Sub-title: An Open Letter to the Prime Minister that he Will Never Read.
Dear Prime Minister,
Your recent interview with Le Devoir and subsequent comments from the punditry seem to imply that you’re actually thinking of side-stepping electoral reform in this first term. Obama recently said derisively to a multitude of Trump ideas, “C’mon Man!”. I find myself wanting to shout the same at you.
Of course I won’t shout. Although I am currently of another political persuasion I actually admire and respect you (and your charming wife). You have already done a great deal for the image of government here at home and of the country abroad. Keep it up.
But image is not enough.
You have apparently implied that there is now no urgency to proceeding with electoral reform, which tells me that you must be unaware that you are standing in a swamp full of sceptical crocodiles who are multiplying as the water rises.
Surely you didn’t campaign so enthusiastically last year on your major promise — “We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system”– and not mean it? C’mon Man!
I know that during a recent Question Period in the House you said you would not use your party’s majority to “ram through” electoral reform but it’s not a question of ramming anything. It’s a question of persuading Parliament to do its job and represent the people. You have what appears to be a good parliamentary committee that has already consulted widely and whose purpose is to advise you. For goodness sake listen to its advice and, whether you fully follow it or not, in 2017 present meaningful electoral legislation and let Parliament vote on it.
Why “ram” anything? Make a deal with the Parties, your own included, that they won’t “whip” their vote but will let conscience be the individual’s guide — and then hang your reform and your integrity on an open vote. I vividly remember a stroll through my own back yard with the late Honourable John Bracken while he explained that the open vote was the tool that kept him Premier of Manitoba for 19 years. Since it was he who insisted on welding the name “Progressive” to the old Conservative Party you can learn from him with a light heart. And if the bastard offspring of that Party, now deformed, adulterated and diluted, wishes to scream “Referendum!”, simply ignore them.
For heaven’s sake, let Parliament decide. We’re still, supposedly, a Representative Democracy in which Parliament is still, supposedly, supreme. (Okay, okay. I know some folk feel that the Supreme Court is supreme, but surely it’s purpose is to see that everybody, even Parliament, follows the laws that Parliament makes.)
If next year a majority of parliamentarians in their wisdom, or even obtuseness, turn down intelligent legislation in an open vote, then tough bananas. You’ve tried your best and come the next election, as we the electorate enter the polling booth, we can ponder our individual representative’s intransigence rather than your unfaithfulness.
But if you don’t act soon and instead drag out the consultations and even, heaven forbid, allow a high-bar referendum on a complicated proposal that is sure to lose, then you’ve trouble ahead.
You’ve undoubtedly already got enough trouble ahead during the next three years in trying to achieve even a portion of your admirable aspirations. If by waffling and procrastinating up to zero hour you fail to bring about even modest electoral reform then that will be the exact failure foremost in mind as we stress out over yet another damnable first-past-the-post ballot. But if you drain that electoral reform swamp in 1917 and muzzle the crocodiles then you can get on with concerns about health, environment and commerce and we can all bicker about some of that.
With respect and hope,