Justin: On electoral versus constitutional reform.

In a sit-down conversation with Justin Trudeau about six years ago, it was immediately obvious that he is an emotional person and as easy to read as an open book. Other than being eager to get him into a poker game, it was interesting to test his reaction to some basic political propositions. While he is fervent on electoral reform, his eyes cloud over when you mention changing the constitution. He does not see dealing with Canada’s constitution as anything other than a lose-lose proposition.

Despite still being a teenager at the time, Justin obviously absorbed more of his late father’s attitudes about the Meech Lake machinations and the failed Charlottetown Accord than he admits. As a Quebec MP, Justin has obviously tried to leave these issues behind while emulating the more modern Québécois. His approach seemed to be working on election day as Quebec contributed handsomely to the Liberal majority.

Trudeau’s stance on electoral reform is also more emotional than considered. His stated preference for the ‘instant run-off” of a preferential vote would have likely provided his party with more than 30 additional seats in parliament in the October election. As he won a majority anyway, he did not need those potential second votes.

And cooler heads in the Liberal Party will warn him against giving in to the smaller parties’ desire for a proportional voting system. Majority governments are rare with proportional voting systems.

But Justin’s basic problem remains that there is too much real change needed that requires constitutional rather than electoral reform. The silly elitist solution he has come up with for Senate reform is going to come back and bite him. If he really does appoint non-political independent elites to the Senate, they will act that way and his government will have just as hard a time passing legislation as he would have without making any appointments to the Senate.

He did not disagree when we delved into a list of problems that Canada’s constitution had built up in the more than 140 years our country had existed at the time.

In our conversation those six years ago, we suggested changing the role of the Governor General. He liked the idea but ruled it out when we suggested turning all Canada’s constitutional problems over to an elected constitutional congress. Mind you, he looked thoughtful when we mentioned dumping the monarchy and looking at a presidential system of government.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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