Mr. Speaker, whenever the issue of parliamentary reform comes up for debate, it is always nice to be able to express what I think are important issues. I hope people will be somewhat generous in terms of relevancy. We are in an interesting time in that we have seen a lot of things happen with respect to parliamentary reform. I want to focus on two aspects.
One is the need for reform in terms of the number of members of Parliament. We had a good discussion about that just before winding down the fall sitting. It is something I would not mind reviewing. Members will recall that the government decided to increase the size of the House of Commons. It was interesting to hear the different opinions from the three political parties on that issue. We have always maintained that given today's reality and priorities this was not necessary. Without any hesitation whatsoever I would suggest that the vast majority of Canadians do not support the need for parliamentary reform in the sense of increasing the size of the House of Commons.
When we talk about parliamentary reform, we should be talking about how best to meet the needs of our constituents. There are different ways in which the government could have addressed the issue. We were disappointed that the government decided that the short answer to this issue was to increase the size.
We could just as easily have seen an increase in the resources available to individual MPs as opposed to increasing the overall number of MPs. With additional resources members of Parliament would be able to better serve their constituents.
There is always a great deal of discussion in terms of first past the post, plurality of votes, multi-member ridings, and so forth. I have always found these debates to be of great interest. A number of years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a small task force on parliamentary reform. There is a great deal of interest from the public to participate.
In my discussions I found that people appreciate one member, one ward. People appreciate that we operate with a first past the post system, even though there is a great deal of interest in individuals acquiring more than 35% or 38% of the vote in order to ultimately win. There could be a runoff ballot. I have heard many discussions in regard to that. There is a great deal of merit in that.
This is not the first time I have seen the issue that is before us. The first time I saw this specific issue was in the Manitoba legislature. The New Democratic Party introduced it. When it got to the committee stage, it was interesting to see the number of presenters who came forward. A former New Democrat, Sid Green, talked about how government cannot take away the right of a member of Parliament or an MLA to do what the member thinks is the right thing to do in terms of crossing the floor. Winston Churchill crossed the floor on several occasions, I am told. I do not think we would find very many Canadians who would suggest that Winston Churchill was a poor politician or not a wise politician. Winston Churchill is probably one of the most recognized parliamentarians worldwide because of some of the things he did during World War II.
There were cases presented in the committee that challenged whether or not the law being proposed by the NDP was constitutional. I would have had a very difficult time if my political party was trying to force me into a position which was completely at odds with my constituents.
In the past we have seen individuals make good decisions in terms of serving their constituents. Crossing the floor would be a very difficult decision to make, but I find it rather odd that a party that wants to come across as being a grassroots party would suggest that this would be an illegal activity.
There are other ways to do it. I made reference to the task force in Manitoba in which I participated. Another way would be recall. Public support could be gained for other ways.
At the end of the day, when we talk about members of Parliament and their ability to act on what is important, it is important that they have the opportunity to leave a political entity if they think that political entity is not meeting the needs of their constituents first and foremost.
The most significant reference I could make is that of Winston Churchill. If we looked at the British Commonwealth as a whole, we would find many cases where it has been justified and individuals have been re-elected after crossing the floor.
I have had exchanges with individuals here in Ottawa as well as in Manitoba. I have received responses that have been fairly positive toward this. All political parties have benefited by it. In Manitoba, I believe there was a Liberal MLA who went over to the New Democratic Party. I do not think there were any New Democrats who complained about it at the time. In fact, I believe they felt the individual had a right to do so.
Ultimately, we have to take into consideration that there is a Constitution. I believe individuals have a right to do what they believe is in the best interests of their constituents. If that means participating in another caucus, they should be allowed to do so.
However, when we talk about electoral reform, there are other priorities that are more important than this issue. I would like to extend to members the challenge of how to get more people to participate in elections. I would welcome a lot more discussion on that.
I have made the suggestion to put the choice of “none of the above” on the ballot. I have also suggested, and Manitoba has adopted, allowing more people to vote in places such as malls where people convene.
I am more interested in trying to engage people in participating in the electoral process and opening up nominations than what this bill is attempting to do. It is trying to dishonour or discredit the political process that has worked exceptionally well. The system that we have has worked exceptionally well. By discrediting it, we are ultimately discrediting the democratic process. I would suggest--