Rookie member of parliament John Aldag is only a few months into his career as an elected official but it is already his second time sitting on a committee that he says “has the opportunity to fundamentally change our country.”
The Liberal representative for Cloverdale – Langley City, who already sat on the committee that led to recently passed legislation on medically assisted suicide, was appointed last week to the special joint committee on electoral reform.
The 12 MP committee will hear expert testimony over the next several months in considering a different system for electing federal politicians in Canada, to replace the current first-past-the-post system.
Liberals do not have majority on committee
He said his first committee experience taught him, among other lessons, that “things can get very partisan.”
Aldag said the Liberal party took a “bold step” by relinquishing its majority on the electoral reform committee, allowing three Conservative MPs, two NDP MPs, a Bloc Quebecois MP and the Green Party’s sole MP (Elizabeth May) to join its five members.
“I think it demonstrates that we’re about doing business differently,” he said. “And particularly differently than what we saw over the last decade.”
“It’s apparently the first time that we’ve had a committee that has included the parties that don’t have official status — we have the Bloc at the table as well as the Green Party — and so that’s really exciting to see.”
Liberals say no referendum needed
Both the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois have called for a referendum on electoral reform but Aldag, parroting his party’s position, said he does not believe that to be necessary.
“I’m not convinced that a referendum is the only way to get the input of Canadians,” he said.
A motion was brought forward by May and the NDP members at the committee’s first sitting on Tuesday (June 21). It would allow for questions asked on social media to be brought to testifying experts.
Aldag called the motion “a really novel idea” and said he and his fellow liberals are interested in pursuing it.
Constituents of Cloverdale – Langley City, as well as those from surrounding ridings, will also have the opportunity to express their opinions on electoral reform to Aldag in person, he said, vowing to host at least one public town hall in late August or early September.
“It’s part of a very positive flavour that we’re taking to allow Canadians to provide input,” he said.
Langley’s other MP disagrees
Aldag’s Conservative counterpart in the neighbouring riding of Langley – Aldergrove, Mark Warawa, said he would likely attend Aldag’s town hall.
Warawa said he agrees with his party’s official stance that a referendum should be held.
“The vast majority of Canadians want [a referendum] and I would be baffled if the government would ignore what Canadians would want on something this fundamental to our democracy. They have to have the final choice,” he said.
He said he believes the country should follow the precedent set by B.C., P.E.I. and Ontario, which have all held electoral reform referendums.
Warawa said he will be sending a pamphlet with non-partisan information on electoral reform to his constituents and has considered hosting his own town hall but isn’t sure that is the best way to facilitate a constructive and informative debate on the matter.