Citizen Assembly process a high point for democratic engagement


Process for developing electoral reform already demonstrates better democracy in action

Toronto – A growing list of political science professors from across Ontario agree that the Ontario Citizens Assembly was an exceptional example of a legitimately democratic public policy development process.

Never before in Ontario has the public had such an opportunity to vote in approval of a government recommendation not authored by an expert panel, legislative committee, or Royal Commission, but by common citizens who took part in a remarkable process of education and deliberation.

“This is as good as deliberative democracy gets,” said Professor Richard Simeon, William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University,

John Cartwright, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario called the process “an excellent example of how ordinary voters can bring intelligence and sound understanding of issues to bear when given an opportunity for deliberation.”

Karen Lochead, of the Department of Political Science at callWilfrid Laurier University declared it “an important step toward effective citizen participation in the public policy process and future governments should be encouraged to build on its model.”

“Even if the public doesn’t really ‘get MMP’, they should know it was strongly recommend by an assembly of their fellow citizens who did get it – citizens who read the text books, talked to the experts, took part in debates and carefully developed their conclusions together,”said Jason Diceman, a stakeholder engagement consultant in Toronto.

The 103 citizens on the assembly were selected by lottery from the Elections Ontario list and represented every riding in the Province. They were a diverse and representative cross-section of Ontario society with a mix of established and new Canadians, students, retirees, homemakers white- and blue-collar workers.

These citizens attended six weekends of education on electoral reform, looking at the pros and cons of each system, including our own. They also heard from 501 fellow citizens at 41 public meetings that were held throughout the province. Five outreach focus groups were held for homeless, low income, and new immigrants. Along with making every meeting accessible, there was an added meeting specifically for people with disabilities. The assembly also received and reviewed 1,036 written submissions.

In the last phase the assembly spent six complete weekends in well facilitated consensus driven deliberations and structured decision-making. The final decision to recommend MMP to the people of Ontario was approved by 92% of the assembly. Their final 27 page report was a unified, clear and detailed document approved by consensus.

According to the Canadian Institute on Governance who acted as third party evaluators “The whole Assembly process was undertaken in an open and transparent manner… It serves as a model of how to engage and empower citizens to deliberate and decide on selected public policy questions.”

For more information contact: Jason Diceman, 416-538-2667 jason(at)  


See the list of supporting experts at: