Opinion » Maxed Out

Another promise broken?



"We are committed to ensuring that the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first-past-the-post." - Justin Trudeau

Well now, just how committed are we, Justin, m'boy?

Not very, as it turns out. If Justin was committed to anything other than ascending to power and putting the Liberal Party back where it belonged — as the country's natural governing party — it's getting harder and harder to figure out what exactly that is.

He certainly hasn't been committed to any dramatic environmental agenda, short of arm-twisting the provinces into coming aboard for a carbon tax. In fact, it's pretty hard to distinguish the Liberal climate change plan from the Do-Nothing Conservative plan. Approve Kinder Morgan? Check. Permit Site C? Check. Woodfibre? Check. Pipeline East? We'll see. Cozy up to Keystone XL now that the Orange One has given it the green light? Oh heck, why not?

He wasn't committed to cleaning up Canada's vaunted role of peacekeeper in the world. At least not if it came at the risk of losing a couple of hundred votes, er, jobs in central Ontario... even if those jobs came at the expense of not only rubber stamping the sale of armoured personnel carriers — weaponized — to the Saudi government but then lying about having done so, hiding behind the tattered skirts of the former government.

He wasn't committed to moving with any discernable speed on the Supreme Court's direction to put a wide-ranging, medically assisted right-to-die procedure in place. And after dragging his government's feet, what the Liberals came up with was tepid and fell far short of the requirements outlined in the Court's decision.

But mostly, he apparently wasn't committed to changing the way the government did business. He wasn't committed to the change he promised seas of young voters who turned out for him. He wasn't committed to quelling some of the rampant cynicism engendered by successive Conservative majority governments. He promised change but it turned out he was just playing Lucy, holding the football for Charlie Brown and then snatching it away to set up the inevitable pratfall.

Well done, Justin. Well done.

Hope and belief are delicate feelings. They're not that hard to seed and, really, not that hard to fruit. You need only try your best and stay honest to the path and goals you've outlined. Lack of success doesn't destroy hope and belief. Lack of trying does. Worse, it replaces hope and belief with cynicism, mistrust and withdrawal. Overcoming those requires an order of magnitude more effort. You piss away goodwill at your peril.

And so it seems, that will be the harvest Justin reaps. His promise, the shiny plank in the Liberal's platform turned out to be a lie. The promise to change the country's electoral system was just an expedient example of the left hand distracting you so you wouldn't see what the right hand was doing. Add it to the list: the cheque's in the mail; I'll respect you in the morning; I won't... never mind.

In announcing his promise wasn't really a promise, more like a wish the big, bad ogre of reality wouldn't let him have, the PM — oh, not actually him, but his Minister of Bad News and Democratic (sic) Institutions — explained, "... a clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged." (Italics mine)

Digression Alert. In most states in the U.S., judges are elected. Even appellate court judges. But since making judges run for office is — how shall we say this — unseemly, some states have a weird system where the judges run against nobody. Their campaign isn't "Re-elect Judge Juicy" it's "Retain Judge Juicy." So Judge Juicy runs on her or his record and voters decide to keep or toss her or him out.

There's an old chestnut of political wisdom that posits: Nobody doesn't beat somebody. Judges elected under such a system are generally elected when a sitting judge retires. Sitting judges are almost never not retained.

What does that have to do with Justin's Big Lie? Just this. You can't build a consensus around a vacuum. People don't rally around nothing and nothing was what people were offered to rally around when it came to replacing first-past-the-post. What a load of codswallop.

It began with Justin falling into the old same partisan pit successive ruling parties have dug over the years around Parliament Hill. He tried to frontload the committee looking into electoral reform with Liberal votes, notwithstanding Liberals didn't garner a majority of votes in the last election. It was your basic majority-with-a-minority version of Orwell's "all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others" nonsense.

Then the party came up with the laughable MyDemocracy.ca survey. Ostensibly to take the temperature of Canadians on the issue of electoral reform, the incomprehensible survey failed to ask about preferred voting systems. With some 360,000 responses, it's not surprising no consensus magically appeared.

With a leadership vacuum, the ruling party favouring a preferential ballot system, the two rump parties favouring a variation of proportional representation and the former majority party favouring the status quo, it was clear no consensus was going to spring from the snowy fields of Parliament Hill.

So what's a fellow to do? Scrap it. And then scramble for a scapegoat that didn't look like themselves.

Hey, how about the alt-right, or as they're known in the universe where language still means something, the fascist, racist, righter-than-right wing, such as it is in Canada.

And so, the Huffington Post — a source I'm about as comfortable referencing as I would be, say, Wikipedia — reports the Liberals, at a retreat (apt word) in January, decided to scrap their marquee promise because it would cause, "... a 'total mess'... give an 'alt-right party' representation, and create more regional parties that would further split the country apart." You can safely read "country" in that sentence as meaning the Liberal majority.

The fear — if fear it is, as opposed to handy rationalization — is that inevitably any change in the electoral system would require a referendum and fire up the extremists in our midst and, gasp, maybe have them wind up with a seat in Parliament.

Which would be the best place for them. If we've learned anything from Brexit and the Trumpocalypse it's that ignoring, ridiculing, marginalizing the "extremist" voices in the country is dangerous. Bring them into the light. Expose their beliefs for what they are. Show the world how little support they have by embracing their whacko ideas. In other words, keep your friends close, your enemies closer.

Or run the risk of alienating the folks who brung ya to the dance and finding yourself ill-served by the antiquated system you've just ensured will be around for another election cycle. Dumb.


Add a comment