Declaration of Voter's Rights

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Electoral Reform Referendum Undemocratic

This letter to the editor was inspired by a Fair Vote Canada Chapters discussion that mentioned no referendum was needed to enfranchise women.

Dear Editor,

Would Canadian women have the vote today if it could only happen through a referendum? Like all roads not taken, we will never know but the question does provide guidance on whether we need a referendum for electoral reform of our first-past-the-post (FPTP) system. It may appear that recognizing women's right to vote is a different case than replacing FPTP but at their core they are both issues of fairness.

In 1918, the Supreme Court did not consider women "persons" and this would have been reflected in the beliefs of men who would be voting in our hypothetical referendum. It was the 1918 "An Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women" voted in by parliament that entitled women to vote.

While it takes only simple math to prove that FPTP with more than two parties on the ballot is unfair, choosing a replacement system requires time-consuming research and reflection.

In 2015, 63% of voters cast ballots for parties which campaigned on conducting a public consultation, then making every vote count in 2019. Yet Conservative MP Randy Hoback writes not having a referendum would be "profoundly undemocratic". I suggest we remember that we have a representative democracy. We vote in members of parliament to consider complex questions, consult with constituents, virtuously debate the issue, and then cast a vote on our behalf.

Visit FairVote.ca and other sources to study electoral reform options. Then, let your MP know your informed opinion so they can make a more informed decision.

Nancy Carswell Fair Vote Saskatchewan Co-spokesperson

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