The Liberal federal government was elected this fall on a platform that included changing the way Canadians elect members of Parliament. What that system should look like has been a point of contention among voters and federal parties, but Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen believes there is a way to make sure the best system is chosen: try one and see if we like it.
“I’ve nuanced it a bit and said, just in the experience in B.C., that we should try it for an election or two, and then give people a full vote: do you like the new system we have, or do you want to revert back?” explained Cullen last week.
“There’s a lot of resistance to change when you don’t properly know what change is going to look like. I remember this when STV [single transferable votes] was being debated here, it was really hard for people to grasp in real terms.”
Concerns like having a local representative to connect with any concerns or issues was something Cullen said he heard when changing how British Columbians vote was being debated.
“There’s some experiences out there that says you test drive these things; you give it a shot and if it doesn’t work out, you give people a sort of fail-where you say ‘we can go back to the old first-past-the-post,” said Cullen.
When asked if this trial and error approach was risky, Cullen said the place to start was considering if the current system is working properly.
“A lot of the evidence says its not: people’s enthusiasm, voter participation, all those things,” said Cullen.
“We’ve had this system for 150 years. If we were to switch over for four to eight years, it’s just a moment in time, really.”
The NDP MP added that another way to avoid parties seeking the best system that would help them win is to come up with principles before specifics.
“I’m willing to say we have a preferred system, the NDP does, we think it’s a good one. But we’ll step back from that and say ‘come up with the three to five most important tests that a new system must meet. Questions like proportionality or the vote being reflected in the House of Commons, direct representation-that you have somebody there on your behalf directly, and then once those principles are set up, then you come up with a system,’” explained Cullen.