Protesters rally at MP’s office to demand electoral reform

A crowd of protesters braved the frigid temperatures in Whitehorse on Tuesday to urge the federal government not to back down on its promise to change Canada’s voting system.

A crowd of protesters braved the frigid temperatures in Whitehorse on Tuesday to urge the federal government not to back down on its promise to change Canada’s voting system.

The group rallied at Yukon MP Larry Bagnell’s office to deliver copies of the Liberals’ own election promise to ensure “that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.”

Last month, in an interview with Quebec newspaper Le Devoir, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to back away from his commitment to reform how Canadians vote before the next federal election.

Tuesday’s event, organized by the advocacy group Leadnow, coincided with similar rallies in 50 communities across Canada.

The crowd carried a number of signs, several printed in festive holiday colours. “All I want for Christmas is electoral reform,” one read.

Several of the protesters also wore Santa hats for the occasion. “We just want fair elections, we just want fair elections, we just want fair elections, and proportional too,” they sang to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

“We don’t need a referendum, we don’t need a referendum, we don’t need a referendum, we already voted.”

Julia Duchesne, a Leadnow volunteer who organized the Whitehorse rally, said the protesters wanted to “send a clear message” to Bagnell about how important electoral reform is to Yukoners.

“I think both across Canada and in the Yukon, a lot of people often have to vote strategically, rather than voting where their heart lies,” she said. “I know that personally that’s what I did in the last federal election, and it’s something that I’d rather not have to do again.”

Astrid Vogt said she attended the rally because she hopes her children won’t have to vote strategically. She grew up in Switzerland, which has a system of direct democracy that allows citizens to propose changes to the constitution or to ask for a referendum on any law.

“I love this country (Canada) with all my heart. I live here since 25 years,” she said. “But I really do miss that option — the citizen is just not as important as when I lived in Switzerland.”

Bernard Briggs said he voted Liberal in the last federal election in the hope that Trudeau would keep his promise on electoral reform. He believes the Liberals will lose a lot of voters if they don’t follow through on that commitment.

“Proportional representation … allows a fairer cross-section of what society actually wants instead of majority governments being elected with a small percentage of the votes,” he said. “If you’re a Conservative in B.C. or if you’re an NDP (voter) in Saskatchewan or if you’re a Green Party (voter) almost anywhere in Canada, those votes aren’t getting counted.”

On Dec. 1, a special all-party committee on electoral reform recommended that the government design a new proportional voting system, and hold a referendum to gauge public support.

But the Liberal members of the committee concluded that Canadian citizens haven’t been sufficiently engaged in the issue, and said it would be unrealistic to propose a new voting system before 2019.

In response to the recommendations, Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef criticized the committee for failing to come up with a specific alternative to a first-past-the-post system. She later apologized for her comments and agreed that Canadians need to be more engaged before the government moves ahead.

The government is now asking Canadians to fill out an online survey on electoral reform at mydemocracy.ca. The quiz has been criticized for including leading questions and leaving out questions on a referendum.

Duchesne said it will be an “uphill battle” to convince a majority government to change a voting system it benefited from. But she’s optimistic.

“I think this government cares a lot about its public image and it made some pretty strong and unequivocal commitments early on,” she said.

Leadnow doesn’t believe a referendum is necessary, she said, “because historically in a referendum the status quo benefits.”

Still, it’s unclear how electoral reform will affect the North, since each territory has only one MP, and that seems unlikely to change.

When the special committee visited the Yukon in September, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said that under several proposed voting systems, “nothing would change at all in the territories.”

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Yukon River Chinook run not as disastrous as feared, but still small

This year’s Yukon River Chinook salmon run isn’t as disastrous as originally… Continue reading

New contract approved for landfill management

Norcope Construction Group will be responsible for “daily operations” at the landfill

Recount planned following Carcross/Tagish First Nation’s close election for chief

Lynda Dickson received 109 votes, with runner up Danny Cresswell just five votes behind

Yukon government releases community safety plan for Whitehorse Emergency Shelter

The government is now reviewing the plan and working on creating an implementation group

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for July 3, 2020

Today’s mailbox: COVID reopening

Letter to the editor published July 3

Vuntut Gwitchin councillor submits resignation

Vuntut Gwitchin councillor Cheryl Charlie has submitted her resignation, leaving Chief Dana… Continue reading

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Ancient lake bed sediments, unusual plants are markers of the Takhini salt flats

It’s one of the Yukon’s best open geological secrets, a well-known but… Continue reading

Yukon University hires director of finance

Yukon University announced in a press release on June 29 that Sheila… Continue reading

Diamond Tooth Gerties to reopen

The Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) announced in a press release on June… Continue reading

Newly-elected Liard First Nation chief accuses YG of interfering with election

Stephen Charlie says YG’s announcement days before election endorsed previous chief

Most Read