Ottawa – June 8, 2016 – The Trudeau government’s commitment to have a new electoral system in place for the next election has gotten off to a rough start. There were concerns about getting it done in time, as the government was slow to strike a committee on the issue, and when the Liberals finally did take action, they gave themselves a majority on the committee. This caused outrage, as citizens and pundits rightly noted that decisions on something as big as reforming our system should not be left to one party.
The original composition of the committee led to scepticism that the Liberals’ real goal on electoral reform was to ensure that their preferred voting process – known as a ranked ballot system – would ultimately be adopted as our new voting system.
Many of those who have long championed electoral reform pointed out that ranked ballots would not in fact lead to parliaments that better reflect the wishes of voters, but would instead help the Liberals win even bigger majorities in future elections.
After weeks of criticism that the Liberals were out to stack the deck on electoral reform, the government has backed down and given up their complete control of the electoral reform committee. The Liberals supported a NDP motion, put forward by the NDP’s democratic reform critic, Nathan Cullen, that would change the Liberal-dominated committee to reflect how Canadians actually voted last fall. The motion would also give the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois a voice and vote on the committee. The change in the committee structure means that the Liberals will need the support of at least one other party to put forward a recommendation to change our voting system.
While the committee gets to work, now is the time for organizations like UFCW Canada and the Canadian Labour Cognress (CLC) to try to influence the committee to come up with an electoral system that is fair and representative. Our union, in cooperation with the CLC, recommends a voting system that:
Makes every vote count and matter;
Has regional/local representation;
Does not allow for a majority government to be formed without a majority of votes; and
Allows for a more representative government in Canada.
The NDP motion is a small step forward in ensuring that a new voting system is not rigged in favour of any one party. But there is still a long way to go, and time is running short to achieve a fair and representative system for the next election.