Photo: Grant Ellis / World Bank

Electoral Reform: Why Justin Trudeau’s promise to Canadians is more important than ever

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Your job is tough — one of the hardest in Canada.

You campaigned and took elected office already knowing this, because you believed it was worth it. You knew the Prime Minister’s Office would give you the power to change the country.

A decade of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government showed Canadians just how much power could be wielded from the PMO when an agenda was firm and uncompromising, even with 39.6% of the popular vote.

It is no wonder, therefore, that many progressives, moderates and disenfranchised conservatives voted strategically in the last election, not for the party of their preference, but for the candidate that provided the best chance of ousting Stephen Harper’s government.

You saw the direction the political winds were blowing, the frustration amongst voters, and you joined the Greens and NDP in guaranteeing action.

“We are committed to ensuring that the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first-past-the-post,” you told us in your campaign, and continually after your win.

The story changed this week as you stood up in parliament during question period and told Canadians that carrying out your promise in these tough times was not the right choice.

“There is no consensus. There is no clear path forward. It would be irresponsible to do something that harms Canada’s stability.”

And so there would be no compromise, no more debate, no solutions offered or ideas to be wrestled with any further. Just a quiet shelving of a pillar issue.

Canadians of all stripes voted for you in the last election because you ran your campaign on real change.

Real change will always be hard. Electoral reform will always be difficult.

But over 6.9 million Canadians backed your vision after hearing your calls for reform. Another 4 million voted for the NDP and Green parties knowing they too supported electoral reform.

At the core of the issue is this: we all want our votes to count.

If ever there was a time to strengthen and improve our democratic institutions and address our system’s shortcomings, it is when democracy and civil liberties are being challenged around the globe. The current crisis is a warning, not an excuse.

A vigorous debate must continue regarding the future of our electoral system. All points of view must be weighed against each other and debated amongst politicians, voters, youth, academics — everyone.

It may be messy, and we will surely disagree, but the public and your colleagues need you here, Prime Minister. Real change cannot happen without real leadership.

It will not happen unless you champion your promises and continue to defend the compelling arguments that won you votes, and remain necessary to spur reforms.

You are building not only your own legacy, but also that of all Canadians.

Millions of us are still standing behind you, supporting your promise of real change. Don’t give up on us just yet!