Kennedy Stewart’s dream of Parliament accepting online petitions is now a reality, and the first people to sign up are two Burnaby residents hoping to ban shock collars for pets.
Gwendy and Alfie Williams have unsuccessfully petitioned Parliament in the past to criminalize shock collars, which they say are a cruel and ineffective way to train dogs. This time, however, the husband and wife are hoping to gather support from across the country, now that Parliament is accepting online petitions.
“We think it’s a great idea,” Gwendy said. “We think it’s going to really bring Canadians a voice.”
The government’s website for online petitions went live on Friday, and Alfie said it was easy to use and there are safeguards in place to keep frivolous petitions out. For example, the petitioners must find an MP to sponsor their cause. In this case, Stewart is sponsoring the shock collar petition. There’s also a French version of the petition in the works, and the Williams have a link to share online, now that the petition is live.
“I think it’s going to give us a lot more chance to gain more signatures and get more support across Canada. We’re very isolated trying to get people’s signatures as individuals,” Gwendy said.
People don’t realize when they sign petitions on the Internet that they have no standing with government, Gwendy added.
“This new one will be recognized by the government,” she said.
Stewart’s motion for Parliament to accept e-petitions passed in January of 2014, a rare feat for an opposition backbencher.
“I think it’s been a quiet reform, but it will be a significant reform as a Canadian really catch on to what’s happening here. They have an easy and accessible way to have their views presented in Parliament,” Stewart said from Ottawa.
Under the old rules, people had to collect a minimum of 25 signatures on paper and find an MP to table the petition in the House of Commons. Now, if there are 500 signatures, the government has 45 days to respond in writing, Stewart explained.
Stewart said e-petitions have the capacity to shake up how the government does business, and he’s waiting for the first one with 100,000 or 200,000 signatures, which will force Parliament to take action.
“I don’t think a government can afford to ignore a petition with a couple thousand signatures on it from verified voters,” he said.
To create your own e-petition, go to https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Home/Index