The Special Committee on Electoral Reform, looking into changing the voting system, says Canadians should get to vote on any changes in a referendum.
Moving to a voting system of proportional representation was one of Justin Trudeau’s key campaign promises in the run-up to last November’s election.
The special committee was formed in June 2016 and, on Thursday, issued its third report, making recommendations for electoral reform to the government.
As well as recommending a referendum on the issue of electoral reform, the report also advises that the government must fully design an alternative ahead of the vote.
The committee also advises creating a financial incentive for parties to run more female candidates, and registering youth as young as 16 years old ahead them reaching voting age.
And while the committee says mandatory voting and online voting should not be put into effect now, it advises Elections Canada to look into using technology to make voting easier.
Canada currently uses the first-past-the-post voting system; the party winning the most ridings forms a majority government, even if more people actually voted for other parties.
Proportional representation can take many forms, but the goal is to make the number of seats awarded in Parliament reflect the proportion of votes a party actually receives.
So, for example, under first-past-the-post, a party can sweep to power with only 30% of the ridings, if the other parties running individually win fewer than that.
But under proportional representation, a party with 30% of ridings may only get 30% of seats in Parliament; the rest could also be split among the other parties proportionally.
Another option is the alternative vote system, in which people rank candidates in order of preference, in case the party with the most 1st preference votes does not have a majority.
Despite having campaigned on changing the voting system by 2019, in a supplementary report, the Liberals called the committee’s recommendations “rushed.”
“We believe Canadians are far from being adequately engaged with the electoral reform discussion,” said the supplementary report.
“We contend that the recommendations … are rushed, and are too radical to impose at this time as Canadians must be more engaged.”
The Liberal report said so few members of the public had participated in consultations to date, that it did not believe the process could be completed before 2019.
The supplementary report also rejected the idea of a referendum, saying it was not the will of Canadians and there was insufficient evidence to show otherwise.
The Liberals concluded by recommending the government carry out more comprehensive and effective “citizen engagement” before proposing specific changes to the voting system.
Meanwhile, in their own supplementary report, the NDP and Green Party praised the recommendations to change the voting system contained in the special committee’s report.
“The Committee’s decision to support proportional representation for Canada is an historic achievement and an important moment for the deepening of Canadian democracy,” said the supplementary report.
“The evidence was overwhelming that Canadian democracy will be reinvigorated and the
quality of it vastly improved as we reject the archaic FPTP voting system.”
However, they also rejected the idea of a referendum, saying they had serious concerns about holding a referendum.
“We believe that significant additional public education and consultation initiatives on
electoral reform must be undertaken,” said the supplementary report.
“The evidence for the necessity of change is overwhelming; the evidence for the necessity of holding a referendum is not.”
It is not clear when the government will respond to the report, but a new round of public consultation may be launched soon.