The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher
TORONTO - Despite the best efforts of Canada’s major Media outlets, the Trudeau’s abandonment of the Electoral Reform initiative is as stimulating and exciting as a bottle of sleeping pills for insomniacs.
Was he – or anyone else, for that matter - ever sincere about changing the way we govern ourselves? Probably. There is no shortage of examples inefficient, dysfunctional even, crying out for adjustment or outright abandonment if one wanted to point them out in Canada’s governance structure.
Except for the odd tinkering with constituency boundaries to accommodate demographic dislocation and population growth, the structure of Federal Government has remained virtually unchanged since 1867.
Some think the model has served Canada well. They demand “reverence” for Governance institutions that have guided us to where we are today – one of the premier countries in the world, economic ally and social.
Others, think we could always do better. It is unlikely that we would find them among the ranks of the 144 first-time elected MPs in the government ranks. We might find some among the remnants of the Opposition parties who are casting about for a raison d’etre (as they should) or for issues upon which to impale the government.
The ever-ubiquitous Trump is for them a daily reminder that in a perfect electoral system, not one that was “rigged” from the get go, the Donald might well have been relegated to the dustbin reserved for electoral casualties.
He lost the popular vote by a wide margin – 3 million votes – but triumphed in the Electoral College, a body of 538 members whose majority determines who will be President. “Rep by pop” is not necessarily the ultimate model of democratic expression favoured by Americans.
Nor is it the choice sanctioned by the British Supreme Court which last month confirmed an earlier court decision essentially invalidating the results of the Brexit vote. While the popular vote in the Referendum to leave the European Union favoured a withdrawal, The Court determined that only Parliament can make that decision. The referendum is a mere guide, not a binding instruction by the public, for parliamentarians.
In Italy, where Constitutions are a “living document” (subject to change with the times), and electoral structures last as long as a chameleon’s disguise, experiments with Electoral Reform are as frequent as those applied to the Scientific Method.
Italians have tried “first past the post”, “proportional representation”, “a perfect bi-cameral system” that combines elements of both, a run-off system between the top two, and a proportional system that guarantees a majority to whichever party achieves the 40% popular vote threshold.
The latest model to bite the dust, as it were, was a Constitutional re-structuring of its bi-cameral system combined with a direct election of MPs. This proposal was voted, and approved, on six separate occasions in both Houses.
When put to the public for approval in a binding Referendum, as is required for [all] Constitutional changes, the public said “no thanks, try something else!”
What proposal did Justin Trudeau’s Ministers for Democratic Institutions (Reform) put forward? On what model(s) did the MPs on the Parliamentary Committee entrusted with providing the House of Commons with advice stake their political career(s)?
What models did the Kindergarten graduates who designed the on-line model for public input consult?
Back to sincerity. I would like to reform the system. But It would be foolish to do it for the sake of just doing it. Canada collectively has made a decision to opt for a system that comes close to guaranteeing “governability” with some semblance of authority.
When our political leaders, Academics and Media put some skin in the game to address how their proposal for Electoral reform will buttress our sovereignty against the persistent and creeping threats of parochialism and globalization, the discussion can take on a more serious tone.