Most Canadians Want Electoral Reform Referendum, Forum Poll Suggests

Posted: Updated:

As members of Parliament dive into the contentious issue of electoral reform, a new poll suggests most Canadians want a referendum on any proposed change to their voting system.

The numbers released Monday by Forum Research could give ammunition to Conservatives who argue any shift from the first-past-the-post system won't be legitimate unless Canadians get the final say.

According to the poll, 65 per cent of Canadians agree a national referendum is needed before MPs can change the way they are elected, while 18 per cent say such a step isn't necessary.

Seventeen per cent told the firm they have no opinion on the matter.

maryam monsef
Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef appears as a witness at an electoral reform committee on Parliament Hill on July 6, 2016. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, past Conservative voters were the most likely to support a referendum. Seventy-nine per cent of Tory supporters said they agree the move is necessary, while 10 per cent said it isn't.

However, 75 per cent of New Democrats also feel a referendum is warranted, while just eight per cent of that's party's supporters disagree.

Fifty-six per cent of Liberal supporters also back a referendum, compared to 27 per cent who disagree.

While agreement that a referendum is needed spreads across all regions, those in Alberta (75 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (70 per cent) were most likely to back a plebiscite.

'It is apparent where public sentiment sits'

Dr. Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, says the numbers are conclusive.

“It is apparent where public sentiment sits on this complex issue.”

"There is a strong majority opinion in favour of a referendum on the way MPs are elected, and it spreads across all regions and socioeconomic groups," Bozinoff said in the poll summary. "It is apparent where public sentiment sits on this complex issue."

But if the meetings last week at a special committee on electoral reform are any indication, it seems unlikely a referendum will be called.

Though Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef didn't rule a referendum out categorically, she argued a national vote isn't needed.

Monsef suggested that since some 63 per cent of Canadian voters supported parties calling for electoral reform last fall — Liberals, New Democrats and Greens — MPs had a mandate to change the system.

Liberals won't commit to national vote

Monsef also appeared to hint at the so-called "Brexit" referendum in the United Kingdom to make her case that such votes can spark deep divisions that aren't “easily healed."

"Referenda do not easily lend themselves to effectively deciding complex issues," Monsef said.

Canada's chief electoral officer also provided some insight into the costs and time needed to pull of a national referendum.

Marc Mayrand told the committee that a referendum would cost "about $300 million" and Elections Canada would need at least six months to plan for such a vote.

marc mayrand
Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand appears as a witness at an electoral reform committee on Parliament Hill on July 7, 2016. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

He later told MPs a referendum could be done by mail "which would reduce costs considerably" but the Referendum Act doesn't currently allow for it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who vowed the 2015 election would be the last under the first-past-the-post system, has already gone on record to say referenda are a good way to ensure the status quo.

In recent years, voters in British Columbia, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island have all rejected changes to their voting systems when proposals on the matter have gone to a vote.

The poll, an interactive voice response telephone survey, was conducted on July 5 among 1,429 randomly selected Canadian adults. Forum says the poll has a margin of error of three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With earlier files from Atlhia Raj

Like Us On Facebook


Rookie MPs To Keep Your Eye On
Share this
Current Slide