Rob currently works on Parliament Hill and is on the Daybreak Non-Profit Housing Board of Directors. He writes regularly on his blog #RedHeartBlueSign at www.redheartbluesign.wordpress.com on lifestyle, political and personal topics.
Recently I attended the Election Reform Public TownHall hosted by Ottawa West-Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld. As Town Halls go, it could have ended up worse that it was, at least for MP Vandenbeld. Really, she has to report to the Democratic Reform Committee what happened and 95% of what she’ll have to report is not what Minister Moncef might wish to hear.
To be honest, MP Vandenbeld likely knew what she had coming on that Saturday night (Yes, a Saturday night!) and she gave those that wanted to speak all the time they wanted (as long as it did go over 2 minutes) to say their peace. She had planned for one and a half hours for the public consultation, it went a bit over the 2 hours as everyone that stood in line to speak was given the opportunity, that was a good thing. The entire meeting was planned for 3 hours, I did not stay for the 3rd hours as as MP Vandenbeld was pretty well telling her constituents what she did as their MP and was taking feedback on what else they wanted her to do.
While giving everyone that wanted it, a soapbox to stand on was good – did everyone really know what the electoral reform discussion is REALLY about? Minister Monsef talks a lot of the under-represented, the vulnerable and the disenfranchised. The government’s idea of electoral reform is meant to increase voter turnout. Here is the question, does the need to increase voter turnout REALLY need to include how Canadians vote?
I need to say this; if the aim was to hear from the disenfrachised at the meeting it did not work. Though a show of hands was not taken, I would gather 90% of those that attended voted in the last election. Clearly everyone who showed up is a dedicated voter. If only previous voters show up and talk at these meetings HOW will the government hear from the people Electoral reform is meant to represent? As for the percent of voters the meeting reached? With about 175 people in attendence, this meeting reached 0.2% of the voters in the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean. That number is likely less as I counted at least 5 other ridings that were represented at the meeting and spoke.
At the meeting, who knew what reforming our voting system actually would look like? There were no speakers talking about options, there was no one from the Democratic Reform Committee present – and MP Vandenbeld who is a expert on democray did not speak much at all about reform. Who would really know if anyone knew what they were talking about? It was clear in the meeting through that there were many who did their homework and spoke well (for their alotted 2 minutes) about reform or no reform or a need or not a need for a referendum.
Here is something else, there were NO handouts about refomr from the MP. I was greated at the door of the meeting hall by former MPP Alex Cullen who handed out the NDP platform for voting and Julien Lamarche from Fair Vote Canada also provided reading material. There was nothing, nadda, zip and zilch from MP Vandebeld or the government about reform. MP Vandenbeld did provide feedback forms which could be filled out and dropped in a box or taken home to be completed and sent in to the MP’s office or via email.
What I found interesting was the look I received when I was asked by Fair Vote Canada why I was there – they were quite surprised I was there. My answer was “I have a real and deep interest in democracy.”
Asked what my preference was, the answers was quite simple. “First Canadians must have a say in ANY reform through a referendum. If we change from First Past the Post, I feel a Mixed Member Porportion system is the fairest. For some reason Mr. Cullen gave me the strangest of faces. He might have thought I as a knuckle dragger when it came to any change of our voting system, oh well.”
The next session I will be attending is in Ottawa Centre where my MP, Catherine McKenna will be the host. Hopefully the two hour meeting will have more information from the government about Democratic Reform.