Deltans debate electoral reform

On Oct. 12, residents were invited to voice their opinions about reforming Canada’s electoral system.

Event facilitator Jody Béke leads the 40-odd Deltans attending last week’s community consultation on electoral reform at the Oddfellows Hall in Ladner on Oct. 12.

Delta residents were treated to a peek behind the curtain of democracy at last week’s community consultation on electoral reform.

On Oct. 12, residents were invited to Oldfellows Hall in Ladner to voice their opinions and give the Liberal government their thoughts on reforming Canada’s electoral system, a promise the party campaigned on in 2015. The opinions and knowledge of those who attended events like these across the country are to be compiled into a report set for release sometime in December.

Delta MP Carla Qualtrough

Delta MP Carla Qualtrough (pictured) said input on electoral reform was something she heard regularly from people in her riding.

Although 40 seems like a relatively low turnout considering Delta’s population of 100,000-plus residents, the minister said in-person participation was just one way for voters to share their opinions, citing the use of online forums or individual meetings between MPs and their constituents.

“To have 40 people out on a blustery Wednesday night to talk about it just in Delta says that it matters,” Qualtrough said.

And while there were disagreements between residents about which system was best, most agreed there was always room for improvement.

“I’d like to see more representation in Parliament from the smaller parties. I think more voices are good and I’d like to see the green party represented,” said Phil Horan, who advocated for a more proportionally representative system. “They got 10 per cent of the vote; I’d like to see them have that number of seats too.”

Talks quickly evolved beyond simply how to get someone elected. Soon voter apathy and even the entire Canadian political system were up for discussion.

Delta resident Graeme Drew admitted he was partly motivated to attend the town hall because none of his peers were interested enough in the subject to discuss it with.

“I have to look for old people, and I say that respectfully and sadly, but there are very few of us that are really engaged with the big picture,” he said, noting the number of seniors in the room.

Attendees break into groups for some in-depth discussions at last week’s community consultation on electoral reform at the Oddfellows Hall in Ladner on Oct. 12.

Attendees break into groups for some in-depth discussions at last week’s community consultation on electoral reform at the Oddfellows Hall in Ladner on Oct. 12. Photo credit: James Smith

Several of the discussions showed just how difficult to grasp the electoral system can be.

Fred Ogden said he disliked first-past-the-post systems partly because of their tendencies to create majority governments, a view contradicted by literature on the subject.

In The Electoral System and the Party System in Canada, 1921-1965, Alan Cairns wrote that if the current electoral system is to be judged by its ability to create artificial majorities, “its performance since 1921 has only been mediocre.”

The debate carried on well into the evening, stopping only when Jody Béke, the event’s facilitator, announced the meeting was over, and many of those present expressed their interest in meeting again for another round of discussions. As one of the attendees said, finding the solution to such a big topic was going to take more than one night.

To learn more about the government’s effort to reform Canada’s electoral system, visit canada.ca/en/campaign/electoral-reform.