Scott Reid announces Riding Referendum on update to Medical Assistance in Dying (Bill C-7)March 4, 2020
For immediate release
Yesterday, local MP Scott Reid (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston) announced that he will hold a Constituency Referendum – his tenth – to give every eligible voter in his riding the opportunity to cast a vote on whether Mr. Reid should vote in favour of, or against, Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Medical Assistance in Dying), when it comes to its final vote in the House of Commons later this spring.
Medically-assisted suicide is already lawful in Canada, as long as the process is carried out in accordance with a series of conditions which were enacted by Parliament in 2016.
Some of these conditions have since been successfully challenged in court; in September, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that some of the restrictions in the existing law are an unconstitutional violation of Section 7 of the Charter of Rights, and that the law must be rewritten to expand the range of circumstances under which assisted suicide will be permitted.
Some of the provisions in Bill C-7 are a direct response to the Court’s ruling, while other provisions are not court-mandated. The primary changes contained in Bill C-7 are as follows:
- The existing requirement that a written request for medical assistance in dying (MAID) must be signed by two independent witnesses is relaxed—a single witness will henceforth be sufficient, and that person can be “a paid professional personal or health care worker.”
- The 10-day minimum waiting period between the date of the signed written request for MAID and the date on which MAID takes place, is removed.
- The “final consent” requirement, under which the person seeking MAID must expressly confirm their consent immediately before receiving MAID, can be waived in certain circumstances, which are enumerated in the Bill.
- An existing restriction, under which a person’s suicide may not be assisted unless their natural death is “reasonably forseeable”, is lifted. Such assistance is now lawful, conditional upon a series of seven safeguards, which are enumerated in the Bill, being met.
As with his past referendums, Mr. Reid will respect the decision of his constituents, and will vote according to the majority of ballots he receives prior to the Third Reading vote on Bill C-7.
Mr. Reid made the following comments:
I conduct these Constituency Referenda because the people of this riding—and by extension, the people of Canada as a whole—are no less thoughtful and reasonable than their elected officials (and besides, as often as not, MPs are simply voting as ordered by their party “whips”). Your conscience is no less worthy than mine, and the free vote of a citizen is infinitely morally superior to the whipped vote of an MP who fears that he or she will be punished in some way by his party leadership for voting the “wrong” way.
I encourage my constituents to return their ballot as soon as possible after they receive it. I can only base my decision on ballots I have received before the final vote in the House of Commons, and that could come at any time.
For more information, please contact:
Office of Scott Reid, M.P,
Later this spring, each household in the federal electoral district of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston should receive a copy of a publication outlining the issue. Included will be arguments from public figures on both sides of the issue, as well as information for advocacy websites that can be browsed for more information. A copy of the mailer and more information will be available on Scott Reid’s website when the mailer is released.
The publication will include an official ballot to be sent back to Scott Reid by mail, postage-free.
This will represent Mr. Reid’s tenth riding referendum since he was first elected in 2000. He has always voted according to the will of the majority of votes cast – even if it has meant voting against the rest of his caucus colleagues, or against his own preference.
How does the Constituency Referendum on Bill C-7 work? Every household in Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston will be sent a single flyer by mail, each containing four ballots. Eligible voters will be invited to answer the question: “Should Scott Reid, MP vote in favour of Bill C-7, on changes to the Medical Assistance in Dying system?” The flyer will include an explanation of Bill C-7, along with prominent arguments for and against the bill. The actual mailing of the flyer is conducted by Canada Post, and is handled as “unaddressed” mail – so that every household should receive a copy, rather than individual constituents. Since correspondence to Members of Parliament can be sent postage-free, constituents who want to participate in the referendum do not have to affix a stamp to their reply.
How do you ensure the process will be impartial? Scott Reid has designed his ballot forms, for this referendum and for previous referenda, on the model of the impartial voter information booklets that have been sent to voters in state referenda in Washington State, California, and Switzerland.
Why are voters asked to include their name and address on each ballot? Respondents are asked to include their address and the names of each participating voter on their ballot, so that it can be confirmed that each vote originated from within the constituency and from an individual eligible to vote in elections (as per the Elections Canada list of electors, which is provided to Members of Parliament annually). The contents of each individual ballot will be kept in strict confidence, the ballots will be kept in a secure location, and every ballot will be destroyed following the House of Commons vote.
What are the rules for the Constituency Referendum? The following rules were contained on the ballot form: VOTING RULES:
1) Each REGISTERED VOTER in the household may vote once on Ballot #1 and once on Ballot #2.
2) Voters may choose to vote on one ballot and not the other; these votes will still be counted.
3) Ballots will be reviewed against the current Elections Canada voter’s list. If more votes per ballot are cast than the number of voters residing at that address, all of the votes will be disregarded. (However, there is no requirement that all voters residing at an address participate, in order for the ballot to be counted).
4) To prevent multiple voting, please give your name(s) and address below. By law, your information cannot be divulged to anyone. For security, ballots will be destroyed following the vote in the House of Commons.
5) The results will be made public prior to the vote in the Commons, unless the government rushes the date of the vote.
How will you determine if votes are spoiled or ineligible? Some may be invalid due to voter ineligibility (out-of-riding address, no address). Others may be invalid because it is not possible to determine the voting intention of the voter(s). (For example, some voters have, in the past, failed to mark either a “Yes” or a “No”.)
Isn’t a constituency referendum an extra cost for the taxpayer? No. Every Member of Parliament is permitted to send four mailings of this type to their constituency per year, as the costs are already provided for by parliamentary budgets. Most MPs use this allocation to send calendars or holiday greetings to their constituents. As a means of giving his constituents a greater say in issues facing Parliament, Scott Reid has chosen instead to use some of his mailer allotments to ask voters how he should vote on specific issues.
What other constituency referenda has Scott Reid conducted in the past? The vote on Bill C-7 is the tenth constituency referendum that Scott Reid has launched since his election in 2000. Copies and information on his previous referenda can be found at: https://scottreid.ca/category/constituency-referenda/.
The first referendum, in August 2001, asked constituents whether Scott should opt out of a proposed $21, 000 MP pay raise, or opt in and give the money to charity. 83% of respondents directed Scott Reid to opt in and give the raise to charity. Scott Reid has followed up by donating $21, 000 for CPR training and the purchase of defibrillators for local emergency services, each year since 2001.
The second referendum, in October 2001, asked constituents how Scott Reid should vote on Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act. 65% of participants voted to support the bill, and he accordingly voted in favour of the bill at Third Reading.
The third referendum was conducted in November 2001, and asked voters whether or not Scott Reid should support Bill C-36, the Anti-Terrorism Act. 73% of respondents directed him to vote against the bill, which he did when the bill came to Third Reading in Parliament.
The fourth referendum took place in October 2002, asking constituents their opinion on the Electoral Boundary Commission’s decision to alter the federal constituency boundaries. 84% of respondents voted to maintain the boundaries of Lanark County within the riding, and 79% voted to include Smiths Falls in the same electoral district as Lanark County. Scott Reid presented these results to the Commission, requesting its decision reflect the stated views of his constituents. When the Commission ignored the request to keep Lanark County united, Scott Reid petitioned to overturn the decision. In 2015, this resulted in the reuniting of Lanark County within a single electoral district.
The fifth referendum took place in 2005, asking voters whether or not Scott Reid should support the Civil Marriage Act, which redefined marriage to include same-sex unions. 9,176 voters participated. 80% were opposed to the redefinition of marriage and 20% were in favour of the redefinition of marriage. Scott Reid, accordingly, voted against Bill C-38 at third reading.
The sixth referendum took place in 2012, asking voters whether or not Scott Reid should support Motion M-312, which called for the formation of a House of Commons committee “to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth”. This motion was argued by some to constitute a reopening of the debate over abortion in Canada. 65% of respondents voted for Scott Reid to oppose the motion, with 35% voting to support it. Scott Reid respected the decision of his constituents, and voted against Motion M-312.
The seventh referendum took place in the spring of 2016, asking voters whether Scott Reid should vote for or against Bill C-14, which provided for medically-assisted suicide for adults with grievous and irremediable medical conditions, in an advanced state of irreversible decline. 67% of respondents voted for Scott Reid to support the bill, with 32% voting to oppose it. Scott Reid respected the decision of his constituents, and voted yes to Bill C-14.
The eighth referendum took place in the fall of 2016, asking voters whether they wanted the Liberal government to call a national referendum before changing the federal voting system. 89% of respondents voted in favour of the government holding a national referendum before changing the voting system. In the Fall of 2016, Scott Reid convinced the majority of the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform to recommend a national referendum on changing the voting system. In February 2017, the government decided to give up on changing the voting system.
The ninth referendum took place in the fall of 2017, asking voters whether Scott Reid should vote for or against Bill C-45, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana (or cannabis), and provided for a regulatory regime for the sale and cultivation of related products. 55% of respondents voted for Scott Reid to support the bill, with 44% voting for Scott Reid to oppose it. Scott Reid respected the decision of his constituents, and voted yes to Bill C-45. Doing so resulted in Scott Reid being the only member of the Conservative parliamentary caucus to vote in favour of the bill. He was subsequently removed from his role as critic for Democratic Institutions in the Official Opposition’s Shadow Cabinet.
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