Kootenay-Columbia candidates: Bill Green (Green Party)

Election 2015: Candidates discuss proportional representation

The candidates for Kootenay-Columbia discuss their parties' position on electoral reform/proportional representation.

The candidates running in the 42nd federal election campaign for Kootenay-Columbia can, for the most part, agree on one thing – it’s time for electoral reform in Canada.

While most parties agree that proportional representation is the way to go, the Conservative Party of Canada stands alone, rejecting the notion of electoral reform or changing the current first-past-the-post system.

Newspapers in the Black Press family reached out to the candidates for Kootenay-Columbia, asking them what they thought of proportional representation. Four out of the five said they believe in a more representative voting system.

Liberal Party candidate Don Johnston said his party will bring forward legislation to enact electoral reform within 18 months of forming government, stating the Liberals’ plan for a “fair and open government” moves beyond electoral reform to include democratic parliamentary committees, free votes, strengthening Elections Canada, an independent Senate and voter training for high school students.

“It’s a sweeping agenda for real change that better reflects the values of Canadians,” he said. “Unfortunately, this government’s lack of respect for parliament is matched by a lack of respect for MPs. Millions of Canadians thought they elected people to be in Ottawa, then watched those same people become Stephen Harper’s voice in their communities. That is something I can change right here.”

Green Party candidate Bill Green said proportional representation is a priority for his party, saying the Green Party MPs will immediately begin to work on legislating the end of the first-past-the-post voting by establishing an all-party Democratic Voting Commission.

The commission, he said, will review past research, conduct a public consultation on the style of proportional representation that will work best for Canada, and within 12 months will make recommendations to parliament which will include draft legislation.

“Electoral reform is of critical importance if we want to reinvigorate our democracy,” he said. “A Green government will further strengthen our democracy by reducing the power of the Prime Minister’s Office, and will never force its MPs to vote on party lines.”

Christina Yahn, the candidate for the Libertarian Party, said the party’s leader, Tim Moen, supports the implementation of proportional representation, and encourages Libertarian candidates to educate themselves on the different options available under proportional representation.

“We would create a special joint standing committee, equally formed of MPs and senators, to examine reform options for the House of Commons elections and senate appointments. The Libertarian party would introduce and vote on a form of [proportional representation] before the next elections were to be held,” she said. “I personally believe fair election reform needs to be introduced as soon as possible to properly restore democracy in Canada.”

NDP candidate Wayne Stetski said Tom Mulcair’s government will bring in proportional representation.

“I am committed to making this election the last election to use the first-past-the-post voting system. No longer will a party with only 38% of the vote be able to form a majority, and, as a result, act with no regard for the 62% who did not vote for them.”

Stetski said proportional representation will result in a “more diverse and representative parliament” and will ensure that every vote counts.

“In this election, voters are having to consider voting strategically to ensure that Stephen Harper does not form another majority,” he said.

“This is why I’m asking voters in Kootenay-Columbia to vote together for the NDP to stop Stephen Harper. My promise to traditional Green and Liberal voters in this area is that once the NDP brings in proportional representation you will never have to vote strategically again.”

Conservative candidate and incumbent MP David Wilks said his party does not intend to change the electoral process, stating that through referendum, citizens in Ontario, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island voted against a change in the electoral process, something the Conservatives agree with.

“The Conservative Party supports the current system of first-past-the-post.”