The beautiful island summer is upon us and it has been great to return from my first House of Commons session in Ottawa and reconnect with the community.
Although this time is easy to take for granted, we cannot forget that some of the most difficult questions on the very essence of our democracy are being contemplated in Ottawa right now.
Both the NDP and the Liberal Party of Canada promised that the 2015 election would be the last held under the first-past-the post electoral system. The Liberal government had plans to set up a parliamentary committee to study electoral reform and were insisting on giving themselves the majority of the votes on the committee. Had this original committee structure come to be, it would have ensured that one political party, the Liberals, could unilaterally decide what our new electoral system would be.
Through hard work and effective opposition, the House of Commons adopted an NDP motion that would ensure that the electoral reform committee would not be ruled by one party, but would be proportional to the popular vote from the last election and also include the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party. This committee is meeting over the summer months to start on work that will lead to their report to government.
What is very clear is that the way we vote in our representatives needs to change and that there needs to be a proportional system where no vote is wasted and all count equally, no matter where you live.
The first-past-the-post system now in place leads to false majorities. In the 2011 election, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party received 39 per cent of the vote, but was able to hold the balance of power in the House of Commons. Similarly, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are also benefitting from 100 per cent of the power in the House, despite receiving just 39 per cent of the popular vote.
One of the worst examples in modern times of this distortion came in 2006, when the Liberal Party of New Brunswick won a majority government, despite more people in the province voting for the Progressive Conservative Party.
Governments should represent a genuine majority; Parliament should be representative of the people. In a proportional system, all voters have a reason to cast a vote without the fear of it being wasted.
Electoral reform is about more than just how we vote; it also ensures we have a fair system that cannot be bought. In the 2015 election, Canadians endured one of the longest campaigns in this country’s history, which only served to allow the larger parties to spend more on political advertising.
After hearing from constituents during and after the campaign on how difficult it was to suffer through such a marathon, I have proposed Bill C-279, which would limit the electoral period to a maximum of 46 days. This would effectively make it impossible for a government to call marathon election periods and close the door that had been opened to big-spending, U.S. style politics.
In the spirit of building a movement to fix our democracy, I will be hosting town hall meetings on electoral reform. I’d like to hear your thoughts on ensuring our government is more representative of our population, making every vote count and stopping marathon election campaigns.
Details of the events will be on my website and Facebook page; please join me in September and give voice to your ideas to build a better democracy for all of us.
Alistair MacGregor is the New Democratic Party Member of Parliament for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.