The electoral reform committee wants to hear from you! Kind of...

Photo: flickr/

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The House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE) wants to hear from you! Well, sort of.

The all-party committee has decided against allotting time to address questions from Twitter users -- a motion introduced by both committee members NDP MP Nathan Cullen and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

Canadians are still encouraged to chime in using the hashtag #ERRE #Q, which will be monitored by analysts and could then be picked up and posed to witnesses for discussion.

"It is important to foster broad engagement from Canadians in this national dialogue on electoral reform," Minister Maryam Monsef told the committee on Wednesday afternoon as she announced the launch of resources and tools for Canadians to engage with the conversation on electoral reform.

But the NDP remains "disappointed" with the committee's Twitter compromise, especially "given the emphasis that Monsef has placed on the use of 21st century outreach tools for this important process," George Smith, Deputy Director of Communications for the NDP's Office of the Leader, told rabble in an email.

"We've been talking a great deal about how to make what we do here as open and accessible as possible to the public," Cullen told the Committee on June 21 about his original motion.

Committee argues over Twitter questions

Cullen introduced a motion which would have allotted "the equivalent of one MP speaking spot per meeting to hear questions directly from Canadians." The Clerk of the Committee would select Twitter questions to pose to witnesses.

May supported the motion, arguing that addressing Twitter questions would "help the legitimacy of this process" and foster youth involvement in what "a lot of people are going to think is pretty dry stuff."

The motion would also "increase the likelihood that the committee would reach not just the people who are in the room with us but tens of thousands more Canadians," according to May.

Not all committee members were on board. Conservative MP Jason Kenney argued that the committee is not "[a] conduit for Twitter or other platforms of social media, which are all very interesting and in which there's a robust and sometimes vulgar public debate."

May told rabble in a tweet that "there were concerns, non-partisan, from clerk and staff about how to manage it" and "how to select the q[uestion]s."

Cullen "has already committed to reading questions off Twitter during his speaking time at hearings," said Smith and the NDP will continue to "look for ways to expand the range of voices participating in this consultation outside the regular academic circles and Parliament Hill bubble."

Your tweet could maybe, possible be heard!

The committee will meet throughout the summer to study alternative voting systems and examine mandatory and online voting measures. The #ERRE #Q has been trending since yesterday.

The committee has also already picked up Twitter questions: Liberal MP Ruby Sahota posed a Twitter question to Chief Electora Marc Mayrand during today's meeting.

Canadians itching to be more directly involved in the electoral reform process can participate in "open mic" audience participation sessions, which will be held across Canada parallel to the committee's meetings.

Canadians who wish to formally appear before the Committee have through October 7 to submit their request.


Sophia Reuss is a Montreal-based writer, editor, and is a recent graduate of McGill University. She's interested in how online media and journalism facilitate public accessibility and conversation. Sophia also writes and edits for the Alternatives International Journal. Sophia is rabble's current news intern.

Photo: flickr/

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