Rivers braves the cold Canadian winter air to protest - all in vain.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 13th, 2017


If I were Donald Trump I’d have to say that it was the largest crowd ever. There were more people assembled at Nathan Phillips Square than at former US president Obama’s inauguration. And all those white spaces between the people… well that was just snow.

Seriously, there were only a few thousand brave souls who turned out on a bone-chilling February mid-day at Toronto’s city hall this past Saturday. They had assembled to protest Trudeau breaking his promise about how we elect our MPs. And it was a pretty good crowd for such an event given such short notice. Besides, there were as many as twenty of these protests being held across the nation.

Rivers protesting

Gazette columnist Ray Rivers publicly protesting the decision Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made to abandon his election promise to never again hold an election where the First Past the Post was the winner.

The organizers seemed pleased with the turnout. After all, electoral reform is not top-of-mind for most Canadians. No doubt that was what the Liberals found out recently after polling convinced them that they could safely kill the electoral reform promise. And the whole matter is complicated, filled with unfamiliar terms like first-past-the-post, single transferable vote and mixed-member proportional representation. You won’t find that kind of language every day in the sports section.

The faces in the crowd were mostly young – a generation of first-time voters, once convinced not long ago that Mr. Trudeau was just one of them – that new kind of politician, offering a better political deal for Canadians. Better representation might make politics more relevant to this generation and even the one before, the Gen-Xers, who had largely shunned politics and left voting to their parents.

But there was this proverbial elephant in the midst of the protest. If it was this easy to cancel one promise, what about all the other promises the PM made? Can we have faith that he’ll deliver on any of those other promises now? What about legalizing pot, for example? Or will that be the next domino to fall, because someone in the PM’s office has decided there is no consensus on that issue either?

Dalton McGuinty balanced some budgets - but budgets weren't his downfall - the gas plant fiasco did him in.

Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty did try to reform Ontario’s electoral system.

But wait, weren’t these the same political staffers who once convinced Dalton McGuinty to reform Ontario’s electoral system a few years ago? Yes, they engineered a process so fair and discrete that when it came time for the referendum, most voters had little idea what they were actually voting for – a process designed to fail. Was that benign neglect? Or were they disingenuous or incompetent?

There were voices in the crowd on Saturday yelling out liar, liar, pants-on-fire. But it seems unlikely this is a case of unbridled mendacity. I mean what rational politician would set out to raise expectations in an election, planning to break his word following the victory party? And why, especially when he knows full well the ultimate consequence – the shedding of all those voters who had delivered him his majority government?

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers

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Electoral Reform –   More Electoral Reform –   Even More

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2 comments to Rivers braves the cold Canadian winter air to protest – all in vain.

  • Stephen White

    Right you are Alide!

    We don’t need more elected representatives, and we certainly don’t need to re-gig the electoral process to promote better inclusion, representation of diverse viewpoints, or improve citizen access. The Liberals mismanaged this entire issue from the get-go, and even the Prime Minister had reservations about the potential consequences of changing the “first past the post” system. It certainly isn’t perfect, but it avoids the problems inherent in countries like Italy, France and Israel where advocates of extreme ideologies are given a mouthpiece to promote their often hateful, xenophobic, racist and myopic ideologies.

    Kudos to the Prime Minister for finally wearing the “big boy pants” and saying “no”. The focus should now shift to how to engage citizens between elections so that new ideas, creative proposals and unique concepts can be promoted and showcased for the broader good. Creativity and originality are what will ensure growth and development in this country, not more elected officials.

  • Alide Camilleri

    Electoral changes are all very well, but has anyone ever thought what it would mean financially? All those extra bums in the Commons chamber would need to be paid a salary to make them come to Ottawa, it would also mean extra money for their staff, all from our taxes. Then there would be the cost of enlarging the Commons Chamber so all those bums would have a physical seat to sit in. But what really gets me is that everything we do would be politicized. We would no longer have a representative in Ottawa who would listen to our complaints and act on our behalf without asking what party we support. That’s how it is in all the countries where that kind of system exists. if you are not a member, you won’t be able to go to someone to whom to bring your grievances as we can now. And then forget of ever having anything but cumbersome coalition governments, which will never get anything done. The first past the post may not be perfect but is much preferable to the costly mess of European governments. Trudeau may have broken a promise but he was absolutely right in pointing out there is no consensus among voters and politicians on how to proceed. Better break a promise and be realistic than seeking pie in the sky.