June 7, 2017
In recent months I have heard from a number of constituents regarding electoral reform. I strongly agree that this is an important topic and would like to provide my perspective on the issue.
When the government announced that it would not be moving forward with electoral reform in the near term I had written a letter on this topic to my constituents. A copy of this letter can be found here.
I understand that several people have contacted my office regarding the Motion that was brought forward by the NDP on May 31. The motion simply re-affirmed a number of the recommendations made by NDP and Conservative members of the Parliamentary Democratic Reform Committee. In addition to that report issued by those members of the Committee, you may be aware that there was a separate report – with separate recommendations – that was issued by the Liberal members of the same Committee.
If you have not had a chance to read the recommendations that came from the Conservative/NDP report – and which were the subject of the Motion – many of them are anything but straightforward.
To start, the Government did in fact accept several recommendations that were contained in the Committee report. However, with regard to electoral systems, rather than recommending any particular form of electoral system the NDP and Conservative members of the Committee simply recommended that as such a system is developed it should “use the Gallagher Index” to determine how seats will be distributed. Very few people know what the “Gallagher Index” is. Strangely, the Gallagher index itself was not mentioned in any public consultation and was, I believe, once mentioned by one or two witnesses who spoke at Committee.
It is simply not true that the Committee recommended a particular form of electoral system to replace our current system.
Further, the Committee recommended that a referendum be held on any attempt to replace our current electoral system. This was a key requirement of the Conservative Party – which is aware that the history of referendums on electoral system change in Canada is not positive. I should note that the concept of a referendum on electoral reform had previously been loudly opposed by leading advocates of electoral reform like FairVote Canada.
As is outlined in my initial letter, there was unfortunately, following discussions and consultations, no consensus as to a form of system that should replace first past the post as Canada’s electoral system. The NDP clearly favour a particular form of proportional representation. Many others in the Chamber prefer a preferential ballot approach. Others – particularly Conservative MPs – do not favour any change to the system.
Personally, as someone who spent several years studying electoral systems while in university, I am not in fact in favour of Canada implementing a fully proportional system. This is the case for several reasons – including the fact that such systems typically diminish local representation, enable parties to select MPs rather than have them directly elected and can create significant instability.
I do however support electoral reform and changing our current system to ensure that individuals do not have to vote against their first preference simply to ensure that they do not end up getting their least preferred. I am also in favour of looking at a system that could encourage some greater elements of proportionality.
As is outlined in my initial letter, I believe that we need to continue the conversation on electoral reform, looking for options that can potentially garner the support of a broader group of Canadians and a broader number of major political parties. I intend to continue to have relevant conversations with my colleagues on all sides of the House over the coming months and years.
I appreciate all the feedback I have received on this matter and look forward to having continued dialogue with constituents as we work to strengthen and protect our democratic institutions and ensure they represent the values of Canadians.