Fair Vote Guelph Petitioning Longfield and Chong on Reform

The government of Justin Trudeau is barely a month old, and it won’t even sit in Parliament for the first time till next week, but that’s not letting some people from wanting those campaign promises to be passed with immediate effect. On the subject of election reform, Fair Vote Guelph is striking while the proverbial iron is hot, and they want you to remind our local MPs of a certain election promise…

At a couple of events this weekend, Fair Vote is inviting citizens to contribute their signatures on petitions to Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield and Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong. Now granted, Chong is a Conservative MP and his party made no promises about electoral reform, but he has been known to be a fan of instituting reform.

Copies of both petitions will be available at the Big Umbrella at the Guelph Farmers Market (4 Gordon Street, Guelph) on Saturday 28th and also at the Climate Change Rally taking place in Guelph on Sunday afternoon, November 29 in front of the Old Quebec Street Mall. Members of the Fair Vote team will be wearing Your Vote Should Count buttons.

“Canada moved from one ‘false majority’ on the political right to an even bigger ‘false majority’ on the opposite end of the spectrum,” said a Fair Vote e-mail. “The initial euphoria has been replaced by some mild bouts of depression, particularly as we see the mounting doubts in social media that the Liberals will follow through with their electoral reform.”

Fair Vote’s goal is simple, they’d like to get 25 signatures on each petition, thus requiring Longfield and Chong to read them into the public record in the House of Commons. Considering the turnout for Fair Vote events around the topic, getting 50 names doesn’t sound too hard. And that’s not all…

A public meeting is tentatively planned for early in 2016 with a view to educating citizens about the need for a Proportional Representation electoral system and about the need to press the new Liberal Government to proceed with their promise to get rid of our dysfunctional First-Past-The-Post system.

Electoral reform has been pretty snugly in the public consciousness since the Liberals’ election last month. In fact, a Facebook event was created within days of the October 19 vote, entrenching (sort of) Trudeau’s promise to have a new election system in place in 16 months by Thursday April 20, 2017. So this ain’t over.

And of course this is an effort greater than Guelph. Here’s a copy of an Open Letter to Trudeau that Fair Vote charters across the country are asking members to send to the Prime Minister:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

In the run-up to the October 19th election, I was inspired by the recognition in the Liberal party of Canada’s platform that our democracy is in need of repair. The results of the election showed how the Liberal Party’s call for “Real CHANGE” struck a chord with many voters, but they were indicative as well of the urgent need for electoral reform in this country.

On October 19th, over 9,000,000 voters (51.8%) were unable to make their vote count and elect a representative to bring their voice to Ottawa. The country elected a majority Liberal government, but as usual, did so with less than a majority of the vote (39.5%). Most Liberals in Alberta and Saskatchewan, New Democrats and Conservatives in Toronto and Atlantic Canada, and Greens nearly everywhere elected no representation to Parliament. That is unfair. It is also the root cause of much of the cynicism, apathy and negativity people feel about elections, politicians and Parliament.

Voters were inspired when you promised to make 2015 the last election using first-past-the-post and to modernize our voting system to “make every vote count”. Implicit in that promise is your understanding that over half of all voters are unable to elect a representative of their choice – that voters are not treated as political equals and they should be. You made an explicit commitment as well to develop a made-in-Canada solution. I enthusiastically support that commitment.

You further inspired us and raised our hopes when you evoked the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and said, “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”. Voter equality – making every citizen’s vote count equally – is the unrealized promise of our Charter. Your new government is in a position to rise above partisan differences, stand up for all Canadian voters, realize the democratic ideal and take a lasting place in Canadian and world history.

As you said, “Better is Always Possible!” All Canadians should have equal, effective votes and positive representation in Parliament – where your vote is equal to mine and mine is equal to that of every other Canadian. That’s a powerful idea. No vote should carry more weight depending on who you voted for or where you live. To have a hopeful future together we can no longer settle for the thin and negative satisfaction of eventually defeating candidates and parties we don’t like. We all need the positive benefits that come from electing representatives we want to the House of Commons — representatives who have won our trust and loyalty.

No voting system is perfect but only some form of proportional representation (PR) can deliver voter equality and truly Make Every Vote Count. I have no single preconceived idea of the best form of PR for Canada. Let’s hear from the competing advocates including advocates of ranked balloting. Let experts analyze and refine the various options and arrive at a PR recommendation likely to be welcomed by the great majority of democratic-minded Canadians.

Mr. Trudeau, the electoral system belongs to the people. It is the system that citizens use to hire and fire politicians. I feel strongly that the people must be involved in the electoral reform process right from the start. Canadians have had enough of Parliamentary committees that were dog-and-pony shows manipulated to produce partisan results. I want an open and transparent process that puts citizen interests in a more democratically representative Parliament at the forefront. By delivering that, your government will do much to raise public respect for itself and for Canada’s political institutions.

WE URGE YOU, as a top priority, to create an evidence-based process that includes Parliamentarians from all parties, non-partisan experts and citizens. This Task Force should lead the process to design the best voting system for Canada in which as many votes as possible deliver equal and effective representation. It should ensure all options are fully and fairly studied and considered.

As you promised, cabinet should launch the Task Force almost immediately to ensure ample time for public consultation, design, enactment and implementation of a new Canadian voting system for the next federal election.

Mr. Prime Minister, this government has the opportunity to do something truly historic on electoral reform, changing Canada’s democracy for the better in a way that could inspire other levels of government in Canada to do the same, while providing inspiration to other countries internationally. I hope that you will see it in your wisdom and democratic values to make the most of that opportunity.

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