Liberal survey on voting reform delivers conflicting messages
MyDemocracy.ca finds Canadians want governments to compromise, but also like clear accountability
Results from MyDemocracy.ca, the federal government's survey on electoral reform, suggest Canadians are of mixed feelings on the potential impacts of electoral reform, according to a summary released by the minister of democratic institutions late Tuesday.
"Many Canadians simultaneously hold preferences for various attributes that are commonly associated with different families of electoral systems," concludes Clifton van der Linden of Vox Pop Labs, the firm that conducted the survey.
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The online survey asked participants for their views on "how democracy should be practised in Canada," but no specific electoral systems were mentioned. Instead, respondents were presented with statements about how Parliament might function.
Seventy per cent preferred the idea of several parties co-operating and sharing accountability, as opposed to one party being solely accountable. But 53 per cent said it should always be clear which party is responsible for government decisions.
Sixty-five per cent said a greater diversity of views should be represented in Parliament, but support for representing the views of all Canadians was just 45 per cent when respondents were presented with the prospect of radical or extreme parties being represented.
Fifty-nine per cent of respondents said ballots should be as simple as possible, but 62 per cent said voters should be able to express multiple preferences, even if that means it takes longer to count the result.
Vague questions, unclear answers, NDP MP says
According to Vox Pop, 383,074 unique users completed the survey and 243,057 provided enough demographic information to be included in the weighted sample.
Vox Pop says it used a number of "validation techniques" to help remove multiple entries submitted by the same person. The final report also argues that the wide publicity of the survey — postcards were mailed to nearly 15 million households — would have reduced any sampling error.
The Liberal government launched the survey in December, but the opposition quickly dismissed the initiative, with Conservative MP Scott Reid likening it to "a dating website designed by Fidel Castro."
"I would like to thank the over 360,000 people in Canada who had their say about electoral reform through MyDemocracy.ca online or by phone," Karina Gould, the minister of democratic institutions, said in a statement on Tuesday.
"We will carefully consider these findings as we move forward."
Gould replaced Maryam Monsef as minister earlier this month.
NDP reform critic Nathan Cullen remained unimpressed with the survey.
"When you insult Canadians with vague questions you get unclear answers, which may have cynically been what they wanted all along," he said via email on Tuesday.
The survey also found that 53 per cent of respondents disagreed with making voting mandatory and 66 opposed lowering the voting age. Opinions on online voting depended on whether such a system could be secure.
Strong majorities said MPs should put their constituents' concerns ahead of their party position.
During the federal election campaign in 2015, the Liberals promised that there would be a new electoral system in place in time for a vote in 2019.
After receiving the report of the special committee on electoral reform in December, the Liberals said they would be moving forward, in some fashion, this spring.