Ontario Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform to hold meetings at York

Over the next eight months, 103 citizens – one from each Ontario riding – will meet as part of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform to discuss whether Ontario needs a new electoral system. York University will play a unique role in the assembly as the meetings, which begin tomorrow, will take place in the Moot Court Room of Osgoode Hall Law School and key research for the assembly will be provided by a team of students – 10 from Osgoode Hall Law School, 10 from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and 10 York graduate students.

“I am tremendously excited about the opportunity for our students to have a direct role in this important public debate,” said Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan. “The students will, as part of their academic work, conduct research on topics selected by the Citizens’ Assembly staff and have an opportunity to present their findings to the members of the Citizens’ Assembly.”

Based on a similar initiative in British Columbia –  which proposed a system of proportional representation –  the government of Ontario established the Citizens’ Assembly in March 2006. The assembly will review the current electoral system and will have authority to recommend an alternative system.

From April to June 2006, assembly participants were selected at random. The group is composed equally of men and women including the chair. All of the assembly participants were drawn from the ranks of registered voters.

Under chairperson George Thomson, a former provincial court judge and former deputy minister in both the Ontario and federal governments, the independent body of citizens will meet twice a month, beginning Sept. 9 and will continue to meet for six weekends in the fall. There will be a brief break and then the assembly will reconvene on Feb. 17, 2007 and will meet until April 29. The assembly will also hold public meetings across the province between November and February.

The process ends with a final report due by May 15, 2007. Once the assembly has sufficiently explored alternative electoral systems and finished its consultation with the public it will decide, by majority vote, what recommendations it will make to the people of Ontario. If the assembly recommends a new electoral system the government has pledged to hold a referendum on the issue, presumably on Oct. 4, 2007, the date of the next provincial election.

The assembly process was designed and conceived to provide the average citizen with a direct voice in determining the options for elections and how votes are translated into seats for Members of Provincial Parliament.

The assembly will meet for the first time this Saturday, starting at 9:15am at Osgoode. Members of the York community are welcome to observe the assembly proceedings, which will take place in the Moot Court, Room 101, Osgoode Hall Law School on the Keele campus.

Meeting schedules and member profiles about the Citizens’ Assembly and electoral systems are available online at www.citizensassembly.gov.on.ca.