No electoral reform until enough Canadians want it, Monsef says
Published Sunday, November 27, 2016 7:00AM EST
Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef says she hasn't yet found enough support to change how Canadians elect their MPs, and won't move ahead with electoral reform without it.
Monsef has led consultations across the country at the same time a special House committee heard from more than 700 witnesses about different methods of reform and whether Canada should keep the existing first-past-the-post system. MPs were also invited to host townhalls on the issue and report back to the committee, which will present its own final report to the House this week.
In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period, Monsef said she hasn't heard consensus on whether the government should change the electoral system.
"We're committed to this initiative, but we're not going to move forward unless we have the broad support of the people of this country for whom we're making this change," Monsef said.
"I've heard the most passion from proponents for proportional representation and proponents for first-past-the-post."
First-past-the-post is how Canadians elect MPs now. Critics say it's unfair because a party can win support across the country that may not be concentrated enough in any one riding to send an MP to Parliament. Parties with strong regional support, however, can win a disproportionately high number of seats compared to the percentage of popular vote.
Advocates of proportional representation say it's a fairer way of awarding seats. There are different variations within proportional representation, but all of them try to match the number of seats a party wins with its popular vote.
Electoral reform was part of the Liberals’ campaign platform in the last election, and their website still says they are "committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system."
MPs on the special committee say the overwhelming majority of those who want change recommended proportional representation, according to a recommendation to be included in their final report, CTV News revealed last week. The committee is also set to recommend a referendum, something Monsef has so far resisted.
While she says a referendum is costly both in financial terms and because it could divide the country, Monsef says she would "take it very seriously" if the committee recommends a referendum.
"It means I will not take it lightly. It means I recognize that [the committee has] put a lot of work into this, that they've heard from Canadians... [but] I've heard what I've heard too."
The government is launching another phase of its consultations next month with an online survey and a mail-out to Canadians encouraging them to participate.