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Trudeau alienates youth with broken promise on electoral reform

When the Trudeau government announced on February 1 that it was abandoning its promise to introduce electoral reform, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow tweeted, “Trudeau government abandons promise on electoral reform. Cynicism among the young over politics already so deep. We didn’t need this.” Her post has since been retweeted 140 times.

Young people helped Trudeau to win the last election.

In February 2016, CBC reported, “More than a million additional young Canadians cast a ballot in the [October 2015] federal election, compared to the previous elections held in 2011. This turnout increase for voters who are 18 to 34 years old is by far the largest among all other age categories, new survey results from Statistics Canada found.”

And by April 2016, the Huffington Post noted, “A new survey from Abacus Data suggests young Canadians were critical to the Liberal party’s majority victory. Forty-five per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 25 voted Liberal, compared with 25 per cent for the NDP and 20 per cent for the Conservative Party, the online poll of 1,000 suggests.”

Now CBC columnist Robyn Urback writes, “It appears young voters are particularly aghast that the prime minister of Canada would break his campaign promise to overhaul the way we hold our elections. While many older voters yawned and mumbled something about ‘same old Liberals’ following the government’s about-face last week, the under-35 cohort found themselves seething over the apparent betrayal, vowing in long screeds on Facebook and Reddit to never vote Liberal again. Some went further, launching and signing petitions, emails and letter-writing campaigns to their MPs, while others organized weekend rallies to demonstrate their fury over the broken promise.”

Urback adds, “[Many young voters] trusted him, gave him their votes and arguably handed him his majority. But now, it’s becoming clear that Trudeau’s government isn’t that different after all.”

She highlights, “Electoral reform was the broken promise that resonated, likely because of how steadfast the Liberals were in 2015. ‘We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system’, the Liberals declared back then (awkwardly, at the time of writing, that line is still up on the Liberals’ website). Whether they ever intended to follow through on that pledge is, for some, a matter of debate, but what’s clear is they ditched the plan when it became obvious there would be no consensus on implementing their preferred voting system.”

And Urback concludes, “With the benefit of hindsight, it should be clear now — to voters of every age bracket — that the Liberals are doing exactly what every successful party, including their own, has always done to win elections: make vague, popular promises and feign an attempt to follow through. If some pledges have to be abandoned, better that it happens early. And hope everyone forgets the next time an election rolls around. Especially those hopelessly optimistic millennials.”

We believe people will very much remember Trudeau’s broken promise on electoral reform when they vote in the next federal election on October 21, 2019 – and that youth will be a force to reckon with in the intervening years and at the voting booth.

Canadian Federation of Students president Bilan Arte says, “This government pays a lot of lip service to youth. We’re not just a voting bloc that can be accessed every other election. We are concerned and we’re an active part of the electorate in this country.”

And the Huffington Post has reported, “David Coletto, the CEO of Abacus Data, believes that young people — millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000 — could constitute the largest voting group in 2019, becoming an influential and powerful block. For Trudeau’s government, keeping young voters happy and engaged is key to a successful re-election strategy, Coletto added.”

Further reading
Youth are breaking down Trudeau’s progressive image amidst inaction (October 2016 blog by Daniel Cayley-Daoust)
Council of Canadians joins with students to say “free education now” (November 2016)