Trudeau de­fends break­ing elec­toral re­form prom­ise.

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Amid con­tro­versy over his dis­parag­ing re­mark about a po­ten­tial Con­ser­va­tive ri­val, Justin Trudeau is de­fend­ing his de­ci­sion to aban­don his Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s prom­ise to change how Cana­di­ans choose their fed­eral lead­ers.

Speak­ing at a town hall event in Yel­lowknife, the prime min­is­ter says he turned his back on the prom­ise — his words — be­cause he feared pro­ceed­ing would fos­ter po­lit­i­cal dis­cord and in­sta­bil­ity.

He also says he knows peo­ple are dis­ap­pointed and sug­gests he’s pre­pared to ac­cept the po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences, what­ever they may be.

Trudeau ap­peared to be ex­pand­ing on re­marks he made Thurs­day when he cited Tory lead­er­ship can­di­date Kel­lie Leitch as an ex­am­ple of some­one who ought not be given too much sway in Par­lia­ment.

He made those re­marks in Iqaluit while con­vers­ing with a woman who wanted to know why he did not be­lieve a sys­tem of pro­por­tional representation should re­place the cur­rent first-past-the-post vot­ing sys­tem.

Leitch, an On­tario MP, has pro­posed screen­ing would-be im­mi­grants and refugees for “anti-Cana­dian val­ues,” an idea that has been com­pared to those cham­pi­oned by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“It is be­cause I felt it was not in the best in­ter­ests of our coun­try and of our fu­ture that I turned my back on that prom­ise,” Trudeau said Fri­day when asked by a per­son in the crowd about why he aban­doned the plan.

“I know peo­ple will be dis­ap­pointed, yep,” he con­tin­ued as boos echoed from the crowd.

“But this was my choice to make, and I chose to make it with full con­se­quence of the cost that is pos­si­bly go­ing to come (from) it, but I will not com­pro­mise on what is in the best in­ter­ests of Canada. That’s what Cana­di­ans elected me for.”

He ex­plained that the idea of a ranked bal­lot was aban­doned be­cause too many peo­ple be­lieved it would be a sys­tem that would favour the Lib­er­als.

And a ref­er­en­dum, he said, would fo­ment dis­cord and dis­unity at a time when the forces of na­tion­al­ism and pop­ulism are whip­saw­ing gov­ern­ments and coun­tries around the world.

“If we were to make a change or risk a change that would aug­ment ex­trem­ist voices and ac­tivist voices ... I think we’d be en­ter­ing an era of in­sta­bil­ity and un­cer­tainty,” he said.

“We’d be putting at risk the very thing that makes us luck­ier than any­one else on the planet” — the fact that as a di­verse and mul­ti­cul­tural coun­try, Cana­di­ans are still able to come to­gether and con­sis­tently elect sta­ble, pro­duc­tive gov­ern­ments.

On Thurs­day, a live mi­cro­phone picked up Trudeau’s con­ver­sa­tion with a mem­ber of the crowd as the two dis­cussed the ques­tion of pro­por­tional representation, a sys­tem ad­vo­cates say would be more re­flec­tive of the will of vot­ers.

“Do you think that Kel­lie Leitch should have her own party?” Trudeau was heard to say.

The woman sug­gested Leitch was part of a dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tion, but Trudeau in­sisted it was not.

“Be­cause if you have a party that rep­re­sents the fringe voices ... or the pe­riph­ery of our per­spec­tives and they hold 10, 15, 20 seats in the House, they end up hold­ing the bal­ance of power.”

Trudeau promised — dur­ing the 2015 elec­tion cam­paign, in the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s first throne speech and sev­eral times since — that he would change the way Cana­di­ans cast bal­lots in fed­eral elec­tions in time for 2019.

CP PHOTO

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau vis­its the Snow Cas­tle on Yel­lowknife Bay in Yel­lowknife, North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, on Fri­day.

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