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Trudeau's Broken Electoral Reform Promise Betrays Father's Vision

04/07/2017 05:59 EDT | Updated 04/07/2017 05:59 EDT

Long before Justin Trudeau spoke about electoral reform (ER), another Trudeau tackled the issue.

It was in 1979 and that Trudeau was Pierre Elliot. In November 1979, during the nine months between his two tenures as prime minister of Canada, the elder Trudeau said he was "convinced Canada needs a system of proportional representation if the federal government is going to be able to identify itself with the whole country."

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The late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau at a political party rally, Montreal, Que. (Photo: Alain Le Garsmeur via Getty Images)

As you can see, the senior Trudeau did not vaguely address the topic of ER like our current PM has. He had a specific vision and explained it stressing on the importance of regional proportional representation for Canada's federal system. The model of ER the elder Trudeau supported was very much the same as the mixed member proportional system currently proposed by most advocates -- proportional representation.

After Justin Trudeau scrapped the whole idea of ER, it became clear that he was not interested in improving Canadian democracy, making "every vote count" or achieving a "fair" system that results in a Parliament the composition of which reflects voters' first choices. It became clear that our current PM wanted to reform the electoral system if and only if it would serve the Liberal Party. Thus, when it became clear that the preferential ballot model will not fly, he scrapped the whole thing.


The difference between the visions of the two Trudeaus is clear. One was based on how to make the federal system more robust and more representative, while the other was based on self (party) interest.

It is time that we see ER for what it is. It is not a luxury or an intellectual exercise. It is a need for a country where absolute power can be in the hands of a party that has the confidence of only 35 per cent of the voters. When you look at it like this, you realize it is not democracy -- where the power is in the hands of the people.

Canada cannot and should not be left behind under an undemocratic and flawed system.

In our current situation, Justin Trudeau can make decisions while he and his party were NOT the choice of over 60 per cent of Canadians who cast their ballots in October 2015. This is simply wrong, and fixing it should NOT be an optional choice of a party or a PM.

Especially when that PM promised on the campaign trail to "make every vote count."

The debate on ER must continue and the Canadian electoral system must be reformed into a system that represents the will of the population. When the first past the post (FPP) model was adopted in the U.K. and inherited by Canada, the world was a different place.

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Justin Trudeau arrives at a campaign rally in Calgary, Alta., Oct/ 18, 2015. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)

At the time, it was a huge step forward to give male property owners the power to choose their representatives in Parliament, and for the representative with the most support to be given power over the country's direction. It was a huge step forward from the absolute rule of the monarch. But democracy continued to evolve and many other steps followed. The right to vote was extended to other men, then to all men, and then to women -- who would eventually be allowed to run for office as well.

The obvious next step is proportional representation. There is no need or justification to limit the influence of a voter in their riding. I am not saying that there be no local MPs who are connected and accountable to their constituency. This can be safeguarded while at the same time the composition of the Parliament as a whole proportionally reflects the choice of the people through the MMP system.

Countries like Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Malta, New Zealand and South Africa have left FPP and moved on to better, more democratic systems. None of the young democracies around the world are adopting FPP.

Canada cannot and should not be left behind under an undemocratic and flawed system.

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