I call the meeting to order. Good afternoon.
We are very happy to be in Fredericton to conclude our three weeks of touring Canada to consult experts, stakeholders and citizens about electoral reform in Canada.
This afternoon we welcome Ms. Lise Ouellette, who was co-chair of the New Brunswick Commission on Legislative Democracy between 2003 and 2004.
Welcome, Ms. Ouellette. I am very pleased to meet you today.
We also welcome Ms. Joanna Everitt, professor of political science and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of New Brunswick.
Welcome, Professor Everitt.
I have to point out that Ms. Ouellette has to leave us around 2:30 p.m. because she has another engagement. I wanted to let you know that she will have to leave us at that point.
For the benefit of those in the audience, there are interpretation devices that connect to the interpretation booth. You can use those to listen to the testimony in the other official language or you can use them simply to amplify the acoustics because sometimes it can be hard to hear everything.
We'll start right away with Madame Ouellette, for 10 minutes. Each witness will have 10 minutes to present, and that will be followed by a round of questioning. In the round of questioning, each member will have five minutes to engage with the witness, and that includes questions and answers.
Without further ado, I invite Ms. Ouellette to take the floor.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
In 2003 and 2004, I had the pleasure of co-chairing the New Brunswick Commission on Legislative Democracy, together with Mr. Lorne McGuigan, who unfortunately could not be here today. Of course over the years we have kept an attentive eye on these issues, but it is really interesting to come back to these matters 12 years later. I thank you very much for this invitation.
The commission was made up of eight citizens that I would describe as ordinary people, more or less. There were people who had active political experience and others who did not, but none of us were experts on electoral systems, certainly. We learned a lot as we went along. Fortunately, we were able to benefit from the support of Mr. Bill Cross and his team; Ms. Everitt was a member of that team, and I am happy to see her again. To study these questions, we benefited from strong support from the scientific and academic community. We held several working sessions to train the members of the commission, but also to share this information with the population.
In the beginning, the members of the commission were rather skeptical as to the necessity of changing the electoral system in some major way. That said, we were also interested in several other issues. I'll get back to that. Of course, we learned as we went along. The issue is complex. Voting is a sensitive and important topic for the population. After having heard all sorts of viewpoints and analyses, we finally recommended a mixed proportional representation system. We also made other recommendations, naturally.
What led us to change our position, to some degree, on the matter?
The discrepancy between the number of votes and the number of seats obtained in the Legislative Assembly or in Parliament is very obvious. Sometimes it is considerable. It really is a major flaw in our electoral system that needs to be addressed, whatever our convictions are in other respects.
Moreover, over the decades there has been a decrease in voter turnout at elections, and this is concerning.
Women are also chronically under-represented, still today. That was an important concern for the members of the commission.
As for the low level of representativeness of the Legislative Assembly, we talked about women, but third parties are also a concern, other minorities. The fact that a legislative assembly is not really representative is problematic.
Those are the main factors that led us to think and change our position in favour of a mixed proportional system. That is the system we recommended.
Which issues were most important for the commission in this process?
Certain systems, such the single transferable vote, are very appealing. For citizens it is powerful, extraordinary, but in practice, it's a revolution. It can also have consequences on the stability of governments. Contrary to what British Columbia did at the same time, we did not opt for that system, despite the fact that it was really attractive to citizens. Government stability was a factor we took into consideration. There are more ways than one to further that stability, such as the single party and coalitions. Political coalitions are not a part of our culture, but they work very well in some other countries.
As for the issues, the Legislative Assembly needs to be more representative. The quality of governance depends on it, as many studies have shown in other circumstances.
We also wanted to find ways to increase the engagement of citizens, that is to say encourage them to take a greater part in the governance of our province.
As for the idea of a referendum, it was appealing in the beginning, but it lost some appeal as our discussions progressed. Referendums can be extremely dangerous tools. Look at Brexit, for example. The commission became increasingly less favourable to referendums, as they can pose a significant threat to democracy, except when they concern more innocuous questions, less sensitive issues that are less emotionally charged, more neutral or less complex. However, generally speaking, when it comes to our democracy, they are not a panacea, quite the opposite.
Of course, these are my personal opinions. Here we are 12 years later, and I think that change is even more necessary federally than it was, or than at the provincial level. The risk of regionalization of the vote, particularly, the partisan regionalization of the vote, is very great. We are really playing with fire. Up till now, we have been lucky and there have not been any historical accidents, as I like to call them, but it is very clear that our current system makes us vulnerable to this type of risk.
The risk of an unrepresentative federal government or of an unrepresentative Parliament, be it geographically, ideologically or demographically, is even greater within a system like the one we have. So changes are needed to our electoral system, especially at the federal level, but also at the provincial level. That seems very clear.
In New Brunswick, if you add the votes obtained during the last election, the Conservative Party and the NDP, if I remember correctly, obtained 43% of the votes, and yet those parties have no representatives in the Parliament of Canada. The discrepancy between the percentage of the vote and the number of seats is clear, whatever the allegiance. This is very clear. We have seen situations in this province where a party that obtained fewer votes than another formed government. That does not respect the will of the population, obviously, and it is clearly dangerous in several regards.
In Canada, a party could govern without any representation from a given region, or with very weak representation. A party could easily govern without a region being represented, or with very weak representation. That is not healthy. That the two most populous regions dominate the federal government while the other regions are practically absent is really not healthy, and it is dangerous for Canada.
Some form of proportional representation is really the only way to ensure better regional, ideological, and demographic representation, as well as better representation of the various interests, whatever they may be, within the Parliament of Canada.
I also spoke about the representation of Canadian values in Parliament. It is in the interest of all of us that the various tendencies be represented, so as to avoid that at a certain point in our history, for all sorts of reasons that may also depend on circumstances, some minority current in Canadian values forms power. This could lead to an upheaval in the values and functioning of our country. These situations could happen easily enough.
As for the representation of women and third parties, our current system is not very conducive to that. In fact, I do not believe there is any government in Canada, either federally or provincially, that has more than a third of women members, despite some very great efforts. This is a very clear signal that changes have to be made at that level.
I also want to talk about minorities, and I will use Nova Scotia as an example, where the Acadian community has launched a court case. I don't know at which court level this is taking place. With the redistribution of electoral ridings, the Acadian community is now in the minority everywhere, and so it runs a very high risk of not having any representatives in the provincial Legislative Assembly. I think our representation system has to be sensitive to minority issues.
We could also talk about the first nations. I think we have to find innovative representation models in order to ensure that those communities, those minorities, are well represented within the Parliament of Canada or legislative assemblies.
In New Brunswick we have developed various formulas, which we call superimposed electoral maps, in the school environment. There are models that exist to represent the communities well, so that they will be represented in the decision-making structures, whatever they may be.
Another major element is the need to encourage citizen participation and improve the credibility of the electoral process. That is extremely important.
The funding of political parties is a matter of capital importance. On the issue of public funding, you have only to look at what is happening south of the border, in the United States. We don't want to wind up with that type of system. From a democratic point of view, there are incredible risks. We have to take advantage of the exercise being conducted by this committee to examine the funding of political parties.
It is also extremely important to recognize the importance of the role Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer play. The Chief Electoral Officer has to have the tools he or she needs to carry out extremely rigorous monitoring, otherwise the credibility of the electoral process will suffer, with all of the cynicism and disaffection this implies.
I think the time has come also to start using electronic tools. We have to encourage voter turnout. In a lot of cases, it can be difficult to vote.
We also have to think about the possibility of reducing the voting age. This is being discussed in New Brunswick at this time. I think that young people as of 16 years of age are just as well informed and perhaps better informed than those who are older than that. I think we have to look at that issue.
I'd like to get back to the issue of referendums. From a democratic point of view, they are very risky. We have to be careful. The risks are enormous. We must not fall into this trap as they can be very appealing on the surface, but they harbour enormous risks.
In conclusion, we first have to determine the objectives we wish to reach. The discussions should clarify what our objectives are. In this regard, several models can be of assistance.
I know you've been listening to people for a long time, and you've probably heard all the different arguments, so I'm not going to go into a broad range of points. I'm going to focus primarily on the question of representation.
I know there are five principles driving this commission: trying to make sure you have a good balance between voters' intentions and electoral results, encouraging engagement, creating a system that's accessible and inclusive, safeguarding the integrity of our voting process, and preserving the accountability of local representation. Those don't always work in conjunction with one another. I'm going to highlight how there is a bit of a disconnect.
As I said, my main focus is going to be on point number two, and that's greater participation of under-represented groups, and the most under-represented, which are women. My comments today are drawn on over 30 years of research in the field of gender and politics, with a particular focus on the Canadian political system.
When I first began looking at the impact of the electoral system on gender representation, Canada ranked quite high in the world in the representativeness of its federal Parliament. At that point, probably about 20 years ago, we were ranked in the low 20s in the world of, say, 190-odd states. In 2003, when I was looking at this for the New Brunswick legislative democracy commission, we had fallen to 33rd. Five years ago, when I was looking at this again for another presentation I gave, we were 44th. Today, in 2016, we rank 64th in the world in the representation of women within our political structures.
In terms of the overall gender equality index, we rank 25th in the world, but as I said, 64th in political representation. Now 25th is better than 64th, but I would argue that our ranking at 25th could be a lot higher, a lot better, if we didn't have our political representation numbers that are built into that index pulling us down.
Why are we ranked so low? I would argue that, given the majority of those who are ranked higher than us in Canada are using a more proportional system, a PR system or an MMP system, it's hard to question the conclusion that the electoral system is having an effect. Since Wilma Rule's influential 1987 paper on the impact of electoral systems on women's elections, study after study has shown that SMP systems, such as we have, typically result in lower numbers of women being elected to legislative bodies than do proportional systems.
We in Canada do quite well in comparison to other SMP systems, but we fall far behind MMP or PR systems. The reason for that is—I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but let me just say it, anyway—in a single-member system, parties have to choose only one candidate, and so they're going to choose the best candidate. Frequently, the best candidate looks like candidates they've had in the past, coming from the networks of people they have been drawn from in the past. Typically, those individuals have been men.
In the PR system it's easier to challenge a party's list, where you put together a list of however many candidates you need to represent your size of district, and it's much more difficult to have all the people at the top being men, or anglophone, or from a particular region. There's much more public pressure to make sure that those lists are representative, and that people are distributed in a representative way throughout the ranking of that list.
It's much more difficult to challenge individual riding choices, where a party has nominated individuals in one place after the next, after the next, who they think are the best. Ironically, the majority happen to be men: 70% to 80% of the parties select men. In today's society, that doesn't seem what you'd expect to happen.
Proportional systems tend to have greater central party control over who they put forward. It's much more difficult in our system, where individual decisions are being kept at the grassroots level, to encourage parties to seek out and nominate more women, minorities, under-represented groups. As a result, I would argue that real representational change is only likely to occur with significant electoral change: electoral reform to a PR or an MMP system. Simply changing the balloting structure to a preferential list, which is one thing that has been proposed both federally and provincially, but keeping that single-member option would do little to increase the number of women because you'd still have one person being put forward by the parties.
Having said this, I acknowledge that these systems present some challenges to that fifth principle of local representation. Canadians are very used to having a member of Parliament or an MLA to ask questions of and to seek support from. I think our members play a really important role in Canada being ombudspeople for their constituents. That's a really hard principle to move away from, so your task is going to be very challenging as you try to grapple with the disconnect and conflict between these different principles of representation versus local accountability.
However, I would suggest—and I think this is what is really important here—that there is a possible solution to this conflict. The most obvious is to provide parties with some carrots and sticks, some incentives and penalties, to encourage them to be more inclusive in seeking out a diverse range of candidates. This could easily be done through our current electoral rebate program that we have had in place for decades. As it stands now, candidates and parties recoup a significant percentage of their electoral expenses if they meet minimum thresholds of votes. This was put into place decades ago because we, as Canadians, believed that different voices should be participants in our electoral system and not just those who had deep pockets. That dramatically changed how parties engaged in election campaigns, opened up opportunities for new parties to become involved, and ensured new ideas could be incorporated into our political system.
I think it's important to note that by funding parties, we are in a sense supporting them, but we can also hold them accountable to the values that we hold important as Canadians. If equality and diversity are important to us as principles, we can use that rebate system as a way of enhancing those principles.
It's only, as a result, a small step further to argue that, if Canadians are really committed to ensuring the participation of all Canadians, and in particular female Canadians, more could be done to use these rebates as a way to encourage parties to nominate more women. Decisions would still be left with the parties, but it would be more likely for the party to nominate, go out and seek more women, if they could be guaranteed a higher rebate if they had female candidates. More importantly, it would be an even higher rebate if they were nominating them in winnable ridings.
One of the real challenges, I think, that we face now is that women are being nominated, not in equal numbers to men, and likewise with minorities, but they're not being nominated in the strong ridings, the ridings where they're likely to win. We just have to look at what happened here in New Brunswick in the last provincial election, where all the Conservative women lost their seats and all the Liberal women won their seats, and not one of the incumbent Liberal seats in that election, where someone had stepped down and resigned, was replaced with a woman. The strong seats were all replaced by men. The swing seats in both the Conservatives and the Liberals were nominating the women.
I would argue that here in New Brunswick, where we're at the back of the pack of the country with a 16% representation, we're not likely to see much change going forward if parties continue this way. There have to be incentives to nominate more women and nominate them in strong seats.
Similarly, parties could be penalized by having their rebates reduced if they don't meet a certain threshold.
These reforms would not result in significant changes to the electoral system. They wouldn't require major referendums to make changes with. They would be easily legislated, and they would have an impact on the way parties react and respond to the nomination processes. They could still choose not to if they didn't want to, but there would be incentives for them to do so.
The end effect would be enhancing representation while maintaining those other principles that you've outlined here as being the goals of this commission's tasks.
I'll leave it there.
I'm going to just follow up on that line of questioning.
We've been talking a lot about female representation and minority representation in our Parliament, and how we can increase that. Oftentimes presenters have said that the electoral system would be one way, and it would be key. I definitely think that it wouldn't harm it. If anything it would maybe inch it up a little bit better, and that's what we're seeing.
However, when you look at the countries that we're comparing ourselves to, those with ideal systems and the same parliamentary style.... New Zealand is doing better but it is still 39th on the list. I would expect it to jump up a lot higher than that.
Since you've probably done a comparative study of a lot of countries, what are those other things that we need to do in addition to perhaps making these changes? In our women's caucus we discuss this quite a lot. Also, in another committee I sit on, procedure and House affairs, we've been talking about how to change standing orders and do other things to make Parliament more inclusive. I know from my experience and that of other colleagues that there is often resistance to modernizing a lot of things because there is always some argument for continuing to do what we do in the way we do it.
There has been a lot of talk about shortening our workweek, but politicians are worried about doing that because there would be a public backlash. However, our parliaments, federal and provincial, sit for more days than almost any other parliament around the world. We travel great distances to work, leaving our families behind, and for people like me with young children, the decision to run is a really difficult one to make. All parties, I'm sure, have worked hard to try to recruit women at times.
I wasn't really recruited. I tried to make the decision myself. I ran in a riding that may have been unsafe; there was an incumbent from another party. Those are choices that I had made. All my opponents in the nomination and in the general election were male, but somehow I made it through, and I want a lot more women to make it through.
We don't want to just inch up a couple of percentages and not deal with all of these other issues that are big factors. I know that the United Nations has listed six ways in which female participation can be increased and none of them include the electoral system. They included equal education for women, quotas for females, legislative reform to increase the focus on issues that affect women and children, and so on and so on, but electoral reform didn't necessarily come up.
What are those other things that countries are doing?
Great, thank you. I appreciate your comments.
Professor Everitt, I want to go back to some of the great insight you provided, things like the incentives and the rebates. You began talking about it with Ms. Sahota's questioning, but on quotas, you indicated it was really not part of what our culture is.
The experience I had with quotas was working in the federal public service for over three decades. About a decade ago it was identified that our federal workforce was simply not representative of Canadians. We had done okay linguistically over the years, but women were still grossly under-represented in non-traditional occupations such as trades. Visible minorities and aboriginal employees were not represented in the composition of the Canadian population. A decision was made and, in somewhat crass terms, the way to drive it down was that senior executives weren't going to get their bonuses unless they reflected the Canadian population within the workforce of the various departments in a very short time frame.
I was at a middle management level, and I struggled with it initially, and I had employees saying we were not getting the best person. I quickly rationalized in my mind that there were great systemic barriers in place in society that were preventing qualified people, truly qualified people and in many cases the best-qualified people, from achieving those jobs. We implemented very aggressive quotas to get our workforce up, and within a matter of a year or two we were representing the Canadian population.
There was push-back within the federal workforce, and there was some pain involved with it, but once people got into the workforce, there were persons with disabilities, women in non-traditional jobs, under-represented ethnic groups, and all of a sudden everybody said, “Wow, you're right. There's a talented pool of Canadians out there that we haven't seen reflected.”
I just want to, not necessarily challenge you, but just see if there is not some way of incorporating as part of our Canadian culture that it is inclusivity for all. Could it actually work in this system where we not only do the carrot but go a bit harder with the stick?
Do you have any thoughts on that?
Good afternoon. Thank you for being with us.
It's a pleasure to be in New Brunswick. The last time I was here was with my wife, 23 years ago, for our honeymoon. We spent a week visiting this magnificent province. My wife got me to try lobster for the first time on that trip. I have three children, and two or three months ago, my eldest stopped being afraid of the creature and started eating it. Of course that means less for us since we now have to share it. In short, it's delightful to be here again. I've promised myself that I'm going to bring my family back for a visit so I can show my children your wonderful corner of the country.
Ms. Everitt, I'd like to tell you that your analysis of the situation as it relates to women, or at least your interpretation of it, is the best I've seen so far. You noted that, regardless of the electoral system, it is, above all, the tools we put in place that will help increase the number of women in politics. I fully agree with you.
We've heard from a number of experts that the electoral system has no real impact on the number of elected representatives who are women and that the first priority should be to put tools in place to bring that number up. For example, in a list-based system, we could require parties to nominate more female candidates. But we could also do that within the current system. If I have a bit more time, we can perhaps come back to that. You could comment further, but since I wholeheartedly agree with everything you're saying, asking you more questions just to have you repeat what you've already said would be pointless.
I was, however, taken aback several times when Ms. Ouellette was speaking. Allow me to explain. People often assume that my party, the Conservative Party, is calling for a referendum because it wants to keep the status quo. To my mind, that's completely untrue. I think people have the wrong impression. I will agree that, within the party, as within other parties, there are people who are in favour of keeping the status quo. In fact, the main reason is that they are worried about local representation. I'm in the camp that tends to favour the current system until I am presented with evidence that another system could preserve, and obviously not weaken, local representation. I am adamant about that. Unfortunately, political parties all have an interest in one model over another. And, in that sense, I think the public should have a say on such a fundamental issue.
We've already seen the come out in favour of a preferential system. Yet, 95% of experts have told us that such a system wouldn't necessarily be appropriate.
The smaller parties are in favour of a proportional system, and the more traditional parties prefer sticking with the status quo. Given how fundamentally important the choice of an electoral system is, I believe it's up to Canadians to decide.
I have a background in education. I'm a former teacher and school principal, both at the elementary and high-school levels. When I hear someone use the term “anti-democratic”, or say that a referendum should focus on less complex issues, that it puts democracy at significant risk, or that it is practically impossible to educate the public on these issues, a proverb comes to mind. It's one we would often use when talking to teachers and other members of the school system who wanted to see changes made swiftly: if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
On Monday, Professor Rémy Trudel told the committee that a referendum was perhaps the most powerful educational tool available, because, even if just 50% of Canadians voted across the country, that would still be 15 million people, versus the 3% of the public who actually care about the issue.
I was almost upset, and I would have liked the opportunity to address Ms. Ouellette directly. It may not necessarily reflect what everyone thinks or wants, but can it really be called anti-democratic? Would it really be so detrimental to ask Canadians what they thought of the electoral system?
Some are convinced that the chances of losing the referendum are greater than the chances of winning it. But many people come to the hearings and say they want this change. Yesterday, I did a survey on my Facebook page, and I have more than 15,000 friends. This could be used against our party, but I'll tell you that 60% of the people who commented told me they wanted to see our electoral system changed, and 80% of them said they wanted a proportional system chosen. What's more, 80% of all those who commented said they wanted to have a referendum.
Those people, who responded to a survey on a Conservative MP's Facebook page, are very smart, in my opinion. They said they wanted a change because they didn't think our system was perfect. A proportional system seemed to them to be a better option, but they'd like to know more. The experts have told us that the public seems to view the proportional system as the best option, at first glance, even though it may not be ideal in all respects. Regardless, 80% of people said they wanted a referendum.
I'd like to hear your view on that. I realize I covered a lot.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to New Brunswick.
Update on the Jays game: they're up 2-0, last I checked.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. J.P. Lewis: Having reviewed presentations to the committee from the beginning of the summer, and taking stock that you have heard plenty of empirically supported arguments for and against certain electoral systems and approaches to electoral reform, I thought it would be helpful to focus on one of the committee's four principles that I have done research on, and that's engagement—more specifically, the role of Elections Canada in civic education policy as related to engagement.
My two main points are that in light of impending electoral reform, Elections Canada should have a role in promoting engagement, and that this role should be emboldened by collaboration with non-governmental agencies. My review of testimony to the committee revealed that both these points have been topics addressed by many of the committee witnesses.
Departing Elections Canada Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand discussed the role of Elections Canada in introducing a new electoral system to the Canadian public. Mayrand noted that, “An extensive public education campaign would be needed to ensure that Canadians understand the new system....”
Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers recounted the Australian Electoral Commission's successful civic education campaign based on principles of comprehensiveness and inclusiveness.
Political scientists Henry Milner and Jonathan Rose both raised the importance of civic education for elections. Professor Milner noted that while education policy is a provincial matter, he would like to see a greater effort in civic education at both the provincial and federal levels of government. Professor Rose reminded the committee of Ontario's experience with electoral reform and the $6 million devoted to educating the voters during the province's 2007 electoral reform referendum.
Representatives from civic participation and education non-governmental agencies were also supportive of more national efforts in civic education policy. Maryantonett Flumian, from the Institute on Governance, argued that Elections Canada “should be institutionally positioned to play a leadership role” in civic education strategy.
Jane Hilderman from Samara noted, “...there are very few resources for nationwide efforts in Canada in civic education, nor is it clear who among government departments or agencies should be responsible for delivering on this goal.”
Today I'll talk about clarifying that role and focus on civic education and elections, with special attention to two points: the role of electoral management bodies, such as Elections Canada, in civic education; and the place of Elections Canada in the civic education policy network in Canada. I will support both points with evidence from research I've published.
My first point concerns the role of electoral management bodies such as Elections Canada in civic education. I argue that based on policy precedent at the provincial level and general institutional support across Canada, there's a case to be made for a civic education role for electoral management bodies, going beyond the responsibility of simply providing answers on “how to vote” and suggesting answers to the question of “Why vote?”
You may remember that in 2014 the federal Conservative government introduced legislation, Bill , that raised questions on the role of electoral management bodies and what type of information they should provide voters. While most Canadians expect electoral management bodies such as Elections Canada or their provincial equivalent to provide information on “how to vote”, in recent years, due to dramatic declining voter turnout, electoral management bodies have expanded their mandates and roles to provide education on the question of “Why vote?”
One of the benefits of a federal state such as Canada is that it provides examples of policies found in the so-called “policy laboratories” at the provincial level of government. Examining the description of CEO duties in provincial elections acts reveals that seven of the 10 provinces have specific mention of an educational, outreach, or awareness role of the CEO. Based on the research I completed for the article, I argue that, yes, electoral management bodies should be engaged in both “how to vote” and “Why vote?” campaigns. My position is based on three central claims: one, the modesty of the current programs; two, the affordability of the current programs; and three, the consistency in policy path followed by electoral management bodies across the country.
While considering the role of electoral management bodies in Canada in civic education, it should be clearly noted that the majority of civic education policies and programs undertaken by electoral management bodies are often in partnership with other policy actors. Groups such as CIVIX, Samara, and Apathy is Boring have all been prominent in spreading the message of combatting voter apathy.
This brings me to my second point and the case for why Elections Canada can take a leading role in the Canadian civic education policy network. For another article I was a co-author of, we found that out of a policy community of 53 civic education policy actors on questions of trust, influence, and reliance, Elections Canada was the highest ranked institution. The group of policy actors included the Library of Parliament, the federal Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, Canadian Heritage, all provincial departments of heritage and culture and all provincial departments of education, all provincial elections agencies, and 10 prominent non-governmental organizations.
To return to comments by previous witnesses to this committee, I would like to draw attention to my colleague from the University of Toronto, Peter Loewen's, point that, “...the functioning of Canadian democracy has not been sufficiently appreciated.” I agree with Professor Loewen, and I believe Elections Canada should continue to play a part in addressing this appreciation gap regardless of the electoral system selected, playing a leading national policy role in answering the questions of “how to vote” and “Why vote?”
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I thank you for the opportunity to be here today to provide my input on the subject of electoral reform.
My name is Leonid Elbert, and I am here as an individual and as an author of the proposal for a made-in-Canada proportional voting system, the local transferable vote.
If you wonder about my credentials to design a voting system, my answer is I am a guy who is good with numbers. I also happened to be a concerned citizen whose interest in electoral reform dates back to early 2000. I took the trouble to study different electoral systems, to do the math to check what the results would have been if any of those systems had been used, and to come up with a voting model that I believe is the best option for Canada.
Let me explain what makes it the best option. When it comes to voting reform, the two most seriously suggested alternatives are the mixed member proportional, the MMP, and the single transferable vote, the STV. The MMP supplements existing first-past-the-post voting with original seats to make overall results proportional. It is the easiest alternative to implement, practically a quick fix, and as such, it is very popular. However, just as any quick fix, it comes with many drawbacks. Problems start with a question: how exactly shall we choose the candidates to fill those original seats? They don't stop there. With the overall seat distribution determined by the original ballot, the MMP places greater emphasis on voting for a political party rather than for a local candidate. MMP is also prone to quite frequent clean sweeps or wrong winner situations when a party wins so many local seats that there aren't enough original seats to offset the distortion. The latter could even be noticed in the report released by the Law Commission in 2004.
And that brings us to another major alternative, the STV, a voting system that delivers proportional results without compromising personal accountability. Under STV, individual candidates matter more than their party affiliation and preferential voting allows everyone to vote his conscience without splitting the vote, but STV uses multi-member constituencies. And that is not something most Canadians are comfortable with.
I'm not even talking about the north with the spacious ridings. Even here in New Brunswick, many would not be comfortable with a province only having two or three local constituencies, even if they elect three to five MPs each.
My proposal, the local transferable vote, combines the best of the two worlds. It allows us to retain local constituencies, to have as many of them as we would under a typical mixed member system. On top of that, a local transferable vote also delivers all the advantages the STV has to offer: preferential voting; 100% local nominations; and equal opportunities for all candidates, including the independents.
All the technical details are outlined in a brief that I submitted to the committee on September 7, 2016. This is my proposal, which I offer for your consideration. I strongly encourage you to think outside the MMP-STV dilemma and to choose a system that encompasses the advantages of both. That system again is the local transferable vote, a voting system designed in Canada for Canada.
Thank you to our guests.
I want to talk about that last point, Mr. Elbert. I suppose if we choose a system in which an overwhelming majority government making unilateral decisions is avoided.... The scenario that you're worried about, that policy lurch that we see so often in Canada when a party comes in and wipes out all the policies of the previous government, is a problem we're trying to fix with the suggestion of more proportional systems.
I guess all this breaks down and connects to your comments, as well, Mr. Lewis, about trade-offs. What system advantages what? Other systems have different things they advantage.
The value lens I'm trying to look through right now is the notion of voter equality. This is something we heard from Prince Edward Island yesterday. Regardless of where you vote, or who you vote for, your votes should be treated with the same respect, as opposed to what we have right now where some votes count but more than half of them don't count toward electing anybody.
Mr. Lewis, I don't think I caught it in your testimony, but you talked about the role and the importance of education. Your work has been put forward to this committee as one of the arguments for considering lowering the voting age, which is something that we're also being charged with. A great advantage is that, at 16 or 17, young people are traditionally in school still and part of the civics would be a real lesson, not a theoretical lesson, about how politics, Parliament, and democracy work.
Have you had any thoughts toward that, not just the issue of whether the age should be lowered, but whether there is in fact an advantage to having young people learn about the parties, platforms, and leaders, and then go out and meaningfully participate in electing a future government?
It's never easy to be the last person to ask questions because my colleagues ask a lot of...and I think, “Oh, they got it.”
First off, thank you so much for being here today. To the members of the audience who have been with us since 1:30, thank you.
I'd also like to thank all those who joined us along the way. I want to thank the members of the public for coming out in such force.
As I said earlier, it is a pleasure for me to be here in what is affectionately called Freddy Beach with my colleague Matt DeCourcey, who is probably one of the hardest working MPs on the Hill. I'm delighted to be here, and no, he didn't pay me for that.
We've talked a lot about education. In a previous life, I taught at McGill and miss the whiteboards and want to stand up and talk to students, though I'm stuck here in a seat at the moment.
We know that education is a provincial matter. We've talked a little bit about organizations that have a vested interest in certain outcomes of elections and that are advocating for certain electoral reforms. It's frustrating because the teacher in me always wants to make sure that, for whatever we put out there, we show the good, the bad, and the ugly, so that we're actually teaching Canadians that if we do x, it can equal y as well.
Obviously there's something missing from Elections Canada's role or the method in which they're communicating, because all of these other things keep popping up.
I'm turning to you, Mr. Lewis. Whenever folks are looking at getting information, we turn to this. We go to the Internet. We go to Facebook. We say to our friends, “Oh, I'm thinking about buying a new car. What do you think about X?” We don't trust the car maker. We want to talk to our friends. “What do you think about the Green Party? What do you think about the Liberals? What do you think about this?” We want to hear from our friends. We don't want to hear from the Liberals because they have a vested interest, and we don't want to hear about it from the Greens because they have a vested interest. How do we make sure...?
You said Elections Canada should have a role, but Elections Canada's core business is not education. I'm actually quite surprised that they haven't gone to the colleges or the universities and said, “We'll provide you with the content. Can you deliver? You provide the container,” because that's what colleges and universities do. That's their core business.
Is there something we can be doing differently to make sure that the information that's getting to Canadians is accurate information that shows all sides and that we are leveraging our partners? We've talked about Apathy is Boring and we've talked about Samara, which are fantastic organizations. But we also need to look at our colleges and universities. I know that provincial jurisdiction overlooks high schools and so on, but what about our colleges and universities? We have granting agencies like SSHRC that are doing great research that we could be looking at. Talk to me a little bit about that.
Good day. I'm John Gagnon representing the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. I'm going to speak on proportional representation.
We believe that a thorough consultation of Canadians is necessary. This consultation could take many forms, town hall meetings, the forum we have today, and similar or different forums. Improving our representation and accountability to our government is paramount to Canadians.
As for the costs, we believe Elections Canada should be consulted. In saying that, we believe that the infrastructure required by Elections Canada to run the elections should remain the same. We are talking about costs and that aspect.
The majority of Canada's peer nations have had some form of proportional voting the last few decades. Some of them include New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, and Wales, and they have similar histories and cultures to Canada, so it's not new. It's out there. Our primary goal is to make sure every vote counts and to ensure that no party gets the majority of the seats without getting the majority of the votes. We believe that's only fair.
Under our current system, some parties may be able to win all the seats in a particular region, even though they don't even come close to a majority of the votes to garner that. With the proportional representation system, if you get 30% of the vote, well, you get 30% of the seats, which makes sense to us. Votes would more accurately reflect the views of the voters if you had that system.
It would mean that regions will no longer appear to support one party. Just take a look at Atlantic Canada. The perception is that it's Liberal and everybody supports the Liberals. It's not the reality. They didn't get all the votes. I'm not saying this to be derogatory; it's just for argument's sake. It could be the Conservatives somewhere else.
One thing that's great about proportional representation is that we can include an aspect within it where you can still elect your MP. This would be great in that, in addition, you not only elect the local representative but you choose the party that best reflects your views under the system. I think that's lacking in the old system.
First of all, I would like to thank this committee for coming, for their tireless efforts, and for the time they've taken away from their families and homes to travel across the country and hold these meetings. It's definitely a perfect example of a co-operative government. I do appreciate it, and I want you to know that, as a citizen, I trust you to go back and make a decision.
I don't see any need for a referendum. With only 3% of the population, you're telling me, being engaged, how could we ever have a vote? Take your information. You've heard lots of it, obviously, if this is any example. I trust you to come up with a decision.
I'm here for a selfish reason. I believe the first-past-the-post electoral system to be mathematically incorrect and morally wrong. I never want to hear again, as I'm going door-to-door, someone say, “My vote doesn't count”, “Nothing ever changes”, and “My party never wins”, or as in the last election, which was very disheartening, that people voted out of fear—fear!
Everywhere in today's society we're offered choices. Grocery stores have food from all over the world. Clothing comes in every style, shape, and colour. There are more channels on our TVs than we could ever watch. Yet why, when we elect governments, do we send a message to voters that, unless you vote for the winning candidate, your ideals, your goals, and your dreams for this country don't count and they won't be seen?
The current electoral system needs to change from excluding people to including people, so that we might not have the term “small parties”, but just “parties”.
You have a copy of my minutes already. I'll just make a quick summary.
First of all, I am an unabashed supporter of the first-past-the-post system. It's simple, it's straightforward, and there's a clear winner every time. I do not approve of multiple counts. One, there is no guarantee that 50% is mandatory for legitimacy. A close election is good for democracy. If maybe a couple of hundred votes separate the winner from the third party, hey, with a little bit of work, number three can be number one. Change can happen.
With regard to parties being excluded because they're small, well, Ms. May is proof of that. She has successfully been elected, yet her party does not come in first, second, or third elsewhere in the country. I give you Fred Rose, a communist who won consistently in the 1940s. If Igor Gouzenko had kept his mouth shut, he'd still be there. I give you the Social Credit, a powerhouse in the west for 40 years, and yet, east of Saskatchewan, “Who...?” The Bloc Québécois and the Reform were nothing in 1990, yet look what they did to Canadian politics. Change can happen.
As far as multiple counting is concerned, to quote Mark Twain, there are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics. Figures never lie. Liars...and the corollary of that is that numbers can be made to tell you anything you want.
I do have a question. I read last month in The Globe and Mail an article by Gordon Gibson, a well-known B.C. Liberal. He was questioning whether this change was even constitutional. I don't know if the court has weighed in on this, but maybe it should.
I just got started, so if you have any questions, my phone number is on the page. Feel free to call me.
: Monsieur le président
, honourable members, first of all, congratulations on your being elected and having the opportunity to visit the picture province of New Brunswick, with all the beautiful colours.
Parler, to talk, parle, parliament, to express yourself in a democracy is so important.
I ran in four federal elections and I had the honour and privilege of serving with Pierre Trudeau, whose son is now our .
I wanted to just come and say that I've been active for 20 years in our federally incorporated former parliamentarian association. We meet twice a year. We have an executive director. We speak at high schools and universities. We do speak about how there's 900 potential members and we have about 500 who are active. You may want to use that organization to get the message out on all the points that were made here today.
As to Ms. May about Elections Canada, I was asked two years ago to speak at the Wu Conference Centre on elections just before the election. We had a panel with the director for Elections New Brunswick, youth, women, and all that. Halfway through my address, I asked the students if they had ever heard of the Honourable Milton Gregg, who was a war hero, recipient of the Victoria Cross. He was minster of veterans affairs. He was a colleague in the House of Commons, who brought in legislation for veterans. He did all these great things. Not a hand went up, nobody in that classroom put their hand up, and I said, “By the way, my main point is that he was president of the University of New Brunswick.”
It just gives you an example of the importance of history. We talked about communication. You can utilize the former parliamentarians association. I've always wondered over the years how it is that it hasn't really been in the curriculum that we talk to young people in kindergarten and grade 1. I mean we're paying the bucks. We're spending the money. Why over the years have we not brought it into the curriculum to teach our history and to teach the matter of how important it is to participate?
I just want to say I support the Australian idea of mandatory voting. When I wasn't in Parliament, I was in liability dispute resolution. When you deal with liability, you're talking about negligence. For people not to participate is a form of negligence. We have to find a way to focus this, to bring it out that there will be a penalty. We have a society of rules. You have to do certain things to get your driver's licence. You're not allowed to drink and drive. There are all these things that are incorporated in legislation. Surely we can find a way to encourage people and parents to get out of this rut and away from the culture of the disconnect and get back into participating in this important process in society, in the best country in the world.
I want to thank the committee for offering me the chance to present today.
I just want to say this. Most arguments in favour of proportional representation do not hold up when tested against the rules of logic. Take, for example, the idea that proportional representation leads to more compromise, and that such compromise is beneficial. That's nothing more than a paper fantasy, something that doesn't exist in the real world. I ask you, are watered-down decisions derived to mollify competing political factions somehow better than insightful, appropriate, and decisive decisions? Does appeasement for the purpose of maintaining a fragile hold on power somehow strengthen the nation or does it imperil the nation? You might want to look at Italy and some other countries like that.
It's naive to assume that multiple party representation in elected assemblies will lead to an elevated spirit of working together. Never forget that political parties, by their very nature, are all about expanding their influence and gaining advantage by electing more members. To that end, stirring up problems rather than being co-operative is the means to the end.
Another major problem with proportional voting is that it permits extremist parties to gain a foothold in the nation's affairs. Why go through all the tough work of building a national party, building up constituency organizations, etc., when you can latch on to some heated or controversial issue, run a slate of candidates, get some votes, and then at the end be awarded seats in the assembly? Is that the way we really want to choose who governs us?
Over the course of 150 years of our history, our electoral system has been a model of excellence. Compared to the often chaotic and unstable governments of other nations, we have been well served by both majority and minority governments. People are suspicious, and rightfully so, as to why the government wants to change our voting system. On the one hand, they talk about improving democracy, yet in the same breath they deny us the opportunity to have our voices heard through a referendum.
Changing a 150-year tradition of voting is not something that should be done by a committee or passed by the majority government of the day. Our traditional voting system is an innate and fundamental right. If it is ever changed, it should be only by referendum. The people must have their voice.
Good afternoon. My name is Roch Leblanc, and I live in the Beauséjour riding. I'm a father of two and a national representative at Unifor Canada.
For the past two years, I have been on Unifor's membership mobilization and political action team. My has included providing education, supporting social and community causes, coordinating political campaigns, strengthening solidarity among members, and encouraging them to become active at every level.
We see Unifor as much more than a union. We are a social leader, whose political involvement incorporates all of the elements I mentioned.
Leading up to the 2015 federal election, I knocked on a lot of doors with candidates from all over the Atlantic region. A comment I often heard from people was that they weren't going to vote because their vote didn't mean anything or wouldn't make a difference.
That illustrates this idea that people have: if they don't vote for the winning candidate in their riding, it effectively silences their voice in Parliament and the views they want their representative to express. And, considering the election results in Atlantic Canada, all of those people were right.
Of the 32 seats in Atlantic Canada, 32 went to Liberal candidates. That was the outcome under a first-past-the-post system.
Democracy in Canada is in need of a proportional voting system. Had such a system been in place at the time of the 2015 election, the very same votes would have resulted in a different allocation of Atlantic Canada's 32 seats. The Liberals, with 58.7% of votes, would have received 19 seats. The Conservatives, with 19% of votes, would have received six seats. The NDP, with 18% of votes, would have also received six seats. The Green Party, on its end, would have received one seat.
Proportional voting has numerous iterations. I am hopeful that the solution the committee proposes will be based on one of them.
I came all this way today because I believe the issue of electoral reform currently before Parliament is the most critical issue facing Canadian democracy at this time. I can tell you that our members are ready for this change, and we hope you will see it through.
Thank you, and thank you for the opportunity to be here to speak. We don't get this opportunity very often. It's very much appreciated, and all your hard work is as well, of course.
I'm a teacher by trade and by nature. The fundamental job that I've had for most of my life is taking things that are very complex and complicated, with all the chaff around them, and then distilling it down, getting rid of the chaff, and getting at a core idea.
I have three points to mention today. They're brief.
The first one is on the topic of whether or not we need proportional representation. When I take away the chaff of all that there is to say and learn about that topic, I think to myself, “What is any election anyway?” To my mind, any election is simply a manifestation of a core question: what do the people want? That is what an election is. It's a question. Majority governments that are in place with less than 40% of the people's vote don't answer that question. It's that simple. If an election is the question of “what do the people want?”, then we must see that reflected in the results—so “yes” to proportional representation.
I should have said earlier that I'm speaking on behalf of the Fredericton chapter of the Council of Canadians. So far, from what we can understand, I think we're in favour of a mixed member scheme for proportional representation. That could change, depending on what we find out next.
The second point is on the subject of a referendum. I think there's a massive gap between the ideology of a referendum and the reality of it. The ideology is that you should let the people decide. That is, after all, the democratic way, and that sounds right to my ears. The reality is that people have to make that decision based on some kind of knowledge, and by and large, they don't have it.
We, as the Council of—am I done already?
I'll make this very short.
It's often said that the Liberal government got 40% of the vote. That's not true; they got 27%. Why? It's because they got 27% of 68% of the votes. Not 100% of Canadians voted; 68% did. That's not a majority. That's not even close to 40%.
If we don't institute compulsory voting alongside proportional representation, we will still end up with a minority of the electorate working the machinery of government. If we implement compulsory voting, then we will have made sure that the government has heard from 100% of the voters, because that is what an election is, a public opinion poll.
We cannot have a complete view of how Canadians really feel if we leave out over one-third of voters. If, under compulsory voting, 40% of voters voted Liberal, then 40% of Canadians who voted wanted Liberal ideas. Combined with proportional representation, it would equal 40% of the seats and 40% of the power.
However, the ballot must also have the ability for voters to mark “none of the above” so even apathetic voters can still have a voice. If we had 100 people in a room and 27 claimed they could make all the decisions and claimed it was democratic, there would be a riot. What, then, makes us think that 27% of voters giving 100% of the power to a party is democratic either? It's not, and it's dangerous.
In regard to whether there should be a referendum, to quote Margaret Thatcher, “No. No. No.” It's clear and simple.
Second, to quickly promote my preference for an electoral system, it would be mixed member proportional, because we would keep our regional—
Can I finish my sentence?
Thank you all for being here.
I teach Canadian literature. I'm one of the founders of gender and women's studies here at UNB Fredericton. I'm very pleased to have Matt as my MP and Joanna Everitt as my colleague. I thought I would just say a few words.
If you want to see more of Joanna, she's actually one of three stars in a film that was locally made. You'll remember the name if you think of “democracy” but put in an “m” instead of the “d”. The film is called Menocracy.
You can see where I'm going. I told you I teach gender and women's studies.
Menocracy.ca will get you to her website. Gretchen Kelbaugh is formerly from Fredericton and is now from Quispamsis. The film was made before the last election, so it's as if Stephen Harper is our prime minister and as if we've only had 19 majority governments, of which he says only four were true majorities. From what our colleagues said, that's in doubt now, too, in my mind.
I'm undecided as to which system to choose. I certainly have a preference, not for the how but definitely for the who. It's absolutely imperative, because it's 2016 and counting, that we have more representation of all of the under-represented groups. The largest group is women. I think it's amazing; I didn't expect to see, in my lifetime, a black American president or a gender-balanced Canadian federal cabinet. My students are in awe of all of the changes that are happening. We're of course watching the debate on Sunday night too, hoping for an American woman president.
There is a lot of research. I have the dubious distinction of being the last director of research at the former Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. There's oodles of research going back to the 1990s, and much more that's current, including from the Harvard Business Review. Anywhere you look, one of the Harvard Business Review short summaries says, “How do you make a team smarter? Add more women.” You probably know that one. It's true in so many ways. It's a question of diversity, different perspectives. People see different things, pick up on different things, find the loopholes in different things.
I mean, you are an absolute model of how it works, with all the different perspectives here. I just hope we can bring that kind of attitude to our Parliament and have people feel that they're all part of an all-star team when they get there and that they're not just representing a particular region or party.
My name is Hamish. I've worked with Student Vote for four years. I've represented New Brunswick at national debating championships three times, where I've argued about proportional representation. I'm originally Australian and I'm 18 years old, so as a young Australian person, I consider myself an eminently qualified witness, for the amount of time it's come up.
My first point is about a referendum. If we are going to change the fundamental way we elect members of Parliament, then the citizens of this country must decide how that takes place.
Before I go into my point, I'm a paid employee of the New Brunswick NDP, but I speak for myself, as a private citizen, as you might well tell.
I believe that we must have a referendum. Why is that? I've heard some elitist arguments here today about how people are uninformed and can't make that decision. Let me tell you something. You are all here because citizens of this country elected you, and if you concede to the argument that Canadian citizens are uninformed about the way they vote, then you have no mandate. I don't think that's true. I think you all have a mandate. I think Matt DeCourcey got a clear mandate from the people of Fredericton. I think you have a mandate to decide things.
What I say is that a referendum is not doomed to fail. A referendum has been confirmed twice in New Zealand, in 1994 and 2011. It passed in B.C. Unfortunately, due to an arbitrary threshold, it didn't work. So if we're going to change the way we vote, it must be approved, in principle, by the citizens of this country.
To quote Frank Underwood, I don't like the way the table is set, so let's flip over the table. What do I mean by this? We're concentrating on a House that isn't broken. First past the post elects people. It shows a clear mandate switch between the Conservatives and the Liberals, for example, in the last election. It allows for effective decision-making.
What is broken in democracy in Canada? It's one word: Senate.
The Senate is broken. We do not elect senators. The Senate can veto any democratically elected law by the House of Commons. I have a consensus solution for you. We can have proportional representation. We can have effective decision-making. Why not make the Senate the proportional body that represents the provinces and represents the points of view of the citizens of this country?
There's a reason why the Liberals can afford to get rid of Atlantic Canada's Supreme Court seat. There's a reason why they can afford to ignore Atlantic Canada. That's because the provinces are inadequately represented in our federal government, and that's why we must have an elected Senate.
I just want to urge all of you to reject proportional representation. PR has many shortcomings, but with my limited time to speak, I want to focus on how it amplifies fringe political viewpoints and discourages moderation.
Under PR there is no need to try to broaden your party's message in order to appeal to enough voters to form a majority government, because everyone knows that it's just going to be a coalition government anyway. The problem is that then you have duly elected MPs receiving taxpayer dollars to promote extreme fringe viewpoints that might only be shared by 5% or 6% of the population.
Televised debates would feature moderate politicians, like yourselves, sharing the stage with, for example, anti-immigrant or anti-French party leaders, granting their messages legitimacy and some measure of equivalency. We're already seeing far-right parties polling in first place in many European countries that have adopted PR. These are parties that not long ago had only a handful of seats, but all it took was an economic downturn and a refugee crisis and now these fringe parties could be leading coalition governments.
PR proponents will argue that we need to trust the voters to trust democracy, but that's a false dichotomy. If it were true, we wouldn't lock the Charter of Rights and Freedoms up behind a constitutional amending formula. If we really trusted democracy, then minority rights in this country would be subject to whims of 50% plus one, but because we understand that even democracy is not perfect, we organize our Constitution in such a way that we ensure that our better nature prevails against the occasional fleeting passions of the public. We should absolutely do the same thing with something as important as our electoral system.
With ranked ballot, for example, you allow for many parties, but they must each jockey to be voters' second or third choice. This means they cannot simply pander to their existing limited base if they want to get elected. This is the incentive toward moderation that a 5% or 10% threshold under PR can't hope to provide.
I feel I need to speak to this committee in favour of proportional representation, because I feel that our current system is doing a poor job of giving a voice to voters.
I have voted in every single provincial and federal election since I've been of age to cast a ballot, and not once have I voted for a candidate who won. This could mean that I'm just a bad luck charm, but it also means that the values that I voted for are not being represented, and I'm in good company. Some 17 million Canadians cast their ballots in the last federal election, but nine million, like me, voted for candidates who did not win. That means that more votes didn't count, than counted.
At election time you meet a lot of people, especially young people, who will tell you that they aren't voting. They say, “What's the point? My vote probably won't count anyway.” Well, statistically speaking, they're not wrong. If you check the news around the world, we see the effects of members of the voting public who are lashing out because they feel they're not being listened to. People have given up on a system that they feel has excluded them, on institutions they see as unresponsive, and on politicians they think care little about their voice.
It would be smug to think that we in Canada are uniquely immune to this rage. Our voting system is feeding this cynicism, this disengagement, and this frustration that leads to this rage, and makes no attempt whatsoever to create fair results. It gives us distorted majorities in which a party regularly takes control of whole provinces, and indeed the country, against the will of the majority of voters.
In most of the world, by definition, a government taking control of a country against the will of the majority is an illegal and fraudulent coup d'état. Here in Canada, it's sanctioned and publicly funded.
The 12 of you on this committee are uniquely poised to make changes that can truly allow all Canadians to feel they have a stake in our collective future, to allow all Canadians to know that they and their values are represented. I call on you to be decisive, to act boldly, and to implement changes to ensure that the voice of every Canadian is heard. You can choose a system that will serve and represent Canadians fairly and equally while better engaging them in the political process, and that system is mixed member proportional.
I call on you to support proportional representation, an electoral system that's fair, representative, and engaging, because Canadian democracy and those who live under it deserve nothing less.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and a thank you to the committee, as well, for allowing me to speak to you this evening.
I would like to spend my allotted time outlining the features of the single member proportional vote system specifically, and to discuss more generally the merits of a Parliament using weighted votes.
What is single-member proportional vote? Simply put, it is a method for making first past the post a proportional system, with minimal changes.
This idea is predicated on the idea that using first past the post is essentially sound and that the minor issues that have developed can be fixed without changing to a new system.
Single-member proportional vote would retain all of the elements of first past the post. Voters would still have a single vote to cast at election time. Each riding would still send a single MP to Parliament. The party with the greatest number of seats would still be expected to form the government.
It is only when it comes time to vote on legislation that MPs would notice a difference. That is because, rather than each MP having a single equal vote to cast, each MP would have a vote that is stronger or weaker, based on how much of the popular vote that party received.
For instance, a party that received more seats than the popular vote indicated they deserve would have MPs with weaker individual votes. Likewise, a party that received fewer seats than the popular vote indicated they deserve would have MPs with stronger individual votes to compensate, the end result being that the total votes for each party would closely mirror its popular vote total. In this way, Parliament would add an aspect of proportionality when it comes to the passing of legislation.
This is, admittedly, a very modest reform, but from this small change we gain a host of benefits. I would like to point out three of them.
First, since this reform does not change how elections are carried out, Elections Canada likely will not need two years to prepare, as it has stated it would if the electoral system were changed. This would allow time for a referendum, if that is this committee's desire. If the committee wanted to recommend that Parliament start using weighted votes immediately on a trial basis, it could do so as the popular vote for the 2015 election is a known factor.
Second, while the electoral system is kept simple and easy to use, almost all votes cast during an election will have an effect on the results. If you vote for a candidate you want, or conversely, against a candidate you don't, your vote will end up affecting how much legislative power the parties have in Parliament, regardless of whether your specific candidate wins. This will, in turn, go a long way toward reducing strategic voting.
Third, single member proportional vote retains first past the post's tendency to produce majority governments, which allows stable administration. But these majority governments no longer have 100% of the power to pass legislation in Parliament. This is important, as the event that most triggers complaints over our electoral system is a governing party with a false majority, which is most of them, being able to unilaterally pass controversial legislation.
Professor Jon Breslaw has already spoken to this committee on a similar reform idea. Both ideas aim to use weighted vote to bring the power possessed by parties in Parliament more in line with how much popular support those parties actually have. They differ primarily in the extent to which weighted votes would be used.
My proposal limits the use of weighed votes to legislation while exempting the Speech from the Throne and the budget votes in order to allow stable majority governments to form. Professor Breslaw's idea uses weighted votes for all votes.
After Professor Breslaw's presentation, we compared notes, and I would like to address some of the concerns raised about Professor Breslaw's idea that are also applicable to my system.
A question Professor Breslaw received was, if weighted voting is such a good system, why has no Parliament adopted it?
I imagine such a question has been raised in opposition to every electoral system at one point or another, so I guess my system is in good company. Since first past the post is the only system that we have used at the federal level, I could raise the same point about all the other systems this committee has been tasked with examining.
It is also not true that there are no deliberative bodies that have used weighted voting. The Council of the European Union uses a combination of unanimous decision-making and weighted voting based on population. It should also be noted that stockholders in companies have votes weighted by the number of stocks they own.
I believe the reason we have not seen more weighted voting systems stems from certain historical circumstances. Several pre-1918 countries in Europe, notably Sweden and the Kingdom of Prussia, used systems that weighted votes cast in an election based on wealth. To such countries, the idea of having weighted votes in Parliament would not have seemed a solution to democratic deficiencies even if they were based on popular vote totals. The idea was tainted within their political cultures, and indeed, both countries opted to adopt proportional systems.
There was also a concern raised that retaining first past the post in any form does not fit within this committee's mandate. A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to the at the consultation meeting in Moncton. I asked her whether, if first past the post were made proportional, it would be an acceptable alternative. She replied that such a system would be worth considering.
In conclusion, I feel that a single-member proportional vote, or some other form of weighted voting for Parliament has the potential to improve Canadian democracy with the least number of changes. This in turn would be consistent with Canada's long-held preference for evolution over revolution.
This concludes my prepared remarks. Let me thank the committee again for allowing me to present my idea.
Thank you for the invitation to speak this evening.
I'd like to start by briefly addressing issues pertaining to the electoral system itself. Like many others, I am critical of the current first-past-the-post system, for several basic reasons. These include concerns about disproportionality between votes and seats, concerns about the way the system distorts and exaggerates regional differences in the country, and its relatively poor record in providing fair representation for all groups in society, including women and minority groups. Moving to a system based on proportional representation would effectively address these issues. In my view, the best alternative for Canada, from among the various PR systems in use around the world, is the mixed member proportional system.
In thinking about the merits of different electoral systems, I would also add some skepticism about a supposed virtue of our current FPTP system, the notion that it is easily understood and used by voters compared to other systems. This idea is undermined by recent developments that have seen citizens and citizen groups engaging in various schemes to try to make their votes more effective under the first-past-the-post system. These include the so-called “vote-swapping” schemes, as well as the extensive polling carried out during the 2015 federal election campaign by the advocacy group Leadnow, which was designed to help voters cast a strategic ballot in a number of close ridings.
First past the post is a simple system only in the superficial sense that ticking off a single name on the ballot is a straightforward procedure. For citizens trying to figure out how to use the ballot to make their vote carry some weight, voting under first past the post can actually be an onerous and complex procedure.
I'd also like to offer my views on the question of how electoral reform should come about. Some believe we must hold a national referendum on the issue. While I agree that this is what we would do in the ideal world, in the real world there is reason to be wary of handing the decision over to a referendum vote. For a variety of reasons, we have arrived at a stage where many Canadians pay little attention to political issues, and it would be difficult to draw them into a meaningful public debate on the many issues surrounding electoral reform.
One sign of this problem is the low levels of knowledge about politics found in surveys of the general Canadian population. In a poll carried out for Elections Canada just after the 2015 federal election, for example, 30% of respondents could not name the premier of their own province. For respondents under age 35, the number was 44%. Believe it or not, this survey, like most surveys, actually overrepresents the more engaged sections of the population.
I would also point out that the results from this 2015 poll reflected significant deterioration over time. In a similar nationwide survey in 1984, only 10% of respondents were unable to name the premier of their province, and for those under age 35, it was just 15%. There has been a steady erosion that we have seen over time.
This is just one small piece of evidence. There is a fair bit of research to back up the idea that there has been an erosion over time in attention to political affairs on the part of the average Canadian. Given this reality, it would be very challenging to reach the electorate at large on the issue of electoral reform, even with an intensive and extended information campaign designed to educate Canadians.
If a referendum were to be held, what would happen? If it's a stand-alone referendum, voter turnout would be low. In the stand-alone P.E.I. referendum in 2005, the turnout was 33%. In the U.K. referendum on a new electoral system in May 2011, which actually coincided with local elections and regional assembly elections, the turnout was 42%. I believe that in a stand-alone Canadian referendum, we would see a turnout below 50%, probably well below 50%, and that's a participation rate that could well raise questions about the democratic legitimacy of the whole exercise.
If, instead, a referendum were held in conjunction with a federal election, more would participate, of course, but many of those voting would be individuals without a well-formed opinion on electoral reform or much knowledge about alternative electoral systems, in other words, the kind of people who would likely stay home in a stand-alone referendum. This, too, is a less than ideal scenario for lending democratic legitimacy to the outcome.
For all these reasons, I believe that a referendum to move forward on this file is neither necessary nor advisable. Instead of a referendum, it would be legitimate to change the electoral system based on debate and deliberation led by political representatives from across the political spectrum, with substantial input both from experts and interested citizens in different venues.
Furthermore, I would suggest that such a process has been unfolding in Canada for quite some time now, not just since the special committee began its work in early 2016, but for roughly the past 15 years. Much of that debate has been happening at the provincial level, in the form of appointed commissions, citizens' assemblies, legislative deliberations, public hearings, etc. This should not be seen as a separate process from what is now taking place at the federal level.
The arguments for and against electoral reform are largely one and the same at the two levels, as are the models under consideration, and the consistent result, in my reading of this extensive 15-year public deliberation, has been significant support for various forms of proportional representation.
Finally, what I'd like to comment on briefly are two other matters before the committee: mandatory voting and Internet voting. Each of these ideas has some appeal as a way to increase voter turnout, but they also raise some important concerns, which I believe have probably been outlined in prior testimony.
My main point on this topic would simply be this: there are many other ideas about ways to encourage voter participation that are not being considered by the committee, ones that also might be quite effective—would be quite effective, I believe—and could avoid some of the problems of mandatory voting and Internet voting. While I would certainly support initiatives to encourage voter participation, this is a subject that deserves more extensive investigation to identify the most viable and effective reform proposals.
When I began investigating this issue, I looked at the original electoral arrangement set forth in the Constitution Act, 1867. Section 40 deals with division of the original member provinces into electoral districts. You would hardly recognize most of them now, needless to say. Section 41 keeps the existing provincial election laws in place, including qualifications and disqualifications of voters and candidates, and proceedings at elections. The right to vote has now been extended well beyond the original 21-year-old male British subject with some property.
Both of those sections begin with “Until the Parliament of Canada otherwise provides”, so the Fathers of Confederation obviously contemplated that these initial provisions would evolve as decided by Parliament.
Parliament, as you know, consists of the Queen, the Senate, and the House of Commons, of which only one is elected.
Fast-forward to part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, better known as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The first democratic right listed in the charter is that of every Canadian citizen “to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons”. Subsection 15(1) of the charter provides that “[e]very individual...has the right to the...equal benefit of the law without discrimination”. This implies that the votes of all Canadians should carry equal weight, subject to section 51A, the amendment to the 1867 act that guarantees all provinces at least as many MPs as senators.
I don't believe in change for the sake of change, so I did some research on how the existing system, first past the post, has worked. For the first 53 years after Confederation, we had essentially two-party elections, and the system worked fairly well, except in 1896, when Wilfrid Laurier defeated Charles Tupper despite earning 1.2% less of the vote than Tupper. That amounted to 11,134 fewer votes. That was the first of our system's “stolen” elections that passed power to the second-place party.
Since 1921, Canada has had multi-party elections featuring at least three substantial parties. During this 95-year period, we elected 18 majority governments and 11 minorities. Of the 18 majorities, only four were true majorities. Fourteen times first past the post has produced false majorities, where a party that won fewer than half the votes was awarded a majority of the seats. That's one-third of all of our 42 general elections held to date. And there have been four more system-stolen elections since 1921.
As well, first past the post tends to distort regional results. The most glaring example was the 1993 election, when the Bloc Québécois became the official opposition, winning 54 seats with 13.5% of the popular vote. Reform was next with 52 seats but 18.72% of the vote, and the Progressive Conservatives won only two seats but garnered 15.99% of the vote. Go figure.
In my view, an electoral system should translate the votes cast across the country into seats that reflect the share of votes that each party received. A system that repeatedly puts second-place parties into power, regularly converts a minority of votes into a majority of seats, and seriously distorts regional results is fatally flawed and should be replaced.
First past the post is one of the majoritarian, winner-take-all systems with single member ridings, which are designed to produce or have historically produced a majority.
Is there another type of system, which would respect and reflect our votes? Yes. Proportional representation systems allocate seats to the parties based on their shares of the popular vote. There are also mixed systems, which combine features of the other two.
I strongly urge this honourable committee to recommend some form of proportional representation to the House so we voters can enjoy real democracy in the only elected component of Parliament.
Good evening, everyone. I would like to thank you for inviting us and for making it possible for the voice of New Brunswick's francophone youth to be heard on an issue that is so important for our country's future democracy.
My name is Sue Duguay and I am the president of the Fédération des jeunes francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick, the FJFNB.
The FJFNB is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to represent the interests of Acadian and French-speaking youth in the province of New Brunswick. It was founded in 1971, so we are celebrating our 45th anniversary this year. The Fédération operates according to a model designed by young people for young people. We look to a future in which Acadian and French-speaking youth can play a proud role in society in our own language and culture.
This year, the FJFNB has about 8,700 members. In fact, they are all students from the 22 francophone high schools in the province of New Brunswick.
As a socially committed young person and, since last May, the president of the FJFNB, I want to speak to you about a matter dear to our members, a voting age of 16.
At the outset, I want to tell you that I am fully aware that the matter of the voting age is not directly part of the committee's mandate. However, as you will be able to see in our presentation, bringing the voting age down to 16 is an effective way of enhancing the five great principles in your committee's mandate: effectiveness and legitimacy; engagement; accessibility and inclusiveness; integrity; and local representation. I therefore hope that our presentation will be instrumental in convincing your committee to review the voting age.
The FJFNB's 2014 annual general meeting gave us the mandate of working to lower the voting age to 16. The proposal to us from the province's young people was to press for a reduction in the voting age to 16 and for mandatory training on the electoral process in high school.
Our work to that end began in 2014. We have worked tirelessly to bring this proposal before the public. Our research convinces us that lowering the voting age to 16 would be beneficial for the Canadian electoral system.
Voting is a habit. Studies tend to demonstrate that once people vote, they will be inclined to continue to do so all their lives. Because of this, 16-year-olds, still in the school system and mostly living at home, would be in a situation that would encourage them to vote, especially for the first time.
In addition, as you have perhaps noticed, our members' proposal asks not only for a reduction in the voting age, but also for the addition of mandatory civic education courses to the school curriculum. These courses are extremely important in creating generations of voters with a full understanding of the electoral system. It is therefore important that the federal government, with its provincial counterparts, provide adequate civic education in the classroom.
To ensure that young people are properly educated, your committee could take the additional step of returning the mandate for education about the electoral system to the Chief Electoral Officer.
With a course in the schools and some enrichment during the election period, it is not unimaginable that lowering the voting age could help to combat the low turnout rate at elections, which is a reality in every province of Canada.
For those participating in the electoral system for the first time at 18, a large number of obstacles arise. For the most part, they no longer live at home. Often, they are enrolled in post-secondary education programs outside their constituencies. As you know, when you cannot physically get to the constituency of your official residence, you have to take special steps in order to vote. So that is an obstacle for that first-time vote.
In addition, those who study these matters agree that voting is a social act, that is, it is influenced by one's young peers. Here again, if they are no longer at home, no longer potentially in a school where education is more immediate, a new obstacle must be overcome.
Young people are interested, or at least want to be interested, in politics. We see it every day. I remind you that it was our members, the young francophones of this province, who formally asked us to work towards lowering the voting age to 16. They are interested in politics; however, since they cannot participate in the electoral process before they are 18, most of them feel disenchanted with a system that nevertheless affects them directly. Elected officials make decisions that influence and will continue to influence young people all through their lives, yet they have no voice.
A number of countries have already addressed the issue and some have lowered the voting age so that 16- and 17-year-olds can participate in the electoral process as voters. We may think of Austria, Brazil, or a number of other places. This change in mentality and in legislation has resulted in very positive outcomes.
Federally, we know that one bill, Bill , introduced by New Democrat MP Don Davies, is currently on the Order Paper awaiting second reading. We hope that the government will allow this private member's bill to continue along its path.
In addition, let us not forget that, at 16, young people have the right to work, to drive, even to enlist in the army, but not to vote. I therefore feel that the voting age must reflect those other standards.
In closing, I feel that the idea of voting starting at 16 and of promoting mandatory civic education courses in schools would be a useful solution that could also contribute to improving the democratic process in Canada.
Thank you for your time and attention. Of course, I am available to answer your questions.
Mr. Howe, there is an interesting thing we hear, an immediate and almost allergic reaction, when any voting system is proposed that contemplates more members of Parliament because, of course, Canadians hate politicians and don't want more of them.
I recall that when the Conservatives passed the motion in the House to add 30 MPs to this last election, they did it with some reluctance but did it in end, which was right, because the population grew certainly in the west, in Toronto, and in some other places. It was necessary. We do it every 10 years, basically. We add MPs to make voting equality a potential, so that one riding in Vancouver doesn't have 180,000 people while another riding in Manitoba has 60,000 or 40,000 or 20,000 people.
I don't remember hearing about it once during the campaign. It was supposed to be this terrible thing, and all the pundits wrote about the awfulness of more politicians: “Isn't this horrendous?” I don't know if any of my colleagues ever heard on the doorstep, “We hate you people because you voted in 30 more people, and there was a vote in Parliament to do it.”
I'm wondering whether we are a bit too timid and shy about the idea that we can achieve voter equality by adding 20 MPs. I don't think Canadians actually know how many MPs are in the House right now. I'd be curious, if we all took a little poll with our families, whether anyone could guess the right number back home, in schools, or in places of work.
My thanks to the witnesses and the people who are here this evening.
Thank you so much for your presence. It's great to see a full house on a Friday night. It's great to be back in “Freddy Beach”. I'm looking forward to going to Boyce Farmers Market tomorrow with your member of Parliament. I'm not sure what I'll find, but I'm sure it will be fun.
I'll start with you, Mr. Wilson. You talked a little bit about the weighted vote, and I know we talked about it here at the table. One concern that pops up is committee work. The way it works in the House of Commons is that members are named to committees. That's where we study legislation. That's where we do studies on issues at hand. Often, like our committee is doing right now, we have to travel to talk to Canadians, and so on and so forth.
My worry is that if, for instance, Elizabeth May had a vote that was worth five points and I had a vote that was worth 0.2, I'd be going everywhere. They'd be sending me out; it wouldn't matter. But if I had a vote that was worth two or three, I would never be able to sit on a committee, because I would always be required to be in the House for every vote.
In terms of the application of that, we'd have to see what we could do, because when it comes time to vote in the House, we have to make sure that the numbers are there. That's the job of the whip. I'm sure he would be happy to hear me bring this up, because it would make a nightmare for him. But we will look at that implication.
Ms. Duguay, I am very pleased that you are here. In my career, I have worked in higher education. So the engagement of young people is a priority for me.
My oldest son was 16 when he was recruited into the Canadian Armed Forces, but he had no right to vote. He could serve his country but he could not vote. Lowering the voting age is not in our mandate, but it is a way to encourage our young people to be engaged.
Right now, the average age of MPs in the House of Commons is 51. This means that we will need other MPs at some point. It is not enough to encourage young people to vote. Our hope is that young people will run for office.
In the last election, we had the youngest candidate in the history of federal elections. Ms. May knows her. I'm talking about Casandra Poitras, who turned 18 on the day of the vote. She ran for office and it was a real pleasure to see a young woman walk the talk.
So I'm interested in your idea of lowering the voting age to 16 while focusing on education. We will certainly look at that.
I think I'm the last speaker here, so for the rest of the committee, I want to throw this out to everyone on the panel.
We've heard a lot about tactics. We've heard about a lot of things we could be doing. We've heard a lot about the actual electoral system. We'll be deliberating on this, but after 39 meetings, I'm starting to think that there's not going to be one thing that will fix all of our boo-boos. We have a lot of things to fix in our electoral system, and I think we're going to have to put a basket of goodies, different things, in place to deal with some of these issues, such as voter participation, women, minorities, accessibility for those with disabilities, online voting, and even the counts.
Do you have any words of wisdom for us as we go into deliberations? We have one more trip to do, and that will be in a week, to Iqaluit. We'll have visited every province and territory across this great land. Do you have any words of advice for us as we go into deliberations to hopefully come to a consensus and table that report on December 1?
First, I'd like to thank the committee members for their diligence and hard work these last few weeks. I'm grateful for the opportunity to speak to you this evening.
I'm here today as a private citizen, as a young Canadian woman, and as a future social worker. I was really fortunate to be raised by politically engaged parents. Growing up, I had a lot of discussions and, to be fair, arguments about politics around the supper table with my family. That's a luxury I had that not everybody gets, so it's not something we can control. What we do have the power to change, though, is education and information dissemination.
I'm from Newfoundland and Labrador, actually, and I didn't have the opportunity to access civics education until I was in university. I really believe teaching young Canadians about our democracy is essential to engaging the youth vote. It can't wait until university—an institution, I want to add, that not everybody can afford to attend. I'm aware that it's not directly in the mandate of this committee to address civics education, but I do believe we have a responsibility to establish a national mandatory curriculum in our middle schools and in our high schools.
As important as that is, it won't solve the issue of disenchantment and disenfranchisement with our current system. When the time came for the federal election last fall, I heard from many of my social work classmates at St. Thomas the same sentiment I heard echoed by others here today, and that is, why vote when my vote doesn't really count, when I won't really make a difference? I think there's something fundamentally wrong with our system when a bunch of future social workers, people who are passionate about upholding human rights, whose professional code of ethics mandates them to fight to empower the marginalized and the oppressed whose voices go unheard, don't want to vote because they don't think their own voices matter or will be heard.
I believe some of the biggest problems with our democracy and government stem from an attachment to the way that things have always been done. We can't let that kind of fear and the complacency of “why fix what isn't broken” attitudes allow us to maintain a system that silences the votes, voices, and values of millions of Canadians with every election. We need to move to proportional representation.
Mr. Chair, I ran for public office five times against your party. That said, I ran against Mr. DeCourcey's boss right here in Fredericton in the election for the 39th Parliament.
I was not aware of this committee meeting in Fredericton today until I heard Mr. DeCourcey speaking on CBC this morning. I don't pretend to know something I don't, but I'm a quick study. I thought I had paid my dues to sit on the panel. I notified the clerks in a timely fashion, but I received no response. At least I get another minute and a half.
The previous speaker answered the $64,000 question: 338. I can name every premier in the country. Governor Maggie Hassan is my governor in New Hampshire. The people there who sit in the house get paid $100 a year plus per diem expenses. I think that's the way to run a government. There are lots of seats in the house for a very small state.
My understanding of this hearing is that you have to report to by December 1, because he said during the election that if he were elected Prime Minister, the 42nd Parliament, which I also ran in, would be the last first-past-the-post election. You don't have much time, so my suggestion to the clerks today, which I published and sent to the Prime Minister of Iceland and his Attorney General, was to do what Iceland does. Just cut and paste their rules. They have no first past the post. They have a pending election.
A former friend of mine, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, founded a party there, for which there is no leader. It is the Pirate Party. It's high in the polls right now with no leader. That's interesting. I tweeted this. You folks said that you follow tweets, so you should have seen what I tweeted before I came here this evening.
That said, as a Canadian, I propose something else. Number one, my understanding of the Constitution and what I read about law.... There was a constitutional expert named Edgar Schmidt who sued the government. He was the man who was supposed to vet bills for Peter MacKay to make sure they were constitutionally correct. He did not argue the charter. He argued Mr. Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights.
In 2002 I read a document filed by a former deputy minister of finance, Kevin Lynch, who later became Mr. Harper's clerk of the Privy Council. Now he's on an independent board of the Chinese oil company that bought Nexen. As deputy minister of finance, he reported to the American Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of the corporation known as Canada. It is a very interesting document that I saved and forwarded to you folks. It says that he was in a quandary about whether the charter was in effect.
I moved to Fredericton in 2009 and became a proud new-stock Canadian in November of last year, so I wasn't able to vote in the last election. It killed me to hear people say that they couldn't vote for who they actually wanted to vote for because this time around, they felt that they had to make sure they voted Harper out rather than voting someone in—no offence to my Conservative friends in the room.
Tonight my friend told me that last year she felt physically sick because she had to vote strategically. Strategic voting is soul-crushing. It's heartbreaking. It ends with a government that does not reflect the values or the will of the Canadian public.
I thought Mr. Trudeau was incredibly brave when he promised to make 2015 the last first-past-the-post election, and I applaud the decision to create this wonderfully multi-party committee. This gives me hope that this was not an empty promise and that the current government is willing to make a meaningful change to the system.
It's probably not a huge surprise for you to hear that I wholeheartedly support proportional representation. I'm not sure what form, as I'm not an expert, but I ask this committee to strive to enact a new electoral system that can achieve the highest level of proportionality in our next government.
Being from the U.K., though, I caution against a referendum. I can personally attest to how badly a referendum can get sidetracked from the actual question on the ballot and become about other problems. We've recently experienced a very painful Brexit referendum that became unbelievably vicious. Whole regions, cities, and families turned against each other. An MP was shot and killed in the street. What they were fighting over bore little resemblance to the actual question on the ballot paper. The U.K. doesn't have a history of plebiscites and referendums in the same way that Canada doesn't have a history of nationwide referendums, so when the opportunity arose, it became a lightning rod for all manner of unexpected grievances.
I sent a postcard to this committee—and I did receive a response, thank you—with the request that you be brave. Be brave enough to make the changes that lesser leaders have been afraid to make. I direct this message of encouragement and hope, especially to the committee members from the Liberal and Conservative parties, because your parties are the establishment, and the establishment always stands to lose the most power when we talk of changing the status quo. However, by being brave enough to allow true proportional representation in the government, you can show that this is bigger than your parties, that you're willing to collaborate with each other for the greater good.
In addition to having a cabinet that looks like Canada, we can have a government that represents the diversity of our values. To paraphrase the words of our Prime Minister: Why? Because it's 2016.
Thank you for listening.
As a young person, I feel the need to speak in favour of proportional representation because our current system is doing an atrocious job of giving a voice to youth. I'm sure we all felt pretty good about ourselves with the last election, last year, when 58% of young people came out to vote, but let's be realistic: that's not going to happen again.
I'm a student, by the way.
In fact, 58% is a failing mark. It's a D.
Normally the turnout for youth voters is less than 40%. That's an F; it's a failure. If our electoral system, when we grade students, is a failure, we need to change it to something that's actually going to work and give young people a voice.
Many, particularly our parents, our grandparents, and the media, might call us apathetic or narcissistic and say that we're just not interested in voting. That's not true. We actually are very passionate about this. If you'd turn on a Facebook feed and maybe tune into an election, we have a lot to say, but we feel so alienated and isolated from the issues being discussed that we don't feel as though our voices are being heard. We feel that politicians don't care for what we have to say or what our interests are.
If proportional representation were implemented, we'd feel more that we have a voice, and that even in safe ridings where maybe youth views would not be as prevalent, we can at least make our voices heard. Just because we voted Harper out doesn't mean that we're going to show up to vote again the next time.
Thank you for your time.
I wasn't prepared to come here today at all. I didn't know you guys actually had the open mikes at these meetings. I've been watching them on CPAC and, Nathan, you actually private messaged me in response to a Facebook message I sent you a long time ago.
My name is Jason Pugh, and he said I should come by, so I checked Matt's newsletter and saw you do have this. I had an appointment up until seven o'clock and just ran down here.
I do watch more CPAC, which is probably detrimental to my mental well being. I work from home. When I was at the office, I'd sneak in question period in a little window, but I continued to work, of course.
I only want to say welcome to Fredericton. I'm glad you're all here—even our friends from the Conservative Party. I'm joking. I'm glad you get to see us in this nice, beautiful weather.
With regard to the referendum, 63% of the people voted for MPs running on electoral reform, so despite the Liberals getting a majority with 39%, the referendum was 63% voted for MPs running on electoral reform.
Nathan, you were talking to Mr. Dutil and the discussion was about evidence. He said it was simply a coincidence that in proportional representation countries there is more female representation, and he said that's not evidence, and you said evidence isn't evidence, which was pretty funny. That's one of the things that shows that we need it.
You can say to every Canadian—sorry, I'm nervous; I'm not used to talking in front of people. The most basic thing that makes the most sense is that 30% means 30%. There's no argument you can make that says it makes sense to go against that. It's just the bottom line. Mixed member proportional representation is what I've been hearing from everyone here. I've not been to every meeting you guys have had across the country, but I'm sure that's the majority of what you're hearing, so I think it is this committee's duty to go to and say the majority of people want mixed member proportional representation.
Thanks, and if you go to the market tomorrow, you have to get a samosa.