Lively discussion at electoral reform workshop

More than forty people from Wellington – Halton Hills gathered on May 10 to learn about and discuss possible alternatives to the current “First Past the Post” voting system.

The lively meeting, held at the Fergus branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, was timed to help prepare riding residents for the upcoming federal debate about electoral reform.

It gave participants an opportunity to share what they want to see reflected in a new voting system and also to hear representatives from Fair Vote Canada provide information about alternate voting systems.

Themes such as making every vote count, increasing voter participation and better cooperation between political parties were shared along with voting accessibility and simplicity.

Most participants were not completely satisfied with the current system, in part because it can result in majority governments with less than 50% of the vote.

There were nevertheless, pointed questions about the possible alternatives. Is Ranked Ballot (where voters select first, second and third choice candidates) really different from the current “winner take all” system? Does Multiple Member Proportional (where larger ridings are represented by a number of Members of Parliament elected according to their proportion of the vote) still provide true local representation? Does Mixed Member Proportional (where larger regional ridings have both local and regional representatives) create voter confusion? Can electronic and mandatory voting help increase voter turnout? And there was interest in learning more about alternate systems in other countries and if that can reliably be used to predict the effects of a new voting system on the Canadian democracy.

The meeting, sponsored by the Wellington – Halton Hills Federal Liberal Association, seemed to be successful in starting the discussion about electoral reform. Although many participants stayed after the meeting, there was not enough time to answer the many remaining questions.

Purely by coincidence, the day after the meeting, Minister Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions) announced that the government has struck an all-party committee which is mandated to look at all available options. The intention is to consult with many organizations and conduct town hall meetings to gain input from Canadians. Electoral reform is expected to be a high profile issue in the coming months.

Matthew Cunnington, President of the Wellington-Halton Hills Federal Liberal Association and Harvey Thomson, a resident of Fergus opened the electoral reform workshop held on May 10 at the Fergus Legion. The workshop was intended to help begin the discussions around electoral reform.