The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, there are moments when one can be especially proud to be a member of Parliament. I am especially proud today to be part of this team, with my colleagues, who managed to put the process to reform the voting system back on track. This is truly a great moment and I commend and thank the Liberals for working with us and supporting our proposal.
Electoral reform is very important. In Laurier—Sainte-Marie, people talk to me about this a lot. It is important to them. Everyone had concerns about the process. They did not want to see it exacerbate cynicism rather than rallying the public around a common goal. They were quite concerned, especially about the committee that is being set up to undertake this reform.
I want to quote two people. First, Paul Journet, from La Presse, who said:
What could be more ironic? On the one hand, the federal Liberals want to change the voting system because it distorts the will of the people. On the other hand, they are using this distortion to give themselves a majority of the seats on the new review committee. They are taking advantage of the problem to better control the outcome.
That is what we have been fighting against for months now. I am pleased to see that we are going to have a committee that will truly represent how the public voted and will be relatively proportional.
I would remind hon. members that the NDP has long wanted to change the voting system as well. The current voting system just does not work. It creates false majorities. We saw just how much such a majority could be mishandled during the 10 years that the Conservatives were in power, although their majority was based on less than 40% of the popular vote. We hope that we will not see more of the same from the Liberals.
This fuels cynicism. People need to be able to believe in the system. I really like the idea of a mixed member proportional voting system. I know some people who have said that their vote for a given small party would be meaningless, because the party has no chance of winning in their riding. We all know of these examples.
With mixed member proportional voting, all votes count. Beyond the fundamental democratic issue and the fact that the House of Commons would better represent the popular will, this could also help combat cynicism. It could also encourage minorities, such as indigenous populations, to play a more active role in the electoral process. Indeed, over the past few years, voter participation has decreased, and we want the vast majority of Canadians to take part in the process.
I am also thinking of young Canadians, because, as we know, they do not vote much. I always like to paraphrase Rick Mercer, who once asked some young people whether they would let their grandparents choose their friends, their music, and their clothes. I often ask young people this question, and of course, they always say no. Like Rick Mercer, I tell them not to let their grandparents choose their government. It is absolutely crucial that young people vote.
It is not me who is going to be most affected by an issue like climate change: it is them. What we are now doing is building their future.
I hope that we are going to adopt a system that is both fair and equitable, but also, and to me this is essential, a system that will encourage people from all walks of life to participate, whatever their opinions or orientations, and especially young people. Action is urgently needed, and I find that the process is already lagging somewhat. Putting a new voting system in place is not something that is done overnight.
I am truly happy, even delighted, that today we have at least managed to agree on a formula that gives the representatives of the Bloc Québécois and the Leader of the Green Party their say in the matter. Indeed, this formula is in large part a reflection of what we want to accomplish. I hope that everyone will be prepared to work together.
The House is currently debating two issues that are truly fundamental. I am referring to the bill on medical assistance in dying, and the reform of the voting system. In both these cases, we must succeed in establishing a dialogue and finding ground for agreement.
As I was saying, I am absolutely delighted to be part of a team that has pushed for a viable and credible solution for the population, and I thank the Liberals for joining us on this issue.
Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure it is to rise to talk about a very important issue for all Canadians.
I have had the opportunity and good fortune to be a parliamentarian for many years, as have you, Mr. Speaker. I have had the privilege of having my name on the ballot 11 or 12 times, either as a provincial or federal candidate. I truly appreciate the important role everyone plays in making our democracy work in Canada.
I have argued, on both sides of the House, that we should never take that for granted. We truly appreciate the value of the trust Canadians have put in us, jointly and collectively as one body, to make good decisions on their behalf.
Today is a very positive day. I have heard discussions about electoral reform for years. In fact, I believe it was in the mid-1990s when I was asked to go around the province of Manitoba to canvass opinions and gather the thoughts of people on electoral reform.
I remember talking about the idea of whether we should reduce the age to vote from 18 to 16, or have leaders elected at large as opposed to being elected in constituencies, or the issue of multi-member wards. There are endless ideas out there.
Throughout my parliamentarian years, I have noted that there always seems to be some level of interest, at varying times, whether it is right after a federal election or after the observation of another election that has taken in place in Canada. At times, the issue really comes to the table. When that happens, there is a great deal of interest to talk about it. There have been endless discussions about it.
I was quite pleased when our current clearly indicated over a year ago, in an election platform, that if the Liberals were to form government, it would be the last federal election based on first past the post. No one inside this chamber can question that statement from the leader of the third party at the time. It was very well publicized. It was included in the party's election platform.
The Liberal Party of Canada was not the only party that talked about electoral reform. The New Democrats and the Green Party have also talked about it fairly extensively. In fact, I have heard the leader of the Green Party talk extensively about it for many years. I said to her the other day that I was somewhat sympathetic. When I was in the Manitoba legislature, we did not have party recognition. Many of the things she aspires to try to change and reform, I can reflect on and recall my desires on those very important issues.
I raise it because it is important to note that even though the Liberal Party of Canada garnered the most support in the last federal election at 39% and that garnered the majority government, on this issue, more than 50% of Canadians voted for the need for change on our electoral system.
I pay tribute to the for the degree to which he has recognized this as an important issue for Canadians. Many would say that there are all sorts of other things we could and should talk about. However, I will go back to my opening comments on the importance of democracy to each and every one of us.
We always talk about Canada being one of the best countries in the world to live. Whether we talk about our democratic process, or our rights and freedoms, or our rule of law, these are all so fundamentally important to who we are as Canadians and as a nation.
Let us fast-forward a bit. I have in recent years seen many discussions on changes to the Canada Elections Act. We have been through those difficult committee hearings. I remember standing up at second reading on the fair elections bill, and there was a great deal of concern in terms of the lack of consultation that was taking place. I remember sitting in committee, and the Chief Electoral Officer had no sense in terms of what the government actually wanted to do with the Elections Act. There was no goodwill at all in terms of accepting any amendments from opposition parties.
That is why it is a bit much, day after day, hearing members from the Conservative Party at times talking about wanting a more open system with more consultations. The has been talking about that ever since she was appointed the minister responsible for democratic initiatives here. It is all about consultations, trying to extend the olive branch, trying to get other members engaged on this issue. I know how passionate she has been on it, and how the , in appointing this particular individual, felt very strongly that it was of critical importance that we get it done and we get it done right.
The Conservatives seem to be fixated on the issue of the process. That is in regard to wanting to have the referendum, as if that is the only tool in the toolbox that can deliver what Canadians want to see, which is genuine electoral reform. I would suggest that the referendum is not the only tool that is in the toolbox. We do not have to recreate the wheel in order to be able to understand or appreciate that.
Major initiatives have taken place in terms of reforming our democratic system where there was no referendum. Rather, it was through consultation that took place in bringing parties together that ultimately led to the changes. One just needs to look at the enfranchising of women or first nations. Those are two that come to mind for which there were no referendums, but rather there were other ways by which we were able to successfully implement reform.
I look forward to the challenge that this current minister has in essence given to each and every one of us in terms of reaching out to our constituents and bringing that all into the debate. That is something which I am committed to, and that is why it is nice when we get a sense of co-operation taking place inside the House. Like the , I wish we could see more of that taking place. I am the type of person who does look at the glass as half full. I do believe that where there is goodwill, there will be opportunities to make things happen in a more apolitical fashion.
We saw that being demonstrated in the last 24 hours, or maybe even a bit longer than that, with respect to this particular issue. We have an opposition party in the House that stated it had an idea for opposition day, shared that idea with the government, and allowed the government the opportunity to take a look at it. Given the very nature of the motion, the government stated it was a motion that it could potentially support. The government did what a good government should do, and that was to look into the matter to see if there was a way we could get behind what we believe Canadians would want to see, more unity inside this chamber.
In a relatively short period of time, there was hopefully going to be an agreement when the minister responsible moved the amendment, and I will get into the amendment shortly. However, after the motion was initially moved, the minister then moved an amendment. It had to be accepted as a friendly amendment. Had it not been accepted as a friendly amendment, then we would be voting on the original motion, which has a lot of merit to it. However, it would have been a mistake, in the sense that if we can build on consensus, that is something we should do. The member across the way recognized that and accepted it as a friendly amendment. As a result, I believe the NDP will see widespread support on its original motion as amended by the minister responsible.
Let me highlight what we are actually talking about when I make reference to the motion. There is one part of the motion that I truly appreciate from a personal perspective. It is the second statement, where it says:
...that the Committee be directed to issue an invitation to each Member of Parliament to conduct a town hall in their respective constituencies and provide the Committee with a written report of the input from their constituents to be filed with the Clerk of the Committee no later than November 1, 2016;
With the exception of the date, and that is addressed, I thought that was a fantastic request being advocated by the New Democrats. We should be engaging as much as possible, and we can all engage in different ways.
Allow me to share how I will be engaging my constituents on this issue. On July 6, we are going to be having a public meeting at the Maples Community Centre in the riding of Winnipeg North. By different means, via telephone and by letters, I will make sure it is very clear that I am having this meeting. We will probably even do a bit of advertising for it, if we can allocate a little budget from my member's office budget. We will make room for it, given the importance of the issue.
I hope to see a good number of people come out for the public meeting. We will try to get a better sense of what my constituents have to say. I am not going to that meeting with a predetermined position. I am approaching the meeting with an open mind. I genuinely would like to hear from individuals who have an interest in the subject matter. I would like them to come forward and share their thoughts are on the issue.
Realizing that I represent over 90,000 constituents, and many of my colleagues in the House represent well over 100,000, we are not going to get that kind of number into a community centre. I do not think demand will be quite that high. Typically, I suspect it will likely be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25 to 250 people. I am not really sure, but whatever it is, if the demand is super high, we will have two meetings if necessary. That is one of the mechanisms I will be using.
Another mechanism I will use will be through social media, whether it is through my email list, Facebook, Twitter, or other ways that I can engage constituents I represent to provide their input on the issue.
As parliamentarians, we also have a wonderful privilege. I thank God for Canada Post and those who work for Canada Post. They are indirectly able to help me represent my constituents. I am so appreciative of Canada Post because that is one of the mechanisms I will be using to garner feedback on this issue.
These are the types of ideas that will help me make my presentation on the importance of this legislation in the debate we are having. However, there are others some might say, such as the age 55-plus bloc. We might end up going this way also. We should see if there is specific interest in going into some of those blocs.
What about community centres? How do we engage young people? I was part of a task force back in the 1990s. I think it was the 1990s. I sometimes get lost in the context of time. When I canvassed on democratic reform, I went into high schools. We found that young people were very interested in this issue. I would suggest, where possible, that others should go to the high schools. The point is that there are many different ways of doing it.
I want to highlight what we have actually witnessed here today. I believe it is a good reason for all of us to appreciate the gestures of goodwill coming from not one or two political parties, but three or four, though it would be nice to say all five parties. The proposed motion indicates that a committee be composed of 12 members, of which five shall be government members, three shall be official opposition members, two shall be from the New Democratic Party, one member from the Bloc, and the leader of the Green Party, all of which would be voting members.
This would be exceptionally rare, and I cannot recall a time offhand. Meech Lake, in the 1990s, when I was in the Manitoba legislature might have been one time. We would have the government of the day saying that it is prepared to forfeit its majority on the committee in order for other political parties to feel as though they are—because they are in reality—part of a very important process.
That is a very significant signal that is being sent not only from the government of the day, but from the New Democrats and the leader of the Green Party. They are prepared to put party politics aside in the hope of delivering an electoral system that is best able to serve Canadians from coast to coast to coast. I genuinely appreciate that and believe that Canadians will reflect very positively on that. I would encourage all members who will sit on this very important committee to approach it with a very open mind.
I would like to see a system that is modern, that enables people to feel as though their votes are not being wasted, a system that makes it easier for people to get engaged and actually vote. These are all important fundamental values that all of us share. In my 20-plus years of being a parliamentarian, it is very rare that we have been afforded the opportunity we have been given by different political parties in the House today.
My suggestion is that we take advantage of that recommendation and read through the resolution that has been introduced and the amendment that was brought forward. There are a couple of important aspects of the amendment that I would encourage people to read. The amendment states, “options identified could advance the following principles for electoral reform”, and there are five of them. I do not have time to read the five. We need to realize that this is time sensitive. We do not want to lose the opportunity, and that is the reason we are saying October 14.
I know that as parliamentarians, we are not scared to work through the summer and will do whatever work is necessary to make things happen for Canadians. I suggest that we have the time to do something really good in terms of making our democratic system a better institution in Canada.
Around the world, parliamentarians and others look to Canada to demonstrate leadership on this issue, as we are a country that is envied by many. I think we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a difference, and I highly recommend that everyone vote in favour of the amendment and resolution.
Mr. Speaker, it is a very real honour to rise today to speak to the motion.
Just on a personal note, democratic reform has always been a very high topic for me. It was a big one for a lot of my constituents during the election as well. I also want to pay some very good attention, and give credit where it is due, to my friend from . I think it is absolutely incredible that we are creating a committee with 12 members where the government, which has a majority in the House, will not have a majority on the committee. That is a big step forward.
The NDP has a long tradition of fighting for fairness. When we look at the way our Parliament is elected under first past the post, we can look across to the government side and they have all of those seats, plus what we like to call the rump over there. That majority is based on false premises, because 39.5% of Canadians voted Liberal in the last election. However, by giving them the majority of the seats, we basically have an elected dictatorship.
I admit that the Liberal Party, while in government, has been working with the opposition on some issues. On others, it has moved forward with time allocation. I guess the main point I want to get across is that at the end of the day, if the Liberal government really wants to get its way, it can do so. It has the votes in the House to make its voice heard, to get its agenda through, and it has demonstrated that a few times. Based on the fact that only 39.5% of Canadians voted for that, I think that is where questions of legitimacy come up.
I think that because we are dealing with such an important measure, it is important that all parties in the House have a voice. The previous idea that was floated by the Liberal government, to create a standing committee that mirrors the existing ones, where the governing party gets six members, the Conservatives get three, the NDP get one, and the Bloc and the Greens get to attend but have observer status only, does a disservice to Canadians who voted for those other political parties. It also does not give respect to the proportions in which Canadians voted for those other parties.
I would like to give an example. Andrew Coyne, the journalist, has been writing some great articles lately on democratic reform. In one of his articles he pointed out that it took roughly 38,000 votes to elect each Liberal member of Parliament. By contrast, it took 57,000 votes to elect each Conservative; 79,000 votes for each New Democrat; and 82,000 for each member of the Bloc Québécois. For my friend from , it took 603,000 people to vote her in. That is not a fair system.
In order to respect the people who made those choices, they really do need to have a say at the table. This is only the first step. I do not want to presuppose what the committee is going to do. At this stage, it is almost like having a bill at second reading.
We want to support the committee's work in principle, but I really think it is important that, before we pass judgment on the committee, we give it a chance to form, a chance to meet with witnesses, a chance to speak to experts, and to deliberate, as we were sent here to do, and to do so in good faith, based on a rough proportion of the votes that each one of those parties received. We owe it to ourselves to let that committee do its work before we pass judgment and presuppose exactly what it is going to do.
I have been incredibly proud to be a member of the New Democratic Party, because we have always had a long stance on supporting proportional representation. I have heard some members speak in this chamber about how they do not want to prejudge what Canadians want, they do not want to come with a preformed opinion, and that is fine. I respect that.
I have always felt that having the number of MPs in the House closely mirror the national averages is only fair. It really goes to the heart of the matter of having equal votes for every Canadian, and having one Canadian and one vote.
I will also take some time here to talk about some legislation that I had the honour of introducing on Tuesday. Bill is a part of this continuing conversation that we as parliamentarians must have on democratic reform. While we talk about how we elect our members, I think we also need to talk about some of the situations that exist around how we elect people, some of the money that is being spent, and how long our elections are.
For example, in the previous Parliament, the Conservatives passed what was known as the Fair Elections Act. One part of that change was that the spending limits of each party translated to roughly $675,000 each day when a party's national campaign went over 37 days. As a result, we have this difference. In 2011, political parties could spend $21 million, while during the 2015 78-day marathon, parties could bring their limit up to $55 million.
I think we are slowly heading down a road where money starts playing a larger role, which distorts the view that many Canadians hold when we are giving such importance to wealthy donors and so on. Also, Canadians do not need to have 78 days to make a decision.
My bill proposes to put a maximum limit of 46 days on an electoral period, while keeping the minimum at 36 days. I hope that, as we discuss this issue of democratic reform, I can invite all members of the House to have a constructive conversation on how long our elections are.
The other thing I think all members will want to take stock of is the cost to taxpayers, because the previous election cost us $473 million to run, which was a $150 million more than the previous election. Therefore, democratic reform cannot simply stop at how we elect our members; we also have to look at the influence of money in our politics.
Before I continue, Mr. Speaker, I forgot to inform you that I would be splitting my time with my great friend the hon. member for . It was a rookie mistake.
However, I will say that this is a big deal today. My friends in the government, the Liberal caucus, deserve congratulations and credit where credit is due. It was a big step. I was watching the minister on CPAC this morning, and when I heard her say that the government would support this motion, I was genuinely impressed, and I congratulate the Liberals for doing that. It is my hope that by the government giving up its majority on this, and by all other opposition parties suddenly having that legitimacy, we can find a way to work together.
My colleague from proposed this new method back in February, and we are now in June. Therefore, I think the minister was quite correct in saying that the government was getting worried that we were just getting bogged down in process, which is true. We need to move beyond process and get to some more substantive debate. We need to hear from experts. We need to hear from witnesses. We need to give the committee all of the tools it needs to consult with Canadians. I will leave it up to the committee to decide what course of action is right, but in the end, I strongly feel that we need to give that committee the time to do so.
I will conclude by saying that one of the phrases that inspired me to run as a New Democrat came from our late leader, the Hon. Jack Layton. I think it was shortly after we formed the official opposition in the previous Parliament that he said it is not enough just to be opposing, but one has to propose solutions.
My friend from is enduring the spirit of that phrase in the truest way today, because since February he has come up with a practical solution. Instead of just shooting down what the government has been offering, he has said that there is a different way, that this is our constructive alternative, and today the government accepted it.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on this important occasion and to address this important motion.
The very agreeable tone of the debate today is a tribute to my friend from , who has worked so hard and so long on this very issue. His work has been guided by a value that I hold dear as a New Democrat, and that is a belief that a noble end can be reached by noble means, that positive change should not always be on the horizon but should be part of our work in the here and now.
The solution my colleague has offered today is not only a reasonable and creative compromise, but it is also a principled proposal that matches our basic values about fairness and democracy. It is a principle that all Canadians would agree is fair and, as such, I hope it is a plan that every member in the House can support.
I am pleased that the has accepted the NDP proposal. In the words of the member for , we are truly having an “adult conversation”, a conversation that is starting here and I hope will spread throughout the communities from coast to coast to coast.
Before we can come together around a fairer way to cast our ballots, though, Canadians need to have confidence in the process itself. The best way to earn that confidence is to start with the system that reflects how they voted just eight short months ago, which encourages inclusiveness and collaboration with every party at the table.
Outside of the halls of the Office I suspect we would be hard pressed to find a single Canadian who believes that getting less than 40% of the votes should equal 60% of the seats and 100% of the power. Canadians know that to use the results of a broken system to craft a better one is to pluck the fruit of a poisoned tree.
Instead, we have a chance here today to deliver change and to do it right through a process that embodies our values. This is how Canadians expect us to resolve the issue, because it is how Canadians have always tried to resolve differences themselves in their homes and in their workplaces, by bringing everyone to the table and listening to every voice so that everyone has a say and a stake in how we move forward together.
Across the aisle, my colleague from spoke very eloquently today, and she was right: this motion is a landmark in the evolution of our journey to democracy in Canada.
At the start of the last century, more than a generation past Confederation, voting rights were still denied to fast swaths of the Canadian population. The ballot was denied if one did not hold land, if one held a different faith, if one's skin was not white, and of course, if one was a woman.
There are Canadians alive today who have seen in their lifetime this evolution. They have seen the House finally grant federal voting rights to women. It would take another year for women to gain the right to run for one of those seats, another decade before women opened doors of the Senate, two decades before leaders like Thérèse Casgrain won the right to vote in their province, three decades before indigenous women first cast ballots in band elections, and four decades before all indigenous people in this country won their rightful voice in the affairs of the House of Commons.
This is a long arc. It has risen at a shameful pace and every advance has been bitterly resisted and hard won. However its trajectory is clear. The evolution that the member for outlined, the story of Canada's democracy, is the story of the continuous broadening and deepening of our democracy.
Democracy is not a state. It is an aspiration. Just as we could not claim to have reached the goal of true democracy when half our population was denied the right to vote, neither can we rest on our laurels when the makeup of the House does not match the choice of Canadians. Therefore, what is the next step?
Two years ago, I held a town hall in Victoria to discuss electoral reform with my constituents. The overwhelming view of the crowd that filled the hall that night was that the allocation of seats in Parliament ought to directly reflect the balance of votes that parties earned and that only true proportional representation could reliably and accurately deliver that balance.
Canadians are tired of the winner-take-all system. Winner takes all is not a value we teach our children and it should not drive our politics either. Canadians know that a better system is possible. Advanced democracies around the world have long recognized the flaws of the winner-take-all systems. Canadians are not alone in recognizing that this system not only distorts results but produces more adversarial politics.
The list of major democracies that have adopted proportional representation includes powerhouse economies like Germany and nations with similar Westminster institutions, like New Zealand. Not only does the system match Canadian values about fairness and inclusion, but it brings some unexpected benefits as well. In fact, a landmark study of 36 countries found that proportional representation increased voter turnout, elected more women, and led citizens to report feeling more satisfied with their democracy, even when the party of their choice was not in power.
Other studies have uncovered more surprising benefits. Countries with proportional representation score higher on indices of health, education, and standard of living. They are more likely to enjoy fiscal surpluses. They have healthier environmental policies, faster economic growth, and less income inequality.
What explains those differences? How can a voting system fuel economic growth and diminish inequality? It comes down to people. Consensual political institutions involve and empower more citizens. They respond to and represent a deeper pool of interests and people. The policies they enact are not just more representative of the average voter, they are more credible and more stable. Those qualities make consensual politics better for people, better for business, and, indeed, better for our planet.
I am proud that our party championed this system not only in the last election but in the last Parliament as well. I say that because proportional representation would actually have given the New Democrats fewer seats in the 41st Parliament than we won in 2011 under the first-past-the-post system. This is a matter of principle and the principle is simple: every Canadian deserves fair representation, every Canadian voice should be counted and equal, and every vote should be counted. I think every Canadian can support that principle and it is the standard by which we will judge the work of this committee.
My colleague from was absolutely correct this afternoon. The biggest thing we can do to combat cynicism and kindle hope in our politics is to build a system in which more voices matter, not only one which entrenches power for those who already have it.
I call on my colleagues to approve this motion and get to work as soon as possible, building a new electoral system for a new century, one in which we will finally see our democratic institutions reflect fairly, proportionately, and accurately the choices of our fellow Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to stand up for Canadians and for their right to have a direct say in any changes to the method of voting, to the method of our democracy.
I have listened to a lot of speeches today, and what I have heard deeply concerns me. I am hearing a lot of talk about what is best for political parties, what is best for politicians, how do we best ensure that all political parties, or at least one other political party, is happy. It is not just about the governing party or the Liberal Party.
It is all about this proposed competition in the community and what is best and what is fairest for political parties, what is fairest for politicians, and what is fairest for their partisan interest. This discussion should not be all about political parties. It should not be about politicians. It should be about the Canadian people. It is their method of voting. It is their democracy. This discussion needs to be about Canadians, all Canadians. It should not be about politicians. It needs to be about ensuring that each and every Canadian has an opportunity to have a direct say.
When we are thinking about the motion today and discussing it, more than on any other occasion, we have to ensure that what we have at heart is the best interests of all Canadians. When we get down to that, when we are changing the most basic rules of democracy, everyone gets a vote, a direct say. It should not be just the and the Liberal cabinet. It should not be just politicians or political parties, especially when we are talking about backroom deals. It needs to be about each and every Canadian, everyone getting a direct say. That must be the absolute essence of any discussion we have in Parliament about electoral reform. Canadians absolutely must have the final say in a national referendum on any proposed changes to how they elect their representatives.
It was actually the who said, “listening to Canadians is at the heart of a healthy democracy”. It is unfortunate that what we are seeing in the actions of her Liberal government is reflecting the exact opposite of that.
I want to touch a bit on the party's positions. First. Mr. Speaker, that I am sharing my time with the member for .
When we talk about this, a lot of claims have been made about the fact that Canadians voted for a party that wanted to change the system somehow. Different positions have been taken by the different political parties. The New Democrats, from their platform, want to make an individual's vote truly count by bringing in a system of mixed member proportional representation. That is their position. About 19.7% of Canadians voted for them.
The Green Party talks about replacing the first-past-the-post system with proportional representation. Therefore, we have one party talking about mixed member proportional representation and another one talking about some form of proportional representation. The Green Party got about 3.4% or 3.5% of the vote in the last election.
Members of the Liberal Party, which is typical of the Liberal Party, have taken a position of riding the fence, putting themselves in a bunch of different camps so one candidate can claim one thing and one can claim another. At the end of the day, they will do what they want. They have said that they might look at a variety of different types of systems. They got the support of 39.5% of Canadians. They have taken all these numbers, put them together and they think that somehow that gives them the right to change the system without asking Canadians, without talking to Canadians, giving them a chance to have a direct say. I do not think that is what has happened at all. I think they are just trying to avoid the ability of Canadians to have that say, but this has to be about them.
If we are truly to have a discussion on electoral reform and a very open discussion on it, as the Liberal government claims, and the fix is not already in and there has not already been these backroom deals to some kind of conclusion as to what will be put in place, why have the Liberals taken one of the options off the table before they even have had the conversation with Canadians, which is our current method of voting, the one we have had since Confederation? Some people claim that makes it a bad system just because it has been around for a long time. That is up to Canadians to decide. That is not up to the politicians in this room to decide or for the political parties to decide.
It seems to show a lot of arrogance, in my mind, towards Canadians to have political parties say that they will have a conversation with Canadians and give them some options, but they will take one option out, it is gone, and it is off the table before we even have a conversation with Canadians. It seems like a lot of arrogance to say that it is not an option and Canadians cannot choose it. They can choose one of the things we might like them to choose, but not this other option. This needs to be their decision.
A few days ago, The Huffington Post was reporting on one of the Liberal members, the parliamentary secretary for Veterans Affairs, the member of Parliament for . She recently had an electoral reform town hall in her riding. The one thing I noted in the story was that the member was quoted as having laughed when she recounted a story about a citizen who said he did not think there was anything wrong with our electoral system. Well, that was his opinion and he has a right to have that opinion. Is that the attitude that we can expect from the current Liberal government when it is consulting with Canadians; laughing at those who have a different opinion from its opinion?
If the Liberals are truly interested in listening, they would not laugh off the opinions of Canadians. This comes back to that arrogance of their party. I think when we talk about some of the backroom dealings going on with the NDP, there is arrogance being shown here, which is a real concern, because Canadians need to have that say, and not these political parties with their backroom deals.
One thing that I think has been abundantly clear when I look at the actions of the Liberal government is that the members' actions are in their own self-interest. They are in the interest of politicians and not in the interest of Canadians. The stated that she wants to listen to Canadians, but instead the Liberals are charging ahead with a plan that, unfortunately, does not give Canadians the ultimate say. It is one that does not leave all the options on the table. It tells Canadians that they know better than Canadians, that this option is not available to them, that they can pick from some of these other choices, but Liberals are going to decide what those choices are.
I think it is clear that the Liberal government and the seem to think that only those people who agree with them and with the committee that has political partisan interests, that was created through backroom deals, is who should get the say. The has been quite clear about how he opposes directly consulting Canadians through a referendum on any fundamental changes to how we vote. In fact, he told students at the University of Ottawa exactly that. He said, “the fact is that referendums are a pretty good way of not getting any electoral reform”.
Well, I do not know, that may or may not be the truth, but the bottom line is that it is not his decision to make; that is Canadians' decision to make. I would say to the that the fact is that referendums are the best way and probably the only way to ensure that Canadians get a direct say, the ultimate say, on their democracy.
We looked at a lot of other jurisdictions that have made decisions or looked at proposed changes to their electoral system, such as Ontario, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and other democracies like the United Kingdom and New Zealand. They have all done this. All of them have given the direct say, the ultimate decision, to their citizens through a referendum, not to their politicians.
I am really quite concerned to see what I am seeing today. The fact of the matter is that three-quarters of Canadians have said that they want to have the referendum on any electoral reform before the government proceeded. Therefore, they want to have that say, they want to have the choice of all the options, which has been made quite clear by Canadians, and it is being made quite clear. It is the only way that the current government can ensure that the changes the Liberals are making are supported by all Canadians and that their plan is fair and transparent.
Whatever the government decides to do, Canadians need a vote, they want a vote, and they want to be able to say yes or no. What better way to consult with all Canadians than through a referendum? A committee of parliamentarians, no matter what its makeup, no matter what the party stripes, no matter what their partisan interest, is not and never will be a substitute for all Canadians having a say and having their voices heard directly through a referendum.
In 1992, there was a referendum held on the Charlottetown accord. Three-quarters of eligible Canadians voted. Almost 14 million Canadians voted. To be able to reach the same number of people with this town hall proposal, 40,000 Canadians would have to show up to a town hall meeting in each and every single riding. That is 40,000 Canadians in each of 338 ridings. I cannot for the life of me understand how the current government would not choose to give each and every Canadian a say in a referendum before it changes the very method by which they vote in elections.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to this very important issue, namely, the electoral reform that the Liberal government wants to bring in. I really wanted to speak to this because it is fundamental to our entire voting system and our entire electoral system. It forms the very foundation of our structure in Canada.
First, let me give some background. How did we get where we are today? The election that took place at the end of last year, in October 2015, resulted in a Liberal government with 39.6% of the universal suffrage. That is very close to the percentage the Conservatives had in the previous election. In other words, it was more or less the same percentage that gave the Liberals a majority of seats in Parliament. This majority of seats, which gives them 100% of the power, does not, however, give them 100% of the truth in the House.
Since the beginning of their term, the Liberals have not stopped telling us that with this majority, Canadians gave them the right to implement their entire election platform. They talk in the House as though Canadians read the 219 proposals in their 97-page election platform, and as though the 39% of the public that voted for them gave them the mandate to carry out these 219 proposals unilaterally, without approval from Parliament as a whole and, in the case of this electoral reform, without the public's approval.
This Liberal government, which was elected by 39% of the population and has the majority of seats and therefore all the power, is saying that it wants to change the rules of voting, the very foundation of our democracy. The himself, in his Speech from the Throne, simply announced that the current voting system could no longer be used and that last fall's election was the last one to use it. Then, he also announced in various conversations and at various press conferences that he already had a preferred voting system in mind, a preferential voting system, which is clearly advantageous to the Liberal Party across the way.
When you consider all of those things and also consider the government's plan to create a partisan committee, right here in the House, the outcome is already clear. The committee will make a recommendation to the government and ministers, who, together, will propose a change to our electoral system. They already have a majority.
What the Conservative Party is asking for today is simple. We are not against consultations, nor do we think we should not figure out how to reach as many people as possible. We are saying that, ultimately, the Canadian public, all Canadians, must say whether they want to change the voting system. This decision should not fall to the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, who was elected with 39% of the vote.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I should not have named—
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I got excited and completely forgot that rule.
What I meant to say was that it is not up to the of Canada and his majority government to decide what kind of voting system we should have. He can go ahead and consult everyone. Everyone is okay with that; nobody is against doing the right thing. Nevertheless, he needs to send a clear signal to the House that he will let Canadians have their say about whether they want to change the voting system or not. He should not be arrogant.
Since 1950, any provincial government that wanted to change the voting system went to the people to find out if they agreed with the proposal. That is all we are asking. It is not complicated. We are asking the government to rise above its position, set partisanship aside, stop treating us like we do not matter, and agree to let the people decide in the end.
Today, the government would have Canadians believe that changing the voting system will get more people engaged in politics. That is not true. In every country in the world, where there are different governments and different voting systems, the number of people who vote from one election to the next keeps going down. It is no different here in Canada. The problem we have is a cultural one. We have to change the culture and put an end to excessive partisanship, which we are currently seeing from the Liberal Party. We are asking the government to trust the people.
New Zealand held public consultations on changing the voting system for 10 years. They asked experts and the public for their opinion. They changed the first-past-the-post system to a mixed member proportional voting system. The voter turnout during the last election declined by 10%.
Leading the public to believe that changing the voting system will automatically improve voter turnout is completely false.
We have been asking the government questions from the beginning. However, all we hear is that the opposition, the Conservative Party, is being partisan and does not want to contribute or listen to what is being proposed.
I took the time to compile what political analysts had to say about the minister's proposal. Across all media platforms, whether written, televised, or broadcast, here is what was being said about the government's electoral reform:
Emmanuelle Latraverse, a CBC journalist, wrote an article entitled “Réforme électorale de Justin Trudeau : un premier rendez-vous manqué”, or “Justin Trudeau's electoral reform: a missed opportunity”.
In Le Devoir, Manon Cornellier—