Canadians wishing to voice their opinion on potential changes to the way they elect federal politicians have less than a week left, if they want their views to be heard by a special committee.
The committee, composed of MPs from five parties, was formed in June and has a deadline of Nov. 30 for input from across the country before making a report.
Both members of parliament for Abbotsford’s two ridings, Conservative Ed Fast and Liberal Jati Sidhu, have been soliciting feedback on the issue from their constituents in recent months with apparently different results.
Fast’s constituency office has sent large flyers to households in his riding with information on electoral reform and a questionnaire section, which recipients are asked to mail back, indicating whether or not they prefer a referendum on the issue.
Fast said he didn’t know how many of his constituents had responded or how they answered the question.
But polling and his own discussions with citizens suggest a “large majority of Canadians” want to have a referendum, he said.
The results of two public opinion polls shown on Fast’s mailer appear to back up his claims, with two-thirds or more of respondents to Forum Research and Ipsos Public Affairs surveys saying they want a referendum.
“Whatever system is being proposed, if it’s going to be a change from the existing system, you have to go to the people directly on a referendum,” Fast said.
Despite claims to the contrary by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Fast said he believes the Liberal party favours a “ranked ballot” electoral system, in which voters rank their favourite to least-favourite candidates.
Polling suggests the Liberals are the most common second choice among supporters of other parties in Canada and a “ranked ballot” system would result in “perpetual Liberal governments for a long time,” said Fast.
The Liberals have taken a “cavalier” approach to the reform process from the beginning, Fast said, as evidenced by the original composition of the 12 MP committee, which gave them a majority.
The Liberals did, however, respond to pressure and give up their majority on the committee by appointing more representatives from rival parties.
Sidhu said representation on the committee from all major parties should give Canadians confidence that all views will be heard and its final report will be a fair representation of those views.
He said “Canadians should be happy with the committee report” because of its input from all parties which will be followed by an open discussion in Parliament.
“The outcome, I think, Canadians should accept,” said Sidhu.
Unlike Fast, Sidhu has not solicited opinions from his constituents using a mailer sent to homes, but he has hosted a town hall meeting and received many phone calls and emails on the subject, he said. In sharp contrast to Fast’s assertions, Sidhu estimates only 10 per cent of constituents he has heard from favour a referendum on electoral reform.
“We had a referendum on Oct. 19, 2015,” Sidhu said, referring to the day his party was elected on a platform which including electoral reform.