OTTAWA — Minister Maryam Monsef, who was tasked to fulfill the irresponsible election promise of Justin Trudeau, had to apologize in the Commons Chamber, after she misrepresented the report of the SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ELECTORAL REFORM, when she accused them of shirking their duties and not making the kind of recommendations her Party wanted.
In her ‘come-down’ backtracking, she said she used words that she “deeply regrets” and in no way meant to imply committee members hadn’t worked hard or focused on the task at hand.
Opposition MPs were roused by Monsef’s dismissive response to the Committee Report, which recommended a Proportional Voting System, along with a National Referendum.
Monsef wrongly accused the Committee of failing to give a specific replacement choice, even though its mandate was to “identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system.”
We recall that during the 2015 campaign, Trudeau promised that the October election would be the last to take place under the “first-past-the-post” system, which socialist critics say does not fully reflect the will of voters.
Trudeau claimed the Committee’s job was to determine whether there was general consensus among parties on a way to move forward on electoral change. He said there didn’t seem to be. He was wrong. There is a clear road, and it is through a referendum with a multiple-choice ballot that includes the option of keeping the current system. The governments plan is to introduce legislation in the spring.
Many have said that the government should allow Canadians to decide whether or not to change the rules of their democracy, by using the most democratic method — a referendum, a vote by the people.
So, what did the Committee actually say, as compared to what the media says it recommended?
LIST OF RECOMMENDATIONS
The Committee recommends that the Government should, as it develops a new electoral system, use the Gallagher index in order to minimize the level of distortion between the popular will of the electorate and the resultant seat allocations in Parliament. The government should seek to design a system that achieves a Gallagher score of 5 or less.
The Committee recommends that, although systems of pure party lists can achieve a Gallagher score of 5 or less, they should not be considered by the Government as such systems sever the connection between voters and their MP.
The Committee recommends that mandatory voting not be implemented at this time.
The Committee recommends that online voting not be implemented at this time.
The Committee recommends that Elections Canada explore, in collaboration with relevant stakeholder groups, the use of technologies to promote greater accessibility of the vote while ensuring the overall integrity of the voting process.
The Committee recommends that the House of Commons refer the question of how to improve the accessibility of voting for Canadians with disabilities, while ensuring the overall integrity of the voting process, to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
The Committee recommends that any electoral reform seek to enhance the likelihood of improving voter turnout and to increase the possibilities for historically disenfranchised and underrepresented groups (i.e. women, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, youth, and Canadians of lower economic means) to be elected. [Note that this recommendation applies to both Chapter 7 and Chapter 8]
The Committee recommends that the Government amend the Canada Elections Act to create a financial incentive (for example through reimbursement of electoral campaign expenses) for political parties to run more women candidates and move towards parity in their nominations.
The Committee recommends that, working with the provinces and territories, the Government explore ways in which youth under 18 years of age could be registered in the National Register of Electors, preferably through the school system, up to two years in advance of reaching voting age.
The Committee recommends that the Government accord Elections Canada the additional mandate, and necessary resources, to encourage greater voter participation, including through initiatives such as Civix’s Student Vote, and by better raising awareness among Canadians of existing options to vote prior to Election Day (voting at an advance poll, voting by mail, voting at any Elections Canada office).
The Committee recommends that electoral system reform be accompanied by a comprehensive study of the effects on other aspects of Canada’s “governance ecosystem”, namely:
the relationship between, and operations of, the legislative and executive branches of government;
the relationship between, and operations of, the House of Commons and the Senate;
parliamentary procedure and conventions related to government formation and dismissal;
the impact on the operations of political parties.
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 Committee recommends that Elections Canada should produce and make available to the public materials describing any option, including maps depicting potential electoral district boundaries applicable under that option and sample ballot design, prior to the start of the referendum campaign period.