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Liberals agree to surrender majority on electoral reform committee

‘Hopefully this will assure members that the government comes to this process with an open mind’: Maryam Monsef


 
Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef is applauded by her party as she responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef is applauded by her party as she responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

OTTAWA – The Liberals are giving up their majority on the committee that will explore how best to change the way Canadians vote — a major concession for the government and a big win for the NDP.

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryann Monsef told the House of Commons that the government has decided to support an NDP motion that would see the committee’s membership reflect each party’s share of the popular vote in the last election.

“I’ve been persuaded that an additional way to demonstrate our commitment to inclusivity is to break with tradition and to have both the Bloc (Quebecois) and the Green (party) as full voting members,” Monsef told the House of Commons.

“Such an approach means the government will not have a majority on the committee, and hopefully this will assure members that the government comes to this process with an open mind.”

Monsef acknowledged that the changes would replace a government majority with a majority of opposition members, but she said to focus on that would be to miss the point.

“The issue is that every member, regardless of party, must combine their partisan perspective with meeting the important need that Canadians have to improve the electoral process.”

It was a significant change of heart for the Liberals, who have been facing opposition charges of seeking to stack the deck in their favour with a majority of the seats with voting rights on the all-party committee.

Critics have said they suspect the Liberals want to ensure the committee ends up proposing a ranked-ballot system that would unfairly improve the government’s chances at being re-elected.

As recently as Wednesday, Monsef was strenuously refuting that notion.

“The only outcome that we have arrived at to this point is bringing together parliamentarians in this place to review the options available to us,” Monsef said during question period Wednesday.

The current make-up of the committee would have seen six Liberals, three Conservatives and one New Democrat, with a Bloc MP and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May on the committee but without a vote.

The NDP proposal changes that to five Liberals, three Conservatives, two New Democrats, one Bloc MP, May and a vote for everyone.

The motion, which would be binding if passed, would also mean the committee would begin meeting within 10 days.

“I think Canadians will welcome enough conversation about the process to start the process, but to actually begin the conversation around electoral reform,” Cullen said on Wednesday.


 

Liberals agree to surrender majority on electoral reform committee

  1. I’m sorry, but what exactly is so significant about this move? The decision on what it should be changed to will still go to a vote in the House, which has a Liberal majority, so they will still be able to run roughshod over this whole thing and cram in ranked balloting because they believe that it will allow them to win majorities in perpetuity. If the Liberals want to show that they are not self-serving scoundrels interested only in getting re-elected, then put this goddam thing to a referendum and cut with the BS. I would really love it if Maclean’s would get back to quality reporting instead of lapping up this PR nonsense that the Liberals are selling.

  2. The NDP are unaware of it, but they’ve just stepped in a giant cow pie.

    It’s one of those ‘third rail’ items like Constitutional talks….

    Smooth move, Justin!

  3. …and now the Libs have their escape clause. The CPC have already been quite clear that they don’t want changes, period. So if the other opposition parties also disagree with the Libs on what the outcome should be, the whole thing gets derailed and the Libs get to blame the opposition if we don’t have reformed electoral rules by next election.

    I see they have learned well from Harper…

  4. Now the question becomes “who blinks first?”. Given that LPC + NDP committee members would make a majority, any new voting system will require some compromise on the part of one or both of these parties (IMO we can safely discount the CPC from being in favour of any suggested new system).

    Will the NDP support ranked ballots on the basis of half a loaf being better than none. The 1/2 a loaf is that ranked ballots would put an end to strategic voting, thus likely resulting in more NDP MPs. This certainly would have been the case in the last election, when significant numbers of NDP supporters voted LPC in order to toss the CPC.

    Or, will the LPC blink and support a new system with some level of proportionality, e.g. Single Transferable Vote (STV), or Alternative Vote Plus (AV+)? I would not expect to see the LPC support pure Proportional Representation under any circumstances, as it would greatly disadvantage the LPC’s ability to form a majority government.

    And one other thing, this means there will almost certainly NOT be a referendum as the government will be able to passably claim legitimacy in the committee’s outcome by virtue of support of one of the major opposition parties. [FWIW, I support (some forms of) electoral reform and a referendum.]

    Place your bets.

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