Trudeau would end first-past-the-post electoral system, make every vote count

Justin Trudeau wants this fall’s national vote to be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post electoral system. And, if the Liberal leader becomes prime minister, it may also be the last election in which Canadians can choose not to vote, as well as the last in which the only way to vote is by marking an X on a paper ballot.

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau wants this fall’s national vote to be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post electoral system.

And, if the Liberal leader becomes prime minister, it may also be the last election in which Canadians can choose not to vote, as well as the last in which the only way to vote is by marking an X on a paper ballot.

Changing the way Canadians vote is just one element of a sweeping, 32-point plan to “restore democracy in Canada” that Trudeau announced Monday.

Some of the measures have been previously announced, such as strengthening access-to-information laws; empowering backbench MPs by allowing more free votes and beefing up legislative oversight by Commons committees; and ending partisanship in the scandal-plagued Senate.

Others are new or build upon previous commitments. Among other things, Trudeau promised a Liberal government would:

— Reform question period in the House of Commons so that one day each week would be devoted solely to grilling the prime minister.

— Impose spending limits on political parties between elections, not just during election campaigns.

— Appoint an equal number of men and women to cabinet and adopt a government-wide appointment policy to ensure gender parity and greater representation of aboriginal people and other minorities.

— Create performance standards for services offered by the federal government, complete with streamlined application processes, reduced wait times and money-back guarantees.

— Create individualized, secure online accounts for Canadians who want to access all their government benefits and review key documents.

Perhaps the most ambitious promise, however, is Trudeau’s vow to do away with first-past-the-post (FPTP) in time for the next election.

The current system badly distorts voters’ choices, allowing a party to win the majority of seats in the House of Commons with less than 40 per cent of the vote, and delivering wildly different seat counts to parties that win similar shares.

Trudeau promised he’d introduce electoral reform legislation within 18 months of forming government. The legislation would be based on the recommendations of a special, all-party parliamentary committee mandated to fully and fairly study alternatives to first-past-the-post, including ranked ballots and proportional representation.

The committee would also explore the notions of mandatory voting and online voting.

The Liberal party sought grassroots reaction to the notion of legally compelling Canadians to vote, as is done in Australia, in a survey last summer. But Trudeau has not committed to take it any further until now.

The survey followed an analysis by one of Trudeau’s senior policy advisers, University of Ottawa academic Robert Asselin, who advocated mandatory voting and the introduction of preferential or ranked ballots as ways to re-engage Canadians in the political process.

Turnout in federal elections has plunged from a high of almost 80 per cent of eligible voters in 1958 to a record low of 58.8 per cent in 2008, according to Elections Canada. It rebounded slightly in 2011 to 61.1 per cent.

Under Asselin’s proposal, eligible voters would be legally required to vote but would have the option of voting for “none of the above.” Those who didn’t vote would face a small fine.

Electronic voting has also been touted as a way to entice busy Canadians to cast ballots. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government last year effectively scotched Elections Canada’s plans to experiment with online voting, requiring any such tests to be approved by Parliament.

First-past-the-post has long been viewed as the primary culprit behind declining turnout, contributing to Canadians’ belief that their votes don’t count.

Trudeau personally favours replacing it with preferential balloting, in which voters rank their first, second, third and subsequent choices. If no candidate receives an absolute majority on the first ballot, the last-place candidate is eliminated and his or her supporters’ second-choice votes are counted. That continues until one candidate receives over 50 per cent.

However, Trudeau has also said he’s willing to consider proportional representation, a more complex reform for which there are a variety of possible models. Essentially, it involves electing multiple representatives for each constituency, with the seats divvied up in proportion to the share of votes won by each party in each riding.

Just Posted

Innisfail Eagles win Senior AAA provincial semifinal, earn final spot in Allan Cup

For the first time in their 71-year history, the Innisfail Eagles will… Continue reading

Ford says social media allows politicians to circumvent mainstream journalists

OTTAWA — Premier Doug Ford says mainstream journalists have become irrelevant because… Continue reading

Montreal priest stabbed during mass leaves hospital; suspect to be charged

MONTREAL — A Catholic priest who was stabbed as he was celebrating… Continue reading

The endless war against invasive species

Group looks to protect native ecological environments in Alberta

Good-bye ice and snow, hello potholes on Red Deer roads

City workers will be spending 20 hours a day on various road repairs

WATCH: Fashion show highlights Cree designers

The fashion show was part of a Samson Cree Nation conference on MMIW

Pricey Titanic wreck tours hope to bring new life to a century-old story

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Adventure tourists with money in the bank have… Continue reading

France investigates after older protester is injured in Nice

NICE, France — French authorities are investigating the case of an older… Continue reading

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s… Continue reading

New report details impact of proposed NS spaceport in event of explosion or fire

HALIFAX — The head of a company proposing to open Canada’s only… Continue reading

Rothmans, Benson & Hedges gets creditor protection in $15B Quebec lawsuit

MONTREAL — Rothmans, Benson & Hedges has become the third tobacco company… Continue reading

Monster Energy drink recalled due to possible glass fragments

OTTAWA — Monster Energy Canada Ltd. is recalling one of its drinks… Continue reading

Global ocean group to study possible toxic splashdowns of space debris

A global agency that sets rules for the seas is studying the… Continue reading

Online real estate auctions try to shake up sales with novel approach

An online auction for a luxury home in Abbotsford, B.C., is drawing… Continue reading

Most Read