Electoral reform, the power of the PMO and Justin Trudeau.

Author:Milner, Henry

The big news in this election was strategic voting gone awry. "Anybody but Harper" voters deserted the NDP in larger numbers than expected, resulting in a Liberal majority rather than the Liberal minority supported by the NDP that almost everyone expected. What was also unexpected was that in francophone Quebec a fair number of these deserters went to Justin Trudeau, giving 36 per cent of Quebec's vote and 55 per cent of its seats to the Liberals. As the NDP's Anne McGrath put it, the niqab issue "shook the party's Quebec supporters loose."

From various discussions I had, one part of the answer to why so many went to the Liberals is simple bread-and-butter politics: lower taxes for the "middle class," retirement at 65 rather than 67 and home postal delivery for those of a certain age, and federal civil service jobs and job security for residents of the Outaouais. The one really significant such promise made by the NDP, universal inexpensive day-care, meant nothing in Quebec, which has it already.

As I write, it is too soon to judge the wisdom of the voters. In my view, the most important consequence of the Liberals' success at winning a majority rather than needing the NDP's support to govern will be on the prospects for electoral system reform. The NDP was committed to bringing in proportional representation. Indeed, had we voted this time under PR, Trudeau--who promised that this would be the last election under first-past-the-post--and Tom Mulcair would be negotiating the fine points of a working relationship. (In his accompanying article, Wilf Day simulates how the seats would have been distributed had the election been fought under PR.)

Electoral reform is usually discussed in terms of PR's well-known advantages in fairly representing the views of voters. The election results highlight this point. To put it bluntly, under FPTP strategic voting by NDP supporters brought an unwanted result: a much weaker NDP and, thus, a majority Liberal government. Here, however, I want to stress a second point, one that really hasn't entered the discussion: the relationship between the electoral system and the workings of our democratic institutions.

A refreshingly revealing moment in the campaign came when Justin Trudeau said in his interview with Peter Mansbridge in early September that since it was his father who started concentrating power in his office when prime minister, it was only fitting that he be the one to end it. Mansbridge correctly...

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