At the end of the 44th General Election campaign, a reporter asked
Justin Trudeau whether, if elected, he would re-look at the question of
electoral reform. Trudeau said he remains open to getting rid of the
first-past-the-post method of counting votes, even though it's not a
priority since there's no consensus on the issue, and no one had even
raised it with him in the campaign until then.
made clear though that he considered a "ranked ballot," which the
Liberal Party has long favoured, as the only alternative, claiming it
makes elections less divisive. He continues to oppose proportional
representation (PR), he said, because it gives more weight to smaller
parties "that are perhaps fringe parties."
the same argument he gave in 2017 when he tried to justify refusing to
implement recommendations of the All-Party Special Committee on
Electoral Reform for making the way votes are counted more
representative in the allotment of seats in the House of Commons. At
the time he claimed "extremist voices" who do not join one of the three
"big tent" parties posed the greatest threat to Canada's democracy.
"If we were to make a change or risk a change that would
augment individual voices -- that would augment extremist voices and
activist voices that don't get to sit within a party that figures out
what's best for the whole future of the country, like the three
existing parties do -- I think we would be entering a period of
instability and uncertainty." He added that would "be putting at risk
the very thing that makes us luckier than anyone on the planet."
He did not explain who is the "us" he was referring to, but it
was clear it could only mean the privileged minority that come to power
through the party system and operate like a cartel to ensure the people
and their concerns are kept out.
He raised the
alarm about "extremist" voices ending up holding the balance of power
under PR if they manage to get 10, 15, 20 seats. He said "the strength
of our democracy is we have to pull people together into big parties
that have all the diversity of Canada, and who learn to get along ...
And that's why we have a system that works so well."
former members of his own cabinet and party, who are no longer there,
in view of events that took place in previous parliaments, have plenty
of experience about how "the big tent" failed to listen to their views.
They were defamed, isolated and even thrown out because diverse views
are only tolerated so long as they do not conflict with those of the
Prime Minister and his entourage. In fact, membership in the entourage
is not at all inclusive but exclusive to the extreme.
the last week of the 2021 campaign CBC Windsor ran a story on what they
called "fringe and splinter" party candidates. Ostensibly about
candidates of the Christian Heritage, Marxist-Leninist and Green
parties in area ridings, it pushed a variation of the same line. The
story was heavy on commentary from a local political science professor
who is CBC's local go-to "expert" when it comes to elections. She also
happens to be a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and has authored
papers arguing against the adoption of PR when that was under
consideration in BC. In her writings the professor warns that "smaller
or even fringe parties in PR systems are able to wield a
disproportionate amount of power at the expense of the preferences of
the majority of voters who did not cast a vote for such parties." For
good measure she adds that moving to PR would likely increase both
government spending and deficits.
In the CBC story
this commentator raised what was made out to be an observation of a
voter trend. In reality, it seemed more like advice she was offering.
She said while people may gravitate ideologically to a fringe party,
when it comes time to vote they may stick with one of the mainstreams
"so as not to split the vote."
That "news" story,
variations of which are heard at every election, is one of the methods
aimed at convincing the electorate not to vote for small party or
independent candidates. They are endlessly repeated so as to be
accepted without question as conventional wisdom. In fact its aim is to
ensure that what are called major parties -- already favoured with
every manner of privilege through state funding, patently unfair
electoral laws and free promotion in the media -- can continue
functioning unimpeded as a cartel that blocks the people from coming to
power, or even being elected so their voices are heard and their
concerns raised in Parliament.
No threat to the
unrepresentative party system called a representative government is to
be permitted. Discussion of the direction of Canada's foreign policy,
its integration into the U.S. war machine and support for U.S. wars,
its membership in NATO and NORAD, the billions spent on war
preparations and paying the rich in a myriad of ways, how any of this
benefits the Canadian people and, more importantly, who decides, are
all considered taboos which must not be broken.
fight for renewal of the political process to empower Canadians
directly, instead of bringing parties to power, is an important one
that must continue to go forward. Political forums which bring people
together to exchange experiences and discuss how to make an advance are
This article was published in
Volume 51 Number 10 - October 10, 2021