Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Minister of Democratic Institutions.
I rise today to speak in favour of creating a special committee on electoral reform.
It is an important occasion, because if we are going to move forward on the issue of electoral reform, then as I mentioned earlier in the question I posed, it is essential that we work collaboratively, that we listen to one another in this place, and that we find room to move together.
There really is a historic opportunity for us to modernize our electoral system. We have had the same electoral system since Confederation and while the world has changed around us, the way in which we vote has not.
Leading up to the last election Canadians increasingly said that they want to ensure there is a better way for their voices to be heard, that they are better enfranchised in our system, and that they are given a stronger voice in our democratic process. In the last election, more than 60% of Canadians voted for parties that said that the next election in 2019 must be under a new system and that the last election should be the last one we have under the existing system.
This opportunity to create of a better system is informed by a world of choices. The reality is that Canada is one of the few nations in the world that continues to exist on a first past the post system. Most of the world has evolved to other systems and have demonstrated there is a greater way to engage citizenry in the electoral process and ensure they have a voice.
I am struck, as I am sure all members are, when I get an opportunity to go into classrooms and talk to students about our voting system and about their rights as voters, by the enthusiasm of grade 5 students in particular. There is probably no one more excited in this world about our democracy than a grade 5 student. As they get older they unfortunately seem to lose that. When I talk to grade 10 students, they are not as tuned in. They do do not believe as much in their ability to impact change in the world around them. Fundamentally we have to change that. We have to ensure the enthusiasm of younger students carries forward and is felt by the entire citizenry. That is why this issue is so important.
Whether or not we are talking about the economy, national defence, the environment, or any issue that is germane to this institution, what underpins it is that we represent the people who sent us here. What underpins it is that the people who vote feel that the system that they are participating in reflects their will, that they are given a proper and fair voice in that process. That is why it is so important that we take this opportunity to modernize this institution.
The work of the committee specifically is going to be challenging. The committee is going to have to travel across this country. It is going to have to engage with every corner of this country. It presents a really incredible opportunity to ensure that Canadians are included in this dialogue in a meaningful way.
I talked earlier about many of the groups that have been traditionally disenfranchised in our process: young people, seniors, the disabled, aboriginal Canadians. Many different groups have found that the current system does not give them a voice, and they are disconnected from it. As the committee works and listens to Canadians and to these groups and engages them, there is an opportunity to not only change our voting system but to look at other issues, whether or not those issues be mandatory voting or electronic voting, or other means that might meaningfully engage Canadians. I hope in the process of dialogue that we also take an opportunity to look specifically at those groups that are disenfranchised and ask them hard questions about how we can ensure they are better included in our process, even if that change does not necessarily always reflect a differing policy but simply a differing approach.
The role of the minister who has been leading this file, and my own role, will be to reach out to those groups as well and to engage them on a pan-Canadian basis, to work and to listen with the committee. One thing I cannot emphasize enough is that it is going to require the participation of every member of the House not just in conducting town halls or listening to constituents, but also in the debate that is going to occur, either directly in committee or in the House. We are excited that all parties are going to be represented at the table, not just recognized parties in the House but those that are not recognized as well, and given the opportunity to have a voice in that process and participate. That input process will be essential to us getting the result that Canadians want to see and that will demonstrably improve their system.
I also think there is an opportunity through this process for parties to be able to form exactly what the outcome is, and frankly, today is an example of that. I commend the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for bringing forward the motion and for seeking a way for the parties to work collaboratively to try to move this process forward.
If we are going to be successful, then compromise, working together, and finding middle ground will be essential to getting us there. This is the type of goodwill that is essential to demonstrate in this process. As we move forward, it is this type of work and collaboration that is going to make change possible.
We are entering into the 150th anniversary of this country. I can think of no better time than now to seize this opportunity to modernize our institutions and give Canadians a stronger voice in their democracy.
I am excited for the debate ahead, I am excited to work with all members of the House, and I am very excited to see what this committee is going to do.