Although you’d hardly know it from our friends in the Main Stream Media, there is an Electoral Reform Consultation going on right now.
I’ve been trying to raise awareness of Proportional Representation because that is the only way we will get the *real* real change Canada so desperately needs. Like most Canadians, I used to think Government Consultations were just for experts. It never occurred to me that a consultation was meant to consult with all Canadians until I was found myself involved in the 2009 Canadian Copyright Consultation in 2009. More than eight thousand Canadians submitted written submissions, and my understanding is that was the best response any Canadian consultation has ever had until then.
The ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform wants facts from the experts, but they also want to find out what ordinary Canadians want.
Even though most Canadians lack the requisite background in electoral systems, we don’t need to be experts to know the system we’ve been using isn’t working. I don’t understand how my car’s engine actually works, but I certainly know when it doesn’t. At this time, Canadians need to make sure the Special Committee on Electoral Reform knows that we do want Proportional Representation.
Stand Up For Proportional Representation.
The government needs to know Canadians are not satisfied with our electoral system and that we want Proportional Representation because we care about our democracy. Since a petition requires so little effort, although helpful, especially with many signatures) your signature on a petition is not given as much weight as a form letter. The most weight is given to personal contact. Talking to your MP on the phone ore in person has a lot of weight: it demonstrates how important the issue is to you.
Even if you don’t say a word, even if you are just there to learn, attending any Electoral Reform discussion night or town hall near you is very important, because your presence demonstrates your commitment to electoral reform.
If your MP hasn’t announced a town hall, call them up or send them an email. All our MPs are all supposed to have a Town Hall. Conservative MPs seem to be avoiding holding Town Halls. If your MP is Conservative, tell them Conservative voters deserve to be consulted too.
Attend a Community Dialogue, or even set up your own Canadian Community Dialogue
Fairvote Waterloo folks are hosting one every Tuesday in a local cafe. They have a list of questions (5 or 6) that a table of participants discus, the facilitator guides them through a list of questions & takes notes; at the end of the night the participants all sign the sheet which is then sent to the ERRE folks. The Waterloo Region Greens will be doing this on a larger scale with a Waterloo Region Community Dialogue on Electoral Reform on September 17th, 2016.
You can do this yourself on any scale, with a few friends at a picnic table in the park, around your kitchen table, the cafeteria or anywhere.
You can start with the ERRE suggested Potential Canadian federal electoral reform event dialogue topics and questions here.
3. Catch up on what the Committee has done in the meetings so far… I’ve included links to the video, as well as the evidence transcripts and the witness briefs that have been posted to find out what experts have been saying in their submissions.
Participate on Twitter
Even though the Ottawa Committee Meetings are over (I am not sure if there will be another round later) you can continue to follow the committee members on Twitter (links to members twitter handles here) and continue to tweet about #ERRE #Q. It seemed to me the most active on Twitter were @nathancullen, @MPRubySahota, @SherryRomanado and @ElizabethMay
Unfortunately, instead of helping inform their constituents, the Conservative members of the committee @@ are working hard to delay or derail the Electoral Reform Consultation by concentrating their greatest efforts in demanding an Electoral Reform Referendum. Proportional Representation isn’t a partisan issue; all it means is that voters will get better representation in Parliament.
The more we can share information through our social media accounts the greater the public awareness.
Make your own presentation to the ERRE Committee in person
—Requests to appear may be sent to the Committee by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by using the appropriate button on the Committee’s website. Please note that the Committee clerks will contact only those who are selected by the Committee members to appear. Requests to appear must be submitted to the Committee no later than October 7, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. (EDT).
If you keep an eye out you may get a chance to jointhe Honourable Maryam Monsef and/or #ERRE Committee on their Electoral Reform Road Trip.
Anyone can fill out the online questionaire as a submission here:
Special Committee on Electoral Reform E-CONSULTATION ON ELECTORAL REFORM
Make your own Written Submission
—WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS: Any person or organization can submit a brief to the Committee. To be accepted, the brief must be no more than 3,000 words in length (including the summary and footnotes) and be submitted to the Committee no later than October 7, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. (EDT). The Committee recommends highlighting any recommendations to support the principles set out in the motion mentioned above. Briefs may be sent to the Committee by email (email@example.com) or by using the appropriate button on the Committee’s website. Once they are translated, briefs will be distributed to the Committee members and posted on the Committee’s website.
It is probably best to begin with the principles defined by the Government:
The following five guiding principles may help you think about what you want from federal elections, your Member of Parliament (MP) and your federal government. They can help you decide what is important to you when it comes to potential changes to our democracy at the federal level by considering how any proposed reforms might:
- Restore the effectiveness and legitimacy of voting, such as by reducing distortions and strengthening the link between voter intention and the electoral result
- Encourage greater engagement and participation in the democratic process, including by underrepresented groups
- Support accessibility and inclusiveness of all eligible voters, and avoiding undue complexity in the voting process
- Safeguard the integrity of our voting process
- Preserve the accountability of local representation
Why are these principles important?
The principles were identified as a means to encourage a thoughtful, substantive dialogue about what Canadians expect from their electoral system. Potential changes to Canada’s federal electoral system can be assessed through questions such as:
- How could any proposed reforms strengthen effectiveness and legitimacy by better reflecting the democratic will of Canadians?
- How could any proposed reforms foster civility, cohesion and openness in politics that will help encourage Canadians to take part?
- How could any proposed reforms enhance the sense among Canadians that they can contribute to, participate in and influence politics?
- How could any proposed reforms support accessibility and inclusiveness for all Canadians in our diverse society?
- How could any proposed reforms ensure that Canadians can trust election results?
- How could any proposed reforms affect MPs’ accountability to citizens?
Then it might be an idea to take a look at some of the written submissions other Canadians have posted here. (Unfortunately the submissions from the experts and ordinary Canadians are jumbled together. Some people who submit are experts but this is a way for all Canadians to be heard. Although I have absorbed far more than I ever wanted to know about this, I am not an expert. And I will be writing my own sumbission, which I will post here in Whoa!Canada so you will be able to read it (and maybe borrow some of my ideas for your own submission). The idea is to let the Government (through the ERRE Committee) know what you want them to do.
Your written submission does NOT have to be a scholarly essay (although it can be if you want it to be). The maximum size is 3,000 words.
This isn’t a test, there are no wrong answers, the government is only asking for our opinions if we have them, and if we do, this is a chance for us to be heard. This process is really for us.
Your submission is entirely up to you; it can be as detailed or not as you like. If you have only one thing to say, it might just as easily be a single sentence. Maybe something like:
I want Canada to adopt some form of Proportional Representation.
Proportional representation please!
No referendum! Proportional Representation.
Canada should adopt (fill in favourite electoral system here) [Summaries of the different systems can be found here]
Talk to your FAMILY and FRIENDS about this. At home, on social media, at work, at school, wherever you go. You don’t need to be an expert, share links.
Canadians who wish to follow the Committee’s work may do so by visiting its website (http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/ERRE).
If the ERRE Committee is appearing anywhere near you, go, and bring as many friends & family as possible.
Movies work better for many people, including me. This is my YouTube Electoral Reform playlist. Share the list and/or specific videos. I hope to make a few more soon.
This article is part of my Proportional Representation for Canada series to help demystify electoral reform. More info is available on my PR 4 Canada Resources page, and I keep adding material as I find it. Please share any articles and materials about electoral reform you may find helpful. If I haven’t answered your questions yet, ask in a comment or send me an email.
I hope you will participate in one way or another.
Just being part of the process — even if it is just quietly listening at an Electoral Reform Town Hall — is a help because your participation will give them an idea whether we care about electoral reform.
Oh, and I almost forgot… the Ontario portion of the ERRE road show will be coming to Toronto on September 21st, 2016.