Parliament starts accepting e-petitions this week
"I think this gives significant new power to citizens," says NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who fought for the change
Goodbye to door knocking and collecting signatures by hand — starting Friday petitions can be submitted to the federal government online, through Parliament's website.
"I think this gives significant new power to citizens," said Kennedy Stewart, the New Democrat MP for Burnaby South whose motion to create a digital petition process was passed by the House of Commons last year.
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"People will simply be able to go onto the website, put their petition online, and after a few simple steps will get an URL and they can send it around," he said.
500 signatures required
Stewart said while paper petitions only need 25 signatures before they can be tabled in the House of Commons, online petitions will require 500 signatures.
"To cut down on frivolous petitions … there's an initial first step where you have to have five other people support your petition, and also you have to get one MP to really serve as a sponsor, so without that one MP it won't go forward."
Stewart said the government will have to give a response within 45 days to petitions that have reached 500 signatures and have been tabled.
Review after 2 years
Stewart said the process will be reviewed at the end of two years, but added that he is confident that online petitions can do more than just sit on a minister's desk.
"Say if all the students across Canada got together and said, 'We want interest-free student loans,' and two million students signed that, it would be very hard for the government to not at least study that on a committee."
Stewart had been pushing for Parliament to accept digital petitions since 2011.
After managing to secure the support of eight backbench Conservative MPs, his motion passed 142 to 140 in January 2014.
To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Parliament starts accepting petitions online, thanks to NDP MP Kennedy Stewart's efforts