House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was system.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Karina Gould Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for sharing his experience with the town hall process. As I mentioned in my speech, I really appreciate all the members who took the time to engage on this issue and, of course, every Canadian who came forward with many different points of view. That is what we do in a democracy; we listen to different points of view.

With regard to mandatory voting, that is an interesting question. As we know, over the past number of years, we have felt that we have not had the highest voter turnout when it has come to our general elections. Some have proposed that mandatory voting could be a way to deal with this issue. The special committee report recommends against mandatory voting. On the MyDemocracy.ca survey, Canadians came out heavily against mandatory voting.

I look forward to responding to the special committee's report in due course and will be confirming our position on that moving forward.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

February 9th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the previous speakers, in particular my two hon. colleagues from the New Democratic Party, who brought forward the motion today. They both have been at the forefront of this debate. Having served on committee with them has been a real pleasure. I should add that it was also a pleasure to serve with the Liberal, Bloc and Green members. As well, the awesome work we received from the Conservative members of the committee was very much appreciated.

Before I say anything else, I must stop and remember that I am splitting my time with the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, who has done yeoman service on the committee and has a lot of very intelligent things to say.

The motion before us today is:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government misled Canadians on its platform and Throne Speech commitment “that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system”, and that the House call on the government to apologize to Canadians for breaking its promise.

The statement that the promise had been broken and Canadians were misled is a statement of fact, so it is hard to disagree with that.

I share the view expressed by Rex Murphy that this was not a promise the Prime Minister was qualified to make.

I will read what Rex Murphy said in the spring of 2016. He stated:

[The Prime Minster's] dramatic declaration before the election that it would be the last under first past the post was not a pledge he was then or now entitled to make....changing how Canadians vote is not within the competence of a candidate or a prime minister.

Murphy goes on to say:

The power of the citizens' vote is the DNA of our democracy. It is not then in the Liberals' power...to alter the mechanism, play any parliamentary games to choose a [new] system without consulting the voters in a referendum with clear language on what they, the voters, prefer. No referendum, no change.

I agree 100% with Rex Murphy. That has been the position the Conservative Party has held from the beginning of this debate, indeed for a decade before this debate started to the present time, and it will continue to be our position into the future.

It is not unreasonable for a government to try to change the electoral system, as long as it gives voters the final say. Just as this was not the Prime Minister's promise to make, it was also not his promise to break.

What would have been responsible? What would be the normal course of a government acting on any other kind of promise? What should have been the course taken on that promise? It would have been for the government to sit down in a business-like manner after the election, following the normal legislative process, and not after waiting for eight months, set up a committee to look at the legislation that it had proposed. It could be any model the government wanted, including its preferential model, although clearly that model would not have found public acceptance. Then, that model, once coming into legislation, would have been pitted against the status quo in a referendum. That is what should have happened. The government rejects all of these things, a referendum, or any alternative other than its preferred alternative, but that would have been the preferred option.

Recognizing this was the responsible course of action, the Special Committee on Electoral Reform tried to assist the Prime Minister to achieve this goal, the reasonable policy process I have outlined, in order to allow him to fulfill the meat of his election promise.

First, we proposed there be a referendum on a system that would stand a realistic chance of actually winning a referendum. There is no point having a referendum question that is guaranteed to lose. It would be on something that could potentially find the support of the Canadian people, a fair and reasonable system. The second point was, based on the testimony we heard, that it be a proportional system. The last point was that it could be implemented by election 2019.

I was obsessive in pursuing answers from the Chief Electoral Officer as to the amount of time he needed to change the system of Elections Canada to allow the government's promise to be met. The committee, then, in a brave and business-like way, made sure its recommendations reflected the timelines so the Prime Minister's oft-repeated promise could be met, even as steps one and two as described had also been met. We achieved the recommendations, which I will come to in a second.

The Prime Minister's excuse for bailing out on his promise was that there was no consensus, which we have heard over and over again, but there were actually three separate levels of consensus reflected in the special committee's report. Let me now emphasize what those are.

First, four out of five parties on the committee supported the recommendation to hold a referendum on a proportional system versus the status quo.

Second, we included the referendum component, in part, because the Conservatives insisted on it, but also because poll after poll over the course of the last year showed that a strong majority of Canadians wanted a referendum before they would accept a change to the system. They wanted the final say. Poll after poll, about a dozen over the course of the last year, indicated that, depending how the poll was done, between 65% and 75% of Canadians wanted a referendum, wanted to reserve for themselves that final say, and as low as 17% thought that passing a new system in the House of Commons was sufficient.

Let me provide some comments from some of the pollsters to give everyone an idea of just how strong this consensus among Canadians is.

Mario Canseco at Insights West told the special committee, “This majority of Canadians encompasses both genders, all age groups, every region and supporters of the three main political parties...”

Lorne Bozinoff from Forum Research said of his firm's data, “This is a very conclusive finding. There is a strong majority opinion in favour of a referendum...and it spreads across all regions and socioeconomic groups”.

Darrell Bricker of Ipsos Public Affairs told the special committee, “A majority in every demographic category we looked at supported a referendum—by gender, age, education level, income, and whether or not you had kids in your house”.

There we are, there is a second level of consensus.

Third, those who wanted a change came before the committee as witnesses, went to the open mikes, and advocated change. The overwhelming majority, and I am told it was around 80%, advocated for proportional representation as the alternative. Therefore, the committee, taking these things into account, made a recommendation, from which I am going to read. This is the recommendation, including a little preamble in the report. Recommendation 12 stated:

Observation: The Committee acknowledges that, of those who wanted change, the overwhelming majority of testimony was in favour of proportional representation. The Committee recognizes the utility of the Gallagher Index, a tool that has been developed to measure an electoral system’s relative disproportionality between votes received and seats allotted in a legislature, as a means of assessing the proportionality of different electoral system options.

The Committee recommends that:

The Government hold a referendum, in which the current system is on the ballot;

That the referendum propose a proportional electoral system that achieves a Gallagher Index score of 5 or less; and

That the Government complete the design of the alternate electoral system that is proposed on the referendum ballot prior to the start of the referendum campaign period.

The last recommendation was designed to allow the government to have a free hand, as any government ought to have, to design the actual legislation, to put forward the system. There were, in fact, three proportional systems, which advocates of proportional representation indicated would suit them equally well. One is the multi-member proportional system, similar to what Germany and New Zealand have. The second is the single transferable vote system, similar to what Ireland and Malta have. The third is something that has been described as the rural urban model designed by Jean-Pierre Kingsley, our former chief electoral officer.

All of these models would have met with the ambitions of the advocates of proportional representation. They might not all have met with the ambitions of those who were concerned with issues relating to local representation, limits on party discipline, and other concerns that Canadians legitimately had. However, it would have been up to the government to try to design a system that would have accomplished the best of those objectives while, at the same time, meeting with the Gallagher index measure of proportionality.

All of this was done. There was a consensus every way we sliced it. A majority of parties in the House, a majority of Canadians, and a majority of advocates for change were all incorporated and the final recommendation allowed those who had reticence about change to potentially have their concerns met in the proposal the government could and should have brought forward for this May, allowing the Liberals to meet their promise, thereby bringing into the consensus even the government, up until the moment it changed its tune because the government believed there should be change regardless of whether it was popular.

Let me quote the Prime Minister. This is from an interview in April. He said:

A lot of people I've talked to have said, 'Oh yes, we really, really wanted electoral reform because we had to get rid of Stephen Harper, but now we have a government we sort of like so electoral reform just doesn't seem as much of a priority anymore....

Well, it's a priority to me. It's a priority to a lot of Canadians....

Later on he said that Canadians did not want it so much and neither did he, but let us notice how committed he was until he decided that it did not serve his own partisan interests.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, with great respect and fondness, I thank my colleague for his comments.

For those Canadians who were not watching closely, the electoral reform committee got along incredibly well. We criss-crossed the country. I can look to a number of Conservative and Liberal colleagues, my friend from the Green Party, and friends from the Bloc who all participated. While Canadians might be somewhat suspicious thinking that if there were a bunch of politicians around a table that all that would happen is partisan back and forth, we got into this issue.

It is incredibly important, how we elect and un-elect governments; it is fundamental to everything that we do, our economic policy, our environment policy, every policy is based on this. It is also something that can unite us as parliamentarians in our listening and engaging with Canadians. The evidence was fascinating. This report on Canadian democracy, by the way, is the most thorough and comprehensive in Parliament's history.

I have a question for my friend. It has been almost 100 years since Parliament first started studying electoral reform, almost a century. Parliamentarians have been engaging with each other and with Canadians on this topic, because the system that we first had when the country was formed worked for two parties but it is not so great when there is more than two.

Here is the Liberal recommendation, and I would like my friend's comment on this:

...regarding alternative electoral systems are [too] rushed, and are too radical to impose at this time....

Too rushed? Will it be another 100 years? How much more time do we need, how many more pages, and how many more Canadians do we need to talk to before it is not too rushed anymore? Is that actually not the barrier that stopped the Liberals from signing on to the consensus that was available to them?

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the obvious comment to make is that the sense of hurry was entirely imposed by the Liberals themselves.

It was never clear. I think it has become clear actually, but it was never stated clearly which system the Liberals preferred. There was this fiction that their minds were open, that they had not yet made up their minds, or the Prime Minister, as the former minister said, had a preferred system and so did she, but that that could be changed by the testimony they heard. The minister said that in a meeting in Victoria.

The bottom line the Liberals kept restating was that it must be ready to go by 2019. That was the sense of rush.

I have a theory, and I have shared this with my colleague in the past but let me share it with the House, that the Prime Minister had intended to run out the clock on electoral reform. First it would be too tight a timeline to have a referendum, then it would be too tight a timeline to have anything that involved redistribution or the addition of extra seats, one or the other of which is required if we go to any kind of proportional system, and finally all we have left is preferential ballot, a minor change after all, just changing the structure of the ballot itself, not the ridings or anything else. At least that was the story we would hear. However, because the promise of 2019 was sacred, the Liberals would move forward.

I think the testimony of Canadians so overwhelmingly demonstrated a lack of interest, indeed a strong opposition to a system that so clearly, methodically, election after election, favoured the Liberal Party, that it took the wind out of those sails and made it effectively impossible to move forward in that direction.

Finally, what the committee did was to demonstrate that it was possible to move forward by 2019 with a referendum on a proportional system. That point, I suspect, is when the Prime Minister said that they had to bail out of it.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Winnipeg North
Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate a number of the comments the member across the way has put on the record today. I do value, and very much so, the standing committee on electoral reform, its fantastic work, and the report that was ultimately brought forward.

However, I want to emphasize another point the Prime Minister has talked a great deal about. He wants to see members of this House not representing what Ottawa has to say to their constituents, but rather what their constituents have to say to Ottawa. I had town halls on his particular issue.

I would like to get the member's feedback on what he believes his constituents wanted with respect to electoral reform. For me, first past the post was in fact quite popular. There was no consensus within Winnipeg North that I could detect on the different systems.

Which system does the member believe his constituents would like to see? Is the member in a position to tell us?

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, having run over my last response, I will ask you how long I have for this one.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Bruce Stanton

You have about 15 seconds, but I will give the hon. member a little latitude to at least finish his thought on the matter.

The hon. member.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is good not to apply very tight time constraints after the parliamentary secretary has asked a question, all things considered. I mean that with all respect and love.

The answer to his question is, we conducted a survey in my constituency in which we asked people if they thought it was appropriate for the government to change the system without a referendum, yes or no. The answer came back that over 80% in my constituency felt that a referendum was necessary. Eighty-one thousand responses were received across Canada from other Conservative MPs who asked the same question. The average was 90% felt a referendum was necessary. That very much reflects the national consensus that exists in other ridings as well, that a referendum is necessary in order to move forward. Once we do that, any system that is fair has the potential to actually win majority support from Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to speak today on this very important issue.

I will get into the details in a moment. Essentially, what is being asked for today is an acknowledgement that the Prime Minister has once again broken one of his campaign promises, concerning the voting system. There are many promises that the government has not kept. Let us remember that the Liberals got elected by promising to have a small deficit of $10 billion. Today, we are hearing about a $30-billion deficit. When will we get back to having a balanced budget? In 2055, even though the Liberal Party committed itself to doing it in 2019. He has not kept his promise about the deficit or about the debt.

As the Department of Finance states, Canada will have a $1.5-trillion debt in 2050. The Liberals have not kept their promise when it comes to managing public funds; they were unable to keep their campaign promise concerning the income tax cuts promised to businesses; and they were unable to reduce Canadians’ tax burden on a supposedly cost-neutral basis, since that has been done with an additional tax bill of $3 billion. The Liberals had also promised to restore home mail delivery for all Canadians, but they were unable to keep that promise. What we have before us is a Prime Minister who is literally the champion of broken promises.

I have been a member in the House of Commons for about a year. However, I have been a parliamentarian for eight years, since I sat in the Quebec National Assembly. In the last few days, I have witnessed an unprecedented event that I thought I would never see. Last week, the opposition leader asked the Prime Minister whether he would commit to not taxing private health insurance and private dental insurance. From his seat, on Wednesday of last week, the Prime Minister said he was not going to tax those two items. Bravo! Excellent. Congratulations. We were pleased to know this. It was a win for the Conservative Party, but, most importantly, it was a win for Canadians. On Tuesday, we held a vote. What did the Prime Minister and his Liberal members do? They voted against the Prime Minister’s own words. That is unprecedented. More and more, the government is making its mark as the government of broken promises, and Canadians are increasingly aware of it.

Let us now come back to the question raised by my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie concerning the Liberal Party’s promise to reform the voting system. First, let us be clear: this is indeed an important issue. However, the Liberal Party’s campaign platform was 97 pages long. How many times did it mention changes to the voting system? There were three sentences on that subject. It cannot be said that this was a strong commitment.

During the 2015 election campaign, there were five leaders’ debates on television, for a total of 10 hours of debate. Did the Liberal Party and the current Prime Minister ever raise this issue in those debates? No. The Green Party leader was the only one who raised the issue. We will see later why this is so important to her. It was not really the Liberal Party’s bread and butter.

However, when it came time for the Speech from the Throne, the opening speech of a new Parliament, the Prime Minister, through the Governor General, said that 2015 was the last election under the existing electoral system. No one was laughing then. It became a solemn commitment by the government. Every effort would be made to implement this promise under the aegis of the Liberal Party, of course. We understand that. How has it all worked out?

I want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, for the excellent work he has done. I have a lot of trouble with the names of ridings. Since the current Minister of Democratic Institutions will have a somewhat easier job to do than her predecessor, I urge her to recommend that the names of the federal ridings be reviewed. It makes no sense for them to be so long.

My eminent colleague, who has been a member of this House for years, has demonstrated remarkable leadership. Remarkable for our party, but, most importantly, remarkable for all Canadians. From day one, our party has said that, if perchance the government wanted to change the system, it would have to be done by referendum. We have not budged an inch on that point.

We said that because, fundamentally, we as politicians are in a perpetual conflict of interest when it comes to electoral reform. That is clear. We cannot be objective, since the future of our parties and our ridings is at stake. We are very close to it. That is why we want Canadians to have the final word on this.

We all know that the Prime Minister, the leader of the Liberal Party, wanted it to be a preferential ballot, because that worked for him. We all know, too, that our friends in the NDP and the Green Party member agreed that it should be a proportional system, because that worked for them. They are right to think like that. It is only natural and only human. That is why, ultimately, it has to be Canadians who decide.

Consultations then followed. I want to say that I was very proud to participate in that exercise with my colleague from Kingston and the Islands and other members. I want to recognize the hon. Jason Kenney, who took part in the consultations, along with all of my other colleagues who participated. I would particularly like to recognize the members in the government party, because the job was a very difficult one for them, and they handled it with honour and dignity.

We criss-crossed Canada. However, let us be honest: thousands of Canadians participated in the hearings, but there are 35 million Canadians. We cannot say that we were tripping all over each other all the time, except in Vancouver and Victoria, in the neighbourhood of the Green Party leader. I have to point out that she and her party were extremely effective. At every stop, Green Party members were waiting for us, even in my home, Quebec City. There was a Green Party supporter at a session in Quebec City. However, I have to say that we were not really tripping over each other since there were only 10 people present.

Therefore, when we hear that Canadians were consulted and all that, we have to recognize that there was not a great appetite for this debate. However, some members from all political parties organized kitchen meetings. We, the Conservatives, decided to appeal directly to Canadians with a fairly large document. I know that I cannot show it to members, but I will nevertheless try to describe it.

In this document, we dealt with the facts. On one full page, we had the arguments for and against holding a referendum. We consulted Canadians and this is what we found: of the 90,000 Canadians who responded to our surveys conducted all across Canada, 90% said that a referendum must be held. I would like to acknowledge the people of my riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent, where 1,116 people responded to our survey and 1,004, or 90%, asked for a referendum.

We were very proud to see that Canadians supported our original position. However, we still needed to convince our colleagues. Well, we managed to do that. We were quite pleased, not to mention surprised, honestly, when our NDP colleagues and the leader of the Green Party said they agreed on having a referendum in order to allow Canadians to choose between the current system and a proportional system.

We know that the vast majority of people who wanted change wanted a proportional system. The idea was to allow Canadians to make the final decision because that is the right thing to do. The Bloc Québécois agreed from the outset, but we were quite pleased when the NDP and the Green Party joined our movement.

There was a consensus among the political class, but there was one piece missing: the Liberal Party. That is when the wheels came off. It was in an interview with Le Devoir on October 19, 2016, that the Prime Minister of Canada finally told it like it is:

...there were so many people unhappy with the [former] government and its approach that people were saying, “It takes electoral reform to avoid having a government we don't like.”

Here is what the current Prime Minister said next:

However, under the current system, [Canadians] now have a government they are more satisfied with. And the motivation to want to change the electoral system is less compelling.

When it suits him, the system is left as is, but when it does not, it has to be changed. The Prime Minister's behaviour is very subjective. He changes his mind as often as he changes his shirt, whenever it suits him.

As a result, the Prime Minister is building a reputation as a breaker of election promises, as if that had not already been firmly established. However, it is not too late for the government.

If the Liberal government really wants to change the system, then it should hold a referendum. That is what we, the Conservatives, have been saying from the beginning, and all of the opposition parties agree that that is what should be done. The only way to change the electoral system is to let all Canadians have a say.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent for his speech and his participation in the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. I had the privilege on several occasions to replace my colleagues from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and Skeena—Bulkley Valley. At one meeting, I was surprised to find myself listening to a witness who told us he represented several hundred thousand Canadians. A second witness said the same thing, and then a third. I suddenly realized that at a single meeting, I was looking at three witnesses who represented more than a million people. Because they believed the Prime Minister’s promise, because they believed the commitment he made in the Speech from the Throne, they had taken very exhaustive measures to consult each of their members and to come before us to say that these millions of people wanted a system where every vote counts.

After breaking his promise, after reneging on his commitment, the Prime Minister said he did not want to hold a referendum, because he was afraid of the consequences it had for Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent to tell us if there any basis for those fears.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to hear my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, whose question I welcome. A year ago, we worked together very closely in the debate on the issue of medical assistance in dying, which was a very sensitive subject. I have had the pleasure of seeing her several times during the debate on electoral reform as well.

The very foundation of democracy is allowing people to voice their opinions, contrary to what the Prime Minister has said in this very chamber about the referendum. It is really rather unusual to see a prime minister, in the very cradle of democracy and of freedom of speech and the democratic work that must be done as a country, saying that referendums are held to divide people. If he does not want things that divide people, then let us have no elections. Clearly, when there is an election, some people are going to choose one person while other people choose another. It would surprise me if there were 338 members from the same party and 100% of people voted for the same party in the next election.

The very foundation of democracy is to allow people to voice their opinions and, above all, to give them the chance to have the final say, when the time comes to choose a voting method, since the voting method is the fundamental system of any democracy.

The way we vote is how we choose the people who will represent us; we choose our prime minister, we choose our ministers, and everything else stems from that. It is too important to be left in the hands of politicians. It must be placed in the hands of Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Winnipeg North
Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to undervalue the fine work that the Standing Committee on Electoral Reform performed for the House, but I also want to emphasize the importance of representing constituents. I have had the privilege of speaking to that on many occasions inside this chamber, and I would like to believe that I am reflecting what I believe is the will and thoughts of my constituents. When I dealt with this issue, and I dealt with it in many different ways including a town hall, I found that there was no real consensus, and I have conveyed that to many. For example, a good number of people wanted to keep the current system. Others wanted to see some change. What was abundantly clear was that there was no consensus.

I thought the member's comments in regard to the standing committee were most interesting, especially in Quebec City. To what degree does the hon. member assign value to what took place in the committee versus the value we receive when we meet with and hear from constituents?

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Kingston said it himself.

More than 81,000 answered our survey. This was the biggest participation of Canadians in this process, better than any other experiment that we had, and especially for the committee.

In my home riding, we talked about what my constituents wanted to talk about. In my own riding more than 1,000 people answered my survey, and on behalf of them, 90% of the people of my riding asked for a referendum. We had a consensus on that in all parties except one: the Liberal Party.

If there is a problem, it is on the Liberal side, not on our side.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for London—Fanshawe.

Today I am here to speak to the NDP's very important motion that is asking the Prime Minister of Canada to apologize for a very important broken promise on electoral reform.

When I was campaigning I knocked on a lot of doors, and I was saddened by the level of cynicism. People were telling me at the door, “I do not think I am going to vote. It does not feel as if my vote means anything. I do not like the system; it does not work. I do not feel I am connected”. Often that conversation would lead into a very important conversation about electoral reform, and what kind of systems are happening in other parts of the world and how they engage the members of their communities in a new and more meaningful way.

I am so grateful, and I want to thank the many members of my riding who have talked to me about this important, foundational issue. Whether it was one of the four town halls, because in a riding as large as mine there is no such thing as doing one town hall, or the survey that was sent to every household in the riding, or through personal conversations, I heard loudly and clearly that this was a conversation my constituents wanted to be a part of. That is important, because the government members seem to keep thinking this is about consensus.

I came and I did town halls, and a lot of people did not know much about different systems and there were a lot of questions. At the end of the day, people were not always sure of what system they wanted, but they did know they wanted to have this conversation, they wanted their voices to be heard, and they wanted to learn more. Therefore thousands of my constituents participated. In fact, so far this is the issue that people engaged in the most profoundly. The people at my offices were amazed by the survey responses we got and kept receiving for months. The issue matters to the people of North Island—Powell River and that means it matters to me, as does following through with commitments.

Since the announcement was made by the minister that meaningful electoral reform was no longer part of moving forward, my staff have been overwhelmed with emails and phone calls. Ironically, the announcement from the minister was made, and less than a week later my constituents opened their mailboxes to see my mail-out that told them that the report that we had created on their feedback on electoral reform was on our website. In a matter of hours, we received well over 100 emails because people who received it in their mailbox and they were very upset that they did not get what they wanted from the government.

What we are talking about today is important. It is about listening to the people of this country. It is about engaging them in a meaningful conversation about what our democracy means. The current government asked us to do its work and hold town halls and surveys, and we did. We all got into our communities and we did surveys and town halls, and we opened up this discussion because we believed and we had faith that this would be a real discussion about change.

Today I am going to share some of the results from the thousands of constituents of North Island—Powell River. I posed several statements for constituents. The scale was as follows: 1 was strongly disagree, and it ranged up to 5, which was strongly agree.

The first statement was, “Parties' seats in Parliament should reflect the percentage of votes they receive”. The response was overwhelming: 75 % strongly agreed and 9% agreed. That means over 84% wanted to see a system where every vote meant something, where every vote counted.

The second statement was, “Working collaboratively and having cross-party support is vital”. Eighty-seven per cent agreed.

The third statement was, “Having a local representative is important to me”. This statement received the highest support, with over 88% agreeing or strongly agreeing.

The claim that there is no consensus around electoral reform is false. The numbers I compiled in my riding are proof. The current e-petition urging the Liberal government to follow through on its campaign commitment surpassed 92,000 signatures, making it the most signed petition on the Parliament of Canada's website. That is proof.

I was never under the illusion that this would be easy or that the process would be wrapped up quickly, but I am a strong believer in process. We may not have collectively picked the next electoral system, but one lady said to me in her written statement that she was a bit old, and understanding all the different systems I taught them about took a lot of work; she does not have a full answer yet, but she wants to continue this discussion. She said it is such an important one.

I believe we have the broad consensus necessary at least to continue this process. Canadians want a more proportional system and that we know. During the work of the committee nearly 90% of the experts and 80% of the members of the public who testified called on the government to adopt a proportional electoral system.

By abruptly terminating this process and blaming the voters for it is revolting. The management of this file from the start shows us a consistent behaviour that forecasted a Liberal Party determined to keep the current system because it benefits its members. This behaviour could be seen by the length of time it took for the government to start the committee, by the outrageous comments made by the former minister aimed at undermining the committee's work where her own people were hurt, or the online survey MyDemocracy.ca, which was immediately ridiculed from all sides. Canadians criticized the biased and vague questions and felt very manipulated.

Whether this is a lack of courage for moving forward or a broken promise from the very start, Canadians are feeling betrayed and are extremely disappointed. New Democrats are determined to have the Liberals apologize to Canadians.

During the town halls I heard things like, “I just want my vote to count. I want to feel I can vote the way my conscience tells me and strategic voting is something we no longer have to consider.”

The Prime Minister's misleading promise of electoral reform breeds cynicism in our politics and that is heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking when we see people of all ages not participating in our democracy the way that we want to see them participate. This conversation would have opened some of those doors and provided a deep and meaningful opportunity for people to feel that they are a part of creating this system for Canadians.

How can the Prime Minister and Liberal MPs justify engaging Canadians fundamentally, pretending that they are listening, only to let them know that their voice no longer matters? The motion we are debating is about honesty and commitment to what we believe in.

The Liberals have said they will always consult with Canadians on many fronts and on many topics. Canadians have a right to ask whether these are just delaying tactics or more broken promises. What is needed is a little more action and a little less conversation, as one great singer once said.

The consultations helped me to further grasp people's concerns about representation and decision-making in this place. I sincerely enjoyed the town halls. The discussions became quite passionate. Constituents were taking a real interest in what different systems mean and what they want to see in their democracy.

A man said to me, “I am tired of watching everyone yell at each other in Parliament. We need a system that makes parliamentarians work together. The best decisions have mostly come from minority governments, where parliamentarians had to work together. I want a system that says you have to work together and not just call another election when the going gets tough.”

I must plead with the government. My constituents are asking me to work with the government on electoral reform. With 39% of the votes, how can Liberals unilaterally close this process when they know proportionality is at the heart of this discussion?

I believe this motion is fair. The people in my riding were interested in a real discussion. There was a lot of curiosity and a lot of openness. They worked hard to give their opinions to me and to the government. They participated in this important discussion in good faith. The people of Canada were not asked if this discussion was over. They were told. It would be only fair to the many people who participated, who came to events across Canada, who filled out multiple surveys, who started to seriously consider what other systems look like, who really contemplated what a new system of democracy would mean in Canada, that the Liberal government apologize.

Opposition Motion—Commitments Regarding Electoral Reform
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Baylis Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I, too, undertook to do consultations and I found that there was a core of people who were deeply interested in learning about electoral reform, but there were about as many people who felt that we were misplacing our energy. They asked why we were not focusing on the economy, on job creation, on the environment, or on health care. I received different feedback in that sense. The majority of people unfortunately that I tried to engage said that they were not that knowledgeable about the issue nor that interested. However, I did feel that the process was valuable, because I myself learned a lot about different procedures and different ways of voting, and the people who did engage also found that. However, I did find that there was no consensus. A lot of people said they were learning about the issue.

The member said that there was a clear consensus from her consultations, but that differs from what I found. I would like to understand a bit more about that.