On electoral reform, PM Trudeau sounds anti-democratic: Ed Broadbent
Published Sunday, October 23, 2016 7:00AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 23, 2016 11:02AM EDT
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's declaration that electoral reform may not be necessary now that the Conservatives are no longer in power edge too close to being undemocratic, former NDP leader Ed Broadbent says.
Speaking to Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period, Broadbent called Trudeau's comments to Quebec newspaper Le Devoir last week "a classic political come down, or setting the stage for [it]."
Trudeau, Broadbent said, was "saying, 'Oh well there [aren't] a lot of demands for it, and besides I'm in power now ... so we don't need it.' That's the worst argument you could ever make as a politician against electoral reform. Saying that you're there, [so] everything's well."
"It's kind of anti-democratic, to say that kind of thing," Broadbent said.
Trudeau told the newspaper he wasn't sure whether there was appetite for electoral reform.
"With the current system, they now have a government with which they're happier. And the need to change the electoral system is less compelling," Trudeau said.
Broadbent said there have been a number of false starts on the electoral reform file, despite Trudeau's unequivocal commitment that the 2015 race would be the last one held under the existing first-past-the-post system.
It took the government months to establish the special committee to study options for electoral reform, and they initially resisted giving the opposition parties a majority of seats on the committee. Eventually they relented and gave the NDP an additional seat, as well as giving voting rights to the Green and Bloc members.
"I took him seriously in the campaign because he was the first leader of what we used to call the old line parties to actually promise to change the electoral system," Broadbent said.
Now, the former federal leader says, he's afraid of total cynicism in the face of Trudeau's potential change of heart.
"He said not once but several times, unequivocally, we would have electoral change before the next election, where every vote would count," said Broadbent, who led the NDP from 1975 to 1989 and returned to sit as an MP from 2004 to 2006.
Still, Broadbent says he's optimistic it's possible for the MPs on the electoral reform committee to reach consensus on a new system. It's widely believed the government can't afford to use its majority to move unilaterally on electoral reform.
Trudeau said Friday that electoral reform is "a commitment we made in our election that I continue to be deeply committed to." In Broadbent's analysis, Trudeau didn't need to reaffirm that promise, so it could mean he'll stick to it after all.
"It's the one promise he was categoric about keeping several times in the election and he'll start to undermine his own credibility [if he doesn't keep it," Broadbent said.