Schmale wants voters to decide new electoral system

By Chad Ingram

August 16 2016

Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale is launching a second constituency referendum this one on electoral reform.

Earlier this year Schmale held a constituency referendum on Bill C-14 – the assisted dying bill – asking residents to instruct him on how to vote on the legislation though ballots that were sent out as part the MP’s  household mail-out.

Schmale ended up voting in support of the bill.

This time around the question asks residents if they believe there should be a national referendum on electoral reform.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has famously said that the 2015 federal election would be the last to use the first-past-the-post system. A special parliamentary committee has been struck to study reforming the electoral process and gather input from Canadians.

“They’re doing it right now in the dead of summer so unless you’re really interested in it you’re probably not going to pay too much attention” Schmale says.

“The other thing that was asked of us is that MPs also consult people in the riding and that feedback would go to the special committee” he continues explaining the mail-out ballot is his way of performing that consultation. “There’s multiple ways to sort of take the temperature of people in the riding. I find this a good way to reach a large number of people in a short period of time in a fairly geographically spread out area.”

In the past Trudeau has indicated support for ranked ballots a fairly complicated electoral system where voters rank their candidate choices from most preferred to least preferred. In a ranked ballot system if a candidate achieves a majority – more than 50 per cent of the vote – that candidate wins. If the leading candidate does not receive more than 50 per cent of the vote then the least popular candidate is removed from the running and the second choice votes from those ballots are allotted to other candidates. 
Because the Liberal party occupies the middle of the Canadian political spectrum some electoral experts have suggested a ranked ballot system would be most advantageous for the Liberal party.

“The Liberals committed in the election to change the electoral system the issue we have is they didn’t say which one” Schmale says contrasting that with the NDP and Green party who also want electoral reform but who openly support mixed-member proportional representation.

“To have the government of the day make a decision on what they’re changing the electoral system to instead of actually asking the people if this is OK with them I think is a path you don’t want to go down.”

While he says no electoral system is perfect the Conservative MP is personally an advocate of the existing single-member plurality system which he says has served the country well for a century and a half.

Residents should watch for the blue and white mail-outs. The constituency referendum will also be promoted online.

The deadline is Sept. 30.