An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

Letter sent to: Francis Scarpaleggia, Ruby Sahota, Matt DeCourcey, Sherry Romanado and John Aldag


Dear ERRÉ Committee Members:

I am exceptionally invested in Electoral Reform; having watched and participated in many of your meetings as well as being involved in many local DIY Community Dialogues and Information Sessions.  I was unable to attend your single Ontario stop on your Cross Country Tour in Toronto because we were putting on a previously scheduled Info Night in a local library. After a life spent voting in every election for over three decades my vote has never actually elected an MP or an MPP.  I am frankly tired of electoral futility, and especially of being a second class citizen.

It isn’t that I’ve been voting for some wild fringe party– over the years I have voted for candidates from each of the 4 major parties in English Canada.  But the futility of casting my vote had me considering joining the ranks of non-voters … until I started learning about Proportional Representation.

It’s time Canada actually became the Representative Democracy I was told it was back in High School.  Not just for me, but for my son.  And my nieces and nephews… and everyone else’s kids, too.  Because I was raised to leave a place better than I found it.   And at least once before I die, I’d like to know that when I vote, it might actually count.

When MPs tell me they can represent all their constituents they are wrong.  Oh, sure, any good MP can represent all their constituents in their constituency work, but that is not why MPs are sent to Ottawa.  150 years ago that wasn’t even in the job description.   We voters send you to Ottawa to represent us, but the First Past The Post reality is that when MPs are in the legislature, you vote the way the party tells you.

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Democracy Day

On the occasion of the 2016 International Day of Democracy, it is not only important to reflect on the state of our democracy here in Canada, but also democracy abroad. While we take stock of the values that we uphold and cherish as participants in our democracy, we must also turn our attention to the state of democracy around the world.

The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic InstitutionsThis year’s theme, “Democracy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” is fitting in that it underlines that good governance and development go hand in hand. When governments uphold the principle of justice for all citizens and establish institutions that are inclusive, accountable and effective – individuals thrive and contribute their best.

For the past month I’ve been traveling across Canada hearing from Canadians directly on the values and expectations they feel should be reflected in Canada’s electoral system.

At every stop, it is clear; Canadians expect greater inclusion, transparency, engagement and modernization from their public institutions.

Canada is a shining example of the democratic promise. We must cherish this opportunity and transmit it. In fact our diplomats and aid workers share their Canadian expertise in many emerging democracies and fragile states around the world – to strengthen democratic institutions and actors, reduce corruption and promote transparency and accountability

On this International Day of Democracy, let us rededicate ourselves to the values that make Canada great and to the important shared responsibility of strengthening our democracy. Let us also rededicate ourselves to helping other countries around the world in creating the sustainable conditions that help bolster and steward healthy democracies that benefit everyone.”

— The Honourable Maryam Monsef,
Minister of Democratic Institutions
Ottawa, ON, September 15, 2016

Special Committee on electoral reform

The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic InstitutionsDuring the 2015 Federal Election, the Liberal Party promised to convene an All Party Committee to consider electoral reform so that 2015 would be our last election using First Past The Post.

Minister Monsef and House Leader LeBlanc are scheduled to Make an Announcement on Electoral Reform at 9:00am today ~ Wednesday, May 11, 2016

From the Order Paper we learn the Canadian Government has announced the electoral reform committee:

Government Business

No. 5
— May 10, 2016
— The Minister of Democratic Institutions —
That a Special Committee on electoral reform be appointed to identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems, such as preferential ballots and proportional representation, to replace the first-past-the-post system, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting, and to assess the extent to which the options identified could advance the following principles for electoral reform:

(a) Effectiveness and legitimacy: that the proposed measure would increase public confidence among Canadians that their democratic will, as expressed by their votes, will be fairly translated and that the proposed measure reduces distortion and strengthens the link between voter intention and the election of representatives;

(b) Engagement: that the proposed measure would encourage voting and participation in the democratic process, foster greater civility and collaboration in politics, enhance social cohesion and offer opportunities for inclusion of underrepresented groups in the political process;

(c) Accessibility and inclusiveness: that the proposed measure would avoid undue complexity in the voting process, while respecting the other principles, and that it would support access by all eligible voters regardless of physical or social condition;

(d) Integrity: that the proposed measure can be implemented while safeguarding public trust in the election process, by ensuring reliable and verifiable results obtained through an effective and objective process that is secure and preserves vote secrecy for individual Canadians;

(e) Local representation: that the proposed measure would ensure accountability and recognize the value that Canadians attach to community, to Members of Parliament understanding local conditions and advancing local needs at the national level, and to having access to Members of Parliament to facilitate resolution of their concerns and participation in the democratic process;

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 October 1, 2016;

that the Committee be directed to take into account the applicable constitutional, legal and implementation parameters in the development of its recommendations; accordingly, the Committee should seek out expert testimony on these matters;

that the Committee be directed to consult broadly with relevant experts and organizations, take into consideration consultations that have been undertaken on the issue, examine relevant research studies and literature, and review models being used or developed in other jurisdictions;

that the Committee be directed to develop its consultation agenda, working methods, and recommendations on electoral reform with the goal of strengthening the inclusion of all Canadians in our diverse society, including women, Indigenous Peoples, youth, seniors, Canadians with disabilities, new Canadians and residents of rural and remote communities;

that the Committee be directed to conduct a national engagement process that includes a comprehensive and inclusive consultation with Canadians through written submissions and online engagement tools;

that the Committee be composed of ten (10) members of which six (6) shall be government members, three (3) shall be from the Official Opposition, and one (1) shall be from the New Democratic Party; and that one (1) member from the Bloc Québécois, and the Member for Saanich-Gulf Islands also be members of the Committee but without the right to vote or move any motion;

that changes in the membership of the Committee be effective immediately after notification by the Whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;

that membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);

that, with the exception of the Member for Saanich-Gulf Islands, all other members shall be named by their respective Whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the Committee no later than ten (10) sitting days following the adoption of this motion;

that the Committee be chaired by a member of the government party; that, in addition to the Chair, there be one (1) Vice-Chair from the Official Opposition and one (1) Vice-Chair from the New Democratic Party, and that, notwithstanding Standing Order 106(3), all candidates for the position of Chair or Vice-Chair from the Official Opposition shall be elected by secret ballot, and that each candidate be permitted to address the Committee for not more than three (3) minutes;

that the quorum of the Committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118, provided that at least four members are present and provided that one (1) member from the government party and one (1) member from an opposition party are present;

that the Committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee, as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada;

that the Committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings; and

that the Committee present its final report no later than December 1, 2016.

Notice Paper | No. 53 | Wednesday, May 11, 2016 |2:00 p.m.

Of concern to me is the composition of the 10 members of the Committee:

  • 6 Liberals
  • 3 Conservatives
  • 1 NDP
  • 1 Bloc
  • 1 Green

Which is 12 seats on the committee of ten… which seems confusing until you read the part that says the Bloc and Green MPs are unequal members of the Committee,

 

…without the right to vote or move any motion;”

So it seems that the promised “all party committee” is more optical illusion than a reflection of reality.

This does not bode well.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Image Credit:

“The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic Institutions” by Laurel Russwurm is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License