Evidence of meeting #12 for Electoral Reform in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was voters.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Dennis Pilon  Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, York University, As an Individual
Jonathan Rose  Associate Professor, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, As an Individual
Maryantonett Flumian  President, Institute on Governance

12:15 p.m.

Prof. Dennis Pilon

The youth voter issue is a complex one. The research on voter turnout has shown that actually the problem isn't with university students—we've actually increased the voter turnout of university students—but with non-university students. We've seen a decline in youth voter turnout, but at the same time, we've seen an increase in university students coming out. The problem is that the gains have been erased by poor and working-class youth not participating. I think that is a very, very serious question from the point of view of equity. Why are these groups no longer participating? There are all kinds of complex reasons, which I go into in some of my research.

I think there are lots of things we could do in a kind of Captain Canada sort of way to involve our young people in politics more directly.

Norway—and Henry Milner has done work on this—has a mini-version of the Storting across the street, and all Norwegian students come there and participate in mock parliaments, where they try to get their stuff passed. They have people come over from the Storting. We could ramp that up and roll that out in this country. I think that would be a really major way of trying to help young people build their capacity to participate.

12:15 p.m.

President, Institute on Governance

Maryantonett Flumian

I would ramp that up with a civics education program that restores civics in our educational systems, because the ignorance about the way our system works is amazing, probably even for some of you until you get here. That's why we're mixing models. Maybe we want to mix models, but we have to be conscious of the fact that as children of Westminster, if we end up with “Washminster,” we do it by design.

Government by referendum is not my kind of government.

12:15 p.m.

Prof. Jonathan Rose

I think lowering the voting age is a good thing, but I think it misses the symptom for the cause. Younger people aren't voting for a reason, and lowering the voting age to 16 encourages that habit at the heart. That's very important. We know that once people vote, they continue to vote, so that certainly would have a beneficial effect.

The other two things I would mention are things that have just been mentioned: increased civics education and empowering organizations like Student Vote, which does civics education in high schools at the grassroots level, to facilitate and encourage that conversation about youth engagement.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

I find that fascinating. You're saying lowering the voting age may not necessarily be the only option and that there are a lot of other things we should be doing. I think civic engagement is most important.

Thank you.

Do I have more time?

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Yes, you have about one minute.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

How about new Canadians? Civics isn't necessarily going to answer that, though I think that is important. How do we deal with educating new Canadians?

12:15 p.m.

President, Institute on Governance

Maryantonett Flumian

I think it's partially the same answer. Civic education for new Canadians is their opportunity. They even may have come to us because of our model of governance. We don't know that.

I was born in Italy, and when my parents emigrated from Italy, I was steeped in what the Canadian model would look like, but if you're not in search of it, you're not going to find it. Therefore, the state's desire to inform people as much as possible on these matters means that we need special civic outreach programs for people who come to us later in life, already at voting age, and become Canadian citizens and then are part of the fabric of what Canada becomes.

There's an educational and a civic component there. Again, it's not only about voting: it's how you participate in our democratic institutions. It is more than exercising the franchise, so we need a special outreach to those communities as well.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

If I may add at this time, I'd like to do a shout-out to two high schools in my riding, St. Thomas High School and Lindsay Place High School, which hold model United Nations every year. It's really fascinating to see how keen the students are and how much they learn about world issues.

I also think that when MPs are invited into the classrooms to talk about their work, I've always found the students are extremely interested. They are riveted, in many cases.

I also believe it's very important for schools to come to Parliament and witness question period. They find it interesting, even exciting, and I think that dovetails with what you're all saying about the need for more civic education.

Thank you to the panellists. We had a great panel, a great debate. It clarified many points of view. Thank you for being here in the last week of July when you could be somewhere else, obviously.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Reid, you have the floor.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, we had passed a motion that our subcommittee would be discussing Minister Dion's refusal of our invitation to come to this committee. When is that subcommittee scheduled to meet?

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

I don't have a specific date, but we could set something up for when we come back on August 22.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

I'd have to make reference to something that happened in camera. Is there not a possibility of doing it earlier than that?

July 28th, 2016 / 12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Well, it's only that we don't meet again until August 22 as a committee, so members won't be here physically until the 22nd. I think that might be the best time, but....

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Could I make the request that you, as our chair, approach the minister between now and when the committee meets to inquire—

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Mr. Chair, on a point of order, that is not a point of order but a point of information.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

That's true. I think the first point was a point of order, but....

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Procedurally, I'm not sure what this is. I'm not sure if Ms. Romanado is trying to prevent me from saying something. If that's the case, she could articulate it that way.

What I wanted to say is that I wonder if you could write a letter on behalf of the committee asking Minister Dion if he could express to us what reasons have kept him from appearing. In particular, if a scheduling issue is the problem, then at our subcommittee meeting we could address the issue of trying to provide or recommend to the main committee an additional meeting at which he could be accommodated.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

I don't think it's a point of order, but I'll consider your request. We did invite the minister and he didn't provide a response, but I will consider your point and, as I say, we'll try to schedule a subcommittee meeting for August 22.

I think we'll also have to hold an in camera meeting of the whole committee to discuss another motion around August 22. Is that correct?

12:20 p.m.

A Voice

Yes.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Yes, so we'll start planning those meetings.

Thank you, everybody. Thank you to the committee members and witnesses. We'll see you soon.

The meeting is adjourned.