This subject would have been ignored if another commentary on it had not run in the Washington Post. The writer accused the Canadian prime minister of looking “both incompetent and cynical in abandoning the promise of (voting) reform.” It would have become an international incident but we have reason to think the writer is Canadian.
There was also the national day of protest last Saturday organized by Fair Vote Canada. It looked like a couple dozen people turned out in Nathan Philips Square in Toronto with their signs saying Justin Trudeau let them down. There were similar efforts in a few other cities—everyone gets together with their homemade signs, their bluster and their tired arguments and then head for the nearest pub to get warm, quaff a few and argue some more.
It is hardly that Prime Minister Trudeau was being cavalier about the subject. He was obviously sincere—though wrong—when he said in the last election campaign that 2015 was the last election under first-past-the-post. He got the Fair Vote people excited and Canada’s New Democrats and Greens on side fast enough. It proved that he had not read the entrails on that election very well. He seemed to have no idea how well he was going to do.
And it was not as though he did not try to keep his word. He might not have given the file to the smartest member of his cabinet but she seemed to be doing as she was told. After a false start with a Liberal majority committee, he agreed to having a more balanced special committee created to investigate the best route to follow.
That committee certainly worked hard. They listened to so-called experts from across Canada and from selected countries. They even listened—grudgingly—to some non-expert citizens. They spent the summer of 2016 in cloisters in Ottawa doing their duty. They did marathon travelling around the country in the fall. And they filed their report.
They were insulted by Prime Minister Trudeau’s minister for not providing an answer. They did the best job they could. They reported that there is no perfect answer. They reported that Canadians were either divided on the issue, happy with first-past-the-post or possibly just not interested. It was obvious that a great deal more work needed to be done.
So what did anyone expect Prime Minister Trudeau to do? As a politician, he listened to his cabinet, his caucus and to parliament and to the citizens of his country. After due deliberation, he admitted that we will just have to use first-past-the-post again in the next election.
He is not the first politician to break a promise to the voters. He will not be the last. He admitted he made a boo-boo.
Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry
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