ePetitions - Bringing Your Voice to Ottawa
Parliament Unanimously Adopts Kennedy Stewart's Proposal to Reform Petitions System and Modernize Grassroots Democracy
Ottawa (March 11, 2015) – Today, MP Kennedy Stewart’s proposal to bring e-petitions to Parliament was implemented, with the support of all parties, following a report from the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. Initiated by Stewart’s Motion 428 that narrowly passed by just two votes in 2014, the rules governing petitions will be amended to allow Canadians to sign petitions electronically.
“At a time when more and more Canadians are feeling left out of the political process, it is encouraging that MPs from all parties put aside their partisan differences and agreed to improve grassroots democracy,” said Kennedy Stewart, NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas and an Associate Professor on-leave from Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy. “Empowering Canadians to voice their views and concerns with e-petitions – and to have them addressed by the government – is a practical first step towards modernizing our Parliament.”
Currently, only paper petitions signed by Canadians can be accepted by the House of Commons. Under the new system approved today, certified e-petitions receiving 500 signatures and sponsored by an MP can be tabled in Parliament. The government would then have 45 days to provide a written response and post it online. These changes will come into effect after the next election.
“I consider this reform a big win for everyday citizens. When the Prime Minister and Cabinet voted against Motion 428 I thought e-petitions were dead in the water, but support from Conservative backbench MPs and a sensible committee report made this happen,” continued Stewart. “I am personally very happy with this outcome.”
Stewart’s proposal for e-petitions had wide support from a number of prominent Canadians – former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent and former Reform Party Leader Preston Manning – as well as a number of government backbenchers, including Reform Act sponsor Michael Chong.
"What issues do you want to see debated in the House of Commons? My motion on electronic petitions seeks to change the way business is done in your House, and allow for Canadians to advance issues which matter to them online. There are few challenges today as critical as democratic decline. I have devoted much of my 20 years as an academic to exploring how to increase citizen participation in politics. Part of the issue is the disconnect people feel between issues that impact their day to day lives and those on the Parliamentary agenda. In order to counter this growing sense of disenfranchisement, all governments need to take immediate action to refresh our politics and engage Canadians in democracy."
-- Kennedy Stewart, MP
- Currently, only paper petitions are accepted by the House of Commons. Online petitions receiving thousands of signatures from Canadians cannot be submitted and often go unanswered. This practice needs to be brought into the 21st century through electronic petitioning – as has already been done successfully in several provinces and numerous other countries
- Tabled on February 13, 2013, Motion 428 called for a system to be established that allows Canadians to sign online petitions to Parliament. It also proposed that short debates be triggered in the House of Commons in cases where a petition receives a significant number of signatures from the public and is sponsored by at least five MPs.
- Motion 428 was endorsed by civil society leaders from across the political spectrum: Ed Broadbent, Preston Manning, Samara, the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, Leadnow, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, OpenMedia, and Egale Canada.
- On June 12, 2013, the House of Commons held its 1st hour of debate on Motion 428. Following the prorogation of Parliament over the summer of 2013, Motion 428 was granted another 1st hour of debate on October 28. The final hour of debate took place on January 27, 2014.
- Being opposed by Prime Minister Harper and Cabinet, Motion 428 narrowly passed the House by just two votes (142-140) on January 29, 2014. It was supported by eight Conservative MPs – including Michael Chong, the sponsor of the Reform Act. It is very rare for bills or motions put forward by opposition MPs to pass under a Conservative majority government.
- Following the passage of Motion 428, the Procedure & House Affairs Committee was given one year to undertake a study on e-petitions and report back with recommendations.
- On November 6, 2015, MP Stewart appeared before the Committee and testified on how best to implement e-petitions for the House of Commons. His full report and detailed recommendations – entitled Modernizing petitions in Canada: Proposal for an electronic petitioning system – can be downloaded here.
- Tabled on March 3, 2015, the Procedure & House Affair Committee’s final report on e-petitions can be accessed here. It concluded that "the ancient right of petitioning be expanded, given the evolution in the means of communications, through the establishment an e-petition process."
- On March 11, 2015, the House of Commons decided unanimously to adopt these recommendations and implement electronic petitions. This is only the sixth time that the Standing Orders – the rules governing the House of Commons – have been amended since the 2011 election.
“Bringing electronic petitioning to the House of Commons is a 21st Century idea and one I fully endorse. Empowering Canadians to come together and help set the Parliamentary agenda will breathe fresh air into our democracy.”
-- Ed Broadbent, former NDP Leader
“To be able to petition one's elected representatives, and to have such petitions addressed, is one of the oldest and most basic of democratic rights. Affirming and re-establishing this right in the 21st century through electronic petitioning is an idea well worth pursuing.”
-- Preston Manning, former Reform Party Leader
“Samara happily joins Preston Manning, Ed Broadbent and others working across party lines to support a more modern and responsive petitioning process in Canada’s Parliament. As a non-partisan organization working to increase political participation, we are happy to see Dr. Stewart take action to make Canada’s Parliament more accessible to everyday Canadians, and hope it’s supported by all members in the House.”
-- Alison Loat, Executive Director, Samara
“In the 21st century citizens expect to be in the driver's seat for public policy. E-petitions are a key mechanism for citizens to engage in public policy in a digital era and I support any effort that encourages parliament to put great weight on this avenue of citizen participation. Canadians want a citizen-first rather than the typical lobbyist-first approach to governance and giving E-petitions a stronger role in parliament is a step in the right direction.”
-- Steve Anderson, Executive Director, OpenMedia.ca
“To draw from the ancient Chinese proverb, this is a small but important step on the journey to enhance the quality of our democracy. Congratulations to Kennedy Stewart for championing this e-petitions idea.”
-- Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
“The Canadian Taxpayers Federation applauds this worthy initiative from MP Kennedy Stewart - to kick-start Parliament on accepting electronic signatures on petitions. When taxpayers get the opportunity to go online and sign an official petition to Parliament, they’ll be able to get the attention of Ottawa politicians in a hurry. We support Kennedy Stewart’s suggestion that 50,000 Canadians signing a petition and 5 MPs should be able to force a debate in Parliament. This would help restore some grassroots democracy and accountability on Parliament Hill.”
-- Canadian Taxpayers Federation
“Egale Canada strongly supports Mr. Stewart's initiative to further bridge the communication between citizens and their democratically elected leaders. Working with and on behalf of marginalized populations, Egale Canada believes every effort should be taken to make our voices heard in the simplest ways possible.”
-- Egale Canada
“Leadnow helps hundreds of thousands of Canadians take action on the issues they care about online, through social media, and in their communities. We fully support bringing e-petitions to parliament as it will help strengthen the voices of Canadians and enable them to reach decision makers more effectively.”
In the News
On Wednesday afternoon, the House unanimously agreed to move Parliament — or, at least, petitions — into the digital age by setting up an official e-petitioning system. The unanimous endorsement of his Commons colleagues marks the finish line for a backbench campaign launched by New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart nearly three years ago, when he put forward a private members' motion asking the House procedure committee to look into modernizing the petition system. (CBC News, March 11, 2015)
MPs adopted by unanimous consent an idea advocated by one of B.C.’s more creative MPs to bring an ancient parliamentary tradition into the 21st century... The decision culminates a three-year lobbying effort by first-term New Democratic Party MP Kennedy Stewart, a former Simon Fraser University political scientist who has spent much of his academic career studying democracy. (Vancouver Sun, March 11, 2015)
Kennedy Stewart's idea to bring e-petitions to Canada is officially reality, after the House of Commons implemented the plan today. As soon as the house sits after the next federal election, Canadians will be able to file petitions online, and a minimum of 500 signatures will trigger a response from the relevant minister. "It's a done deal," said Stewart, MP for Burnaby-Douglas. (Burnaby Now, March 11, 2015)
(CPAC, January 30, 2015)
In these days of majority Parliament, it's rare to find oneself impatiently waiting for the Speaker to read out the results of a vote. But that's exactly what happened on Wednesday night, when the fate of New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart's bid to bring electronic petitions to the House of Commons was ultimately decided by the eight Conservative backbenchers who broke ranks with their caucus colleagues... Still, for a motion officially opposed by the majority government to make it even this far is a victory for Stewart — and, indeed, for anyone who dreams of a democratic chamber where votes so often seem to go down along unwavering party lines. (CBC News, January 30, 2014)
Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart managed a rare accomplishment Wednesday when his electronic-petitions motion was passed in the House of Commons by two votes... It's rare for private member's motions to pass, particularly for opposition members. (Burnaby Newsleader, January 30, 2014)
A political odd couple is backing an opposition motion allowing Canadians to sign online petitions, and even trigger a House of Commons debate, on issues that concern them. Reform party founder Preston Manning, one of the most respected voices in the Canadian conservative movement, is endorsing B.C. New Democratic Party MP Kennedy Stewart’s motion to be voted on before the summer break. He joins former NDP leader Ed Broadbent as well as 20 MPs, including two Conservatives, who have formally endorsed the motion. (Vancouver Sun, February 25, 2013)
Ever get the feeling that federal politicians don't talk about the things you care about? Well, Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart has a motion you might be interested in. Tabled in parliament earlier this month, it asks the government to consider online petitions, so you can get your item on the agenda. (CBC Radio, February 26, 2013)
The NDP says it wants to make Parliament more accessible by trying to change the rules for signing the petitions that MPs present to the House of Commons. British Columbia MP Kennedy Stewart, who wrote a motion up for debate in the House of Commons Friday, said the NDP's idea would bring petitioning into the twenty-first century. (CBC News, February 17, 2012)
For more information, please contact:
Andrew Cuddy, Legislative Assistant, Office of Kennedy Stewart
(613) 996-5599, email@example.com