Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 26, 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 26, 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

O’Toole in ‘listening mode’ on idea of mandatory voting in Canada

Erin O’Toole has said he did not support proportional representation electoral reform

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he’s simply in “listening mode” on the idea of making voting mandatory in Canada after recently raising it before a virtual crowd.

The remarks came when O’Toole was asked about proportional representation during an event hosted by the Delta Chamber of Commerce in British Columbia earlier this month.

O’Toole said he did not support that kind of electoral reform, but added that he has been “thinking about and talking about” how Australia requires its citizens to go to the polls.

Australia is one of the few countries in the world that has made it compulsory to vote at all levels of government, or else risk a modest fine, and voter turnout is relatively high.

The Conservative leader noted Canadians living abroad can vote, a right that has been protected by the courts.

“Now that people can live in Hong Kong or Europe and vote — shouldn’t we be following the lead of one of our sort of peer parliamentary democracies, like Australia, and thinking that basic element of citizenship is voting, even if you mark none of the above?” O’Toole told the virtual crowd on April 16.

“I think that’s a civic duty that we should encourage. I’m going to look closely at what Australia’s been doing. I think there’s a lot of things we can do to bring up confidence.”

Asked about his comments on Tuesday, O’Toole said he has heard from some people who believe mandatory voting would allow citizens to see the value of the democratic process at a time when public belief in federal institutions is low.

“How can we examine ideas to recommit to our parliamentary democracy? We’re just in listening mode,” he said.

“Some people look to Australia, a similar parliamentary democracy, with their approach with respect to mandatory voting. It comes up occasionally … we haven’t announced any policy whatsoever.”

O’Toole has promised a Conservative government would bring more transparency and accountability to Ottawa in hopes of restoring people’s faith in the system, also using it as a way to point to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s past ethics breaches.

Trudeau repeatedly promised, both as Liberal leader on the campaign trail in 2015 and then in his government’s first speech from the throne, to get rid of the first-past-the-post electoral system in time for the 2019 election.

Trudeau later ditched that pledge after the issue was studied by a House of Commons special committee on electoral reform, which also examined mandatory voting.

The committee recommended against bringing compulsory voting to Canada.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he’d rather see voting made more accessible than mandatory.

“I’ve talked about lowering the voting age, getting kids in high schools to start voting and to create that culture of voting there. I think those are some of the things that I’d put more of my emphasis on,” he said Tuesday.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of Canada

Just Posted

(Clockwise, from top-left) Brenda DeJong, Carol Jones, Marcia Strang, Cathy Collis and Mark East star in the upcoming Sidekick Players Zoom presentation of the Norm Foster play “Halfway There,” directed by Carroll Lefebvre, on May 22, 2021. (Submitted photos)
Delta’s Sidekick Players continue ‘Foster Zoom Fest’ with ‘Halfway There’

Tsawwassen-based theatre company hosting another online performance on Saturday, May 22

Sergeant Mike Sanchez of the Surrey Gang Enforcement Team speaking with students. (Photo: RCMP).
Surrey RCMP’s anti-gang program goes virtual amid COVID-19 pandemic

Presentations aimed at youth available to be booked

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Discussions about Surrey-owned land in Langley should be behind closed doors, councillors say

That’s what Councillors Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial and former Surrey mayor Bob Bose say

Little House Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Society COO Debbi McKenzie stands in front of the society’s namesake facility with Phoenix Drug Alcohol Recovery and Education Society CEO Keir Macdonald. (Submitted photo)
Delta’s Little House Society merging with Surrey-based Phoenix Society

Merger ‘came together in a really organic way’ as societies have been working together for two years

Elsje Hannah stands in the old safe at the Healing Place Counselling Centre in the Dale Building. Hannah converted the old safe into a chapel-area for quiet reflection for clients at her practice, which includes the not-for-profit Soul Matters Counselling. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Not-for-profit counselling service opens in Cloverdale

Soul Matters Counselling is located on 176th in the Dale Building

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Mandarin Garden in Abbotsford had two event tents set up for outdoor dining. One of the tents, valued at more than $5,000, was stolen early Friday morning (May 14). (Submitted photo)
UPDATE: Dining tent stolen from Abbotsford restaurant is located

Owner says it would have cost more than $5,000 to replace the rented event tent

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

Most Read