Electoral Reform was one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promises on the campaign trail, and Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen and the electoral reform committee are making sure that promise is kept before the next 2019 federal election.
Cullen is currently leading the committee as vice-chair, made up of members from all national parties and this coming month, he’ll be hitting the road across the northwest throughout his riding to gather feedback from his constituents.
“It’s kind of an interesting issue because most people didn’t wake up worried about it this morning when they got out of bed, yet whatever they were thinking about is connected back to this issue,” said Cullen last Friday. “Whether it’s the environment or economy or state of the country, it all rests on how we vote.”
Large geographic ridings like the one Cullen serves have always been problematic, and the MP wants to see that connection with a local constituent remain.
“I’ve been arguing that many rural ridings are already difficult to service because of their size. I like the connection between voters and a member of Parliament, I don’t want that ever to be severed … We’re looking at made-in-Canada solutions,” he said.
The reform committee is ensuring that every vote counts in the election, something that isn’t always the case in the oft-criticized first-past-the-post system of tallying ballots.
This past week, Prince Rupert residents received an invitation in the mail to attend a public meeting held this coming Tuesday, Sept. 6 at Northwest Community College.
From 7 to 9 p.m., Cullen will be gathering opinions on how residents would like to shape Canadian elections in the future, whether it be under proportional representation, First-Past-the-Post or otherwise.
The invitation outlined the work that Cullen’s federal NDP party made in ensuring the reform process would be a fair one.
“In February, we presented a plan for an inclusive, multi-partisan model to Canadians and thousands of you joined us to pressure the government. The plan reflected the way Canadians voted in the last election, allowing all parties a seat at the table,” Cullen explained in his letter.
“After initially opposing our idea, we forced a vote in Parliament and convinced the Liberals to support it. This agreement was an important victory and a first step towards fair and collaborative electoral reform.”
The invitation lists five statements that respondents can record how much they agree, including “A party’s seats in Parliament should reflect the percentage of votes they received”, “Working collaboratively and having cross-party support is vital”, “Having a local representative is important to me”, “We should be increasing gender diversity and gender equity in Parliament” and “It’s time to lower the voting age and better engage young people”.
Getting residents well-versed in their different options will be crucial moving forward, said the MP. And while referendums have been conducted in the past in Canada about voting systems, they often have all sorts of influences guide their decision, not just the singular ballot question.
“We’ve suggested that we bring in a new system, let people see it in action for an election or two and then put on the ballot the next time around. ‘Do you want to keep it, or go back to the one we had before?’”
“We’ve also learned there’s a huge amount of fear in change, especially if that change is not understood or a bit complicated,” he said.
The committee is expected to prepare a report by the end of the summer based on their findings.
It will come with a set of recommendations and a proposal from a consensus reached by the committee members, made up of all parties.