The Yukon has the second highest voter turnout in Canada, but premier Sandy Silver says that doesn’t mean everything is perfect.
“Typically Yukon has an engaged population compared to many other parts of the country,” he told the News Oct. 9. “We’re lucky to have such a rich civic life, really, here, but we also know we can always do better with democracy.”
Silver said that’s why the Yukon government launched an online survey on electoral reform this month.
The survey can be found at gov.yk.ca until Nov. 30.
Silver said reform is about more than just gauging whether or not there’s interest in exploring something beyond the territory’s current first-past-the-post system (though that is part of it.) He said reform also includes factors such as voting age, how politics might engage with the elderly, the role of digital in today’s electoral system, and rules about how politicians are allowed to spend money.
Silver said the topic becomes even more broad when you consider the differences between communities such as Old Crow, Watson Lake, and Whitehorse. He said that’s what the territorial government wants to find out about.
Later this fall, the government will put out an expression of interest for members of an independent commission of up to four people. Silver said the goal is to have members of the commission chosen and working by spring 2019.
He said they will work with the results of the survey but noted there is latitude for the commission to do further public engagement if it thinks that’s necessary.
Silver also said YG has gotten in touch with different groups and organizations in an effort to speak with disenfranchised populations about their thoughts on electoral reform.
Ted Laking, chief of staff for the Yukon Party, said the Yukon Party has not been contacted about it.
“Last November the Premier committed to ensuring this would be a non-partisan process that involved both opposition parties in discussions moving forward,” Laking said in a written statement.
“Unfortunately the Premier has broken this commitment as we were never asked for input or shown the questions that were released as part of this survey in advance. Further, the Premier promised Yukoners that it would be a non-partisan commission that would collect the views of Yukoners. Again the Premier has broken that promise and leaves us wondering if he already has a predetermined outcome.”
Silver said the Liberals did draft the survey questions, but he said the party did reach out to both the Yukon Party and the NDP to talk about process and the nature of the survey.
Laking also said the Yukon Party believes that any change to the electoral model must only be done through a referendum. He has concerns about the timing of the commission because the electoral process could potentially change a year in advance of the election.
Silver said it’s tough to talk timelines at the moment. “This is the start of the conversation now,” he said. Silver said the hope is to begin acting on the commission’s recommendations by fall 2019.
“It’s always good to look into the status quo and look into different options. During the election campaign, that was our thing,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with comparing other options.”
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