Making Election System More Democratic
Key Planks For Fall Election
Trudeau Won't Commit To Proportional Representation, Mulcair Does
By Susanna Kelley
The NDP and the Liberals staked out campaign platforms to make Canada's election system more democratic Tuesday, giving voters a clearer choice when it comes to how they would elect their representatives after the next election.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau announced he would bring in a new voting system for Canadian elections, but unlike Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair, would not commit that it would be proportional representation (PR).
Rather, Mr. Trudeau pledged to set up an all-party committee to study how to replace the current first past the post system, a system in which less than 40 per cent of Canadian voters award one party 100 per cent of the power.
Critics have said that system is a significant distortion of the popular will.
Mr. Trudeau says the committee would be given 18 months to come up with an alternative way of electing governments.
He has said in the past he prefers a ranked ballot system but now says he would consider proportional representation, among other options.
In contrast, Mr. Mulcair spoke strongly in favour of PR after a speech in Toronto.
"We've been clear for a long time on the importance of bringing in proportional representation in our country. We believe in it ... We think that it's more fair, and that's why we're going to fight hard for it," the NDP leader told reporters.
"It's a key file for us," he said.
Mr. Mulcair accused the Liberals of opposing PR in the past.
"It's something that we so firmly believe in we continued to put that position forward as recently as December, six months ago, in a motion in the House of Commons, word for word that the next election should be the last one with the first past the post system and the Liberals voted against it."
Mr. Mulcair said the fact that 40 per cent of Canadians chose to not even vote in the last election, including 63 per cent of those between the ages of 18 and 25, means there is need for democratic reforms to ensure them that every vote counts.
The NDP leader is putting forward a two-pronged strategy to do that.
Firstly, proportional representation, which will "be very healthy for our democracy," he said.
Secondly, he promises to abolish the Senate.
Second and third place parties have historically pledged to bring in PR but shied away from it when elected to government.
The Ontario Liberals under Dalton McGuinty, for example, campaigned on changing the winner take all system but once they won power, ran a low-profile referendum on a system called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). That referendum failed when many voters did not understand nor had even heard of MMP before they were asked to vote on it in 2007.
Still, most countries in the Commonwealth have abandoned the British-inspired first past the post systems they once had, modelled as they were after the Westminster parliamentary system.