Kenora MP Bob Nault says the federal government gave electoral reform “a good go” and that there was no consensus.
Wrong. A consensus of Canadians does want to change the electoral system.
They expected Justin Trudeau to keep his party's promise to change the electoral system. The all-party parliamentary committee on electoral reform noted that an “overwhelming majority of testimony was in favour of proportional representation"—not a bare majority, not a consensus, but an "overwhelming majority.”
If you add up the numbers, 44 favoured first-past-the-post (12 percent) and 311 favoured proportional representation (88 percent).
The committee report supported proportional representation and recommended holding a referendum.
The new minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, relies upon the results of the widely-criticized online survey. She has said the government's decision to break its promise (words she will not use) is based on the responses of 383,000 Canadians.
This is only two percent of the 17.7 million who voted in the 2015 election.
But the minister and Mr. Nault ignore the fact that although 67 percent of those who responded reported “being somewhat or very satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada,” they did not say that they were opposed to changing the electoral system.
In fact, the survey tells us that “62 percent of Canadians agree that they should be able to express multiple preferences on the ballot, even if this means that it takes longer to count the ballots and announce the election result.”
And 35 percent would be satisfied with a ballot which allowed voters to express preferences—even if it was not easy to understand.
Of perhaps even greater significance, 19.6 percent of voters rarely or never vote because of the electoral system. That is a pretty big number; it, combined with the other results, speak loudly in favour of change.
As the survey did not ask the question, “are you in favour of changing first-past-the-post" or "are you in favour of proportional representation,” the only way to know the answers is to ask Canadians in a referendum.
Even the survey report states that because of the small number which responded, the survey is not representative. How can the government possibly rely on such a small sample?
The governments of Ontario, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island gave their voters a chance to vote on adopting forms of proportional representation. So what does our Liberal government have to fear from putting change to a vote?
Despite the will of the electorate, the will of Parliament, and the results of the government's own survey, Mr. Nault and Mr. Trudeau have broken an election promise.