back to top

Trudeau Abandoned Electoral Reform And Activists Are Furious

The Liberal platform said 2015 would be "the last federal election" under the current system.

Posted on

Two activists behind a massive Facebook event in support of electoral reform say they’re reeling from the news that the federal government is no longer interested in changing how Canadians vote.

Caitlin Urquhart

During the last federal election, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party committed themselves to "ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system."

The party's platform said it would have a reform plan within 18 months of getting into office. But on Wednesday, the government said reform is no longer on the table.

It was a huge disappointment for Caitlin Urquhart and Andrew Bresnahan. The two friends — a lawyer in Newfoundland and a doctor in Labrador — launched a Facebook event shortly after the election aimed at holding the government to its promise. There are currently almost 10,000 people listed as attending.

"Clearly it was a pillar of their campaign," Urquhart told BuzzFeed News.

Facebook

The Facebook event — Trudeau Promised Electoral Reform — was set for April 20, exactly 18 months after the election. Urquhart said it grew from a reminder for herself and five friends to something thousands of people were interested in.

"It went viral really quickly and obviously tapped into something," she said.

Organizers had demonstrations in the works for cities across the country, Urquhart said. The date is likely to get moved up now, and the event could bring thousands of people out to protest the government's decision.

"The running theme of our group has been a cautious optimism," Urquhart said. "Because the promises were so concrete, it was such a central part of the campaign, that people wanted to give the Liberals and the prime minister the benefit of the doubt."

"But they've not only walked it back but completely abandoned it."

As Prime Minister, I’ll make sure the 2015 election will be the last under first-past-the-post system http://t.co/KvaNbizLH5 #upfordebate

The new minister for democratic institutions, Karina Gould, said Wednesday that there is not enough support for reform, and no consensus on what that reform should look like

"If we were to change the electoral system, something as foundational as how we decide to govern ourselves, that we need to do it with the support of Canadians," she said.

The government has been studying the issue for much of the last year, including through a special all-party committee that recommended holding a national referendum on whether to move from the current first-past-the-post voting system to one of proportional representation.

(You can learn more about different voting systems here.)

Many people were furious with the prime minister and his party for walking away from electoral reform.

Electoral reform was THE reason I voted for you. You broke your promise to Canada @JustinTrudeau.

In Ottawa, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said that "Canadians should think twice about believing what Justin Trudeau says."

NDP MP Nathan Cullen went even further.

"What Trudeau proved himself today was to be a liar, was to be of the most cynical variety of politician," Cullen said. "Saying whatever it takes to get elected, then once elected seeking any excuse, however weak, however absent, to justify that lie to Canadians."

Urquhart said she hopes the day of action will prove there’s still an appetite for reform.

@JustinTrudeau It's unacceptable for you to abandon your promise of electoral reform - One of the reasons I voted for you!!!

Many Canadians are tired of strategic voting, having to choose the “lesser of two evils” instead of voting for their preferred candidates, and having a system that isn’t “representative of the diversity of our communities,” she said. And many who voted Liberal in the last election trusted Trudeau to do something about it.

“Trudeau promised us a different way of governing,” Urquhart said. “And he’s just doing the same old thing.”

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Promoted