News / Ottawa

Trudeau says electoral reform died because 'nobody else agreed' with Liberals' policy preference

Opposition was clearly never going to agree on a new voting system, prime minister tells reporters.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday.

The Canadian Press / Justin Tang

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that he broke his electoral-reform promise in part because his preferred reform failed to win broad support.  

During a press conference with reporters at the end of the spring Parliament session, Trudeau was asked if he regretted breaking his campaign pledge to replace the first-past-the-post federal voting system. He said he had been eager to implement a ranked-ballot system, whereby instead of voting for a single candidate in a riding, voters rank all candidates in order of preference.

 “We thought that was the right, concrete way forward, he said. “Nobody else agreed.”

Trudeau blamed the opposition, as well, suggesting the Conservatives would only tolerate a referendum on the subject and the NDP were locked to the idea of proportional representation.

“There was no openness to compromise in the other parties, and I wasn’t going to use my majority to bring in a system just to tick off a box on an election platform.”

He said proportional representation would have meant a proliferation of smaller niche parties with less incentive for big-tent, inclusive parties that seek to represent a range of people.

“I think creating fragmentation amongst political parties, as opposed to having larger political parties that include Canada’s diversity within them, would weaken our country,” he said.

Katelynn Northam of the group Leadnow, which pushed for reform, said Trudeau’s answer isn’t surprising but it’s disappointing. 

“He’s essentially saying he wasn’t willing to listen to what the experts said and what the public said they wanted,” she said. “It’s clear they didn’t get the answer they wanted, so they just shut it all down.”

Northam said her group likes proportional representation because it means the House of Commons will reflect exactly what Canadians want.

“There is more emphasis on having a fair representation,” she said.

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