Marc Mayrand urges 'broadest possible' consensus on changing election rules
Elections chief says no single government should be allowed to 'unilaterally' alter playing field
Canada's chief electoral officer says there must be the "broadest possible" consensus across political parties in order to change the federal voting system.
Marc Mayrand insists that no party or government should be allowed to alter the "playing field" without widespread support
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"Not a single government, whatever the majority is, should be able to unilaterally change the rules of election," he said. "Changing the rules of that competition among them should require a broad consensus — the broadest possible."
Mayrand held a news conference in Ottawa to outline recommendations to Parliament on how to "improve and modernize" Canada's electoral framework.
Last first-past-the-post election
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised that last fall's general election will be the last under the current "first-past-the-post" system.
Mayrand did not endorse any preferred model to replace the current system, saying that each system has its own advantages and drawbacks. He will await a report from the parliamentary committee studying the issue before offering his input.
He did, however, put a timeframe on when a new system should be implemented, noting that Elections Canada would need plenty of time to transition.
"We need two years at least to make all the necessary preparations for a new voting system," he said.
Mayrand stopped short of endorsing a referendum on electoral reform, but conceded that is one way to find consensus.
"It's one mechanism," he said. "Or if Parliament can't agree, maybe it stops there — that's the other option."
Consulting on new model
Maryam Monsef, minister for democratic institutions, has been consulting with Canadians across the country, and said recently there is no consensus on what model should replace the current one.
Her spokesman said so far she has visited 20 cities, town and communities and participated in about 40 events, with more to come. This weekend, Monsef will travel to Newfoundland and Labrador.
"Before she's done she will have visited every province and territory and is very excited to hear from Canadians of all views on electoral reform," said Jean-Bruno Villeneuve.
He said the minister is committed to ensuring "broad support" for voting reform changes, which is why the all-party committee is tasked with examining what constitutes that support and how it should be obtained.
"The government is committed to modernizing our voting system and we have stated that we are not prepared to move forward on electoral reform without the broad support of Canadians," he said.
She said most Canadians want changes to include more of who have historically been on the sidelines during elections.
Voter turnout for the Oct. 19 election was 68.3 per cent, the highest since 1993.
MPs studying electoral reform options spent the summer hearing from experts and the committee is expected to submit its final report by Dec. 1.
Mayrand also made a number of other recommendations to improve the voting system, including putting a cap on the duration of the campaign, having a weekend voting day, making greater use of technology to streamline the system, and creating a monetary penalty scheme for non-compliance with election financing rules.