The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) met with the federal government on campus yesterday to discuss electoral reform.
“In general, [student issues] don’t get listened to unless students vote and so that’s why I’ve taken interest in the democratic institutions portfolio,” said Victoria Morton, RSU vice president education and one of the four union executives present at the meeting. University president, Mohamed Lachemi was also in attendance.
Maryam Monsef, minister of democratic institutions, sat down with members of the
RSU executive for an hour-long discussion about how young people can get involved with the electoral reform process. Monsef and a team are in the process of consulting with Canadians across the country. Their findings will inform the government’s next steps in changing the voting system.
While specific electoral reforms weren’t discussed during Monsef’s meeting with the RSU, Morton said the RSU wanted to get a better understanding of the electoral consultation process and determine how students can get their voices heard. The RSU wants student issues to be prioritized by electoral reform, she said.
“The huge increase in the last federal election has resulted in huge interest in youth issues and we want to keep that going,” said Morton.
Feeling inspired after meeting w/ @RyersonU student leaders to talk youth engagement in our democratic institutions pic.twitter.com/WUTq4Mehfs
— Maryam Monsef (@MaryamMonsef) September 15, 2016
Morton said the RSU does not want to speak for students since they haven’t consulted their membership yet. That consultation will take place on Sept. 29, when members of the RSU and the University of Toronto Students’ Union will gather at the Student Learning Centre to discuss what changes students want to see in the Canadian electoral system. Monsef herself will not be in attendance, but all recommendations compiled during the meeting will be sent to a parliamentary committee that Monsef oversees in Ottawa.
Electoral reform was a pillar of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election campaign. The parliamentary committee assembled by Monsef held hearings in Ottawa this summer and MPs have been asked to hold community consultations as well. Monsef will continue to travel the country engaging Canadians in the reform discussion.
Morton said she’s glad the government is trying to engage communities before making big decisions like electoral reform. “It was really important and beneficial to see that we have a government that is in the trenches with us,” said Morton.
She’s confident that if enough students provide feedback to the government, a new electoral system will reflect student interests.
Monsef told the RSU that the largest consultation meeting she has taken part in had 250 attendees. The RSU’s goal is to have at least that number of people attend the meeting on Sept. 29, according to Morton. The town hall will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and all recommendations will be sent to the committee in Ottawa.
The parliamentary committee is expected to release its findings in a report by Dec. 1.
“We’re trying to find a way for the democratic process and institutions in Canada to be something that people have faith and excitement about,” said Morton.
David Greenberg is the political reporter at The Ryersonian. He's pursuing his masters in journalism at Ryerson University.