Politicians, constituents still waiting for electoral reform

The MP for Beaches-East York believes that electoral reform will not happen by the next federal election in 2019.

In 2015, following the election of Justin Trudeau as prime minister, the Liberal administration recommended a number of initiatives and ultimately legislation that would replace the “first-past-the-post” voting system in Canada. In the wake of months of consultation with the public, some believe such alternatives as proportional representation, a ranked balloting system and online voting will not be ready for the next federal election. East York’s Nathaniel Erskine-Smith says it may take longer.

“The promise was to make 2015 the last election under first-past-the-post,” he said, “and if it’s hard to make the promise happen before 2019, we should still be committed to the promise in the long-term.”

On Jan. 10, as part of the prime minister’s cabinet shuffle, MP Karina Gould became minister of democratic institutions, including the electoral reform file.

Liz White, the leader of the Animal Protection Party of Canada has her doubts about the government pledge for electoral change.

“It’s typical of big parties. When you’re out you want it, and when you’re in, you don’t,” White said. “There is no hope in hell in a first-past-the-post system that (the Animal Protection Party) are going to elect anybody.”

According to mycanadiandemocracy.ca, the Special Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE) delivered a majority report for proportional representation; among other things, the committee recommended either mixed member proportional or single transferable votes as preferred election methods.

White said that a proportional representative voting system would be highly beneficial to her party and other small and independent parties, particularly the method of single transferable vote.

“You can focus on specific geographical areas, and if you’re a small party, you don’t have to run in 338 ridings,” White said.

Erskine-Smith believes that having a variety of discourses in Parliament can be beneficial.

“If you have more representative voices in the house, it will ultimately lead to more progressive policies,” he said.

Supporters of proportional representation of some kind, whether mixed member proportional or single transferable vote, believe it can benefit the discourse in Parliament, and give Canadian voters greater impact on national decision-making.

“The goal of electoral reform would be making our democracy more representative of Canadian voters,” Erskine-Smith said.