Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
I am very happy to stand up today to speak to the motion. My colleagues have outlined the core of the motion, what we are proposing for the committee, and the good news about the co-operation that seems to be bursting on the scene here in the House of Commons. However, I would like to give a little context. Since I did spend six years doing a Ph.D. on political science, I might as well geek out a bit and use some of that knowledge, as we look at changing what is a fundamental institution of our country.
In early political science, all that political scientists studied were rules. They studied the institutions by which we make decisions. They tried to say that if we had a certain set of rules or institutions, we would always get a certain outcome. That was how political science really started. They soon found out that was not the case because a little thing called human behaviour got in the way. Consequently, in the fifties, we had a behavioural revolution. All we studied was human behaviour, saying that was what determined the outcomes of politics. However, after some while, they found that institutions did matter, and we had this kind of merger of the two ideas. It was said that both institutions, the rules by which we make the decisions and human behaviour, help to determine how we make certain political outcomes. Therefore, in a way, the rules by which our institutions are structured bound our behaviour.
We notice this in the House of Commons. We are elected through the first past the post system currently. That sets up an adversarial system in the House of Commons. By the nature of the rules, we have to have a majority on one side, followed by an opposition on the other. The expression that we are two sword lengths apart, and all that, has come from that tradition. However, it means we have an adversarial system. The government proposes something, and then our job as opposition is to criticize it.
These kinds of rules exist in all kinds of legislatures. Some first past the post majority systems are very adversarial. We see that. We see conflict and nastiness. Others are less so. Others are more co-operative. Although they are adversarial and although people are pitted against one another, the behaviour within the House matters. Therefore, I am hopeful that what we are seeing here today is perhaps us taking control of this institution, realizing that we are bound by the current rules we have, but deciding to change our behaviour collectively.
I was in the last Parliament. It was very adversarial, and it was by nature. I was very opposed to a number of the bills that the Conservatives put forward, the way they were pushed through the House of Commons by closure, omnibus bills, and those types of things. I was not just angry at the content of the bills, but a lot of the ways by which those bills were forced through Parliament offended me. I spoke up about that quite a lot.
Now, we are in a new Parliament, and we have had promises that things are going to work differently. We have the same rules we had before, but perhaps we can have different behaviour. What I have noticed as an MP is that we have vestiges of the last Parliament. We are still acting that way. We have a different Prime Minister. We have different positions on this side of the House, and maybe we do not have to be so adversarial. I was very happy with the motion we put forward, but I was extremely happy to hear that the government had decided it would support it. To me, that represents an important cultural shift in the House. I will not say everything is roses, but it does say to Canadians that this place is different now than the last Parliament. That would never have happened in the last Parliament, and it is an important step forward.
If the vote does pass next week, we will have a committee that will go forward to study our electoral formula, the formula by which we redistribute our votes, but also other aspects of the electoral system. That is very important.
We actually have two institutional changes to consider. We have the matter of how the electoral formula will redistribute our votes. The other consideration is the way we are going to make the decisions about how we change the votes.
The Conservatives have been quite clear. They demand a referendum, although I have not heard much detail, for example, on the threshold of acceptance. I do not know if it is 50% or 60%. They have not laid out much in the way of specifics in terms of what their referendum would look like.
I think it is a valid thing for them to argue, although I do not agree with it at this point. We have a bit of a conundrum here in the House of Commons because we had an unusual election promise. It is playing out that we are a little uncertain about how this should go forward.
As an example, our platform included a promise to bring in a mixed member proportional system. We have made that very clear. We made that clear in many elections, all the way through. If we had been elected in a majority in the House of Commons, we would have had a mandate to put through a mixed member proportional system. In other elections, parties campaigned on referendums to change electoral systems. I did not see that in the Conservative platform. I did not see a proposal for a referendum. This is a new thing for the official opposition to suggest this.
We had from the Prime Minister an election promise that I have not seen in any other election. It was not a promise for a specific system; it was a promise that changed the current system, and that is unusual. I think we have had a bit of trouble trying to figure out how that should happen because we do not have a lot of precedents to look at. We do not have many countries where we can say a government was elected with a majority making a promise to change the system, without giving an idea of what that would be.
I suspect if I were a Liberal, I would probably like a alternative vote system because that would benefit me in upcoming elections. I have read the work of the very respected political science professor from Quebec, our Global Affairs minister, whose preference is for some version of alternative votes. I know that the Liberals will be going into the committee thinking that this is their top preference and what they would like. Of course, Canadians know what the NDP's position has been forever, which is a mixed member proportional system, so that is what we will be going into the committee for.
With the Conservatives, we know it is the status quo, but the promise from the Prime Minister is that we will not have the status quo. I am quite happy that we have come to point where we have a committee that can show Canadians what a proportional system would look like. It is not an adversarial system. We know committees are set up to be adversarial. One side has a clear majority and another side argues. It is just like here in the House of Commons. Eventually, if behaviour changes, sometimes we can make amendments to committee reports, or sometimes bill will change slightly. That is if the behaviour changes, if the culture is different. However, it is still a majority system, where the majority kind of rams things through.
If the motion holds, we are getting into a position where we will show Canadians how we as politicians will operate under a proportional system. That is incredibly important. It is almost a preview of what Canadians could see if we changed our electoral system to make it more proportional.
My colleagues have outlined very well what we have proposed here. They have also outlined, and again thanks to the government for agreeing, that this is a better structure for a committee that we should go forward with. However, what we need to hear as soon as the committee is struck are the principles for it.
I have a bill in front of Parliament concerning gender equity, which would nudge parties toward running more women candidates in the hope that we can get more women elected to this place. Canada is ranked 61st in the world in terms of the number of women who are elected to this legislature. We used to be 19th in the world. We have fallen to 61st because other countries have taken measures within their electoral laws to prompt parties to run more women candidates. I know we started to have that debate here, but I think that would be something that the committee might consider. Because we are proportional, we could have a very balanced discussion about that.
I know what my sights are set on. It is trying to get as much of a proportional system as we can, but which the parties can agree on. The second thing is to fundamentally change this place to make it more reflective of the Canadian population. To have only one-quarter of our members being women, parties have to nominate more women candidates. We want a Parliament that reflects Canada more broadly and that the politics and presence of all Canadians are felt in this place.