This week the Hon. Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions, received her mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The letter outlined the work that Minister Gould will undertake but that assignment does not include changing our electoral system.
Last year, I held a well-attended community consultation at the Calvary Church in Toronto-Danforth. I have also had numerous meetings with engaged and passionate residents on how we can change the way we vote. I am sincerely thankful for all the insight my community shared with me on this issue, and I am inspired by the involvement of so many of you in this discussion.
I am moved by your dedication. My strong preference would have been to continue our work to reform our electoral system. I would have liked to see what a system specific to Canada would entail. For those advocates of specific types of voting reform, and in particular systems which are based on proportional representation, I understand your disappointment. As your Member of Parliament I recognize that our government will not be fulfilling a commitment made to you in the last election.
On December 1, 2016 the Special Committee on Electoral Reform presented its report, Strengthening Democracy in Canada: Principles, Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform. The Committee recommended we develop a proportionally representative electoral system. Their report did not contain specifics regarding how many Members of Parliament we should have; how to divide up Canada geographically; whether there would be additional seats free from geographic representation; or whether there would be more than one Member of Parliament to represent a geographic area.
The report also recommended that the government hold a referendum with both the current and a newly designed system of proportional representation on the ballot. I worry that if we rushed toward a referendum as recommended by the committee, the goal of changing our voting system would not be achieved. If Canadians are going to change the way we vote, we deserve a deliberative process that engages, educates and informs. This deliberative process will need time and resources to bring the country to the point of choosing a new electoral system.
We may not be ready yet, but that does not mean that we won’t be ready soon.
I respect the principled and passionate views my community shared with me on changing our electoral system, and I will continue to work with residents and my Ottawa colleagues on this issue. I understand that you may want to discuss this issue further. I am currently in the process of getting back to each of you who has reached out by email or phone. Thank you for your patience. If you would like a call, please reach out to my office with your phone number and the best time for me to try and get a hold of you.