Toronto-Danforth candidates differ on alternative election formula

How Canadians actually choose their federal government got a full airing at Tuesday night’s all-candidates meeting in the Toronto-Danforth riding.

Candidates contesting the riding offered their views about replacing the traditional “first-past-the-post” formula with proportional representation. The latter would see percentage divisions in the electorate represented in the House of Commons.

Green party candidate Chris Tolley minced no words on the topic.

“It’s a given,” he said and was quick to add that under proportional representation, his party would currently have 30 seats in Parliament. His party favours a mixed-member system, which is used in New Zealand and Germany.

Tolley said he believes that the 2015 federal election will be the death knell for the first-past-the-post system in Canada.

Liberal candidate Julie Dabrusin echoed Tolley’s view.

The Liberal party’s plan is to table legislation on proportional representation within 18 months of being elected, but the party hasn’t endorsed a specific system yet.

“Our plan is to have an all-party consultation,” Dabrusin said.

She said later that getting the electorate behind a new system just requires a commitment to educate the public.

“People are smart,” she added. “They just have to have the information to make these decisions.”

According to candidate Craig Scott, the NDP is pledging to make proportional representation a reality by 2019.

“We’re going to have a special, all-party task force that will be consulting broadly and extensively with Canadians,” he said.

Scott said his party will work with experts to create a designed proposal for what an “adapted to Canada version” of mixed member proportional should look like.

During the debate, Scott criticized the Liberal party’s plan.

“It’s not a commitment to proportional representation,” he said.

Scott said the public can look for the NDP’s plan in an upcoming platform release.

“I don’t know when exactly our platform is coming out, but central to it will be proportional representation,” he said.

At one point in the discussion, a member of the audience commented that it was the Ontario Liberal government that had failed to bring in electoral reform in 2007. That’s when John Richardson of the Canada party issued a challenge to all candidates to “make it visible.”

Candidate Tolley responded to another member of the audience asking about the question of the obstacles to electoral reform.

“The obstacle is Harper,” Tolley said.

Toronto-Danforth Conservative candidate Benjamin Dichter was not there to respond.