Wave goodbye to electoral reform, people

The Liberals can’t get the option they want. Expect them to pull the plug.

Electoral reform, we hardly knew ye. As the fall session of Parliament slouches toward Christmas break, it appears that one of the Liberals’ more ambitious campaign promises — that the 2015 election would be the last held under the first-past-the-post voting system — is headed for the dustbin.

This weekend, Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef told CTV’s Question Period: “We’re committed to this initiative, but we’re not going to move forward unless we have the broad support of the people of this country for whom we’re making this change.”

Translation: We didn’t get the support we needed for the system we prefer — the preferential ballot — and now we’re looking for the exit.

This climbdown doesn’t quite come as a surprise. The Liberals have been paving the way for it for a month now, starting with the PM’s wistful musing in a late October Le Devoir interview: “Under Mr. Harper, there were so many people dissatisfied with the government and its approach that they were saying, ‘We need an electoral reform so that we can no longer have a government we don’t like …’ However, under the current system, they now have a government they are more satisfied with. And the motivation to want to change the electoral system is less urgent.”

Two weeks later, Monsef wrote the special committee studying electoral reform a letter in which she claimed that “Canadians who attended our meetings have passionately championed various systems. While I heard the most passion from proportional representation and first-past-the-post advocates, I have not yet heard a consensus around one particular system over another.”

No consensus? Not exactly. There was a consensus — at least among those who showed up to the meetings. It was for proportional representation. After the consultations were completed, Fair Vote Canada, an organization that has advocated in favour of PR since 2001, sent out a press release with some hefty numbers. Eighty-eight per cent of expert witnesses with a position on voting systems supported PR. Only 4 per cent supported the PM and Minister Monsef’s preferred choice, the Alternative Vote or ranked ballot. Eighty-eight per cent of the 428 open mic participants called for PR.

For the Liberals, this poses a major problem. Of all the systems on offer, proportional representation is the one that would seriously weaken, if not destroy, the party’s ability to form majority governments. Under first-past-the-post or a ranked ballot system, the Liberals would still have a shot at forming majorities; in fact, a ranked ballot system would have given them a bigger majority than they won in 2015.

Read the full article on iPolitics.

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