Is Trudeau backing out on electoral reform?

Trudeau has come under fire for not honouring election promises / Jeff McIntosh (CP)


The Prime Minister seems to be shying away from last year’s promise to enact election reform.

After promises of electoral reform and months of public consultation on the issue, Justin Trudeau has indicated he may not be as ready to change our electoral system as he once was.

In an interview with Le Devoir last week, Prime Minister Trudeau said he believed Canadians were only pushing hard for electoral reform because they didn’t like the current party in power — The Conservatives. Now that the Liberals are in power, Trudeau says, Canadians have less “motivation” to change the electoral system.

The Liberals were elected last year promising it would be the final Canadian election under the controversial First Past the Post system, which gave them a majority government with 39 per cent of the popular vote.

Asked more recently on the issue, Trudeau says he remains “deeply committed” to reform, but that it is challenging to find a consensus among the broad opinions of Canadians. He continued, mentioning he is waiting on recommendations from a special committee consisting of Members of Parliament who are studying electoral reform.

“I’m not going to preclude the arguments that they will be making and the conclusions that will be drawn. I will simply say I look forward to hearing those perspectives and looking at how Canadians wish to move forward,” said Trudeau.

The other major political parties have all responded to Trudeau, calling him out for seemingly backing away from his earlier promise.

Leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May wants Trudeau to reaffirm his commitment to electoral reform in time for the next election.

“He has created this level of confusion by suggesting there may not be the same demand for electoral reform. I can assure him there is,” she said.

May’s Green Party suffers under the current system, receiving far less seats than their share of the popular vote.

“Fundamentally, it’s a crazy argument,” responded Conservative democratic reform critic Scott Reid. “Stop and think about this: He said one year after the election, ‘I’m super popular so we don’t need to have this discussion now’.”

Reid and the other members of the committee studying electoral reform are now left wondering whether or not their work will go anywhere.

Nathan Cullen, the NDP’s democratic reform critic, condemned Trudeau’s change as “selfish”.

“Canadians in part elect this government on promises like this, and to very cynically start breaking them just because you have a lot of Facebook followers is pretty arrogant and misguided,” he said.

Katelynn Northam, member of advocacy group Leadnow, says the group is concerned about Trudeau’s recent comments.

“Many members of Leadnow voted Liberal in 2015 because of the party’s commitment to voting reform — and tens of thousands of people have since joined our Vote Better campaign for proportional representation in the last year,” she told The CBC. “It’s clear that people do care about voting reform and they expect this promise to be kept.”

“We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system … Within 18 months of forming government, we will introduce legislation to enact electoral reform,” reads the Liberal’s 2015 campaign platform.

A recent online survey from EKOS asked whether Canadians agreed with the statement: “Electoral reform is something the Liberal Party campaigned on, so they should deliver on this promise.”

1,622 Canadians responded with a margin of error of 2.4 per cent. The survey found 59 per cent of Canadians agreed, while 21 per cent disagreed, and 16 per cent were undecided.

Of Liberal supporters who responded, 67.7 per cent were in agreement that the government should keep its promise — less than NDP supporters (74.5 per cent) and Green supporters (79.9 per cent). Only 30.9 per cent of Conservatives were in favour of electoral reform.

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