All first-past-the-post elections are unfair, but some first-past-the-post elections are fairer than others.
That was essentially the prime minister’s message last month as he revised his position on electoral reform.
Justin Trudeau said in an interview with Le Devoir that when his party promised electoral reform in last fall’s campaign, there was a thirst for it, because voters wanted to be rid of a system that had kept the Conservative Party in power. Trudeau now has the temerity to say that with his governing Liberals seeing sunny polls, Canadians no longer have the same desire to shake up the system.
If there was a desire to change the government – and there was – then that’s fine, but that’s a separate conversation. Voting out the Conservatives wasn’t a rejection of first-past-the-post, just as support for the Liberals now isn’t evidence that first-past-the-post works perfectly.
Furthermore, we believed the electoral reform promise was a matter of principle. Surely it wasn’t calculated to win votes – as we’ve seen in referendums in B.C., citizens either don’t want change or they don’t wish to learn an unfamiliar voting system.
We think electoral reform should happen. We think single-member plurality should be replaced by some form of more proportional representation. But we’re also pretty sure that most Canadians don’t want this change made without a referendum, and that if there’s a referendum, it will fail. The Liberals are well aware of this, and so they are sacrificing principles for populism.
The PM’s comments reinforce the cynical narrative that all politicians are the same and nothing ever changes. What used to be unfair looks a whole lot fairer from the governing side of the House of Commons.
The electoral reform committee will finish its due process, but there’s an increased likelihood, now, that nothing will come of it. Canadians might not want electoral reform and we might not get it, but if we’re not going to have a system where every vote counts, we deserve to know why not.