Changing the way Canada elects its MPs is not an urgent priority for the riding of Chilliwack-Hope, says MP Mark Strahl.
Not compared to homelessness or crime, as examples, he said.
The local MP is pointing to results of his community newsletter survey this week that hit every home in the riding asking for feedback.
“Clearly by the response of my constituency, I am unable to support any electoral reform without a national referendum, and I will be sure to loudly and clearly advocate” for one on their behalf, he said.
Conservatives are opposing any changes to election laws by MPs, without putting it first to a national referendum, while the Liberals vowed to replace the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system after the election last fall.
Nearly 1500 responded to Strahl’s survey with 89% in favour of a national referendum on electoral reform before any changes are made. Opposed were 8.8%, while 2.1% were undecided.
“Residents of Chilliwack-Hope believe that Canadians should choose how their representatives are elected,” stated Strahl.
The local member of parliament made an official submission to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform on the whole subject of electoral reform.
The committee will identify and study viable alternate voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system (FPTP), as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting.
The current method of first-past-the-post voting can stay in place, as far as MP Strahl concerned.
Some, like those at Fair Vote Canada, say it should be replaced by something that will produce proportional representation, where seats are more or less in proportion to votes cast.
Currently the Parliament of Canada and provincial legislatures all use the first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system, where each riding has only one winner, and the candidate with the most votes wins.
Critics of FPTP say part of the problem is it doesn’t produce a representative body, and under the current system, more than half of Canadian voters don’t actually elect anyone.
Asked if this topic is worthy of a national referendum, Strahl had this to say in response to The Progress question:
“Any time that you change the way that MPs are elected, if the people don’t have the final say through a referendum there is the appearance that the system is being rigged in favour of one political party over another.
“If politicians, not the people, make this decision alone, public confidence in our political system will be further undermined.”
He gave the example of when B.C. looked at changing the system of electing MLAs.
“They took their time and held a referendum before proceeding and the voters had the final say. The Government of Canada should show Canadians the same respect.”
Instead many think Parliament should be focused on far more important issues “like crime, homelessness and the economy,” Strahl said.
“Electoral reform is an interesting discussion but it isn’t what we should be focused on in Ottawa.”
Online voting is one of the discussion topics.
“I am opposed to online voting,” Strahl said. “There are still a number of seniors and others who do not have ready access to the Internet or confidence in operating online.”
He’s not convinced that it can be done without substantially increasing the risk of fraud and cyber attacks on the system.
“Asking people to go to a polling station once every four years is not too much to ask and there are already special ballots, mail in ballots, mobile polls and advanced polls to give Canadians more opportunities to vote.”