The most interesting and innovative idea to come out of the first meeting of the all-party Special Committee on Electoral Reform, or ERRE, was Nathan Cullen’s suggestion, seconded by Elizabeth May, to allow members of the public access to question the expert witnesses before the committee in real time via email or twitter hashtag.
Cullen (paraphrased @mark 18:00; see video at link above): As MPs we will have the privilege and advantage of engagement with experts from around the world, and with televised meetings Canadians can be learning right alongside us. It is always possible a Canadian will notice something we have missed or have a completely different insight or perspective on expert testimony that will open up avenues we had not considered before. Their questions can be sent to the impartial clerk of the committee and read out by the Chair in the equivalent of one MPs speaking slot. [That would be about six minutes for Q&A.]
May: Seconded. The more Canadians are able to interact with this unprecedented committee and its witnesses, the more interested and informed they will be. Instead of thinking — gee I wish they’d asked this question, they can submit it. This will reach tens of thousands more Canadians.
Matt DeCourcey: Open and accessible is good but we’re already conducting consults in our ridings. What if the same person sends in questions over and over again? [Note: Clerk could deal with that!] Send motion to subcommittee for study. [DeCourcey warmed to the idea as debate progressed.]
Jason Kenney: “My primary concern about this motion is that it proposes a fundamental change in the role and nature of parliamentary committee thereby creating a precedent before we’ve studied the implications of such a precedent. This is a parliamentary committee … woof woof woof … We are not here to be conduits for twitter or other platforms of social media in which there is sometimes a robust and vulgar public debate … woof woof woof…”
Kenney suggested if Cullen were so keen on this idea, he could give up one of his own allotted speaking slots to questions from the public; Cullen said he would be willing to do that.
May: This isn’t radical, will engage young people and lend to the legitimacy of this process.
Cullen: “This process is not ours — This entire conversation belongs to Canadians.”
A majority vote in favour sent Cullen’s motion to the untelevised subcommittee for study … from whence it may or may not return. We’ll see.
Cullen’s motion: “That the committee allot the equivalent of one MP’s speaking spot per meeting to hear questions directly from Canadians at each meeting with witnesses, that the committee receive questions from Canadians via the committee’s email address and twitter hashtag #yourvotecanada #yourvotecda, and that questions be reviewed and selected by the clerk of the committee and posed to the witnesses by the Chair.”