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

4:55 p.m.

Director, Prairie Region, Canadian Labour Congress

Darla Deguire

To be really clear, we don't have a position on a referendum. We just would ask that all avenues be explored in the way we consult with Canadians. It may in fact be by a referendum. At the end of the day, it may be concluded that this is the best way to ask Canadians, but it could be through other means, such as town halls and local gatherings, etc.

We don't have an organizational position on it. We're not opposed to it; it's just not something that we've decided firmly either way. We encourage the process of talking as much as possible to Canadians about the issue, in whatever way it happens.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Thank you very much.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you, Mr. Maguire.

We'll close the round with Ms. Romanado.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Thank you so much.

Thank you both for being here this evening.

Professor Harding, your background will speak to this. In one area we're looking at, we've seen across Canada—at least I have, in the town halls that I have done—that there's a lot of misinformation out there, and there's a great lack of education. I don't know whether it's because folks checked out or don't care as much about electoral reform, but there's a lot of misinformation out there, and a great lack of information.

We've asked multiple witnesses about the education component, the civic literacy. I'd like to get your feedback to know what your thoughts are. I know that education is under provincial jurisdiction, but could you give us some thoughts on having groups such as yours or the labour congress and so on go out to talk to folks? How can we make sure that folks are getting the right information, so that when we are having this conversation they're prepared for it and actually know what we're deciding?

Could you elaborate a little?

5 p.m.

As an Individual

Jim Harding

I'd love to. Here I am, which makes me very happy. I've bugged your clerk in Ottawa for the last two weeks on behalf of our group. It looks like advocacy and sticking at it might actually be able to penetrate the system.

In the town hall held by the MP in Regina, there were 300 people. How many people do you see behind me? In the minister's information session, which went very well, there were another 300 people, and these were different people. How many people do you see behind me? You see, you're not hearing the same vibrant thing I did, and I'm trying to bring it to you.

I'm the representative of a learning process, because as an environmental group concerned with watershed protection, our group decided that we had a stake in this. We held meetings and we did self-study. We've been to all three of the gatherings here. There are others here from our group. You see, we've learned an immense amount in the last month because we wanted to get ready for you folks, and most of the population is not going to go through that process.

Also, a referendum is a joke in terms of democratic consent, because if you have four things on there, one pure PR and two kinds of MMP, and then preferential and first past the post, a minority view is going to win the referendum. You all know that.

I was in Thunder Bay in the 1970s when they changed the name. They used to be Port Arthur and Fort William. The business community didn't like the vying between the two groups. There was a history to it; the English were Fort William and the immigrant workers were Port Arthur. I know the history there. On the ballot, they wanted Thunder Bay. On the ballot, there were three choices: Thunder Bay, Lakehead, and The Lakehead. Do you know which one won? Thunder Bay. All kinds of people were referring to the place as “the Lakehead” and had been forever, as in, “we live at the Lakehead”. That was our common identity.

Anyway, we're Thunder Bay, and I like it because it's an Indian name, but the vote was rigged, because the majority of people did see the place as the Lakehead. If they had said “Lakehead or the Lakehead”, it probably would have received 60% of the vote.

Participation and learning are really crucial, so I don't think a referendum is going to be creating consent. I think you need to have the courage as parliamentarians and as a government to get the process moving. People need to participate in an alternative to be able to evaluate it. I really think that's true.

Things can be reversed, but we need to change in order to bring the momentum of public participation onside, particularly at this period, because you know how far down we've gone. When I was active in the 1960s, when Pearson was the prime minister, we had an 80% voter turnout, and then it was 61% for a minority government for Harper. The Liberals brought it up, but the four million more who voted brought it up only to 69%, which is 10% or 11% below the Pearson period. Our goal should be up at the top.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much. We're at the end of our round.

I think the operative word for this particular session was “serendipity”. It was our good fortune to have you here, Mr. Harding, really in an unexpected manner. We appreciate, of course, your experience with Canada's political history, including going as far back as Tommy Douglas here in Saskatchewan. Thank you.

Thank you, Ms. Deguire, for giving us the perspective of the Canadian Labour Congress and speaking so clearly and honestly.

Again, thank you to both witnesses.

We'll now move to the open-mike session. We have two mikes. I'll call people up to mike one and mike two. When mike one is free because the person has intervened, I'll invite a person up to mike one while the person at mike two is speaking.

We have two minutes per speaker at the mikes. It's very important that we respect that time limit. If I have to cut you off, it's not that we're trying to be rude or that you've done something wrong; it's just the dynamics of these kinds of meetings. Please don't take it personally.

We'll start at mike one with Mr. Imhoff and at mike two with Robert Bandurka.

Mr. Imhoff, the floor is yours for two minutes, please.

5:05 p.m.

Kenneth Imhoff As an Individual

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak before you.

I'm president of the Regina—Qu'Appelle NDP federal riding association. This is on the ground, and it's what we're talking about. Our presentation was a product of a consultation within our federal riding executive.

We only have two minutes, although we had also asked to be a witness before the panel, which certainly concerns me, but so be it. We have some critical points to put forward. We believe that a proportional representative system would be certainly an improvement over first past the post.

We are not necessarily in favour of a ranked voting system because I think it would add a whole degree of complexity, and if anything goes wrong, then it's going to undermine public confidence.

A mixed member proportional representative system, we believe, best represents the principle that every vote counts. We've heard the term every vote counts, but from the point of view of our executive it's every vote counts to its maximum potential, and that's the key piece of it. A mixed member proportional system ought to represent, and as close as possible match, the proportion of the vote cast for a given political party in a given province. We believe that under such a system the emphasis must be on the province or the region.

There's a corollary to that, which is important for the Regina—Qu'Appelle riding, and it is that it has to acknowledge a gender balance when we talk about the list for such a mixed member system. It must acknowledge gender balance, first nations, and visible minorities.

This is a particularly sensitive issue for the Regina—Qu'Appelle electorate, because it is composed of 11 reserves. Think of that. We have 11 of the 71. A little over 21% of the population in Regina—Qu'Appelle is first nations, because we are also composed of both urban and rural—

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

In terms of the 11, I missed that point. You were saying you had...?

5:05 p.m.

As an Individual

Kenneth Imhoff

We have 11 of the 71 first nations.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Right, so under proportional representation they'd be better represented is essentially your....

5:05 p.m.

As an Individual

Kenneth Imhoff

I would suggest to you that they're not really represented in our riding.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Got it. Okay.

We're going to have to go to mike number two, Mr. Imhoff.

I'm sorry; you went well over two minutes. We're at 2:44.

5:05 p.m.

As an Individual

Kenneth Imhoff

I find it very frustrating.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

I know, but you made your points, and they're good points.

Mr. Bandurka is next, and we'll ask Mr. Kuyek to come to mike number one, please. Is Mr. Kuyek here? Yes.

I will put up my hand at 90 seconds for everybody.

September 19th, 2016 / 5:05 p.m.

Robert Bandurka As an Individual

I don't think I'm going to be watching either.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

We'll do our best.

Go ahead, Mr. Bandurka.

5:05 p.m.

As an Individual

Robert Bandurka

I must confess that I am probably going to be the most partisan presenter today. I'm making these comments to the committee because you have both an enviable job and a disheartening one—enviable because of all the good that can happen, but disheartening because it's virtually impossible to be done in 10 or so weeks. It could be done in 10 years, maybe, but not before 2019, which is the next election. Plus, it's exciting. We get to contribute some ideas and maybe even have somebody listen to them.

One of the things I wanted to present, but I'm trying to cut it down as quickly as I can, is that part of our problem here today is we're looking at the wrong solution. The solution is abuse of parliamentary tradition, declining turnouts, continuous political advertising, vote splitting, etc.

My suggestion is—and that's really the gist of my paper that I presented—why don't we try to limit the power of the Prime Minister's Office incrementally, starting right now? I'm presenting this more to this side of the table than to that one.

Some of the things that you could do that would reverse some of these trends is to start by eliminating the omnibus legislation or at least modifying how the voting takes place for that, returning the per vote subsidies, having transparent financing and so on down the line, and then having advertising outside the writ period funded entirely by the party.

I have put this all in a paper, and it has been presented to the committee.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Go ahead, Mr. Cullen.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

I have a small intervention.

I suspect this may be frustrating for some of our public guests who want to make a comment. As the last gentleman said, it's difficult to get in all you want to say in two minutes.

5:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Robert Bandurka

Thank you for referring to me as a gentleman.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

You're welcome. It was meant as a compliment.

As has been demonstrated, because of the committee's restricted time, written submissions to the committee in supplement to what is being said at the microphone should be emphasized. I know how difficult it is to try to compact a lot of feelings and thoughts about our democracy or voting systems into 120 seconds.

5:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Robert Bandurka

That was coming from the partisan side of me. Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

We have Mr. Kuyek, and I invite Mr. Klein to mike number two.

Mr. Kuyek, go ahead, please.

5:10 p.m.

Nial Kuyek As an Individual

Thank you for this opportunity.

For disclosure purposes, I should state that I was a candidate in Regina—Qu'Appelle in the last federal election.

I'm going to be very quick. I recommend that the committee look seriously at the mixed member proportional system as the preferred means of electoral reform, as it is far superior to first past the post or the preferential ballot.

I suggest that you look at how electronic technology can be embraced in making our electoral system more inclusive.

I suggest that we look at a phased-in system for mandatory voting and for mandatory penalties applied to that, as they have in Australia.

I suggest that the committee reject any notion of a referendum. We live in a parliamentary democracy. You were elected to make informed decisions on our behalf. I only hear Conservative MPs and local Conservative members talking about a referendum. I find that very contradictory and hypocritical, because former agriculture minister Gerry Ritz had promised a referendum on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. On the morning after the 2011 election he was on the radio saying they now had a mandate to proceed with change. They rejected the referendum, didn't give farmers a vote, and created the change that dismantled the finest marketing institution in the world.

The Liberal, New Democratic, and Green parties had electoral reform in their platforms. You have the mandate from the last election to proceed with meaningful electoral change in Canada.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you very much.

I invite Mr. Keith to mike number one while Mr. Klein speaks to us for two minutes, please.