Friday, October 21, 2016

The Pollcast: Has the Liberal government given up on electoral reform?

Has Justin Trudeau given up on electoral reform?

In a recent interview, the prime minister explained that the appetite for electoral reform has diminished now that his government has replaced Stephen Harper's. Some have seen this as an admission that the Liberals have lost interest in changing the way Canadians vote now that the system has put the Liberals in power.

But others see Trudeau as laying down the gauntlet to the opposition parties that are in favour of electoral reform: find consensus or it won't happen.

So where do things stand on the electoral reform issue? Can it still happen? And if the government is backing out, why did it start this process in the first place?

Joining me to discuss the issue are the CBC's Aaron Wherry and Kady O'Malley of the Ottawa Citizen.

You can listen to the podcast heresubscribe to future episodes here, and listen to past episodes here.


  1. People are reading too much into the comment, I think. I feel that what he is saying is that before the election, there was a strong feeling of "we need a fair electoral system in order to keep the Tories from winning with less than 40% of the vote", and that now that they are gone, the sense of panic has eased off a bit. He may actually be right about this, and that may make it harder to get support for a new system just on the basis of it being new.

    1. "we need a fair electoral system we need a fair electoral system in order to keep the Tories from winning with less than 40% of the vote".

      This comment demonstrate the true authoritarian nature of the Liberal Party. It is essentially asking for an electoral system with a built in bias favouring Liberals. Is this what Liberals want a rigged system that keeps them in power forever? I thought that's called a dictatorship? Any Liberal who is a democrat (if any exist among the Liberal Party) wants an electoral system where all parties can win fairly. Unlike Liberals who favour tricks to remain in office whether it be through illegal funds from the sponsorship scandal or changing the electoral system to create a gerrymandered system favourable to them.

  2. The problem is under any reform a large number of backbenchers either lose their seats or are in a fight. The consultation process is not going well-Did a single M.P. have a constituency consultation? I know my M.P., Joyce Murray, promised to hold an open house on the subject in the Summer, I asked to be put on the e-mail list for updates; I have heard nothing and it does not appear the planned consultation in Vancouver Quadra is going ahead.

    We have a constitution in this country brought in against the wishes of Quebec by the current P.M.'s father. Perhaps, it is time to recognise the failures of the 1982 document and start proper constitutional negotiations? Justin's manouevers are a backhanded compliment toward his father's magnum opus. If the son can not reform the constitution legally, as set out in the Constitution Act, 1982 then the validity of that document and the legacy of his father are both in question.

    I don't buy the argument that unanimity among the opposition parties will "save" electoral reform. The Conservatives want FPTP while the other three parties in favour of PR in some form. The Tories must also have a referendum which the BQ, NDP and Greens oppose. I don't see any room for agreement but, of course stranger things have happened.

    1. TGOPME,

      Thank you for your comments. Éric and myself are both Quebecers. I'm of the nationalistic variety -- rare among anglophones. I no more support the CA 1982 than most Bavarians support their constitution, which was also imposed upon them.

      It's my view that constitutional slumber has done well by English Canada but to think that the situation will not eventually bite them in the ass is beyond foolish. It's not a question of if, but merely a matter of when. Eventually, the stars will align for the sovereignists and then we can all start sweating again just like we did in 1995, thanks to Chrétien.

  3. A couple points to keep in mind:

    Liberal grass roots and MPs both worked very hard to get the ERRE policy passed at our convention in 2014. There's definitely an appetite for reform within the LPC, even if it is not universal. Heck, Sheila Gervais, the former executive director of the LPC, even wrote her master's thesis on how PR is *the* key to electing more women, and Dion even proposed his own system of proportional representation.

    Half of Trudeau's cabinet also have endorsed PR, many during the campaign itself. So there's a lot of Liberals who have put their reputation behind this as well, not just Trudeau.

    1. Actions speak louder than words and even the words are becoming less defined. Where before phrases such as; "last election with first past the post" have changed; "act on the unanimous recommendations of the special committee on electoral reform". I imagine within the Liberal Party many are in favour of electoral reform. The winebars of Yorkville probably over flow with conversation on electoral quotients. Liberals have found out that Canadians have little appetite for this quasi-constitutional reform and inherently understand that to do the job properly requires more than a Liberal majority Government. The cabinet understood it was a vote loser and maybe even an election loser and wisely if, perhaps self-serving, they've nixed the idea because frankly, it was going to cost them seats in the next election and gain them what?

    2. TGOPME,

      Either this government has principles or it doesn't. They need to find a way to keep their word. If they don't, that fact will spill over into any number of other issues and corrosion will start to set in. A government that can't keep its word is a government that's done for, and probably a lot quicker than we Liberals might think. Drip, drip, drip...

    3. Has any government, ever, anywhere, "kept its word"? The whole premise of campaign promises is itself a bit silly and almost guaranteed to be broken. Nobel Prize-winning economists can't predict GDP growth 6 months from now, so why would any political party be able to predict the best policies 4 years in advance?
      I'm disappointed at the lack of voter reform, but not surprised at all, as it's an issue that only a few political nerds like me care about.

    4. Liberals have principles? Hahahaha. They are known for specifically rejecting the concept: best summed up by the late Rt.Hon. W.L.M.K.'s "conscription if necessary but, not necessarily conscription".

      This Government can't keep its word because it promised conflicting priorities eg. infrastructure spending to off-set a predicted recession v. deficits of 10 billion or less then a balanced budget for 2019.

      Many more refugees and a more prominent Canadian diplomatic, military and international presence and commitments v. a balanced budget by 2019.

      A more amicable relationship with the provinces v. a balanced budget by 2019.

      Obviously not all of these promises are mutually exclusive but, they set themselves up to break their word since they promised too much at the outset and had unrealistic plans to achieve them. Just like Mackenzie King who promised "homes for heros" (including to my grandfather) who fought in the Great War then reneged when his Bay Street buddies convinced him their profit margins couldn't afford to pay more tax. The returning soldiers never saw the homes they were promised and many spent the rest of their lives in poverty and illness struggling with the psychological and physical cost of the War. That is the true Liberal record: Say anything to get elected then cozy up to the bankers once in office.

    5. Oh please! All political parties are known to pivot after an election based on changing conditions and actual ability to deliver. If you look at the 2012 review of the CPC from their 2011 platform: they'd promised Senate reform (set term limits and elections); a national securities regulator; CETA signed in 2012; Canada-India FTA for 2013; etc. Harper's fiscal conservative plan was $55.3B deficit over 4 years, and his only budget surplus in 10 years came from an asset sale. Harper repeatedly suggested he'd "Stand up for Canada" by "Treat[ing] Canada’s veterans with the respect and honour that they deserve". Ask any veteran or active personnel how well they feel honoured and respected. After Veterans Affairs Canada satisfaction survey fell from 80% in 2007 to 68% in 2010 they stopped asking. I guess that's us assuming that the CPC meant veterans deserve respect and honour, and also adequate funding, not cuts front line staff or office to deal with their problems.

    6. Wow, I've had an interest in politics for more than 30 years but I've never before heard from anyone with an active grudge against Mackenzie King who felt that it tarnished the contemporary Liberal Party. It will make me feel better about trash-talking the Ottawa Senators for choking in the 1924 playoffs.

    7. I don't have a grudge against Mackenzie King. I'm simply pointing out Liberals have been breaking campaign promises for a century or more and based on their track record, no one should think they feel much obligation to complete their current round of campaign promises, obligations or commitments whether it be electoral reform, environmental stewardship or improving the lot of the middle class. If it suits them they will but if not, they will simply be silently moved from the agenda as "last campaign with first past the post" transmogrified into follow the unanimous "recommendations of the special committee on electoral reform".

      Why you infer I have a grudge toward King is beyond me. You have infered something that simply is not present in my original comment.

      I can infer from your comments that you are so blatantly partisan LIberal that you would vote for them even if their actions were illegal or unethical. Your defence of the long dead prime ministers shows your sychophantic traits. You clearly, have little sense of fairness.

  4. It's amazing how much more attractive FPTP looks when you get elected under that system. It's a great system for parties in power because they don't have to share power and they only have to please the sectors of the population that win them seats rather than the population as a whole.

    Its unfair, unrepresentative qualities seem to not be so important when you benefit from those qualities.


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