The Liberals’ electoral reform commission is not independent because the governing party is calling all the shots, a former clerk told the News.
Floyd McCormick’s comments come following the tabling of a letter this week that he penned to the Members’ Services Board in the summer, which challenges Premier Sandy Silver’s assertion that the commission is independent.
McCormick, who retired in the spring, told this newspaper that the Liberal plan “bypasses” the legislative assembly, that it’s steering the whole process.
“They didn’t bring in legislation, which would have to go through the House. They didn’t do it by forming a committee of MLAs to look at it. They just did this thing within cabinet. They’re kind of bypassing the democratic institution when the democratic institution should be the one driving this process.”
The Liberals named the three commission members in July.
McCormick said the government should revamp the commission, picking either a select committee comprised of MLAs or make it truly independent, akin to the electoral boundaries commission, which is rooted in legislation.
Silver has previously said he doesn’t want the process to be guided by multiple parties that have, at times, conflicting agendas.
“I respect his opinion,” Silver said when reporters asked for comment regarding McCormick’s letter on Oct. 23, “but at the same time I don’t think that an independent committee is really gonna warrant somebody other than those legislative bodies to make a change.
“That an independent committee somehow going out and asking Yukoners what they think about electoral reform is somehow contravening into that I will respectfully disagree.
“So again, a select committee is all-party. That’s now three political parties in a room together going out there and doing that. I don’t agree. I want to make sure any move that we do gets to the Yukon public. I believe that it needs to be independent of political interference.”
The work of the commission saw a setback recently with the resignation of its chair.
Jessica Lott Thompson refused to comment for this story.
Asked whether McCormick’s letter played any part in Lott Thompson’s resignation, Silver said, “You’d have to ask her. I don’t think so.”
The two opposition parties have been critical of the Liberal government’s process around electoral reform for months, arguing they have been left out of the equation.
Opposition parties are now huddling around McCormick’s letter.
Both the NDP and Yukon Party have put forward, with slight nuances, that all parties should be involved in the electoral reform process.
The Yukon Party’s Brad Cathers told reporters following question period on Oct. 23 that Silver will defend the process of the commission until he’s “blue in the face.”
“The key issue at hand is Premier Silver’s unwillingness to actually work with other political parties on this,” he said.
NDP House Leader Liz Hanson wants a select committee on electoral reform, which would be comprised of MLAs from all parties to gauge what Yukoners want to change.
Her motion was debated this week. It has yet to pass.
“When it comes to the fundamentals of democracy it’s up to the legislative assembly and it should guide it,” she said.
The Liberals promised electoral reform in 2016. McCormick is on board with the idea, he said.
“I share that goal, but I obviously don’t share their methods. To me, if you’re going to be improving democracy in the territory, the place you start is with the legislative assembly, because that’s the elected body.”
The tack the governing party has chosen, he continued, is routed through cabinet, the affairs of which are kept confidential until it makes a decision.
“All of these political parties have a vested interest in the outcome of elections and so they should all be equally involved in devising the process. It shouldn’t favour one over the other.”
McCormick said the plan has been biased, to a degree, from the beginning.
“Even before the commissioners were appointed, the government had basically defined what the issues were going to be and then started gathering input from people so they’re creating expectations from people about where this is all going. I just don’t get it.”
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org