Evidence of meeting #24 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 saskatchewan.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Boda  Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Saskatchewan
Charles Smith  Associate Professor, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan, As an Individual
Darla Deguire  Director, Prairie Region, Canadian Labour Congress
Jim Harding  As an Individual
Kenneth Imhoff  As an Individual
Robert Bandurka  As an Individual
Nial Kuyek  As an Individual
John Klein  As an Individual
Ross Keith  As an Individual
Dave A.J. Orban  As an Individual
Lorna Evans  As an Individual
Erich Keser  As an Individual
Patricia Donovan  As an Individual
Calvin Johnson  As an Individual
Patricia Farnese  As an Individual
Jane Anweiler  As an Individual
William Baker  As an Individual
Russ Husum  As an Individual
Lee Ward  Associate Professor of Political Science, Campion College, University of Regina, As an Individual
Carl Cherland  As an Individual
Nancy Carswell  As an Individual
David Sabine  As an Individual
Randall Lebell  As an Individual
Shane Simpson  As an individual
Dastageer Sakhizai  As an individual
D-Jay Krozer  As an Individual
Maria Lewans  As an Individual
Norman L. Petry  As an Individual
Rachel Morgan  As an Individual
Dauna Ditson  As an Individual
Frances Simonson  As an Individual
Rodney Williams  As an Individual
William Clary  As an Individual

September 19th, 2016 / 5:10 p.m.

John Klein As an Individual

Thank you.

I noticed that I'm one of the younger people in the gallery. We're obviously missing the demographic of the twenties and the teens, so my key suggestion would be that we seriously consider lowering the voting age to 16 or 15 so that people don't grow up to be disenfranchised teenagers who can drive cars and participate in society, except to the extent of choosing their lawmakers.

That's a key change, because even if we change the electoral system, it still won't matter to teenagers. If they don't become interested in democracy at a young age, maybe they won't stay interested afterward.

Just as a quick story, when I was a teenager at university, I decided to vote where I lived, in residence, as opposed to going home to my parents' riding to vote there. Had I travelled home, I would have changed the result of the election, because it ended in a tie, so I'm responsible for a tie in parliamentary democracy voting.

That would not be a problem if we had a proportional system, because then the losers would not be totally out and not have a voice for the next four years. We really need to make a system in which everybody has a voice. Even if we don't like what they're saying, they still need to be able to participate in creating our laws.

Right now I think we have a lot of problems in addressing serious issues like climate change because, as Dr. Harding mentioned, we have local representatives who are still beholden to special interests over the interests of the entire constituency.

Thanks.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

I'd ask Mr. Dave Orban to take mike number two, and we'll go to Mr. Keith for two minutes, please. Go ahead, sir.

5:15 p.m.

Ross Keith As an Individual

My name is Ross Keith. I'm from Regina. I'm here today because I had a unique opportunity to have some very direct experience with the ranked ballot process. I have for you today one observation and one plea.

My experience was as a director of the Canadian Wheat Board. As you're probably aware, there were 10 elected representatives and five appointed representatives. I was one of the appointed. Those elected farmers ran in ridings about the size of your ridings. The experience we had with that was that there was an absolutely exponential improvement after the ranked ballot process was in.

I have an example for you, and it was very contentious, as you know. On the pro-Wheat Board side there was one farmer who was an expert in marketing. Another was an expert in transportation. They were both very strongly in favour of the board. Their supporters had to choose between persons with different expertise.

The same thing happened on the other side. There was one incumbent who was afraid to run because they might split the vote. In terms of your engagement item here, it absolutely had more power than this strict notion about PR.

My message is that I hope you plugged into that experience from the Wheat Board with the ranked ballot process. I'm assuming that you have talked to Meyers Norris and Penny, which was sort of our electoral officer, our Elections Saskatchewan or Elections Canada.

Here's my plea for you: do not let it become just a poll between PR or ranked ballot and first past the post.

At the meeting that Mr. Harding talked about, we had the minister in town the other day, and there was a member of the audience, also a member of Parliament, our local NDP member, who got up and asked for a straw vote, so people were talking then about PR, ranked ballot, and first past the post. That's not on. You can have the benefits of all.

As Mr. Harding said, this is a design exercise. You need to pick the best from proportional representation and from ranked ballot. I believe there's one on the Fair Vote Canada site—

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you.

Thank you. You can submit that.

Thank you. We'll take the submission for sure. We'll take your submission in writing, if you want to give us your notes.

5:15 p.m.

As an Individual

Ross Keith

I appreciate the time. I do think that this is an incredibly important issue. Don't do a referendum.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

We have Mr. Orban at mike two, and then I'll ask Ms. Evans to go to mike one if she's here.

Mr. Orban, you have the floor for two minutes.

5:15 p.m.

Dave A.J. Orban As an Individual

Because the current set of political ideologies, with one exception, is devoted solely to the economic and social benefit of humans, I come here as the self-appointed spokesperson for the non-human organisms that have no voice.

As the mycologist Paul Stamets recently said, if there were a federation of organisms, humans would be voted off the planet. To give that one exceptional ideology a chance to speak for our biological cousins, we need some form of proportional representation.

Some years ago, the Law Commission of Canada came to the same conclusion in their report on electoral options for Canada, specifying mixed member proportional.

By the way, the hypothetical vote by the “United Federation of Organisms” was also for mixed member proportional, as is my personal preference.

Thank you.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

We'll go to Ms. Evans at mike number one and we'll ask Mr. Erich Keser to go to mike number two, please.

Go ahead, Ms. Evans.

5:20 p.m.

Lorna Evans As an Individual

Hello. We must change the electoral system. We must quit having majority governments with all the power a Canadian majority government has without even receiving a majority of the votes of Canadians.

It is very disheartening and frustrating for citizens when one political party has so much power to implement whatever it wants without the majority of voters' support. First past the post often leaves many of us feeling as if our votes don't count. This discourages voter participation and creates cynicism and apathy about the whole system.

In the last couple of elections, I have even considered strategic voting, which goes against what I believe about the importance of voting and of voting by conscience. That is what the first-past-the-post system does to people. I feel strongly that some type of proportional representation system would most fairly represent the choices of the electorate, particularly to tackle issues such as global warming, the most urgent issue of our time. We can't afford to have an electoral system that ignores so many of the voices of people all across the country who care about the environment. Our earth cannot endure another government like the Harper majority government, a first-past-the-post creation.

The Trudeau government is also a first-past-the-post false majority, and I am becoming increasingly concerned about its commitment to the environment. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I hope we seize this chance, get rid of first past the post once and for all, and implement a system of proportional representation under which every vote will count.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much, Ms. Evans.

Mr. Keser is at mike number two. In the meantime, I invite Ms. Donovan to take mike number one.

Mr. Keser, you have two minutes, please.

5:20 p.m.

Erich Keser As an Individual

In 1992, I did the research on proportional representation in Germany and Italy, and on some other systems, for the head of political science at Laurentian University as part of the report on electoral reform and party finances. It sits gathering dust in government archives 22 years later. Nothing, of course, happened with it.

I'm a dual citizen. I lived in Germany for some time. I am active in trying to keep up my German with a group of Germans. I remember having people like the head of the Canadian Light Source ask me how a party that got less that 30% of the vote could possibly exercise discipline over even its own members, the way Hitler did in Germany.

We're a unique combination, I think, of party discipline and first past the post. In other jurisdictions, in the U.K., people can disagree with their party, but not in Canada.

We were in New Zealand in 2001, and people told us how they felt. Proportional representation had come through dual referenda. The first was on changing the electoral system.

You heard what that poll, a neutral poll of public opinion, found about how satisfied Canadians are with the system. They had two referenda, and there was another attempt. The first one was overwhelming, despite the opposition of both majority parties. The second referendum ranked which system to use.

We are one of six—I looked this up in Wikipedia yesterday—major democracies that.... Over 30 stable democracies with over two million citizens use proportional representation. We've become a backwater in terms of democracy.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thanks very much, Mr. Keser.

Ms. Donovan is next, and I would ask Mr. Calvin Johnson to take mike number two, please.

5:20 p.m.

Patricia Donovan As an Individual

Thank you very much.

I just want to say thank you. This is an extraordinary day. I've heard four phenomenal witnesses.

You around the table are on an adventure. This is Canada. This is what I'm here for. I'm a Canadian citizen. I love Canada.

My challenge to you folks is this: listen with your hearts, and take your hats off. Your political hats are not locked on.

Stick to your principles. You've all agreed on your principles; stick to your principles, listen with your hearts, and take us forward.

Thank you.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

Mr. Johnson is next, and then I'd like Ms. Patricia Farnese to take mike one, please.

Mr. Johnson, go ahead.

5:25 p.m.

Calvin Johnson As an Individual

Thank you.

First of all, I want to thank the panel for coming to Regina to listen to our views and our opinions. That was good advice our lady friend over here gave, to listen with your hearts and take off your political hats.

I guess we've already started a little bit of electoral reform with our fixed election dates. That's one step. I also appreciated what Mr. Boda had to say about taking enough time to get the system right and not rush into something when we don't know what's in front of us.

First of all, the voting system we have used for the last 150 years in Canada has served us well. I don't think we need to rush to fix something that isn't broken yet. Second, changing a system that's based on an election promise is a faulty premise. The promise that was made during the last election was politically motivated, and I think we need to be aware of that. Third, to have 338 of our MPs vote on this issue is a conflict of interest. I know you're MPs, but I think for 338 people to vote on something like this is not right.

I am one of the 60% of voters who did not vote for the present government, and therefore I must express my views at this hearing. I feel that the process that could be followed would be to collect voters' views and present them to all of the voters in Canada. Hopefully you're listening with your hearts. We've also received some information that will help voters determine what would work if anything is changed.

We need to have a clearly worded referendum in the 2019 election that requires a yes-or-no answer about electoral reform. That would be a very simple thing to do. Based on a vote of more than 50% for yes or no, then you could proceed to honour the intentions of the voters when the 2023 election takes place.

Let's take our time as we go forward.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you, Mr. Johnson.

Ms. Farnese is next, and I will ask Jane Anweiler to take mike number two.

5:25 p.m.

Patricia Farnese As an Individual

I'm here as someone who has voted for 20-plus years in four different provinces and multiple cities. Not once has my vote been represented in government, either provincially or federally. I'm a parent of teenagers. I'm used to not being listened to, but I came here today because I'm a professor of law and a lawyer, and I'm concerned about how first past the post is undermining our rule of law.

We've become a country that is voting against things instead of for things. When you vote against someone, what you're saying to your neighbours is “Your views, your values, don't have a place in my government.” We've seen political parties become more entrenched in their views, and then we ask these people to come to the table and compromise.

We don't get that anymore. We get governments—and this is federally, provincially, and across parties—that feel they have a mandate to push their agenda without compromise. That challenges the rule of law, because when my voice is not a part of making the law, it's easier for me to say that I don't have to follow the law. If that means standing in front of a bulldozer to protest a pipeline or refusing to pay your taxes, that's a problem. We need to change our voting system so we can become the democracy that we once were.

We are really risking the rule of law in Canada if we maintain this system.

Thank you.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you so much for that intervention.

If Mr. William Baker is here, he can take mike number one. Thank you.

Go ahead, Ms. Anweiler.

5:30 p.m.

Jane Anweiler As an Individual

Thank you for allowing me to speak.

My name is Jane Anweiler, and I'm speaking on my own behalf.

I want to make four brief points, hopefully.

The first one is making my vote count. This one is near and dear to my heart, because I have not had the opportunity to make my vote count lately and I believe making votes count is also one of this committee's prime goals.

During the last federal election I knocked on doors with a candidate, did leaflet drops, made phone calls from the constituency office, and cast my ballot, all for a party that I did not belong to. I felt that working for the party that I am a card-sharing member of and that I donate cash to monthly would be a waste, as my party's candidate did not have a chance of winning, and if I voted for him, my vote would not count. I was voting against a party I did not want to win instead of voting for the party I did want to win. In other words, I voted strategically.

The good news is that the candidate I worked for and voted for won, but it was not my party, and that makes me sad. I want my vote to count, and I want to vote for something and not against something. I ask you to please make that possible.

My second point is about proportional representation. Until two or three months ago, I had no real idea what this meant and I certainly did not know that many countries in the world use this system. Frankly, I thought most countries used first past the post and that only some tiny, mostly unknown countries used different voting systems. Boy, was I ever wrong. Now I know that only five or six countries still use first past the post and that a large number of countries use various proportional representation systems. My personal favourite is now called mixed member proportional representation with open lists.

The last few months have been very educational for me. I've heard that explaining and understanding proportional representation voting is very complex and confusing for voters. I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer and I've managed to figure it out, so it can't be that hard.

Anyway, are we saying that all those people in all those countries that use proportional representation are smarter than Canadians? I think we can figure it out. Proportional representation seems the best electoral system to help this committee meet its goals of more gender equality, ethnic diversity, and regional representation.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

Finally, we have Mr. William Baker.

5:30 p.m.

William Baker As an Individual

On behalf of Canadians who want representative and effective government, I would respectfully demand that any electoral changes abandoning first past the post be subject to a referendum.

I attended the electoral reform consultation September 11, where we formed small groups and had to answer questions like “Do you think voting should be mandatory?”, which had nothing to do with core issues of electoral reform. I thought it was a sham.

I have some questions of my own.

Why has proportional representation utterly failed the people of Spain?

Why has Italy suffered instability with proportional representation?

Why have ranked ballots been a disaster for the people of Australia?

Why do the people of British Columbia reject single transferable vote?

How can we trust the future of Canadian democracy to a committee that meets behind closed doors?

I might trust the Liberals to produce a gender neutral passport, but I don't think I trust them to tackle electoral reform, where so many parties have failed. We respectfully demand a referendum on any electoral changes that abandon 150 years of first past the post.

Consider that the British neo-fascist party had 500,000 voting members at one point and would have certainly sent members to Parliament under proportional representation. They were excluded by first past the post. The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party recently elected a member due to redistribution of votes and ranked ballots. A member who would have been elected with a simple majority was excluded from government.

I ask that you let all Canadians decide. Canadians must have a referendum on electoral reform.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much, Mr. Baker.

Thank you to all who came to the mike and had thought about their comments in advance and were thus able to express them so succinctly and convincingly within the time allotted.

Committee members, we will now break, but if we could be back here ready to start again at 6:30 sharp, it would be appreciated. We'll have another session and another open mike a little later this evening.

We'll see you in a bit.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Good evening to everyone.

This still qualifies as the 24th meeting. The 24th meeting, evening edition: let's put it that way.

Each witness will have 10 minutes to present their ideas.

We have with us Professor Lee Ward, associate professor of political science, Campion College, University of Regina. We also have Mr. Russ Husum, who I believe developed an electoral system.

Is that correct? Are you going to speak to an electoral system?

6:35 p.m.

Russ Husum As an Individual

No, it's a counting system.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

It's a counting system. Well, I'm sure it could add to our options for sure.

I believe, gentlemen, you know the format. You speak for 10 minutes, and then we have a round of questions in which each MP can engage with you for five minutes. Those five minutes include the questions and the answers.

We'll start with Professor Ward. You have 10 minutes, please.