Letter to the Editor: On the Motion to Concur with the Report of the Electoral Reform Committee

This letter was submitted to Waterloo Region Record, and printed on 27 May 2017. It does not appear to be on The Record’s web site.

Dear Editor,

I am writing to you concerning a coming motion in Parliament to “concur” with the Report of the Electoral Reform (ER) Committee. Traditionally such a vote has always been a free vote.

Voting to concur will allow the subject of ER to regain Parliamentary attention. 88% of the contributors to the ER process recommended Proportional Representation (PR) as Canada’s new means of choosing its MPs.

This report should not be ignored by MPs and allowed to simply collect dust. I hope that all our local MPs will take advantage of the chance to vote their conscience, ensure equitable representation for all Canadians by ending First Past the Post (FPTP) and vote in support of the motion to adopt the ER committee’s recommendations.

Just two short years ago the Liberal Party was in third place demonstrating that our fickle FPTP system is unstable and subject to emotional mood swings of the electorate. This causes many problems such as the Policy Pendulum, strategic voting, discouraged and disenfranchised voters, lack of long term planning etc.

With the growing danger of Trumpism spreading to Canada as evidenced in the platforms of several Conservative leadership candidates, we need to protect our country by introducing a cooperative government structure.

Yours Truly,

Donald A Fraser

There is a responsible path forward — Electoral Reform

In February, I wrote to my MP (Marwan Tabbara, Liberal) about electoral reform. He replied explaining that the Liberals abandoned their promise because:

1. Their preferred option was a ranked ballot. But they never wanted to lead in that directions because they “would have been accused, not without merit, as acting out of self-interest and of trying to rig the system”.

2. Didn’t pursue Proportional Representation because it didn’t receive enough support — despite the fact that the Liberal designed system of consultation received 80% and 90% supportive feedback for this option.

I replied, pointing out to him that:

1. If the Liberals were not going to lead towards a ranked ballot, it was never going to happen from the start.

2. If the Liberals don’t consider 80% and 90% support for PR (through a system they designed) as enough to pursue that option, it was never going to happen from the start.

3. If neither of those things were ever going to happen, the only remaining possibility is that they expected first-past-the-post to remain from the start.

This means that the Prime Minister’s promise that “2015 will be the last Federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post” was meant to mislead Canadians… from the start.

I’m sure, given that his own logic proves that this promise was meant to mislead from the very beginning, that he’ll be among the Liberal MPs who vote in favour of the NDP’s bill to this effect.

I hope everyone will write to their MP and encourage them to do the same.

Here is my complete e-mail correspondence with Mr. Tabbara:

From: Jonathan Cassels
Sent: February 8, 2017 12:49 AM
To: Tabbara, Marwan—M.P.; Trudeau, Justin—Député; Gould, Karina—M.P.
Subject: There is a responsible path forward — Electoral Reform

Dear Mr. Tabbara,

I am addressing this letter to you because you are the MP for my riding, but I am also sending this to other MPs who I believe may have an interest and may like the opportunity to respond (I very much hope they do).

Perhaps I should begin by mentioning that I am a constituent of Kitchener South and Hespeler, and also the initiator of a petition supporting electoral reform which has over 75,000 signatures. I understand it’s the largest petition ever on Parliament’s website, and many of the initial signers and promoters of that petition are people I know personally, who live here in your riding. I’m asking these questions for myself, but am sure the answers will be of interest to others.

I am writing to you to express my dismay with the sudden Liberal reversal on the issue of electoral reform. I supported the Liberal party in 2015 largely because of your promises on this subject, and I am unsatisfied with the explanations your party is putting forward to justify this change. I am hoping you can answer some questions about these explanations.

My first question is about the Prime Minister’s claim that a lack of consensus has stalled this issue. It seems to me that the stalling force isn’t a lack of consensus, it’s a lack of leadership. You and your party were elected to lead on the issues in your platform. Electoral reform was one of those issues. The most obvious way to lead on an issue like this is to make a proposal for how you believe electoral reform should work, which is something your party has never done. Without this effort, the Prime Minister’s comments have all the appearances of an attempt to blame Canadians for failing to follow, on an issue your party chose never to lead on. My question is, did your party truly believe that consensus would form without any attempt from the government to foster it?

My second questions also concerns comments made by the Prime Minister. In Parliament on Monday the Prime Minister said that we can’t proceed with electoral reform because “there were very many strongly held divergent views” on the subject. My question is what, specifically, are those “many divergent views”? Almost 65% of Canadians voted for parties which included electoral reform in their platform, and when the electoral reform committee elicited the input of Canadians, anywhere from 70%-90% of them (it varied with the method of feedback) were in favour of Proportional Representation. There are, of course, different types of Proportional Representation, but I have yet to meet a supporter of Single-Transferable-Vote, for example, which would not support a Mixed-Member-Proportional system if that was what was available. Almost without exception, these groups would happily support one another’s proposals, yet the Prime Minister made it sound like there’s a blood feud between the ” very many divergent” groups he mentioned. So, knowing that all the supporters of proportional representation (which appears to be a majority of Canadians) could be easily reconciled to one another, what exactly were the “very many strongly held divergent views” the Prime Minister mentioned?

Finally, some months ago, someone asked the then Minister for Democratic Institutions, Maryam Monsef, a question equivalent to; Why do we need electoral reform when the current system “has served this country for 150 years and advances a number of democratic values that Canadians hold dear, such as strong local representation, stability and accountability”. Her answer was that “first-past-the-post is an antiquated system” and that “we require an electoral system that provides a strong link between the democratic will of Canadians and election results”. And yet, now, that very quote which Minister Monsef answered so eloquently was spouted verbatim by her replacement, Karina Gould, she said the current system “has served this country for 150 years and advances a number of democratic values that Canadians hold dear, such as strong local representation, stability and accountability”. My question on this is, what changed? What happened in the intervening months which justifies moving from “we require a [new] electoral system”, to using the exact question she was addressing to support the status quo?

In fact, that’s the core of all my questions. What has changed between the time the Prime Minister first promised this change and today? Because it was clear from the start it would be a political fight. That didn’t change. It was clear from the there were numerous opinions on the subject. That didn’t change. It was clear from the start that electoral reform was supported by most Canadians. That didn’t change. The only thing which I can think of which changed is that the Liberal party went from a position where they would benefit from electoral reform, to one in which they may (in the short term) be hurt by it. Is there a less self-serving explanation than that?

My hope is that, while your party claims that there is no responsible path forward on electoral reform; your answers might show a responsible path forward for Canadians to continue to support the Liberal party. Whether or not that is the case will depend upon your answers.

I eagerly await your reply.


Jonathan Cassels
A well informed citizen

PS. I’ll be disappointed if all I receive in response to this is a form letter. I’ve seen the form letters other constituents have got from their MPs and they do not answer these questions. I realize that this letter is longer than most, and will take somewhat more time to reply in kind, but I have spent a great deal of my time getting Canadians engaged over an issue which the Prime Minister seems to believe they can’t be engaged on. Just yesterday, the Minister for Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, said argued that it is “incumbant upon all political leaders” to foster exactly that type of political engagement. I think a thorough and direct response to the questions in this letter is exactly the type of fostering of engagement she was referring to. That in mind, I have no doubt you will live up to her definition of what a political leader should be. Thx.

On 9 February 2017 at 18:05, Marwan.Tabbara@parl.gc.ca wrote:

Thanks for your email, Jonathan.

I, too, am disappointed by our inability to move forward on the method of voting issue in the Electoral Reform file. I know this will disappoint many residents in the riding and in particular some who may have cast their ballot focused on this issue.

At the University of Guelph I studied different systems of voting around the world and graduated with a degree in political science. When I became a candidate in August 2015, I was excited about the prospect of putting that learning to use in fulfilling the platform commitment to change the way we vote.

One of the first stakeholder groups I met with after I was elected was Fair Vote Canada and the first Petition I presented in the House of Commons was a Fair Vote Canada Petition to undertake public consultations across Canada and amend the Canada Elections Act to ensure that the share of seats held by each political party closely reflect the popular vote.

I am not in Cabinet, and therefore cannot begin to detail everything that went into the decision to reverse our position on changing the way we vote, since I am not privy to those discussions.

It is clear that governments often must and do legislate without necessarily achieving consensus on an issue. While changing the way we vote does not require the kind of overwhelming majority support that constitutional change requires, I do believe it is within one or two steps below that threshold in requiring consensus. We have always been clear that major reforms to the electoral system, changes of this magnitude, should only be made if they have the broad support of Canadians. The support of a large and passionate minority of involved citizens would not be an adequate substitute for that broad consensus.

You suggest that we should have exercised leadership to help form a consensus. If we had led by advocating for our favourite alternative—ranked ballot or AV—we would have been accused, not without merit, as acting out of self-interest and of trying to rig the system in favour of being in government in perpetuity.

We took the only course really open to us, which was ministerial consultations, local town halls, and the creation of an all-party committee. The results, of course, were that those who were interested and involved enough to have an educated position on the issue—the large and passionate minority—came out in significant numbers and advocated for proportional representation. The parliamentary committee was split and the report didn’t provide at any clear position.

We made an attempt to determine the leanings of the people of Canada using modern psychographic segmentation techniques. Tens of millions of personally addressed postcards were sent out asking people to go online and answer a set of questions. Those questions were not intended to bluntly force people to decide among a set of options, but rather to determine how they felt about the features and likely outcomes of various voting systems. MyDemocracy.ca was destructively and effectively portrayed by opposition messaging as a useless and inept effort. Fewer than 400,000 people answered. I don’t know what analysis has been done with those responses.

I also note that parties of all stripes have failed to achieve this kind of reform in other Canadian jurisdictions. Referenda have typically resulted in defeat of reform. More recently local governments have been empowered to change the way citizens vote in municipal elections in Ontario. There has been no movement in that direction, due to lack of interest and/or possibly due to satisfaction with the current voting system.

I think you can imagine how embarrassing it is for our Prime Minister and our party and its MPs to climb down from such a definite election platform commitment. Clearly, it is politically damaging. Anyone can see that the political cost would have made this a difficult decision. Mr. Trudeau must have bad dreams of the next election derisively featuring insanely frequent opposition commercials showing videos of his statements of commitment to 2015 being the last election for first past the post. Disappointing a large, engaged and passionate minority is not something politicians do eagerly.

I accept the Prime Minister’s and the Cabinet’s explanation that they were looking at the broader picture. I believe that they were of the opinion that new challenges in the international trading and political environment and implementation of many other platform commitments would be impeded by further focus on changing how we vote, since there wasn’t a clear, common and well-supported path forward on electoral reform. I believe they saw this file as having the potential to disrupt all the other items on the government’s program.

I still would like to have an electoral system that better reflects the votes of Canadians, and I hope that we can eventually get there. For reformers, I think the lesson is that there should be a strategy shift to helping Canadians achieve a comfort level with alternative voting systems by achieving implementation at the local municipal and then provincial levels, before returning to the Canada-wide effort.


From: Jonathan Cassels
Date: Friday, February 10, 2017
Subject: There is a responsible path forward — Electoral Reform
To: Marwan.Tabbara@parl.gc.ca

Thanks for your response Marwan,

I wasn’t aware of your past work on electoral reform, I thank you for that. But I am still struggling to find coherence in your explanation.

I think it’s laudable that the Liberal party did not want to unilaterally bring its own preferred option into effect. However, a ranked ballot was the least popular electoral reform possibility among Canadians from the start. Perhaps Canadians might have rallied around it, if it had been advocated for strongly. However, if, as you say, the Liberals were never willing to lead in that respect, then it’s clear that no consensus (or even broad support) was ever going to form around it.

Proportional Representation, on the other hand, was the most popular option from the start. In 2015, 65% of Canadians voted for parties with electoral reform in their platform. In the consultations (largely designed by the Liberal Party) 80% and 90% of respondents preferred this option. If you do some basic arithmetic using those numbers, it suggests (at least the possibility) that a majority of Canadians support a proportional system. You claim to know that only a “passionate minority” of Canadians support this option. But there’s no data to support that. No polling. No referendum. No vote. And while the data we do have doesn’t prove majority support, it seems to justify at least putting the question to Canadians in a way which allows that support to be measured (something MyDemocracy.ca never did). The simple fact is that, unless you want to argue that 91% (as opposed to the 90% it received) of feedback needed to be supportive to justify moving forward, proportional representation cleared every reasonable hurdle. If the Liberals were not willing to proceed any further after the responses they received, then they would never have supported this possibility.

The problem is, there’s nothing left. If the Liberals weren’t going to lead on a ranked ballot, then you knew that would not happen from the start. If the Liberals weren’t going to pursue proportional representation any further, even when their own consultative process received as much as 90% feedback in favour of it, then they knew they would not allow that to happen from the start. The only alternative to those is the status quo. And the status quo is first-past-the-post. And if you knew the two possibilities which are not first-past-the-post could not happen from the start;

Then the Prime Minister’s promise that “2015 will be the last Federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post” was meant to mislead Canadians… from the start.

This logic is inescapable Marwan, and it all comes from your own statements on the issue. You’ve proven that the government meant to mislead Canadians. If I’m not mistaken, the opposition has introduced a motion into the house making this exact statement. It was debated this most recent Thursday, and is up for a vote this coming Tuesday. I trust, based on your own statements here which prove the motion to be correct in all respects, that you’ll be voting in favour of that motion, and add your voice to those asking that the government apologize publicly for abandoning this decision.


Jonathan Cassels
An informed citizen

Letter to the Hon. Bardish Chagger


Here is the letter I wrote to my MP the Honourable Bardish Chagger with respect to electoral reform…

19 February 2017

Dear Minister Chagger:

I am writing to offer your government an alternate approach to electoral reform given the recent change in position by the Prime Minister.

I understand and accept how various difficulties made the implementation of your party’s promise on electoral reform very hard to accomplish by 2019. However, the Prime Minister and your party made a clear promise. Not only am I dismayed by the reversal, I am very concerned about the added cynicism toward the public process that your government’s change in position invites.

I believe electoral reform must not be disposed of this easily. I offer the following suggestions to you and your colleagues for consideration.

First, I propose the establishment of a Canadian citizens’ assembly on electoral reform similar to the process conducted in British Columbia and Ontario. Such a non-partisan body made up of randomly-selected Canadians would be asked to:

1) Consider other options for electoral reform based on expert opinion;

2) Conduct public hearings to determine Canadians’ viewpoints;

3) Vote whether to keep the current method of electing MPs or choose another; and

4) If they vote to choose another system, propose an alternative as well as a method of implementing it to be recommended to Parliament.

Naming such an assembly would provide Canadians a unique opportunity for public participation. It would also provide distance from elected officials considering how they are elected, a question in which they almost certainly have a vested interest.

If a citizens’ assembly were to propose an alternative to our current electoral system, I would suggest it be automatically implemented for two elections so Canadians could experience how such a system would work. During the second election, Canadians could then be offered a referendum on whether to maintain the new system or return to first past the post. Such an approach would give Canadians a fair opportunity to see a new electoral system in action and make an informed choice.

In closing, your government made a clear commitment to electoral reform. If consensus about the type of system did not emerge (an aspect that was not part of your promise), then your government must do more to build a consensus. A citizens’ assembly would provide a way to do that.

I look forward to your response on my suggestions.

Thank you

Mark Karjaluoto

CC: The Honourable Karina Gould
Scott Reid, MP
Nathan Cullen, MP
Fair Vote Canada

Just to note that Minister Chagger called me yesterday at home, and we had a very pleasant chat about the electoral reform file. I appreciated her outreach I’ll wait to hear more.

Canadians want Electoral Reform (OpEd, Waterloo Region Record, 10 Feb 2017)

Mirrored from http://www.therecord.com/opinion-story/7123925-canadians-want-electoral-reform/ on 12 February 2017.

10 February 2017

Canadians want electoral reform

The Record logoWaterloo Region Record
By Sharon Sommerville and Bob Jonkman

We would like to thank The Record for responding to the need to engage Canadians in the discussion about electoral reform by devoting a considerable amount of space to the issue this past year. We would also like to comment on the Feb. 3 editorial, “A Welcome Flip Flop On Voting Reform.” (Mirror)

The editorial states that electoral reform was an important plank in the platform which brought the Liberals to power. Electoral reform was also an important platform for the NDP and the Green party. Fully 63 per cent of Canadians who voted, voted for a party that supports electoral reform. Many Canadians are ready to move to a fairer electoral system precisely because our current system does not serve the majority of Canadians.

Harper’s 2011 majority and Trudeau’s 2015 majority share one thing in common; both majorities were achieved with less than 25 per cent of the eligible vote. In any representative democracy that is unacceptable. What it also means is that in 2015, nine million Canadians cast a vote which didn’t elect anyone, and so they have no effective representation. As a result of this, we disagree with your editorial’s statement that this week’s decision serves Canada well. It does not serve those nine million Canadians that don’t have effective representation in Parliament but it does serve those Canadians that benefit by the status quo; economic and political elites. We can certainly count Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberals in the latter group.

It is the case that Canada is number six (we tied Ireland for sixth place) on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2016 Democracy Index. What your editorial failed to say was that 17 of the 20 nations on the Full Democracy list use some form of proportional representation (PR). This includes the top 15 spots: Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland, Finland, Australia (Australia uses Alternative Vote to elect its Lower House and Proportional Representation to elect its Upper House), Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Malta. The other two PR holdouts are the U.K. at number 16 and Mauritius at number 18. Clearly, proportional representation is a stable and effective way to elect legislators.

A made-in-Canada solution to our electoral inequality could and should ensure that MPs are directly elected by the voters they represent. Your editorial suggested that this would not be the case. Accountability would be built into a Canadian proportional system. To suggest otherwise muddies the waters of what PR offers.

Your editorial states that there is no widespread desire for change in this country. This is also a misrepresentation. Despite its flaws, the mydemocracy.ca survey overwhelmingly shows that Canadians want parties to share power in government. This is how legislatures elected by proportional representation work.

The failure of the Liberal government to lead on this important policy initiative resulted in the failure of the process and a lost opportunity to usher in an electoral system based on fairness and equality. Fairness and equality is the bedrock of any democracy and the reason that Fair Vote Canada will continue to work to ensure that electoral reform is an election issue in 2019. Every voter deserves effective representation in Parliament.

Sharon Sommerville and Bob Jonkman are co-chairs of Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region.

See other media articles, columns, interviews, and letters to the editor by Fair Vote Waterloo members

The home stretch for electoral reform

Sharon Sommerville

Sharon Sommerville

Hello and Happy New Year!,

This month, we are moving into the home stretch for electoral reform. After a very busy and at times controversial summer and fall of MP, ministerial & committee consultations, tabling of the ERRE report and the arrival of the MyDemocracy.ca survey, the government recently confirmed that they are on track to introduce legislation on electoral reform in May. This means that when the House re-convenes latter this month, Liberal MPs will be taking action on electoral reform. We have a little over two weeks to convince our four regional Liberal MPs that they should support proportional representation when they talk in caucus or cabinet.

The best tool we have is to talk or write to our respective MPs. It isn’t too late to get an appointment with your MP or if an appointment isn’t possible, write an email or letter. Can you take a few minutes to book an appointment, write an email or letter? Our local Liberal MPs have been resolute in their public neutrality on electoral reform but they will be making this important decision in the coming weeks in caucus and cabinet. This is possibly our last opportunity to let our MPs know that they have a responsibility to honour their campaign promise to make every vote count. Please let them know that fairness, equality, accountability, good governance and local representation are all possible through proportional representation and nothing else will fulfill their promise to make every vote count.

Contact information for all MPs can be found here: Current Members of Parliament | Parliament of Canada

Please let me know if you can help make fair elections a reality in 2019!

All the best in 2017,

for FVC-WR

You can get these announcements by e-mail by subscribing to the Fair Vote Waterloo Announcements mailing list or the Fair Vote Waterloo Discussion mailing list.

A Christmas Poem for Proportional Representation

All I Want For Christmas Is Proportional RepresentationHello & Season’s Greetings,

On behalf of the Board of Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region Chapter, I would like to extend our very best wishes to you and yours for a joyful & safe holiday season.

Here is a little holiday cheer which we hope you will enjoy. This wonderful poem came from Ann Remnant in Alberta.

Oh Liberal MP, oh Liberal dear

Pull up a chair and lend me your ear.

My tale is short, I won’t keep you long

Just a wee ask to fix a big wrong.

Twas not long ago Trudeau made clear

FPTP had had its last year.

The people cheered and voted in trust

that Trudeau’s Liberals would fix the unjust.

The committee studied, all summer through

With a survey, emails, and many a backyard do.

A PR system was the favoured choice

of committee experts and the peoples’ voice.

So, quite shocking it was to hear Trudeau say

Hey! ‘Canadians actually think I’m okay’

Then, Monsef to a room full of PR support!

“There’s no consensus” I regret to report.

It’s truly awesome to be a Liberal MP devoting yourself to the entire country.

Pardon, I do not intend to insult or provoke

But, be wary, your power depends on our vote.

The time is short and the task is great

To keep the promise our PM did state.

Please give thought, ‘mid the season’s jollity

To how you will fix our democracy.

All the best!

Sharon for FVC-WR

All I Want For Christmas Is PR postcard by Laurel L. Russwurm is used under a CC 0 (Public Domain)Creative Commons — CC0 1.0 Universal (Public Domain dedication) license.

Many thanks at Thanksgiving

Dear FairVoting Friends,

Happy Thanksgiving. On behalf of FVC-WR, I would like to express our thanks to our many volunteers and supporters that have contributed to the extraordinary work of getting the message for the need of a fair electoral system out to our community in the past year.

So many hundreds of people have contributed to making our voices heard in support of proportional representation. To those of you that attended planning meetings, lectures, talks and a town hall, signed postcards and petitions, spoke to or emailed your MP, came to monthly discussion meetings, worked on, delivered or arranged for a power point presentation, wrote letters to local and national media, attended a Community Dialogue, submitted a brief to the ERRE or filled in the ERRE questionnaire, to those of you that stood out in the sun and heat at our community tables, donated money to help ensure our work would carry on, held a get together, talked to friends, neighbours or family about electoral reform, so many, many thanks. Our work is dependent on our volunteers and supporters, thank you for your help, support and belief in electoral reform.

And, our work isn’t done. When the ERRE committee tables their report on December 1st, we will have a better idea of what work 2017 will bring. Today, we can be thankful for our shared commitment to making Canada’s democracy stronger and the opportunity to build a more equitable Canada through a fair electoral system.

So many thanks to each of you and all the best to you and yours for a happy Thanksgiving.

Best regards,
for FVC-WR

On Referenda, Consultations, and Postcards

I was quoted in Luisa D’Amato’s column on 28 June 2016:

The Record logoD’Amato: Despite Brexit, we need a referendum on electoral reform (Mirror):

Bob Jonkman, co-chair of the Waterloo Region chapter of Fair Vote Canada, says there is barely time to put a new system in place, let alone ask people what they think of it

Ms. D’Amato and I had a 20 minute conversation and that’s only a brief and under-representative quote of what we spoke about. Among other things, I expressed my opinion that a referendum on Electoral Reform isn’t necessary because:

  1. Parliament (and provincial legislatures) may change the electoral system with a vote in parliament, as they have done for every other electoral reform issue such as giving the vote to women (1917-1918) or First Nations people (1960!). The Conservatives changed the rules for elections in the Fair Elections Act (2014), and nobody uttered a peep about a referendum.
  2. A referendum on electoral reform is not a constitutional requirement. The only issue that affects constitutionality is seat allocation to the provinces, and that requirement is easily met by not extending electoral boundaries across provincial lines. (We didn’t discuss it, but there have been many electoral boundary changes, notably before the 2015 election, which didn’t go to a referendum and were perfectly constitutional)
  3. That an effective and equal vote is a right, and that the First-Past-The-Post system violates that right, and rights issues are never decided by referenda.

I spoke of the rarity of referenda in Canada, that the only national referenda have been on issues like prohibition (I thought that was in the 1930’s, but it was in 1898), and the separation of Quebec (1992). Ms. D’Amato pointed out that we had a municipal referendum on fluoridation, and pointed out the many provincial referenda on electoral reform.

We talked about the 2007 referendum in Ontario — that example is a great reason to avoid referenda on these topics. Although the McGuinty Liberals made it an election promise in 2003, the Citizens’ Assembly wasn’t formed until 2006, leaving them only six months to become experts in voting systems and make a recommendation. Elections Ontario did not have enough information documents available; Fair Vote Waterloo members went door-to-door, and we ran out. Elections Ontario themselves were prohibited from giving out information on the proposed voting system (because informing voters was considered “biased”), and when voters went to the polls in October most didn’t even know there was a referendum on.

I expressed dismay that it took the Federal Liberal government eight months to form the current All-party Parliamentary Committee, that the Committee’s proposal is due on 1 December (and consultations need to wrapped up by 1 October), that the time it would take to move a bill through parliament could be as much as year, what with debate, multiple reading, and senate approval, and that Elections Canada will need a year to re-tool for a new electoral system.

And that whole conversation was distilled down to the one sentence.

Someone subsequently wrote:

Philosophically the public should be consulted on this issue, but not without widespread public education about Proportional Representation (PR). First educate the public, then hold a vote.

Dear Minister Monsef and members of the electoral reform committee, I want a proportional system so every vote will count in 2019.

Send a postcard to the All-party Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform

And they are being consulted. This is what our postcards are for: to send our opinions to the All-party Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform. While it may help to send another postcard to your local MP, I’m told they just forward them to the Committee. If anyone reading hasn’t sent a postcard yet, pick one up at one of the festivals this summer, or let the FairvoteWRC Executive know at executive@fairvotewrc.ca and we’ll get you one. Or several, if you have friends. You all have friends, right?

Although the public should be consulted, it’s not in anyone’s best interest for the public to make the decision. We saw the results of the four provincial referenda on electoral reform (BC held two), the outcome of the fluoridation referendum that completely ignored best public health care practices to the detriment of all Waterloo residents, and the Brexit referendum that was decided by people with no knowledge of global economics or foreign policy (I’ve read that some people thought the “Leave” option was to make the Muslims leave the UK).

The only way a referendum might work is in three parts:

  1. Do we want to change the current system (and that’s already been decided in the 2015 election by the 63% of voters casting a ballot for a party supporting electoral reform);
  2. after extensive study and education, asking which one of these voting systems (maybe STV, MMP, P3) should be used;
  3. after two or three election cycles asking if that system should be changed (and if “yes”, then start the whole process over again).

Reality Check: Can the Liberals call a referendum on electoral reform?

Jean-Pierre Kingsley: You can only hold a federal referendum in Canada on a constitutional matter. And changing the electoral system is not a constitutional matter.

But Canada’s electoral system does not allow a referendum on this question. There would have to be a new bill passed in parliament to modify existing referendum legislation, and that will take months to pass, never mind the time taken for the referendum itself.

Besides, Canada has a representative democracy, where we elect representatives (our MPs) to study these matters and make the best decision for their constituents. But that doesn’t stop me from letting my MP know what would be best for this constituent!


Portions of this article originally appeared on the Fair Vote Waterloo Discussion Mailing List. Sign up and join the discussion!