Anniversary of the Broken Promise – Proportional Representation Not Going Away!

Thursday, February 1 will mark the one year anniversary of  the day Justin Trudeau abandoned his commitment to make 2015 the last election under First-past-the-post and broke his promise to “Make Every Vote Count.”

We want to mark this one-year anniversary of the broken promise by reminding the government that Canadians have not forgotten this and that the issue is not going away.

There is in fact considerable appetite for change as evidenced in a national survey of 5,000 Canadians in June 2017, which found broad support for proportional representation in all provinces and across party lines, including Liberal Party supporters. Indeed, fully 52% of Liberal voters said they would like to see their MP to advocate for the government to keep its promise on electoral reform in time for the next election.

As Anita Nickerson, Acting Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada puts it,

“Support for proportional representation is widespread, and the claim that proportional representation would be “bad for the country,” as Prime Minister Trudeau has claimed, is hogwash. Most successful democracies in the world today already enjoy proportional representation. Countries that lag – Canada, the US, the UK –  do so because entrenched political interests make change all but impossible.

However, while Trudeau may have killed the Liberal promise of electoral reform he cannot kill the movement, because in a democracy, citizens will continue to want their vote to count and their neighbour’s vote to count.”

Electoral reform is not going away and, despite the broken promise federally, has considerable momentum at the provincial level.

  • Less than a year from now, British Columbians will be mailing in their ballots in a referendum on proportional representation. A ‘yes’ vote in that referendum would pave the way for BC to show by example what proportional representation could look like in Canada.

  • In Quebec, all of the opposition parties have endorsed proportional representation and have been working to forge a common front to agree on a common PR model for Quebec before the provincial election in October 2018. Should one of the opposition parties form government in 2018, or even with a minority Liberal government, Quebec could also be on the way to reforming its electoral system.

  • Finally, a referendum is also expected in Prince Edward Island when they hold the next provincial election which could come anytime, most likely before the Oct. 2019 federal election.

Fair Vote Canada President Réal Lavergne expects proportional representation to be a significant electoral issue federally in 2019. In preparation, Fair Vote Canada launched a campaign a few days ago asking Canadians to pledge to vote for parties and candidates in the federal election that we can trust to deliver on proportional representation. As he explains,

“Fair Vote Canada is a multi-partisan organization that stands prepared to support any candidate that demonstrates their commitment to democratizing our electoral system. Unfortunately, we can no longer be satisfied with empty promises. We invite all Canadians who feel disappointed, angry and betrayed to sign our 2019 Vote Pledge to vote for proportional representation in 2019.”


In 2015, three parties promised that 2015 was the last election using first-past-the-post and the new government would “make every vote count” in 2019. Canadians were also promised evidence-based policy on electoral reform. Put together, this only equals a proportional voting system.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals went on to a win a majority government with 39.5% of the popular vote.

Despite almost 90% of the experts and the public who testified to the Electoral Reform Committee recommending proportional representation – backing up the recommendations of 13 previous commissions, committees and assemblies in Canada – Trudeau chose to break his electoral reform promise to Canadians. Worse, although the Liberal platform explicitly put proportional representation on the table, when he broke his promise he claimed that, despite his platform, he had instead always believed proportional representation would be bad for Canada.

His excuses are not backed up by facts.

Prominent among these excuses is that only a “few people” want proportional representation.

Many Canadians who were tired of casting an ineffective vote, tired of strategic voting, looking forward to better representation, the better government and more cooperative politics that proportional representation would bring felt deeply disappointed or betrayed by the broken promise.

Promises matter. This promise continues to matter to MANY people – more than ever.

We who support proportional representation HAVE NOT GIVEN UP.

As voters, we aim to elect a government that will finish the work that was started, to deliver a proportional voting system for Canada in which 30% of the vote equals 30% of the seats.