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Message to Trudeau: #StickToThePlan

October 20, 2016

According to this article the Prime Minister had some words the other day in Montreal’s Le Devoir newspaper about how much support is now needed for different kinds of electoral reform. They weren’t the best words.

“Under the current system, (Canadians) now have a government they’re more satisfied with and the motivation to change the electoral system is less compelling”


“Less support and a small change could be acceptable. A bigger change would take greater support”

and then in parliament

“In the spring, the member opposite (Mulcair) was tremendously worried that we would use our majority to ram through changes to our electoral system and we worked with them to demonstrate the hard work that a committee could do, hearing all perspectives… Now, he’s changed his mind and he wants us to use our majority to ram through electoral change.”

Oh gosh.

There are a few things wrong with this entire line of discussion:

  1. It plays right into opposition arguments about Liberals changing their policies once they get in to power.
  2. Even worse, it plays to Conservative Party arguments that no change should be made without first going to a referendum. They are reading the mood of the country based on talking to people and polls. People will talk about it less right now because they are happy yes, but also because they assume it’s a done deal! Why rally in the streets when there is a minister travelling around doing town halls? There’s lots of support. And regardless, that’s your mandate! You were elected partially to fix our voting system. Stick to the plan. Don’t use the fact people aren’t protesting in the street to weaken the change. The Conservatives will use this window to argue that what is really needed is a referendum. Referenda are traditionally very very biased towards the status quo because it is easier to scare people to say no than to take a change and say yes to a particular policy. No change is perfect so it’s easy to come up with arguments against one, implicitly assuming the current system isn’t that bad. But in this case the status quo is that bad.
  3. It insults all the citizens who’s votes were wasted in the last election: Urban conservatives, rural Liberals, NDP voters, Green Voters. Just because the current system sometimes gives us parties that are good at governing doesn’t mean it’s working. The makeup of parliament should not be what it is today given the way people voted. 39% of the country supported the Liberals, they would likely still be in government under a better voting system. But they’d have a much stronger opposition and possibly be in a coalition with the NDP or the Greens. Even more likely, there would be a completely different party makeup once a few elections of effective voting allow people to create parties that truly match their beliefs.
  4. We’re. Not. Going. To. Take. It. The Liberals should be wary of underestimating how much the promise to change the voting system was part of their win. Most people in this country aren’t voting system nerds like me. The don’t really care about ranked ballot vs proportional or whatever. But they do have widespread, legitimate worries about politicians rigging the system in their favour, corruption, and business and usual power grabs. Whatever else the Liberals did and Trudeau appealed to in the last election, one thing you could always point to was that this was a party, and a leader, willing to promise in a concrete way to get change one of the structures in our democracy that benefits them. Sure the current voting system sometimes benefits the Conservatives greatly, but often it benefits the Liberals. Most importantly though, the current system has never, ever, benefited any other party in a structural way. The NDP and Bloc had to build incredible social movements just to be recognized in Parliament and the tiniest misstep has been enough historically to keep the NDP out of power against the two favoured, traditional parties. Don’t get me started on the amount of work the Greens have had to put in for their single seat when they should right have over a dozen.


Prime Minister Trudeau : #StickToThePlan #ERRE #DemReform


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