Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Pollcast: How electoral reform fell apart

During the last campaign and in the months that followed, the Liberals pledged that the 2015 election would be the last fought under the first-past-the-post electoral system.

That promise no longer stands. So what happened?

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

After more than a year of speculation, debate, committee hearings, town halls and an online survey that was roundly panned by critics, the Liberals decided to abandon their promise to change the way Canadians vote.

What was behind the decision to renege on that campaign promise? Did electoral reform ever stand a chance of succeeding?

To break it down one last time, I'm joined by the CBC's Aaron Wherry and the Ottawa Citizen's Kady O'Malley. 

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


  1. One thing everybody is ignoring is the "ruling" from Elections Canada that they needed a minimum of three years to implement a different system.

    But as of Jan 1 there were only two years till the next election. So that's the end !!

    1. On January 1, 2017 There would be two years and nine and one half months before the next election and three years nine months and two weeks before the end of the Parliament.

      Unfortunately, Peter your mea culpa on behalf of the Liberal Party is unconvincing. The Liberals lied in an attempt to "steal" Liberal and Green votes. Justin Trudeau never intended to implement electoral reform unless he could ensure the new system was his preferred option (the one most beneficial to the Liberal Party) Ranked Ballots.

      Justin has no problem accepting a one million dollar donation for the Trudeau foundation from a Chinese businessman with business matters before Cabinet, he has no problem doubling his promised deficit, he has no problem issuing single source contracts and tenders for more CF-18s. He just has a problem fulfilling his promises and telling the truth. He should resign for accepting an inappropriate cash donation from a Chinese billionaire on behalf of the Trudeau foundation, a gift meant to carry favour and ease the way for a nascent Chinese bank into Canada. At the very least we need an inquiry! Resign Justin!

    2. Thus speweth the Official Conservative Party line !!

    3. Thus speweth The Liberal apologist; Justin Trudeau: “There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties,”

      We need an investigation. Trudeau should resign pending the outcome.
      Fact: Liberals have used cash for access money to enrich the Liberal Party.
      Fact: Liberals have used cash for access money to enrich the Ontario Liberal Party.
      Appearance: Justin Trudeau accepted a one million dollar donation from an individual who had a proposal for a Chinese Bank to be allowed to operate in Canada before cabinet. Such was in violations of Justin Trudeau's supposed "core principles". His actions are totally indefensible, he should resign pending the outcome of an investigation. That is what leaders do-They take responsibility for their actions.

    4. Keep spewing Ken. You may find somebody who agrees.

    5. Dear Peter Meldrum,

      Your response appears to be an admission Trudeau's actions are indefensible. All you can do is insult-you are unable to defend Justin's actions on the basis of ethics or morals. If you are unable to defend Justin's action you agree and admit, Justin's actions are against his own stated "core principles" and go against what he promised and what is expected of someone in high office. Just the other day Le Petit Trudeau admitted his electoral reform promise if acted upon would have endangered national unity.

      The problem is the recurring pattern of it all-his poor judgement. Now he insults Indigenous people. He is out of touch, the son of privilege, he believes storing one's canoe outside is hardship (Justin doesn't remember to turn his upside down and can't understand why it fills with water when left outside)! Hence the problem most Chiefs are failing to hear and relay to Mr. Trudeau of the Square Mile, Montreal; the great paddle and canoe storage problem. For a prime minister who speaks of the relationship with Indigenous people as his "most important" his actions to solve the many deficits facing Indigenous people: Housing, education, employment, health, child welfare. All policy areas where the Federal Government holds responsibility are far from robust. They are insincere. Mr. Trudeau makes a borderline racist remark but, more troubling; is his idea as to what Indigenous youth really want, need or expect "a place to store their canoes and paddles...". Trudeau fails to understand the reasons Chiefs say; "You know, we need a youth centre … You know, we need TVs and lounges and sofas so they can hang around". Is because housing on-reserve is inadequate, sub-standard and in too many cases dangerous or uninhabitable!

      Justin's Government is not the first one to under fund on-reserve housing for First Nations. It is the latest. For a leader who made much of his commitment toward improving the lives of Aboriginal people and made much about holding himself and his Government to a higher account he is failing resoundingly. Mr. Trudeau's actions are unacceptable. He asked to be held to the highest standards. He has not met them.

      The reason why the cash-for access scandal is so important is because when our prime minister is engaged in $1500 dollar a plate fundraisers in Toronto with Chinese billionaires it takes time away from listening to Canadians and solving Canada's many social, economic, environmental problems. It creates the disconnect where Trudeau can easily disregard the counsel of elected Chiefs.

      As the litany of Justin Trudeau's broken election promises testify this is very problematic perhaps even the reason his promises remain unfulfilled.

    6. Keep defending poor governance and untruths Peter and regurgitating the Liberal line. . You Liberals know how to do one thing well; helping out your Liberal friends and only your Liberal friends.

      Le Petit Trudeau has become an embarrassment. Just the other day he made a coded and quasi-racist reply advocating Indigenous Youth want (and presumably need) "a place to store their canoes and paddles so they can connect back out on the land". Justin can not fathom why Chiefs ask Ottawa for Youth Centres with "TVs and lounges and sofas so they can hang around". He does not understand, Indigenous youth need a place to "hang around" because of the sub-standard housing conditions on almost all Indians reserves. Justin's Government is not the first Government to under fund housing on-reserve, it is the latest! For a prime minister who claimed and made much of his relationship and his Government's relationship with Indigenous people as the "most important" it is a stunning climb down and betrayal.

      He promised 3 years of modest 10 billion dollar deficits, we now know the deficits will run into the 2050's!

      He promised electoral reform, then quit when he didn't get his preferred system. Latterly he admitted his idea of electoral reform "endangered national unity".

      He railed against the F-35 contract because it was not open sourced; Then, he ordered 18 CF-18s through a closed single sourced contract.

      He promised open and transparent Government, then was found to be accepting large sums of money on behalf of the Trudeau Foundation from a Chinese billionaire with business interest before cabinet!

      He did allow 35,000 Syrian refugees into Canada but, has promptly forgot about them.

      Through it all he was untruthful in explaining his actions to Canadians. If you wish to defend untruths and poor governance go ahead. History is clear: Liberals do not fulfill their promises-that is why Peter, you keep spouting the same old lie "Dolce et decorum est pro patria mori".

    7. Peter,

      Why do you defend untruths and poor governance? Why don't you defend Justin's actions? Or better yet Peter (whose vitriol toward Tim Hudak was over-the-top) defend Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne whose privatizatrion of Ontario Hydro turned what was once Canada's richest province into a have-not and has still managed to dramatically increase hydro bills for those who can least afford it! You voted for her Peter! Young Trudeau promises the same as Ms. Wynne; Justin's modest three years of deficits now have doubled extending at least until 2050-51!

      Instead of spewing the Liberal Party line Peter-you should take responsibility for your actions. You voted for Wynne and Trudeau-time to put your money where your mouth is and cover your portion of the Liberal deficits! Your portion for Justin's deficit this year is $840 and $330 for Wynne's; $1170 is surely a small amounts for a well connected Liberal such as yourself-Heck it's probably less than your Hydro One bill!

      Now, Justin embarrasses himself and insults his supposed "most important relationship" with Indigenous people by stating the boy from Westmount is more in touch with Indigenous youth than Chiefs and Councils. Justin is so out of touch he doesn't understand Indigenous youth need lounges with TVs, couches to hang around in at community youth centres because of the sub-standard housing on-reserve. Justin's Government is not the first to under fund First Nations on-reserve and Aboriginal housing, it is the latest! For a man who promised to do better he is woefully under-performing.

      Such mediocrity would be uneventful except, by Justin's own admission, his actions are turning dangerous. His proposal of electoral reform upon sober consideration lead Justin to the conclusion it must be scrapped as continuing would endanger national unity! It's his poor judgement Peter that is the problem.

      It is a very good thing demographics are not on the Liberals side-they are ruining Canada!

  2. In typical Canadian fashion, I'll apologise in advance in case this isn't the proper place for my comment :-) Why, after around just 50 comments and less than 24 hours after becoming live, were comments on the CBC website on this topic shut down? On the podcast itself, I was disappointed on a few fronts. Why was the consensus issue not more forcefully shot down as a red herring? Why was the case of the alt everything, seriously scary Donald Trump, who was able to be elected via FPTP even though he had millions of votes less than Clinton, not cited as being much more real and disturbing than some pseudo-fringe party under PR? Was it because of Canada's media's facile fascination with Trump that Trudeau dumped the promise now (along with the Quebec mosque shooting?). Why were 2 rookie ministers assigned the file? if there was ever any reason for the promise except to steal NDP and Green votes? (Yes, why don't you do a poll to see how large a phenomenon this was. And how many people, like me, only became interested in the Liberals and electoral reform, once it was part of the Liberal election campaign) Why did they use the "We Will Make Every Vote Count" if not to confuse the electorate since it is only with PR that one can do that? Thanks for doing the podcast! Email macdons2_ gmail_ com PS I like the Baden-Württemberg MMP too ;-)

    1. Comments have to be moderated on the CBC website, and we have a limited moderation capacity so only a few stories are opened for comments at any one time and then only for a limited amount of time.

      People often seem to imagine some sort of conspiracy, but no, it is simple manpower issues.

      We've dealt with some of the things you bring up in previous episodes. And I think we dealt with the consensus and PR issues fairly — in the end, it is all a matter of opinion and debate. This is not a black or white issue.

  3. It was an insincere promise by an insincere Liberal leader. A cynical attempt to curry favour with voters. Another example of why one shouldn't trust Liberals.

    1. Kenneth,

      Yeah, just like that guy who prorogued twice to save his bacon rather than test his government's confidence with the Canadian people in an election. No wonder Conservatives aren't widely trusted...

    2. Ronald,

      What Dion and Layton proposed was not proper, it did not follow the precedents, rules or traditions of the Westminster system; it was unconstitutional. Layton and Dion, who did not understand the rules or processes of government formation, and importantly, as Ignatieff in his memoir makes clear, Dion didn't have the votes so, it was a completely constructed crisis. Layton and Dion could not have formed Government. Ironically the prorogation probably saved the Liberal party from an irrevocable split.

      The prime minister undoubtedly has the power to use the Royal Prerogative. He had won a confidence vote on the Speech from the Throne. Unfortunately, Layton and Dion were naive and acted inappropriately. They forgot a Government must first be defeated before a new one appointed and so their letter to the Governor General, was inappropriate and the advice provided within close to treasonous. As soon as the letter was foolishly made public by Layton the Crown could not act on it. In many ways Layton and Dion caused the prorogation Mr. Harper was merely reacting to staged events by two inexperienced and unlearned political leaders.

      Why are you defending poor governance and untruths? The prime minister as a drama teacher surely, has the ability to lie to Canadians but, he promised better. No wonder Liberals aren't widely trusted...

    3. Ronald O'Dowd,

      What Layton and Dion attempted was close to treason. Unfortunately, for a constitutional scholar and career politicain neither understood how government formation worked, the process itself. Mr. Harper won a confidence vote after the election on the reply to the Speech from The Throne, as such, until defeated on another motion, Mr. Harper had every right to advise the Crown on the use of the Royal Prerogatives.

      Why would Harper have gone into an election? He had just won re-election increasing the Conservative seat total six weeks prior. He had tested the Government's confidence with Canadians and won.

      Ironically, the prorogations saved the Liberal party. As Michael Ignatiev makes clear in his memoir the threat posed by Layton and Dion was a constructed constitutional crisis, the Liberal party was badly split and the NDP-Liberal-Bloc coalition did not have sufficient votes in the House of Commons to defeat the Government due to the large number of Liberals M.P.s who were prepared to defect rather than go into government with the Bloc Quebecois.

      No wonder Liberals aren't widely trusted...

    4. Was Harper equally insincere about Senate Reform (remember the Triple E pledge)? Every government makes compromises when it comes to how much they can reform the system. Anything requiring consensus is almost impossible to achieve in Canada.

    5. My goodness Liberals have short memories-it must be so they can sleep at night!

      Harper introduced at least four Bills on Senate reform only to have them blocked by Senate Liberals. He tried to introduce term limits, Senate elections via the provinces and did appoint elected senators from Alberta. Harper who became frustrated at the intransigence of the situation appealed to the Supreme Court whereupon the learned judges ruled that changes to the method of selection for senators must be done through the general amending procedure; S. 42(1)(b) of the Constitution Act, 1982.

      Unfortunately, the 1982 Constitution Act is so poorly written it is unable to be amended. Chretien and Trudeau share equal blame. Considering Quebec had not signed Chretien and Trudeau made the general amending procedure far too onerous for an incomplete document.

      Harper did not make a triple E Senate pledge when he was prime minister, he only ever promoted an elected Senate, a triple E Senate is not Conservative Party policy. So, there was never a triple E. pledge!

      What we do know is Justin Trudeau promised 2015 would be the last election under First Past The Post, then once he realised such action was "endangering national unity" withdrew the promise in a cynical attempt to skirt the obvious; Liberals only wanted electoral reform if it benefited the Liberal party.

    6. CPC 2004 Platform:
      “We will hold elections to fill vacancies in the Senate In a federal system like Canada, the interests of provinces and regions must be represented in the national Parliament. Every major federation in the world – except Canada – has an elected, regionally based upper chamber. We must demand better. It is unacceptable that Canada has reached the 21st century with one House of its Parliament still a patronage body. Despite promising Senate reform years ago, the Liberals still refuse to allow Canadians to elect their own Senators. Creating an elected parliamentary chamber independent of the Prime Minister is a critical step in ending the Liberal democratic deficit and can be done without any constitutional amendments.
      The Plan
      “A Conservative government led by Stephen Harper will appoint only elected Senators to the Senate. A Conservative government will also propose further reforms to make the Senate an independent and democratic body for all regions.”

      As we recall, Harper stood by the Elected Senator stance for 20 months (April 2007 to December 2008). Conservatives only wanted senate reform if it benefited the Conservative party.

      I call both moves pragmatic as they served to avoid wasting government resources (political capital, time, and real money) on a topic which ultimately would be spinning their wheels.

      BTW, I'm a Progressive Conservative, but the problem is that I no longer have a federal party. Harper's Conservative Party ended up being fiscally irresponsible and socially conservative. The outcome of this leadership contest will define the party in the post-Harper era. If it's not a CPC that I can get behind, then the best electable alternative is the LPC.

  4. First off,

    You are not a Progressive Conservative unless you have some how made progressive conservativism your religion. Calling yourself a Progressive Conservative is like someone from Toronto calling them self an Upper Canadian-it's archaic. Here's the thing; if you were never a member of either the Progressive Conservative Party or the Conservative Party of Canada you don't have any right to call yourself a Progressive Conservative because technically you never were one. Indeed since, you tacitly and explicitly support the Liberals: "If it's not a CPC that I can get behind, then the best electable alternative is the LPC". It is pretty obvious who you support.

    Secondly, Harper in 2004 called for an elected Senate. To write: "Conservatives only wanted senate (sic) reform if it benefited the Conservative party". Is just not true, at best it is speculative: Since, we do not know the system for election, what Senate seats would be up for election, the judgement of the Courts on this matter or have any accurate polling from 2004 on Canadians' Senate candidate preferences. An elected system may or may not have benefited the Tories.

    I am quite offended by your insulting writing. Please do not respond to my posts in future Mapleson.

    1. There are PCs in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, PEI, Manitoba, and Alberta, so it's not archaic, it's just not an option on the federal stage.

      I would be very happy with Peter MacKay leading the CPC in 2019, but that's unlikely to happen. I'm pragmatic and believe in moving my vote to whatever party best represents my own position, which falls under the tradition of Progressive Conservative (socially liberal, fiscally conservative).

      I've renewed my CPC membership in 2017 to vote in the leadership contest. I did vote for the LPC because I could no longer vote to keep Stephen Harper in power.

      If you don't want me to respond, I suggest you don't post in the future.


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