Electoral Reboot: The Essentials

Electoral Reboot: The Essentials

How did electoral reform become a political issue in 2016?

 

► THE PROMISE

 

The Liberal campaign platform pledged an end to first-past-the-post federal elections — and legislation by spring 2017.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken favourably in the past about preferential ballots (also known as Alternative Vote).

Australia has used that system for nearly a century. And Canada’s three major parties themselves use a preferential ballot for their leadership votes.

Here is Trudeau at the 2012 Liberal convention:

MPs on the Special Committee on Electoral Reform will consider this system, along with proportional representation and other alternatives to First Past the Post.

Meanwhile, many MPs and Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef have been holding public meetings across the country to gauge feedback.

 

THE COMMITTEE

 

The government’s original committee proposal called for a Liberal majority and no voting rights for the Greens or Bloc Québécois.

However, the government eventually accepted an NDP plan for a 12-member committee with five Liberals, three Conservatives, two New Democrats, one Green, and one Bloc MPs – with voting privileges for the latter two.

Committee membership would be based on the 2015 popular vote instead of party standings in the House of Commons.

Here’s what Monsef said about changing the committee in June 2016:

 

TO HOLD A REFERENDUM (OR NOT)

 

If and when the government proposes a change to how Canadians vote, will voters have a say?

Conservatives want a national referendum on any change to the electoral system. The government has yet to commit either way — though both Trudeau and Monsef have said past referendum campaigns had low voter turnout and poor engagement.

The issue was raised repeatedly during question period this past winter and spring, including this May 31 exchange:

Voters in British Columbia, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island rejected electoral change in recent years. P.E.I. will have another (non-binding) vote this autumn on options to replace First Past the Post.

 

THE CONSTITUTION

 

Section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms promises that: “Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons.”

But neither the Charter, nor the rest of the Constitution Act, explicitly spells out how citizens elect MPs — except for details about the number of ridings and how boundaries are determined.

 

►What are the options? How would your vote be affected? Why did other countries or provinces choose – or not choose – to abandon First Past the Post? What do the political parties want? What do you want? Join us over the next several months as we explore the process and politics of voting reform.

-Andrew Thomson