Electoral reform

So, according to a report in the National Post, “Two-thirds of Canadians are happy with how their current voting system works, says a report detailing the findings of the Trudeau government’s online electoral reform survey … [and] … The report, quietly released online Tuesday by Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, also suggests Canadians are willing to consider changes to the system — provided they don’t complicate the voting process.

screenshot-2017-01-25-20-09-11The 2015 electoral reform promise was carefully, even craftily worded and was a key part of the Liberals‘ campaign to convince many, even hundreds of thousands of NDP supporters, who mostly dream of having more political power through proportional representation, to vote strategically to defeat Prime Minister Harper. It worked. The NDP‘s support fell, dramatically, by about 10%+ ~ enough to shift both previous CPC and NDP seats to the LPC column ~ and while a large part of that was, no doubt, the loss of “Le Bon Jack” Layton, it seems pretty clear that Prime Minister Trudeau’s campaign appealed broadly to young voters, who generally support the NDP, and who, also generally, favour proportional representation and causes like Fair Vote Canada.

It is not surprising that the report was “quietly released.” It shows that the results were not what this government wanted. In part, in my opinion, that is the result of a survey that tried to be too cute by half and produced decidedly contradictory results. Statements like “Governments should have to negotiate their policy decisions with other parties in Parliament, even if it is less clear who is accountable for the resulting policy,” produced almost the same result (62% agreed) as “It should always be clear which party is accountable for decisions made by government, even if this means that decisions are only made by one party,” (53% agreed). The two questions are somewhat different ~ one can be read as asking parliamentarians to consider all opinions and, sometimes, add opposition good ideas to legislation while the other demands clear accountability, but It was not so much a survey, asking Canadians for their opinions, as it was an exercise aimed at manufacturing consensus. It was dishonest and it backfired.

What now?

The National Post says that “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to make the 2015 election the last held under the current first-past-the-post electoral system, although he has since shown signs of backing away from that commitment.” Does he just let it slide, another broken promise that, he might hope, no one will notice as his government promises_promises_revival_logo-1and, indeed, the country at large try to adapt to President Donald Trump? Or does he, without any popular justification, try to impose a new electoral system which Canadians, demonstrably, do not want?

Rock, meet had place.

This whole notion of electoral reform based on proportional representation as advocated by groups like Fair Vote Canada is strategic for some parties, like the NDP, because it would alter, quite fundamentally, how and why we vote every few years, but for the federal Liberals it was, in 2015, just tactical: a way to win one battle.

Some Liberals, I am told by sources that I consider totally reliable, oppose any change because they fear that the first victim of even relatively minor change towards, say, ranked ballots, might be the Liberal Party of Canada itself. Those Liberals understand that any change away from our current First Past The Post (FPTP) system is likely to fracture the three major parties: but they fear that the biggest fracture will be between the fiscally conservative, so called Manley Liberals on the right of their party and the free spending Trudeau Liberals on the left. In fact some fear a three way split with some drifting to a more natural “home” with the NDP while other go to the CPC and the remainder split into two or even three new, small, weak parties.

It looks, to me, as though the Liberals‘ tactical promise worked but, since there was no strategic aim, the whole things is pointless. My guess is that this will fade away as other,  more pressing issues come to the fore.

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