Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s broken promise over electoral reform, NDP reform advocates say the fight isn’t over yet.
Months of uncertainty about whether or not Trudeau would follow through on his promise to reform the Canada’s federal electoral system were answered this week, and the answer was no.
“We knew he was drifting but it was interesting to hear him just give up and say we’re out of it,” said Richard Cannings, NDP MP for South Okanagan West Kootenay.
During last year’s election, Trudeau promised that if elected, 2015 would be the last time Canada used a first-past-the-post voting system.
But in a mandate letter to newly-appointed Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould Trudeau wrote: “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.”
That follows on the Liberals’ lacklustre response the report of the Electoral Reform Committee, which was delivered to parliament in November and quickly dismissed by Maryam Monsef, who was then the democratic institutions minister.
Cannings said the all-party committee worked all through the summer, gathering information, as did individual MPs.
“The government told every MP to go out and talk to your constituents, have town hall meetings, and we did,” said Cannings, who held a Penticton town hall in conjunction with Nathan Cullen, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley and vice-chair of the electoral reform committee.
Cullen said that as recently as last week, Prime Minister Trudeau was still talking about bringing electoral reform, including at his town halls earlier this month.
“When he was asked about this he put his hand on his heart in the eyes of Canadians and said ‘I am fully committed to this’,” said Cullen. “He was lying, clearly. We did everything we could and built a cross-party, across the country consensus for moving forward.”
Cullen and Cannings both agree there was a strong consensus in favour of proportional representation.
“The only people who weren’t agreeing were the ones in government because they weren’t getting their way. They weren’t getting the system that they wanted. And that’s, to my mind, is the very definition of a self-serving cynical politician which Mr. Trudeau promised to not be,” said Cullen.
Cannings also thought it was a cynical and disappointing performance by the prime minister.
“He made his new young minister make the announcement and face the press. He didn’t have the guts to do it himself,” said Cannings. “After the committee report came in, he was just looking for ways to get out of it elegantly and couldn’t find any. So he just decided to break the promise brazenly.”
Cullen said that Trudeau’s broken promise will stir more conversation.
“I think he’s kicked the hornet’s nest on this one,” said Cullen, saying the concern will go well beyond just voters concerned about electoral reform. There have even been Liberal MPs expressing their disappointment, he continued. He is hoping more will stand up to “Mr. Trudeau’s cynical approach” with conviction and courage.
“Justin Trudeau was supposed to be the antidote to cynical politics. He was going to be different and a lot of Canadians put their faith in him,” said Cullen.
“I’m ticked off. And I don’t think I’m the only Canadian who is. We’re going to get the word out to Canadians that hope is not lost, that we need to have faith and strength.”