Breaking Electoral Reform

February 1st, 2016 | R. Rados 

electoral reform

Canadians don't even have to listen carefully to hear the sound of broken promises. That loud crash we're hearing is the sound of Liberal promises shattering and falling to the ground in broken fragments. That's the sound of a Liberal Party that promised it all but couldn't deliver. That's the sound of a prime minister succumbing to his own naivety.

Some of these crashing sounds should be music to our ears. Not because Trudeau has failed to live up to his own expectations, but because some of his promises were just too terrible to see the light of day. There are still some Liberal promises that should meet the ground in pieces, like the promise to reform Canada's electoral system without a referendum. The sound of that promise crashing into irreparable shards would sound like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

From failing to meet their target of 25,000 refugees (and then their new target of 10,000) by the end of 2015, to reconsidering an end to Canada's contribution against ISIS, the Liberal Party's list of shattered promises keeps growing. As the months go on, we may see their plan to end FPP voting join that list. Reasons to hope for the destruction of this contentious Liberal promise grow with every new session in the House Of Commons.

Any plans made to reform how Canadians vote will be made by the Minister Of Democratic Institutions, Maryam Monsef and a Liberal majority. If you've ever watched Monsef's performances in Question Period, you'll know exactly why Canadians should be concerned. After being asked by Banff-Airdrie MP, Blake Richards, about whether Canadians will have a say in any reforms, Monsef's reply was astonishing.

We have promised an open and robust consultation process. And I will not prejudice the outcome of that consultation process by committing to a referendum.” – Maryam Monsef

In non-Liberal layman terms, Maryam Monsef's response means that she doesn't want to hinder her plan to modify Canada's electoral system to her party's liking. If Monsef was planning on putting together a reasonable and fair reform bill, she would have no problem letting all Canadians approve of it.

Chances are that any parliamentary vote on electoral reform will happen after the Trudeau Government has stacked the senate with compliant supporters. It's unlikely that electoral reform would pass through the current senate, which is made up of 45 Tories and only 29 “independent” Liberals. However, there are currently 22 vacancies to fill. Once they're filled, there will be 51 ideologically sympathetic Liberals. Under proposed reforms, these 22 new senators won't be allowed to call themselves Liberals, but they will still be Liberals and their appointments will still be the sole responsibility of Justin Trudeau. Not one of the recommended appointments made by the new “independent advisory board” is legally binding. This means that these new senate reforms are just another lame magic trick.

We can expect any “open and robust” consultation on election reform to be as non-binding and meaningless as the Liberal's independent advisory board for senate appointments. Any open consultation that leads to policy proposals will be modified to the Liberal Party's liking before it's tabled for a vote. At that point, whatever reform bill the Liberals want to pass with their majority will pass with flying colours. From there, it'll probably pass through the newly appointed Liberal senate.

Once Liberal electoral reform passes through both bowels of parliament like a wet turd, the only way to stop it will be with the Supreme Court. Even then, the outcome is dicey at best. If opposition parties (or any group) file for an injunction, the court could stop or delay the reforms from being enacted. If the court approves the injunction, it could force such reforms to be re-visited or scrapped all together.

A successful injunction could mean one of two things for the Liberals. They could take credit for trying to fulfill their promise of electoral reform in the 2019 election, or it could backfire completely and make Trudeau, Monsef and the Liberal Party look supremely naive and incompetent. The image of incompetence would stem from their own failure to foresee the legal challenges involved in trying to overhaul the entire electoral system.

Even most Liberal supporters are wary about their party's electoral reforms. However, there are still handfuls of party hacks who take to social media and CBC panels to regurgitate Liberal talking points.

Proponents of electoral reform always point to the former Conservative government's Fair Elections Act as evidence of not needing a referendum. There are so many things wrong with that argument that it's surprising to see so many intelligent people using it to defend Liberal reforms. Although the Council Of Canadians and Canadian Federation Of Students filed a failed injunction against the Fair Elections Act, it's the failure of their injunction that proves the comparison is apples and oranges.

The Fair Elections Act did not change how votes are cast and tabulated in Canada. Furthermore, it didn't change electoral boundaries or the number of seats in the House Of Commons – something that could change again with a proportional or transferable voting system. The constitution currently requires boundaries to be reviewed every ten years. Laws also require each province to have an independent commission tasked with redrawing their own provincial boundaries based on a particular formula. These are all things that any reform bill would have to consider. They're all things that remained completely unaffected by the Fair Elections Act.

The Fair Elections Act didn't even accomplish what leftoid conspiracy theorists thought it would. It was supposed to have suppressed the votes and the voting rights of students, aboriginals and seniors. When all was said and done, voter turnout was the highest it had been in almost 20 years. In some aboriginal communities, voter turnout grew by 270%.

Conservatives shouldn't assume that any changes to our electoral system would make the Liberals unbeatable. Liberals might think that certain systems give them an advantage, but they should never underestimate the disdain that can grow among voters. Like it did with Harper, disdain can grow to fatal proportions. Even in a proportional or ranked ballot voting system, disdain for the Liberal Party could put them as third, fourth or fifth choice. If a new system allows voters to skip ranking and simply choose only a first choice, Liberals could face obliteration if they get too arrogant.

Liberals will likely remain stubborn on refusing to hold a referendum. They'll likely try to implement a system that gives their party a distinct advantage. Their status as a centrist, safe party does give them an advantage on most ranked ballots, but for the reasons above, Liberals would be foolish to think it makes them unbeatable. That won't stop them from trying. Their refusal to hold a referendum is evidence enough that they don't want Canadians to tamper with their efforts to rig the system. Their refusal to hold a referendum is deplorable enough to garner outrage. Whether a new voting system would improve or diminish Canadian democracy isn't the issue. The real issue is the Liberal Party's refusal to let democratic reform be decided fairly – by democracy.