit, a simple majority of votes was required for the question to be passed. This was achieved in the former, but not in the latter.
A third question is, how are electors informed about the process? Electoral events at the federal and provincial levels involve candidates offering differing perspectives and agendas, and political parties helping to communicate the message of their group. Over time, rules have been established for the financing of electoral competitions, including rules for disclosure, and in some instances, limits on expenditures and contributions.
Similar questions arise with referendums and plebiscites. For example, are there formally registered proponent and opponent groups? Are there limits on what each group can spend on advertising? Is there a particular public education role for the election agency? Are there disclosure requirements? Are there limits on contributions?
A variety of rules have been used in recent experience in B.C. In some instances, such as the second referendum on electoral reform and the HST referendum, there were registered yes and no groups and public funding allocated to those groups. In other instances, such as the first referendum on electoral reform, there was a requirement to register as an advertising sponsor, but no public funding was provided. In the recent plebiscite, there was no registration of advertising sponsors and no public funding.
Fourth, how are the ballots cast? Balloting in a referendum or a plebiscite can occur either in conjunction with or separate from a general election, and can either be in-person paper balloting or through an alternative balloting method, such as postal voting or telephone or Internet voting.
British Columbia has used paper balloting in conjunction with general elections for the referendums in 2005 and 2009. This has been described as using a thin layer on top of the general administrative procedures for the elections. The cost of using this method is very modest, but of course, there is limited flexibility in terms of the time at which the event can take place.
British Columbia has experienced relatively consistent turnout no matter which method of voting has been used. For example, turnout was 57.4% and 51% in the referendums in 2005 and 2009 when they were conducted in conjunction with general elections, and 52.7% and 48.6% for the HST referendum and the plebiscite, both of which were conducted with mail-in balloting.
In 2005, Elections BC's total costs in administering the general elections were $22.9 million, or just over $8 per registered voter. The cost of the referendum was just over $1 million, or an additional 37¢ per registered voter, so this thin layer is very inexpensive to administer. The cost of administering the HST mail-in ballots was just over $8 million, or about $2.63 per registered voter. The cost of the plebiscite in 2015 was $5.4 million, or $3.44 per registered voter.
The last thing I'll mention is a comment on Internet voting. I chaired an independent panel on Internet voting, which submitted a report to our legislative assembly in 2014. That report is available on the Elections BC website. I'm happy to make it available to the committee for your reference. I don't have time to discuss the report in my introductory remarks, but would be happy to do so in response to members' questions.
Mr. Chair, that concludes my introductory remarks.
Good afternoon, and welcome to Victoria.
My name is Craig Henschel. Thanks for asking me here this afternoon.
In 2004 I had the honour and privilege of serving for 11 months on the British Columbia Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform with 159 other randomly selected voters. Diana Byford and other assembly members are also here. She will be speaking more about the assembly process in the second session today.
I brought copies of our final report in French and English for the committee to examine, and I think you have them, as well as a small brochure that I've put together for the second referendum to try to educate voters about BC-STV.
I would like to try to give you a sense of our decision-making process and how we reached our 95% consensus for STV, the single transferable vote, in British Columbia.
One of our 50 public hearings was held in Valemount, a beautiful remote rural town of 1,000 people on the eastern edge of British Columbia. One gentleman there told us that he'd been voting in Valemount for 20 or 30 years and that he had never voted for an MLA who had won. He wanted someone he actually voted for to represent him in Victoria. I came away from that encounter understanding that exclusion.
The feeling of being excluded is a major failing of our electoral systems. Shouldn't we all have a say over the laws and policies that affect us? Isn't that what democracy is all about, citizens having a say over their own lives?
We also understood from other speakers that in rural areas, having someone local representing the area's voters was critical. To represent voters faithfully, the MLA or MP has to be able to see the world through local eyes, with local information and local understanding, and take this perspective into their party caucuses, legislative committees, and ultimately into the legislature when voting on the laws and policies that will affect those voters. Assembly members had heard similar frustrations from voters all over the province.
We looked at the results from several elections and found that an average of about 50% of voters didn't actually vote for their MLA. This came as a big surprise to us. We also noticed that MLAs were often elected by vastly different numbers of voters. MLAs who won with a 30% plurality might be representing half the number of voters of an MLA who won with a 60% plurality. Each MLA gets one full vote in the legislature, so this just wasn't fair. Some voters had twice the legislative power of other voters.
When half the voters don't have representation and the half who do have different amounts, it shouldn't be a surprise that election results often don't match voters' desires. If we could solve the problems of exclusion and unequal representation, we could solve the problem of disproportionality.
The single transferable vote solves this problem directly. STV uses multiple MPs in a district to represent multiple points of view. This greatly reduces the amount of voter exclusion, while at the same time keeping MPs as local as possible. STV is a preferential ballot, so that strategic voting isn't necessary and so that the voter can give the counting system a clear portrait of their desires. STV also uses a fair counting system that elects each MP in a district with about the same number of votes.
By dealing with exclusion and fairness right from the start, band-aid solutions like compensatory, non-local, party-list MPs are not required.
The flaw with first-past-the-post local representation is that only 50% of voters actually get local representation. The other 50% of voters aren't represented at all. The flaw with MMP local representation is that the district sizes have to be increased by 50% to 100%, which gives the MP less time with each constituent. The single transferable vote actually improves local representation by giving it to more voters and keeping the same voter-to-MP ratio, so MPs can spend the same amount of time with constituents as they do now.
We also wanted more choice. We absolutely didn't want political parties deciding who our MPs would be. Most of the assembly really liked multi-member districts. Multi-member districts are fantastic. The law commission rejected STV out of hand because it had multi-member districts, and I think that was a huge error. Multi-member districts are fantastic, and in my written brief to you, I go over the different details about them.
I am sure you've heard that women's representation improves with proportional systems, but it is critical to understand the electoral mechanism that makes this possible, and the key is multi-member districts. Academic studies have shown that in single member districts, where a party puts forward a single candidate, it tends to put forward a male of the dominant cultural group. In jurisdictions where parties put forward multiple candidates, they tend to diversify their slates with more gender balance and more diversity.
STV has a far greater potential for increasing women's representation than MMP does, with its single member districts. This was very important to the assembly, which greatly benefited from being gender balanced itself.
It is a really good idea in your deliberations and your process of making decisions to take specific designs of electoral systems for a spin. Try them out. Poke the tires. This is especially the case with MMP, because there are so many variations: open lists, closed lists, hybrid lists, voter-ordered lists, regions or no regions. If you are not looking at specific systems, it is very difficult to compare them and understand what is going on.
When the assembly designed the best MMP system for British Columbia and compared it to the best STV system for British Columbia, STV was favoured 80% over MMP at 20%. When we compared STV to first past the post, STV was favoured by 93% of assembly members over first past the post at 7%. This consensus was achieved not because the assembly members were practised negotiators, but because STV is so much better than any of the alternatives. The assembly then reached a 95% consensus to recommend that the single transferable vote be adopted for British Columbia.
As I understand it, the B.C. Citizens' Assembly has been the most extensive voter-based examination of electoral systems in history. If you choose to recommend STV to the minister, it will be accompanied by significant voter legitimacy. Is it possible that the B.C. Citizens' Assembly got it right? I think we did.
Thank you to everyone here in the room, and of course to Mr. Archer and Mr. Henschel.
Just because of the gasp that went up when Mr. Boulerice said there had been an announcement, we're anticipating an announcement at 5:15, so we don't have an announcement yet on the LNG, and we proceed to focus on our task, which is democratic reform.
I have a number of questions for you, Mr. Henschel. First of all, the work of the B.C. Citizens' Assembly has been discussed by a number of academic experts who have appeared before this committee. It's always expressed with the greatest respect and deference to the enormous amount of work that average citizens did in that province. I want to thank Diana Byford, who is here, and you, Mr. Henschel. It was 11 months of your lives and a very real dedication that is above and beyond, so thank you for that.
I know you've been very clear that the reason the B.C. Citizens' Assembly shows an STV system for the whole province is that you felt that was the very best system, even for large ridings. But do you think there's any merit in taking a different view when we look at all of Canada—and we have three territories, Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut—and the distances, the cultural differences, and geographical identity, which are distinct?
As much as I would love to imagine it, I have a hard time imagining that we wouldn't need some form of hybrid system for Canada. I'd like your reaction to that and any thoughts you might have about the difficulties of taking the B.C. Citizens' Assembly's recommendation nationally.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Gentlemen, I'm very pleased to be here. I can assure you that I'm in one of the most beautiful cities in the country. I know what I'm talking about: I'm from Quebec City, the most beautiful city.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Gérard Deltell: In fact, it's not me saying that. It's Madam May, a personality well known and well appreciated here, who said that in Quebec City. I just wanted to recall that. Mr. Reid said exactly the same thing. I'd say we have a consensus on that—
A voice: I say it's Victoria.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: —even if I was surprised to see so many palm trees around here. I asked, “Is this Canada or not?”
First of all, Mr. Henschel, what is interesting with you folks is that in British Columbia you have had a good experience with a referendum and also with the new electoral system. There are only three provinces—P.E.I., Ontario, and British Columbia—that have had this experience, so it's a great opportunity for us to learn from you.
Mr. Henschel, you were very concerned, to say the least, about the supermajority after the last referendum, but on the other hand, you seem to be a bit open to having a referendum. Am I right?
To begin, I'd like to thank everybody for coming out. We have an ever-growing crowd here in Victoria. I'd also like to thank everybody for keeping the wonderful weather you ordered for the Royals in place for the committee members. Many have joined us here for the first time. We had a brief walkabout, and it was a fantastic 20 minutes on the waterfront before we came back in.
Mr. Henschel, I want to acknowledge and thank you for the work you've done. You've been involved in electoral reform for more than a decade.
In the spirit of transparency, Mr. Henschel was part of a town hall in a neighbouring riding in the Lower Mainland. I represent Cloverdale—Langley City, so I was invited to be a speaker, and we had a great discussion that day. Then I had my own town hall in my own riding, and Mr. Henschel came to speak at that one and provided some great insight and experience. I'm pleased that you're here today and are able to speak about the experience that came from your experience with the B.C. Citizens' Assembly, because I think there are a lot of lessons we can learn.
That being said, I'm going to turn my attention to Mr. Archer for a bit.
I'd like to explore the question of referendums. As everybody knows, they come up from time to time in this discussion.
I have lived in British Columbia for many years. I was away for two years and then returned in 2005, so I was around for the referendums on electoral systems, the HST, and most recently, transit on the Lower Mainland. After each one of them, I'll tell you, I felt like I needed a bit of mouthwash, because they left a really bad taste in my mouth.
It's not that I feel that the people of B.C. got any of them wrong. They all had the opportunity and they spoke, but my experience was that each one became a question of something other than what was being asked. As an example, the transit one was very much about TransLink management and not about how to fund transit expansion.
I have two questions on referendums. We've been told by our Chief Electoral Officer that a Canadian referendum would cost $300 million. I was trying to do the calculation. If we use $8 per person, that doesn't seem out of line. What was the lowest-cost version you had? I don't want anybody to think I'm advocating for a referendum. It's just that I think, in the spirit of this discussion, that we need to be open to all options. What was the lowest cost you had, and was that for the mail-in one? The $300 million figure may be high, or it may be low. I'm just not sure what figure we were given. Could you maybe repeat what the range of the per person cost was?
—policies and ideas that have ever come from Ottawa have come at a time when power has not been concentrated, when it's been, by necessity, shared.
We have in front of you a much smaller but important example of that. This committee is made up more or less on a proportional basis of the last vote in the election, and we get along great.
It wasn't my idea. It was an idea of a young fellow named Daniel Blaikie out of Winnipeg, who has just been elected. He said, “I have this idea for the committee”, and I said, “Daniel, that will never work,” until it did.
I have a question about voter turnout. We were just in a first nations community, and I have a lot that I represent in the northwest. Young people were always asked this question on voter turnout and voter engagement. We've heard a number of things from witnesses from across the spectrum saying people want to see their vote have meaning.
I'll direct this to Mr. Archer and then perhaps, Craig, you can comment as well.
We had a report out just last week from Elections Manitoba, who went through their non-voters and did a survey in their last provincial election. Forty per cent didn't vote, which is typical, and they asked them, why not? Fifty per cent of that group said they would vote if they felt their vote had meaning and would vote under a proportional system. I've never seen a number move like that before. Voting day, online, outside of mandatory maybe, no other suggestion I've heard has ever moved the needle that much.
Has B.C. ever conducted such a study in terms of that voter satisfaction Craig talked about, that power, that feeling of power that their votes are going to make a difference, and across any demographics, young people, first nations, low income, those groups that are traditionally under-represented?
Hello. Welcome to Victoria.
On behalf of Fair Voting BC and our thousands of supporters across the province, I'm very honoured to have this opportunity to speak to you this afternoon. I especially want to thank you for all the time you are taking, the travelling you're going through. Your efforts have the potential to make an incredibly positive long-term change for our democracy.
In my comments I'd like to make three key points. First, our existing voting system is simply not compatible with our democratic ideals or with our national purpose and aspirations as embodied in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Second, the B.C. Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform was both thoughtful and wise in recommending that we adopt the single transferrable vote. Finally, the rural-urban proportional representation model that we co-developed with Fair Vote Canada combines the best features of STV with well-liked features of MMP and we seriously recommend that you consider it.
Our charter guarantees us two key rights: equal treatment and effective representation. But our voting system discriminates against many, with the result that over half the voters have not voted for their MP. According to the political theorist Hanna Pitkin, the term “representation” is actually quite well defined. It has three key components: authorization, acting in the best interests of the one represented, and accountability. I know these are all important to you.
Our voting system delivers on none of these. A voter who has not voted for his or her MP did not authorize that MP to act. The MP will routinely vote against the voter's wishes, and the voter has no means to hold the MP to account since the voter has already voted against that person to no effect. Such a voter is therefore not represented in a meaningful way in legislative matters, which is an MP's principal role. From this denial of representation flow all the symptoms of political dysfunction that many previous witnesses have articulated.
What would it mean for us to take these charter rights seriously? Ironically, even in our pre-charter days, from Canada's beginnings, our voting system was intended to ensure that, as Sir John A. Macdonald put it, “different interests, classes and localities should be fairly represented”. When these intentions are demonstrably not being met, we must update our system.
As Chief Justice McLachlin reminded us in the Saskatchewan electoral boundaries reference case, the Canadian tradition is “one of evolutionary democracy moving in uneven steps”—unfortunately—“toward the goal of universal suffrage and more effective representation”.
She defined for us in that case and in a previous one what our charter right to vote means, saying that it cannot be less than to guarantee to citizens their full democratic rights in the government of the country.
She goes on to say, “Ours is a representative democracy. Each citizen is entitled to be represented in government. Representation comprehends the idea of having a voice in the deliberations of government”.
One cannot have a voice without having an MP that one supports and voted for to be that voice.
As the political scientist David Plotke said, “The opposite of representation is exclusion”, and exclusion is not a Canadian ideal.
Once we understand the charter imperative of authentic representation, we can appreciate the wisdom of the B.C. Citizens' Assembly in recommending STV, which is widely regarded as maximizing voter choice. Uniquely amongst the various proportional voting systems, STV asks voters to endorse specific candidates and only gives a vote to a candidate if a voter specifically names them. With STV, the vast majority of voters will satisfy the three conditions of being represented: They have explicitly authorized their MP by naming him or her; their MP will be the one who the voter believes is most likely to act in their best interests; and they can hold their MP accountable in the next election, because withholding their vote directly decreases the MP's support and increases another's.
In our submission, we point out that STV has the highest direct representation score of all the systems considered, on the order of about 90% or above. Despite this unmatched strength of STV, some are concerned that the threshold for election can be too high and that the districts can be too large in the more rural areas.
The rural-urban PR model combines multi-member ridings in the more populated areas with a few single member ridings where deemed necessary, and adds a small pop-up layer to decrease the threshold for election. These features substantially address these concerns.
In summary, we must adopt proportional voting to satisfy our charter rights to equality and effective representation. The citizens' assembly recommended STV because it maximizes direct representation of voters and does the most to strengthen the link between constituents and their MPs. The rural-urban model is highly flexible, scores well on all measures, and can be refined over time, staying responsive to voters through the electoral boundaries commission process.
These proportional models, among others, can deliver on the government's promise to make every vote count and the minister's call for an electoral system that provides a stronger link between the democratic will of Canadians and election results.
Ladies and gentlemen, you are on a journey that I have already undertaken. In 2004 I was privileged to be a member of the B.C. Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. As you've heard previously, 160 ordinary citizens randomly selected from every riding in this province, including two first nations people, came together to examine our current first-past-the-post system to see if it met the needs of the people or if it needed to be changed.
We worked for 11 months. The first three months were an intensive learning phase. We were taught about various different systems, how they worked, the pros and cons, and where they were used in the world. We also learned about how demographics and geographics play an important part and can have a large impact on outcomes. People from other countries came to tell us about how their systems worked for them and spoke of consequences when they had, in some cases, changed their systems.
Following the learning phase, we went into public meetings. We had 50 public meetings held across the province where panels of five to 12 assembly members attended. People came in large numbers to speak about what was important to them. Some came and spoke about specific systems, some about what they hoped a new system would change or provide, and some even came to say that no change was needed.
We also received and read over 1,600 written submissions, more than most commissions get. Our understanding was that between 100 and 200 is more usual, so that just goes to show the passion that was out there when we were working on the assembly.
When these meetings were over, the assembly gathered again for a weekend to correlate and exchange the information that we had garnered and to put forward the names of some speakers who it was felt should address the assembly as a whole. We began our fall deliberations by hearing from nine of the recommended speakers selected after consultation by a small group of assembly members from the information that had been provided. They represented a variety of proposals, most advocating for some form of change, but one spoke passionately about the current first-past-the-post system.
We then re-examined the various systems and quickly narrowed them down to the only two that seemed to offer the best solution to the conclusions we had reached from our learnings, from the hearings, and from the written submissions. We spent the next two weekends designing these systems, MMP and STV, to fit the needs of this province. Having done that, we deliberated on the merits of both and after voting, we recommended that the electorate be offered BC-STV in a provincial referendum to be held in May 2005 at the next provincial election.
You've heard some of this before, but I know it doesn't hurt to bring it back to you.
The B.C. government had not made any provision for public education on our choice, so a number of assembly members who were able to took it upon themselves to do so. Not everyone, of course, could do this. It was done on our own time and money. We spoke to groups and organizations. We debated sometimes and we provided answers to many, many questions. This we did from December 2004, when our report was delivered to the legislature, until the referendum in May 2005. My last speaking engagement was the evening before that election.
The government had two 60% requirements, which you've also heard about: 60% of the votes cast in favour, and 60% of the ridings at 50% plus one. The results were: votes cast, 57.69%, ridings, 77 out of 79 or 92%, yet it was declared to have failed. My personal opinion is that the Government of B.C. failed the people. I also believe that our success in reaching these numbers came from the fact that this recommended change came from ordinary citizens as opposed to political groups or institutions. I know you are a political group. I apologize. No insult is intended.
Even though I know there is no perfect system, I still believe that we offered the people of B.C. the one system that best suited the concerns we had learned about. People have said that STV is not a proportional system because it uses ranked ballots. However, not only is it proportional, as I know you are aware, but it is the only system that gives voters the ability to elect all MPs or MLAs while political parties do not have any say.
I would like to finish by saying that although we were taught by professors and other experts, we were not led by them. We reached our own conclusions through many hours of discussion and deliberation among ourselves.
Thank you very much. I'm pleased to be here today.
I'm not here as an expert in electoral systems, but did serve as an MP on northern Vancouver Island for 19 years. I believe I'm an expert in the challenges of representing a large rural riding, so that's what I'd like to discuss today.
Many of the electoral systems that you've been discussing require electoral districts to get larger, in some cases, much larger. I want to impress upon you the very real impact this has on the relationship between voters and the people who represent them. Today I drove two and a half hours so that I could deliver this five-minute speech and answer some of your questions. When I'm done here, I will repeat the drive home. This is very typical of the kind of thing I had to do regularly to juggle community events in my riding.
For one Parliament I also represented the entire Sunshine Coast on the adjacent mainland. Attending a meeting in Sechelt or Gibsons, or both, would require two ferries each way and an overnight stay, and essentially ate up two days; or else I would fly in a small commuter aircraft that could not be relied on and which left me without a vehicle. The most reliable travel was to fly to Vancouver from Campbell River or Courtenay, rent a car and take the Gibsons ferry from Horseshoe Bay, and return. Add to this the eight-hour-plus travel from my riding to Ottawa and you begin to get a glimpse of the challenges that large ridings present.
I could provide a level of service in opposition that the time constraints of the burden of being in government would have made impossible. Please do not underestimate the significance of this. A member of Parliament must meet constituents where they live, and see and hear first-hand the problems they're dealing with. I have the experience of having an idea discussed at a community event in Port McNeill be subsequently implemented in a federal budget. Larger ridings will only lessen these opportunities.
Multi-member ridings also present a problem. I very much agree with what you had to say on that front, Sherry. If the seven ridings on Vancouver Island were merged into one seven member riding with half of the population in Victoria, what are the chances that someone in Port Hardy will have their concerns taken seriously? It is possible, even probable, that most or all MPs would be from one corner of the riding. Proportionality for parties would be improved, but only by sacrificing proportionality for communities.
This is the consequence of living in a big country, and there is no country in the world whose experience can guide us. Looking at countries with full democracies, as defined by the Democracy Index, which is produced by The Economist magazine, we see there is no geographically large country with a proportional system in place. The largest fully democratic country with a proportional system to make the list is Spain, which has an area that is 5% the size of Canada. The bottom line is that size matters, and so does our political culture, our regional tensions, and all the things that make Canada unique. The fact is you can't predict how a new electoral system will affect Port Hardy or any other community in Canada. That is why you must proceed with caution and make sure you have the buy-in of an electorate that fully understands what is being proposed as an alternative to our current electoral system.
I do believe we have achieved an incredible country with strong democratic roots, and major change should not go forward without the blessing of a referendum. Canada has the highest ranking on the Democracy Index of any large country identified as being a full democracy. This is not to be sneezed at.
Every province contemplating major electoral changes carried out a referendum: B.C., Ontario, and P.E.I.
Politicians are elected to make many decisions, but not about how they they are hired. This is a conflict of interest. Gordon Gibson, the former B.C. Liberal leader and former adviser to former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, by the way, stated this very well in The Globe and Mail on Saturday, September 17, just 10 days ago. Gordon Gibson represents in many ways the Liberal label in British Columbia over the last 30 years. He has engaged in political and public discourse for that entire time. His advice is valued highly by British Columbians, and this committee should also value his sage advice.
That concludes my remarks.
I get to follow up on the “male, pale, and stale”. I think I am just going to leave that one alone, actually.
First, John Duncan is an old friend and a former colleague. John and I go back almost a quarter of a century. The first time we met was back in 1992. You were a brand new MP. John, please forgive me for the fact that I am going to ask my questions of the other witnesses.
Mr. Hodgson, I want to start with you. Your organization, in co-operation with Fair Vote Canada—I don't know to what degree you are different organizations and to what degree you are the same, but that is not relevant to the question I'm asking—has talked about, among other things, the rural-urban potential model. As you may know, there is a professor at the University of Waterloo, Byron Weber Becker, who has modelled a number of different versions of this. I actually have his models here—I've been lugging this brick around with me—and they are very interesting and very informative. At some point, hopefully I am going to convince the committee to take these in as testimony. We are hoping he will actually be a witness.
Having said all of that, one of the problems we face is that we have serious constraints on us that may make the rural-urban model problematic. I ask this because your organization has come forward with this. It has many things to recommend it, but, number one, we are required under our mandate to produce a system that could be in place for 2019.
Number two, any system that requires redistribution—as do some of the versions he has proposed—involves a two-year redistribution process. The Chief Electoral Officer, when asked about this, said it takes 24 months and gave us a detailed breakdown.
Number three, if we try to resolve the problem not by redistributing, at least not in the rural areas, but rather by adding top-up seats for each province, we run into constitutional issues relating to the proportionate representation of the provinces. It is actually laid out in the Constitution, and I think that is a very significant limit. We would have to go to the Supreme Court and confirm whether the top-up we are proposing is constitutional and whether we have a reference case. Otherwise, it would be uncertain.
Having said that, is there a way to overcome the second and third limit while still allowing us to achieve the 2019 deadline, using this model, as opposed to abandoning it and moving to either STV or MMP?
Thank you to the witnesses for attending our session today.
A number of my colleagues on the panel have already addressed this issue of representation, at least partially, and whether or not a person is still represented by someone who perhaps they didn't vote for.
Members of Parliament have every incentive to represent their constituents as best they can, presumably in order to win over those who didn't vote for them in the previous election. Certainly, we do it through our office activity in representing case work.
There are other ways that a member can do so, by raising issues on behalf of constituents that are important to constituents in caucus, through statements made in the House, and by influencing debate.
I'd like to talk about urbanization, and what that means to riding size in rural locations. We heard a little bit about this, and I'd like the Honourable John Duncan to tell us about this as a person who represented a large riding for so many years.
The way the redistribution of seats typically works is that the relative size of a riding by population doesn't change over time. We add seats to account for population growth. But urbanization, which has been under way for decades and still continues to be a factor, means that rural ridings just continue to grow.
What we've heard from a variety of witnesses, from the first nations community leaders that we met with this morning in Elizabeth May's riding, as well from the people we heard from in Yukon yesterday, sounded to many of us like a desire for proportional representation everywhere except in their ridings, so that we don't actually shrink or dilute their own representation on a local level.
I'd like you to tell us a little more about how urbanization is already a pressure on these larger ridings.
I am so glad to see how well this committee is working together. You seem to have put partisanship aside to work on this critical issue of Canadian democracy. This committee is proportional. It represents the votes that each party got in the last election after gave up the Liberal majority. You are a group of proud members of Parliament putting party politics aside and working together for Canada. You are a Canadian citizen before you are a member of a party. It's important to put aside the partisanship and do what is best for Canada as a whole, and this is possible. Thank you for being a part of it.
I would love to see this kind of government in our country. I believe that under first past the post we do not have this because this system results in winners and losers, and too often it's a winner-take-all game. This creates an “us against them” mentality that is too often witnessed in the behaviour of members of Parliament always having to live up to the name of opposition party or parties.
Canadians are tired of this win or lose game, and we're counting on you, this wonderful committee, to work together to bring in a fairer, made-in-Canada electoral system. What a gift that would be in time for Canada's 150 birthday next year.
As one last note, you mentioned tonight how you each represent your constituency. I would be interested to find out from each of you how many town halls you held with your constituents. Town halls are definitely a tool to consult with the public. Granted, you all have been busy with these meetings, but at least most of you, or all of you except one, can have people sit in for you.
I am fortunate to have Elizabeth May as my MP, and as the only Green MP she has had to attend every committee meeting, and yet she held her usual seven town halls, with two of them focusing on electoral reform.
In one town hall we were fortunate to have met for a most wonderful meeting on Saturna Island. I would be interested in finding out how many town halls each of you has had in order to hear from your constituents.
First of all, I would like to say that I'm in favour of this process because all of my votes at the federal level have not counted. I had to move to a riding that had a candidate that represented me in order to have my vote count. Only one time has my vote ever counted in a federal election.
In general terms, I think a lot of Canadians are dissatisfied with the system because we see too much money in politics, and we see elections being too much about personality. I would like to see them be more about issues and less about money.
There is so much bickering, partisanship, and grandstanding in the House of Commons, it's no wonder Canadians are turned off by the political system.
I think this could help on all of those counts.
I will draw up a suggestion of keeping it simple by voting for a political party, and then there would be a list which each party had that would be taken proportionally from the province.
I'd like to see compulsory voting, with a bit of carrot and a bit of stick. For example, you should be rewarded with maybe $5 on your taxes when you vote and have a $25 penalty if you don't.
Perhaps we could vote electronically or by mail-in ballot. That's done in other places.
I know in Switzerland they vote by mail-in ballot every few weeks, and they deal with many issues consequently. Switzerland has the only system like that that I'm aware of. They also have a committee they are ruled by. They elect the committee and they elect a chair.
That's it. I would like to see voting strictly for a party, and then the parties have an electoral list which their entire membership must vote on by a single transferable vote.
My name is Adriane Carr. I'm an elected councillor in the city of Vancouver. I'm speaking to you because in 2002 I was working on B.C.'s recall and initiative act, the proponent of an initiative to establish a mixed member proportional representation voting system in British Columbia. I have details about this in a brief, and I'm happy to hand those in at the end.
I wanted to focus on what I learned through my conversations with literally thousands of people in every corner of this province in the collection of 98,165 signatures—I still remember—with the help of about 4,000 other canvassers.
What I learned was that number one, people are extraordinarily frustrated with the current voting system, and it's led to such dismay that in many cases they don't want to vote.
Two, they liked the MMP system for these reasons: It's simple to understand. They liked the idea of just two votes, and some talked to me about this. As opposed to ranking a list of many candidates, two votes seemed very simple: a vote for the party, and a vote for their individual representation. They really liked that their party vote would achieve representation and they really liked the fairness of the outcome. I think fairness is a Canadian attribute.
I want to note that a ranked ballot or alternative vote ballot does not achieve proportionality, and I urge you to make sure you're clear about that. Also, you may not know that an STV system needs at least five—they say even seven—members in the riding to achieve proportionality. Five is sort of a minimum, and five would be like Yukon, Nunavut, the northern halves of all the provinces. It's something for you to consider.
I recommend, in conclusion, an MMP system because it is fair, proportional, and the votes count toward representation. I urge you to make it simple. I believe you can use the same electoral districts. There's no need for riding redistribution. Simply use a top-up system, either through lists, or some people have suggested to me by looking at those members of a party who weren't elected but got very high votes.
There's enough room in Parliament with your $3-billion renovation to create those extra seats. This is a chance for change. Please, I urge you to do proportional representation.
I will be frank. I am not a member of any party, so I am not partisan.
In the last two federal elections, 62% and 67% of registered voters voted. These are not eligible voters. These are registered voters. I don't know what percentage of eligible voters voted.
What did we get? We had 39% of the 62% elect a majority government that did whatever it wanted. It was an elected dictatorship for four years, with omnibus bills that didn't even allow the Parliament of this country to really look at what was being proposed, but they pushed it through like a dictatorship.
In the past election, Mr. Trudeau got elected with 39% of the 67%. He promised us he would make decisions based on evidence and science. He promised that this time they were going to be really decent with first nations people and get their consent when they are doing things on their traditional territory.
What did we get? We got the Site C dam decision. Some 250 members of the Royal Society of Canada, scientists, said that this is the worst project. Mr. Trudeau ignored that and betrayed his promise. He betrayed his promise of respecting aboriginal people.
What can we do? Nothing. For four years, we have another dictatorship. This is not acceptable.
I am a member of the part of society that makes less than $27,000 a year, that medium income. Who is representing me? You are making $165,000. You are not even coming close to understanding the reality of my life, and half of the population's. This is not democracy. What I am saying is that this is the first step: to change the electoral system.
More important, you have to become responsible and accountable to us on a regular basis. If you want to be accountable to us, you come every month to us. Meet your constituents, on the record. We put it on the record, and at that time you give us 20 minutes to report about what you have done and listen to our concerns and issues. Listen to the fact that 18% of children in British Columbia are undernourished and living in poverty. Then we are going to have a parliament that is responsible.
Electoral reform is extremely important to me. Why? To borrow a phrase, because it's 2016.
My wife and I are both political refugees from the Conservative heartland of Alberta. We moved here five years ago, looking for, among other things, a change of political scenery. Most of my life as a voter, I've had to live with the bitter disappointment of knowing that in a supposedly modern democracy, my vote, like more than half the voters in the last election, did not matter to anyone except myself.
We get phony majorities, no representation for my views, ridiculous results, increasingly aggressive politics, exclusion of women, and a general failure to truly represent all Canadians. I am tired of all this nonsense.
We have a profoundly broken democracy, which, not surprisingly, more and more people are disengaging from because of a sense of futility and hopelessness. Electoral reform and specifically proportional representation is the only acceptable outcome for this process. Why? Because it's fair.
Self-serving interests of politicians and their parties need to be set aside for this historic opportunity. In the last election, three of four national parties campaigned and were elected on platforms of electoral reform. Now they have an unarguable mandate to deliver.
I know there are Conservatives who support proportional representation, yet the party line repeated ad nauseam by them and the media is “referendum”, knowing full well that referendums block change and are disturbingly easy to manipulate, as we have recently seen with the Brexit fiasco.
We need more from you. Please do the right thing. We see all around us deteriorating democracies. We now have a chance to fix this very broken democracy. Bringing in proportional representation is just a start. There's much more to do. This is your chance to be on the right side of history. Let's make ours a kinder, gentler, real democracy.
Contrary to your desires, I'm going to thank you and all your staff for the work you're doing this summer. Thank you very much.
I would like to acknowledge the Songhees Nation on whose land we are now standing. Now I'm going on to be very partisan.
My name is Jeremy Arney. I am the interim leader of the Canadian Action Party. We think the STV is just another form of first past the post, but it goes down through the ranks. That's not acceptable.
MMP, on the other hand, can be adapted to be a Canadian form of doing things. We have in this country 22 registered political parties, and how many are there represented here? That is not the way it should be.
Our suggestion is simply that if you have the MMP, there will be a first past the post, probably from one of your parties, but the list that goes with it should be attached to who is running in the riding. We cannot have 22 members on a list in every riding. Many of the ridings will not have small party candidates, but for those that do, those candidates should be allowed to have a list attached to their party, no matter which one it is. That's my major point.
Small parties are under-represented—we all know that—and yet they have fantastic ideas. One of the fantastic ideas that every single small party, except for the Libertarians, believes in is that the Bank of Canada should be brought back to financing Canada and its needs. There are none of your parties here who will consider that. I don't know why. It makes tremendous economic and logical sense, but for some reason you won't do it.
Small parties will bring new ideas They will reinvigorate Canadian politics. They will reinvigorate the Canadian people. You have an opportunity here for real democratic process for Canadians and I urge you to take it.
I want to pick up on a remark I heard from this panel a little while ago, maybe a couple of hours—I've been here for the whole session—and that was that the first-past-the-post system has served us well for 150 years. Honestly, I beg to differ. Think of what's happened in 150 years. I just made a quick list of things, like the Internet, mobile communications, nuclear power, radar, television, radio, aviation, automobiles, vaccines. All of these things have evolved. Our electoral system hasn't. It's time. It really is time.
For those of you who still think first past the post is viable, it may be the devil we know—and I understand change is difficult to implement—but it is the devil.
I'm old enough to remember the McKenna election in New Brunswick, in I think it was October 1987. Under 60% of the population voted in favour of Mr. McKenna and he won 100% of the seats. Does everybody remember that? It was 60% that won every seat in the House.
Now, when you have a situation like first past the post promotes, such as division, diversity, single-issue voting, then you get these very polar outcomes. Imagine if it had been someone who was not as benevolent and nationally oriented and kind-natured as Frank McKenna. Imagine if it was more of a Donald Trump type, who had a slim majority and a substantial majority of the votes. It could be disastrous. This is what the system promotes.
It's a very disenfranchising system, and it's particularly disenfranchising to the young, as many, many polls have shown over the last number of years.
A new electoral system, whatever it is, needs to have some of the following notions. It needs to be fair, democratic, and very importantly, it needs to be perceived as being so. It needs to be Internet savvy. It needs to be open-sourced. It needs to allow input from the citizens in order to be accountable to the citizens. It needs to be responsive.
I will close with borrowing a notion from Marshall McLuhan: the medium is the message. I'm sure you have thought about this. It's certainly pertinent in today's media. This system is the message here, and as long as we have an archaic, outdated system that promotes this kind of division in our society, we will have these polar arguments, with very poor representation and disenfranchisement. We need to change the system if we want to—
I'm part of that boatload of SGI people who came down today to support our member and to present our views on proportional representation.
I was also a part of the crew that met you this morning at the airport. We're delighted to see you.
I didn't expect to be able to get on the list today, so I came somewhat unprepared, but I want to share with you my views that we need proportional representation. It's going to be up to you to sort out the best that you can do, and I believe you can do it. I want to thank you for all the hard work that you're doing. It can't be be easy. Every day must be Groundhog Day for you.
What I'm about to say may also sound like a groundhog because we have had many people say much of what I would like to share with you. I think you've all heard it before.
I do want to make it clear that I do not favour a referendum. Referendums were not used for some of the most important things that Canadians have done. One of them was going to war. Now, they did try a plebiscite to see if we should have conscription. However, when so many thousands of Canadians lost their lives and we sent them off without a referendum, I think we have to think about that.
The second thing I'd like to do is to comment on the Honourable John Duncan's point of view that we should have—I'm searching here for words. I'm sorry. We really need to have a situation where the member of Parliament is the one who is doing all of that work to represent their constituents. You all do a pretty good job of that. I know you were talking about that earlier. We forget, I think, sometimes—and I think Tony Hodgson brought this up—that we have a situation in Parliament where most parties are whipped, so your representation is compromised.
Thank you for what you're doing.
It's perfectly clear and has been since long before this meeting that there's an enormous passion and wish to move to some kind of proportional representation system. We all observed the struggles that we have listened to today, trying to make things work with MMP and STV. I want to try to think outside the box about some simple, cost-effective alternatives. Generically, the name is weighted voting. Now that can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people and I have to try to be brief. I'd like to explain background, motivation, and so on, but there isn't time. I'm just going to give one example.
I go to the poll and I get a ballot. The ballot contains a list of candidates and asks a simple question: Which one do you like? Now I would ask a second question, which you can consider or not, as you like, which is: Here's a list of parties; which party do you feel represents your point of view? I go to that poll and I see a candidate's name whom I've always admired, Jane Doe. She happens to be affiliated with the purple party, but that doesn't especially matter to me, because maybe I'm a pretty simple-minded voter. I'm for Jane Doe so I'll vote for Jane Doe. Let's suppose the rest of the people in my riding happen to agree and Jane sweeps the riding with 40,000 votes. Okay. A computer records that number of 40,000 and puts it into a little slot.
At the same time, other candidates have not succeeded, and in other ridings other purple candidates have not succeeded. Where another purple candidate has been defeated, or where someone else who didn't get the candidate they wanted happens to say, “I kind of like that purple party”, we gather up the weight of purple party votes and store that number away. We bring back the total number of votes that have been defeated in their selection of a candidate but have said “Gee, I kind of like this purple stuff”, and we divvy that out among the elected members of the purple party. Jane Doe, who got 40,000 votes, gets another 30,000 and goes to Parliament with 70,000 votes.
Thank you. My name is Bob MacKie. Years ago when there were Progressive Conservatives, I was president of the Langley—Abbotsford Riding Association. I understand the Conservatives not wanting a majoritarian voting system that would appear to favour the Liberals. Personally, I'm lucky. I voted for and got a great representative, Elizabeth May.
In 2008, almost a million Canadians voted for a Green Party representative. Not one of them got that representative. In our last federal election, for all parties, that was true for nine million Canadians.
There was a time in Langley—Abbotsford when you could have elected a mailbox if it was a Progressive Conservative candidate. This is not good representation.
I am vice-president of Fair Voting BC, and I believe that in a representative democracy the government has a duty and an obligation to all Canadian voters to ensure fair and equal representation.
Duverger's law in political science states that majoritarian voting systems drive us toward a two party system, which I particularly fear as I watch the U.S. election.
Canadians cannot honestly be expected to know the impact of changing the voting system, and they should not be asked to make that decision without knowing.
A simple practical solution is to try out a made-in-Canada proportional representation solution, such as the rural-urban PR voting model. We could then have a referendum, or better, do a $1-million survey and save $299 million.
I'll finish with a passage from Arend Lijphart's book Patterns of Democracy, which has particular meaning for me because I grew up in Lachine, Quebec, and I vividly remember how close we came in 1995 to having Quebec separate from Canada.
In the most deeply divided societies...majority rule spells majority dictatorship and civil strife rather than democracy. What such societies need is a democratic regime that emphasizes consensus instead of opposition, that includes rather than excludes, and that tries to maximize the size of the ruling majority instead of being satisfied with a bare majority: consensus democracy.
Consensus democracies have multi-party systems and proportional electoral systems.
To the committee, I will say that I know your work has been exhausting. I hope you will all be in our history books or Wikipedia.
I am a supporter of a proportional system. I'm also a strong believer in representative democracy.
I think this committee and the government has the authority and the mandate to change the electoral system, and I do not think that a referendum is required to change the system.
I think if you want legitimacy for a change in the system, it would be extremely wise to have a referendum on the system after two elections. The reason I say two is that you have the first election to get the bugs out of whatever the new system is, and you have the second election to have a smooth election. Then people can vote in a referendum with clear understanding and knowledge, and most importantly, experience of the system. I think asking people to vote in a referendum on a system that they don't have any experience with is simply not productive.
The second point I would like to address, which I have not heard raised here tonight, is the question of the percentage of national vote or regional vote that would be required to top up or create elected representatives off a list.
As somebody who has a political science background, one of the things that worries me the most about straight proportional systems is that they can, in a lot of circumstances, give weight to extreme views and very small parties far in excess of their numbers and their representation in the country.
I would like to strongly advise you to look at a base of 10% to 12% as the minimum to be considered. I recognize that is high according to some systems, and I know some people think it's an anti-Green suggestion. That is certainly not my perspective. I happen to be in Ms. May's riding and consider myself extremely blessed to have her as my MP.
I think if you designed a system that removed the need for strategic voting, then you would see a Green Party vote well above that, or at least at that 10% to 12%. I don't think it's a barrier to any of the parties that are running today.
I have two other quick points.
I would like to underline Mr. Duncan's concern about the size of rural ridings. As somebody who has lived in two rural ridings, it is a major issue. I'm sure Mr. Cullen is well aware of the fact that at least in interior British Columbia there are many times in winter when you literally cannot move around in a riding.
My last quick point is that I'm terrified of electronic voting. There is no secure electronic system. If you want to go to something more convenient, please consider a mail-in ballot.
Thank you very much.
I want to say a couple of different things.
One is that I've had the experience of having the candidate I voted for get elected, and then in the very next election having to go and campaign against that very same candidate. That's happened to me a couple of times. That's when I quit. I no longer belong to any political parties, because I've just given up on being betrayed.
I don't see how any electoral change is going to change that, but I still favour some electoral change. I like the mixed proportional representation system myself. That's what I would support.
One thing I will say about the current system is that it is honest. When I was a member of a political party, I would do things like volunteer as a scrutineer. I've done it several times for no pay and no benefits at all. It was an interesting experience. I found that the members of other political parties were professional. We worked together. We even did the lists for each other, though we were miles apart, supposedly. We took it as a service to democracy, and I think that's an important thing.
One of the things I'm very concerned about as a former scrutineer is voting machines. Some of the systems that you're proposing involve the use of voting machines. As we saw in 2000 in the United States, and again in 2004, some very hinky things can happen with voting machines, and some very bad people can get elected. Therefore, I'm very concerned about that.
I support a post-referendum. I think that is a very good idea. It's an idea that I've heard here, and I think it would add legitimacy to it. I don't think that this is so complicated an issue that a pre-referendum is necessary, but a post-referendum would be a really good idea.
The other thing I would like to ask you to consider is a negative option ballot. A negative option ballot will work in any electoral system, and it's based on my own personal experience of not really being happy with some of the promises and things that politicians are saying. There's often a candidate that I really don't want to see get elected, and I would really like to ask the returning officer for a negative option vote, which would take away a vote.
Hi there. I really appreciate having a chance to speak to my members of Parliament.
I would like to speak from personal experience. For the past 10 years or so, I've felt very betrayed by our system, and at times I've felt like giving up.
Do we live in a democracy or has our democracy been taken over by a dictator?
I'm really heartened to see that even though the current Liberal government has the same type of false majority the previous government had, at least there is effort to do what you promised us when you were voted in. I really appreciate that.
I felt very sad when my young daughter, who is in her twenties, went to vote for the first time. I think it was in the election before last. She was all gung-ho. We're in Saanich, and she was really happy that she was going to be able to vote for Elizabeth May. Unfortunately, we were a couple of blocks outside of the riding, and so she wasn't able to.
I had to explain to her that if she wanted to vote for these types of principles, she would have to have to vote strategically, because we have to make sure that the votes are on the side of the issues we're interested in, such as the environment, and so on. We're not going to get that if the vote is split three ways, where 60% of us want something, but the guy with 38% gets in despite the fact that the majority of the people want what the two other groups want.
I think that speaks very much to the issue of minority governments. A lot of people pooh-pooh them, but I think some great things have happened in Canada as a result, like our Canada Health Act, and as Nathan Cullen referred to earlier, our social safety net, and so on. A lot of really wonderful things can happen in a democracy when we get much more collaboration, and people are forced to do that when they have minorities rather than majorities. I think this is a good thing for Canada, and it might be facilitated by proportional representation. Lots of the countries that have this and indeed most advanced democracies like it.
I really like the idea of not having a referendum until we are a couple of times in, so that people have a chance to experience it. In my experience talking to people, most of them have no clue. When I ask people if they saw the leaders debate the previous day, they say that they were too busy watching hockey. Unfortunately, that's the level that most people are at.
I'm really grateful, and I hope that you do have multi-party support for doing what you're doing and reforming the—
I speak against first past the post because this system is fundamentally unfair. Here are some reasons.
A vote of 40% can and often does produce 100% of the power. A vote in one riding, a swing riding, counts far more than a vote in a safe riding. Overall voter turnout is reduced under first past the post because voters in safe ridings feel that their vote is wasted regardless of who they vote for. Psychological factors often play a role in first past the post because voters may favour a minor party but vote strategically for a viable major party that represents the best chance of preventing the election of a party they oppose.
Eventually, with first past the post, Canada will evolve into a U.S.-style, two party state with its attendant faults.
Smaller parties are severely discriminated against in first past the post since voters feel voting for a minor party is a wasted vote. For example, is it really fair that a party can get 10% of the vote and less than 1% of representation in Ottawa? Furthermore, remember that under any system other than first past the post, that minor party would probably get far more votes.
I speak now in favour of any system other than first past the post, although my personal preference is for MMP. Obviously, not all people can be satisfied after an election, but surely it is clear that proportional representation, for example, satisfies far more voters than first past the post. The criticism that a system other than first past the post tends to result in minority governments with less power is misplaced. If that is the case, then I say good.
What most voters want is a government that will or has to listen to other points of view and come to a consensus. After all, nobody wants a Conservative, a Liberal, an NDP, or Green Party policy all the time. With proportional representation, there are checks and balances, unlike in first past the post where a blank cheque is more or less issued.
Far more countries have a system other than first past the post and have a much higher voter turnout.
Thank you very much.
Thanks very much. I'll get right to it.
One of the things I'm interested in is the effectiveness of government and how government can make decisions. One of the criticisms that people have of PR systems is that it's more complex, that it takes too long to make decisions. Yet that doesn't bear out in fact. When it comes to tough decisions—and I'll take climate change as an example—not one first-past-the-post country has made any progress. That's where all the deniers are. They've gone backwards instead of forward.
The only nations that have really made progress are the European nations that are under PR systems, and that's because you have more than two voices. You have a multiple of voices and you have to give them consideration. Most voices gain credibility in the general public so the government can move forward.
On the other hand, when it comes to war, who are the initiators? U.S., U.K., latterly Canada, France as a majoritarian system, and Australia is always jumping in right behind the U.S.—all these are first-past-the-post systems. I think that tells us an awful lot about the strengths of a broader-based system than first past the post.
With respect to the referendum, no referendum is required. Look at your Constitution. The parties are not even mentioned in the Constitution. My experience with referendums goes back to the French language issue in Manitoba, where I was an MLA at the time. We had just passed a law to be able to bring in the campaign's referendums. What was the first thing issued? Some 75% of Manitobans voted to take away French language rights. These constitutional rights were reaffirmed shortly thereafter by the courts. That's the ugliness. Going through that was one of the ugliest experiences of my life.
We all like to think if we get elected that they're voting for us, but an Ipsos poll of a couple of years ago found 74% of the people voting for the party with 24% of the candidates.
I would propose a mixed member proportional system, but I think we need a cut-off on the lists, and I would suggest a five- or six-point cut-off.
Thank you for hearing me speak. Just a little disclaimer: I'm Martin Barker, and I was the candidate for the Conservative Party in . I would first like to put to rest a little fallacy. I did not get elected, but I still feel represented by Mr. . Maybe he doesn't hold my views, but I have no problem debating him and I have no qualms about going to him with problems.
On that note, you are represented regardless of the percentage of people. I was a baby voter and not really engaged at all at the time of the Charlottetown accord, and that was a referendum. At that time, I had no idea about politics, but I became engaged in the referendum. I contacted the government to find out more information, and they sent me a little video, a little fluff piece. I was so angry, and when I looked further into it I became angry about everything. I voted against the Charlottetown agreement, but that referendum engaged me in politics. It made me the kind of pseudo-politician I am today.
I think about our government in Canada for 150 years. I know some people disagree, but it has been growing. We've overcome some great problems and issues and the country continues to get better, regardless of who's in power. I think we should take great care about deciding to change our system. It's very easy to stuff the room with partisans. That's not reaching the people of this country.
If we want to engage the people of the country, Canadians, we should have a true debate, one that's in the papers, one that's maybe myself and other politicians discussing what's right and what's happening. Canadians will be engaged. We want greater engagement in Canada, so let's have a referendum.
I'm hearing a lot about mixed proportional, and I don't begrudge the discussion on voter reform. I think it's great. I personally support the system we have now. But if we're going to have legitimate change, it must be with a referendum. I think Canadians deserve to have a voice and a proper say in the future.
Coincidentally, I also was a candidate in the last federal election, a woman. I stood for what I believed in. I was the Conservative candidate for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. Thank you for being here.
There is always a winner and a loser, and it's just how you get there. Having been a competitive figure skater for 30 years of my life, it was the person with the most points that won the trophy, and it's still that way today.
Regardless of your choice of voting system, please exercise democracy and hold a referendum. Friends with whom I've spoken regarding changes to our electoral system for the most part are not aware of these meetings. Canadians care about having a voice in this process, and many would like to see a referendum on the issue of electoral reform.
Canada is one of the most respected democracies in the world, so my question is, if the government truly cares and respects what Canadians think, why is it looking to change the way we vote without giving Canadians a say through a referendum?
People talk about democracy. Democracy is having a referendum and allowing Canadians that are eligible to vote to vote on what system they believe is best for them.
I find it very concerning that our Parliament, which has 338 seats, and a majority Liberal government which was elected with less than 40% of the vote, is wanting to sole source the decision. This means that because the Liberals have a majority government, they have enough seats, and therefore votes, to pass whatever voting system they want regardless of what the majority of Canadians want.
In the most recent Ipsos poll, 55% of Canadians approached about electoral reform wanted a referendum. They want a say in how they would elect their next MP. They do not want elected MPs, people in power, telling them how they are going to vote. If the government is truly listening to Canadians, it knows Canadians want a say and they want a referendum
Any proposal to change Canada's current electoral system must be endorsed by the majority of Canadians before it's implemented. The only democratic way to enable Canadians to express their preference is through a referendum, and that includes the option of maintaining the status quo.
Canadians must be informed about how, under any proposed alternative voting system, electoral districts would be redrawn, ballots would be counted, what the minimum voting percentage threshold would be in order to be elected, how many candidates might run in each riding, and how local representation and accountability would be maintained.
The word “reform” implies making things better. It may very well be that the majority of Canadians are satisfied with the current system and see no need for improvement. That has certainly been the message when at least provinces proposed reforms, which were subsequently rejected by their citizens through a referendum, including in B.C. Although proponents of STV champion STV and point out the first referendum as an indication of full support, the reality is that in the second referendum, when the citizenry was well informed, over 60% of the people voted against it.
My personal preference is to maintain our current electoral system. It has served us well for over 100 years and most often has provided the stability and predictability of majority governments, which is a major strength of our political system.
My second choice would be a system that would be a runoff election or a preferential ballot. Proportional representation would be my last choice.
Proponents of proportional representation perpetuate the myth that any vote that is not for an elected candidate is a wasted vote. That's simply not the case. I have voted in every municipal, provincial, and federal election since achieving the age of majority. I have voted for members of the NDP, the Progressive Conservatives, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Party. Some of these candidates were elected and some were not, and not once did I feel that my vote had been wasted.
The reality is that democracy is about majority rule while respecting the rights of the minorities, and our current system does that.
Thank you so much for being here and thank you for being proportional.
I'm in favour of a proportional representation system that I trust you to come up with for Canada that takes our geography into account, and a referendum after the fact, probably after two election cycles.
I want to make a couple of points.
We've heard very little tonight about the important work that people in government do on the legislative and policy side. There has been a lot of talk about constituency work. What's really interesting is—I know because I'm a policy wonk—a lot of work is done in committee. Well, here you are as a proportional committee. Bless your hearts. I hope it's working well. What a difference it would make in our government if all committee work was done with a proportional blend.
The issues that confront all of us nationally as government and as people are very significant and very large. I would hope that if a PR system delivers a balanced committee approach to legislation and policy, that, for instance, government might be able to push back on things like the trade agreements, where friends of some parties have put the arm on government. I would hope you would have the collective will and power to push back.
I've been to three meetings, and I went to one of the meetings that the minister was hosting. She has a slightly wider scope, I think, than you do. She's talking about possibly ranking those five principles that you're going to use to judge the validity of the system you proposed. I think it's a terrible idea to have five principles as your guidepost, and for anyone to suggest ranking them. Could you maybe have a little chat with her, and ensure that doesn't happen?
We thank you for your work. We're watching. We're going to read your report when it comes out in December. We know the moment of truth will be when it goes to cabinet, and we're going to follow it every step of the way.
I'm speaking on behalf of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada.
I am urging you to move towards a proportional representation system because to me and to many people, the measure of a democracy is in its inclusivity. Right now, animals are sorely excluded from the democratic process. I'm not saying that I want to give animals the vote. I don't trust my cat or dog with that. However, I do want to empower MPs to represent their interests. This is about more than just proportional representation; this is about proportional interest in how people think and feel about animals in our society.
If I ask people here if they thought we should strengthen protections for animals, how many people would put up their hands? Quite a few, probably the majority. But right now, as it stands, with the first-past-the-post system, when a government has a majority, as they do, and with lobby groups having the power that they do, their power can influence people to say, “Well, sure, if I ask most people if they think we should have stronger laws or make it easier to prosecute people who are cruel to animals, they would say that yes, of course, why wouldn't they want that?” Yet there are lobby groups that have the power to influence government beyond the interests of the people, and that's not right. We need to work on changing that.
The Netherlands, Australia, Portugal, and Germany all have animal parties elected to their Parliament. There's no reason we can't do the same here because, with the current issues that face us environmentally, social justice issues, health care issues, and economic issues, if we do not include animals in the way we construct and consider our policy, then we will all bear the consequences collectively.
My name is James Coccola. I'm a member of the Victoria Labour Council, and I come here today to speak about the position of the Canadian Labour Congress.
We hold the position that it is time to change our voting system, and the system should be proportional representation. First past the post consistently fails to accurately represent the votes cast by Canadians. Our system is outdated and distributes power unfairly. Studies of elections in countries that still use first past the post show that fewer women and candidates from minority backgrounds are elected. We need a system that encourages participation, and that system is proportional representation.
We believe that electoral reform must adhere to three principles: one, no party should be able to get the majority of seats in Parliament without getting the majority of votes; two, any electoral reform must be based on proportional representation; three, any electoral reform must consider the importance of local representation. This position of the Canadian Labour Congress was adopted at a convention by thousands of delegates.
Quickly, I've been told for my entire voting life that my generation, my demographic, doesn't care, that they're not engaged, that they're not representative. I don't agree with that. I know a lot of people my age who are very involved and very engaged.
Consider what we know about voting for a moment. We know that if you go to a poll and cast a ballot, you're more likely to go the next time. Imagine if you go and vote and you realize your vote didn't count. Then maybe you go back again and the same thing happens. Well, you start to get discouraged. As soon as you don't vote in one election, you're less likely to vote in the next election.
While I don't agree that youth are apathetic or they don't care, I can understand why some people don't want to vote. It's because they don't feel that it matters. Change to our voting system would help to alleviate that myth.
I strongly urge this committee to make a very strong recommendation for proportional representation.
Thank you for the opportunity.
I like to use one analogy to explain my viewpoint. Everybody here has been to school at some point—elementary school, high school, university—so most people are familiar with the grading system that applies there. When I think about the last election, I understand that over 51% of the votes cast did not go toward electing an MP, so over nine million Canadians put their vote in the ballot box, and that vote did not go toward somebody who would represent their political viewpoint. By most grading systems, that's a complete tragedy and a failure, an F grade.
When we look at it in that context and understand that, we might think that if 51% is so bad, maybe that's the only system we have. I don't need to repeat the comments of everybody here, but there are many other alternatives that offer a much better chance at a better electoral system. Personally, I think that proportional representation would result in the votes being translated and represented in a much better way.
I also think that regional representation is another thing that is critical. It is something that people have brought up and that some people who are critical of proportional representation also bring up. I know there are a lot of smart people you're going to hear from, and there are a lot of creative people in this world, so I do not believe that it's beyond this group to come up with a system that is proportional and also has regional representation.
I think it's well within your mandate, and I think it's well within the opportunity and the ability of the group to do that. This is a really important opportunity for you to move forward with an equal, effective, and empowered electoral system.
I think the gentleman who spoke just prior to me at this mike put it really clearly: people want to feel empowered and know that their vote matters. If you remove all the party lines beyond that, I think that's fundamentally what everybody wants when they're thinking about going to the polling station, so please consider that as part of your deliberations.
Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here tonight. I just have a short speech to share.
Praiseworthy are we Canadians for upholding those ideal and timeless principles, liberty and equality. With such policies as multiculturalism, we have welcomed the kind stranger and remained unified under one banner. Both nationally and socially, we have found that happy balance between good governance and strong communities.
Proportional representation is but one step in Canada's history of democratic glory. No more should our legislators be divided among adversaries. With Canada's economy going as it is, the last thing we need is parties that make promises for votes, yet once in government, they are impeded by a polarized first-past-the-post system.
With proportional representation, parties take a national rather than a factional stand by working together, whether in coalitions or not. No more cadre catch-all brokerage party politics, where the limited time parties have to complete their policies is compromised to win votes.
The impact of global warming and environmental disasters this summer is alarming, and though voters have expressed their discontent for our current regime and political party system by voting for third and fourth parties, their votes have not translated into enough seats for parties that prioritize environmentalism and effective climate action.
With proportional representation, Canada will become more democratic, engendering a healthy country where more females and minorities participate in democracy, and where a greater percentage of the votes get translated into seats and power in Parliament. Let us channel the frustration that comes from those whose votes don't count. Let us mobilize the masses far and abroad.
Thank you very much.
Before we consider lowering the age to vote, we might want to look at what we do with it right now. We say it's perfectly all right for 18-year-olds to vote in a federal election, but don't let them vote in the province of B.C. for another year. It's okay to let them join the military, but don't let them have a drink in the province of B.C. for another year or two. If we're going to make a suggestion, we have to be prepared to enforce it and have it have meaningful power.
I've worked for Elections Canada and Elections B.C. since the 1980-some election. It has to be kept simple, and the politicians do not trust the people and the people don't trust the politicians. I say that because in the current system of voting in the federal election, you have to prove beyond any doubt—not beyond reasonable doubt but beyond any doubt—where you live, but you don't have to prove you're 18 years of age; we'll take your word for that. Average Canadians are going to vote once and say who they are. We need a system that believes the voters when they say they're Canadians, when they say they're 18—oh, we already do that—and when they say where they live.
From time to time, it becomes an issue with other things thrown in, but at the end of the day, if 10 people want to go and vote for Elizabeth May instead of voting for the person next door, is it going to change the picture? Well, if we go to proportional representation it will absolutely have no effect on the outcome; therefore, the only reason we're spending so much money making people prove things that we should believe from them would already be in place.
First past the post is a system designed for two parties and to maintain two parties. That's a fact. There have been some statements made tonight that are not facts. Consensus is not watered down. Consensus is a starting point, as opposed to first past the post, which is a finishing point.
Thank you very much for your time.
Thanks for listening to the first 64 people, and thanks, everybody else.
I'm strongly in favour of proportional representation. I'm also here on behalf of five members of my immediate and extended family who won't be able to come to any in-person consultations, so thanks for doing this in a place where I can come.
I would like to see a system that encourages candidate diversity so that we see more women, aboriginal people, and other minorities running and being elected, and not being restricted to expressing views that are strictly party views or that are most likely to please the majority.
I'd like to see a system that encourages long-term co-operation across party lines between candidates and between elected representatives. I would like to see a system that ensures that elected representatives are accountable to their constituents and that all votes count in electing a representative for the voter, and also ensures that the system cannot be hijacked by corporate interests.
We are, at this point, very lucky to be able to draw on the deep consideration that has already been given to this issue by the B.C. Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, and I think we would be foolish to ignore the conclusions that they came to.
At this point, I do not support alternative vote as it is not proportional. Open list MMP, I believe, could offer some improvements over our current system, but I am concerned about the complexity that would be required to keep representatives strongly accountable to voters. At this point, I believe that a system like BC-STV would do the best job.
Thank you. My name is Dana, and I'm speaking to you today in support of proportional representation.
I volunteered with a non-partisan political advocacy group, Leadnow, in their Vote Together campaign prior to the last federal election, to encourage strategic voting. In the riding I was working in, in Vancouver, we had just under 17,000 direct conversations with voters and collected 5,400 pledges. That was with 450 volunteers.
I spent two years of my life working full-time as an environmental consultant and spending all of my free time talking to voters about our broken electoral system, trying to motivate people to work the system to get the system to work for us, because many of the people I talked to are tired of this electoral system and feel it doesn't work for them.
Countless times I repeated the phrase, “Will you agree to vote together for the best candidate that can defeat Stephen Harper, not the best candidate that reflects your values?” We had to cast our ballots on guesswork of how those in our riding would cast theirs, or maybe voters didn't use strategy on principle and accepted that their vote didn't count. Both strategies isolate youth voters and sap them of motivation to participate in this democracy.
I never want to be a part of another strategic voting campaign again. I want my efforts to not be spent working tirelessly against the stream of a broken democracy but instead facing the real challenges of our time, like transitioning to a sustainable energy system to mitigate climate change, which has been proven to be politically easier in a PR system.
It has been said before but it's worth repeating that the 2015 election was a referendum, as the Liberals were voted in on a platform to change our voting system. Their election platform was also based on evidence-based policy, and if you look into the research, PR is the clear next step for our democracy.
I ask for a fair voting system where every vote is counted and represented in Ottawa.
I've come down from Ladysmith, from up island, especially to present to you.
I'm occasionally invited to speak at high schools, where I get the whole school on the floor of the gym. I ask them the question right at the beginning, “When you think about the future, what do you feel, hope or worry?” Out of 400 kids, I'm getting only five hands going up to say they feel hopeful. Then I give them a whole presentation about exciting stuff and how we can tackle climate change and things like that, and that changes their views.
The point is that there's an epidemic of hopelessness happening in our schools. They're not engaged politically, and if they are engaged and they know the history, they'll know that in the last 100 years every government has been either Liberal or Conservative. Also, out of the last 33 elections since the year 1900, in peacetime only three have had a true majority. The two in wartime got just over 50%. Nine elections out of 10 have had a forced majority, which has not been a democratic result, when the majority of Canadians have not been represented by the parties they elected. This is deeply disturbing.
I get involved, like other people, in strategic voting. I see how it splits friends. It puts people who have the same values at each other's throats and creates anger and distress. It's not a pleasant thing to do, to have to vote against someone you don't want to vote against, blah blah blah.
My concern particularly is how to get more young people engaged. I do believe, like other people have said, that we need to extend the votes to 16-year-olds. Currently, if you have not voted before you leave school, you go into that kind of black hole, pretending you're not an adult, and adults vote so you're not going to vote but maybe when you're 30 you'll get around to it. If your first election is while you are at school, you'll get used to it, and you'll get used to the discipline, the rigorous debating, and the challenging of positions. Then you're hooked and you're involved in electioneering.
Another issue around this is that one-third of Canadians don't own property, don't have parents who own property, will never inherit, and will be renting all of their lives, unless we have a changed system. Renters vote far less. The voter turnout among renters is much lower. If we had either mandatory voting, as in Australia, where they have a turnout rate of 94%, that would solve the problem. Alternatively, there could be a $100 voting tax credit, so when you vote you get $100, and if you don't vote, you lose it. Also, it's tax revenue neutral, so it doesn't increase government costs at all, but it's an incentive for people who have to take time off work at low wages to come to vote, and it's a way of saying that voting matters to us.
Finally, I think on campaign financial reform we also need to make sure that if any party wants to bring back the ability of powerful interests to finance elections, we lock in a two-thirds majority against that happening, so we stay with good finance control. There are top penalties for attempted voter manipulation, such as robocalls, and we have a new system of mixed member proportional voting.
Thank you very much.
Of all the battles we have fought for democracy in this country, this is the most important.
I know first-hand what it's like for your vote not to count. I used to live in Saanich, north of UVic, and no matter how many times I voted, the Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative MP Gary Lunn would get elected and re-elected. My vote never counted. I could not persuade my friends to vote, because their vote never counted.
I support proportional representation, because it takes the power away from political parties and gives it back to the electorate.
The minority and coalition governments elected through proportional representation and making decisions by consensus end up making better decisions. Throughout history, the best concessions we have been able to extract out of the government have been out of minority governments: universal health care, minimum wage, old age penson plan. On the other hand, majority governments take us for granted.
No more first past the post; no more one-man dictation by Stephen Harper; no more omnibus bills.
I would say no to a referendum, because masses could very easily be persuaded to vote against their own interests. In British Columbia, the referendum on electoral reform worked for all the wrong reasons.
I would say yes to proportional representation, and no to a referendum.
Thank you very much.
My name is David Merner. I ran for the Liberals in the last federal election in Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, the next riding over. I'm also the national vice-president of Fair Vote Canada, but I'm here speaking as a citizen.
I would, though, like to ask this committee to really consider how you're going to come to a unanimous compromise on the issues that have been raised today. It's not an easy thing. To the Liberals, I say that we campaigned on real change, and that means something. We also campaigned on making every vote count, and that means something as well.
To me it's clear. Alternative vote is not good enough, even though we passed a resolution at our 2014 national convention in favour of alternative vote. We have to do better because we campaigned on something different. We campaigned on making every vote count. We also campaigned on real change. AV is not real change; it's still a first-past-the-post system.
As Liberals we have to look at an alternative. We have an Atlantic caucus that's going to lose seats, right? It's going to be very hard to convince that caucus to vote in favour of proportional representation which does represent real change. What do we do about that?
To the Conservatives, though, who are giggling over there, this is a chance, actually—and not you, Nathan, I know. On the referendum issue, you're making a good point. This is a democracy. We need legitimacy, but let's do it in a fair way. Let's do it after we've tested the current system. Let's ensure that we know that Canadians are having an informed vote.
If you do it before, even Margaret Thatcher said referendums were the perfect forum for demagogues. Listen to Margaret Thatcher. She got it right. Have it after two elections when Canadians really know what they're in for. Then we'll have a real democratic vote because it will be an informed and fair vote.
Last, to the NDP folks who campaigned on MMP, I ask you to put a little water in your wine. There's an excellent compromise that Fair Vote Canada has put forward. It's the Kingsley model. It's a rural-urban proportional representation model, an excellent compromise for this committee.
I challenge you all to come up with a unanimous report. We'd like that from you. Everybody in this room would like that from you.
I came here today not expecting to speak in front of you all, but I'm glad that I am.
I want to say in response to the speaker previously, yes, I agree that there are winners and losers, but that is meant to be kept to sports where the results are meant to change from event to event, and not our political system where an entire country must be represented, and this means for a much longer period of time.
I seldom get involved in political movements, but the issue of electoral reform is important to me. I have lived in many areas over the last 12 years and have watched partisanship come to the forefront of our political system. Unfortunately, in the last election, I had to get involved because I couldn't stand to see where one party could win complete control, but guess what? Again, one party won complete control.
As our world and country have become even more connected thanks to modern methods of telecommunication, citizens should no longer be required to elect one person through an antiquated system that only supports the majority rule.
I believe that elections are better able to represent the people, all the people, and that should be the direction of my Canada of the future.
I want to bring up to you a few of the reasons that I believe electoral reform is important in this day and age.
The first is that everyone talks about the apathy of young people. This is where some sort of change to the system would be most useful. It would get people to care about the political system and in a much greater number.
The second reason that changing our first-past-the-post system would be beneficial is that it would favour the formation of minority governments. While this would be more difficult for a single party to pass their motions in the House, parties would have to work together, and I stress together, and compromise to generate motions that would be able to reflect the beliefs of more Canadians as a whole.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to speak.
I'm going to tell everybody why I have this jacket on, after I quickly dispose of three things: Proportional representation, yes. I'm excited to be a Canadian right now, knowing that this will happen. It has to happen. I say no to a referendum for all the reasons that have been given here tonight. I say no to Internet voting. Ask yourself how we would do a judicial recount: with paper that counts. Also, we know all about secrecy, or lack of it.
I have this jacket on because it is the jacket of my grandchildren's soccer club in Australia. It's West Pennant Hills Cherrybrook. It's a big chunk of northwest Sydney.
I have a grandson who will be 12 on December 1. He has attended at least six elections because they're held on a Saturday. I repeat: They're held on a Saturday. Those of you who will say, “I get time off work, and it's my right”, sure. If you're working on Saturday, that makes it a community event. When most of the elections are in schools, you line up to vote, and when you come out from the vote, the associations of parents are flipping hamburgers. They're selling things. It becomes a community event.
My grandson has been selling those hamburgers since he was six, and he sells up: “Would you like a ginger ale, or would you like this...?”
What I am really saying is that this is a form of education. Through osmosis, through example, he has seen people vote.
So on a Saturday, it's municipal elections, state elections, and federal elections.
I'm also 100% for compulsory voting. It is as simple as that.
I'd like to say to you, again, that I'm happy to be a Canadian tonight.