Protesting for electoral reform

Liberals feel push to fulfill promise to bring electoral reform to 2019 federal election.

Protestors advocating for electoral reform outside the office of Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MP Stephen Fuhr.

A group of local protesters braved the cold temperatures Tuesday to hold Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “feet to the fire” in his commitment to bring electoral reform to Canada.

The protesters were joining a country-wide National Day of Action initiative organized by League Now Canada, labeled as “Make Every Vote Count.”

The protest was sparked by an electoral reform survey released by the Liberals which has drawn scorn and ridicule from opposition party MPs and their constituents.

Broughton called the survey not well designed and leaving the impression at least for him that the Liberals want to maintain the election status quo.

“We are not to happy with what was designed and released to the public,” Broughton said.

“We expected more, for the Liberals to listen to the recommendations of the electoral reform committee (which recommended proportional representation as a new electoral model to be voted on through a national referendum) and to move forward with it rather than what appears to be trying to resist it.”

The all-party parliamentary electoral reform committee spent a period of eight months studying the issue extensively, which included consultations and town hall hosted by MPs from all the parties.

The town hall forum hosted by local Liberal MP Stephen Fuhr was attended by about 150 people.

Broughton acknowledges that educating the public to the intricacies of the various options, from the current first past the post to either rank ballots or proportional representation, offer complicated comparisons.

“I think the government can do more to help educate the public about the different options but governments also make their own decisions, and to change the electoral system is one that should be made by Parliament in a vote,” Broughton said.

Fuhr, the Liberal MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, said the Liberals remain committed to electoral reform, and are doing some “hard trudging” forward on what is a very divisive issue among Canadians.

Fuhr said the expectation is a recommendation for electoral reform will come before the federal cabinet by the spring of next year and subsequently voted on in Parliament.

He said the idea of holding a national referendum is one that is brought with complicating factors.

He said federal referendums are currently limited to constitutional issues, so that requires a rule change. Then comes coming up with a new system and figuring out how to phrase that change in a single question with a yes or no answer.

“If it’s overly complex, and the more complex it becomes, the less people tend to get engaged. And we all know with referendums that how the question is phrase goes a long way in determining the outcome,” Fuhr said.

He noted that in New Zealand, that country debated for a decade about electoral reform before ultimately deciding on a hybrid proportional representation system, while here in Canada the hope is reform will be in place for the 2019 election.

Fuhr feels criticism of the electoral reform survey is largely politically motivated, as it remains one of many information gathering tools being used to come up with a final recommendation.

“We campaigned on this issue and we’re doing the best we can to move forward on it. I’ve gained a new appreciation for what a complex issue electoral reform is since I became MP,” said Fuhr, noting his position he campaigned on he continues to advocate for, a solution with some element of proportional representation.

Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, described the reaction from his constituents as being “broadly negative.”

Albas said no mention of a referendum or proportional representation as an option are what has fueled much of the negative reaction and online mockery of the survey.

“The whole thing just cuts the wrong way. (The Liberals) weren’t ready to roll this out properly when they did. More than 13 million postcards were sent to people asking them to phone in their responses to the survey and there was no apparent system in place to take their calls,” Albas said.

“That just shows how rushed this process seemed to be.”

Albas said for the Conservatives, their party’s position is any electoral reform change should be put to a referendum.

“Democracy belongs to no single political party,” he said.

 

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