The most interesting and innovative idea to come out of the first meeting of the all-party Special Committee on Electoral Reform, or ERRE, was Nathan Cullen's suggestion, seconded by Elizabeth May, to allow members of the public access to question the expert witnesses before the committee in real time via email or twitter hashtag.
Cullen (paraphrased @mark 18:00) : As MPs we will have the privilege and advantage of engagement with experts from around the world, and with televised meetings Canadians can be learning right alongside us. It is always possible a Canadian will notice something we have missed or have a completely different insight or perspective on expert testimony that will open up avenues we had not considered before. Their questions can be sent to the impartial clerk of the committee and read out by the Chair in the equivalent of one MPs speaking slot. [That would be about six minutes for Q&A]
DeCourcey : Open and accessible is good but we're already conducting consults in our ridings. What if the same person sends in questions over and over again? [Note : Clerk could deal with that!] Send motion to subcommittee for study. [DeCourcey warmed to the idea as debate progressed]
"My primary concern about this motion is that it proposes a fundamental change in the role and nature of parliamentary committee thereby creating a precedent before we've studied the implications of such a precedent. This is a parliamentary committee ... woof woof woof ... We are not here to be conduits for twitter or other platforms of social media in which there is sometimes a robust and vulgar public debate ... woof woof woof... "Kenney suggested if Cullen were so keen on this idea, he could give up one of his own allotted speaking slots to questions from the public ; Cullen said he would be willing to do that.
May : This isn't radical, will engage young people and lend to the legitimacy of this process.
Cullen : "This process is not ours - This entire conversation belongs to Canadians."
A majority vote in favour sent Cullen's motion to the untelevised subcommittee for study ... from whence it may or may not return. We'll see.
Meantime, send @ElizabethMay and @nathancullen kudos for their excellent work here.
Cullen's motion :
"That the committee alot the equivalent of one MP's speaking spot per meeting to hear questions directly from Canadians at each meeting with witnesses, that the committee receive questions from Canadians via the committee's email address and twitter hashtag #yourvotecanada #yourvotecda, and that questions be reviewed and selected by the clerk of the committee and posed to the witnesses by the Chair."
Really hoping you'll keep us up on this committee, Alison. Missed your nerdy committee transcripts of late :)
Anon: Oh I could go on ;-)
As a first meeting this was all motions about procedure and dates however ...
Scott Reid, ever the class monitor and sometimes that's what's needed, was in a pissy mood.
On "the principle of proportionality, the fiction we are expected to believe with regard to how this committee is being run," he objected to changes in the speaking time allocations.
"If this is going to be the pattern of behavior from the Liberals on this committee, that is a very significant problem. "
DeCourcey amiably explained that the addition of May & Bloc speaking times - because important - meant everyone else's times had to be adjusted accordingly. Reid still pissed. In new longer proposed sessions, he explained, Libs get 4% more speaking time & May & Bloc get 1% more.
Really, Scott? 1%? Must say I'm impressed how fast he worked that out though.
Cullen & May also want subcommittee to meet later today or tomorrow to do schedule. Nixed.
Chair Scarpaleggia suggests Marc Mayrand and JP Kingsley as witnesses next week.
Reid objects to Kingsley & Mayrand appearing as witnesses the following week. Says it's a discourtesy to give them such short notice.
Cullen : Why not ask them and see if they want to come?
Reid then objects to them both appearing on same day because he wants to ask Mayrand what issues would prevent us from having a national referendum on electoral reform first, and he wants Mayrand to have time to prepare for it: "Anything but a full meeting with just Mayrand alone would be unacceptable."
Chair suggests have inhouse analysts and tech people next week. Reid also wants Monsef at earliest convenience.
So we'll have to wait a bit longer for Mayrand & Kingsley.
All in all a good feeling committee so far. Civil. On point. DeCourcey an inclusive natural negotiator.
Committee budget - $300,000
First subcommittee meeting - next Tuesday. 2nd whole committee meeting next Wednesday.
Kind of amusing Kenney is comfortable with a national referendum on electoral reform but can't handle the idea of a few questions on twitter.
The next day Kenney was taking shots at the Green Party convention. On Twitter. Subtle message to Ms. May?
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