-- Ground-breaking BC Citizens Assembly holds first meeting
-- NB Premier appoints democracy reform commission
-- PEI Commissioner calls for mixed PR system
-- Ontario appoints Deputy Minister for Democratic Renewal
-- Law Commission of Canada report expected in coming months
-- Globe and Mail calls for PR consideration
GROUND-BREAKING BC CITIZENS ASSEMBLY HOLDS FIRST MEETING
The first meeting of the BC Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform took
place on January 10-11 in Vancouver. The 160 Assembly members, randomly
chosen citizens from across the province, began their 12-month task of
determining whether British Columbia needs a new voting system. The
Assembly's eventual recommendation will go directly to the people of
BC in a
referendum to be held in May 2005. This is the first time any modern
has used an entirely citizen-driven process to revamp the electoral system.
Extensive information on the assembly is available on its website:
NB PREMIER APPOINTS DEMOCRATIC REFORM COMMISSION
Premier Bernard Lord appointed a nine-member commission to study and
recommendations on a number of possible democratic reforms, including
whether New Brunswick should adopt some form of proportional representation.
The Premier has asked the commission to report back with its recommendations
within one year. New Brunswick is one of five provinces formally considering
voting system reform, along with British Columbia, Quebec, PEI and Ontario.
PEI COMMISSIONER CALLS FOR MIXED PR SYSTEM
After a one-year public consultation, PEI electoral reform commissioner
Norman Carruthers recommended the province adopt a mixed member
proportional (MMP) voting system similar to that used in New Zealand.
suggested a revamped PEI legislature might have 31 seats. Twenty-one
legislators would be elected in the traditional manner to represent individual
ridings. The remaining 10 seats would be filled from party lists to ensure
portion of seats held by each party reflected their portion of the popular
vote. While Mr. Carruthers expressed a preference for MMP, he also
recommended further public education and discussion on voting system
alternatives. He proposed that PEI appoint a citizens assembly on electoral
reform, similar to that in BC, to formulate a referendum question.
ONTARIO APPOINTS DEPUTY MINISTER FOR DEMOCRATIC RENEWAL
Queen's University political scientist Matthew Mendelsohn will become
first Deputy Minister for Democratic Renewal effective January 19. Prof.
Mendelsohn has written extensively on democratic reform, including an
co-authored in the July-August issue of Policy Options calling for use
of a citizens
forum and referendum process to institute a new voting system for Canada.
LAW COMMISSION OF CANADA REPORT EXPECTED IN COMING MONTHS
The Law Commission of Canada, an independent federal agency, is nearing
completion of a two-year consultation and research program on federal
reform. The Commission is currently drafting an extensive report and
recommendations on whether Canada needs a new voting system. The report
expected by spring.
GLOBE AND MAIL CALLS FOR PR CONSIDERATION
In a November 15 editorial, the Globe and Mail called on Paul Martin
voting system reform. The editorial asked: "How do we become a living,
breathing democracy again? One way is to give Parliament, and
parliamentarians, more power. Paul Martin has promised a variety of measures
to free MPs from the whip of party discipline and allow more debate.
is to reform the electoral system, getting rid of the first-past-the-post
which favours big parties, and replacing it with a form of proportional
representation. That, too, deserves looking into."