Raising Citizen Voices: Redesigning Parliament

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Monday, February 11, 2013 View Count = 1327

Raising Citizen Voices: Redesigning Parliament

Over the month of February Samara will be presenting blog entries from MPs, Samara readers, partners, community leaders and citizens from across the country on how we can “Redesign Parliament” to more ably serve Canadians in the future.

Each week we’ll explore a particular theme or two and then offer deeper dives by individual writers. The introduction to this week’s theme is brought to you by Samara volunteer Steven J. Lee.

One area that received a great deal of attention from our bloggers was how to encourage the “citizens’ voice,” ensuring the public’s interests, desires and demands are represented in parliament.

Direct Democracy

Many contributors offered some suggestions for direct democracy—letting citizens have a meaningful say on laws and policies. Citizens’ assembliescitizens’ initiatives,referenda and recalls could all be part of a process to make sitting MPs and governments more responsive to the needs of the populace.  A few of these ideas will be explored in greater depth throughout the week.

Proportional Representation

One of the most common suggestions to enable citizens’ voices to be heard was electoral reform. Elections are when citizens exercise real political power over their elected leaders, and advocates of electoral reform suggest that a reform of the system would shift greater power to the citizens. In Canada we use a single-member plurality system, more commonly known as first-past-the-post (FPTP) to determine the winner.

Laurin Liu  NDP MP for for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC summarized it as follows, “I’ve been hearing at the doorstep and on university campuses that Canadians want a Parliament that better reflects the choices that voters make at the ballot box.” What Ms. Lui is referring to is the difference between the share of the popular vote and the composition of our House of Commons.

Samara received feedback from quitefew contributors that cited proportional representation as the best method to help improve parliament. 

Let the House Reflect the Population

Seats could be redistributed to better reflect the Canadian population, increasing representation of those from particular groups, gender, ethnic background, region of residence, and others.

Despite the fact that we now have six female premiers in Canada the vast majority of the legislators are male. Quebec does the best with 33% female representatives. The House of Commons sits at 25% women. Later this week Nancy Peckford of Equal Voice will offer her ideas on equal representation for women.

Civic Education

When Samara put out the question of how to redesign parliament,
several people responded that Parliamentary abuses happen because Canadians are not aware of their own governing system and traditions. A key point for many was the need for better civic education in Canada. Likewise, MPs need to have better training for their roles and responsibilities.

These are just some of the most common ideas that we heard over the last month as you sent us your suggestions on redesigning Parliament. An overwhelming number of responses focused on the need for greater citizen participation, and new ways to have the citizens' voice heard. 

Over the next week, we’ll be sharing those responses with you with a new blog post each day. Sign up for the blog, or follow the series on #fixparl.

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