Opinions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has distanced himself from plans to enact electoral reform. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.

No reason to suggest Canadians aren’t still on board with change

Through a very well-run and positive campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada was able to win a majority in last year’s federal election, and Justin Trudeau became prime minister.

One of the key promises in the Liberals’ platform was that 2015 would be the last election held under the much maligned first-past-the-post system. Yet, Trudeau recently said that Canadians don’t want electoral reform as much anymore because the Liberals are in charge.

This attitude is shockingly undemocratic, it sounds way too much like a Donald Trump claiming that the system is rigged. This is especially true given that Trudeau was elected in part on a mandate of electoral reform and, when you count the NDP and Green votes, it’s clear that a large part of the population wanted that change.

What’s most troubling is that Trudeau’s claim that Canadians are no longer concerned about electoral reform is based on false logic.

First, there is no evidence to show that Canadians have fallen out of love with the idea of electoral reform. Second, even if that claim was true, and the Canadian appetite for reform has been whetted, it probably isn’t because Trudeau is in charge. A Tory could just as well claim that the mood for change has declined because the Liberal government has done a terrible job of managing change.

Also, whatever Trudeau’s ideas on what Canadians want or don’t want, the need to keep Canada’s democracy strong and vibrant is as present as ever. As much as Canada has so far managed to avoid the raging anti-liberal populism spreading across Europe and the U.S., we aren’t immune and we shouldn’t get complacent.

Just look at what recently happened with the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA): the Wallonian government saw a chance to pander to the populists, and almost blocked a vital free trade deal. For the Liberals to turn their back on reform would be to fall through the trap of typical politics, and would only serve to inflame mistrust in government and our political system.

Even then, getting rid of first-past-the-post is just one aspect of voting that the Liberals promised to study. Not studying this aspect of voting reform could also set a bad precedent. The Liberal government has also promised to study mandatory voting and online voting, among others. Those reforms deserve just as much scrutiny and just as much publicity, because they could also have a huge impact on our elections.

Imagine how much more accessible and easier voting would be online. In early 2015, the British Parliament’s Digital Democracy Commission found that the U.K. should adopt online voting for it’s next elections—why not Canada as well? Imagine how much better our democracy could be with other reforms like lowering the voting age to 16.

Canadian democracy isn’t broken—but it’s far from perfect, and it could definitely use some major reform and modernization.

This is a commitment that our government made. Power doesn’t just corrupt—it turns us conservative, reluctant to change. If our government doesn’t honour their commitment, the need for electoral reform will be ever greater. Mr. Trudeau, it’s time to make real change a reality, and not just a dream.