Back in early August I expressed my view that Canada MUST have a referendum before the electoral system is changed.
Now, CTV News reports, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand says that “The government doesn’t need to hold a referendum to legitimize whatever electoral reforms it proposes … [and, he says] … “I think it’s up to the elected officials to determine what’s the best way [to legitimize any significant change],”” Now, as the CTV News editors point out, M Mayrand took the view, in 2015, that the changes introduced by a Conservative government were not OK because ““There was no broad consensus [on those changes],” Mayrand said. “And it’s a pattern that’s developed since the early 2000s. I think it’s not healthy for our democracy. I think it doesn’t inspire confidence of Canadians that the game will be fair if a party can singlehandedly change the rules of the game.”“
Now, I’m going to give M Mayrand the benefit of the doubt too, because I hope he’s saying that parliament can change the rules when there is “broad consensus,” not just when the governing party, even though it has a majority, decides.
But is there “broad consensus” on electoral reform now?
We know that the Conservatives, with nearly ⅓ of the seats and the popular vote:
- Oppose any change to the current system; and
- Demand a referendum.
We know the Liberals promised a change and we think they favour some form of ranked ballot:
But what about all the others? The BQ and NDP, especially, but also the non-parties, like the Greens? The last time I heard they all favoured proportional representation. So, in my opinion, we have a “house divided” The Liberal majority (54% of the seats based on 39% of the popular vote) wants a ranked ballot system, the Conservatives, with 30% of the seats based on 31% of the vote want to stay with the FPTP system and the others (16% of the seats and 28% of the vote) appear to wants PR. If that’s the case then M Mayrand will, I suppose, say that, as in 2015, there is no “broad consensus” and he will oppose any change … won’t he? Surely he’s not a hypocrite?
It seems to me that Prime Minister Trudeau, faced with a “house divided,” must not change the system based on the votes of just one, single party or even of one party plus a handful of independents. He must agree with M. Mayrand that “it doesn’t inspire confidence of Canadians that the game will be fair if a party can singlehandedly change the rules of the game.” If it was wrong for the Conservatives to do so in 2015, as both Messers Mayrand and Trudeau argued, then it must be wrong for the Liberals in 2016/17. And, surely, our prime minister is not a hypocrite, is he?
There is no consensus, so what is needed is a referendum with (at least) three choices:
- Ranked ballots, if that is, indeed, what the Liberals favour;
- The current first past the post system favoured by the Conservatives; and
- PR, favoured, I think, by the NDP.
If no one choice wins 50%+1 of the votes cast in the referendum then there should be no change.