Our party has extensive experience with the limited and fragile nature of democracy in Canada, having been closely interconnected with the growth and political development of the working class movement in Canada. In this struggle, Communists have faced blacklisting, prison, deportation, physical and psychological abuse and in some cases death. As a result of anti-democratic laws, our party was criminalized from 1921-24, 1931-36, and again in 1940-1942. From 1940 until 1956 it was illegal to operate openly under the name Communist Party. In Quebec, we faced the full force of the Padlock laws until they were struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1957.
Despite this repression, our party has succeeded in electing at the federal and provincial level. Each time our party has faced such repression and been forced off the ballot, public opinion has mobilized to defend and extend democratic rights. These victories are among the foundations of free speech in Canada including, most recently, the landmark Figueroa Case. This ten-year legal battle in the courts and public opinion saw the Supreme Court overturn the 1993 de-registration of our party and require new amendments to the Elections Act which has direct bearing on this Committee’s study.
As Mister Justice Iacobucci stated in writing for the majority, Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects not just the right to vote but also provides the right of every citizen to participate in politics. The right ensures that each citizen can express an opinion about the formation of the country’s public policy and the country’s institutions, and play a meaningful role. The decision was a victory for the principles of democracy itself, and the right of all Canadians, regardless of their political and ideological views and beliefs, to express those views through the electoral process, to come together to form political parties to advance those shared beliefs, and to participate in the political life of the country without undue hindrance and discrimination. The Figueroa Case decision underscores a fundamental reason for proportional representation.
MMP is the clear alternative
Mixed Member Proportional representation most accurately reflects majority opinion, while taking into account geographic differences. In contrast, Ranked Balloting and “Single Transferable Vote” (STV) systems mean the first or second choices of only half of the voters are counted, which does not create a parliament that is proportionally representative of all votes cast in an election.
By making the composition of the party list a political concern, MMP could also help elect more Indigenous candidates, people from racialized communities, women and Trans-persons. It will also contribute to the break-up of the dominance of the big parties by fostering coalitions, which are susceptible to public opinion and mass pressure.
The institution of MMP should generally maintain existing Electoral Districts, while being an occasion to eliminate gerrymandering in riding boundaries, including regressive changes in the 2012 redistribution by the Harper Conservatives, and possibly create new ridings. New proportional seats, in equal number to the riding seats, should be added. We strongly oppose any calculation “threshold” beyond the achievement of one proportional seat. Thresholds reinforce the big party system, blocking the entry of small parties and contradicting the principles of proportional representation.
In addition, we propose:
- Enacting the right to recall Member of Parliament (MPs)
- Ensuring MPs receive the average workers’ wages and benefits
Make voting more accessible
The Communist Party is not in favor of online voting and mandatory voting. Online voting could threaten the sanctity of the secret ballot, and not all family homes should be considered safe spaces like a poll booth. Mandatory voting will not achieve the desired effect.
Instead, we support making voting more accessible including reducing ID requirements, restoring the authority of the Voter Identification Card, and restoring multiple-vouching, to help transient voters (overwhelmingly working class people including young workers and students, the poor, single mothers, seniors, the disabled and people from racialized communities) as well as voters in northern and Indigenous communities. We call for:
- Conducting comprehensive enumeration before every election
- Lowering the voting age to 16
 Figueroa v. Canada http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2069/index.do
 For example the new riding of Burnaby North – Seymour, where we ran a young communist activist, encompasses Burnaby north of the Lougheed Highway including Simon Fraser University, but then inexplicably transverses the Burrard Inlet to include North Vancouver.
 Federally since 1997, and now in most provinces, neo-liberal cuts have eliminated enumeration. Yet, as a 2013 Elections Manitoba report notes: “Door-to-door enumeration is perhaps the most convenient method of registration for the voters themselves because enumerators visit voters in their homes. This face-to-face interaction provides enumerators with an opportunity to inform voters of an upcoming election, while providing them with the information they need to participate. This advantage of enumeration is often cited by researchers, academics, and political stakeholders.” Cutting enumeration has been decried by many as ‘penny wise, pounds foolish’. See: http://digitalcollection.gov.mb.ca/awweb/pdfopener?smd=1&did=21897&md=1