TORONTO – NDP leader Jack Layton's abrupt decision to support Stephen Harper by making the Senate his democratic reform priority raises serious questions about the NDP's commitment to Proportional Representation, Green Party of Canada democratic reform advocate Chris Tindal said today.
"Since Parliament can realistically only deal with one democratic reform issue at a time, Mr. Layton's out-of-nowhere proposal to abolish the Senate is at odds with the NDP's traditional support for reforming our voting system," Tindal said.
"It's an open secret in Ottawa that Mr. Layton's goal is to displace the Liberals and become leader of the opposition under the current First Past the Post system. During the 2004 election campaign, Mr. Layton made electoral reform a priority. Since then, we're heard almost nothing from him about fair voting. What has happened to his priorities and his promises?"
Fair Vote Canada, a multi-partisan organization that advocates for electoral reform, insists that the necessary discussion about the future of the Senate must come after citizens have determined how their MPs are elected. "At the federal level, the first and most urgent priority is beginning a citizen-driven process to determine the best electoral system for electing MPs," said a July 2006 statement by FVC. "Job one is to create a truly representative House of Commons and legitimate majority government." Under the current voting system, majority governments are often elected with less than 50 percent of the vote, leading to "false majorities".
Tindal said that even if Mr. Layton's proposal for a snap referendum on abolishing the Senate was constitutional – and it isn't – it is both premature and too narrowly defined. Instead, he should immediately reaffirm his party's commitment to Proportional Representation and push for a federal Citizens' Assembly to explore that issue.
The Green Party recognizes and supports the need for Senate reform but believes it must explore all options and happen within the context of public involvement and study, and not until after citizens have had a chance to reform the federal voting system.