“We are very disappointed about the government dropping their electoral reform promise. We were working on this in good faith, assuming the government meant what it said. Trust has been broken.” — Larry Brown, President NUPGE
Ottawa (2 Feb. 2017) — “A betrayal.” “A cynical display of self-serving politics.” “A massive political deception.” These are some of the words being used to describe Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement on February 1, 2017, that he was breaking his promise on electoral reform.
Trudeau betrays Canadian voters
As part of the Liberal Party of Canada’s policy platform, and a promise made numerous times during the 2015 election campaign, and repeated in the Speech from the Throne, Trudeau vowed that “2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.” His promise to Canadians was that “within 18 months of forming government, we will introduce legislation to enact electoral reform.”
Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees, said that “the work of the Electoral Reform Committee was thorough and the Committee heard loud and clear from Canadians, and the vast majority of experts, that Canada should move to a proportional representation system.” He added: “We are very disappointed about the government dropping their electoral reform promise. We were working on this in good faith, assuming the government meant what it said. Trust has been broken.”
Opposition is furious: Trudeau ‘lied to millions of Canadians'
The harshest criticism came from opposition parties, who denounced Trudeau. Following the announcement, NDP Critic Nathan Cullen said, “Mr. Trudeau promised to end our unfair and outdated voting system. He promised to be different and bring hope not cynicism. Well, he lied to millions of Canadians who put their faith in him. I, like many, am angered and frustrated but mostly determined to fight such betrayal.”
Speaking to reporters, Cullen called the decision "one of the most cynical displays of self-serving politics this government has yet to engage in." He said: "What Trudeau proved himself today was to be a liar, was to be of the most cynical variety of politician." He added, "Saying whatever it takes to get elected, then once elected seeking any excuse, however weak, however absent, to justify that lie to Canadians."
Trudeau’s broken promise
During the election campaign, Justin Trudeau promised that “2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.”
The campaign platform committed to “convene an all-party parliamentary committee to review a wide variety of reforms, such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting. This committee will deliver its recommendations to Parliament. Within 18 months of forming government, we will introduce legislation to enact electoral reform.”
But in 2016, Trudeau started to send signals that he was going to renege on the promise. The first signs came in an October 19, 2016, interview in Le Devoir where Trudeau said that there was no need for electoral reform now that the Liberals defeated Stephen Harper. “Under the current system, they [Canadians] now have a government with which they are more satisfied. And the motivation to want to change the system is less compelling.”
In other words, Trudeau’s position is that there is no need to change the system because he won.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE