KAMLOOPS — You’d think, by the way the Opposition is talking, that an election promise had never been broken before Wednesday.
Sometimes, election promises are broken for no good reason; at other times, breaking a promise is justified. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged during the last election campaign that it would the last under the first-past-the-post system. Yesterday, he changed his mind.
There are good reasons for reversing himself on his promise, the main one being that there’s really no advantage to getting involved in the complexities of proportional representation. Another is that it’s not an issue that Canadians care all that much about.
Rather than the Opposition claim that putting the brakes on changing how we vote is “cynical,” Trudeau’s move is the right thing to do. It’s not that he didn’t try to put some steam behind electoral reform. There was a Parliamentary special committee, town halls and local committees (including Kamloops), a traveling road show and an online survey — though the latter was quite a flop.
Still, Trudeau could have put some choices to the people in a national referendum, and he’s decided not even to do that. He resisted a referendum right from the start, and it’s never been clear why. After all, something as fundamental as the manner in which we pick our governments seemed tailor-made for a referendum. Somehow, Trudeau had the idea that determining whether there was broad support for electoral-system change was best achieved by other means.
Anyway, Trudeau has decided there isn’t enough support to make changes. “A clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged,” he states.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen calls it “a cynical display.” Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose (even though her party has always been critical of the initiative) basically says that, because of the flip-flop, people can’t believe anything Trudeau says.
And Green Party leader Elizabeth May calls it a “betrayal.”
Oh, come on. It was a bad idea in the first place. Trudeau belatedly figured that out.