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Stoking cynicism


The fallout still is reverberating two weeks after the Liberal government reneged on its promise to change Canada's electoral system by the next election scheduled for 2019.

The heat might have died out by now except that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself fanned the embers last week during a visit to the Northwest Territories, when he told a woman the Liberals' decision to abandon electoral reform was the right one because it would prevent “fringe” parties from gaining more power.

Uh, wait a minute. Shouldn't the Liberals have thought of that before Mr. Trudeau stood before the cameras—both during the last campaign and afterwards—and solemnly pledged 2015 would be the last federal election conducted using the so-called “first-past-the-post” system?

It was a classic case of the Liberals making a promise to win votes, then realizing they couldn't (or, worse, no longer wanted to) deliver on it. In fact, it was almost funny, if it wasn't so sad, to watch the party scramble to get out of the corner they had painted themselves into.

We all know “first-past-the-post” isn't perfect—namely that it routinely results in majority governments despite garnering less than 40 percent of the popular vote. But again, in a multi-party system, it's rare that a particular candidate (party) captures an outright majority of votes cast in their riding.

A proportional system, in which parties are allotted seats in the House of Commons based on their percentage of the popular vote, would result in an endless stream of minority or coalition governments. A preferential ballot, in which voters have to rank all the candidates as first choice, second choice, third choice, etc., probably would cause mass confusion—resulting in a rash of spoiled ballots or people not bothering to turn out to vote at all.

Bottom line, what's wrong with a system in which the candidate who gets the most votes wins—and let the chips fall as they may as the election plays out in all 300+ ridings across the country?

Reneging on their promise of electoral reform won't deal the Liberals a fatal blow come next election.

It did, however, stoke already rampant cynicism among voters by blatantly reminding them that parties will (and do) promise anything to get elected, which only serves to turn even more people off our democratic process.

And that is what's most troubling about this whole fiasco.

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