Mr. Speaker, I rise today to stand up for Canadians and for their right to have a direct say in any changes to the method of voting, to the method of our democracy.
I have listened to a lot of speeches today, and what I have heard deeply concerns me. I am hearing a lot of talk about what is best for political parties, what is best for politicians, how do we best ensure that all political parties, or at least one other political party, is happy. It is not just about the governing party or the Liberal Party.
It is all about this proposed competition in the community and what is best and what is fairest for political parties, what is fairest for politicians, and what is fairest for their partisan interest. This discussion should not be all about political parties. It should not be about politicians. It should be about the Canadian people. It is their method of voting. It is their democracy. This discussion needs to be about Canadians, all Canadians. It should not be about politicians. It needs to be about ensuring that each and every Canadian has an opportunity to have a direct say.
When we are thinking about the motion today and discussing it, more than on any other occasion, we have to ensure that what we have at heart is the best interests of all Canadians. When we get down to that, when we are changing the most basic rules of democracy, everyone gets a vote, a direct say. It should not be just the Prime Minister and the Liberal cabinet. It should not be just politicians or political parties, especially when we are talking about backroom deals. It needs to be about each and every Canadian, everyone getting a direct say. That must be the absolute essence of any discussion we have in Parliament about electoral reform. Canadians absolutely must have the final say in a national referendum on any proposed changes to how they elect their representatives.
It was actually the Minister of Democratic Institutions who said, “...listening to Canadians is at the heart of a healthy democracy”. It is unfortunate that what we are seeing in the actions of her Liberal government is reflecting the exact opposite of that.
I want to touch a bit on the party's positions. First. Mr. Speaker, that I am sharing my time with the member for Richmond—Arthabaska.
When we talk about this, a lot of claims have been made about the fact that Canadians voted for a party that wanted to change the system somehow. Different positions have been taken by the different political parties. The New Democrats, from their platform, want to make an individual's vote truly count by bringing in a system of mixed member proportional representation. That is their position. About 19.7% of Canadians voted for them.
The Green Party talks about replacing the first past the post system with proportional representation. Therefore, we have one party talking about mixed member proportional representation and another one talking about some form of proportional representation. The Green Party got about 3.4% or 3.5% of the vote in the last election.
Members of the Liberal Party, which is typical of the Liberal Party, have taken a position of riding the fence, putting themselves in a bunch of different camps so one candidate can claim one thing and one can claim another. At the end of the day, they will do what they want. They have said that they might look at a variety of different types of systems. They got the support of 39.5% of Canadians. They have taken all these numbers, put them together and they think that somehow that gives them the right to change the system without asking Canadians, without talking to Canadians, giving them a chance to have a direct say. I do not think that is what has happened at all. I think they are just trying to avoid the ability of Canadians to have that say, but this has to be about them.
If we are truly to have a discussion on electoral reform and a very open discussion on it, as the Liberal government claims, and the fix is not already in and there has not already been these backroom deals to some kind of conclusion as to what will be put in place, why have the Liberals taken one of the options off the table before they even have had the conversation with Canadians, which is our current method of voting, the one we have had since Confederation? Some people claim that makes it a bad system just because it has been around for a long time. That is up to Canadians to decide. That is not up to the politicians in this room to decide or for the political parties to decide.
It seems to show a lot of arrogance, in my mind, towards Canadians to have political parties say that they will have a conversation with Canadians and give them some options, but they will take one option out, it is gone, and it is off table before we even have a conversation with Canadians. It seems like a lot of arrogance to say that it is not an option and Canadians cannot choose it. They can choose one of the things we might like them to choose, but not this other option. This needs to be their decision.
A few days ago, The Huffington Post was reporting on one of the Liberal members, the parliamentary secretary for Veterans Affairs, the member of Parliament for Kanata—Carleton. She recently had an electoral reform town hall in her riding. The one thing I noted in the story was that the member was quoted as having laughed when she recounted a story about a citizen who said he did not think there was anything wrong with our electoral system. Well, that was his opinion and he has a right to have that opinion. Is that the attitude that we can expect from the current Liberal government when it is consulting with Canadians; laughing at those who have a different opinion from its opinion?
If the Liberals are truly interested in listening, they would not laugh off the opinions of Canadians. This comes back to that arrogance of their party. I think when we talk about some of the backroom dealings going on with the NDP, there is arrogance being shown here, which is a real concern, because Canadians need to have that say, and not these political parties with their backroom deals.
One thing that I think has been abundantly clear when I look at the actions of the Liberal government is that the members' actions are in their own self-interest. They are in the interest of politicians and not in the interest of Canadians. The Minister of Democratic Institutions stated that she wants to listen to Canadians, but instead the Liberals are charging ahead with a plan that, unfortunately, does not give Canadians the ultimate say. It is one that does not leave all the options on the table. It tells Canadians that they know better than Canadians, that this option is not available to them, that they can pick from some of these other choices, but Liberals are going to decide what those choices are.
I think it is clear that the Liberal government and the Prime Minister seem to think that only those people who agree with them and with the committee that has political partisan interests, that was created through backroom deals, is who should get the say. The Prime Minister has been quite clear about how he opposes directly consulting Canadians through a referendum on any fundamental changes to how we vote. In fact, he told students at the University of Ottawa exactly that. He said, “the fact is that referendums are a pretty good way of not getting any electoral reform”.
Well, I do not know, that may or may not be the truth, but the bottom line is that it is not his decision to make; that is Canadians' decision to make. I would say to the Prime Minister that the fact is that referendums are the best way and probably the only way to ensure that Canadians get a direct say, the ultimate say, on their democracy.
We looked at a lot of other jurisdictions that have made decisions or looked at proposed changes to their electoral system, such as Ontario, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and other democracies like the United Kingdom and New Zealand. They have all done this. All of them have given the direct say, the ultimate decision, to their citizens through a referendum, not to their politicians.
I am really quite concerned to see what I am seeing today. The fact of the matter is that three-quarters of Canadians have said that they want to have the referendum on any electoral reform before the government proceeded. Therefore, they want to have that say, they want to have the choice of all the options, which has been made quite clear by Canadians, and it is being made quite clear. It is the only way that the current government can ensure that the changes the Liberals are making are supported by all Canadians and that their plan is fair and transparent.
Whatever the government decides to do, Canadians need a vote, they want a vote, and they want to be able to say yes or no. What better way to consult with all Canadians than through a referendum? A committee of parliamentarians, no matter what its makeup, no matter what the party stripes, no matter what their partisan interest, is not and never will be a substitute for all Canadians having a say and having their voices heard directly through a referendum.
In 1992, there was a referendum held on the Charlottetown accord. Three-quarters of eligible Canadians voted. Almost 14 million Canadians voted. To be able to reach the same number of people with this town hall proposal, 40,000 Canadians would have to show up to a town hall meeting in each and every single riding. That is 40,000 Canadians in each of 338 ridings. I cannot for the life of me understand how the current government would not choose to give each and every Canadian a say in a referendum before it changes the very method by which they vote in elections.