This summer, Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef took her electoral reform roadshow across the country, promising mass consultations with Canadians regarding how to change the way we vote—instead of having a referendum.
Months before this tour took off, Monsef was meeting with stakeholders in Ottawa on similar areas, according to recently published hospitality receipts.
Monsef spent $1,578.00 (plus tax) on a breakfast with "74 Government of Canada employees" at the Parliamentary restaurant on Jan. 26—an event described as “breakfast for a meeting with stakeholders on reforming Canada’s democratic institutions.”
I reached out to Monsef’s office for comment on who was at the meeting, what was discussed, and whether employees were on government time for the breakfast.
A response from Minister Monsef’s spokesperson said that the meeting was actually with members of parliament from all parties and was, indeed, focused on what has been Monsef’s chief priority—changing the way Canadians vote.
"Engaging with fellow Parliamentarians from across party lines is a key component of the Minister’s responsibilities as Cabinet minister and having all parties participate is consistent with the attitude of the Government towards this file,” the spokesperson said.
At $21 per person, the breakfast expenditure is not outrageous (though surely MPs could eat at home before the meeting or just order coffee and a bagel.)
The timing of the event is far more suspect, however. Monsef was meeting with MPs six months before she started to actually engage Canadians in the process. Or at least pretend to.
I’ve heard from numerous Canadians who attended the summer sessions and found little consultation involved, instead describing a one-way street of communication from the government to the people. That is, of course, when people actually showed up to these things, which wasn’t always a given.
MPs are obviously going to be involved in the electoral reform debate, but this is another reminder about how little ordinary Canadians are.