Publication: Ontario Free Press
Title: Gran among nine picked to study electoral reform\
Date: June 6, 2006
By CHIP MARTIN, Politics Reporter
For the article, click here.
Nine people of diverse backgrounds have been chosen to represent London-area ridings in Ontario's first citizen stab at electoral reform.
Included are a grandmother, a garage operator, a disabled artist, a doctoral student and a businessperson.
The Ontario Citizens' Assembly will look at whether reforms are needed to the electoral system that rewards candidates and parties in a "winner-take-all" system that marginalizes smaller parties.
The assembly will look at whether some form of proportional representation is a better way to go. Recommendations will be put to Ontarians in a referendum next year.
As of today, 66 of Ontario's 103 ridings have members for the assembly, chosen by lot. The assembly is to meet for the first time in September.
In the 10 London-area ridings, only Huron-Bruce has not chosen a representative. That'll come June 11 in Owen Sound.
Weekend meetings in London saw the nine assembly members chosen under the watchful eye of George Thomson, a former judge and provincial bureaucrat who will chair the assembly.
Disabled artist Darcie Beckley was chosen to represent Elgin-Middlesex-London.
Beckley, 38, is moving from St. Thomas to London this summer and said she's thrilled to look at fixing an electoral system that's flawed and penalizes smaller parties.
"I believe the way we do things in our system doesn't necessarily represent the people they are trying to represent," she said. "But I don't have any particular ideas. I'm willing to learn."
Beckley said she's optimistic her coming months of work will be heeded.
"I'm a firm believer that every single person on this planet can make a difference in this world," she said.
Sarnia garage operator Jim Passingham, a longtime high school shop teacher, said he hadn't really thought about electoral change until he was contacted at random and told about the assembly.
"It seemed like a learning process that would be rewarding," said the Sarnia-Lambton representative. "I'm coming in with an open mind. I'll go from there."
In London-Fanshawe, Linda Barnum said she's excited about the work of the assembly and feels suddenly empowered to do a big job.
"I really haven't been in the political process at all," she said. "I vote and listen to candidates."
Of the historic assembly, she said: "It's nice to participate in something like this. It will be a learning experience."
Retired career counsellor Peter Soroka of Grand Bend was chosen to represent sprawling Lambton-Kent-Middlesex and he said he looks forward to being part of history "and giving back to the community."
ASSEMBLY MEMBERS CHOSEN FROM THE LONDON AREA'S 10-RIDING REGION: