Saturday, October 29, 2016

Promises, promises

Last year, when Justin Trudeau and the Liberals were campaigning for office, one of their major promises was to change our method of electing Federal representatives. At that time, their clear commitment was that 2015 would be the last federal election based on first past the post results. Since then, as with some other of their promises, the focus seems to have shifted. Their website now seems to stress the importance of fairness in elections -- a noble cause, but one that appears to be a repositioning from the resolve they were so strong on last year.

British Columbia explored the possibilities for electoral reform over a decade ago. Sadly (mostly through an almost impossible set of guidelines), the referendum on the issue failed by a hair. But based on this experience, it seems that we in BC have almost a duty to speak out.

In efforts to move forward on the way we vote, the federal government struck a Special Committee on Electoral Reform, and representatives of this committee are holding town-hall type meetings, asking the public for input. Former Senator Pat Carney wrote about one of these meetings, held on Saturna Island, where she lives.

Although the meeting held in my area (nearby Cloverdale) didn't start off as casually as Carney's (with a potluck supper), it was much less formal in tone than this summer's gatherings for input on proposed pipelines, but then maybe the way we vote is more of a 'down-home' issue. After all, we still use paper ballots. Quaint perhaps, but there are no 'hanging chads' to argue about.

Even though it appeared that John Aldag, the Member of Parliament for Cloverdale and Langley City was hosting the event (I'll admit, I arrived a bit late), the Minister of Democratic Institutions (there's a title for ya!), Maryam Monsef, was clearly in charge, as she seemed to be taking up most of the first half-hour with her introductory remarks.

When my turn came, I related my history of voting in Canada -- quite a run -- which goes back to 1972. In all of those elections, my vote has counted exactly once, as that's how many times the person I've voted for actually got into office. Perhaps a less-determined person would stop bothering to vote.
And that single success was in a provincial election, not a federal one. Federally, I have never had 'my' candidate win a seat.

So, I suppose it was natural for my Member of Parliament to not be in attendance at yesterday's event. In correspondence she's sent (in reply to my question about where she stands on this issue) she's made it clear that her mind is made up. She's not in support of changing our electoral process in any way, at least not without an expensive referendum beforehand. So really, why would she need to come to hear what people might think? Arrogant? You might choose to think that, especially in light of the fact that a range of citizens, clearly not all Liberals, attended yesterday's gathering.

As for the overall progress (or lack thereof) on Trudeau's promises, much is still up in the air and about the best we can do is keep writing letters and, I suppose, keeping our fingers crossed.

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