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Electoral Reform - Referendum

Hon. Linda Frum: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It concerns an issue I have previously raised in Question Period, and that is the Liberal government's plans for electoral reform.

This past weekend, the Minister of Democratic Institutions told CTV's Question Period that the government would not move forward with changes unless they had broad buy-in from Canadians.

Could the Leader of the Government please tell us if this means the Liberal government's view on this matter has changed? Is the government now willing to hold a referendum on electoral reform so Canadians would have the final say on any changes to the design of the country's electoral system, or does the Liberal government plan to confine itself to consultations with professional activists and political partisans?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question and would like to refer to the minister's comments in answering, where the minister made a commitment on behalf of the government to have broad consultations. There is a reference to a special committee of the other chamber, as you know, in which the government has adjusted its representation. I'm sure that that committee and other methods and engagement with Canadians will elicit the kind of response that will allow the government to come forward with an appropriate recommendation.

Senator Frum: Leader, you are aware that 74 per cent of Canadians have expressed their belief that a referendum is required before our electoral system is reformed. Doesn't this prove, leader, that Canadians believe that our electoral system belongs to them? It does not belong to a party leader who made a pledge in an election. It does not belong to a parliamentary committee, and it does not belong to self-interested partisans. Our electoral system belongs to the people of Canada. Don't you agree, leader?

Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for her question. I want to assure her, as the minister has assured Canadians, that the government is intending on proceeding on the basis of broad support.

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