Kevin Mooney wrote to point out an article in the Ottawa Citizen. In the article Royce Koop, an associate professor in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba, argues against repeating the electoral reform process carried out in British Columbia and Ontario provinces.
Koop makes two arguments. The first is the somewhat tautological point that “tak[ing power] from elected representatives and giv[ing it] to the people […] threatens representative democracy by taking decision-making power from MPs and handing it to citizens, [while] representative democracy is best served by allowing MPs to represent the interests of their constituents through their votes, rather than by seizing MPs’ power and handing it to citizens”.
The more interesting argument (which to a large extent is in fact contradictory to the first one) is a much more practical one:
[T]he use of citizens assemblies and referendums would have the effect of allowing politicians to escape from being accountable to the public for their actions.
Note that both provincial electoral reform measures that followed this proposed process failed in referendums. Neither proposal could meet the high thresholds for approval set by the BC and Ontario governments. All the hard work and deliberation of the BC and Ontario citizens’ assemblies was subsequently dashed by the people.
Trudeau is undoubtedly aware of these failures. The Liberal Party was handsomely rewarded by Canada’s single-member plurality electoral system in this election. The Liberals received just under 40 percent of the vote, but 54 percent of the seats. Despite that most Canadians voted for parties other than the Liberals, Trudeau can now govern with a majority government.
Given this, one suspects that Trudeau has developed a newfound affection for Canada’s electoral system, and that his advisors may be considering how he can escape from his promise to change that system. [The allotted assembly process is] the ideal method by which to do so: a process that absorbs significant energy and attention, but which is ultimately probably destined to fail. If this process was followed and a proposed reform was rejected in a referendum, Trudeau would be allowed to escape accountability for not keeping his election promise.
Elected officials should not be provided with this escape hatch. Trudeau […] should introduce legislation reforming the electoral system and Liberal MPs should carry out their roles as elected representatives by voting either for or against that legislation. If they vote against the proposal, then Canadians will know to hold them accountable for breaking their promise.