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Scrap party politics? Here's what Yukon's electoral reform commission will look at

The Yukon government has released more details about how the electoral reform commission will work, as well as the results of a survey of what Yukoners say about the issue.

Part of commission's work will be based on results of government survey last fall

'We hope that we'll pick names that Yukoners will see are not of a partisan nature,' said Premier Sandy Silver about the electoral reform commission. (Nelly Alberola/Radio-Canada)

The Yukon government has released more details about how the electoral reform commission will work, as well as the results of a survey of what Yukoners say about the issue.

Last week, Premier Sandy Silver announced the commission would be formed to study electoral reform. It follows a public survey the government conducted last fall.

The chair of the commission will be appointed by Silver. The premier will also appoint the members of the commission, and that has raised concerns by the opposition that the commission could be perceived as partisan.

"We hope that we'll pick names that Yukoners will see are not of a partisan nature or pre-determining what the outcome should be," said Silver.

What the commission will examine

In the draft terms of reference, released Tuesday, three commissioners will study three parts of the electoral system.

They will examine if the current "first-past-the-post" system captures the intentions of voters. Like the rest of Canada, Yukon uses first-past-the-post, in which the candidate who receives the most votes wins.

The draft terms of reference say the commission should conduct "public education and public engagement on possible options for electoral system reform."

If the commission finds Yukoners do want electoral reform, "ìt may also recommend the strongest electoral system for territorial elections" and it can suggest how to tell Yukoners about it "in a way that supports informed choice."

Besides the system Yukoners use for elections, a large number of respondents 'suggested either considering or going straight ahead with eliminating party politics in Yukon.' (Karen Vallevand/CBC)

The commission will look at how to improve how political parties and elected work.

"This work should include options for fair and transparent elections, political fundraising and spending rules, and a more open and accountable legislature," the draft terms of reference state.

Finally, the commission will look "to improve how citizens make their voices heard." This includes flexible and accessible voting options and ensuring that people are registered to vote, have the information they need to vote, and understand how government works, according to the draft terms of reference.

The commissioners will start their work in May and finish by the end of December. They will write a report on their findings for the Yukon government. The final report will be delivered to cabinet late this fall.

The deadline to apply for the commission has been extended to May 3, past its original date of April 26.

What Yukoners say about electoral reform

Part of the commission's work will be based on "Electoral Reform: Results of Public Engagement," a report of the results from the public survey the government conducted on the issue last fall.

The report says there was strong agreement that the commission should focus on public education on the current first-past-the-post electoral system as well as other kinds of electoral systems. It does not specify which other electoral systems — for example, proportional representation — the commission may look at.

If the commission does recommend a change to Yukon's electoral system, the survey report says "a large number of respondents thought the public should vote in a referendum."

Besides the system Yukoners use for elections, a large number of respondents "suggested either considering or going straight ahead with eliminating party politics in Yukon."

The report also focused on how political parties and MLAs work before, during and after elections.

People who took the survey agreed three points were important or very important:

  • "Elections are fair and transparent."
  • "Political fundraising and spending is fair and transparent."
  • Yukon has "an open and accountable legislature."

There was less agreement on the importance of ensuring "elected representatives reflect the diversity of the Yukon."

As for how to improve how people vote, the report says there was strong agreement that three points were important or very important, including having "flexible and accessible voting options" and voters having an understanding of how government works and "the information they need to vote."

The survey used a non-scientific, voluntary online questionnaire. The government says the results "are neither representative of nor generalizable to the broader public."

It had 836 respondents, plus 705 written comments. The territory also heard from two community groups and one Yukon First Nations government.

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to reflect the premier's role in appointing commission members.
    Apr 12, 2019 11:49 AM CT

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