Domestic Politics

Electoral reform for Canada? The answer will shock you! 

Zachary Voth 

Ottawa, ON. 

February 2, 2017 

Angry Tom Mulcair is back. His reappearance on Wednesday was marked by supportive shouts from the New Democratic Party Caucus, and focused singularly on the abandonment of the Prime Minister's promise that the 2015 Federal Election would be the last to use First-Past-The-Post. This is to be expected. Changing the manner in which Members of Parliament are elected would dramatically improve the political fortunes of the NDP. Now that this is not to be, you can see in their faces that their hopes are dashed. The leader of the Green Party was similarly despondent.

These responses make sense, but this can't have caught anybody off guard. Sure, it was in the platform. The campaign. The Speech from the Throne. The letters to Ministers. Every answer to every question on the subject, both in Parliament and elsewhere. Whatever. Promises are one thing, but each aspect of this policy has been marred by problems and controversy.

First, the refusal to hold a referendum robbed the Liberals of potential multipartisan support for the process. Then the fight over whether the committee to address the issue should be proportional, or based on the apparently horrible results of the election we just had, further increased bad will. The restrictive and scripted consultations inspired a great deal of anger, fear, and for me, anxiety. The 'Buzzfeed' quiz, created by the poorly reviewed VoteCompass firm, was stupendously vague, and almost universally ridiculed. The former Minister of Democratic Reform attacked, and later apologized to, the committee her government created because it happened to disagree with her, as is its prerogative, if it sees fit.

And now, with a new Minister in charge, that particular campaign promise has gone the way of the 'having short-term deficits of less than $10 billion' promise. There was no consensus, as the Prime Minister stated, repeatedly, in Question Period on Wednesday, so it had to be abandoned. The Liberals will look into securing our elections from hackers instead. Whether this decision is the result of a conscious internal pivot, or just weary resignation, we way never know. Maybe someone send them a quiz about it?

I believe this is the best possible outcome, given all of the problems. Canadians must be confident that their electoral system does not favour one party over another. The process that was undertaken by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Democratic Institutions, thanks to its many problems, introduced doubt to that essential fact of democracy. No matter what the changes might have been, the enormous cracks in the long road to reform would have poisoned public confidence in our elections. Today, that crisis has been averted.

And my consultation anxiety is gone!

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