Liberals have succeeded at sparking conversation on electoral reform with a new online survey, but it’s likely not the kind of chatter they were anticipating.
The government’s just-launched website, MyDemocracy.ca, was criticized by opposition parties in the House of Commons Monday and mocked online.
The site asks Canadians to answer more than 30 questions on the “values” and “preferences” they want reflected in their voting system, such as if they agree or disagree that “a ballot should be easy to understand, even if it means voters have fewer options to express their preferences.”
But both New Democrats and Conservatives who served on the all-party electoral reform committee suggested the Vox Pop Labs survey can’t be taken seriously because it doesn’t ask about specific voting systems or whether Canadians feel a referendum is needed before things can change.
“The first rule of engagement the Liberals should learn is not to treat Canadians like they’re stupid,” Nathan Cullen, NDP critic for democratic reform, said in question period.
Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef speaks in the House of Commons on Dec. 5 , 2016. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/CP)
Cullen noted that Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef blasted the committee’s report last week because it wasn’t “specific enough” for her. The report called for a proportional system and a referendum to gauge the interest of Canadians.
“Yet today we see a pop-psych survey from this minister and there’s no mention of electoral systems whatsoever,” Cullen said.
The veteran MP wondered why Monsef won’t ask the “obvious questions,” if she truly wants clear answers.
"The first rule of engagement the Liberals should learn is not to treat Canadians like they’re stupid"
— NDP MP Nathan Cullen
Monsef responded that research has shown that a “values-based approach” is the best way to have an inclusive discussion about electoral reform.
“Should there be more diversity in this House? Should there be smaller parties representing a diverse range of voices or should we have larger parties representing a broad set of perspectives? Should voting be mandatory and online? These are the questions we’re asking,” she said.
Tory critic Scott Reid said the survey doesn’t feel values-based, at all.
“It feels like being on a dating website designed by Fidel Castro. No matter how hard you try to be against the prime minister’s preferred electoral system, the survey tells you that you really do support it,” Reid said. “It’s like magic.”
"It feels like being on a dating website designed by Fidel Castro."
— Tory MP Scott Reid
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has in the past expressed a personal preference for a ranked ballot system of voting. Tories and New Democrats have accused Liberals of only wanting electoral reform to usher in Trudeau’s favourite system.
Reid noted that the questionnaire does not ask Canadians if they want a referendum.
“I wonder why that might be. Would it be because the Liberals don’t want to know the answer to that particular question?” he asked.
But the digs from Cullen and Reid paled in comparison to what was happening on Twitter Monday afternoon with the hashtag: #RejectedERQs.
Users suggested absurd or simplistic questions Liberals could have asked instead, in order to set the stage for bringing in ranked ballots or abandoning their campaign pledge to move beyond the first-past-the-post system in time for the next election.
Here are some of the more popular tweets:
"Do you think the seat count in the HoC should reflect the nationwide popular vote, even if it unleashes deadly plague?" #rejectedERQs
— Chris Selley (@cselley) December 5, 2016
"On a scale of 1 to North Korea, how do you feel about scrapping democracy all together?" #rejectedERQs
— Ashley (@effyes) December 5, 2016
Would you prefer the Liberals just admit they lied or dick you around with a nonsensical survey and pretend they care ? #rejectedERQs
— Carter Apps (@_capps) December 5, 2016
Do prefer ballots you can read and understand or those written in 6th century Aramaic? #rejectedERQs
— Riccardo Filippone (@Riccardo_____) December 5, 2016
How many strawmen will it take for you to forget we didn't ask if votes should equal seats? #rejectedERQs
— Angella MacEwen (@AMacEwen) December 5, 2016
"Do you prefer questions with a low degree of vagueness, or those that aren't unclear?" #rejectedERQs
— Josh Elliott (@joshelliott14) December 5, 2016
Would you prefer a slightly more complex ballot that meant a more representative government, even though it's covered in bees? #rejectedERQs
— SteveJMoran (@SteveJMoran) December 5, 2016
Do you think a majority government should follow through on its flagship promise OR pretend it never happened. #rejectedERQs
— YOWtopia (@yowtopia) December 5, 2016
— Tom Kott (@TomKott) December 5, 2016
Should political parties be represented by emojis because voters are dumb?
Liberals = 😁
Conservatives = 😒
NDP = 😢
Green = 🦄#rejectedERQs
— Brandon Tozzo (@BrandonTozzo) December 5, 2016
“Would you like LITERALLY HITLER to govern for all eternity, or would you like things to stay more or less as they are?” #rejectedERQs
— Andrew Coyne (@acoyne) December 5, 2016