Opinion Column

Referendum must decide electoral changes

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. REUTERS

"No government has the moral right to alter the precious process of elections without the approval of the people." -- Prof. Patrice Dutil, Ryerson University

If you think democracy means that voters get to decide how we elect governments rather than politicians, get ready for one hell of a fight.

That’s because the new federal Liberal government is promising it will radically change the way we elect governments — but without giving Canadians a vote through a binding national referendum.

That’s undemocratic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign platform said: “We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.”

But the Liberals did not even indicate what kind of electoral system they would introduce, how it would work, or what process they would follow to get there.

How we vote in a democracy is a fundamental question requiring Canadian voters to give their approval through a binding referendum because it will affect every election in a way far more important than any budget or policy decision.

At my strata condominium, our government-mandated rules state that on key questions the owners must vote 75% in favour for many changes to pass.

By contrast, why would we change our entire Canadian electoral system without at least a binding majority vote?

It should not be easier for MPs to change how we elect governments than for condo owners to repair their roof.

This undemocratic proposition cannot stand.

And the New Democrats and Greens are also wrong in not backing a national referendum. While the Conservatives now demand a referendum, they previously made many negative changes to electoral laws with no referendum.

Canadians must come together to demand that Parliament put a clear proposal on electoral change to a referendum – regardless of personal preference, only a vote can make that decision.

Nothing else is fair. Nothing else is democratic. And nothing else will do.

If you think democracy means voters get to decide instead of politicians on how we elect governments, please join my new Facebook group Canadians for 

Democracy on Electoral Change and send all parties a clear message.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman 


Do you demand a vote on any change to Canada’s electoral system?