Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
What we are talking about today is the heart of our democracy and one of the most important things we have to decide, because the way we elect people is the heart of everything. All of the rest belongs to the choices that we make to elect our members. Everything—budget, taxes, policies, international affairs, defence—belongs to those who have been elected. It is the heart of our country.
This is the heart of our democracy. As far as I'm concerned, the method we use to elect people is the most important institution. It is more important than the Governor General and the Prime Minister and anything else. This is why it's very touchy. When we talk about institutions, we must be sure of what we're doing when we make any move.
We think that the best way to be sure we are making the right choice is to ask the people what they think. I'm not the only one who thinks like that. Let me quote a famous senior minister of the Liberal cabinet, the Honourable Stéphane Dion, former Liberal leader, academic for 20 years, well recognized from coast to coast, who said:
Precedent makes holding a referendum necessary in Canada: changing the voting system would require popular support.
It was not a Conservative who said that. It was a senior Liberal cabinet minister, the backbone of the government, who said that. I disagree with him on many issues, but I do respect the fact that he's an intellectual, an academic, well recognized, a Ph.D. On that issue, I can assure you that he's in the right place. In politics in a democracy, we are always in the right place when we ask people what they think about what is best for the future.
We all recognize, too, Mr. Chair, that our present electoral system is not perfect.
It certainly isn't, and woe to anyone who thinks otherwise. There is no perfect system. That is why you must be very sure of what you are doing if you want to change anything. Keep in mind that it took 11 years for New Zealand to complete its process.
Mr. Pilon, we do not agree on the referendum. You are quite right to think as you do. You're not the only one with this view. The same applies to us, as we are not alone in wanting a referendum. People from all walks of life do, including sovereignists in the Bloc Québecois, renowned great federalists like Stéphane Dion, and us, Conservatives. We believe that, if we have to change the electoral system, which is the most important institution in our democracy, we must do it by consulting Canadians.
Mr. Pilon, you do not think so. Do you think we should not hold a referendum? On what authority could you claim to know what is good for people if you don't ask them?