NDP proposal puts electoral reform on House agenda

With less than a year to go before Canadians are set to go to the polls, the New Democrats want their Commons colleagues to put their parties' respective positions on electoral reform on the official record.

Liberals to hold free vote, Conservatives likely to oppose motion to move to mixed-member system

The New Democrats are hoping to make parliamentary history by passing a motion in support of proportional representation at the federal level, though the vote would not be biding on the government. (Leslie MacKinnon/CBC)

With less than a year remaining before Canadians must go to the polls, the New Democrats want the other parties to put their respective positions on electoral reform on the record.

On Wednesday afternoon, MPs will debate an NDP motion to have the Commons collectively avow that the next election "should be the last conducted under the current first-past-the-post electoral system" or, indeed, "under any other winner-take-all electoral system" — and instead endorse a form of mixed-member proportional representation.

Although not binding on the government, if passed, the motion would make parliamentary history as the first House vote in favour of proportional representation at the federal level.

"If the Conservatives and Liberals truly believe in democracy, they will vote with us," NDP democratic reform critic Craig Scott said in a statement.

"The current system, in which a party can govern without a majority of votes, has gone on long enough. We need to make every vote count."

Although the Conservative Party has no official position on proportional representation, its members have traditionally opposed any move away from the current system.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokesman, Jason MacDonald, pointed out to CBC News that Canadians in three provinces — British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island — voted on changes to their electoral system.

"Every time voters chose to keep the current system," MacDonald noted. "The NDP should respect democratic will of Canadians."

Liberal spokeswoman Kate Purchase told CBC News it will be a free vote for the party caucus.

"At our conventions in 2012 and 2014, Liberals voted in favour of a preferential ballot, as well as further study into proportional representation," she noted.

'Reform Act' headed back to the House

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Michael Chong's bill to rebalance the political power structure, which is currently working its way through the committee process, may be back in the House before MPs head home for the holidays, although it's unlikely to go to a vote until next year.

On Tuesday morning, the House affairs committee heard from a trio of parliamentary experts — former speaker Peter Milliken, Queen's University professor emeritus Ned Franks and Carleton University professor Lori Turnbull — as well as LeadNow.ca organizer Matthew Carroll, whose group ran an online campaign in support of Chong's private member's bill.

The bill will likely go to clause-by-clause review next week, at which point the committee will vote on whether to implement amendments that Chong accepted in order to secure the support of the government at second reading, as well as whatever proposed tweaks committee members put forward.

Among the changes requested by Chong:

  • Raising the threshold required to trigger a leadership vote to 20 per cent of the caucus.
  • Giving the final say over candidate nominations to a representative designated by the party, and not the local riding association as proposed in the original bill.
  • Allowing newly elected party caucuses to vote on which rules for leadership reviews and other internal management decisions to adopt for the duration of a Parliament.


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