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Federal government releases electoral-reform survey findings

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, is seen with his cabinet in Calgary, on Tuesday. The results from the survey, are likely to add even more uncertainty to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2015 campaign promise to change the first-past-the-post voting system before the next election.<252>

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

About two-thirds of Canadians are generally satisfied with the country's democracy, but just as many think parties should make decisions collaboratively, says a report on the Liberal government's online survey about electoral reform.

It also says Canadians may be open to changes – if the new system is easy to understand.

The findings from the much-maligned MyDemocracy.ca survey, released Tuesday by Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, show 50 per cent of respondents are "somewhat satisfied" with the way democracy works in Canada, and another 17 per cent are very satisfied.

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Still, the survey said 70 per cent of respondents also want a government where several parties agree before a decision is made. And 62 per cent, almost two-thirds, agreed at least in part that it's better for several parties to govern together, even if it takes longer for the government to get things done.

"Though satisfaction does not necessarily preclude a desire for reforming the electoral system, a majority of Canadians (67 per cent) report being somewhat or very satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada," the report's executive summary said.

"Canadians are receptive to options to express their preferences with greater specificity, but not if the result is a ballot that is more difficult to interpret."

The results from the survey, which did not ask about specific voting systems, are likely to add even more uncertainty to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's 2015 campaign promise to change the first-past-the-post voting system before the next election.

Mr. Trudeau has also recently reiterated his preference for a ranked-ballot voting system, but said he's open to a "broad range of perspectives and views."

An all-party committee has already recommended a referendum on a proportional voting system, but the government says it's weighing all its options before making a decision.

The survey, which ran online and by phone from early December to Jan. 15, found Canadians oppose both mandatory voting and lowering the voting age, and support online voting only if security is not at risk. Approximately 383,074 people completed the survey, the report said, with 96 per cent of users originating from Canada.

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The survey has already been widely mocked as a wasteful exercise because it fails to ask direct questions about voting systems, leading to criticisms that the Liberals could tailor the results to their will.

Conservative MP and democratic institutions critic Scott Reid predicted the Liberals would use the results to gerrymander the debate over electoral reform to the benefit of their own electoral gain. The Tories want Canadians to have the chance to pass judgment on any new electoral system in a national referendum.

The results come as Ms. Gould takes over the portfolio from Maryam Monsef, who moved to the status of women file. Ms. Monsef was forced to apologize in the House of Commons after belittling the work of the all-party committee.

"We are grateful so many people participated in this innovative, interactive application to help us build a stronger, healthier democracy," Ms. Gould said in a news release Tuesday.

"We will carefully consider these findings as we move forward."

Opposition MPs on the all-party committee released a report in early December recommending a referendum on a new, yet-to-be-determined, proportional-voting system.

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The Liberals on the committee, however, disagreed with the majority opinion, calling the recommendations "rushed" and "too radical" to implement at this time. The NDP and Green members, in their own supplementary report, also cast doubt on a referendum even as they agreed with the majority report.

Raymond Rivet, spokesman at the Privy Council Office, recently told The Globe and Mail it cost almost $1.83-million to mail out 14.8 million postcards promoting the online survey. The initial $330,000 contract to create the website was awarded to Vox Pop Labs.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Laura Stone is a reporter in The Globe's Ottawa bureau. She joined The Globe in February 2016. Before that, she was an online and TV reporter for Global News in Ottawa. Laura has done stints at the Toronto Star, Postmedia News and the Vancouver Province. More

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