Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What was the Citizens’ Assembly?

A: The Citizens’ Assembly was a group of 104 Ontarians, 103 were randomly selected, and the Chair was appointed. The Assembly was established to examine our electoral system and recommend whether we should keep it or adopt a different one.

Through this process, Ontarians were asked to examine the electoral system they have inherited and determine whether it continues to reflect their values. This was a rare opportunity to get involved in shaping our democracy now, and for the future.

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Q: Who was the Chair?

A: George Thomson was the Chair of the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform.

Over his thirty year career, George has made significant contributions to public policy and citizen engagement as a lawyer, educator, judge and deputy minister.

He was a family court judge in Kingston and has spent many years working on issues affecting children and families. He also chaired a committee that reviewed Ontario’s social assistance system.

For much of his career, George has been a teacher. Most recently, he was the head of the organization that educates Canada’s judges. George has also served as a deputy minister both in Ontario and for the federal government.

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Q: What is an electoral system?

A: The heart of Ontario’s democracy is a system of regular elections that allows citizens to choose the people who will represent and govern them. When that system reflects the values of citizens, it produces a democracy that is rich, vital, and strong.

Electoral systems determine how votes are translated into seats in the legislature at election time.

That process includes how citizens vote, the style of the ballot paper, how votes are counted and who is elected.

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Q: Is Ontario the only province looking at electoral reform?

A: A number of other provinces are also reviewing their electoral systems.

British Columbia had a Citizens’ Assembly in 2004 which recommended a new system (BC-STV). A referendum was held in May 2005, but narrowly defeated. A second referendum will be held with the provincial election in May 2009.

In 2004, the Québec government introduced a draft bill proposing a mixed electoral system. Consultations were completed in March 2006, and the government is expected to announce its plan in fall 2006.

New Brunswick will hold a referendum on a mixed electoral system for the province in May 2008.

In November 2005, Prince Edward Island held a plebiscite on whether to change to a new electoral system. The proposal was unsuccessful.

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Q: Was Ontario’s Assembly the same as the British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly?

A: British Columbia’s Assembly provides a model and lessons learned for the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly to build on. But Ontario’s process was unique as the people who sat on the Assembly, and the voices of the Ontarians who chose to participate. Together they developed a made in Ontario recommendation.

For more information on the B.C. process you can visit their website at: http://www.citizensassembly.bc.ca.

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Q: How were Ontario Citizens’ Assembly members selected?

A: Members of the Assembly were selected at random by Elections Ontario from the Permanent Register of Electors of Ontario. Every registered voter in Ontario was eligible to participate, with a few exceptions, such as elected officials.

Citizens who were randomly selected received a letter from Elections Ontario asking them to respond if they were interested in sitting on the Assembly. From the approximately 12,000 who responded, about 1,200 were invited to attend selection meetings across the province.

At each selection meeting Elections Ontario explained the random selection process and a representative from the Citizens' Assembly Secretariat provided details about serving on the Assembly. Attendees then decided whether to put their names into a ballot box from which one member and two alternates were selected for each riding.

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Q: What time commitment did the Assembly require of its members?

A: Members of the Citizens’ Assembly attended two weekend meetings per month in Toronto in fall 2006 and spring 2007, starting in September. The members also attended consultation meetings, in the winter, to hear what principles and characteristics of electoral systems are important to Ontarians. We estimate that Assembly members spent approximately 30 hours each month on Assembly work including time for meetings and related travel.

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Q: Were Assembly members compensated for their time?

A: Assembly members received $150 per meeting day, plus eligible travel expenses incurred.

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Q: How can I find out about the results of the Assembly’s consultations?


A: You can read summaries of public meetings, view and search written submissions, and read our consultation summary reports.

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Q: How did the Assembly reach its decision?

A: Assembly members participated in six weekend sessions to discuss what they learned in the Learning Phase and heard from the public, and form their recommendation for Ontario’s electoral system. The final decision on whether to recommend a change or keep the current system required a majority of the Assembly: 50% +1.

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Q: What happens now that the Assembly recommends a new electoral system?

A: The government will hold a referendum in conjunction with the next provincial election on October 10, 2007 so that all voters can decide.

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Q: What commitment is there to public education in the period leading up to a possible referendum?

A: The Assembly’s role ended when it submitted its final report to the government on May 15, 2007. The Minister for Democratic Renewal has committed to undertaking a public education campaign in the event of a referendum. The Assembly’s website will continue to be available, providing public access to all of the Assembly’s learning, consultation and deliberation materials.

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