Thank you, Madam Chair.
Maybe I could just start by offering some congratulations to you and to the committee, and a big thank you to all the staff who have made this happen. In the final analysis, the timeline was very tight and it wasn't clear if we were going to get there. There is a fair bit of blame to go around on that. I won't belabour that point, Madam Chair. I think anyone who is interested in that question can look at the record, and there are many comments by many people to that effect.
I want to take the opportunity to recall what I thought was an important committee and discussion that took place in the last Parliament around changes to our electoral system, changes that haven't been made. We continue to have a first-past-the-post voting system here in Canada and frankly, I think we're witnessing some of the damage that system can do.
Here we sit. We've finally dispensed, at committee, with a pandemic election bill in the context of a lot of speculation about an election. Of course the government has denied that's what they want, but the Prime Minister also refuses to say that he won't call one during the summer, so the country is left wondering whether or not we'll be plunged into an election.
Why is that? We have a voting system under which a political party that is riding around 40% in the polls can hope to squeeze out a majority government. If we had a more proportionate voting system, you wouldn't have a governing party in the position of believing that it might get a majority with 40% of the vote. That would likely mean we wouldn't be facing the same kind of election speculation that we have been and which has been dominating Parliament in the last number of weeks.
As I say, I hope it's much ado about nothing. I hope it comes to naught and that we don't have an election during the pandemic, but I am proud of the work that the NDP has done to try to prepare the country for that eventuality in the case that the Prime Minister chooses not to do the right thing.
In any event, what I am trying to say, Madam Chair, is that our voting system is actually contributing to this anxiety and all of the dysfunction, frankly, that I think election speculation has been causing in Parliament and elsewhere in government. I think it's quite timely to recall that discussion about changing the electoral system. I know there are many Canadians out there who were disappointed when the government walked away from their commitment to electoral reform and essentially tossed the Special Committee on Electoral Reform's report in the dustbin. They would like to see that conversation continue and for us to try to do that in a way that's productive and that could lead to meaningful results.
Right or wrong, fortunately or unfortunately, one of the lessons that a lot of Canadians took away from that conversation at the special committee, and particularly the government's response to that conversation, which did actually issue a majority report with a path forward towards changing the electoral system.... Everybody put some water in their wine, on the opposition side anyway, and came up with a plan and a proposal—a recommendation, if you will—to have a referendum on a mixed member proportional system.
Even though it was a majority Parliament, at the NDP's suggestion that committee was not a majority Liberal committee. It actually represented parties in their right proportion, according to the percentage of the vote they got in the last election. Even the Green Party had a member on that committee, which of course members here will all know is quite exceptional. That was to try to model what New Democrats have envisioned for a long time under a mixed member proportional system, where parties have a voice in proportion to the votes they get.
It's an important conversation to keep going. Many did, and as I say, unfortunately I think part of the lesson—and more unfortunate still is that it may be true—that Canadians took from that was that elected politicians who are part of a partisan political system can't be trusted to have that dialogue in good faith and come out with workable solutions for how to get to voting reform.
Where the conversation has gone in the voting reform community across the country since then has been to renew the emphasis on the need for a citizens' assembly in order to tackle some of these questions.
The hope is that by doing that, we can avoid a rehashing of what happened in the Special Committee on Electoral Reform last time. In particular, we could avoid a situation where a prime minister feels that he's at liberty to simply dismiss those findings because other people who belong to other political parties had a part in crafting them.
The hope is that a citizen process that's independent of partisan politics would be able to provide advice that is harder to ignore, both for the government of the day—because it would be very hard to accuse such a body of any vested political interest—and also for Canadians. Their trust in politicians to navigate these issues was seriously injured by Justin Trudeau in the last Parliament, and those ministers he appointed in order to throw the work of that committee under the bus, so to speak.
It's in that spirit of keeping that discussion alive on the floor of Parliament and its various committees within this Parliament—which hopefully will continue past the summer and provide more time in order to consider these kinds of questions—that I want to move the following motion, Madam Chair.
I'll read the motion out for the benefit of the committee:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a)(vi), the committee undertake a study on the advisability of establishing a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform to make recommendations about how to improve Canada’s electoral system, including the question of how Canadians elect Members of Parliament and how the make up of Parliament reflects the votes cast by Canadians; that the committee’s study shall include an examination of: (a) the terms of reference for such an assembly; (b) the composition of such an assembly; (c) a timeline for the completion of such an assembly’s work; (d)—