My Commitment to Proportional Representation and a Citizens Assembly
By David Merner
Ever since I studied political science at the University of Alberta as a young man, I have felt that our system for electing Members of Parliament is unfair and does not work toward unifying our country.
Our First Past the Post (FPTP) system is unfair because it produces results that only rarely reflect the will of Canadians. Almost all “majority” governments in Canadian history have been formed by parties supported by a minority of Canadians.
FPTP is also bad for the unity of our country because it gives regional parties and separatist parties a big advantage, at the expense of true national parties running in all ridings. The 2019 election is a good example. The Bloc Québecois earned 7.6 percent of the vote and the Green Party earned 6.5 percent; but that vote resulted in 32 seats for the Bloc and only three seats for the Greens. This does not accurately represent the will of the people.
Commitment as Leader of the Green Party:
As leader of the Green Party of Canada, I will continue to work hard to change the Canada Elections Act so that Members of Parliament are elected through proportional representation.
I served as the Democratic Reform critic for the Green Party in Elizabeth May’s Shadow Cabinet and drafted our 2019 platform on democratic reform. We advocated for the formation of a Citizens’ Constituent Assembly that fully reflects the full diversity of Canada. A constituent assembly will help determine the type of proportional representation system that should be enacted into law. By proceeding by way of constituent assembly, we help to ensure the legitimacy of the proportional representation system that is chosen.
I also believe that Canadians should have a say, by referendum, on whether our new "Pro Rep" system is working properly. That referendum should be held after two federal elections have tested the new system. I will stand firmly against the idea of holding a referendum before the new system is tested by voters because of my experience with the recent BC referendum on proportional representation. That referendum was a fiasco, dominated by politicians who successfully confused voters. The right approach to a referendum is to follow the New Zealand model for reviewing and voting on a new electoral system: hold the referendum after two federal elections.
Green Party members are responsible for setting party policy, not the Leader. During my two national listening tours this year, I have heard from many Greens that we must move very firmly on proportional representation. I’ve heard a lot of support for the idea that, in a minority government situation where Greens hold the balance of power, we must ensure that proportional representation is an essential element of any cooperation agreement.
Over and over, I’ve heard that proportional representation must be implemented without delay. And, our negotiating position should be a mandatory condition for providing support to a minority government. In particular, (1) any government supported by the Greens must move straight to legislation without delay; and (2) the responsible House of Commons legislative committee must lead a full cross-country consultation with experts and with Canadians who reflect the full diversity of our country.
I believe deeply that our “First Past the Post” system has to go and it's time for proportional representation. That’s why I served as a volunteer on the Fair Vote Canada board for seven years, first as a member at large, then as Secretary, and finally as Vice-Chair. That’s why I knocked on thousands of doors in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke during the BC referendum on Proportional Representation. (We won the popular vote in our riding but lost provincially.)
If you care deeply about implementing proportional representation, if you are looking for a leader who is personally committed to Pro Rep, and if you believe the Green Party needs a leader with a life-long, proven commitment to the Pro Rep cause, then please rank me Number One on your ballot for leader of the Green Party of Canada. Because I will do everything in power to make proportional representation a reality in Canada.