It is official. Canada will not see electoral reform any time soon.
A mandate letter was released on Wednesday from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the newly appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould, which stated that 'changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate.'
Trudeau and the Liberals campaigned heavily during the 2015 election season on the premise that the sometimes controversial 'first-past-the-post' system would become a thing of the past. The news that came to light Wednesday incensed Timmins-James Bay MP, and NDP Indigenous and Northern Affairs critic Charlie Angus.
"Its really quite simple. This is about the value of the Prime Minister's word. He was emphatic in the last election, that it would be the last election with the first-past-the-post electoral system. He made a promise," Angus told TimminsToday.
He charged that once the Liberals won the majority, Trudeau made a solid effort to undermine the efforts of the reform committee, who was tasked with examining the process and determining the next steps.
"At every step of the way, he tried to put spokes in the wheel. We had thousands of Canadians participate in the process. We had social organizations, university professors, and Members of Parliament from all parties working on this."
"This is really about a Prime Minister whose word means nothing," said Angus.
The longtime NDPer, and potential party leadership candidate, said there is 'a real arrogance around the Liberal machine now'.
"They say 'well he's popular, he can afford to break promises, he can afford to back track. He can afford to take the voters for granted. That creates cynicism in the electoral process, and that, to me, is my real concern," he said.
Comments from Liberal party members today, including Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould, suggested that there was a lack of clear consensus for which way the country should go in terms of altering the electoral process. Angus isn't buying it.
"At every Town Hall, there was the clear consensus on proportional representation," he said.
The first-past-the-post system has long been discussed in Canada, although never as blatantly stamped as a campaign promise than by Trudeau in 2015. The Liberals set up the all-party committee aiming to find a new approach for the next federal election in 2019. They were to examine all options including proportional representation, mandatory voting, online voting, and ranked ballots. Canadians who had hoped for a change saw those ideas snuffed out on Wednesday.
Angus is now questioning what the point of Gould's position is.
"Canadians are getting hosed. We're getting hosed twice. The Prime Minister lied to Canadians, and secondly now we have to pay the salary of a Minister, her limousine driver, all her extra benefits, for the fact that she's a cardboard cutout figure in Parliament. If you don't believe in democratic reform, then just flush the democratic reform Minister, why are we paying for this?," he said.
Angus said there seems to be a growing uncertainty for where the Trudeau Liberal government stands on any of the promises made during the 2015 campaign.
"When Stephen Harper had a majority, Justin Trudeau announced we'll have proportional representation, and as soon as Justin Trudeau gets a majority, he thinks that the system is fine. The system doesn't work. The system doesn't allow for a lot of voices. We should have a more diverse Parliament, and we should have a Parliament that learns to compromise more. A proportional representation system is about forcing politicians like Mr. Trudeau to compromise and hear other points of view. That would be better for Canada."
From what Angus has seen thus far from the Prime Minister, a pattern of 180 degree turns is sadly becoming a regular occurrence.
"He made all manner of promises to be progressive. He was going to be the 'green Prime Minister', he blew that off, he's been promoting pipelines left, right, and centre. He was going to make a new relationship with First Nations people. He's following the same pattern as Stephen Harper. He's just a nicer guy about it. Well, nice doesn't cut it. What does it taking actual steps to make positive change in this country. On the electoral reform, he's just shown himself to be extremely cynical. Say what you want about Stephen Harper, he at least had a system of beliefs. You might not agree with him, but you knew where he stood. With Justin Trudeau, it seems like whatever works for him, is where he's at," said Angus.
Electoral reform is something that Angus strongly believes in, calling it an important step to bringing Canada's political system into the 21st century.
"We have to find new ways to make Parliament more accountable to Canadians. It needs to be more transparent. It needs to be more inclusive. Mr. Trudeau thinks he's got a majority that'll last forever. I think if he keeps acting like this, he's going to be in for a big surprise."