Reforming Democracy

Welcome to our special is- sue on Electoral Reform, timed to re ect the ongo- ing debate in Canada over whether and how to change the way in which Canadians choose their elected lead- ers, including the work of the Spe- cial Committee on Electoral Reform (#ERRE). This issue of Policy is aligned to our Electoral Reform Symposium on November 2-3 presented by Policy and iPolitics, hosted by the Public Law Group at University of Ottawa and broadcast by CPAC.

We begin with a Q&A with Demo- cratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef. Having just concluded a cross-Canada listening tour, Monsef shares her sense of the mood of the country on democratic reform be- yond “here in the Ottawa bubble”, as she put it. She made it very clear the Liberal government would not uni- laterally impose electoral reform in the absence of a parliamentary con- sensus, saying, “We will not move forward with any reforms without the broad support of Canadians.”

She also discussed her personal evo- lution from arriving in Canada as an Afghan refugee with her mother and two sisters to being, at 31, the min- ister responsible for reforming the way Canada votes. Of the recent rev- elation that she was actually born in Iran rather than Afghanistan, Monsef spoke of the kindness of strangers, saying her mailboxes of every kind were over owing with supportive messages from Canadians.

Pollster Frank Graves of EKOS Re- search was in the eld in mid-October and reports where Canadians are on electoral reform.

Contributing Writer Tom Axworthy writes that there’s much more to

democratic reform than just elector- al reform and notes that “each type of electoral system—majoritarian, mixed or proportional representa- tion—has a different set of incentives for our parties.”

Contributing Writer David Mitchell sorts through the alphabet soup of electoral options.

David Moscrop, a doctoral candidate in poli-sci at the University of Brit- ish Columbia, makes the case for PR in an article adapted from a paper he produced for the Broadbent In- stitute. NDP MP Nathan Cullen, the party’s democratic reform critic, also makes an eloquent case for PR. He asks, “why is it, in the 21st century, Canada is still using a winner-takes- all” system?

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May re- ports in from the #ERRE Special Com- mittee’s cross-Canada public consul- tations. “On the road, we are not sparring for partisan points,” May writes. “We hang out together, look out for each other and are all becom- inggoodfriends.Iknowthatwehope to reach a decision by consensus.”

On the key question of whether changes to our electoral system will require a constitutional amendment, University of Ottawa law profes- sor Sébastien Grammond concludes that’s a “no,” citing, among other arguments, that section 52 of the Constitution states: “The number of members of the House of Commons may from time to time, be increased provided the proportionate represen- tation of the provinces…is not there- by disturbed.”

In an article adapted from their re- cent paper on Senate reform for the Public Policy Forum, former Sena- tors Michael Kirby and Hugh Segal

suggest that newly appointed inde- pendent senators caucus along re- gional lines—the Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario and the West—“originally contemplated by the founders of Confederation”.

Michael Pal, Director of UofO’s Pub- lic Law Group, examines the issues around mandatory voting and writes that there “is no conclusive data that being obliged to vote” makes for bet- ter informed choices. On electron- ic voting, Nicole Goodman of the Munk Centre notes that “voting ac- cessibility is becoming increasingly important for Canadians.”

Finally, columnist Don Newman looks at referendums and concludes tIhey “are bad public policy.”

n Canada and the World, our Robin Sears looks at a new chap- ter in Canada-China relations

following Justin Trudeau’s week-long September visit to China, and the re- ciprocal visit to Canada of Premier Li Keqiang. Sears tells the back-story behind Trudeau’s presentation of the same Norman Bethune medal- lions presented to Chairman Mao by his father in 1973. BMO Vice Chair Kevin Lynch considers the rebalanc- ing of China’s economy in a world in which “China alone accounts for over 25 per cent of global growth.”

Finally, Graham Fraser looks back on his decade as Commissioner of Of – cial Languages and nds that Cana- da has moved from ambivalence to embrace of bilingualism—with the poll numbers to prove it. And John Hallward, chair of the GIV3 Founda- tion, makes a strong case for boost- ing charitable donations, not only through the tax system, but as a cul- tural mindset among Canadians.