No more question of electoral reform for Canada? What a pity!


“We are committed to ensuring that the 2015 election is the last federal election using FPTP (First Past the Post). We will ensure that Canadians have a stronger voice in Ottawa – a voice that reflects and represents them. – Justin Trudeau, Château Laurier Hotel, Ottawa, June 16, 2015.

When Trudeau made that commitment, he had been the leader of the Liberal Party for two years. The Liberals were also candidates, the proud “natural power party” reduced to third party status with just 36 seats in the House of Commons, and facing a seemingly unassailable majority Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But less than five months later, the winds of change had transformed Justin Trudeau, MP for Papineau, into Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, prime minister of a majority Liberal government with 184 seats.

If Trudeau had predicted in June that he would be prime minister in November, he surely would not have embraced electoral reform and promised to replace EMS with an (unspecified) system of proportional representation. No sane Prime Minister would abandon a system that gave him a majority government in favor of a system that virtually guarantees perpetual minority government.

Trudeau was not that stupid. But how to replenish the electoral commitment? A special Commons committee on electoral reform has been sent across the country to consult with experts and listen to ordinary voters. He did not find much public dissatisfaction with the first-party system, and did not identify any PR system that voters preferred to the first-party system. However, on its return, the committee recommended replacing the first-party system with a system (or other) of proportional representation.

Although the Liberal majority on the committee supported the recommendation, the Liberal government did not believe it. Citing a lack of public consensus, in early 2017, he officially abandoned his campaign pledge.

The breach of engagement has been an albatross around Trudeau’s neck since then. It hurt him badly in the 2019 election, in which he lost his majority; opposition parties cited it as proof that the prime minister could not be trusted. It was still raised often in debates during last month’s elections.

However, this was not the first time – nor, I suppose, it will be the last – that a promise of electoral reform has been made and broken. In 1919, William Lyon Mackenzie King promised that, if his Liberals were elected, 1921 would be the last election under FPTP. King won, appointed a special parliamentary committee, and two years later broke his promise.

Justin’s father, Pierre Trudeau, while in opposition, declared his support for proportional representation: “We can make sure that national parties have representation in Parliament that is closer to the number of people who vote for. them. Returning to power in the 1980 elections, he did not follow his words with action.

Even Harper spoke passionately at one point about the need for electoral reform, but did nothing about it.

Don’t expect to hear much on the subject in the future from Justin Trudeau. During a campaign stop in Aurora, Ont., On September 18, he said that while he remained open to replacing the EMS, electoral reform was “not a priority” since there was no no consensus among political parties on the issue.

It might be a heretical notion, but it seems to me that shutting down the discussion on electoral reform would do all those Canadians who have worked so hard over the years to figure out what the hell the experts talking about when they do a disservice. debated obscure alternatives to EMS. .

When we will be able to re-display our understanding of AVSD (Average Vote-Seat Difference), MMP (Proportional Representation of Mixed Members), RCV (Elective Voting), IRV (Instant Voting), STV (Single Voting) transferable), AV (Alternative Voting), SV (Additional Voting), and, of course, the crucial distinction that only we connoisseurs recognize between dual voting theories: cardinal utility versus ordinal utility?

Yes, we have a treasure trove of unnecessary election trivia. We have to use it before we lose it.

Cambridge resident Geoffrey Stevens is an author and former Ottawa columnist and editor of The Globe and Mail. Her new book, “Flore! A Woman in a Men’s World, ”co-authored with the late Flora MacDonald, is published this month by McGill-Queen’s University Press. His column appears on Mondays. He accepts comments at [email protected]

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