Last week, on International Women’s Day, I watched the Prime Minister respond to a young lady’s question about why the commitment to changing the electoral system was abandoned when it made such an important difference to women. See video here.
The short answer was essentially threefold (a) “The process was headed into dangerous territory” and (b) “There was no consensus” and (c) “I make decisions based on what is best for Canada”. Two of these statements are absolutely false and the other is misleading.
“The process was headed into dangerous territory” – The electoral reform (ERRE) committee had overwhelming majority support for proportional representation and had debunked the alternate vote system favoured by the Liberals. Had the process continued and their recommendations heeded, we would be well on the way to the implementation of a proportionally based system, not dangerous territory. This characterization is a simple scare tactic, one unbecoming of the Prime Minister.
“There was no consensus” – There is a bizarre sliver of truth in this statement. In the vacuum of leadership around this issue, it was clear that two different consensuses were emerging. The first was the overwhelming support for proportional representation coming from ERRE and the huge number of Canadians who made their wishes known there. The second was the emerging alliance between the Liberals and the Conservatives, working together because first past the post has given these two parties overwhelming advantages in the last 150 years. It has handed them every single election victory and continues to give them many, many unearned majority governments. First past the post favours having two large parties, which is why the US federal electoral system is referred to as a two party system, even though it is not. There is simply no chance for another party to form the government, and history has shown this to be true in Canada as well.
“I make decisions based on what is best for Canada” – In this case, there is a clear choice to be made from the two alternatives above. Choose a system where every vote counts, or choose to continue with a system that favours the Liberals and the Conservatives. What is best for Canadians is to have all of their votes recognized and counted. What is best for the Liberal party is first past the post. Decision made. Perhaps the PM’s statement is true for other issues, but it doesn’t pass the smell test here.
Originally, I believe that the Liberals thought they could fool people into thinking that their preferred alternate vote system would make every vote count. In truth, it makes your vote count once all of the small parties are eliminated. In fact, it simply advantages the Liberals over the Conservatives and everyone else. It rigs the game even further, as demonstrated here.
So, let’s stop pretending. This is a decision about power, about retaining power, and about making it tough for others to take power away. Is this what is best for Canada?
Of course, we need to take responsibility for this outcome because, after all, we voted this government in, didn’t we? I would happily accept that responsibility … if it were not the case that, once again, my vote went straight to the garbage bucket and made no difference whatsoever in the outcome. I am so tired of that.