Liberal MPs admit government broke electoral reform pledge
Published Saturday, February 4, 2017 7:56AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 4, 2017 8:06AM EST
OTTAWA -- The Liberal government broke its promise to reform Canada's electoral system, some of its MPs are admitting.
Adam Vaughan, who represents Toronto's Spadina--Fort York riding, says he understands the disappointment of those who thought the government would change how Canadians elect their members of Parliament.
Asked by Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period, whether the government's decision not to pursue electoral reform was a broken promise, Vaughan allowed that it was.
"We made a commitment and we are not fulfilling that commitment. That's how it gets described," he said, in an interview to air Sunday on CTV News Channel.
"I think we'll be held accountable for it and that's as it should be."
Vaughan was one of a number of Toronto-area Liberal candidates who beat veteran New Democrats in the 2015 election. Earlier this week, New Democrat MPs expressed anger over the progressive voters they lost due to the Liberal electoral reform promise.
"When the course is changed as quickly as it was, I understand the frustration and anger," Vaughan said.
But he maintained there are more important priorities than electoral reform for Parliament to consider.
No consensus: Gould
"I think that part of the honesty and accountability of this process is saying look, we have a very, very complex set of issues in front of us in Parliament right now," Vaughan said, listing conditions on reserves, the fentanyl crisis and the need for a national housing strategy and an anti-poverty strategy, as well as a rapidly shifting international stage.
"We have got to put together an agenda for the legislature that makes sense and gets through the Parliament. There's only so many priorities you can get through Parliament at a time and we made a judgement call," Vaughan said.
Vaughan isn't the only Liberal MP to be open about the reversal, though he went further than Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould.
"I will not be pursuing electoral reform in my mandate," she told Solomon when asked whether the Liberals broke their promise.
"The government is not going through with that decision."
Gould says the supplemental reports by the MPs on the special parliamentary committee studying electoral reform show there was no consensus on which type of reform the parties wanted. The main set of recommendations said the government should hold a referendum on proportional representation.
"The NDP and the Greens have a supplemental report that says we don't want a referendum, we want proportional representation. So that's a really important distinction here.... We actually have to look at all of the facts and we have to look at where all of the parties are coming from," Gould said.
'Facts didn't change'
Other Liberals were more apologetic.
Parkdale-High Park MP Arif Virani, who holds a Toronto seat after defeating a long-time New Democrat MP, wrote an extensive Facebook post Friday detailing the reasons for the decision.
"We made a commitment to Canadians during the 2015 campaign, a commitment we are no longer able to keep. For that decision, we may be held accountable in our system of Parliamentary Democracy. That is the way our system works -- that is your right as a voter," Virani wrote.
Vancouver North MP Jonathan Wilkinson posted a three-page letter to his constituents.
"I and my colleagues should not be, and are not, pretending that we have not moved away from a campaign commitment," he wrote. "We have. This letter is intended to provide an explanation as to why and to ensure that folks understand that such a decision was not taken lightly."
Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent says leaders should change their minds when the facts change.
"But in this case, the facts didn't change. Quite the contrary... during the process, the prime minister himself kept repeating he would bring in a new system," Broadbent said.
Further, Broadbent says, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shouldn't have let a minister deliver the news the government was breaking a key election promise.
"The prime minister I think should have done that himself, in the House, and he might have -- he might have -- been able to persuade Canadians that there were other priorities," he said.
CTV's Question Period will air Sunday on CTV News Channel at 11 a.m. ET, 10 a.m. CT, 9 a.m. MT, and 8 a.m. PT. CTV will carry Super Bowl coverage.