HASH(0xb4b300)

HASH(0xb4b300)

Trudeau abandons promise to change voting system in time for 2019 election

Liberals abandon electoral reform promise

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an unequivocal promise to change the way Canadians vote in federal elections. Then, after winning one, he abandoned it.

That was the narrative his political rivals were building Wednesday after Trudeau officially walked away from his oft-repeated commitment to get rid of the first-past-the-post voting system in time for the 2019 election.

Critics like the NDP’s Nathan Cullen characterized the about-face it as a cynical betrayal of trust, even if political observers had seen a climbdown coming from miles away in a portfolio that’s long been a sore spot for the Liberals.

Trudeau argued that making the right decision was better than sticking with what he has since been convinced was a bad one.

“The fact of the matter is I am not going to do something that is wrong for Canadians just to tick off a box on an electoral platform,” Trudeau said Wednesday during question period in the House of Commons.

“That is not the kind of prime minister I will be.”

In a mandate letter for newly appointed Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, Trudeau argued that consultations across the country have shown that Canadians are not clamouring for change in the way they choose their federal government.

“A clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged,” Trudeau writes in the letter released Wednesday, where he also rules out the possibility of a national referendum.

The reaction from the NDP, who accuse the Liberals of catering to their own supporters, only to back off when they realized there was no appetite for their preferred ranked-ballot option, was swift and savage.

Cullen, the NDP’s democratic reform critic, called Trudeau a “liar” and “the most cynical variety of politician, saying whatever it takes to get elected; then, once elected, seeking any excuse, however weak, however absent, to justify that lie to Canadians.”

Green party Leader Elizabeth May said many members of her party had urged people to vote strategically for the Liberals in hopes of seeing electoral reform come to pass.

“I feel more deeply shocked and betrayed by my government today than on any day of my adult life,” May said.

Canadians made their views known through the House of Commons special committee on electoral reform, town halls held by MPs from all parties, the travels of former minister Maryam Monsef and a much-maligned online survey called MyDemocracy.ca.

Said interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose: “Canadians should think twice about believing what Justin Trudeau says.”

In his letter, Trudeau said he did not believe those consultations have produced their desired — albeit never quantified â€” level of support for electoral reform, let alone any clarity on a preferred replacement.

That message has evolved over time.

At one point, the Liberals argued that their election win, as well as the votes cast for other parties that included electoral reform in their campaign platforms, should be considered sufficient grounds to proceed without a referendum.

“Over 60 per cent of Canadians ended up voting for parties that clearly stated their commitment to implementing a different way of voting,” Monsef said last July when she appeared before the electoral reform committee.

Last October, Trudeau suggested in an interview with the Quebec newspaper Le Devoir that Canadians might be less keen on electoral reform now that the Liberals had replaced the Conservatives.

Later, however, he doubled down on the original promise.

“I’ve heard loudly and clearly that Canadians want a better system of governance, a better system of choosing our governments, and I’m working very hard so that 2015 is indeed the last election under first-past-the-post,” Trudeau told the editorial board of the Toronto Star on Dec. 2.

There are also some big new items in the mandate letter.

Trudeau wants Gould, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to come up with ways to defend the Canadian political system against cyberthreats and hackers — a possible consequence of the “voter fraud” and hacked email controversies emanating from the raucous U.S. election.

That will include asking the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to assess the current risk and publish their results.

The letter also asks Gould to take the lead on developing legislation to bring stricter rules — and greater transparency — to political fundraising, a response to months of negative headlines about so-called cash-for-access Liberal fundraisers.

— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

National Lampoon creator Doug Kenney
Booknotes: The uproarious career of the ‘funniest man in the room’

Mike Selby discusses the life and times of National Lampoon creator Doug Kenny

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

Some of the folks behind Angel Flight East Kootenay: Todd Weselake is a director, partner and pilot while Brent Bidston is the president and lead pilot of the not-for-profit. Pictured here with their older plane, they hope to get an upgrade for thanks to RDEK funding. (Image courtesy of Angel Flight East Kootenay)
Angel Flight secures RDEK funding for next five years

$100,000 will go to the not-for-profit each year, with the funds to be used to acquire a larger plane

Ryan Bavin of Bavin Glassworks in Invermere. Photo: Submitted
Call for entries for Columbia Basin Culture Tour

Deadline for registration for artists and venues is April 15

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read