Friday, July 08, 2016

4th Electoral Reform Committee - Mayrand

Testimony of Elections Canada CEO Marc Mayrand July 7  
on "Viable alternative voting systems to replace First Past the Post and examination of mandatory and online voting" 

Shorter : A one-off referendum would cost $300M, Mayrand not worried about getting election system changes and/or possible referendum done in time for 2019 election if May 2017 deadline, as promised, is his starter date. 
Mayrand, it should be mentioned, is retiring in December so it won't be him dealing with it.

Alternating CPC & Lib MP questions: Referendum, online voting, referendum, online voting, referendum.
The dominance of the referendum question from the CPCs continues as expected, but the emphasis on online voting from the Libs is a surprise, given Mayrand has already said it won't be an option for the 2019 election.

Longer, much much much longer :-) ...

As CEO, Mayrand's role is to administer Canada Elections Act and Referendum Act and implement readjustment of federal elections boundaries.
Next report on suggested legislated changes to be submitted to PROC in September.
"Very short timeline" to get changes in place for next election in 2019.
He will not be addressing pros and cons of various voting systems.
Government has committed to have legislation in place in May 2017 "which I am comfortable with"
Mayrand reiterated his remarks to PROC from April. Full statement here :

1)Some systems may require redistribution of electoral boundaries. Current legal framework does not allow for redistribution except after the decennial census - current boundaries are supposed to be in place till 2023 - and also does not allow for multi-member seats. A change in voting system requiring redistribution will require enabling legislation. Last redistribution exercise took 26 months.

2) Redistribution may make it difficult to get results published on election night.  Canadians expect quick results so electronic tabulation may be required at all polling places to continue this tradition.

3) Redistribution may impact political financing. 

4) Public education on new system and election officers will need prepping.

Online voting and mandatory voting.
Internet voting would remove barriers but Canadians must trust integrity and secrecy of the vote. Online voting will not be an option in 2019. 
23 countries have national mandatory voting. Sanctions or incentives? 

Two rounds of five minutes each for MPs to ask questions :

Lib John Aldag : Your role in public education?
Mayrand : Should start one year in advance of election. His current mandate under Fair Elections Act passed by Cons in 2014 restricts his public education role to only those under 18 years of age. 

So, Libs, how about it? Think you might roll back Fair Elections Act to let the CEO of Elections Canada explain the new system - whatever it is - to Canadians for a year before the 2019 election?

CPC Scott Reid : Can we get new legislation through both the House and the Senate by May 2017? At what point after that does new system become impossible to implement? What is the "drop dead rate"?
Mayrand : At least two years.
Reid : Still six months to prepare referendum? When does 6 months start?
Mayrand : Yes, six months. Starts when we can tell it's going to happen. Have started looking into referendum change.

NDP Boulerice : 26 months? Why don't people vote?
Mayrand : Yes. 40% are busy/not in riding, 45% not interested in politics, 8% cite administrative barriers.
Boulerice : Have any countries moved from another system to FPtP?
Mayrand : Not as far as I know.

Elizabeth May : Fair Elections Act/Bill C-23 restricts your actions. Could you provide committee with a list of what you'll need for a new system? And explain delayed election results.
Mayrand : In Australia, preferential ballots takes time to compute election results 
May : How much would a one-off referendum cost?
Mayrand : Estimate is $300M
May : Would regrouping existing ridings into one be a simpler exercise?
Mayrand : Will require public consultation but won't cut down the time required much.

Lib Ruby Sahota : How can we make voting more accessible?
Mayrand : Online voting - 3.5M electors have some form of disability. Will recommend party reimbursement for making voting more accessible.
Sahota : If banking and million dollar deals are done online, why not voting?

CPC Gerard Deltell : Could preferential voting system as recommended by Stephane Dion be made understandable to Canadians in 26 months?  ... wait for it ... wait for it ... What steps does a referendum entail?
Mayrand : Entails drafting the question, examining materials since 1992 [last referendum], training manuals for 255,000 election workers, adapting current systems, contracts. 
DelTell Won't that take more than 6 months?
Mayrand : 6 months minimum.

Lib Sherry Romanado : Tech for improving voting. Humans make mistakes counting ballots. Online voting - could do it like tax returns but with option of polling stations..
Mayrand : Online voting will not likely replace paper ballots.  25% of voters prefer not to vote on polling day and that number is increasing.
Romanado : Why not leave that up to Canadians? I can order pizza online. On the day of the vote, it may be raining, I might be busy. Online voting gives me an option.
Mayrand : Security is an issue. Confidentiality. Secrecy. Reliability. Integrity. Risk of online services is to provider. Also we lack a universal authentification system in Canada.

NDP Chris Christopherson : Mandatory and online voting discussion distracts from discussing electoral reform. Send to PROC.

CPC Blake Richards : Referendum

Lib Matt deCourcey: Mandatory and online voting part of this committee's mandate. Possibility of augmenting EC role re the bringing in the young.
Mayrand : We could register students before they are 18 for when they turn of age. Civic education means more likely to vote.

CPC Scott Reid : Government is trying to run out the clock so there will not be time for both a REFERENDUM and time to implement a new system. Minister Maryam Monsef refuses to either endorse or refuse a REFERENDUM while refusing to do what is necessary to allow a REFERENDUM. How to stop the REFERENDUM deadline from going by silently in the 6 months plus 26 months scenario?

NDP David Christopherson: Legally a referendum cannot be held at the same time as an election. 
Mayrand : Correct.
Christopherson : Must be stand-alone. You need marching orders by May 2017 to meet deadline, so if referendum was May 1st, that puts us around Dec 2016 this year to give you time enough. So committee must give you a total package by Dec 16 to trigger a referendum that still gives you time of 27 months to implement reform.
Mayrand: Can hold referendum under current legislation. Expecting your report in December. 

Bloc Theriault : [I never know what the hell he's on about .... oh, wait ... ] REFERENDUM and we should take our time to do this right.

May : Re online voting, there's a social cohesion benefit to actually gathering to vote.

May reads twitter question from David McLaughlin, former chief of staff to Jim Flaherty: If the Referendum Act was changed to allow a referendum to be held alongside a federal election, how much would it cost then? 
Mayrand : Only “marginally” more expensive.

May reads another Twitter question : Can all referendum ads be subject to fact-checking or fines? 
Mayrand : Not his responsibility - public policy matter.
May : If committee decision is MMP, how about returning to 2011 boundaries - go back to 308 ridings and add 30 seats for prop rep? 
Mayrand says interesting but would have to think about it.

Lib Sherry Romanado: Online voting. Outreach for seniors and students and homebound.
As EC CEO you aren't allowed to educate people over 18 but what can we 338 MPs do?
Mayrand : Aside from mending the legislation? 

Yes, once again, how about it Libs? How about allowing Elections Canada to do voter outreach and education again?

CPC Gerard Deltell : Will potential disputes over new electoral boundaries slow things up?
Mayrand : Independent commissions decide boundaries, not EC.
Deltell : So you are "a hostage" of these commissions. We should take our time to do this right.

Lib Ruby Sahota : Can you educate new Canadians about our electoral process?
Mayrand : We publish info in 35 languages. We try to recruit EC personnel that reflects diversity of riding. First generation Canadians have lower turnout but it picks up with next generation.
Sahota : What are pitfalls of different systems, like taking too long to count ballots?
Mayrand : Most people see elections as marking a ballot, not understanding the system. Changing from a simple system to something more - you should not underestimate the level of educating people required to even start a discussion.

NDP Boulerice : Is increasing the vote part of your mission?
Mayrand : "It has been clearly laid out it wasn't Elections Canada's role to do so."
Boulerice : Scottish model - 2/3 elected by FPtP; remaining third appointed by list. Urban ridings could be merged; single ridings on large land masses. 
Mayrand : Difficult to compare Scotland with Canada because of size of Canada.
Boulerice : How can we increase % of women and minorities? A list system could have rules mandating 50% of women.

CPC Blake Richards : Timelines for referendum and changes to the system - December report will start it? When is the "drop dead rate" for the government calling a referendum plus time for resdistribution?
Mayrand : Dec. 1st is date of report from this committee and next May is date for legislation. If by next spring there is nothing on the table, right there it tells me I won't see anything before the end of 2018. That means January 2019 and that means we're out of it. 

Lib John Aldag :  Last thoughts? 
Mayrand : Aging demographic. Important for Elections Canada to be able to provide service for homebound. I have exhausted what I'm able to do under current legislation. I need your support on changing legislation to prevent poll line-ups. 
Aldag : Aboriginal engagement?
Mayrand : Progressively closing the gap with the rest of the population but great disparities in participation across the country.
Aldag :  What is #1 Canadian challenge or attribute to designing a system?
Mayrand : Canadians have an extremely high level of trust in their elections system. Once you lose it, it's very difficult to regain. Be extremely careful in doing anything that may impact the trust of Canadians.



Anonymous said...

Thank you Alison for your overview.

There appears to be a lot of posturing with the Committee members, particularly with the Conservatives and their referendum, referendum, referendum, rants.

Efforts to reform the selection process should be a priority before spending a lot of time clarifying automation necessities. For decades, Canada's paper ballot process provided a system that could be verified sand audited. The necessity and the cost involved in providing instantaneous results is less important than selecting a more democratic option for Canadians, than First Past the Post.

When more democratic options are formalized, automation needs can be explored. And of course this must be done before the next election.


Alison said...

Hi RG. Kady did a good rundown of both Mayrand and Kingsley here. Would have liked to do a full transcript because ERRE does not seem to be posting any. Will try to do JP Kingsley next but working every day so it might be a few more days till I get to it.

Yes, posturing for the folks back back in their riding, petty points scoring, and staking out turf is always a problem with televised hearings.

Agree too much time being spent on stuff not even on the horizon for next election and appalling to watch a muzzled Mayrand trying to negotiate their questions. Nearly 10 years experience as EC CEO and questions to him focus on referenda and online voting!

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