Justin Trudeau lays out platform that would revamp electoral system
Liberal leader puts out wide range of promises to open the doors to information in Ottawa.
June 16, 2015
By Les Whittington and Bruce Campion-Smith
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau laid out an ambitious plan Tuesday to shake up the way Canadians vote while accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of throwing a cloak of secrecy over the federal government and undermining the integrity of Canada’s democracy.
“Mr. Harper has broken Ottawa and we need a real plan to fix it,” he declared in a speech with nearly 200 Liberal MPs and election candidates lined up behind him.
Trumpeting the slogan “real change,” the Liberal leader unveiled a package of initiatives that touched on everything from open government, to revamping federal institutions, to mail delivery.
But the most ambitious pledge was overhauling federal elections. If Liberals take power after the Oct. 19 vote, Trudeau vowed it would be the last federal election held under the first-past-the-post electoral system.
This winner-take-all system is blamed by many for supposedly distorting the result of national votes, making it possible for a party to win a majority of seats in the Commons with only 40 per cent support.
Under a Liberal government, a special, all-party parliamentary committee would be given 18 months to examine proportional representation, ranked ballots and other possible replacements for the first-past-the-post voting system. Trudeau promised to introduce legislation to overhaul Canada’s federal electoral routine based on the committee’s recommendations.
Asked why he wasn’t proposing a firm alternative to the current system, Trudeau said, “this is a serious decision that needs to be properly studied and weighed.”
The Liberal leader also said he would encourage better voting turnout by young people by working with provinces and Elections Canada to register students to vote as part of their high school curriculum. The Liberals would also move to extend parties’ electoral spending limits to the period before an actual election campaign starts.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair also favours changing the workings of the federal voting system. His party had proportional representation as an election vow in 2004.
“We’ve been clear for a long time on the importance of bringing in proportional representation in our country - we believe in it,” Mulcair told reporters after a speech in Toronto. “We think that it’s more fair, and that’s why we are going to fight hard for it.”
With recent polls showing him losing ground to Mulcair, Trudeau came out swinging as he laid out a series of policies he said were intended to reverse the legacy of Harper’s time in government.
“The Harper Conservatives have been in power for a decade,” he said. “And year after year, they have grown more closed off from Canadians.
“Stephen Harper promised us principled government. But he has delivered partisanship and petty politics,” Trudeau remarked.
The Conservatives have muzzled scientists, forced government institutions to toe the Tory line and challenged the integrity of the courts, he said: “Harper has turned Ottawa into a partisan swamp. He has used the tools of state to attack anyone who isn’t on his side.”
Highlights of Trudeau’s proposals
Broadening Access to Information rules to include requests for information held by the Prime Minister’s Office and other ministers’ offices.
The creation of a non-partisan, merit-based process to advise the prime minister on Senate appointments.
An all-party oversight committee to oversee the activities of Canada’s national security agencies.
Allowing government scientists to speak freely about their work and create the position of chief science officer.
Restoring door-to-door mail delivery by Canada Post.
Giving youth a greater voice in government, ensuring gender-based analysis of federal policies and a pledge that a Liberal cabinet would have an equal number of men and women.
Considering a mandatory voting system.