Trudeau Called On To Launch Non-Partisan "Democratic Voting Task Force"
By Susanna Kelley
Justin Trudeau should launch a non-partisan, democratic task force right away to design a fairer election system in Canada as the Liberal leader has promised, says a group advocating for a modernized and reformed electoral system.
It should be made up of fair and respected citizens and/or parliamentarians who favour voting reform, says Fair Vote Canada in an open letter sent to the Prime Minister.
The Democratic Voting Task Force would involve citizens from the beginning, says the group, pouring cold water on Trudeau's pledge to have reform studied by an all-party committee.
"Canadians have had enough of Parliamentary committees that were dog-and-pony shows manipulated to produce partisan results," says Kelly Carmichael in her position as Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada.
Many have criticized all-party committees as a place governments send ideas to die, as their parties have majorities on them that can vote down proposals in partisan fashion or, alternatively claim there is no consensus.
"The electoral system belongs to the people. It is the system that citizens use to hire and fire politicians. I feel strongly that the people must be involved in the electoral reform process right from the start," she wrote.
While calling on the Task Force to conduct wide-reaching consultations, Fair Vote Canada is clear the government must, in the end, come down in favour of some system of proportional representation (PR).
It points out that in the last election over nine million voters - 51.8 per cent - have been left unrepresented in Parliament. That is because the Liberals won a "majority" government but based on the votes of only 39.5 per cent of those who voted. (This is often called a "false majority" by those who favour democratic reform.)
"Most Liberals in Alberta and Saskatchewan, New Democrats and Conservatives in Toronto and Atlantic Canada, and Greens nearly everywhere elected no representation to Parliament. That is unfair," says the letter.
During the election Mr. Trudeau promised reform of the electoral system, pledging it would be the last time Canada used the "first past the post" system to elect its government. That "winner take all" system is not based on proportional representation and tends to skew votes to produce majority governments based on the wishes about 40 per cent of those who voted.
That is because the riding-based system requires only that a candidate get the largest number of votes, even if that is less than 50 per cent, to win the riding. That leaves many voters totally unrepresented in Parliament.
"All Canadians should have equal effective votes and positive representation in Parliament - where your vote is equal to mine and mine is equal to that of every other Canadian. That is a powerful idea," said Carmichael.
"Voter equality - making every citizen's vote count equally - is the unrealized promise of our Charter (of Rights and Freedoms)," she wrote.
"Only some form of proportional representation (PR) can deliver voter equality and truly make every vote count."
Mr. Trudeau has said he favours a "ranked ballot" system, whereby voters would indicate both their first and second choices and use the second choice in case there is no one candidate that gets more than 50 per cent.
However, ranked ballot is not considered proportional representation because voters still often end up with only their second choice.
Mr. Trudeau, however, has indicated he is open to a discussion of various types of systems.
Mr. Trudeau appointed Maryam Monsef as Minister for Democratic Institutions in his new cabinet unveiled last week.