Democratic Reform

Policy Discussion Brief

Glen’s Policy Discussion Briefs are a springboard for generating ideas about important policy issues. They provide an overview of an issue, like food nutrition and food security, and describes options for responding, including how Glen could implement policy as leader of the Green Party of Canada. To engage in the conversation, email us at policy@glenmurray.ca or register for a town hall Zoom call at https://www.glenmurray.ca/.

Issue

Democratic Reform and Good Governance

Glen Murray says

“Electoral success within the existing system is the key to democratic reform. Greens have to win to change the system; no other party is as committed as we are to electoral reform. We know that because when in power federally or provincially the New Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives have not implemented electoral reform.”

“At a time when the current Prime Minister faces his third ethics review, this country needs a renewed commitment to democratic reform, government transparency, and a commitment to high ethical standards.”

What would Glen do?

Glen proposes to refine the Green Party’s commitment to electoral reform believing Canada should test drive Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) Representation for two election cycles, followed by a rigorous review through public hearings and a Citizens’ Assembly. 

Prior to implementing MMP, we would form a Commission charged with exploring options for allocating party seats to ensure balanced representation of rural-urban, indigenous, and racialized voters. The goal is to advance equity among Canadians in voting through proportional representation rules. 

Greens support a Mixed-Member Proportional Representation (MMP) system arguing “A MMP system would maintain the critical element of local representation in our current system, and be tailored to Canada's unique geography and demographic needs [to ensure regional, urban-rural, underrepresented segments of the population represented]. In MMP systems, citizens vote for their local representative as well as their preferred party; additional seats are allocated based on their share of the popular vote. It is used by nearly 85% of OECD countries.”

In the immediate term, Glen embraces the 2019 Green Party Platform that advanced a “Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform with the mandate to make recommendations to parliament on an electoral system that would ‘make every vote count.’ Legislative changes to implement the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly would be made in time for the 2023 federal election,” p.76).

Glen supports lowering the voting age to 16. 

Glen would direct Elections Canada to develop a “truth in election campaigns” advertising framework 

Glen proposes extending the influence and reach of the Citizens’ Assembly deliberative model to inform federal government decision-making on important issues like electoral reform. 

Enabling citizen participation is a priority for Glen. There would be investment in coordinated national and provincial efforts to increase civic education (formal and informal) to build citizen capacity to participate in community, provincial and federal decision-making.

Wining seats is critical to implementing MMP

Sad but true - the only way to secure electoral reform is through electoral success within the existing system. 

That means focusing attention, skills and expertise of grassroots Green Party members on the 50 most winnable seats.  

If selected Leader, Glen would immediately develop and deploy a 500-day plan to win in those ridings and be ready in advance of the next election 

Background

Representative democratic governance models evolved over centuries to manage decision-making in large populations organized across extensive geographies (states/countries). 

Participatory democracy has, in modern times too often narrowed its meaning to voting in elections. In addition, first-past-the-post electoral rules in countries like Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom leave many citizens feeling that even their vote counts for little. 

Electoral reform, focused on proportional representation, is one set of solutions aimed at making democracy more representative. Citizen assemblies, with people based on demographic representation deliberate on issues like electoral reform, and make recommendations to decision-makers. Referendums, including citizen-initiated referendums (particularly in the United States) determine a population’s preference for electoral reform (sometimes based on recommendations from citizens’ assemblies) and other issues. 

In 2016, a House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform points out that in Canada MMP is the favoured model despite not having secured final approval: “In the November 2016 electoral system reform plebiscite held in P.E.I., following four rounds of counting, MMP emerged as the preferred option among the five electoral systems under consideration. MMP was also the subject of a referendum in Ontario (2007) and an earlier plebiscite in P.E.I. (2005), both of which failed to receive requisite voter support. MMP was also recommended by Quebec’s Select Committee on the Election Act and Citizens’ Committee in 2006 and New Brunswick’s 2006 Commission on Legislative Democracy,” (p. 86). 

Citizens’ Assemblies are increasingly popular ways to increase participation and support fuller deliberations on issues. Citizen assemblies are deliberating on options for moving communities and the United Kingdom toward zero-greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades. 

Green Party policy 

The Green Party of Canada policy aims to create a more representative democracy through electoral reform.  We support ideas like the creation of a Council of Canadian Governments that would include Indigenous nations and peoples as equal partners with other levels of government in the development of shared national goals, and will be the vehicle for the revamped First Ministers’ meetings.

2019 Green Platform:

  • Ensure that the 2019 election is the last “first past the post” election. By March 2020, we will launch a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform with the mandate to make recommendations to parliament on an electoral system that would “make every vote count.” Legislative changes to implement the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly would be made in time for the 2023 federal election.
  • Lower the voting age to 16, giving young people more say in their future and instilling habits of civic participation.
  • Mandate Elections Canada to develop a truth in advertising framework for election campaigns that empowers the Commissioner of Elections to investigate citizens’ complaints related to campaign advertising and impose sanctions if the complaints are found to be justified.

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Showing 2 reactions

  • Douglas Woodard
    commented 2020-08-29 15:14:34 -0500
    Wayne Ettinger, you don’t seem to be very well informed. Proportional representation will help the Greens, and everyone else who is not an unquestioning supporter of whatever happens to be the biggest party at the time; i.e. most Canadians. Why have we had so many minority parliaments recently?
    Polls consistently show that most Canadians think that we should have an electoral system that gives parties seats in proportion to their vote; but we have trouble agreeing on the details of a new system, and the Conservatives and the Liberals like to set things up in a way that makes it hard for us.
    Under the Constitution of Canada, no system that is mandated Federally can apply to all provinces and municipalities.
    It’s well agreed by the experts that proportional representation is within the powers of the Parliament of Canada, and past attempts that have been partially implemented by provinces for the legislatures of their own provinces were terminated by provincial governments worried about their control, and not by the Supreme Court.
    Oddly enough, in jurisdictions that do have proportional representation and where everyone is represented in the Parliament even though they disagree, people are more contented with their political system than they are in Canada, for example in Switzerland. We don’t need total unity, we need a system that encourages us to work together for results that we can mostly agree on.
    If all the other Greens disagree with you, maybe you should wonder why and rethink your views.

    Doug Woodard
  • Wayne Ettinger
    commented 2020-08-10 19:03:49 -0500
    I think the Green Party is making a huge mistake pushing “PR”. It seem so self serving. Every plebiscite that has been held has rejected the Idea. Why would you advocate a policy that you know is opposed by more than 50% of the voters. I want electoral reform as much as anyone but I want electoral reform that works for municipal elections as well. The only answer is a system of ranked ballots that would be mandated Federally and apply to all Provinces and municipalities.
    When the word “proportional” is included, you can be sure that someday a party that narrowly misses the criteria will go to the supreme court and argue that the restriction is unconstitutional and I would agree. We need a system that unites us and discourages sectarianism.
    I have discussed this with many Greens including Elizabeth May and always get rebuffed. All Greens seem to think they know best. 50 million people in the USA thought they knew best in 2016. Did they?