OTTAWA — NDP leadership candidate Guy Caron says implementing electoral reform will be his top condition to support a minority government led by either the Liberals or the Tories — or his first act as prime minister if the New Democrats form government in 2019.
The Quebec MP and former NDP finance critic plans to make the announcement on Tuesday. In an interview with HuffPost Canada, Caron said it’s important to underscore the party’s commitment to electoral reform and to remind Canadians that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke his word.
During the 2015 election, the Liberals promised to change the first-past-the-post system to make “every vote count.”
“It was actually one of the reasons why many people voted for the Liberals and unfortunately those people, mainly progressives, have been abandoned by the Trudeau government,” Caron said.
The Liberal government announced earlier this year it was abandoning its campaign pledge. It argued the recommendations from an opposition-dominated committee, which called for a referendum and a proportional representation system, were unworkable and undesirable.
If he’s elected PM, Caron said his first piece of legislation would be to introduce mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation with regional lists.
NDP leadership candidate Guy Caron speaks during a leadership debate in Montreal on March 26, 2017. (Photo: Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)
Long championed by the NDP, the hybrid system elects one member of Palriament per riding — like now — but also adds regional MPs, taken from lists compiled and ranked by political parties, to offset the imbalances of the first-past-the-post system.
If a party obtains 39 per cent of the vote, it would receive 39 per cent of the seats — and not the 184 seats, or 54.5 per cent of the House Commons, that the Liberals secured after winning 39.5 per cent of the popular vote.
Caron said he’d make the party lists open to the public so voters know who might be elected. He would also ensure electoral reform is implemented in the first mandate with a referendum held after two elections are completed under the new system so voters can decide which system they prefer: first-past-the-post or the new MMP.
The 49-year-old says implementing electoral reform in the first term would be his primary demand in order to support “any” political party in the Commons. Caron is ready to withdraw support and plunge the country into an election if the promise isn’t kept, he added.
"Electoral reform will not take place if we are lukewarm about it.”
“If we have the commitment, we will support the party. And if we have the commitment and it is broken, we will remove that support and move to the possibility of giving the support to another party who would do it, or we would be in an election again.”
Caron said this demand sends a signal that electoral reform is a priority for the NDP: “Electoral reform will not take place if we are lukewarm about it.”
He noted that if former NDP leader Jack Layton had demanded electoral reform from previous prime ministers Paul Martin or Stephen Harper, Canada would have a proportional system by now.
“It would have been a great move if he had asked for it, but at the time the priority was to establish ourselves as a credible progressive voice [and] obtaining gains from government,” Caron said.
5 candidates in race now
“We need to ensure that it is on the table, and if it was not done 10 years ago, I think it has to be done now.”
Caron is one of five candidates — along with MPs Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Peter Julian and Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh — competing for the NDP’s top job. Over the weekend, former veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran dropped out of the contest.
Stogran’s campaign manager hung up on HuffPost when asked why he pulled out. The retired Canadian Forces colonel had complained to party officials he had an unfair disadvantage compared to the other candidates who have deeper roots in the party.
In dropping out, Stogran forfeits his $30,000 entrance fee.
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