POLITICS

Elizabeth May On Electoral Reform: PM Threw 'Young Women Cabinet Ministers Under The Bus'

02/01/2017 06:40 EST | Updated 02/02/2017 08:51 EST

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May feels “betrayed” by the government’s decision to abandon its electoral reform promise, and has criticized the prime minister for throwing “two young women cabinet ministers under the bus” in the process.

The Saanich-Gulf Islands MP made the comments to reporters in the House of Commons foyer Wednesday, shortly after Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould confirmed the Liberals will break one of their marquee election pledges.

“I have to say as a woman leader of a federal political party in this country, I am deeply ashamed that our feminist prime minister threw two young women cabinet ministers under the bus on a key election promise, that he left them twisting in the wind and not fulfilling,” she said.

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Karina Gould (right) replaced Maryam Monsef as democratic institutions minister in January. (Photo: Reuters/The Canadian Press)

May referenced Gould, who replaced Maryam Monsef as democratic institutions minister after a January cabinet shuffle. Monsef was moved to Status of Women. Both are rookie MPs.

A member of the special committee on electoral reform tasked to study alternate voting systems to replace the current first-past-the-post system, May said her disappointment over the Liberal decision eclipses what she felt after Canada pulled out of the Kyoto protocol in 2011.

“I always knew Stephen Harper didn’t like Kyoto. I always knew Stephen Harper would do everything possible to destroy climate action. I never for one moment expected anything but the worst for the environment,” she said.

“That’s why I left the Sierra Club and ran for leader of the Green Party. It was never a betrayal when Stephen Harper did the very worst thing. But when you believe in someone and they let you down. That’s much harder.”

‘We are in a time of dangerous politics’

She touched on the possible repercussions the decision would have on young people — particularly the election canvassers who got out the vote in 2015, repeating the Liberal pledge that the election would be the last under first-past-the-post.

“And with Le Pen and Trump, you look around the world,” she said. “We are in a time of dangerous politics. You must never do anything as a politician who understands what’s at stake, you must never do anything that feeds cynicism.

“Cynicism has enough to feed itself.”

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Elizabeth May speaks to reporters in the House of Commons foyer on Feb. 1. (Photo: Catherine Levesque/HuffPost Quebec)

Katelynn Northam, Leadnow’s electoral reform campaign lead, says the advocacy group is “profoundly disappointed and shocked” by the Liberal announcement. The group builds campaigns for ways for people to “participate effectively in our democracy,” according to its website.

Tens of thousands of people showed up across the country at town hall events hosted on the topic of electoral reform last year. After the consultation process wrapped, a special committee tabled a report in December noting a majority of Canadians are in favour of a proportional representation.

“We believe that there was a way forward on this issue, and the government chose not to take it.”
—Katelynn Northam, Leadnow

Leadnow isn’t convinced by the government’s claim that there’s no national consensus on how to move ahead with electoral reform.

“The all-party committee also recommended it. We believe that there was a way forward on this issue, and the government chose not to take it,” Northam said in an email to The Huffington Post Canada.

Trudeau responds

May stood in question period and pressed the Liberals on why they failed to be clear about an apparent caveat that a national consensus was needed for them to make good on a key election promise.

She mentioned how the promise was repeated in the Speech from the Throne, and reiterated to the special committee on electoral reform as its goal.


Trudeau responded by repeating much of the same language Gould used with reporters earlier: that there’s no national consensus on the topic of transforming the country’s electoral system, and that referendum on the issue would not be appropriate.

“Quite frankly, a divisive referendum at this time, an augmentation of extremist voices in the House, is not what is in the best interest of Canada,” he said.

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