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Justin Trudeau – “Coming – Ready or Not!” And breathe – but now for Canada to get rid of First Past the Post.

October 19, 2015


“Ready or not  – here I come!”  should have been the campaign song.  Not that it really matters.

And…  breathe.

One less thing to worry about.  Canada’s worst prime minister since (or possibly including) Richard Bedford Bennett has gone.  Stephen Harper can go and watch Netflix or play with his awful band, or pose for pictures with Nickelback.

A Liberal Majority though?  The Canadian Liberal Party have a historic sense of their own innate right to rule, having tenanted Sussex Drive for most of the past century.  One shouldn’t be completely cynical about this.  The legislation of one of the world’s most civilised and humane nations on earth has been down to Liberals to a large extent.  Oooh but they can be smug sometimes though.  They can be arrogant. And they can show a cronyism in office which is as human as it is predictable.  Which is why they get voted out every so often.

Justin (“Coming – Ready or Not”) Trudeau committed his party to a reform of the voting system before the election.  But that was, perhaps, when he was assuming he wouldn’t get a majority.   Now that he has a majority – now that he really doesn’t need electoral reform – will he threaten the system that has given his party another secure parliamentary majority?

The Liberals have won with about 40% of the vote.  They have nearly twice as many seats as the Conservatives who retained about 32% of the vote.   The opinion polls for much of the summer and early autumn during this outrageously long campaign showed a three way tie with Liberals and NDP voters unsure of how to vote strategically to unseat Harper.  (My own folk all live in a very orange NDP corner of Canada where people did not decide to jump with Justin as it turns out.)  Mulcair has wound up with just over 10% of the seats but nearly 20% of the vote and it’s morally certain that a hefty chunk of NDP voters jumped onto the Liberal bandwagon at the last minute to unseat Harper.  Trudeau, in other words, has borrowed some NDP votes and should think about a repayment plan.  The Greens, meanwhile, with votes spread all over the nation, will be left again with just one MP.

Some politicians face their supreme test of character in a crisis.  Trudeau will face his at the moment of victory.  If he honours a commitment to a real electoral reform (at the moment Liberals are talking about AV – which is better than FPTP at least) then they will have shown that unlike previous Liberal prime ministers he might just care more about Liberalism than the party that bears its name.  That being “liberal” means more than a tribal affiliation.

Trudeau’s Liberals have banished the horrors of Harper for at least four years.  But a reformed electoral system could banish people like Harper (arrogant monopolists) pretty much forever.  A reformed federal election system could also ease the perceived need to always vote tactically – to always vote against things rather than for things.  If people know that their vote can be made to mean something, they can vote more honestly.

Back in June, Trudeau pledged that 2015 should be the last Canadian Federal election fought under FPTP.  Canada is not a two party system and will not be in the foreseeable future, making FPTP even more distorting than usual.  Back in June, Trudeau pledged that he would set up committees to explore electoral models and would back a better system within eighteen months.

If a majority Trudeau government initiates any form of electoral reform that offers a more representative parliament in which progressive politicians learn to listen and to share, then it will be the most successful test of his administration.

And this test will begin almost immediately.


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