Monday, January 09, 2006

CP asks leaders about PR

(CP) - Each week during the federal election campaign, The Canadian Press puts a question to the federal party leaders. This week's question:

"Should Canada move toward a system of proportional representation?"

The answers:

Paul Martin - Liberals

"The issue of electoral reform has been, and continues to be, on the government's agenda. Recently, the government introduced major changes to political financing and political party registration rules. These reforms are directed to greater openness, fairness, transparency and diversity in the Canadian electoral system.

At the same time, it is premature to seize upon any single solution to the challenges facing our democracy. We first need to identify the problems we wish to solve. We have announced a series of initiatives - including a citizen engagement process - to gain a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our democratic institutions and practices.

We agreed with all parties to task the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to recommend a process for engaging Canadians and Parliamentarians in an examination of our electoral system. The election was forced upon us by the Opposition before the work could begin."

Stephen Harper - Conservatives

"A Conservative government will work with like-minded parties in the House of Commons to democratize Canada's parliamentary and electoral institutions. Among other democratic reform measures, this could include looking at changes to the electoral system to consider different models of proportional representation.

A Conservative government will also implement other democratic reforms such as fixed election dates every four years, and electing senators. We also feel that it is unfair that Canada's electoral system causes rapidly growing provinces like British Columbia to send fewer MPs to the House of Commons than is warranted by their populations and we would therefore seek to correct this problem while ensuring that no province sees its number of MPs decline.

In reviewing options for a more proportional electoral system, a Conservative government will not endorse any new system that would weaken the link between MPs and their ridings, create unmanageably large ridings, or that would strengthen the control of party machines over individual MPs."

Gilles Duceppe - Bloc Quebecois

No response received.

Jack Layton - New Democratic Party

"Yes, absolutely, and the NDP is alone among parties in saying we will bring proportional representation in. That's one big reason why this time, people who want to change politics should look at the third option - because unless people vote for the kind of change they want, they'll never get it.

As with so many things, Paul Martin has no credibility on changing politics. During the last Parliament, Liberals reneged on an all-party process led by NDP MP Ed Broadbent on voting reform. Martin will pretend to believe almost anything for a vote, but his record shows his words to be meaningless.

We need to change politics to a system that makes it easier to vote for good ideas, elects more women and fairly reflects diversity of opinions within regions. Already in place in the vast majority of democracies, a PR system that retains local representation is key to changing politics for good. Every vote for the NDP on Jan. 23 helps elect many more NDP MPs - and every new NDP MP will change politics for good."

Jim Harris - Green party

"Yes. Canada's democracy is ready to evolve, to become a fairer, more accountable and truly representative electoral system. The Green party believes that it's time to get past the first-past-the-post system and build a House of Commons that reflects Canada's diversity by electing more women, visible minorities and members of smaller parties to Parliament.

Proportional representation has been a key thrust of the Green party since its inception as an essential priority of democratic reform in order to give power back to the people. Since there are many options and variations, this change should be citizen-driven via a Citizens' Assembly and referendum.

Decentralized decision-making and participatory democracy are core principles of the Green party. Green party MPs will work to create a broad-based, result-driven public consultation process to determine the form of proportional representation that best serves Canadians for the next federal election. The Green party also supports the legislative changes required to introduce the proportional representation electoral system recommended by the public consultation. The need for urgent action on electoral reform is based on the recognition that our system adopted at the time of Confederation is now antiquated and undemocratic."


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