Madam Speaker, before I start, I will be splitting my time with my friend and colleague, the hon. member from the Green Party, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. The member has been a strong proponent on this issue. She was a member of the special committee, and I think her voice deserves to be heard in the House today on this important issue, and I look forward to hearing her comments later in today's debate.
This is an important issue before us today, and this is an important motion that has been brought forward. The issue at hand is not necessarily about electoral reform in itself, though that is certainly important. The real issue is the broken promise of the Prime Minister and the Liberal government. The Prime Minister said one thing to get elected, and then once he was elected, he did all he could to muddle the issue, to change the issue, and to eventually drop the issue altogether.
It is a matter of respect, respect for Canadians, certainly respect for Canadian taxpayers, with the $4.1 million that was spent on this process, respect for Parliament and for us as parliamentarians, and indeed respect for his own caucus and his caucus members who did so much work on this important issue.
This is a broken promise, plain and simple. It is one of the classic examples of the Liberal Party promising something and then the Liberal government breaking that promise, whether it is the small business tax rate promise it broke; whether it is deficit spending, promising $10-billion deficits and then seeing deficits two or three times that size; whether it is promising that their middle-class tax cut would be revenue neutral and then finding that it is nowhere near revenue neutral; or whether it is this example right now on the important issue of electoral reform, another promise broken.
I had the great honour and privilege of serving as an associate member of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. I had the honour to sub in a few times for different parts of the committee's travels. I was able to attend a number of meetings in Atlantic Canada and in Montreal. Finally, I had the great honour of joining the committee in Iqaluit, Nunavut to hear the important perspective of the north on electoral reform.
It was always interesting at these meetings to hear from experts, from academics, and from partisans and non-partisans alike on electoral reform. A number of important issues were raised by individuals in our time in Iqaluit. One witness in particular, a young Inuk leader, made a very heartfelt presentation to our committee, and his words stuck with me at the time. In the last eight days, since the minister's announcement that the Liberals were breaking their promise on electoral reform, his words seem even more powerful. I want to read them into the record. It is from October 17, 2016, at the special committee's meeting in Iqaluit. He said:
The reason I bring up things like overcrowded housing, poverty, and abuse is that if you're not sure where you're sleeping, or if you're sleeping in shifts, and if you're not sure what your next meal is going to be or when it's going to be, and if you're not sure when the next time you're going to be sexually abused or physically abused will be, who really cares when the next election is?
He went on to say:
I hate to leave you on such a sad note, but that's the reality of the territory.
This individual brought up some great points about governance in the north and some of the challenges of governance. He also raised a number of these unfortunate issues that are all too prevalent in society. I am not saying that this is an excuse for the Liberal Party breaking its promise, because it is not. It is actually a betrayal of people such as this individual, who despite all the challenges that he and his community are facing, the Liberal Party lured him in to the promise that it was going to do something and then broke that promise. This individual gave up his Monday afternoon, on a workday, to speak to the committee, yet the Liberal Party broke its promise and its commitment.
The Conservative Party has been clear on the issue of electoral reform from the very start. Our position has not wavered. We were very clear that when we change the rules of democracy, when we change the rules of the game, every single Canadian should have a say. That was our commitment from day one, and that commitment did not change. In fact, in the final report from the special committee, with consensus, I might add, from parties such as the New Democrats, the Green Party, and the Conservatives, that commitment to a referendum on a proposed change to the electoral system was in there.
We went into this process with an open mind, with the ability, with our three permanent members of the committee, to interact with the witnesses and with other members to come forward with a consensus opinion.
I would also like to talk a bit about the consultation process. At the beginning of last summer, the then minister of democratic institutions encouraged us as members of Parliament to consult with our constituents through town hall meetings. I might add that it is somewhat patronizing to tell other members of Parliament how they ought to consult with their constituents. It is something we do on a daily basis. We do not need to be told to consult with our constituents, but nonetheless we do consult. I was very pleased to undertake a number of consultation methods in my riding. I sent out a survey in a householder to every single individual household in my riding. I hosted a town hall meeting. I had individual meetings with constituents, and I received emails, social media, phone calls, and a variety of input from different people in my constituency.
A couple of key issues came out of that consultation. The first was certainly that there was a demand. About 80% of respondents felt that there should be a referendum on any proposed changes, and frankly I think that most Canadians would agree with that. Public opinion polling on that matter has been fairly clear: that if we change the way we elect our parliamentarians, a referendum is absolutely necessary. The other important thing that came out of those consultations was that individuals feel there is an important link that must be had between MPs and the electorate.
When the final report did come out from the special committee, that important linkage was highlighted. It showed that the committee took the feedback of Canadians. Recommendation two said very clearly that a system that does not have a link to MPs should not be considered by the government, as such systems sever the connection between voters and their MP. The report that the special committee came up with is indeed a substantial report that is based on strong consultations with individuals in their ridings and individuals who came to the open-microphone sessions and really gave their input.
However, this comprehensive undertaking did not seem to be enough for the Liberal Party, so what did it do? It came out with a website, MyDemocracy.ca. I went to MyDemocracy.ca and I had a good laugh, actually. Unfortunately, it is not a laughing matter; it is an important matter.
Just before Christmas, I submitted an Order Paper question, Question No. 645, asking a number of questions on MyDemocracy.ca, and it got some interesting responses back from the government. First, the cost of this website was $369,058. That includes HST, in case anyone is wondering. That is over $350,000 spent on this website. More interesting was the response to part b of the question. It said that this website would provide an educational experience. It was an educational experience, though I am sure not in the way that the Liberal Party thought. It goes on to say that it would help “Canadians understand their own preferences in relation to the characteristics of different electoral systems”.
It would help Canadians understand their own preferences. How condescending, how arrogant that the Liberals think that they need to help Canadians understand their own preferences on electoral reform. This is simply wrong. Canadians are well aware of where they stand on these important issues. We found out from touring the country and from hearing input from Canadians in our communities across the country that they do not need help understanding their preferences. They know what their preferences are, and unfortunately the Liberal government has failed to understand the consensus that was garnered from this comprehensive report.
Before I wrap up, I do want to highlight this. It has been said often by the members opposite that there was no consensus on this report. In fact there was. If the members in this House read recommendation 12, which had the consensus or the majority of this important all-party committee, there was consensus on a referendum on a proposed system that the government would bring forward with a Gallagher Index of five or less, and that this design be done before a referendum on this issue. It is very clear. That was the consensus by the majority of this all-party committee.
I am very proud to speak today. This is a broken promise, plain and simple. The Liberal Party said one thing; the Liberal government did another.