National Union releases Voter's Guide factsheet on electoral reform.
Ottawa (16 Oct. 2019) — Today the National Union of Public and General Employees has released the latest in its series of fact sheets for the 2019 general election. The topic of today’s release is electoral reform.
Why electoral reform is important
Electoral reform is important because of the numerous defects with the current electoral system - the Single Member Plurality (SMP) system, also known as first past the post (FPTP). Its central failing is that a political party can secure a majority of seats in a legislative assembly without having a majority of the votes. For example, in 2011, the Conservative Party of Canada won a majority of the seats (54%) in the House of Commons with just 39.6% of the overall votes. 4 years later, in 2015, the Liberal Party of Canada won a majority of the seats (54%) in the House of Commons with just 39.5% of the overall votes. In both cases, the parties were able to govern with 100% of the parliamentary power. An electoral system that grants 100% of the power with less than 40% of the support from the voting public is by definition undemocratic and must be replaced.
Justin Trudeau’s broken promise
Reforming Canada's electoral system was a foundation of the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) platform in the 2015 electoral campaign. During that campaign, LPC leader Justin Trudeau promised that “2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.” When the party won enough seats to form government, it struck a parliamentary committee, conducted town hall meetings, and sent out a national survey on the issue.
Special Committee on Electoral Reform endorses proportional representation
The Special Committee on Electoral Reform held hearings and public meetings in every province and territory between June and November of 2016, tabling a majority report on December 1, 2016. Among the 13 recommendations made by the committee was that a form of proportional representation be implemented and that a national referendum be held on the issue.
Trudeau: if you won’t do it my way, then no-one gets electoral reform
On February 1, 2017, the newly appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, announced that the government was no longer pursuing electoral reform, and it was not listed as a priority in her mandate letter from Trudeau. In the letter, Trudeau wrote that "a clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged" and "without a clear preference or a clear question, a referendum would not be in Canada's interest."
Later, Trudeau admitted that it was because the committee recommended a form of proportional representation rather than a preferential ballot system (which he favoured) that his government reneged on the promise of electoral reform. In a 2018 CBC interview, Trudeau said, "I will not move towards any form of proportional representation, but if people want to talk about a different system that might benefit Canadians, like a preferential ballot, I'd be open to that."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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