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Electoral Reform .pdf



Original filename: Electoral Reform.pdf
Title: Electoral Reform
Author: Information Organized February, 11, 2017

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Electoral
Reform
From the Government
Of Canada’s Website,
Aug 9th, 2016
Information Organized
February, 11, 2017

Table of Contents
Why Canadian federal electoral reform matters .................................. 2
Why you should participate in the national dialogue on Canadian
federal electoral reform ................................................................................. 2
Guiding principles for Canadian federal electoral reform ................... 3
About the Special Committee on Electoral Reform ............................ 5
The role of the Minister of Democratic Institutions in Canadian
federal electoral reform ................................................................................. 6
Overview of Canada’s current federal electoral system ....................... 7
Electoral systems factsheet ........................................................................ 9
Changing Canada’s federal electoral system .......................................... 11
Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about Canadian federal electoral
reform ......................................................................................................... 12
Glossary of Canadian electoral reform terms ..................................... 19
Glossary of Figures...................................................................................... 24
Endnotes ...................................................................................................... 29

~1~

Why Canadian federal electoral reform matters
Federal electoral reform is part of the Government’s stronger democracy
agenda.
Canadians expect greater inclusion, transparency, meaningful engagement and
modernization from their public institutions.
Federal electoral reform is part of the Government’s commitment to change.
Canada has a strong and deeply rooted democracy. One way to protect our
democratic values is by continuously seeking to improve the functioning of our
democratic institutions—including our voting system.
The federal electoral system matters in the everyday lives of Canadians.
The electoral system is more than vote casting and counting—it is a way for
Canadians to influence their future, give their consent to be governed, and hold
their representatives accountable.
From the electoral process flow many debates, votes and laws that impact the
everyday lives of Canadians. These debates, votes and laws affect the economy,
the well-being of our families and children, and the health and vibrancy of our
communities.
That’s why Canadian federal electoral reform matters. This is your opportunity
to participate in a historic national dialogue about our democracy. Get involved
today!

Why you should participate in the national dialogue
on Canadian federal electoral reform
The federal electoral system serves Canadians and so it needs to reflect
your values and priorities—the Special Committee on Electoral Reform
wants to hear from you.
It is important to have an electoral system that represents who we are as
Canadians. By consulting the public on electoral reform, the Government is
~2~

creating space to examine and improve Canada’s federal electoral system—a
foundation of our democracy.
The House of Commons has given the Special Committee on Electoral
Reform the task of leading a national consultation process on Canadian federal
electoral reform. Canadians have the opportunity to participate in this national
dialogue and shape our future electoral system at the federal level.
Joining this historic dialogue will help strengthen the health of our
democracy.
The Government hopes that this historic dialogue about Canadian federal
electoral reform will inspire Canadians, including the next generation of voters,
to become active participants in the democratic process—both during and in
between elections. This process of examination and discussion will strengthen
our democratic culture and practices, something from which all Canadians can
benefit.
It’s your democracy and your government— get involved, begin the dialogue, get
others talking, and help shape the future of Canada’s democracy.

Guiding principles for Canadian federal electoral
reform
The following five guiding principles may help you think about what you want
from federal elections, your Member of Parliament (MP) and your federal
government. They can help you decide what is important to you when it comes to
potential changes to our democracy at the federal level by considering how any
proposed reforms might:


Restore the effectiveness and legitimacy of voting, such as by reducing
distortions and strengthening the link between voter intention and the
electoral result



Encourage greater engagement and participation in the democratic
process, including by underrepresented groups
~3~



Support accessibility and inclusiveness of all eligible voters, and avoiding
undue complexity in the voting process



Safeguard the integrity of our voting process



Preserve the accountability of local representation

Why are these principles important?
The principles were identified as a means to encourage a thoughtful, substantive
dialogue about what Canadians expect from their electoral system. Potential
changes to Canada’s federal electoral system can be assessed through questions
such as:


How could any proposed reforms strengthen effectiveness and legitimacy
by better reflecting the democratic will of Canadians?



How could any proposed reforms foster civility, cohesion and openness in
politics that will help encourage Canadians to take part?



How could any proposed reforms enhance the sense among Canadians that
they can contribute to, participate in and influence politics?



How could any proposed reforms support accessibility and inclusiveness for
all Canadians in our diverse society?



How could any proposed reforms ensure that Canadians can trust election
results?



How could any proposed reforms affect MPs’ accountability to citizens?

Where did the principles come from?
Recognizing that there are no one-size-fits-all electoral systems, selecting an
electoral system is about values. These principles were developed based on
lessons from other jurisdictions, in Canada and abroad.
The Government is presenting a set of broad principles that are intended to spark
debate and deliberation among Canadians. Their purpose is to start the dialogue.
The Special Committee on Electoral Reform has been asked to consider potential
changes to our federal electoral system based on these principles. The
~4~

consultation process will further shape and develop these principles based on
feedback from Canadians like you. Have your say!

About the Special Committee on Electoral Reform
The Special Committee on Electoral Reform is studying different federal electoral
reforms and consulting Canadians. Based on their work, they will issue a report
to the House of Commons with recommendations on federal electoral reform by
December 1, 2016.
Find out how to:


Contact the committee



Attend a committee meeting



Watch a committee meeting



Receive updates on the work of the committee

Committee members
The Committee is comprised of 12 Members of Parliament from all five parties
with members elected to the House of Commons.
Committee mandate
The committee will:


identify and study viable alternatives to the current federal electoral
system, including preferential ballots and proportional representation, as
well as mandatory and online voting;



consider potential changes to the federal electoral system against five
guiding principles;



conduct meaningful and extensive consultations with Canadians,
through cross-country travel, written submissions and online engagement
opportunities;

~5~



invite all Members of Parliament to hold town halls with their constituents
and issue a report to the committee from each of the 338
constituencies across Canada; and



study and advise on additional methods for obtaining the views of
Canadians.

In addition, the House of Commons has asked that the committee develop its
consultation agenda, working methods, and recommendations on electoral reform
with the goal of strengthening the inclusion of all Canadians in our diverse
society, including women, Indigenous Peoples, youth, seniors, Canadians with
disabilities, new Canadians, and residents of rural and remote communities. The
committee will also take into account the applicable constitutional, legal and
implementation considerations, seeking out expert testimony on these matters.

The role of the Minister of Democratic Institutions
in Canadian federal electoral reform
The Minister of Democratic Institutions is eager to engage Canadians in shaping
their democracy. As stated in the Minister’s mandate letter, the Minister of
Democratic Institutions leads the Government’s work to restore Canadians’ trust
and participation in our democratic processes, including Senate and electoral
reform. Her overarching goal in this work is to strengthen the openness and
fairness of Canada’s public institutions.
Specifically, with respect to electoral reform, the Minister was asked by the Prime
Minister to bring forward a proposal to establish a special parliamentary
committee to consult on federal electoral reform, including preferential ballots,
proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting. On June 7,
2016, the House of Commons voted in favour of creating a special all-party
parliamentary committee on electoral reform.
The Minister – along with her Parliamentary Secretary – will be undertaking
outreach and engagement activities in relation to federal electoral reform. These
activities will complement the committee’s consultations.
~6~

The Minister’s outreach will focus on democratic engagement more generally, the
need for federal electoral reform and the federal electoral reform process. Effort
will be made to engage with a broad audience, including women, Indigenous
peoples, youth, seniors, Canadians with disabilities, people with exceptionalities,
new Canadians and residents of rural and remote communities.

Overview of Canada’s current federal electoral
system
For more information about Canada’s current federal electoral system, check
out How Canadians Govern Themselves on the Library of Parliament website.
About the House of Commons
The House of Commons plays an important role in Canada’s system of
government: it debates issues, votes on the passage of laws and ensures the
Government is held accountable.
Members of Parliament (MPs) sit in the House of Commons to represent their
local communities, known as electoral districts (also commonly referred to as
constituencies or ridings).
Almost all Canadian MPs belong to a political party:


Political parties help Canadians understand the views of local candidates
and their elected MP by presenting voters with a set of priorities the
political party will pursue, known as a “platform.”



Platforms can indicate what Governments will do when they are in power,
for example, what types of laws they will introduce and how they will
handle certain issues.

In Canada’s system the Prime Minister and Cabinet sit in the House of Commons:


This allows MPs to question the Prime Minister and Government
ministers directly in the House of Commons on behalf of Canadians.
~7~



To stay in power, the Government must have the support of a majority of
MPs, also known as having the “confidence” of the House of Commons.

Elections and formation of Government under the current electoral system
Under the current voting system:


There are 338 electoral districts in Canada.



Every electoral district has one MP, and



Voting is voluntary.

Today, the candidate who gets the most votes in your electoral district wins,
often with less than 50% of the votes. The winning candidate goes to represent
you in the House of Commons. This is what we call the First-Past-the-Post
(FPTP) system:


You vote for your local MP by selecting one candidate on the ballot.



While candidates may be a member of a political party, you don’t vote
directly for the political party but rather for the individual candidate.



You also don’t vote directly for the Prime Minister.

The political party that wins the most seats in the House of Commons usually
forms the Government:


The leader of that political party becomes the Prime Minister.



If the political party has more than half of the seats in the House of
Commons, we call this a majority government.

Elections usually happen every four years, unless a majority of MPs in the House
of Commons determine they no longer want to support the Government on a
matter of “confidence”.
For more information about the House of Commons and Canada’s current
electoral system, see the Library of Parliament website.
~8~


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