Mr. Speaker, for me, the question is where do we start on such an important issue, one that I have been engaged in in one way or another for many years. Like many Canadians, I have a good number of opinions on it. At the start of the debate, it is really important to talk about how important it is that we take a multifaceted approach, so that we in government and all members of the House can reach out and ensure that Canadians can provide input in the process.
For those who are watching and those who have taken a keen interest in this subject, I cannot recall when a government has been so committed to getting the input of all Canadians in one form or another. That is what is really important to recognize. It is about trying to tap the minds of Canadians in all regions of our country so that they can give us their thoughts and ideas on how we can improve democracy in Canada. I would like to think that we would consider all sorts of vehicles for that communication, and here I will cite a few examples.
As I indicated in the question I just posed to the member across the way, there is the issue of questionnaires or surveys. We have the MyDemocracy.ca site, which is a phenomenal reach-out to all Canadians. I believe in excess of 15 million households are receiving a card in the mail and are being asked to get engaged on the topic. That in itself should not be new. I would be surprised if there are any members of Parliament who have not taken the opportunity to consult their constituents by sending out cards or some form of questionnaire. I know I have done it on numerous occasions. It is an excellent way to get feedback from our constituents. I know for a fact that New Democratic members of Parliament have done it; Conservative members of Parliament have done it; and I and, I know, other Liberal members of Parliament have done it. It is a good thing to do, reaching out to our constituents in many different forms.
I will share with the House some of the ways I do it. I have used cards, even protest cards at times. I have had questionnaires go into my riding with 40 or 50 questions. Sometimes they are just simple yes or no questions. Sometimes I am asking for an opinion on a list of subjects. It really varies. The reason I do it is that even though I knock on doors and go to many different types of events and meet all sorts of people at my office or at a local restaurant, that does not guarantee in any way that we are reaching the bulk of our constituents. Changing our democratic system is one of those issues on which we should do whatever we can to reach out to Canadians.
What have we done? We all know that the Prime Minister indicated prior to the election that this system needed to be changed and that if we were elected to government we would fight for that change. I like to think that we have been very aggressive in making sure that Canadians are afforded that opportunity.
I would like to see a greater sense of co-operation. If members of the House understand and appreciate how much the public desires this change, then there should be a great sense of co-operation to ensure that it takes place. I do not question whether it is Prime Minister, the minister responsible, the parliamentary secretary, or members from all sides of the House who genuinely want to see that change. We saw a demonstration of that last spring.
We have standing committees of the House, which typically have a majority of government members. When there is a majority government, there is typically a majority of government members on a committee. Through discussions and a debate in the chamber, the government, on this particular issue, acknowledged and agreed that we did not need to have a majority and that it would be in our best interests to make sure that there was all-party representation. Ultimately, we had minority membership on that committee.
I would like to echo many of the words of our Minister of Democratic Institutions. She has clearly indicated that the work put in by each and every member of that committee has been truly amazing. We recognize that. In our caucus, the amount of time sacrificed by the committee members, during the summer months, while we are sitting in the House, and in evenings, is valued and appreciated. It truly is.
The committee travelled and met with Canadians in all regions of our country. As one member of the House, I truly appreciate the efforts of each and every member who served on that special standing committee.
They came up with a report. I have not had an opportunity to read the entire report, but I look forward to reading more of it, as our minister has encouraged our caucus colleagues to do. I suspect that the report will get a very good reading by all members of Parliament. I believe that will apply to many individual Canadians who are really following this issue.
The calibre and quality of presenters was incredible. I would like to thank the hundreds of presenters who came before the standing committee, whether here in Ottawa or in one of the many different regions of our country where meetings took place. I compliment each and every one of those presenters for the sacrifice they made in taking the time to share their understanding and knowledge of this very important issue.
Now we have a report, which I appreciate. However, I believe there is still more that we can do, just as theMinister of Democratic Institutions is saying. She has taken the MyDemocracy.ca concept. As opposed to trying to press down and say that it is a bad idea, which is what we are hearing from the opposition, we want to see further interest in this topic. The opposition should be supportive of the idea.
We see that, and I made reference to it earlier. Members of Parliament of all political stripes will often use questions and surveys. That is exactly what the government is doing on this issue. People at 15 million addresses have been advised through the mail that there is a wonderful opportunity to be engaged on a great issue, in a great debate that we are having here in Canada on democratic reform.
Those cards will hopefully cause a good number of Canadians to either phone or go to the website. The more Canadians who participate, the better.
When I say Canadians, I am also including permanent residents. One does not need to have Canadian citizenship to participate in the survey. I would estimate that about 1.5 million people who have landed call Canada home, and many of them will be citizens even before the next election.
We all should feel good about our democratic system. We should all have a say in it. We need to be inclusive in the process. That is why I was a bit surprised by some of the statements on this issue. I do not believe that the members of the standing committee ever asked a presenter if he or she was a Canadian citizen, at least I hope not. We should not be asking that question of an individual who wants to fill out the survey.
I will acknowledge that I am not the best person to devise a questionnaire that would go on the Internet. I have opinions, and I have experience. I have sent a litany of questionnaires, surveys, and cards over my 20-plus years as a parliamentarian. Ninety-five per cent of those questions were developed by me, myself, and I after working with constituents to get a sense of what questions I might want to ask to get an understanding of what is taking place on topical issues at both the national and provincial levels.
We all have opinions. The NDP member who spoke before me said he would ask if people are Canadian citizens. I would not ask that question. It is not for me or that member to make that determination. We might have an opinion, but we have professional organizations that have expertise that we might not necessarily have as MPs. I like to think that we are very knowledgeable, but there is a certain level of expertise I would like to see that would ensure that as many Canadians as possible are engaged.
If I sent a direct letter to my constituents that they could mail back to me, I would get a 5% to 7% return rate. There is a difference between sending an envelope in which they can put their results versus if there is no envelope. It all has an impact.
About 50% of people do not want to be identified on questionnaires and will not put a return address. The other half will include a return address. I take all into consideration in one form or another. What I might publish might be somewhat more targeted. At the end of the day, I want to ensure that as much as possible, the results reflect what my constituents believe on the issues I have brought to their attention.
I suggest that we look at the design of MyDemocracy.ca. Some questions have arisen in the media and on social media about whether the results of this exercise will be statistically valid. The answer to that is yes.
MyDemocracy.ca was designed by social and statistics scientists from Vox Pop Labs, which has launched similar engagement applications all over the world.
Some from across the way mock it. I have more faith in the science of this issue and the individuals who actually can deliver results and have a proven record.
I would challenge other members on their personal credentials, as I have. I acknowledge that I might not be the best person to develop it. That is why I have confidence in those individuals who have the experience to do a thorough job.
All the questions we see on MyDemocracy.ca were developed in collaboration with the government and reviewed by an academic advisory panel.
The government chose to work with Vox Pop Labs, because the company has a proven track record when it comes to using large sample data to draw valid empirical conclusions.
Members of Parliament have held town halls in ridings across the country to hear directly the views of their constituents and have submitted individual written reports of input they received.
Further, the Minister of Democratic Institutions and her parliamentary secretary have travelled to every province and territory to hear the views of Canadians on the future of our voting system.
It has been very thorough. I held two town halls on the issue. I made it very well known, with cards and phone messaging, that I was holding these town halls. I appreciated those individuals who showed up. In total, I believe there were maybe 40 to 60 people in two town halls on this issue.
The Conservative member across the way heckled, “big group”. I do not underestimate the constituents I represent. If 50 show up for a town hall, I appreciate each and every one of them, and I trust that the member across the way would do likewise. I am hoping he did not try to demean my constituents. I am sure he did not.
Having said that, what I know is that to get a better reflection of what my constituents want, I welcome the card that has been sent out by the Government of Canada. I will encourage my constituents to get engaged with MyDemocracy.ca.
I am grateful that we had a standing committee that went to every region, including the city of Winnipeg. I am grateful that we had a Minister of Democratic Institutions and her parliamentary secretary go to every province and territory of our country to seek opinions and advice.
I believe that this government has been true to its commitment to reach out and work with Canadians to try to get a better understanding of the type of democracy Canadians want. It would have been wrong to be completely dependent on a standing committee or on town halls or on a questionnaire. I think we have to have a multi-faceted approach to dealing with this issue. I believe that if we consult and work with our constituents, if we allow the standing committees to do their work, if we allow the ministers and the government to do its job, we will be in a good position to make a decision going forward, if it is desired by all members of Parliament.
Hopefully, what we will see are some political parties recognizing that if we truly believe in democratic reform, the best thing we could be doing on this particular file is, in fact, encouraging those individuals to participate in MyDemocracy.ca.
I would challenge any member of this House to come to Winnipeg North, and we can knock on 10 doors and see what they say to me in the form of a question.
If we ask, “Do you want first past the post, a ranked ballot, or some hybrid system?”, chances are we will have to explain in detail to get the answer. If members were truly honest, they would recognize that the questionnaire being proposed, with the level of expertise we have developed in MyDemocracy.ca, is doing what is in the best interest of all Canadians so that we can have legitimate, true reform.