I think that's a very good point. I'm not sure the public is as invested in the current system as we sometimes think they are. There may be a natural and kind of healthy reluctance to change without understanding the full ramifications of the change, but for Canadians generally—and as a political scientist, I say this with a sad heart—I think we do need a civics lesson as a people, and we need to take our institutions more seriously.
One of the things I find when students ask me whether it matters if they vote is that the sad truth in many cases is that your vote really doesn't matter as an individual, unless you're in a highly competitive riding, in which case your vote really matters.
As you know, we had some very close races in Saskatchewan in the last election. I live in Regina—Lewvan, which had one of the closest in the country, and maybe the closest. My students were electrified by that race in Regina—Lewvan. In the other parts of Regina, they knew so-and-so was going to win, but wow, this was quite something. Not only that, but there was a kind of calculation that kicked in when people starting thinking strategically and started asking me questions. I said that I couldn't tell them how to vote, but I could tell them how to find out about the issues they care about. I saw a much greater engagement. The data is there to show that when you have closer contests, you will get greater turnout.
As a general principle, I think, one effect of the greater PR system is that it would take away the sense that your territorial location will determine your significance as a citizen voting in an election, the sense that by simply being a Canadian citizen voting in an election, you will have contributed in some way to the formation of our Parliament in a meaningful way, not just negatively.
There's a very abstract sense that the general will is all of us. Mechanically, it's almost impossible to do that, and I understand that we're going to have thresholds and there are going to be areas of traditional strength for different parties, but if we can diminish that as much as we can mechanically, I think you will find a greater spirit and engagement.
Even from the sense that the losing candidate in my riding put up a good show, I think people got a sense that now this was beyond just symbolism and that it would actually be in some way represented in Parliament. I'm absolutely convinced—and the data is very clear—that the country should have a form of proportionality built into the system. The turnout is higher.
There are other things, too, such as the question of mandatory voting. They're all really interesting questions and important ones, but I think even such a simple thing as introducing a significant amount of proportionality will increase turnout. So too, perhaps, would greater choice, so maybe we could even just have multiple choices on the ballot, but again, I think there's the sense that you're still getting winners and losers.