TORONTO, Ont. Dec. 6, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Is it possible the federal Liberals never intended to pass electoral reform legislation?
Some political commentators have openly mused about this seemingly bizarre theory since the government’s campaign promise that “2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system” was recently put on life support.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked things off during an Oct. 19 interview with Le Devoir’s Marie Vastel. He said: “Under Stephen Harper, there were so many people unhappy with the government and their approach that people were saying, ‘It will take electoral reform to no longer have a government we don’t like.’ But under the current system, they now have a government they’re more satisfied with and the motivation to change the electoral system is less compelling.”
The PM then told the Canadian Press on Dec. 2, “Electoral reform is an issue that is important to me, it’s important to a whole bunch of Canadians across the country, (but) it’s one that not every Canadian is involved and aware of, or passionate about.” In his view, there “doesn’t seem to be” a consensus on moving forward.
Yet Trudeau still claims he wants to eliminate Canada’s first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system before the 2019 federal election. Clearly, he hasn’t quite mastered the art of political double-speak.
Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef has been in hot water, too. She said on Nov. 28 that the feds “will not move forward on reform without the broad support of Canadians.” Since the minister doesn’t support a national referendum to properly gauge this interest, it’s hard to understand how Ottawa would meet this invisible threshold.
Meanwhile, Monsef lashed out at electoral reform committee members for dropping the ball. She reportedly said, “On the hard choices that we had asked the committee to make, the members of the committee took a pass.” After being ferociously condemned for her remarks, she apologized to Parliament.
Alas, that’s what you get for putting a 32-year-old political novice in a position she clearly can’t handle. Why the Liberals would put someone like this in such an important role, when they had far more experienced MPs at their disposal, is a complete mystery.
Then again, maybe it’s not.
If you want something to fail, politically or otherwise, you throw every available resource at your disposal to ensure that it fails. That’s what our government has done with electoral reform.
The Liberals pushed for the preferential ballot, where voters rank their choices, to replace FPTP. That’s no surprise: the Liberals may not be every voter’s first choice, but they traditionally rank high as a second choice. This would have badly hurt the Tories (who would have core supporters on first choice ballots, but get crushed on most second choice ballots), the NDP (who would get out-muscled by the Liberals for left-wing votes), and smaller parties.
Ottawa was also going to have huge influence over the electoral reform committee, but was eventually pressured to increase the number of opposition members. Monsef became the government’s puppet on this particular issue. Liberals enthusiastically supported electoral reform, but rejected democratic concepts to measure Canadian support. And, when things started to turn against the government, Trudeau changed his messaging to provide them with an opt-out.
Although the preferential ballot was a better political tool for the Liberals than FPTP – which they had supported, along with the Tories, for decades – they’ll obviously survive with the latter. They can then smugly claim that they kept their campaign promise, but the will of the Canadian people just wasn’t there to make this important change.
The theory doesn’t seem so bizarre now, does it?
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. Michael is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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