Exclusive: Trudeau government to mail every household in Canada questions on electoral reform
Nov. 7, 2016
By David Akin
The Trudeau government is mailing postcards to every Canadian household this month to find out how people feel about the way they elect MPs, the National Post has learned.
More than 13 million full-colour postcards were being printed up this week which, when they land in mailboxes in early December, will encourage Canadians to go to a website - mydemocracy.ca or mademocratie.ca - and answer questions about their democratic values.
The websites are “parked” right now with Internet web hosting company GoDaddy.com but will go live no later than Dec. 1, said a senior government official.
The online consultations, which will close Dec. 31, will be the last of three extensive rounds of consultations on electoral reform under way since the spring.
This means the Trudeau government is expected to declare its preference for how, if it all, to change the way MPs are elected early in the new year.
A senior government official, who confirmed Sunday information the Post received independently about the mail-out plan, said this last round of consultations was not a last-minute idea, but one the government had planned to do early on.
The official also cautioned the mail-out should not be construed as a referendum, nor is it a survey or a poll. It will, however, contain many questions that ask respondents what they value most in Canada’s democracy. Ottawa is broadly committed to publishing the data it collects in addition to any interpretations it might make.
The government’s goal, with this and several other rounds of consultations, has been to build up as much political legitimacy for whatever decision it makes.
“We are interested in the values and principles Canadians share when it comes to strengthening our democracy,” said John O’Leary, communications director for Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef.
“This new approach will give more Canadians a chance to explore and engage in this topic like never before,”
No estimates have been provided for the cost of printing and mailing the postcards to the more than 13 million households counted in the 2011 census, but sources in the printing business estimate it at $2 million
During the 2015 election campaign, then-Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, promised 2015 would be the last general election using the first past the post system of choosing MPs, the system Canada has employed since Confederation. The chief criticism of FTPT is that a party’s proportion of seats in the House of Commons may not match its national popular vote.
Trudeau’s Liberals, for example, won just under 40 per cent of the popular vote, but ended up with 54 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Green Party got 3.5 per cent of the national vote and yet, its one seat accounts for just 0.3 per cent of the seats in the Commons. Had its seat count in the 338-seat House of Commons matched its popular vote, it should have close to 12 MPs under some voting systems that award seats based on the proportions of the national vote.
But that would be just one way to alter Canada’s voting system. There are a myriad of others, including a ranked ballot, a mixed-member proportional system, and so on.
And while the Trudeau Liberals vowed 2015 would be the last FPTP election,they have never said what they favour as a replacement.
Instead, the government asked MPs from all parties to hold town-hall meetings in their ridings to canvass residents for their thoughts. Many MPs, including Trudeau, did just that and have filed accounts of those meetings.
In the meantime, a special committee of MPs has spent the last few months criss-crossing the country, talking to Canadians about the issue. It is expected to publish its report and recommendations by the end of the month.