Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I intend to split my time with the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.
I am really pleased to rise to speak to this motion. As the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley mentioned earlier today in the House, I had a hand in crafting the proposal. As a new member of Parliament, it was nice to see openness within my party and that member to working with a new MP on an interesting idea on how to move voting reform forward. Today, it is nice to see that same spirit is prevailing in this place.
I have been a long-time advocate for voting reform. It is one of the issues I have held dear through my entire participation in the political process, let us say, and involvement in politics. We have heard partisan illusions about what the government may or may not be intending for a voting reform idea, proposal or initiative. I do not think anyone on this side of the House is naive that this is the beginning of a process. There may yet be many things that go awry in that process. It is up to the government and cabinet to decide whether ultimately they will take the recommendations of this committee seriously, or whether they will do their own proposal. Therefore, I do not think anyone here is naive about where we are at.
This is a very positive first step, but it is just one step. However, it is really important because we need to take that first step if we are to get to any kind of meaningful voting reform. I feel, not just from a partisan perspective, it is important that the government not do this by itself. This is the second reason why I felt this kind of proposal was important. If we really believe in voting reform and if we honestly want to move that forward, whatever proposal comes forward and for it to be legitimate, it cannot be just one party pushing it through. This proposal is a way of building in, at least into the initial stages of that process, that idea that proposals can only move forward with the support of multiple parties instead of just one party.
It is right and good in this case of electoral reform, which I think is different from just about any other issue. This is a place where people come to disagree, or people who already disagree come to work that out. In other places, what happens in Parliament and the differences we see manifest in Parliament, are things that are fought for, not in a chamber but on a battlefield. We do come here and we do disagree, but we do it according to certain rules and on certain terms. By doing that, we ensure we do in a way that does not put people's lives in jeopardy for the values they hold and we have an understanding we will work things out with words. It is not always pretty. It is not always nice. However, it is a far better system than the kinds of ways of resolving conflict in some other parts of the world.
When we talk about voting reform and how people actually get here in order to engage in, if we want to use a militaristic metaphor, that kind of battle or that kind of argument, then it is important people agree on how we get here. Those are the basic rules and it is those rules that ensure that kind of civility.
I personally believe that if members of a party make it part of their electoral platform that they have a particular system, a particular model in mind and they get overwhelming support during an election, they may go ahead with that, but not in a way that people in other parties are not prepared to sign on to. We need at least the support of some other parties.
This is a way of building that into the process to ensure that whatever comes out of this process, at least at that first stage, will be something that a number of members across party lines in this place have agreed on. That is really important because it speaks to the legitimacy of changes. No government should be able to unilaterally change the rules by which people get here and fix the next election.
In that sense, I agree with some of the arguments from other members in this place about the importance of not having a government unilaterally change the rules.
As I have said, I have been a long-time advocate of voting reform. I have also been an advocate of a particular system, although there are a lot of debates to be had about how that may manifest. I have been an advocate for a mixed member proportional system. It is really important that people in particular geographic locations of the country have direct representatives who represent those locations within Canada. It is also important that our parliaments not be composed of false majorities or give a false impression of where Canadians are at.
Recently we have seen governments get 100% of the power with only 39.5% of the vote. That does not work because it does not reflect where Canadians are at. The problem with the first past the post system is that it tends to generate those issues. That is also a problem with the alternative vote method. It does it in a slightly different way, but it still produces parliaments that do not reflect the division of opinion within Canadian society.
Part of the issue is a philosophical one about whether we are busy electing individual representatives for a particular place, and that is certainly part of it, and it is important. In elections, we could have a system that would allow us to elect parliaments better, so we are not just electing individual members but electing a parliament. We want a parliament that represents the diversity of opinion within Canadian society.
This is one of the major virtues of a mixed member proportional system. It allows us to balance out the representation of a party within the chamber so Parliament reflects the division opinion within Canada. Then members are forced to engage meaningfully with members of other parties to try to come to some kind if not consensus at least decision. On some issues, there will be a majority composed of certain members and on other issues there may be a majority composed of other members. There is agreement between some on some things and between others on other things, and that would be fine. This would be a virtue.
I look forward to the day when Canadians can contemplate not just who their local representative will be, but also what their Parliament might look like. I can imagine the situation. Some people may feel strongly about a certain local candidate, but not that candidate's party. Some people may want to vote for an independent candidate, but also want to have a say in what party they want. It is perfectly consistent for Canadians to say that they like a local representative, but they are not big fans of his or her party so they will vote for the representative. However, now, because we have a mixed member proportional system, Canadians would get to vote for a party different than the local rep thereby helping to shape Parliament and making it more about how they think. Canadians do not always agree with one party so a mixed member proportional system gives them a chance to express what may be a division of opinion within themselves, at least with respect to where certain parties are at, and allow them to balance out their own vote in a certain way. I see that as a positive thing.
I came to political consciousness in Canada in the 1990s. It was a time when Canadian politics was seriously regionally divided. Quebec was largely represented by the Bloc Québécois. The Reform Party was really a western Canadian party with hardly any seats outside of western Canada. The Liberal Party was the party of Ontario. It had some seats outside of Ontario, but not many, and it used that to win consecutive majorities.
Having sat in a caucus for just over six months, I can say now how important it is to hear the different regional voices within caucus. A first past the post system or an alternative vote system would not guarantee that a party would get members from all parts of the country within its caucus. Having an element of proportionality allows for that. It would help to quell some of the divisive regional politics that Canada has sometimes seen by having those voices represented in each caucus. That is an important virtue of the mixed member proportional system.
I am really glad we are taking a positive first step toward having a process to get to a proposal that will have to be decided on either here or by some other method. We are not there yet. I look forward to discussing these ideas more during that process.