Democratic renewal has to start at the top.

If you think the Trudeau Liberals will push democratic renewal very far, you need to learn what politicians mean when they say they will study something. Admittedly the Liberals never dreamed they would go from third-party status to a majority government in a single election. It is why Leader Justin Trudeau made the slip of the tongue that this might be the last election in which Canadians use first-past-the-post voting. There might be more steps to that change than Justin Trudeau realizes and you best not bet heavily on it happening all that soon.

And the truth is that democratic renewal has to start at the top. The most serious challenges to our democracy over the past nine years have originated in the Prime Minister’s Office. And the second worst have been from the offices of the leaders of the opposition parties.

Stop and think for a minute about why the leader of one party kicked two members of his own party out of the party caucus. They were accused of doing what young men have been doing when dallying with young women since the beginning of time. Without proof or a chance at a defence they were kicked out of caucus. This was the same leader who promised he would not interfere in ridings choosing candidates and then was picking candidates in Toronto.

At least the Conservatives were honest about running their party from the Prime Minister’s Office. There was never any pretence at democracy. And you can see the good it did them.

Even if Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau did suggest that this was the last time Canadians might use first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting, there are more than a few problems. First of all, getting a consensus from Canadians on a replacement voting system is unlikely. Both Ontario and British Columbia allowed their citizens to vote on change and both rejected the proposals. The Trudeau government would never get away with arbitrarily changing how Canadians vote. And it would be anti-democratic to try.

Some Liberals might think there is no difference between a ranked ballot (preferential voting)—where you mark your ballots for choice one, two, three, etc.—and FPTP but there is a very serious difference when you let the losers on the first ballot pick the winner. It is certainly not the same as a run-off election.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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