Thursday, February 02, 2017

What Electoral Reform?


Justin Trudeau's newly minted Minister of Democratic Institutions has received her mandate letter. In part, it reads:

There has been tremendous work by the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform, outreach by Members of Parliament by all parties, and engagement of 360,000 individuals in Canada through mydemocracy.ca … A clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged. Furthermore, without a clear preference or a clear question, a referendum would not be in Canada’s interest. Changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate.

I don't often agree with Tasha Kheiriddin. But in this case, she's got it right:

Rather than deliver the goods, Trudeau backed down when it was clear that electoral reform had been hopelessly mismanaged, would likely require a referendum, and would not benefit the Liberals in any case.

Instead, Trudeau has changed the channel and maintains that -- after Russian interference in the American election -- we should focus on electoral cyber security. It's a Trumpian distraction.

I am -- to put it mildly -- gravely disappointed.

Image: Pinterest


23 comments:

Rural said...

I dont think it stood much of a chance right from the beginning Owen. The Cons insistence for a referendum derailed the whole thing, what question would they have the Libs ask without a preferred system identified?

Owen Gray said...

Given the recent success of referendums, Rural, I can understand why the Liberals didn't want to go there. Still, I would have liked them to institute the preferential ballot -- at least provisionally.

Owen Gray said...

I'll publish your comment, Anon, if you initial it.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

"A clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged."
He doesn't even take responsibility for his decision Owen.It really is Canadians who don't want electoral reform according to Trudeau.

His maintaining that Russia interfered in the American election is also disturbing. There is no and never has been evidence to support this claim. The fact that Trudeau is mouthing this propaganda reinforces for me his complete subservience to the US and I think this subservience, particularly with Trump as president,puts Canada in a very vulnerable position.

I agree with Tasha. I think she got Trudeaus number on this issue.

Owen Gray said...

Kheiriddin is right, Pam. The Trudeau government has completely mishandled the issue.

The Mound of Sound said...


There's a pattern here, Owen. Trudeau's solemn promises are meaningless. He manipulated Canadian voters and he did it shamelessly. He did it to us on pipelines and supertankers. He did it to all of Canada on climate change and the environment. He did it again on electoral reform.

He started with such great promise and promptly let the air out. Like any true neoliberal, he's a technocrat not a national leader. In so many ways he's just a continuation of the last guy.

Owen Gray said...

It's deeply disappointing, Mound. I had hoped that a new generation would bring in new ideas.

Toby said...

Nathan Cullen has started a petition over here:

https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-616

The Libs will probably do their best to ignore it but it doesn't hurt to make them squirm.

Owen Gray said...

This is a broken promise which the Liberals will come to regret, Toby.

Anonymous said...

Owen, once the Liberals got a majority they had no intention of proceeding with electoral reform. Maryam Monsef was the sacrificial lamb who no doubt was instructed to find a way blow up the process. Although Kheiriddin is correct in her assessment in this case, it is primarily because she is a conservative. I will sign Nathan Cullen's petition today. RG

Owen Gray said...

I suspect you'll have a lot of company, RG.

zoombats in Hong Kong said...

As I posted earlier on another blog. I have notified my MP about my displeasure and I have no problem "wasting" my vote in "protest". Apathy on the parts of our politicians gets the same in return. I no longer care.

Owen Gray said...

That's what they're counting on, zoombats.

Steve said...

I join the dis inhearted. Why could he just not have gone with a runoff. Even Americans can handle it.

Owen Gray said...

It was do-able, Steve.

Scotian said...

I do not disagree with much of what is written here, but I think we may all be surprised to see how little this matters in three years, especially if Trudeau is able to stave off the worst effects of Trumps Amerika. I think being able to hold the line against Trump especially on social issues may become the standard by which his government is measured, or at least as powerful as one as any other, including the economy. I think the presence of Trump and his GOP enablers has upended any and all political calculations both international and domestic for Canada thanks to our proximity and close ties.

I am also not so sure electoral reform was as burning a hot issue in the post Harperium for most voters, even those that voted Lib, mainly because I have not seen much signs of public engagement on this issue, and I for one am not comfortable with any changes, let alone profound ones being made without significant public involvement/buy-in at the outset. This is the rock where the ship of electoral reform always seem to get beached at the end. I've been watching this dance for too many decades now to be at all surprised, and frankly this was about what I figured would happen.

I would have been fine with Trudeau using his majority to impose the ranked ballot approach, since it would remove the up the middle problem with FPTP but aside from that make little change, and therefore would be easily implemented, understood, and if decided afterwards, easily removable too. He chose not to, for whatever reason(s), and that is his call. I'd be a bit more irked were it not that with the rise of Trump and the inevitable instability that is going to bring to us all that perhaps changing our fundamental voting structures might not be well served in such a climate.

Do I think Trudeau wears/owns this down the road? Yes. Do I agree it will be as powerful a drag/stench as many are currently expecting it to be? Not so sold on at this point. I agree it could be, but prior history under normal political circumstances does not make me think so, and now that we live in the Age of Trump, well normal left the building by that point.

And to be perfectly honest, if I had to choose between Trudeau, Mulcair, or Harper dealing with the realities of President Trump and his GOP backup band in Congress, I would take Trudeau in a heartbeat. Harper obviously why not, but Mulcair too I would not trust to be able to exercise prudent judgment instead of showboating, as he has proven he has an unfortunate tendency for, especially when he thinks it might score him political points. With someone as unstable as Trump and given the way he has been talking about Trump to date, well that just makes me happier and happier Trudeau was smart and wise enough pre-election to not follow Mulcair's lead, because that could have had some fairly profound negative consequences for us/Canada from President "counter-puncher".

Owen Gray said...

I would have preferred that Trudeau implement the ranked ballot on a provisional basis, Scotian. Not keeping his promise will cost him. But I do agree with you that the real storm Trudeau faces is Trump. Trudeau will be tested. And if he promises to stand up to Trump, he can't afford -- for the good of the country -- to break his promise.

Scotian said...

It depends on how he stands up and where I think. There are going to be aspects we are simply too powerless to do much, where Trudeau may be forced to give ground, but on areas where we have our own sovereignty control over I agree, he had best follow through on any such promise. The problem is where the fulcrum/balancing point is going to end up, Trump is so erratic so unpredictable, and so volatile by his very nature that until one has seen how he acts with real governing power for a few months one simply cannot project anything reliably, at least in my view. So that makes Trudeau's dance master role here exceedingly important in my eyes, and I suspect for many that might otherwise have been more concerned with promises and domestic agenda issues with Trudeau that will be the true promise decider, much more than electoral reform.

Owen Gray said...

Trudeau would be wise not to get too close to Trump, Scotian. Trump lives in his own reality. But reality will eventually catch up with Trump and get even.

Scotian said...

Do not misunderstand me Owen, I see Trump as the greatest threat to global stability since the 1930s. I see the inherent risks and dangers this walking id who makes severe ADHD look slothful and controlled combined with active stupidity that has gotten away with it all his life because of his born in privilege advantages. I do not see Trudeau being any less aware of this, and whatever proximity he takes will be because he sees no other choice for the welfare of the nation, because on a personal level I would be hard pressed to create someone more antagonistic to Trudeau core personal values than Donald J Trump. I'd say on the political level as well, but that would mean believing Trump has a stable enough political level/perspective beyond his own self-gratification, and of that I have never been convinced over the decades of watching this foolish person.

Which is why I agree, reality will catch up with him, my concern is with how much of the rest of the world/reality is going to be caught up with him when it happens, and how bad that collateral damage will perforce be because of the position he know holds, and the inevitable ripples that come from anything that happens from that powerful a power nexus.

Owen Gray said...

In some ways, Scotian, Trudeau has the same problem Franklin Roosevelt had with Joseph Stalin. Roosevelt had to deal with him. But he had to be absolutely clear eyed when he made judgements and arrangements about and with the man.

Owen Gray said...

Comment By Scotian:

Roosevelt though had a somewhat inherent better power hand/position to work from than Trudeau, but aside from that, can't really disagree beyond the fine nit-picking/hairsplitting level. The problem for we the Canadian people is how to tell when Trudeau is being craven, and when he is being wise in not triggering something. With an ordinary extremist down south that made it to the Presidency, I would be a little less cautious than I am currently advocating for the near future. The problem is Trump is truly something beyond experience in close to a century now and the tools at hand nowadays for anyone in his current shoes is something that makes my skin scrawl when I let myself think in detail about that.

We need to be careful about what we start with Trump too at the very beginning, anyone as cavalier as he has been about nukes in both use and proliferation, and not just from the campaign but all his life, is someone to be especially cautious of as long as possible without giving up too much of ourselves in the process. Not an easy line to define even for the individual, let alone any sitting PM. I am more worried now for the future than I ever was growing up in Halifax throughout the Cold War. That is how much Trump's instability combined with his closest associates combined with his intellectual vapidness and shallowness terrifies me, because the ripples I can see these dynamics casting out in terms of intensity and capacity are just that bad.

Oh I just want to make something clear. My concern with the nuclear instability I raised isn't that he would use them on us or anything like that, but what it shows about the wider pattern of Trump's innate instability and how far and deep it reaches within the man. If he is that bad with nukes, can one really afford to make anything other than worst case assumptions until evidence/track record in office shows otherwise.

Owen Gray said...

Your concern about Trump's stability is paramount, Scotian. I believe the man is ill. And that complicates the relationship Trudeau will have to establish with him.