Though “lack of consensus and broad support” has been taking the blame for the Liberals’ decision to abandon their electoral reform pledge, the minister in charge of the file can’t define exactly what consensus or broad support entails.
“We listened to them and we found there was not the broad support to move forward and that’s why I will not be pursuing it in my mandate,” Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said in an interview for The West Block on Sunday.
“When you’re going to do something as fundamental as change how we choose to govern ourselves, you absolutely have to have Canadians behind you.”
An online survey at MyDemocracy.ca was one of several initiatives the Liberals undertook prior to kyboshing the promise. None of the multiple choice questions asked specifically whether respondents preferred system A or B, or the status quo.
Perhaps the closest question asked whether further action was needed to better represent people who are underrepresented in Parliament. More than half of respondents – 52 per cent – said yes, they believed further action was required.
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But 52 per cent wasn’t enough, Gould said in an interview on The West Block.
“I think when you’re talking about our electoral system, broad support needs to be much more than 52 per cent,” she said.
Asked what the threshold was for “broad support” or “consensus” – or whether the government had determined one – Gould said there wasn’t.
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Canadians found out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was dropping his promise last Wednesday, when Gould’s mandate letter was made public.
In the letter, Trudeau made it clear that electoral reform – once top of mind for the Liberal government – was no longer on the agenda.
The sudden about-face has critics and rivals seething.
Canadians made their views on the issue known for months through the House of Commons special committee on electoral reform, town halls held by MPs from all parties, the travels of former minister Maryam Monsef and a much-maligned online survey called MyDemocracy.ca.
The mandate letter shows that Trudeau did not believe those consultations produced the Liberals’ desired – albeit undefined – level of support for electoral reform, let alone any clarity on a preferred replacement.
As NDP and Green Party critics pointed out, Trudeau’s oft-repeated promise was never contingent on anything, even a consensus.
With a file from The Canadian Press