Electoral reform survey sparks online backlash
Published Monday, December 5, 2016 5:48PM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 5, 2016 10:06PM EST
The Liberal government’s increasingly ambiguous stance on electoral reform continued Monday with the launch of an online survey that has already sparked intense backlash on social media.
MyDemocracy.ca asks Canadians a series of questions about voting preferences and values. The approximately $250,000 survey, which is being conducted by Toronto-based Vox Pop Labs, will be available until Dec. 30.
“MyDemocracy.ca is an innovative way to join the national conversation on electoral reform,” the survey’s website says. “By answering a few questions, you can draw a picture of your democratic values.”
It remains unclear how the government will use the data that is collected.
In the run-up to the last federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that if elected, 2015 would mark the last use of our current first-past-the-post electoral system. That bold campaign promise was later qualified by Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef, who in a November interview with CTV’s Question Period, said, “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.”
In the 2015 federal election, the Liberals won a majority of seats in the House of Commons after garnering a mere 39.5 per cent of the popular vote -- all thanks to first-past-the-post.
The new survey -- which asks respondents to rank their level of agreement with statements like “A ballot should be easy to understand, even if it means voters have fewer options to express their preferences” and “Canadians should have the option to cast their vote online in federal elections, even if it is less secure” -- has already been criticized for being confusing, leading, repetitious and even overtly partisan.
Nowhere, moreover, does the survey directly ask Canadians if they support proportional representation over first-past-the-post. Whether or not one supports a referendum on the issue of electoral reform -- something that opposition MPs have been demanding -- is also decidedly absent from the online poll.
After completing the survey, respondents are also grouped into one of five vague-sounding categories: Guardians, Challengers, Pragmatists, Cooperators or Innovators.
During question period on Monday, Conservative Democratic Institutions critic Scott Reid likened the survey to a “dating website designed by Fidel Castro.”
"There’s no mention of electoral systems whatsoever," NDP Democratic Institutions critic Nathan Cullen added. "If the Minister truly wants a clear answer, why wouldn’t she simply ask the obvious questions?”
“I think what they’re trying to do is get rid of this idea, this promise that they made in the last election campaign that they’re going to change the voting system in time for the next election,” Peter Graefe, an associate professor of political science at McMaster University, told CTV News Channel.
“Rather than taking the blame on themselves for having made a promise that they didn’t intend to keep, they want to make it that they’re listening to Canadians. So, I think through this process, they hope to get a bunch of results which they can then manipulate as they want to get the result that they want.”
On social media, many Canadians were also quick to deride the survey, posting joke questions with the hashtag “#rejectedERQs” on Twitter.
“Do you think a majority government should follow through on its flagship promise OR pretend it never happened,” Twitter user @YOWtopia wrote.
Do you think a majority government should follow through on its flagship promise OR pretend it never happened. #rejectedERQs— YOWtopia (@yowtopia) December 5, 2016
“How many strawmen will it take for you to forget we didn't ask if votes should equal seats?” @AMacEwen posted.
How many strawmen will it take for you to forget we didn't ask if votes should equal seats? #rejectedERQs— Angella MacEwen (@AMacEwen) December 5, 2016
“Would you prefer the Liberals just admit they lied or dick you around with a nonsensical survey and pretend they care?” @_capps wrote.
Would you prefer the Liberals just admit they lied or dick you around with a nonsensical survey and pretend they care ? #rejectedERQs— Carter Apps (@_capps) December 5, 2016
Other Twitter users flirted with the absurd.
“Would you prefer a slightly more complex ballot that meant a more representative government, even though it's covered in bees?” @SteveJMoran posted.
Would you prefer a slightly more complex ballot that meant a more representative government, even though it's covered in bees? #rejectedERQs— SteveJMoran (@SteveJMoran) December 5, 2016
Will you be at all surprised when Justin Trudeau reveals his completed transformation into Stephen Harper? #rejectedERQs— (((whatever))) (@hillbillyspider) December 5, 2016
If we make the questions incomprehensible so folks don't finish it we can say there was no interest in Electoral Reform! #rejectedERQs— Pamela Velos (@PamelaVelos) December 5, 2016
Should the gov keep its promise or launch disingenuous surveys with run-on sentences that share our VALUES? #rejectedERQs— Dylan Penner (@DylanPenner) December 5, 2016
Do you prefer sunny ways or do you prefer sunny ways #RejectedERQs— trapdinawrpool (@trapdinawrpool) December 5, 2016