Recommendations on Related Issues
The Assembly wishes to highlight three additional issues that were frequently raised by the members of the public who participated in the public consultations:
"We should educate young people about politics from an early age. The only way to have a good electorate is to have an educated citizenry."
- Participant at public meeting, Toronto
The Assembly recommends that the government and other organizations work together to:
- Build public understanding of the importance of elections,the broader political process,and the ways in which all citizens can participate in this process.
- Ensure that all Ontario high school students graduate with a good working knowledge of our democratic system and understand the importance of voting. Also,provide opportunities to engage youth and young voters in the political process.The Students' Assembly on Electoral Reform was conducted in the fall of 2006 to involve high school students from across Ontario.It showed us the power of innovative and youth-centred approaches to getting young people interested in and excited about the political process.
- Continue the process of removing the barriers that prevent people from participating fully in elections and in the political process more generally. Accessibility for people with disabilities and for those who face language,literacy,and other barriers must be a central consideration in all efforts to increase voter participation.The Assembly recommends that the public education campaign leading up to the referendum,the method of carrying out the referendum, and voting procedures under the new electoral system (should it be approved by voters) be fully accessible to all Ontario citizens.
"My hope is that young people will feel the need to participate in democracy and understand the importance of their choices."
- Students' Assembly member
The Assembly's proposal for a Mixed Member Proportional system includes the recommendation that list candidates and the process parties use to nominate them should be well known to voters before they vote. The Assembly did not make a recommendation to change the process by which parties nominate their local candidates. However, the Assembly believes that the same type of transparency,with attention to achieving greater gender balance and reflecting Ontario's diverse population,should apply to local candidate nominations.This would contribute to the legitimacy of the electoral system and citizensí confidence in the political process.
"If casting one's vote is indeed the most important act a citizen performs in any democracy, then it is time for the process to become more inclusive for all citizens."
- Excerpt from the written submission of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
On our next provincial election day,October 10, 2007, a referendum will be held to ask Ontario voters whether they support the Assembly's recommendation for a Mixed Member Proportional system for Ontario. The government has set a double threshold for approval of the recommendation: It must win at least 60% of voter support across the province, and it must be approved by a majority of voters in at least 60% of electoral districts.
The Assembly is pleased that the referendum law (Electoral System Referendum Act, 2007) directs that the wording of the question be "clear, conscise and impartial." The Assembly believes that a simple yes/no question would be clearest and that the question should inform voters that the recommendation for the new system was made by the Citizens' Assembly. We believe the question should ask the voters whether Ontario should adopt the Mixed Member Proportional electoral system recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform.
The Assembly feels that all citizens must be well informed about the referendum and have a good understanding of the new system.A comprehensive, well-funded public education program, beginning in May and continuing through to the referendum, is vital. We believe that the program should include a description of the new system and how it differs from the current system; a description of the Citizens' Assembly process; and the Assembly's rationale for recommending a Mixed Member Proportional system for Ontario.