Thank you, Madam Chair.
Perhaps it will be the case that folks on the committee will have what they need in order to participate in the discussion by the time I'm finished my remarks.
What I'd like to say is that I don't think the amendment really contributes to the best spirit of the motion. I think many of my colleagues on the committee will be familiar with the debate around a referendum that was had in a very fulsome way—and I know you are, Madam Chair, having sat on that Special Committee on Electoral Reform.
The referendum was one of the hot topics, if you will. I'm sure colleagues on the committee who bore witness and participated in that process will know that the Special Committee on Electoral Reform did in fact recommend a referendum as part of a way forward. That was a compromise that was forged among many different parties at that time for a parliamentary-led process.
I've always been of the view, and I think New Democrats largely have been of the view, that if a party has an electoral mandate to change the voting system, then a referendum is not necessarily required, and that's part of the [Technical difficulty--Editor] and mandate building that happens in a general election.
In this case what we're talking about is a study of how a citizens' assembly would work. In fact, I think one of the questions the citizens' assembly ought to pronounce itself on is the process for moving ahead with changing the voting system, and that includes the question of the referendum. I think that's a discussion that needs to happen again. I think it should happen in a forum that's less politicized. That's the proposal, anyway, of a citizens' assembly. It's to allow that conversation to happen in a forum that is not led by partisan political actors.
For as much as there was a bit of a compromise forged on the committee last time—and I think we saw a willingness by political players, as it were, to lean on a referendum or to incorporate a referendum in order to get buy-in from many different parties about how to move forward—the citizens' assembly is an alternative way of moving forward. I think if it's going to do its best work, it's important not to prejudice the outcome of that process. I think the nature and virtue...one of the selling features of the citizens' assembly is that it is an open-ended process, where citizens get to engage directly in the policy-making process.
Not only at the outset of launching a citizens' assembly, but if in the very idea of this committee of Parliament studying the notion of a citizens' assembly we're going to already pronounce on a foundational question about what that process looks like, I think we would be making a mistake. There will be lots of time to discuss the value of a referendum. I hope that a citizens' assembly discusses that. There will be need for parliamentary action even after a citizens' assembly, and I'm quite confident there will be an appropriate parliamentary forum for that debate to be had.
I don't think that at this committee at this time, while we're looking at simply studying what a citizens' assembly would look like, it's the appropriate time to already be setting those kinds of constraints on the [Technical difficulty--Editor] to get the most value out of the process. We won't get the most value out of the study on what that process would look like if we've already set tight parameters on key outcomes.
That's why I'm not enthusiastic about this amendment. I wanted to offer those thoughts.