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We Are Coming To The Moment Of Truth On Electoral Reform

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The committee looking into reforming the voting system in this country is quickly coming to its moment of truth.

It's been one year since the election that our prime minister promised would be the last under the outdated first past the post system for electing Members of Parliament. The Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform has crisscrossed the country getting input from Canadians about what kind of electoral system they want -- and the message has been clear.

Change the system. That was also the message I took to Ottawa on Tuesday as I testified before the federal government's Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform, to speak on behalf of Unifor's 310,000 members.

It was an important message that the politicians need to hear. Unifor members work in every sector of the economy, in both public and private sectors, from coast to coast to coast. Few organizations can claim to represent such a broad cross-section of the population.

On the matter of electoral change, Unifor members spoke clearly at our National Convention this past August. The resolution to endorse proportional representation was unanimous and fitting with our theme -- it's time.

We have voted for change, and fully expect specific reforms that are understandable and explainable to voters.

Now is the time for real change to the way we elect MPs.

A proportional representation system is the best way to make sure every vote counts and to make false majorities impossible.

We want fewer reasons to vote strategically and more opportunity to vote for a hopeful, progressive future. It's time for change to offer more reasons for young people and all those who have been alienated from politics to engage and participate in the democratic process.

Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef have said that "broad based support" for change is a prerequisite for changing the system. The chief electoral officer has likewise said we need "the broadest possible consensus."

I couldn't agree more, and told the committee that there is a broad base of support for electoral reform.

In the last federal election, three of the four main parties ran on a platform that included changing the way we vote. That gives MPs a strong mandate. We have voted for change, and fully expect specific reforms that are understandable and explainable to voters.

The committee members have the capacity, the mandate and the information on voting systems they need to bring forward a majority position on electoral reform. The question remains whether the committee and this government has the will to bring about change. If and when they do, the vast majority of Canadians will support them.

Canadians want less partisanship in politics and more cooperation between parties to produce good public policy.

Support for the present system is pretty much limited to the core base of the previous Harper government. Support for "preferential ballots" is even less. I urged the committee and will continue to urge them to not go down that rabbit hole, but instead to keep focus on bringing in a proportional representation system.

The first step in doing that is for the committee to draw on its weeks of consultations with the public and come to agreement on the principles that represent Canadian opinion and values.

The next step is to propose an electoral system that best implements those principles.

The core issue is that Canadians want a different system that eliminates false majorities. We have too much experience that these false majorities produce extremist, ideological governments that do more harm than good.

Canadians want less partisanship in politics and more cooperation between parties to produce good public policy.

Political parties will need to work together to get things done. When they do, new governments will not have to spend their first year in power repealing the extremist agenda of the previous government.

If this opportunity for real change is missed, it will be a long time before these conditions come around again.

Unifor members are ready for change and we expect leadership in Ottawa to ensure that a new proportional voting system is in place for the next federal election.

To see my full presentation from Tuesday, go to unifor.org/electoralreform.

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