EDITORIAL: Electoral reform is coming, be sure to be heard

We say: Of course, we haven’t been left with enough time

In our democracy, we have the opportunity every election to help determine who governs our country. But these next few weeks represent, perhaps, our only opportunity to have a say in how those elections will work.

Electoral reform is coming to Canada in some form, and the federal government is working on a hasty timeline to make it happen. It wants a report from a House of Commons committee by Dec. 1, and it wants MPs to deliver feedback from their constituencies by Oct. 14. The reason for the hurry is that Elections Canada says it needs a certain amount of time to be able to put the new voting system in place prior to the next election.

Of course we haven’t left ourselves enough time to talk about a subject so broad. No matter the timeline, we would be saying that. One of the challenges is that the Liberals aren’t asking for input on a preferred voting system – rather, they’re open to suggestions, which means the committee is tasked with studying all manner of systems used around the world as well as made-in-Canada models.

First-past-the-post has arguably served us adequately, but we think almost any form of proportional representation would be an upgrade. The prime minister has expressed support in the past for ranked balloting. Single transferable vote, twice rejected in B.C., is being considered, as is mixed-member proportional, where citizens vote for both a candidate and a party, and parties receive ‘top-up’ seats regionally to reflect vote share.

A referendum isn’t going to happen – the government believes it already has a mandate for electoral reform. We’re not sure that’s the case, as we don’t believe the issue was near the forefront of the Liberals’ election platform. That said, we don’t think electoral reform should go to a vote – governing by referendum isn’t usually good leadership, and we’ve seen that referendum campaigns tend to go off the rails and become broader questions of confidence and identity politics.

Electoral reform is happening right now. These next few weeks are our chance to be heard. We don’t get a lot of say, but at election time, our votes will go further, and our votes will matter.

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