In an alternate universe, Justin Trudeau wasn’t standing before the cameras on Tuesday, trying again to explain why he had walked away from a campaign commitment to pursue electoral reform. Because during June 2015 in that alternate universe, Trudeau had stood before the cameras and vowed that a Liberal government would implement a ranked ballot for electing MPs. Alas, in reality, Trudeau made an open-ended commitment to reform and vowed it would be in place for 2019. A committee was struck to study the issue, dozens of town hall forums were convened, an online survey was conducted and postcards were mailed to millions of households inviting Canadians to participate. Only then did Trudeau’s government walk away. But only then did Trudeau publicly confront the actual possibilities for reform. And, as it turns out, his preference for a ranked ballot and his opposition to proportional representation, first stated in 2012, were left standing.
Tuesday was not the first time Trudeau had tried to account for that decision — there was an eight-minute explanation in Yellowknife in February and some pointed comments about Kellie Leitch in Iqaluit. And his comments this time, as on those previous occasions, were directly stated.
“Unfortunately, it became very clear that we had a preference to give people a ranked ballot, so they could actually reduce the aspect of strategic voting and put their second choice and third choice down on the ballot, and therefore have every MP be at least the choice of 50 per cent of their riding,” the prime minister said on Tuesday. “We thought that was the right, concrete way forward. Nobody else agreed.”
Indeed. Advocates of proportional representation oppose a ranked ballot because it does not inherently result in a party receiving an allotment of seats in the legislature that is proportional to its share of the popular vote.