In case you missed the news, and all of the howling earlier in the day, Justin Trudeau confirmed in a new mandate letter to Karina Gould that electoral reform is now a dead letter. And thank all of the gods on Olympus that they’ve smothered this Rosemary’s Baby because it was a stupid promise that he never should have made in the first place. I argue that much in a column for Loonie Politics, and it had the very real danger of undermining Trudeau’s ability to get anything else done for the next three years.
While people have wondered why Trudeau didn’t just promise to put this off until the next election, I think that would have been a worse outcome, and the issue would have grown like a cancer that would undermine the perception of that election’s legitimacy, as the demands of each party on that file continued to consume more and more time and oxygen. A swift death was better. Others have wondered how Trudeau could have declared there to be no consensus when he didn’t actually ask which system people preferred, but that misses a few key points. For one, there were some clear messages from the committee and from the MyDemocracy survey, some of which were that people didn’t want MPs elected off of lists (which severely limited the kinds of systems available) and that some of the systems out there would not have been constitutionally valid. Meanwhile, when the government did ask about outcomes (through the MyDemocracy survey), that was more informative than asking which system people preferred because people tend to think of electoral systems like they do wanting a pony, when they also need to be asked if they want to spend their time mucking out the stables. I’m sure you’d find that the answers would change right there. There have been accusations that Trudeau didn’t show leadership by not trying to forge some kind of consensus, but I’m pretty sure that would have been impossible. He had a preferred system that the opposition parties didn’t like and maligned for completely false reasons, and no matter what he did, it would have been viewed from the lens of self-interest and dismissed. In other words, it was a no-win scenario.
And then there’s Nathan Cullen, with his angry words and his big show of pretending that he wasn’t trying to be cynical about the process when Cullen’s whole modus operandi the entire time has been fuelled by cynicism. His manipulation of the formation of the special committee was a cynical con job wrapped up in moral outrage. His selective reading of the committee’s report, as well as the MyDemocracy survey, was self-serving to the extreme. But he presents an earnest face to the media, and people buy it. I get it. That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been cynically playing this whole affair, because rest assured, he has been.
And now the myriad of hot takes. Chantal Hébert calls the promise a cheap electoral prop, which she’s not wrong about. Andrew Coyne goes for the full sarcasm in blaming voters for believing Trudeau’s promise. Tasha Kheiriddin says that Trudeau will wear this failure (though I suspect that only a small percentage of Liberal voters will actually care by 2019). Jonathan Kay takes the correct (in my opinion) take in that reform was never going to happen because our system doesn’t need to be fixed. John Geddes doesn’t think that Trudeau lied – just that the impetus waned as people were no longer discontent with a system that didn’t give them a Harper government (and I suspect he is also right). John Ivison agrees that Trudeau hasn’t demonstrated the level of mendacity for this to have been a lie from the start, but those who sincerely believed him will feel betrayed. Chris Selley goes a bit darker, and pre-emptively counted this as the kind of broken promise that makes people cynical about politics and gives rise to the likes of Rob Ford or Donald Trump. And he’s got a point, but honestly? Politics is what makes people cynical about politics.
You know what makes people cynical about politics? Politics.
— Philippe Lagassé (@pmlagasse) February 1, 2017
- Chrystia Freeland’s new mandate letter makes it clear that her priorities have shifted to managing relations with the United States.
- Karina Gould’s new mandate letters also tasks her with securing electoral cyber-security in Canada, which Harjit Sajjan says is needed given the attacks seen lately.
- The government looks set to shift $30 million in unused infrastructure funds to a gas tax fund top-up for cities to use.
- In case you missed it during QP, Trudeau said that the government won’t be taxing health and dental benefits as has been mused.
- CRA’s offshore tax haven tip line has so far netted $1 million in reassessments and penalties, but no rewards have yet been paid out.
- The federal government is offering to negotiate a settlement in class action suits related to the “Sixties scoop” that removed Indigenous children from their families.
- Here are some of the donors listed on the latest Conservative leadership list fundraising reporting.
- Kevin O’Leary says he’ll surprise everyone with his French at the upcoming Montreal debate.
- Someone hung a banner from Kellie Leitch’s riding office naming the Quebec shooting victims and calling on her to resign.
- Leitch, meanwhile, continues her “values screening” talking points post-Quebec shooting, because clearly we’ve seen that immigrants are the problem.
- Erin O’Toole writes about trying to stamp out intolerance and feeling like he’s not doing enough.
- Terry Glavin wonders why the government isn’t doing more for the current refugee crisis exacerbated by the Trumpocalypse.
- Paul Wells writes about Stéphane Dion’s departure for Europe.
- Colby Cosh offers a sobering look at the problems associated with covering tragedies like the one in Quebec City, and declining trust in news media.