Ontario Liberal Leadership Race: Where Do They Stand on Proportional Representation?

The Ontario Liberal Party is electing a new leader! It’s hard to overstate the importance of the party leader to progress towards electoral reform.

The deadline to join the party to vote for a delegate to the leadership convention has passed. For Ontario Liberal Party members, leadership election meetings to vote for local delegates are on February 8-9. The leadership convention is March 6-7. More details here.

Even if you are not a Liberal Party member, you can encourage the party to adopt a strong policy on proportional representation by sharing the positions of the candidates widely. Read below. Candidate responses are listed in the order received.

Important Notes

Fair Vote Canada supports an independent Citizen’s Assembly as an evidence-based process to build consensus that we can trust!

Read our position on Alternative Vote (winner-take-all ranked ballots in single member ridings – referred to as “Ranked Ballot” by federal Liberals) and recent press release on Alternative Vote here.

Kate Graham

I believe our electoral system needs change. My personal preference is towards proportional representation. Personal preference aside, I believe we need to empower citizens to decide the future of our electoral system, free from political or partisan interest. We have to trust in the decision-making ability of a group of Ontarians to deliberate and decide. I’m running on a proposal for an empowered citizens’ assembly on electoral reform, with a binding recommendation that we’ll implement once we form government. The full details of our proposal are online at: https://www.kateforleader.ca/electoral_reform 

Brenda Hollingsworth

I believe a binding citizen’s assembly is the best way to deliver electoral reform.

Mitzie Hunter

As leader of the Ontario Liberal party I would be a champion of electoral reform in support of Ranked Ballot voting. I would include this as part of election 2022 platform.

Alvin Tedjo

I  believe that a ranked ballot system would bring substantial benefits to our democracy.

I’m not opposed to another Citizens’ Assembly, however, the approach of creating a citizen’s assembly is one that has been tried and failed several times in recent history, despite strong sentiment among the public that change was desirable. As such, I prefer that we use the political process to run on and commit to electoral reform, and use the mandate of an election to implement the change required.

Michael Couteau

Electoral reform is an important issue and I believe this is a perfect issue for debate by party members through a renewed, inclusive policy-development process as our party prepares our election platform.

I do believe the Government of Ontario can benefit from citizen assemblies on a variety of topics.

To have a productive conversation about electoral reform, I think we really need to reach across party lines to work together and compromise.

Steven Del Duca

Following our leadership convention, the Ontario Liberal Party will need to rapidly begin a comprehensive platform development process. If elected Leader, I will ensure that electoral reform is included, as a priority, in the extensive consultation that we will undertake before our platform is finalized.

Full Responses from Liberal Leadership Candidates to Fair Vote Canada’s Questionnaire

Kate Graham January 08, 2020

Q1 – Do you believe the current electoral system accurately represents the will of the electorate?

In the 2018 provincial election, Doug Ford’s Conservatives secured 40.5% of the vote and along with it 100% of the power, a majority government with well under a majority of Ontarians’ support. Our current electoral system does not produce a government that reflects the diversity of political opinions in Ontario.

Q2 – What sort of reform do you believe is needed? 

I believe our electoral system needs change. My personal preference is towards proportional representation. Personal preference aside, I believe we need to empower citizens to decide the future of our electoral system, free from political or partisan interest. We have to trust in the decision-making ability of a group of Ontarians to deliberate and decide. I’m running on a proposal for an empowered citizens’ assembly on electoral reform, with a binding recommendation that we’ll implement once we form government.  

Q3 – If elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, would electoral reform be a priority for you? 

Yes. I’m the only candidate to-date in the leadership race who has released a position in favour of electoral reform.

Q4 -If elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, would you favour creating a citizens assembly to recommend what is needed and how to proceed?

Yes, this is exactly the approach I am running on. The full details of our proposal are online at: https://www.kateforleader.ca/electoral_reform 

Q5 – Do you agree that a citizens’ assembly on electoral reform be kept at arm’s length from government, with a credible level of independence regarding its organization, design, and procedures? 

Yes. Political independence and objectivity are paramount to the overall success and credibility of this process.

Q6 – What is your position on what needs to be done to deliver electoral reform in a way that respects what voters are looking for in an electoral system? 

My campaign and our vision for Ontario is about changing the culture of politics, and focusing on people and their well-being. Ontarians want a government that represents their interests and the diversity of our province. Electoral reform is a needed change towards achieving this aspiration and realizing our vision for Ontario.

Brenda Hollingsworth January 13, 2020

Q1 – Do you believe the current electoral system accurately represents the will of the electorate?

Not as well as it could.

Q2 – What sort of reform do you believe is needed? 

Ontarians should have an opportunity to determine via Citizen’s Assembly whether it is time to move to a proportional representation system.

Q3 – If elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, would electoral reform be a priority for you? 

Yes.

Q4 -If elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, would you favour creating a citizens assembly to recommend what is needed and how to proceed?

Yes.

Q5 – Do you agree that a citizens’ assembly on electoral reform be kept at arm’s length from government, with a credible level of independence regarding its organization, design, and procedures? 

Yes.

Q6 – What is your position on what needs to be done to deliver electoral reform in a way that respects what voters are looking for in an electoral system? 

I believe a binding citizen’s assembly is the best way to deliver electoral reform.

Mitzie Hunter, January 15, 2020

Q1 – Do you believe the current electoral system accurately represents the will of the electorate?

I believe that there is room for improvement in the current electoral system and have heard from many people across the province that they want to see a change to the “first past the post” system that we have in place now.

Q2 – What sort of reform do you believe is needed? 

Ontario needs a system that better reflects each community’s preference when they vote. “First past the post” is an outmoded approach to voting that does not see winning candidates receiving the majority of votes. Under the ranked ballot system, candidates would be elected by receiving at least 50% of the votes. It would also eliminate vote-splitting and provide greater opportunities for young and diverse candidates to represent their community.

Q3 – If elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, would electoral reform be a priority for you? 

Absolutely. I have been a champion of electoral reform since my days as CEO of CivicAction and still believe it is a change that Ontario needs. The first private member’s bill that I introduced into government was the Toronto Ranked Ballots Election Act, 2014. It eventually became law under a government bill in Ontario and in 2018, London was the first municipality to implement it. As leader of the Ontario Liberal party, I would definitely continue to pursue electoral reform..

Q4 -If elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, would you favour creating a citizens assembly to recommend what is needed and how to proceed?

No. As leader of the Ontario Liberal party I would be a champion of electoral reform in support of Ranked Ballot voting. I would include this as part of election 2022 platform. The emphasis would be on voter education about the new voting system. At the municipal level Ranked
Ballots is already in place and an option for municipalities. I would work with residents to understand how to best implement, as well as seek as many learnings as possible from the recent London election.

Q5 – Do you agree that a citizens’ assembly on electoral reform be kept at arm’s length from government, with a credible level of independence regarding its organization, design, and procedures? 

Please see response to question four.

Q6 – What is your position on what needs to be done to deliver electoral reform in a way that respects what voters are looking for in an electoral system?

Voters want to participate in a system where their vote counts and matters. A Ranked Ballot voting system ensures that every vote counts and that winners receive at least 50% of the vote. It allows more diverse candidates to enter and stay in the race. It also makes debates more centered on issues as candidates are forced to court second and third choice voters. We also need to engage people in the process at a younger age by registering to vote at age 16. This allows for time to be on the voting list prior to young people moving away from home
for school or for other reasons.

Alvin Tedjo, January 16, 2020

Q1 – Do you believe the current electoral system accurately represents the will of the electorate?

No.

I believe that the current first past the post system leads to substantial distortions between the intentions of voters and the outcomes of elections.

Q2 – What sort of reform do you believe is needed? 

I  believe that a ranked ballot system would bring substantial benefits to our democracy.

By letting voters rank their preferred candidates, politicians would be incentivized to broaden their appeal and elevate the tone of their campaigns in order to build the broadest possible base of support. It would correspondingly make it far more difficult to achieve electoral success by using divisive campaign tactics that alienate broad swaths of voters.

As the ranked ballot system also requires that successful candidates achieve a majority of votes in their ridings, this system would address the distortions seen in the current system.

Both of these benefits — the incentive to build consensus and the requirement to achieve a majority — would go a long way toward rebuilding people’s faith in democracy and change the oftentimes toxic nature of modern politics.

I also believe that a ranked ballot system is preferable to a strict proportional representation system, as the latter elects members off of a party list, making those elected more beholden to their parties and leaders than to the electorate. It also encourages the formation of fringe, single issue and regional parties, as it rewards them with seats in the legislature despite their lack of interest in creating broad consensus or having a more fulsome vision for governing. In short, it lowers the bar for those seeking elected office, where I think it should be raised.

I do think that we should have an element of proportionality built-in to our system, what that is I believe should be decided by parties and/or citizens.

Q3 – If elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, would electoral reform be a priority for you? 

Yes.

I would also strongly prioritize how parties conduct their elections of candidates and leaders. I believe this is the most troubling part of our system that is the most manipulatable and influenced by money. I believe we need to open up and make the process more transparent, and have a more central body like Elections Ontario manage the voter database and give access to political parties like they do in general elections. If we are serious about cleaning up our democracy, we must address the gaps within the party system.

Q4 -If elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, would you favour creating a citizens assembly to recommend what is needed and how to proceed?

I’m not opposed to another CA, however, the approach of creating a citizen’s assembly is one that has been tried and failed several times in recent history, despite strong sentiment among the public that change was desirable. As such, I prefer that we use the political process to run on and commit to electoral reform, and use the mandate of an election to implement the change required.

Q5 – Do you agree that a citizens’ assembly on electoral reform be kept at arm’s length from government, with a credible level of independence regarding its organization, design, and procedures? 

As per my previous response, I have concerns about the effectiveness of such bodies in delivering meaningful democratic reforms. If I were to create one, I imagine that it would need to be given a clear mandate and be part of a larger, clear government plan to address specific shortcomings of the current system that includes a legitimate path to change. I would also emphasize that without political support from politicians and parties, reform is unlikely. 

Q6 – What is your position on what needs to be done to deliver electoral reform in a way that respects what voters are looking for in an electoral system?

Electoral reform is a major project. The stakes involved are enormous and accordingly it needs to be treated with the utmost care, attention and seriousness.

I  think that if electoral reform is to be achieved successfully, it’s starting point must involve creating and communicating a clear understanding of the problems that we need to solve with the current system. A clear alternative that addresses those issues must also be presented to the public and receive a democratic mandate. I would challenge the political parties running in the next election to say what they would do on reform if elected, and give them the mandate to implement those changes once elected. I would also suggest, like in other countries, we can give voters the choice in the subsequent election as to keep or change the system as had been used.

Michael Coteau, January 21, 2020

  1. Do you believe the current electoral system accurately represents the will of the  electorate?

    Our electoral system does lead to majority governments, without actually reaching the 50% threshold in the popular vote. For this, and other reasons, I believe a significant portion of people feel the current system does not accurately represent the will of the electorate. This can be expressed in a variety of ways but cynicism about elections and low voter turnout are two examples.

  1. What sort of reform do you believe is needed?

    I am convinced of the fact that the current system has flaws and many people are looking for change, but we need to find a consensus on what type of reform is needed. My focus is on improving governance, representation and the ability for the government to work with the people of this province in a collaborative way.

  1. If elected leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, would electoral reform be a priority for you?

    Electoral reform is an important issue and I believe this is a perfect issue for debate by party members through a renewed, inclusive policy-development process as our party prepares our election platform.

  1. If elected leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, would you favour creating a citizens assembly to recommend what is needed and how to proceed?

    I do believe the Government of Ontario can benefit from citizen assemblies on a variety of topics.

  1. Do you agree that a citizens’ assembly on electoral reform be kept at arm’s length from government, with a credible level of independence regarding its organization, design, and procedures?

    This is integral to the process, yes.

  2. What is your position on what needs to be done to deliver electoral reform in a way that respects what voters are looking for in an electoral system?

    To have a productive conversation about electoral reform, I think we really need to reach across party lines to work together and compromise. Reforms are often derailed because one party is doing it, and others feel that it is to that party’s advantage. If we begin the conversation together, we are more likely to come to something that everyone can agree on. More broadly, I have called for enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds, as well as a broad range of governance and ethics reforms at Queen’s Park as part of a substantive policy paper on government (https://www.anewfocuson.com/ethics). These and other ideas should also be considered as well.

Steven Del Duca, January 28, 2020

Q1 – Do you believe the current electoral system accurately represents the will of the electorate? 

I believe that there is always room for improvement in any system, including in our current electoral process. 

Q2 – What sort of reform do you believe is needed? 

I would like to see reforms pursued that would make it easier and more convenient for voters to cast their ballots. For example, perhaps it’s time that we consider moving election day(s) to weekends versus the traditional weekday. I’m also proud to have been part of a government that opened the door to municipal electoral reform and I would be keen to analyze the results of what’s taken place in London, Ontario with respect to the ranked ballot approach they used in their last municipal election. I am open to any idea that would have a direct connection to increasing voter turnout and participation. 

Q3 – If elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, would electoral reform be a priority for you? 

Following our leadership convention, the Ontario Liberal Party will need to rapidly begin a comprehensive platform development process. If elected Leader, I will ensure that electoral reform is included, as a priority, in the extensive consultation that we will undertake before our platform is finalized. And if elected Premier, I would work hard to implement all of our platform commitments, including those on electoral reform. 

Q4 -If elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, would you favour creating a citizens assembly to recommend what is needed and how to proceed? 

I am completely open to the idea of creating a citizens assembly on electoral reform. But again, before confirming the exact path that I would take, I would like to see the results of the OLP’s platform development process. 

Q5 – Do you agree that a citizens’ assembly on electoral reform be kept at arm’s length from government, with a credible level of independence regarding its organization, design, and procedures? 

When dealing with the manner in which we conduct elections and organize our democracy, it is important that we avoid even the perception that partisan politics has affected the recommendations. So I would be in favour of seeking as much independent advice as possible, and would also recommend that all four major political parties be included in the consultation. 

Q6 – What is your position on what needs to be done to deliver electoral reform in a way that respects what voters are looking for in an electoral system? 

I think it’s important to begin the process with a clear understanding of what the goals and objectives are with respect to what we want electoral reform to accomplish. And the terms of reference for the consultation that would occur need to be clear so that all participants, including the public-at-large, have confidence in the process.

Share This