Online petitions could finally be accepted by the House of Commons

OTTAWA — While Canadians live in the digital age, many of them signing online petitions, the House of Commons still refuses to recognize this legitimate democratic expression as valid. This is being fixed, thanks to the NDP, which managed on Wednesday to get a majority of MPs from all parties to pass a motion on the issue.

New Democrat MP Christine Moore (Abitibi-Témiscamingue) was delighted that her party’s motion was adopted: “It’s time for the House of Commons to finally enter the 21st century. It’s not surprising that Canadians are feeling left out of the political process. I’m encouraged to see that MPs from all parties can put aside partisan differences and agree to improve grassroots democracy and act in the common interest,” said Ms. Moore.

Currently, only paper petitions can be accepted in the House of Commons. Online petitions, even those receiving thousands of signatures from Canadians, cannot be submitted and often go unanswered.

Romeo Saganash (MP for Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou) said that paper petitions are not as effective as electronic ones. “The democratic process simply cannot ignore the fact that we need to go electronic. To keep people interested in politics, we need to provide greater access. If we want them to take part and make themselves heard, if we ask for their support on various issues, recognizing the value and legitimacy of online petitions will simply make this easier,” said Mr. Saganash.

The NDP believes this system needs to be brought into the 21st century through electronic petitioning – as has already been done successfully in several provinces and numerous other countries.

The NDP motion also proposed that debates be triggered in Parliament in cases where a petition receives a significant number of signatures and is sponsored by at least five MPs. “This will prevent sometimes farfetched petitions from being pointlessly debated, as what occurs in some countries. This will empower engaged Canadians to set the political agenda in Ottawa,” added Ms. Moore.

A parliamentary committee will now study this issue over the next year and develop recommendations for how to best implement e-petitioning over the coming months.