Justin, give Wade a call
Although it hasn’t exactly electrified the population, the province is actively reviewing our electoral system.
Since elections are such a crucial element of democracy, it is good the provincial government is going about it the proper way, as opposed to the bull-headed manner of the federal Liberal government.
One of the plethora of promises made by Justin Trudeau in leading his Liberals to victory in the 2015 October federal election was changing the way Canadians vote. He vowed that October’s election would be the last under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system. FPTP is much maligned for allowing parties to earn majority government status with less than a majority of the votes.
For example, the Liberals won 184 seats in Parliament last October. That’s 54.4 per cent of Commons seats, but the party did it with only 39.5 per cent of the votes cast. It was a similar story for the Conservatives under Stephen Harper in 2011 when they won a majority with less than half the votes.
Those facts, and many other similar election results, make a strong case for electoral reform.
Although the issue is complicated and divisive, on two points most agree: 1) an election result should reflect how the votes were cast, and 2) often we end up with governments with strong majority powers but not a majority mandate.
So Trudeau and P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan are correct in pointing to the need for reform. But that’s where the similarity ends.
In MacLauchlan’s case, his government struck a legislative committee to study the issue. Next spring, the P.E.I. legislature will narrow the election reform options to two. Then, following a six-month education campaign, a provincial plebiscite will be held.
P.E.I.’s process is democratic but it’s not one the Trudeau government plans to imitate. The new feds say they see no need for a national plebiscite.
Apparently the government’s thinking is that since electoral reform was among its campaign promises, when Canadians put them in power it also meant a green light to electoral reform.
To be fair, the federal Liberals say an all-party parliamentary committee will study the issue and come up with an alternative system, which will be approved by Parliament. But, of course, it is a Liberal-dominated one.
The idea of fundamentally changing Canada’s voting system without the consent of the people is not only undemocratic, it’s dangerous in how it may change our system of governance. It’s also naive of the PM to think voters carefully considered every one of his campaign promises.
Trudeau and his government need a reality check. The biggest thing they had going for them in the last election was that they weren’t Conservatives. And even then, they didn’t get 40 per cent of the popular vote.
While electoral reform proponents are often envious of what they see as more progressive voting systems in other countries, the last time I checked there is just as much political dysfunction there as here.
There is no doubt P.E.I. — and Canada — need to take a serious look at electoral reform, but any so-called “improvement” needs the approval of the people. It can’t be some sunny flavour-ofthe-month idea.
While it has its critics, it should be pointed out Canada has existed quite nicely within the FPTP system since its formation in 1867. It allows us to elect governments but also to get rid of ones we don’t like.
There is nothing wrong with change, but altering the way the people elect governments is one that demands the input and approval of the people.