To ensure that our democratic system functions at its best, citizens should feel confident knowing their voices are heard and they are represented.
For this reason, we need to explore electoral reform.
At the federal level, we are seeing greater attention and efforts being directed towards this issue. At the provincial level, we have had referendums in the past, however, they have not achieved the necessary support required for change.
There are different models that we can choose to research and ultimately decide to introduce. These include systems of proportional representation or some that combine elements of both a plurality voting system and proportional representation.
Prior to the upcoming provincial election, this needs to be something voters should request that candidates discuss and address.
All systems have their pros and cons and while any new system should only be implemented after careful study, we need to build greater momentum around this issue so that steps are taken by the government.
Before any new model is introduced, it is important to build awareness. At the municipal level, even though the election is in 2018, we can begin initiating a greater conversation now so voters can understand the nuances and details about the different voting systems.
In Surrey, we can explore the introduction of a ward system, which might better represent the different areas of the city and allow voters to elect councillors who can voice their concerns and work together to bring progress.
We can set up a public consultation committee at the municipal level to allow people to voice their opinions and make suggestions.
A referendum is meaningful when voters are able to make an informed decision. Allowing for consultation, education and awareness efforts can provide much-needed information and help in the decision-making process to choose the best system.
Electoral reform can result in a system where Canadians’ concerns and issues are better addressed by elected officials. It may also help prevent voter apathy by inspiring greater trust and accountability in the functioning of government, ultimately building greater confidence in voters and possibly increasing voter turnout and engagement with the democratic process in general.
By finding new ways to improve the functioning of our democracy, we are upholding the very principles upon which democracy rests. Our governments should be open to and wholeheartedly support such efforts by actually engaging with voters and facilitating the process in good faith.
The goal of such electoral reforms is to create a system that ultimately allows for greater progress in our society. Positive change begins when different voices and solutions are brought to the table, and we should take steps that can help turn this vision into a reality.
Japreet Lehal is a Simon Fraser University graduate pursing a law degree.