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Trudeau breaks his promise to implement electoral reform

Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted:

During the last federal election, the Liberals promised that the 2015 election would be the last held until the first-past-the-post voting system and set a deadline of May 2017 to introduce legislation on electoral reform. Undoubtedly many people voted for Trudeau because of this pledge to make our voting system more democratic.

Now, just 15 months after the election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has abandoned that promise.

In his mandate letter to the new Minister of Democratic Institutions, which was released today, Trudeau now says, “There has been tremendous work by the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform, outreach by Members of Parliament by all parties, and engagement of 360,000 individuals in Canada through mydemocracy.ca. A clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged. Furthermore, without a clear preference or a clear question, a referendum would not be in Canada’s interest. Changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate.”

Trudeau’s reasoning appears self-serving.

Polls have consistently shown strong support for proportional representation, the Special Committee on Electoral Reform recommended “the government should, as it develops a new electoral system … minimize the level of distortion between the popular will of the electorate and the resultant seat allocations in Parliament”, and the mydemocracy.ca survey was widely criticized for not asking people to respond to specific electoral systems or descriptions of those systems.

If proportional representation had been in place for the October 2015 federal election, the Liberals would not have won a majority government (but rather 134 seats), the Conservatives 109 seats (rather than 99), the NDP 67 seats (rather than 44), the Green Party 12 seats (rather than 1), and the Bloc Quebecois 16 seats (rather than 10).

In other words, there is an unacceptable “level of distortion” for the Liberals to have won only 39.47 per cent of the popular vote in the last election but to get 54.48 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.

The Canadian Press now highlights, “Trudeau repeatedly promised — both as a campaigning Liberal leader and as prime minister in a speech from the throne — to get rid of the current first-past-the-post voting system in time for the 2019 federal election. New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen, the party’s democratic reform critic, savaged Trudeau as a ‘liar’ during a news conference in the foyer of the House of Commons.” Green Party leader Elizabeth May has just tweeted, “I am so shocked.”

Our ally Fair Vote Canada has tweeted, “He wanted your votes and never intended to make your votes count.”

The next federal election will take place on October 21, 2019.