Justin Trudeau wants to end 'first-past-the-post' system, but will it sway voters?
Published Tuesday, June 16, 2015 4:45AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 16, 2015 5:58PM EDT
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is proposing to "make every vote count" by getting rid of Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system.
At a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday, Trudeau announced his 32-point plan to "restore democracy in Canada," if he becomes prime minister, by introducing electoral reform legislation that could lead to ranked ballots or proportional representation.
The first-past-the-post system allows a political party to win the majority of seats in the House of Commons even if it doesn’t get a similar share of the popular vote. Trudeau said that needs to change so that the House is more reflective of how Canadians vote.
"The ballot is the most important symbol of democracy," Trudeau told reporters.
"I’m proposing we make every vote count."
Trudeau said the Liberal Party is "committed" to ensuring that the upcoming October election is the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post system.
He said the Liberals would bring forward electoral reform legislation within 18 months of forming a government. Asked how he plans to accomplish that, Trudeau said the process would involve "serious and responsible study" on electoral reform, as well as consultations with Canadians.
The Liberal leader also said he would strengthen the role of MPs by introducing more free votes in the House of Commons and making sure that the prime minister takes questions from more MPs – and not just opposition leaders – during daily question period.
Trudeau vowed to "reform" the Senate by making it "non-partisan" and noted that he has already removed all Liberal-appointed senators from the party’s caucus.
He said that, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives, the government has become "intolerant," "self-serving," "secretive" and increasingly closed-off from Canadians.
"We need to show Canadians that real change is possible," Trudeau said. "This place is broken, together we are going to fix it."
Asked about Trudeau’s “fair and open government” plan, Industry Minister James Moore said the Liberal leader has not followed those principles himself.
Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, Moore accused Trudeau of approaching Liberal nominations in an “authoritarian way” by “squashing nominations” and pushing people aside in favour of his preferred candidates in some ridings.
“So Justin Trudeau throwing stones at other people over transparency and democracy -- he is absolutely standing in a glass house,” Moore said.
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was critical of Trudeau’s electoral reform rhetoric.
Mulcair said Tuesday that his party has long advocated for proportional representation in the House of Commons.
“The third party has a long history of flashing left, then turning right,” Mulcair told reporters in Toronto. “We can be trusted to deliver on what we’ve been promising.”
Other proposed changes Trudeau flagged from the Liberal platform include:
- Appointing an equal number of men and women to cabinet
- Making sure that the Canada Revenue Agency "proactively" contacts Canadians who are entitled to certain benefits, but haven’t claimed or received them
- Eliminating all fees associated with access-to-information requests, except the $5 filing fee
- Making all government data "open by default"
- A "no-fee" portal where Canadians can access their personal information requests
- An all-party national security committee to oversee government departments and agencies that deal with national security issues
Trudeau also said that he would stop the move to end door-to-door mail delivery in Canada, but he didn’t make it clear whether his party would entirely restore the service across the country. His policy document says that the Liberals will "begin a new review of Canada Post."
‘A major crisis’
Canada’s former chief electoral officer says he welcomes Trudeau’s proposal to change the way Canadians vote.
“I was pleased that there was effectively a recognition that our electoral democracy is facing a major crisis,” Jean-Pierre Kingsley told CTV’s Power Play Tuesday.
Under the current first-past-the-post system, a political party can win majority in Parliament even if just one in four Canadians vote for its candidates, Kingsley said.
Kingsley said that Canada needs “more true representation” in Parliament and that can be achieved by either increasing the participation rate or changing the way MPs are elected.
He noted that in Australia, where voting is compulsory, the participation rate is above 90 per cent.
“And what does that do to the legitimacy of the results? It augments it very significantly,” Kingsley said.
With files from The Canadian Press