WINNIPEG – It’s virtually impossible to find a topic that 100 per cent of people agree on.
Election reform is no exception, and that was evident at a public forum on the topic Monday afternoon.
Roughly 100 people packed into a banquet hall at the Radisson downtown to participate in an information and discussion session, led by Maryam Monsef who is the Minister of Democratic Institutions.
“This was a well-informed audience, a lively, passionate debate with a diverse range of views,” Minister Monsef said. “We have people from across party lines showing up to these events. They can disagree without being disrespectful, and that has been a constant across the country so far.”
The session opened with a brief explanation of different electoral systems: the current first-past-the-post; proportional representation (where power is based on the percentage of the popular vote a party receives); single transferable vote (where you rank candidates based on preference); and mixed member proportional (where you vote for a candidate and a party).
The majority of those in attendance believed that some kind of proportional representation was the best way forward. Most also agreed that making voting mandatory is not the best idea, but there were some that believed it could get more people to pay attention.
“It doesn’t prevent people from becoming informed, it’s a way of encouraging people to become informed. It’s a way of encouraging young people to participate,” said one man. “Disengagement is the biggest enemy of a functioning democracy.”
The flip side of the argument was a worry that it doesn’t get to the root of why people are unplugged from the democratic process.
There were also differing opinions on the prospect of online voting: some thought it would allow more people to vote, especially those with accessibility issues, but others were concerned about the possibility of someone hacking the system.
All in all, the government will take in all the input from Canadians before making any decision on the future of voting.
“Once the special committee responsible for this mandate has finished its tour, they’re going to make a recommendation on December 1 on each alternative way of voting, online voting mandatory voting,” Minister Monsef explains. “We’re going to take that feedback, combine it with the feedback we’ve heard, and introduce legislation to the House of Commons by spring.”
If you missed your chance to attend today’s forum, you can still share your thoughts online here.