Fortunately, despite skepticism by many, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that electoral reform is still on the table. When Trudeau was elected just over a year ago, his promise that 2015 was the last election to be fought under the “first past the post” system. Since that time the passage of Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the United States have made it even more important that electoral reform go ahead.
White supremacy is on the rise throughout the western world. Anti-immigrant sentiment, a backlash against women’s rights, a backlash against LGBT people, Islamophobia is on the rise. The victories of Trump and Brexit were both followed by waves of violent attacks against women and people of colour. Everything possible must be done to ensure that Canada remains a safe harbour for people from around the world who are ready to leave their past conflicts and hostilities behind and live peacefully in a multi-cultural country.
No one can control how people choose to vote but one thing we can do, to protect Canada and Canadians is to make sure that no government can have majority power without a majority of the votes. Not only will this new reality help to hold back the forces of hate, but it will help to dispel some of the cynicism which has allowed hate groups to flourish.
It will make majority governments a rare thing and by doing so force governing parties to cooperate on legislation. This, in turn, should lead to laws with broader popular support even if it does also mean more frequent elections.
In 2015 the Liberals received 39.5% of the vote, which gave them 54% of the seats. Under a PR system the Liberals would have to reach out either to the NDP (19.7% in the last election) or to the Conservatives (31.9%) to get legislation passed. While that would, no doubt, mean difficult compromises it would also create laws that had the support of either 59.2% or 71.4% of the people’s representatives. Who knows, this new spirit of forced cooperation could even lead to a more civil parliament.
The Trudeau government was elected based on a multitude of promises but electoral reform was at or near the top of the list. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, no matter how much of a compromise may be required it is one of the things that must be done in order for this government to be considered successful.
I am personally, as I suspect Trudeau is, more fond of ranked ballots than proportional representation. However, I believe that some form of proportional representation has stronger support and some form of reform must happen. If it takes a referendum then so be it but the government and its ministers should put their full weight and full throated support behind the ‘yes’ side. The government would also be wise to be ready to compromise so that opposition parties will support the referendum as well. Finally, one way or another it must happen prior to the next election in 2019 to hold back the forces of white nationalism which have gripped the US and UK.
Sunny ways are great. Canadians appreciate positivity, optimism and hope (as Jack Layton demonstrated before Mr. Trudeau) but Canadians also expect results and it is time to start delivering them. It is time to put partisanship aside for the good of the country and end the first past the post system.