Politicians, political appointees, party hacks and those convicted of elections crimes are out of luck.
But, otherwise, anyone from newspaper pundits to murderers who have served their time is eligible to be a member of Ontario’s new Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.
Last Monday, Elections Ontario began mailing out 123,948 letters to randomly selected people in all 103 provincial ridings inviting them to participate in the volunteer panel that will examine changes to Ontario’s electoral system.
Chief Election Officer John Hollins said Tuesday the letters are being sent to people whose names are on the 8.4 million-person permanent register of electors, which should represent citizens from every walk of life.
Hollins said the goal is to select 103 citizens - 52 women and 51 men, including at least one "self-identified aboriginal" person - plus 206 alternates, two for each riding by July 14.
The panellists will be paid $150 a day and all expenses as they study reforms.
Almost anyone who receives one of the coveted letters is entitled to participate, including advocates or opponents of electoral reform in the media and people who have been convicted of any crime - except a contravention of the Elections Act.
Only sitting federal, provincial, municipal politicians, school board trustees, political appointees and party activists are expressly forbidden from joining the assembly.
George Thomson, chair of the panel, said he hopes the selection process, which was used to pick British Columbia’s democratic renewal panel, will ensure a good cross-section of Ontarians.
Thomson said pundits and ex-convicts are as welcome as anyone.
"If they’ve served their time and they’re back in the community and they’re selected through this process, yeah, they’re a citizen like everybody else," he said, stressing media types could also sit on the panel.
"More than that, journalists can come to all the meetings. This is going to be a totally open process. There’s nothing to prevent a journalist from being on it or not being on it and writing about it."
Premier Dalton McGuinty said those selected will participate in "a really important undertaking," which will examine whether Ontario should abandon its first-past-the-post system, in which a riding is represented by the candidate who garners the most votes, for another method of electing MPPs. The alternative systems examined would be based on some form of proporational representation, in which the make-up of the legislature would more closely reflect the popular vote each party receives in an election.
"We’ve inherited a particular electoral system. We didn’t choose that system. We inherited it," said McGuinty.
"It’s important to give Ontarians the opportunity to examine it in some detail to compare it with other existing systems and make a decision as to whether or not they want to exchange it for another or to keep what we have because they consider it the best of all the options."