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NDP Leader Liz Hanson, Premier Sandy Silver and Dave Brekke

Current system has its merits, premier says

Democracy in the Yukon appears slated to go under an official microscope in the near future.

By Taylor Blewett on November 27, 2017

Democracy in the Yukon appears slated to go under an official microscope in the near future.

The Yukon Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a motion last Wednesday calling for the territorial government to appoint an independent commission.

It would be tasked with examining electoral reform, fixed election dates and other electoral system changes in collaboration with Yukoners.

“Election reform is a very important issue to Yukoners — we heard that,” Premier Sandy Silver told the house.

He confirmed his government’s intention to follow through on a campaign commitment to strike an electoral reform commission and legislate fixed election dates.

The premier acknowledged the federal Liberal government’s flawed handling of its own, now-abandoned, electoral reform promise – that 2015 would be the last federal election conducted by way of the first-past-the-post voting system.

“I think what we saw on a federal basis was a real faux pas on that, saying that they are going to change the system,” Silver said.

While the commission will examine and the Yukon government will consider potential changes to the way Yukoners vote in their elected representatives, the premier didn’t commit to following through on those changes.

“I’m still not convinced that the current model isn’t the best system. Let’s get a non-partisan commission to get together and look at all options.”

Silver’s stance on fixed election dates was more determined.

Left unfixed, calling an election can become “a political tool,” he said.

The motion that passed was amended from its original version.

When moved by NDP Leader Liz Hanson, it also suggested that based on the commission’s feedback, the government:

• propose the best system to replace first-past-the-post;

• consider legislative amendments to allow voters the final say in an MLA’s ability to cross the floor and change partisan affiliation; and

• consider a prohibition on corporate, union, and Outside donations to Yukon political parties.

“We know that Yukoners love to discuss things and they love to discuss things that mean something to them. Politics means a lot to Yukon citizens,” Hanson told house.

The scope of the commission should not be restricted to electoral system reform, she added.

“We should not be saying that an independent commission is limited and cannot engage in conversations that citizens may want to raise, because I can foresee that the commission would hear opinions from Yukoners on a range of topics that are central to our democracy.”

While Hanson said she isn’t advocating for a particular system to replace first-past-the-post, the current system “has revealed serious weaknesses,” she said.

Changes to that system “should provide a more accurate representation of the popular vote and interests.”

The federal NDP champions a proportional representation voting system.

Hanson also said Yukon voters have consistently raised issues with political financing.

There are currently no limits on corporate nor union donations to political parties, she reminded the house, and election spending by those parties is similarly uninhibited.

Yukoners also feel betrayed when their political representatives decide to leave the party they were elected in, “cross the floor and change colours,” Hanson said. A reassessment of the practice could be part of the commission’s work.

Silver proposed the amendment that pared down Hanson’s original motion. He said he did so to allow all three political parties to agree on its contents and move forward where past governments had stalled on electoral reform.

The premier also said he wanted to avoid being too prescriptive with the motion.

“That’s political parties getting out front of something,” he told the legislature.

“What I would rather do is have the commission have a robust process without setting other things that may be perceived as a list of priorities.”

The Yukon Party abstained from significant debate on the motion.

Party leader Stacey Hassard did propose a small amendment calling for government co-operation with the other parties in the house to appoint the electoral reform commission. All MLAs agreed to the amendment.

Yukon Party house leader Scott Kent also voiced the Opposition’s position that any change to the Yukon electoral system should be passed through a territorial referendum.

While it’s clear that the government plans to appoint an independent commission to investigate democratic reform in the territory, the timeline for doing so remains obscure.

Hanson moved to add to her motion a deadline for the commission to report to the house by Nov. 22, 2018.

The Liberals did not support this amendment.

The premier said he could not “in good faith” set a date for the commission’s report to the house, as the cabinet office is currently doing the necessary preparatory work.

“I don’t want to commit to that (date) today, but I do want to commit to the two opposition leaders that we are working on this.

“This is important, and it was a (2016 election) campaign promise. To have this ready a week before the next election is not our goal. We need to make sure that we get this done in a timely fashion.”

Dave Brekke is a former federal returning officer for the Yukon and a member of Fair Vote Yukon.

He told the Star this morning he was “extremely pleased” to see the motion passed, particularly by unanimous vote.

“We don’t have truly representative democracy in the Yukon at this time,” he said.

Brekke expressed optimism about the upcoming commission, and its potential to propose a replacement for the first-past-the-post system.

Fair Vote Yukon wrote to the territory’s political leaders Nov. 8, urging action on the formation of an electoral reform commission as discussed in the legislature last spring.

Comments (13)

Up 0 Down 0

north_of_60 on Dec 3, 2017 at 3:00 pm

@PSG is correct. The ranked ballot system works quite well. The Conservatives used it successfully without problems for their recent leadership election. It could be applied successfully in the Yukon and provide a much fairer electoral system.

Up 0 Down 0

I can't bring forward my A game on Dec 2, 2017 at 6:03 pm

because some politician don't understand the A game and understand the Fail game and some are at D and several at B and A game.
Politicians with B and A games don't get listened to.
Peel was not a victory for any Yukoner.
It is not a war where one wins and loses.
We all are losers!
Wilf Carter

Up 1 Down 0

Come on Wilf on Dec 1, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Wilf, time to bring the A game in terms of how you express your opinions. Hard to read your posts.

Up 1 Down 0

Just Sayin' on Dec 1, 2017 at 9:47 am

A change where elected governments can be held accountable would be awesome. Also, having more referendums would be great. I know it would take longer to get things done (bahahaa), but at least Yukoner's could have their say and none of these surveys YTG creates and the subsequent data would be used. However, this appears as another way to allow those kids who are not popular to play at the same table. PC has come to the legislature.

Up 4 Down 0

Tater on Nov 29, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Well so much for majority governments. We'll wind up with minority rule by the party with one or two seats controlling what gets passed.

Up 7 Down 0

First past the post is only way on Nov 28, 2017 at 12:20 pm

voting can be done, in fair way.
It has being tried in other regions of the world and failed the people.
Nothing got done, grid lock ever where, like Germany to day.
Any new changes should be voted on by Yukoners first.
Wilf Carter

Up 2 Down 5

steve on Nov 28, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Ya want to bet as soon as get rid of the parties subject comes up the commission will be shut down.

Up 6 Down 2

ProScience Greenie on Nov 28, 2017 at 11:58 am

The ranked ballot system looks ok. Other PR systems are kind of flaky.

Some way to recall politicians would be good. Requiring a by-election to be held for politicians wanting to cross the floor would also be good.

Still, if it ain't broke that bad, don't fix it. If parties that can't elect a member such as the Greens (and recently the NDP) really want a say/seat they should improve their policies and choice of candidates and leaders.

Up 1 Down 7

Sally Wright on Nov 28, 2017 at 11:07 am

I was in the Legislature gallery to bear witness to this debate and I am very proud that our MLAs made a unanimous decision to form this Commission. Yukon people need to be educated about all the different options to get a fair vote. I believe once we get a fair vote and the majority of people can point to someone (regardless of party) in the legislature that they voted for, well, that is a big win for democracy and better decision making. Inclusion is key.

Up 9 Down 1

Ginger Johnson on Nov 28, 2017 at 10:44 am

You've got bigger problems to solve but you choose to spend EVEN MORE money on a commission that will do nothing but state the obvious.
Sadly you've become Trudeau Junior.

Up 5 Down 7

Linda Leon on Nov 28, 2017 at 8:46 am

For anyone tired of having to vote strategically, here is a great opportunity to create a fair electoral system in Yukon. Let's make Yukon a democratic leader!

Up 8 Down 1

Nile Nukon on Nov 27, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Electoral Reform is important to NDP and Green Party voters because it's the only way they would ever be in power.

Up 12 Down 1

Juniper Jackson on Nov 27, 2017 at 3:53 pm

In addition to needed changes to the current voting system, I think we need to put something in place, much like the US 'impeachment'. The voters should have a way to 'fire' an elected representative who fails the electorate. If a community feels strongly enough that they have made a mistake with who they elected, they should be able to get rid of them without having to be stuck with them for the next 4 years.. drunk and drive and charged? grounds to get that person out of office.. sexual assault? grounds to get that person out of office.. lie to the public? good bye.. If a person thought they could be fired I think they might look at being elected as a job they actually have to work at, and do well.. I don't think it should be made so easy that someone can be removed from office because others don't like his/her shirt.. but for some of the miscreants we have elected in? it shouldn't be impossible either.

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