The Yukon’s all-party special committee on electoral reform is recommending Yukoners vote on changes to the territory’s voting system.
The three-person committee was tasked with examining electoral reform and reporting its findings and recommendations. It presented its final report to the Yukon Legislative Assembly on April 24.
Yukon NDP Leader Kate White chairs the committee. Yukon Party MLA for Lake Laberge Brad Cathers is the vice chair. Government house leader John Streicker represents the Yukon Liberal Party.
In the report, the committee made three recommendations, two of which were decided by consensus and one by majority.
“Throughout its study of electoral reform, the committee worked diligently to reach consensus,” reads a release.
“All members of the committee would like to thank the Yukoners who shared their thoughts and perspectives on this important issue.”
Firstly, the committee recommends that Yukoners are given the opportunity to vote on a proposed change to the Yukon’s voting system both before any such change is implemented and again after a trial period with a new voting system.
Secondly, the committee recommends that any decision on voting systems reflects the importance of balance for rural and urban representation.
Lastly, the committee supports the creation of a Yukon citizens’ assembly on electoral reform. This third recommendation was decided by the committee members in a 2-1 vote.
In the Yukon Legislative Assembly, White confirmed the first recommendation translates into two referendum votes. White said her perspective on citizens’ assemblies changed throughout the process. She said she started off being against them but has been swayed.
“A citizens’ assembly is kind of like a jury,” Streicker told the Yukon Legislative Assembly on April 25.
“It’s a group of Yukoners, in this case, who don’t have a partisan perspective, aren’t elected to represent, but they are selected randomly but with a distribution across the territory, so that it represents the Yukon and our demographics and our communities, and then brings their perspectives and allows them to work through this question of: is first-past-the-post the best system for Yukoners, and if not, then what is?”
Streicker said the committee heard concerns about the electoral system, but no consensus on what a better system might be.
In its report, the committee laid out the path it took to come to its recommendations.
The committee set out to gain an understanding of different voting systems and how they might apply in the Yukon, which involved hiring researcher Keith Archer to report on options for the territory and seeking input from subject matter experts.
Then the committee took to ads, a website and pamphlets to educate Yukoners. It made its minutes, recordings, transcripts of hearings and reports and submissions received online available to the public.
Finally, the committee heard from Yukoners through a survey on electoral reform, written submissions and public hearings in Whitehorse and communities across the territory. Another survey on citizens’ assemblies was done.
In a report on the latter survey, conducted by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, just under two-thirds of respondents supported the formation of a citizens’ assembly, while 8.4 per cent did not and more than a quarter were unsure. In total, the response rate was 17.5 per cent, with 6,354 respondents completing the survey.
An April 24 release from the Yukon Party indicates the party believes a proposal to create a citizens’ assembly would be rejected by Yukoners if it was put to a referendum. The release suggests most attendees of public meetings were members of an unnamed advocacy group pushing for electoral reform.
In the Yukon Legislative Assembly, Cathers, who is the Yukon Party’s democratic institutions critic, suggested electoral reform is not top of mind for most Yukoners.
“Our democracy belongs to all Yukoners,” he said.
“My colleagues and I heard from Yukoners more frequently about many other issues. While we appreciate that electoral reform is a priority for some people, we believe that there is a long list of other issues that are much higher on the priority list for most Yukoners.”
Yukon MLAs voted 9-7 in favour of creating a special committee on the Yukon citizens’ assembly on electoral reform, with the Yukon Party voting against the governing Yukon Liberal Party and the Yukon NDP.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org