Canada’s voting system: is it time for a change?

February 8, 2024   ·   2 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

There has been plenty of talk about reforming Canada’s electoral system, and the subject has come up more forcibly than ever before as Canadians wonder when they will return to the polls. At the latest, the federal government will call an election in 2025.

Democratic countries around the world change how their electoral systems work, but Canada never has, staying with first-past-the-post. Large ridings are compared to the distribution of the population within each riding. So, first-past-the-post delivers successful candidates who often fall short of winning the popular vote, with only one candidate per riding, per party to form a government.

Recent years have seen a decrease in voter turnout, an increased mistrust in institutions, further polarization, and hostile partisanship rising. If Canada needs to rethink how candidates are elected, it cannot be achieved by politicians alone who have been elected under the current system.

They need the help of Canada’s citizens.

To define it, a National Citizens’ Assembly is the coming together of about 250 people from every aspect of the Canadian citizenry, including age, gender, ethnicity and region of Canada. It is a strictly non-partisan and trusted process, already used here in Canada, to study and resolve other lines of inquiry about national issues. It is government-supported and fully funded.

Countries around the world have used National Citizen Assemblies to resolve many issues. The members are given time and well-documented sources to study and reflect on the issue at hand. In the long run, they will make recommendations to the federal government based on their research and conversations amongst them.

A Citizens’ Assembly is being called for in Parliament this month to consider, study, and, in due course, make recommendations about reforming Canada’s voting system.

In February last year, Kitchener Centre MP Mike Morrice proposed a private member’s motion, M-76, for a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.

The motion rapidly received the support of the maximum 20 Joint Seconders with MPs from four parties. 

However, as Mike Morrice’s name was too far from the “order of precedence” list for private members’ business, his motion could not come to a vote in the House of Commons. A random lottery draw at the beginning of each Parliament establishes the order.

In June 2023, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Lisa Marie Barron, with a better position on the list, took advantage of the momentum and the cross–partisan support to put forward a new motion for a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform (motion M-86).

It was debated for the first time in November 2023 and will possibly be voted on this month.

Fair Vote Canada is a national citizen campaign, separate from M-86, as it is neither associated with the government nor funded by it. Fair Vote Canada is primarily focused on Proportional Representation.

Fair vote is also promoting very energetically M-86 to indeed establish the National Citizens’ Assembly so that the conversation of Electoral Reform can begin in earnest.

In a conversation with Sharon Sommerville, a member of Fair Vote and Mono resident, she told us they are actually going door to door with a petition for people to sign, asking their MPs to vote in favour of M-86.

Dufferin-Caledon MP Kyle Seeback recently met with Ms. Sommerville and others to discuss it.

“We are a collection of citizens concerned about our present election process,” she commented. “First-past-the-post is majoritarian.”

In an interview with the Citizen, MP Morrice said, “We need to take the politics out of it. [Support for M-86], it’s majority of folks in my community; it’s received widespread support of all parties.”

Lisa Marie’s M-86 has a chance of success, which will hopefully be presented on Feb. 7 in the House of Commons.

MP Morrice told us, “Volunteers have been meeting their MPs to urge support for the Bill.

“Both of the main parties have not supported it, yet Liberal members did support it. They are listening to Canadians and some of their own membership. It is clear it will require more effort to support this, as not enough are doing so.”

What will be said on the floor, we were informed, is that during the 2015 election, Trudeau’s promise was this [2015] election would be the last first -past- the post more than 1,800 times.

“This is another example of politics getting in the way,” MP Morrice remarked. “The motion simply asks that regular people bring people together to have a really important conversation to continue to look for reform.

“…that prescribes a particular line of action. We have called for a National Citizens’ Assembly take the politics out of it and have regular folks to make observations.”

On a personal note, he commented, “I’m excited to know that a local [newspaper like the Citizen is] bringing this to the attention of the people in Orangeville so they can become informed and have a voice too.”

Readers Comments (2)

  1. Boyd Reimer says:

    As you may now know the Parliamentary motion for a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform (M-16) failed to pass on Feb 7. But the struggle for fairness isn’t over: The Charter Challenge for Fair Voting will appear in the Appeal Court for Ontario later this year. (see

  2. Boyd Reimer says:

    As you may now know the Parliamentary motion for a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform (M-16) failed to pass on Feb 7. But the struggle for fairness isn’t over: The Charter Challenge for Fair Voting will appear in the Appeal Court for Ontario later this year. See this link or this one:


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