Trudeau’s Broken Promise

Aaron Propp - 1B Electrical
Posted on: February 18, 2017

Justin Trudeau recently declared that he was abandoning his promise to push through electoral reform before the next federal election. This comes despite the repeated promise that 2015 would be the last election held under first-past-the-post, reiterated as prime minister in a speech from the throne. While this might come as a shock to some who only saw this headline, it was clearly heading this way from the beginning and should come as no surprise.

To start, there was never an explicit system proposed, such as proportional representation or preferential ballot. Even the “support of Canadians” was left vaguely undefined as to how many Canadians needed to participate in the consultation process for there to be a consensus of the majority of Canadians. However, the moment where the electoral reform promise went truly south was when then democratic reform minister Maryam Monsef chastised her committee for not coming forth with any concrete conclusions. She particularly took pain to explain how the Gallagher index, an index about how disproportional the distribution of seats in parliament is, was not understandable to Canadians and was thus inappropriate to be included in the report.

Justin Trudeau has put forth various reasons for abandoning electoral reform. One of his reasons is that calling a referendum would be to divisive for Canadians, citing Brexit and Italian referendum on a constitutional reform package, both of which had narrow victories and both of which lead to the resignation of the respective prime ministers.

Another reason cited by Trudeau is that proportional representation would lead to the election of fringe elements of the left and right. This has been a claim levied against proportional representation for awhile. However, looking at a case study such as Germany would demonstrate this to be not the case. Germany, a western democracy in many ways similar to Canada, operates with proportional democracy.

In the most recent German election a grand total of 5 parties where elected to the Bundestag, their parliament. Three of the parties are involved in governing in a coalition with a broad consensus. And none of the parties elected in Germany are particularly extreme compared to parties in Canada. The most extreme party currently in the Bundestag would be The Left, a German socialist party.

However, Canadians might gain something positive out of this all. Karina Gould, the new democratic reform minister, is instead charged with ensuring the Canadian electoral system was free of cyber security threats and hackers. In light of the allegations in the American presidential election that was Russian interference was involved, this should could as welcome protection to the Canadian democratic process.

Along with cyber defense, Gould was told work with the Communications Security Establishment to give the best cyber security practices and advice to all Canadian political parties, presumably to avoid the situation which happened to the Democrat party in the United States’ recent federal election. An additional welcome part of her mandate is to tighten campaign fundraising rules, specifically to block cash-for-access events that have marred both the provincial and federal governments.

  • voting

    No man is good enough to be another mans master. Politicians are not good enough to be their own referees.
    Politicians have been breaking their promises on electoral reform, for 100 years, to the year, in fact, in Britain. In 1917, the UK government broke its promise to abide by its Speakers Conference on Electoral Reform compromise deal, by singling out the Single Transferable Vote, proportional representation, unanimously accepted by the conference, instead allowing a safe-seats parliament to vote it down.
    Another breach of contract was committed by the parties, especially with the retrospective double 60% referendum requirement, against the BC Citizens Assembly recommendation, also of STV.
    This system has no safe seats, as candidates have to be equitably elected by personal preference, with choice of more than one candidate per party, in multi-member constituencies. Elections that actually elect, and are not a sham legitimacy for professional incumbents, have proven, time and time again, intolerable to them.
    Therefore it is time to heed a hundred years of evidence that politicians are not fit to be their electoral referees. The independent procedure of the BC Citizens Assembly well served the necessary democratic role of election method referee.
    Richard Lung. “Democracy Science” links to 3 free e-books on election method.