Thank you for reaching out to me about electoral reform—for calling, writing, emailing, sending me messages on social media, and for attending my town hall in our riding on this very important topic. As you may know, on Wednesday our government announced that we will not be changing the electoral system. I know that this may come as a disappointment to some of you in Parkdale-High Park who may have cast your vote in 2015 on this very issue.
We made a commitment to Canadians during the 2015 campaign, a commitment we are no longer able to keep. For that decision, we may be held accountable in our system of Parliamentary Democracy. That is the way our system works—that is your right as a voter. I know that not meeting campaign commitments may come as a disappointment—I write to you now, not to provide excuses, but to explain some of the reasons behind this very difficult decision.
The decision to not proceed with electoral reform was not taken lightly by our government. We are committed to improving the state of our democracy. Holding true to this commitment, we sought the views of Canadians about which alternative voting system they wanted.
Hundreds of town halls were conducted by Parliamentarians from coast-to-coast-to-coast; a special committee on Electoral Reform was struck and worked tirelessly; online we gathered views from everyday Canadians from across the country.
In the end, we heard a wide range of opinions from Canadians, but no clear consensus emerged on which alternative voting system was suited for Canada, nor how we should go about implementing such a change. I firmly believe that change of this kind cannot be undertaken lightly. When you speak about changing the electoral system, you are talking about fundamental change at the very heart of how we elect our governments. After the extensive public consultations, it became evident that the broad support needed among Canadians for a change of this magnitude does not exist, and it would not have been responsible to proceed.
We made this decision in the belief that a referendum on electoral reform without a clear question on the alternatives is not in the best interest of Canada at this time. There are many other critical issues for the Government to address: from responding to pressing mental health challenges; to meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples; from combatting climate change and shifting to a low-carbon economy; to responding to the housing crisis and the pressing need for poverty reduction; from building critically needed infrastructure to stimulate job growth and transit creation; to fighting the spread of hatred and prejudice. In my new role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Heritage with responsibility for Multiculturalism, I am deeply committed to combatting bigotry and promoting the values of tolerance, inclusion and diversity that define our riding, and our country.
I assure you that my desire to work on your behalf to strengthen our democracy remains. Last fall, our government introduced Bill C-33, an act which will repeal the negative aspects of the previous government’s “Unfair” Elections Act, by removing barriers to voting and improving voter turnout. Bill C-33 will once again allow the use of the Voter Information Card as identification, restore vouching, expand the Chief Electoral Officer’s communication mandate, create a National Register of Future Electors, restore the independence of the Commissioner of Canada Elections and expand voting rights to 1 million Canadians living abroad.
We have also completely overhauled the way we appoint Senators, Judges and members of Federal Agencies to create a process that is more transparent, which produces better, more diverse and a higher number of female appointees. These are steps in the right direction and there is more to come. We are committed to increasing openness and transparency in political fundraising, and to protecting our democratic institutions and elections from possible cyberattacks.
I hope this helps explain the basis of our government’s decision. I know you may have more questions and I am happy to continue this important conversation—my sincere desire is that the residents of Parkdale—High Park who have reached out to me on this issue remain engaged. I know that our mutual goal of a stronger democracy cannot be realized without your valuable input and advice.
Member of Parliament for Parkdale—High Park
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Heritage (Multiculturalism)