Over the past few months, I’ve appreciated hearing the diverse views of constituents in the Fredericton riding on the matter electoral reform. The conversation has been impassioned and has highlighted the lack of consensus about how best to achieve a reform to the electoral system, and what alternative system would best suit Canada’s unique geographic and demographic make-up. For these reasons and others, I maintain serious concerns about proceeding with replacement of our current federal electoral system.
As a member of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, I had the opportunity to hear from expert witnesses, stakeholders, and Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast, and internationally, on ways to reform our current electoral system. Over the course of its study, the Committee held 57 meetings, hearing from 196 witnesses and 567 open mic participants across Canada. In addition to meetings held in Ottawa, our Committee conducted a three-week cross-country tour visiting 18 different communities. Over 22,000 people also participated in an online consultation. While the level of engagement during our consultation process was encouraging, it was my contention that a broader range of Canadians needed to be involved in the electoral reform process.
At the conclusion of the Committee’s work, Liberal Members, including myself, submitted a supplementary opinion. It was our position that Canadians were not sufficiently engaged in the electoral reform conversation to warrant significant changes to Canada’s electoral system, and that the impacts that alternative systems would have on our governance ecosystem were not fully understood. This includes how an alternative system would impact the relationship between, and operations of, the legislative and executive branches of government; the relationship between, and operations of, the House of Commons and the Senate; parliamentary procedure and conventions related to government formation and dismissal; the impact on the operations of political parties.
I also shared serious concerns about the way in which we would properly validate the introduction of a new electoral system, given the divisive and often tangential nature of referendums. Further, serious concerns were presented about the timeline that it would take to responsibly implement a new system, with appropriate education, outreach and validation with Canadians, prior to the 2019 election. This was reflected by the outgoing Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand.
In addition to the Committee’s work, the government conducted its own series of town halls across the country, as well as having launched the e-consultation tool MyDemocracy.ca. While a wide range of opinions were heard, no clear consensus on an alternative voting system emerged. As such, the government decided not to proceed with electoral reform.
While the government will not be proceeding with electoral reform, I strongly believe in other measures being taken to strengthen Canada’s democracy. This includes legislation such as Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This legislation includes measures such as the reintroduction of vouching for identity and residence during elections, removal of limitations on public education and information activities conducted by the Chief Electoral Officer, and the establishment of a Register of Future Electors in which Canadian citizens 14 to 17 years of age may consent to be included. I look forward to working collaboratively with Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould as well as constituents, as we move forward on these and other measures in strengthening Canada’s democracy.
I have heard the concerns raised by constituents about electoral reform, and I remain committed to listening and to engaging in open and frank dialogue about the issue.
© 2018 Matt DeCourcey. All rights reserved.