The U of T town hall was part of Monsef's Canada-wide tour on electoral reform. TOM YUN/THE VARSITY

With the federal government preparing to eliminate the first-past-the-post voting system, a town hall on electoral reform was held at University College last Wednesday. As part of the event, federal Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef spoke on potential changes to Canada’s electoral system.

The event was part of Monsef’s Canada-wide tour on electoral reform intended to complement the federal Special Committee on Electoral Reform, created last June. Last Wednesday’s town hall was co-hosted by Equal Voice, an organization focused on electing more women to office, and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). The first hour and a half was a pre-event for young women, and the following hour and a half was a consultation period open to everyone.

The panel was moderated by YWCA CEO Paulette Senior and consisted of three other members: Chair of Equal Voice National Nicole Foster, Senior Researcher at Equal Voice Grace Lore, and Monsef. Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) Adam Vaughan also attended the event but was not a panelist.

Monsef spoke about why the town halls were being held, arguing that the previous Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper passed “really significant legislation” without substantial public consultation.

She also commented on the value of having a thorough consultation process, highlighting the importance of seeking out voices from marginalized communities. “We’re building relationships across the country with organizations and stakeholders that have relationships with these marginalized communities and so come December 1, when that report comes over, I want to make a recommendation to cabinet and to the House of Commons and I want to be able to stand behind it,” Monsef said.

“I know that, no matter what we do, it’s going to improve and strengthen these democratic institutions and have impacts that we will see for decades and for generations to come,” she added.

When discussing the possibility of a referendum on electoral reform — something that the Conservative Party has called for — Monsef opposed the idea. “I have been really clear about what my personal opinion is about the referendum and I don’t think it’s the best way… However, this is not my electoral reform, or this is not my party’s electoral reform, this isn’t the governments electoral reform — this is your electoral reform.”

During the event, Monsef also discussed other matters apart from electoral reform, including changing the tone within the House of Commons to reduce heckling and possibilities for more women to be elected to office. She also criticized the Fair Elections Act and the “barriers around the ID requirement.”

The University of Toronto Students’ Union and the Ryerson Students’ Union are also holding an electoral reform town halls on September 29 at the Ryerson Student Learning Centre in partnership with Leadnow, a political advocacy group. MPs across the country are also holding similar consultations; New Democratic Party MP Nathan Cullen held a town hall at Hart House on Sunday, and Vaughan will host one at Toronto City Hall on September 25.

The Special Committee on Electoral Reform is expected to have a report compiled for the House of Commons by December 1, 2016.

With files from Tom Yun.

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