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

8:10 p.m.

As an Individual

David Sabine

Thank you.

8:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

I would ask Mr. Shane Simpson to take mike number one.

Mr. Lebell, please provide us with your comments.

8:10 p.m.

Randall Lebell As an Individual

Thank you all very much for taking most of the points that I had written down prior to coming here, but I do have a few left.

I want to make a statement regarding environmental issues. In an era when we face global environmental challenges, we need the most representative, resilient, and dynamic democracy we can muster, so some form of PR is clearly a better system than what we now have, as it fosters a government that is more representative of the people's choices. I believe it will ensure a government that is more accountable, transparent, and responsive to a changing world environment.

Here in Saskatchewan, we have taken the resource sector assault on our chins and we're suffering from a lack of serious regulation. There has been a lot of deregulation on waterways and in the oil sector, and we've got fracking all over the place. We have nuclear industry in the north and deforestation, and oil is affecting many waterways. I think we'll be held accountable for that through interprovincial waterways regulations, and I think that's an important thing to keep in mind.

That's about all I have to say. Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear.

8:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

If Mr. Dastageer Sakhizai could take mike number two, we'll listen first to Mr. Shane Simpson.

8:15 p.m.

Shane Simpson As an individual

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak.

As a business owner and a landowner in Saskatchewan, I am very concerned when a hearing of such importance is held in Saskatchewan in the middle of harvest time when the majority of Saskatchewan farmers and ranchers are in their fields trying to bring in their crops or hay, etc., before another Saskatchewan winter.

When a new government promises a deficit of $10 billion in its first three years and actually spends $30 billion or $30,000 million in its first nine months and then wants to change the way Canadian elections are done, it makes me very concerned.

It is unbelievably arrogant and dangerous to our Canadian democracy when a new government that is already failing on its fiscal promises to Canadians says it now wants to change the way Canadians vote without the consent of the majority of Canadians. I estimate that through a fairly worded referendum, every one of the 26 million people old enough to vote would express their views, and I hope that we have a referendum before something is pushed through without the will of the people.

Thank you.

8:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

I want Mr. Krozer to take mike number one, and we'll listen to your comments now, Mr. Sakhizai.

8:15 p.m.

Dastageer Sakhizai As an individual

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity.

I would like to thank Professor Ward for making a compelling case against the current system and for proportional representation, particularly for the MMP system. I strongly support those views.

I will be specific on a couple of things. First, Professor Ward mentioned the word “empowerment”. In my view, empowerment and inclusion are connected. A study was published in 2005, sponsored by the federal government. It established a strong correlation between inclusion and social cohesiveness. While we encourage and celebrate diversity and multiculturalism in our country, ideally we also would like to have a very cohesive society. In my view, any model of proportional representation fits that image, goal, or vision, but MMP is the best.

The other thing I would like to mention is the ranked ballot. As far as I know, it usually benefits centrist parties. In the Canadian context, we see that our country's governance has been monopolized by two parties. I think the ranked system encouraging or benefiting the centrist parties has a very high likelihood of allowing that two-party system to come back.

8:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you.

Basically, you think that the ranked ballot distorts things even more.

8:15 p.m.

As an individual

8:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

If Maria Rose Lewans, I think it is, could take number two, we'll go now with Mr. Krozer.

8:15 p.m.

D-Jay Krozer As an Individual

Hello, my name is D-Jay Krozer. I'm the vice-president of Local 609 Unifor in Saskatoon. Furthermore, I'm a student of economics and political studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

In October 2015, you were given a mandate by the people of Canada. You have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here, and I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to convince you to exercise your mandate.

All major political parties, except for the Conservatives, campaigned on reforming our electoral system, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that 2015 would be the last federal election held on the defunct single-member plurality system, better known as first-past-the-post electoral system.

I ran as an independent in the constituency of Blackstrap in 2006. In 2006, I received a phone call from an irate voter saying, “What the heck are you doing? Don't you realize you're taking votes away from a good candidate?”

The point I want to make is that it was the first time I realized that voters were actually voting strategically in Canada. I had been under the mistaken belief that people voted for candidates they liked and for things they believed in.

I've been working elections for some 40 years now. I do not have a very good track record, but I keep doing it because I believe in Canadian democracy.

I find that Canadian voters are negative voters. We tend more to vote against what we don't like than for what we do like. Because of our first-past-the-post electoral system, politics has become very negative. What used to be the topic of choice around the dinner table has become taboo. Electoral apathy is rampant because people believe their vote doesn't count.

Opponents to proportional representation claim that proportional representation results in unstable minority and coalition governments. However, coalition and minority governments tend to be more co-operative and collaborative. As Germany and other democracies employing proportional representation have shown, they can be very stable and effective.

8:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

If Mr. Petry could take mike number one, we'll listen now to Ms. Lewans.

8:20 p.m.

Maria Lewans As an Individual

I think if you're doing a...sorry.

8:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Take your time.

8:20 p.m.

Maria Rose Lewans

The system....

8:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

We're doing a good job is what I think you wanted to say.

8:20 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

8:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Maria Lewans

I think it's important to question the role of the government—not just the way the elections are held, but the role that government plays in this world. I mean, our system is broken. We still have poverty. You wouldn't build a house without a good foundation; why would you build a country without making sure you take care of everybody?

At least you must question life and what this world means and what we're doing to it in this petty squabbling, and what it means to exist.

I guess I'm more of an environmentalist. I hate the term “climate change”, because it's debatable. It's a natural occurrence too, but do you want clean air to breathe and clean water to drink?

We should be considering all options, including the complete abolishment of government, or decentralization and shrinking it to a more municipal and localized level.

We have to decide what we really need. Think of Maslow's hierarchy and what we really need as a species. We need food, water, and shelter. There's a certain amount we need in life and a certain amount we don't.

An example, say, is the tax credit for sports. Sports are a healthy part, but kids' sports is a community initiative that we can take care of. Do we need competitive sport, especially with all this research going into concussions and what they do to people and—

8:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Do you feel a particular electoral system will be able to decide these issues more effectively?

8:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Maria Lewans

Yes, even listening to this, I still feel very ignorant as to what exactly.... Sometimes you need an incubation period.

8:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Well, of course, and there's information on our committee website. There's a fantastic briefing document prepared by our analysts. It's really important that you came tonight to learn about what we're trying to do here on our cross-country tour, so thank you very much.

Unfortunately, we're at two minutes, but thank you for stepping up.

We'll go to Mr. Petry, but first I'd like Rachel Morgan to take mike number two, please.

Go ahead, Mr. Petry.

September 19th, 2016 / 8:25 p.m.

Norman L. Petry As an Individual

First, I'd like to say I strongly support the adoption of a system of proportional representation for Canada. It is for this reason that I urge the committee to reject any recommendation to adopt a mixed member proportional system, because it's proportional only in name. Although it's called a proportional system, it's a system that is deeply flawed in that it's easily gamed. Let me explain.

If a political party simply divides itself into two parties—one that runs candidates who are likely to win at the constituency level and not candidates on the party list, and another that says it is a regional alliance party and runs all its candidates on the list system—then what ends up happening is that the result is not party proportional.

It's easy to see this. This is not a hypothetical concern. This actually occurs in every place that has adopted the mixed member proportional system. For example, in Venezuela, a party took 57.4% of the parliamentary seats with 48% of the vote. It happened in the Italian election in 2001. It happened in Albania in 2005. In Lesotho, a party took almost 70% of the seats with 51% of the vote. It's a very simple strategy that any party can adopt, because polling is easy.

Additional-member systems work only if every party that wins seats would be entitled to additional votes from the party list, but that is not guaranteed. It's easily possible, say in an assembly of 100 representatives, for a party that gets 20% of the vote overall to get 30% of the seats. In that situation there are no additional members to—

8:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

I think you're referring to a very complex calculation related to what's called overhang seats. I think this is more or less the territory we're getting into.

8:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Norman L. Petry

Yes, and you can fix it in two different ways. You can either have a variable assembly, meaning that you would add members to make the proportions work out—in which case you have no idea before the election how many representatives you're going to have or how many seats you're actually going to need in the building—or you can take away actual won seats from the parties that are overrepresented.

8:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

There are systems that deal with these distortions, I believe, but we take your point that in mixed proportional, you still need to make some kinds of adjustments.