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Nathan Cullen pitches all-party bill on electoral reform

Local MP Nathan Cullen says Canada's electoral reform bill should be co-drafted by an all-party committee.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen represents the local Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding.

Nathan Cullen wants MPs from all parties to co-author Canada’s next voting law.

The Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP and vice-chair of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform made the pitch in a letter to Canada’s new Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould.

“Instead of having the legislation that will reform our democracy written secretly in backrooms, I suggest we sit down together in the spirit of continued bipartisanship and write the bill together,” he wrote.

Last year, the former Minister of Democratic Institutions, Maryam Monsef, supported a motion by Cullen that restructured the special electoral reform committee to include members from all parties and base their membership on popular vote, not seat count.

The move meant the governing Liberals gave up a seat on the 12-member committee, which now includes five Liberal, three Conservative, two NDP, one Green, and one Bloc Québécois MP.

Cullen is now suggesting that members of all five parties be involved in drafting a new voting law.

“While that’s not the typical way that government operates, this is not a typical issue,” he said last week.

“It affects every Canadian and part of our democracy.”

During the 2015 election and again in the Speech from the Throne, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that the 2015 election would be the last to use Canada’s ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system, which awards House of Commons seats to candidates that win the most votes per riding.

Critics say the system ‘wastes’ votes, noting that in many cases, more than half the votes in a riding go to candidates who don’t win.

In 2011 and again in 2015, 61 per cent of Canadian voters cast ballots for parties that didn’t form government.

In December, Cullen and the 11 other MPs on the all-party electoral reform committee recommended that Canada hold a referendum on moving to some form of proportional representation a voting system where parties’ strength in parliament is based on their share of the popular vote, not seat count.

While the U.S. and U.K. retain ‘first past the post,’ proportional representation is the most common type of voting system in established democracies.

Cullen said the committee has until May to draft an electoral reform bill a deadline determined by the time Elections Canada needs to prepare for the next election, expected in 2019.

“It’s tight, but nothing in life happens without a deadline, and certainly nothing in Ottawa happens without some pressure,” said Cullen.

“We have a new minister on a steep learning curve, but I remain hopeful that we can get it done.”