The Prime Minister of Canada is one of the most well-liked politicians in the world. Words like charm, charisma, handsome and bold come to mind when he is mentioned. His boldness has served him quite well. Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s son’s success in the last election hinged on moments when he was bolder than other political chieftains; such as when he called for the legalization of marijuana, or broke with the rest of the parties in saying he would run deficits, and also in saying:
“This will be the last election using the first-past-the-post electoral system.”
Whatever you think of Trudeau or these policies, it was good politics. Every time he garnered attention, stood out, and gained votes. He was brash. It was risky, but somehow he was right.
What was not correct was the surety with which he promised that this would be the last election under the first-past-the-post system. It still might be, but as a wise commentator said then,
“No government is ever in favor of electoral reform, only the opposition and those campaigning to be elected.”
And so now Justin Trudeau has a problem on his hands: expend the oft-mentioned political capital on electoral reform or lose the bold brash leader image and back away from one of the policies that, although Canadians are not that drummed up about it, solidified his support and set him apart from the pack. And here, the rarely mentioned wisdom of Trudeau comes into play. The committee to study electoral reform has been out and about all summer. They have heard two things from people: apathy and push-back.
So, like every government that promises electoral reform when they're campaigning, and then when they're in Government doesn't want to deliver, the Liberals have to change things up. One option is to throw the country into a referendum, which will likely become bloody, and discolor the vibrant image of the young first minister, or they could put a proposal to the committee, and have it be defeated, or they could just back away, and that’s what they have done.
Justin has backed away from electoral reform, and I'll bet you haven't heard about it. It was done extremely well.
First off, Trudeau, in an interview with a French newspaper, sorta, kinda mused about backing off, not… not saying anything concrete, but kind of insinuating that they were keeping all their options open, and backing up a little bit, in one of the slimmest, but most adept political moves in a long section of Canadian history. On the one-year anniversary of their election win, the swashbuckling leader of Her Majesty's government said this (in a Mercer paraphrase):
“Electoral reform was not really necessary anymore, because the popularity of the government didn't really make it that important; and Canadians were very happy with the way things were going; and so you know, well... we probably won't be doing it…. and people are very happy…. and we're definitely getting all the love we need.... and--and the selfies... selfies are going up and up and up! More selfies all the time!, and we just don't need electoral reform. Canadians aren't clamouring for it anymore so we're going to go with what the will of the Canadian people is.” (End of Mercer paraphrase).
No matter what you may think of that--how bad it may sound--the important fact is that it didn't get on the news. It didn't make any waves. The people who heard it chuckled, some shook their heads, but because the Conservatives don't want electoral reform, and the Liberals don't want electoral reform, half backing out of something that had kind of already been failing but we might still maybe do it doesn't make for a good news story. It left only the New Democrats upset and talking about it and with a showing of 1% in the latest by-election you know how much influence the NDP has.
Trudeau made a brash, but foolish, electoral promise, but he won’t pay for it because he's wise enough to slowly ease out of something. He let it slip through the fingers of the media, because it doesn't happen all at once and you know that the brains of people are in a fog.
Although they always say that politicians don't keep their promises they can never tell you what those promises were, and so away electoral reform slips. And history records one more proposal by a politician, and this time the politician won’t get nailed for it.
Except here on the Mercer Report where we make sure that politicians pay for things.
Because that's who I am.
I'm not as wise as Trudeau but I can't tell a lie like he can.