This February marks the fourth anniversary of Justin Trudeau’s broken promise on electoral reform. It was a key campaign issue, repeated over 1,800 times, then abruptly abandoned. Trudeau was by no means the first politician to break his electoral promise.
William Lyon Mackenzie King promised that 1921 would be the last election under FPTP. Pierre Trudeau said “I would support a system of proportional representation.” Conservatives Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney once spoke passionately and eloquently in favour of electoral reform. The Alberta NDP, led by Rachel Notley, ditched proportional representation just months before they won the election.
Politicians of all stripes have supported electoral reform while in opposition, only to abandon it when they get a taste of the raw power of majority government. In contrast, decades of opinion polls and studies have shown strong and consistent majority support for electoral reform from regular Canadians, across party lines.
BC’s Citizens’ Assembly of 2004 managed to break the stalemate between citizens and politicians. The result of a citizen driven process, which was transparent and kept politicians at arms length, was supported by almost 60 per cent of British Columbia voters. Citizen assemblies across the globe have proven the effectiveness of that type of deliberative democracy.
A century of broken promises tells us that politicians, on their own, will never deliver electoral reform. It will take an independent, transparent, and non-partisan national citizens’ assembly to finally realize the fairer democracy we all deserve. Let’s not wait another century!
The issue of electoral reform is not going away. The next generation of Canadians is now picking it up. If you have three minutes, please watch this fun, catchy music video, written and produced by young performing artists from Edmonton, and share it if you like it. Because it’s 2021. https://youtu.be/sbDb1ukf5ZE.
Ann Remnant and Sjeng Derkx