Canada’s chief electoral officer warns that time is running out to organize a national referendum on electoral reform if the voting system is to be changed in time for the next federal election in October 2019, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised. And that’s if a straightforward referendum question is asked, requiring a simple Yes or No answer. Marc Mayrand doubts there’d be enough time to organize a more complicated referendum that gives Canadians multiple voting systems to choose from and asks them to rank their preferences — as was done in Prince Edward Island’s recent plebiscite on electoral reform. “Administratively, I must say it would be difficult. Let’s be very clear on that,” Mayrand said in an interview marking the imminent end of his 10-year tenure at the helm of Elections Canada.
“We don’t have the technology in place to manage a ranked ballot. A ranked ballot requires technology to compute the results. By hand, you’ll be at it for a long, long time.”
Mayrand’s warning comes as an all-party committee is expected to recommend holding a referendum to determine how — or if — Canadians want to change the current first-past-the-post voting system. The committee, which has been exploring alternative voting systems, is scheduled to issue its report on Thursday.
It is expected to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of witnesses who testified before the committee favoured a proportional system, in which a party’s share of the seats in the House of Commons reflects its share of the popular vote. But the committee is not expected to recommend a precise model.