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January 21, 2022
February 13, 2017

Electoral Reform is Needed

The National Day of Action and a Parliamentary petition

Written by Jeff Samsonow

This Saturday, Edmontonians joined people in dozens of cities across Canada to voice their disappointment with the federal Liberal government decision to scrap electoral reform.

This was one of the cornerstones of the Liberal platform during the 2015 election. It’s still on their campaign website too, even though they have tossed the idea aside.

Screencap from liberal.ca on Feb. 13, 2017.

Certainly, governments of all political stripes don’t follow through on election promises. Sometimes things are so different once in office, the promise doesn’t make sense anymore. Sometimes, though, it’s for very political reasons a promise gets turfed. Often this kind of decision is referred to as a “lie” when it’s viewed in hindsight.

This all came to light, not in a transparent explanation from the prime minister, but quietly slipped into the mandate letter to the new Democratic Institutions Minister. She was the first one to answer questions from the media and public on the about-face. The Prime Minister has faced questions in the House of Commons about this, and from upset Canadians on his tour of the northern territories, and the troubling thing is the reasons why the Liberals made this decision keep changing.

Have we checked to make sure “evil” Justin Trudeau hasn’t taken over?

This still matters

The reason this does matter is most of the reasoning given so far amounts to gaslighting hundreds of thousands of Canadians. They took part in surveys, town halls across the entire country and gave the federal government input on how to change the system from our current first-past-the-post voting. We can all debate whether one type of change or another was clearly chosen but the thing that is not in dispute, no matter how the Liberals want to spin it, is that a clear majority of Canadians across the country want their vote to count and want things to change.

I say this is gaslighting because to tell everyone there is no clear direction is to tell them their opinions don’t matter and they must have misunderstood the exercise. And abandoning the entire plan instead of just putting it on hold is why I think this issue isn’t fading into the next media cycle. (Consistent questions from everyone Justin Trudeau meets will do that too.)

Reminder to politicians, those old tweets will come back to life.

Justin Trudeau’s latest explanations also amount to “let the adults decide”. He’s claiming changing our electoral system would give a hate-monger like Kellie Leitch her own party which might win a few seats in Parliament. He’s saying hundreds of thousands of Canadians don’t understand how things work and he knows better. But what he’s leaving us with is the real danger.

Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada are betting they’ll win another majority government in 2019. And they are willing to roll the dice on Kellie Leitch winning her own majority with this gamble. She doesn’t need her own party, she’s running to lead the Conservatives and could easily win a majority of seats, without a majority of support, just like Trudeau’s Liberals did (and the Stephen Harper Conservatives did the election before). I’d rather have xenophobic, racist ideas relegated to a few seats in the back benches, not leading the government of Canada.

The more safeguards the better

Look, we get that there are bigger fish to fry right now with a whole lot of chaos in the U.S. But without a new electoral system to help limit the power of one party in Parliament we’re simply hoping we don’t end up with an erratic, authoritarian leading a party of people too weak to stand up to them.

Canadians voted for change. Many took part in the electoral reform process initiated by the Liberal government. They don’t deserve a pat on the head, they deserve the change they asked for. And, if we’re learning anything from a seemingly more active and engaged population, it’s that you don’t have to just accept things can’t be changed.

You can still act

If this issue is important to you, or you just want to let the Canadian government know it’s not OK to let it slide for an unknown number of decades, there’s a petition you can sign. The petition is sponsored by MP Nathan Cullen, the representative for Skeena—Bulkley Valley in British Columbia. It has more than 100,000 signatures, and remains open until March 2.

You could also get in touch with your member of Parliament, or one of Edmonton’s Liberal MPs (Randy Boissonnault and Amarjeet Sohi).