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Canadian Government Abandons Electoral Reform Vow

"A clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged," Trudeau said
By The News · 01 of February 2017 12:36:20
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a meeting on Parliament Hill, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a meeting with representatives of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on January 10, 2017, photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA – The Canadian government on Wednesday reversed course on plans to change the country’s electoral system, backing away from what had become a controversial campaign promise.

In a new mandate letter given to recently appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate.”

“A clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged,” Trudeau said in the letter. “Furthermore, without a clear preference or a clear question, a referendum would not be in Canada’s interest.”

Trudeau had promised during the 2015 election campaign that Canada would have a new voting system in place by the 2019 election.

An all-party committee recommended last December that Canada should hold a referendum before making changes, something the Liberals have said is not necessary.

The report released by the committee was criticized by then Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef for a lack of consensus and not recommending a specific alternative. Monsef was replaced by Gould in a wider cabinet shuffle in January.

Critics have said Trudeau is less enthusiastic about reform now that he has won a majority under the current first-past-the-post system. The overhaul was expected to benefit smaller parties, such as the left-leaning Green Party, which holds only one seat.

LEAH SCHNURR