Federal committee approves NDP motion to explore electoral reform

A 12-person House of Commons committee recently voted 7–4 in favour of an NDP motion to form a citizen’s assembly on electoral reform.

Earlier this week, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affair of the federal government voted on a motion to establish a national citizen’s assembly on electoral reform.

The original motion was moved by Daniel Blaikie, NPD MP representing Elmwood—Transcona.

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a)(vi), the committee undertake a study on the advisability of establishing a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform to make recommendations about how to improve Canada’s electoral system, including the question of how Canadians elect Members of Parliament and how the make up of Parliament reflects the votes cast by Canadians; that the committee’s study shall include an examination of:

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(a) the terms of reference for such an assembly;

(b) the composition of such an assembly;

(c) a timeline for the completion of such an assembly’s work;

(d) public reporting requirements for such an assembly;

(e) the resources required to support the work of such an assembly, including measures to ensure comprehensive and effective citizen engagement throughout the process;

(f) any other matters the committee deems pertinent to voting reform; that the committee report back to the House, and; that the committee’s report either

(I) recommend not to proceed with such an assembly or

(II) recommend to proceed with such an assembly and include a detailed plan for how to proceed that provides for the issues raised in items (a)-(f).

Karen Vecchio, Conservative MP representing Elgin–Middlesex–London, presented an amendment—which passed 6–5—to include having such an assembly also investigate having a national referendum on any changes proposed to the electoral system, or as she put it, “Canada’s democratic system”.

Ryan Turnbull, Liberal MP representing Whitby, proposed a second amendment to investigate the use of citizen assemblies more generally to “drive citizen engagement in the policy-making process on a wide variety of issues”. That amendment passed 6–5.

The final motion, including the two amendments passed 7–4.

In favour

  • Daniel Blaikie, NDP
  • Kirsty Duncan, Lib.
  • Stéphane Lauzon, Lib.
  • *Wayne Long, Lib.
  • John Nater, CPC
  • Ryan Turnbull, Lib.


  • *Blaine Calkins, CPC
  • Peter Kent, CPC
  • Alain Therrien, Bloc
  • Karen Vecchio, CPC

*Long and Calkins were acting members of this committee for this meeting, filling in for Mark Gerretsen and Tom Lukiwski, respectively.

Citizens’ assemblies are committees formed using randomly selected citizens, who then deliberate on various issues. I participated in a local, 36-person citizens’ assembly about 5 years ago to discuss whether Lethbridge city councillors should be full-time positions.

The committee also unanimously passed a motion proposed by Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Liberal MP representing Moncton–Riverview–Dieppe, to study the possibility of including Indigenous languages on electoral ballots.

That, pursuant to its mandate to examine issues related to Elections Canada under Standing Order 108(3)(a)(vi), the committee undertake a study of the measures necessary to ensure that the Chief Electoral Officer is empowered to require that ballots for electoral districts be prepared and printed in the Indigenous language or languages of electors, using the appropriate writing systems for each language, including syllabics if applicable, in addition to both official languages;

That this study include meaningful consultation with Indigenous language speakers and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis leaders across Canada;

That this study include consideration of the status Indigenous languages and the rights of Indigenous language speakers across the country; That the committee report its findings and recommendations to the House;

That, pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee request that the Government table a comprehensive repose to this report; and,

That the committee resolve to undertake this study as its next order of business.

Minutes of the committee’s 2-hour meeting provided no further details for either motion, such as expected completion dates or budgets.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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