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LETTER: MPs being urged to support electoral reform motion

M-86, if approved, would allow for Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform
A letter writer is urging citizens to sign a petition asking MPs to vote in favour of a 'Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform.'

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Sometime in February, all MPs sitting in our Canadian Parliament will be asked to vote for a second time on motion M-86, “a motion to approve a Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.”

Across the country, citizens are asking MPs from all parties to support this motion.

The motion, if approved, would lead to the formation of a citizens’ assembly. A citizens’ assembly is a ‘mini-public’ convened to study and give recommendations on a specific issue — in this case, the focus would be the electoral system that we are using in Canada to elect our national government (and provincial ones, too).

A national Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform:

  • Would be a non-partisan, independent, trusted process
  • Would be composed of citizens selected at random, like a jury
  • Would include Canadians from all walks of life, with special care to ensure that participants reflect Canadian society, including by age, gender, ethnicity and region of Canada
  • Would engage citizens to learn from experts, thoughtfully consider the issue(s), and make a recommendation.

If parliamentary motion M-86 is approved, without prejudging various kinds of electoral systems, a citizens’ assembly will review options to improve our current electoral system. They would be free to recommend keeping the status quo (first-past-the-post), ranked ballots, or a proportional system (including proportional ranked ballots, or any other made-for-Canada proportional representation system).

Why consider reforming our electoral system? Simply because there are obvious signs that our democracy in Canada is not as strong as it might be. Low voter turnout (getting worse, it seems, with almost every election), mistrust in our institutions — in governments, in particular — polarization, and hostile partisan politics are of deep concern to many in this country and in this community.

Also of concern for many is that our national governments are often elected to a so-called ‘majority’ with far less than 50 per cent support from voters — less than 40 per cent, more often than not. This is a predictable result of our current first-past-the-post system, a system initially designed for a two-party system that is now being used in a country with multiple parties. How can we call any government ‘truly representative of the voters’ in this situation?

Making progress on electoral reform requires political leadership, but politicians alone won’t fix the system that elected them. Handing that job to a citizens’ assembly would seem to be the logical way to examine the changes our democracy might make to improve.

If you’re reading this and you agree with giving a citizens’ assembly this job, you have two options.

First, sign the petition that will be presented to Parliament via MPs across the country.

Add your signature and contact information to the petition by Friday, Jan. 19. 

Second, make a call to your MP’s office and urge them to support the motion when it comes to the floor for a vote in Parliament. 

Another thing you might do is urge friends and family members to also sign the petition and/or call your MP. Good citizens need to be involved in our democracy; just casting a vote every four years is not enough these days.

As we begin the new year of 2024, many of us are far too aware of the pressing issues of the day — housing, affordability, health care, and so on. There is no shortage of needs in this country.

At the centre of our democracy, however, is the question of whether our current system is working for the Canadian people. Examining how our government can be more responsive to the needs of our people is the task a citizens’ assembly would be given.

Can there be a more fundamental, more important issue than this?

Sign the petition and call your MP today. 

Fred Larsen