Mr. Chair, I have a comment to make rather than a question, but it backs up what my hon. colleague has just said.
I have tried as a member of Parliament to vote with the wishes of my constituents and to do so in a way that to some degree would replicate the kind of citizen engagement there would be if there was a formal referendum process in this country. We do have the Referendum Act, but it is used very selectively. Over the course of the last 100 years it has been used three times. There have only been three referendums from 1896 to 1992.
We do have what we call constituent referendums where a postal ballot is mailed to all households. I have done this with respect to a number of laws. I explain in the mailing why I am consulting my constituents and why I regard an issue as important. I provide a non-partisan description of the bill as well.
I did this in the prior Parliament with respect to Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act. I included the review that was done for members by the Library of Parliament and included it in the mailout. I included it so people would understand the general purpose of the bill in a non-partisan kind of way and also included arguments for and against the legislation.
In order to ensure that I provide fair and reasonable arguments, I took arguments from individuals who actually advocated for or against the legislation in debates in committee, in debates in the House or from newspaper editorials and so on. I tried to give a representative sample of the arguments for and against the legislation. Thanks to the magic of the Internet further documents and links could be put in to allow people to look at it and consult. This is particularly easy on something like same sex marriage where there are numerous websites that promote either side of the argument.
Having done this, I can say this produces a lot of citizen engagement as well as a lot of respect for an MP. I did it on two pieces of legislation in the last Parliament where I actually voted against my party based on the recommendations of my constituents. One was the most important piece of legislation that faced the 37th Parliament and that was the Anti-terrorism Act. When I asked my constituents whether I should vote in favour of the bill at third reading if no sunset clause was included in it, the majority told me not to vote in favour of it. I voted against it. Only four members of my party broke ranks and voted against that legislation. I was one of those four.
On another occasion I was the only member of the entire opposition to vote in favour of a law. It was a lonely experience, but it was what my constituents had instructed me to do.
The number of people who respond to these constituent referendums can be substantial. In one constituent referendum I asked whether I should opt in or out of the MP pay raise. I had over 3,000 responses.
This kind of mechanism, if used by MPs, can produce a lot of citizen engagement and involvement. It seems to me that it is a healthy antidote to the danger that worries many MPs on the government side. They think that we are just going to get anarchy and people going off in different directions. If we have to go through the process and the discipline of explaining in an objective way to our constituents what the nature of an argument is, we are unlikely to be led astray unless the government itself has wandered astray from where public opinion actually happens to be.