Trudeau Government Breaks Electoral Reform Promise

An Open Letter                                                                               8 February 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario

K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister,

I do not often write letters to leaders of majority governments because they almost never listen, but on this issue I feel compelled to do so.  I am appalled by the decision to ditch electoral reform.  Why?  Not because you staked your integrity on it.  (Although you did.)  You are after all in charge of your integrity.  There is a route out of this bad decision suggested below but first let me tell you why this is not a good decision.

  1. This leaves the door open to a “trump style’ government here. The US election shows that using the tried tactics of the political right – the politics of lies, fear, hatred, violence and revenge – it was even possible to elect a self-confessed sexual predator, who attacks science, who is a billionaire who does not pay taxes and is proud of it, who is a compulsive liar and who believes in stoking up the fear and hatred that leads to violence.  He won with almost 50% of the vote.   In this country with our current electoral system, 36-39% of the vote representing 24-26% of eligible voters, can get us back to a worse than Harper-like government with a majority.  (Was Harper ‘Trump with a fig leaf’?)   Is that really what we want for Canada?
  2. To then hear you express concern about radical parties hijacking the governing process was astounding. There is no compelling evidence for this in the history of Canadian minority governments, but, lots of experience that you have just ensured the far right in Canada another crack at destroying the country.
  3. For years in my beloved Canada we have lived with a quasi-democracy. 60+% of our people can be and are regularly ignored.  This is a system that protects ‘elite power’ over democracy.  The last election saw an increase in the percent of eligible voters going to the polls.  If you do not change your position on this, the next election will see a disturbing drop.  Why should 60% bother to vote?  Is this what your government wants?
  4. We have just had a decade of government that did not listen to evidence. A government that muzzled scientists and ignored evidence based analysis.   Up to now your government has undone much of the worst ignoring of evidence of the Harper era.  The experts who presented evidence at the parliamentary committee overwhelmingly recommended proportional representation.  They were ignored!  The best form of proportional representation will not be decided by social media facades run by slick public relations companies but by careful and thoughtful leadership.  I refuse believe you cannot show leadership.
  5. There is very strong evidence that people all over the world are losing faith in the business and political elites. Those who describe themselves as middle class, in Canada and abroad, are shrinking.   Graduates face an unstable work future carrying massive debts.   People see the wealthy grab almost every cent of gains in economic growth and productivity.   Trust in political institutions and business is shrinking.  Being told that our voting system, that ignores 60% of the people, will not be reformed adds to that distrust.  The growing distrust is destabilizing.  We are witnessing the election of far right wing governments south of us, across Europe and around the world.  We could join them.   Is that really what you want?
  6. You need to decide if you are the Prime Minister of all the people in Canada or just the unprogressive wing of the Liberal party or the ‘back room boys’. What do you really want?
  7. Are people afraid of minority governments?  As a former advisor to your father Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, I can tell you one of the best governments this country ever had was the minority 1972 – 1974 Trudeau government.  It was neither perfect nor easy but it was good for Canada.  Arguably the worst government we ever had was the 2011 to 2015 Harper majority government.  I will not even begin to list the severe damage to our nation that occurred.  I believe another minority Trudeau government would be far, far better.   It would be better because, if elected by proportional representation, MPs representing more than half of the people, would have to co-operate.  Is that something you do not want?
  8. What unites 71.5% of Canadians? The statement in the ERRE online consultation: “Canada’s electoral system should ensure that the number of seats held by a party in Parliament reflects the proportion of votes it received across the country.”

If you want analysis, numbers and facts to back up the claims above, please do not hesitate to ask.   I spent time in Ottawa and I have faith that you and almost all of you colleagues do want to build a better Canada.  The most destructive thing you can do to our country is to leave this unfair voting system in place.   I stopped supporting the Liberal party because of cynical decisions like this.

That said, I can see the possibility of the next 150 years shaped by a government in which a number of political parties work together expressing the will of the majority rather than the dictates of the minority.   Most people I talk to are not supportive of your decision.  We all make mistakes.   Listen.  Say you listened and then set a new course.

Electoral reform can be done.  We can have a proportional representation system in time for the next election.  The government can strike an electoral commission made up of experts on proportional representation along with a bright, public spirited MP from each party.  Give them a year to design a system.  Don’t ask for unanimity – 75% would be just fine and reasonable.

Please do not sacrifice Canada for hoped-for electoral gain.

With Best Regards,

Tom Webb

232 Main Street

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

B0J 2E0

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