Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Justin Trudeau’s legacy will equal that of his father

Just when Tom Mulcair was starting to measure the curtains in Harper’s home so that he could replace them when he became Prime Minister; when the polls showed a surge of votes for the NDP after the dramatic events in the recent Alberta election; and when pundits have started writing about Justin Trudeau being a washed up politician, Trudeau has taken to the airwaves to unveil a set of promises that will radically change the way that Canadians vote for and interact with their federal government.

The scope of the changes included in the plans to restore democracy in Canada are breathtaking. As Ivison writes:
Justin Trudeau wants this fall’s national vote to be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post electoral system.

And, if the Liberal leader becomes prime minister, it may also be the last election in which Canadians can choose not to vote, as well as the last in which the only way to vote is by marking an X on a paper ballot.

Changing the way Canadians vote is just one element of a sweeping, 32-point plan to “restore democracy in Canada” that Trudeau announced Tuesday.

The 32-point plan to restore democracy in Canada can be found in the above link to the plan. It is wide-ranging, very thoughtful, practical, and easily implemented.

The plan is sure to dominate political discussion for the next few weeks and perhaps months, as it paints a Canada that is in dramatic contrast to the mean-spirited country that Stephen Harper has attempted to foist on Canadians.

At it’s root, Harper’s government has been anti-democratic, spurning the rights of Canadian citizens to an open government, with a Parliament peopled by elected representatives who are in Ottawa to work for the people who elected them, rather than to be reduced to voting-sheep.

The changes the Liberal government will introduce are remarkable in their scope and in the positive impact they will have on our country. When implemented, Justin’s contribution to furthering Canada’s democracy will equal the extraordinary contribution made by his father, Pierre Trudeau, when he introduced the Charter of Rights and Freedoms during the repatriation of the Constitution.

Our whole system of federal government will become far more open, far more inclusive, far more responsive to the needs of ordinary Canadians, and far more democratic. How our laws are drawn up, debated and voted upon in Parliament will change in a manner that will surprise many with the effectiveness of the new procedures.

Your own MP will have power that past MPs could only dream of, and that no Conservative MP would ever be allowed under Harper’s style of one-man, top-down, Daddy-knows-best governance.

I want to touch on a few of the 32 ideas set out in this extraordinary plan to drag our country into modern democratic methods.

The end of the undemocratic first past the post system:

This single step is a dramatic improvement in our government, and will it itself bring about major positive changes. It will be implemented within 18 months by a Liberal government:

Mr. Trudeau added the Oct. 19 general election would be the last one held under the “first-past-the-post” system, in which the candidate with the most votes is elected in his or her riding, regardless of the percentage of cast ballots that were obtained. The Liberal are promising to enact electoral reform within 18 months of forming a government, after launching a parliamentary study of proposals such as ranked ballots and proportional representation.
“We need to know that when we cast a ballot, it counts, that when we vote, it matters,” Mr. Trudeau said.

This is what the Plan says:

We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system. As part of a national engagement process, we will ensure that electoral reform measures – such as ranked ballots, proportionalrepresentation, mandatory voting, and online voting – are fully and fairly studied and considered. This will be carried out by a special all-party parliamentary committee, which will bring recommendations to Parliament on the way forward, to allow for action before the succeeding federal election. Within 18 months of forming government, we will bring forward legislation to enact electoral reform.

One suggestion: if the idea is to have several alternatives (other than the non-democratic FPTP system we now have) presented to citizens in a referendum, I would recommend using the preferential vote system in the referendum if there are more than two reform proposals put to citizens to choose from.

If only two are presented (say, a simple preferential vote system or a modified proportional representation system with preferential votes included) then a simple majority of those voting in the referendum should suffice.

The enhancement of the powers of  our MPs:

The proposed reforms would immeasurably increase the role and effectiveness of our elected MPs. This from the Plan:

A Liberal government will restore Parliament as a place where accountable people, with real mandates, do serious work on behalf of Canadians…

Liberal Caucus members in a government led by Justin Trudeau will only be required to vote with the Cabinet on three different measures: those that implement the Liberal electoral platform; traditional confidence matters such as the Speech from the Throne and significant budgetary measures; and those that address the shared values embodied in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The reform of the Senate:

The Tories and Mulcair’s NDP want to abolish the Senate, which is a non-starter. The Liberal Party is the only one to propose realistic reforms, starting with the cutting of partisan ties between the House of Commons Liberal Party MPs and the Liberal senators.

Here is the Plan:

A credible plan is one that ends the partisan nature of the Senate, so that it can better serve its core function of legislative review and indepth study. That is why Justin Trudeau removed all Senators from the Liberal Caucus and why we will also create a new, nonpartisan, merit-based, broad, and diverse process to advise the Prime Minister on Senate appointments. We will also work to implement the recent recommendations of the Auditor General regarding Parliamentarians’ expenses, including with legislativemeasures where necessary.

Holding the feet of the Prime Minister to the fire:

Anyone who has watched Harper perform during Question Period knows that he has debased the institution’s role by refusing to answer legitimate questions put to the leader of the governing party by elected MPs.

The Plan will revolutionize this:

We will introduce a Prime Minister’s Question Period. We will also empower the Speaker to challenge and sanction Members during Question Period, and allow more time for questions and answers. In addition, we will work with all parties to recommend other changes to House of Commons rules that will restore Question Period’s relevance, including the use of online technologies to engage Canadians.

Are Prime Minister’s Question Periods useful? You better believe it! Here is the way Tony Blair describes in his auto biography A Journey his preparation for this grueling test:

I got braver. I realized in the end I had to confront the demons. It was no use praying more the night before, wearing the same shoes (I wore the same pair of Church’s brogues every PMQ for ten years) or hoping I would get by. I decided to analyze it, and try to work out how to do it to the best of my ability... I took a melatonin pill the night before so that I got at least six hours’ sleep. I made sure I had a proper breakfast, and just before the ordeal began, I would eat a banana to give myself energy... I face up to what the fear was. The fear was being made to look like a fool, or simply being outwitted. The way to prevent it was not so much mastering the facts, but mastering the strategy of debate... I discovered the force of humour, of light and shade.

And the above are just the tips of an iceberg.

With this dramatic program to reform our Parliament and to give it back to Canadians. Justin Trudeau has drawn stark contrasts with the Harper era of vote-diminution. This plan firmly places the Liberal Party on the road to a majority government.

Out long, dark night of sub-par democracy is nearing its end. Come October, we will be able to welcome a new Canada, one that cares for, respects and involves its citizens in its affairs.

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