Event organizer believes reform is necessary to evade politics of fear

On Saturday, Feb. 11, students and members of the Ottawa community held a day of action on Parliament Hill in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to rescind his plans to implement electoral reform.

Despite the weather, the rally drew approximately 300 participants and lasted for two hours, featuring a line-up of 10 speakers including members of the public sector, as well as students.

The rally was hosted by Daniel Rae, a political science and philosophy student at the University of Ottawa, who told the Fulcrum that he hopes for a better Canadian political system that is based on negotiation and cooperation with citizens.

According to Rae, “the Harper government was a false majority that trampled on the opposition at will, and the Obama administration was just full of obstructionism and fear-mongering from the other side … we have grown up seeing the absolute worst that politics has to offer.”

“That is not going away unless we change the game, because of that obstructionism and fear-mongering trampling over everyone who isn’t in power today,” said Rae.

Rae believes that this brand of politics is enabled by the first-past-the-post system, and “if we don’t get rid of it we will keep seeing that every four years.”

Speakers at the rally included Réal Lavergne, the president of Fair Vote Canada, who believes that electoral reform was a major selling point for many voters in the 2015 federal election.

“Ask yourself why citizens abandoned Stephen Harper and elected Justin Trudeau—they did it because they feared for our democracy, and felt that Harper had abused that democracy,” said Lavergne.

“The June 2015 speech turned things around in a major way for the Liberals—that’s why that promise is so important. I feel that (it’s) what got this government elected.”

Members of Parliament, including the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Green Party candidates for the upcoming Ottawa–Vanier by-election, also attended Saturday’s event, where they encouraged students and others in the community to get involved with the political process and vote.

“Don’t take anyone’s word for anything,” said Green Party member Nira Dookeran. “Be healthily skeptical—look at not only what we say but look at what we do, look at who’s walking the walk.”

Aside from the rallies held in cities across Canada over the weekend, many concerned citizens took to Twitter on Feb. 8 to voice their concerns and called on Trudeau to provide proportionate representation and follow through with electoral reform.

At the Feb. 11 rally, Rae highlighted that a petition by NDP MP Nathan Cullen, calling for electoral reform, has now amassed over one hundred thousand signatures.

Though Trudeau was not present, Rae addressed him nonetheless, saying, “you have a chance here with this petition to make amends, you can vote in favour of it … but I’m pretty sure you won’t do that. But you will be hearing from me and you’ll be hearing from us again and again and again.”