stress issues) I noticed that most felt the Speaker was acting impartial "for once". That a position whose entire existence relies on being impartial is not seen that way is a concern to me. It concerns me even more that the methods by which we chose the Speaker may make such views valid. The idea struck me that perhaps the two issues could each be used to solve the other.
In the 2011 Federal Election 120,171 people were vouched for. Remember for later that this is a number of voters roughly equivalent to a single riding. The government's argument, as delivered by Pierre Poilievre, is that "Every citizen is entitled to the voting franchise. Let us never forget that a fraudulent vote has the same mathematical effect as denying someone their constitutional right to cast a ballot. It cancels out the ballot of an honest person". While it pains me to say that Mr. Poilievre is right about anything. In this narrow instance he is. However, rashly jumping straight to the elimination of vouching is un-conservative and, moreover, harmful to democracy in that it will also deny legitimate voters their rights.
People who are vouched for should be allowed to vote but to mollify any concerns about illegitimate votes being cast perhaps instead we can modify what position they are voting for. Let us look at the Speaker of the House of Commons
for a second. The Speaker is chosen by and from MPs to occupy their position. A Speaker can neither propose legislation nor vote (except to break a tie and in this case convention dictates the Speaker should vote to continue debate). This leaves a Speaker's riding without effective representation in the House of Commons. Furthermore, since MPs elect the Speaker they have a tendency to be from the governing party. This leaves the 'referee' open to charges of not being
impartial. Interestingly, the Speakers in the British House of Commons sit and run as independents. This tradition did not carry over to Canada and an attempted revival a few years back failed to last. It is an ad hoc solution to the impartiality issue anyways.
So what am I proposing exactly? I am simply proposing that:
-Vouching continues as normal, although refinements should be encouraged.
-Anyone who is vouched for does not vote for the MP of their riding but for a Speaker candidate.
This scheme would balance the rights of Canadians to have a say in the outcome of an election with having the assurance that your MP is legitimately the one who should have been elected. This is not a small concern. While the number of vouched candidates above is less than 1% of the total electors who voted; in Canada elections can be devilishly close. While vouched electors would not be voting for a candidate that could propose or vote on laws they would be voting to elect a candidate with responsibilities arguably of equal importance: impartial dealing with all parties, maintaining decorum, disciplining MPs, and acting as the parties' go-between.
If there are issues with vouching (and I feel there are albeit on a much smaller scale than the government believes) this scheme would remove any irregularities to a single position. What's more, should we have an election where very few people need to be vouched for (for the sake of argument lets say under 10,000) we can simply have the Commons use the old method instead.
There are issues to iron out (as there is with any idea). For starters we would have to decide whether parties could run candidates or whether Speaker candidates must be independents. Related to the previous issue is how these candidates would make the voting public aware of their qualifications and stances. Finally, it is an unanswered question whether such a change would lead to the Speaker being a more partisan position. The last point might be addressed by making the Speaker removable by MPs with a 2/3rds vote with the Speaker's replacement selected by the current method. Humourously, the Speaker's position ended up in the Canadian Constitution so an amendment would be needed (luckily not one that would require consulting the provinces).
What are your thoughts on this idea and the issues it tries to solve?