OTTAWA — The Conservatives' former national campaign director is helping to spearhead a push to bring proportional representation to Canada — despite his own party's apparent aversion to changing the current first-past-the-post electoral system.
Guy Giorno acknowledged that some Conservatives fear proportional representation would disadvantage their party and that it would be crazy to support it.
But he said it doesn't really matter whether it's good or bad for parties or politicians.
"The blunt answer is that I and other individuals and organizations are supporting this because it's right for Canadians, not because it favours or disfavours particular politicians," Giorno said in an interview.
Guy Giorno, a former campaign director for the Conservatives, says he's in favour of proportional representation. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
"What other argument is there? Why would one object to making our elections fairer, more democratic, more representative just because they don't work for the politicians?"
While such a dramatic change in the electoral system would require the Conservatives and other parties to adjust their strategies and modes of campaigning, Giorno predicted they'd all eventually adapt.
Giorno, who also served as chief of staff to former prime minister Stephen Harper, said he's been a longtime advocate of PR. And he is now a member of a new, multi-partisan group that is launching Thursday to push for PR, in which a party's share of the seats in the House of Commons would reflect its share of the popular vote.
The Every Voter Counts Alliance includes former Privy Council clerk Alex Himelfarb and a wide range of groups from YWCA Canada to labour unions, the Canadian Federation of Students and Fair Vote Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised that last fall's federal election would be the last fought under first-past-the-post rules, in which the candidate with the most votes in a riding wins the seat.
"Why would one object to making our elections fairer, more democratic, more representative just because they don't work for the politicians?"
FPTP routinely results in what critics call "false majorities," in which a party wins more than 50 per cent of Commons seats with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote. Critics say it also encourages hyper-partisanship and exaggerates regional tensions, rewarding small parties whose support is concentrated in one province or region while under-representing parties whose support is more thinly spread across the country.
Giorno said PR would require "more co-operation, collegiality, working together" among MPs from different parties.
Trudeau has yet to create the all-party committee he promised would consult widely and recommend within 18 months an alternative to FPTP.
But the Conservatives have already been condemning him for plotting to impose a new electoral system that would benefit the Liberals. And they've been demanding that Trudeau agree to hold a national referendum on whatever new system is recommended — a route that has killed electoral reform initiatives in three provinces.
Giorno said the alliance believes there must be "proper consultation" with Canadians but not such that it prevents reform in time for the next election in 2019.
"If the proposal for a referendum is designed to delay things beyond the next election, then that's not acceptable ... Is that the only way to consult? I don't think it is."