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Leadnow | August 12, 2016

Guide to Town Halls

Thanks for being a supporter of the Vote Better campaign and for signing up to attend a consultation on voting reform. We have an unprecedented opportunity to get a fair and proportional voting system, but only if we speak up and make sure our MPs hear from us.

[download this guide as a PDF]

Over the next few months, MPs as well as a special all-party committee are consulting communities on voting reform. This resource breaks down everything you need to know  to attend a local consultation:
  • The basics
  • Key messages
  • Social media
  • Sample questions
  • Common myths about proportional representation
For more information on voting reform visit www.votebetter.ca


The Basics

What is Electoral Reform and the Vote Better Campaign:

  • The Vote Better campaign is about bringing people together to speak up in favour of proportional representation. With a proportional representation system designed for the Canadian context, we can have fair elections where every vote counts, inclusive government that is more representative of Canada’s diversity, and collaborative democracy that can make real progress on the challenges of our time.

  • The Canadian government is studying changes to how we vote. They have struck a special all-party committee to study it, which will make a recommendation by December 1, 2016. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get a fair voting system - but only if we speak up now.

What is the Electoral Reform Committee?

  • A special all-party committee to “review a wide variety of reforms, such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting.”

  • The Liberals have five seats, the Conservatives three, the NDP two, and the Greens and Bloc one voting seat each. No one party has a majority on the committee, which means at least two parties will have to cooperate to make a recommendation.  
  • After the committee makes a recommendation it will be up to the Liberal Cabinet to introduce legislation on the issue.

How Can We Participate in the Committee and the Process?

  • The public can participate in the committee by requesting to become a witness and/or by submitting a brief. You can also fill out their online survey. Requests, submissions and surveys must be in by Oct 7th, 2016.
  • The committee is also monitoring questions and comments from Twitter - you can participate by using the hashtags #ERRE #Q.
  • You can also attend your local Member of Parliament’s Electoral Reform town hall to voice your concerns and share your ideas about  electoral reform.


Key messages to share at  the town hall

1) Our voting system is broken
  • A party can get 100% of the power with only 39% of the vote.
  • Although there was an uptick in 2015, in general, voter participation has been going down year after year. It’s clear that people feel like something isn’t working for them.
  • Canada is one of the only western democracies still using first-past-the-post. We’re the only OECD country that uses FPTP exclusively at all levels of government. It’s the same system we used in 1867 when we only had two political parties.
2) Proportional representation is a great alternative
  • It would create fair elections where every vote counts.
  • It would lead to more diversity, and better representation of women in Parliament.
  • It would force parties to have to work together and collaborate, which would strengthen our policies and make it less likely that parties spend time undoing the previous government’s policies after each election.

3) We want action!
  • In their 2015 election platform, the Liberals explicitly promised to make every vote count. We want them to keep their word.
  • We also want to tell the Liberals that we support their intention to reform the way that we vote. There are many people who are very opposed to changing the way that we vote, so we need to send the message loud and clear that we support change, and we want to make every vote count.
     
With proportional representation, it’s easy to get into the nitty gritty details, but just remember the general principle that in a PR system, the percentage of seats a party gets would roughly match their share of the vote. What’s important is that we create a system that works for Canada’s unique context.

There are a lot of different types of proportional representation systems, but you don’t have to be an expert to participate in a town hall.  At these events, MPs mainly want to know what principles you think are important in a voting system.

If you’ve ever voted, or if you know somebody who’s voted, you have something to say. Consider sharing your personal story of why you care about this issue. Have you ever been frustrated by having your vote wasted? Do you know somebody who has? You can also think about values that are important to you in a voting system, and make sure your MP knows that those matter.

To see more about specific voting systems and what is being discussed, go to the resource section at www.votebetter.ca


Social media

Flood social media with stories, photos, and videos from the event:
  • Use the hashtags #VoteBetter and #ERRE #Q
  • Include your MP’s Twitter handle and @MaryamMonsef in your tweets
  • Copy @leadnowca so we can retweet you
  • Include photos in your posts
  • Tweet quotes of comments people are making to keep a record


Sample questions to ask at the town hall

  • How are you going to ensure my vote counts in the next election?
  • Specifically, what voting system do you prefer and how will it make my vote count?
  • What do you value most in a new electoral system?


Common Myths about Proportional Representation

Myth #1 Proportional representation is uncommon
Over 90 countries around the world use a proportional voting system, including 85% of OECD countries such as Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, and Denmark.

Myth #2: PR would mean that we won’t have local representation
It is possible to have a PR system that includes local MPs tied to a geographical area, and most of the systems commonly suggested for Canada, like mixed-member proportional or single transferable vote, include local representation.

Myth #3: PR would lead to instability - just look at Italy and Israel!
Canada actually has elections more frequently than many countries with PR. Also, many politically stable and economically strong countries such as Germany, Sweden and New Zealand use a type of PR. PR would likely mean more coalition governments, which gives politicians an incentive to work together and cooperate. Also, the systems that are used by Italy and Israel are just two examples of PR systems, and we don’t have to use the same ones they do.  Research shows that countries using proportional systems have elections no more frequently than Canada currently does.  

Myth #4: Our current voting system is just fine as it is
In the 2015 election alone over 9 million votes were wasted. Time and time again, we see majority governments elected without a majority of the popular vote. Canadian democracy needs an upgrade, and proportional representation can get us there.

Myth #5 - Other voting systems are very complicated
PR would definitely be new for a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean it’s too difficult to introduce. PR ballots offer voters more choice and and give voters much more of a say. Voters in over 90 countries around the world are smart enough to figure out those systems, so we’re confident Canadians can too.

Don’t feel like you have to be an expert to speak up. Remember that oftentimes a personal story is more memorable and impactful than a list of statistics. Consider your own reasons for being at the event, and share why you care about this issue. Good luck!

For more information on voting reform and how to get involved in the Vote Better campaign, visit votebetter.ca.