So the Trudeau government just gave supporters their first big disappointment: no election reform in this parliament. The stated reason is twofold. First, the Liberals feared that proportional representation might lead to the rise of fringe alt-right parties. Second, the government worried that a referendum decided by a simple majority would set a worrisome precedent for future secessionists, while a referendum with a bigger threshold would be impossible to win.
Neither objection is convincing. First, the Liberals could have gone for an Australian-style preferential voting system, which disadvantages small parties. Second, they could have designed a P.R. system to prevent small parties. (Either via a minimum threshold or holding elections in multi-member districts with only four or five representatives.) Finally, they could have gone with the higher referendum threshold with a clear statement that Canadians were voting only on the reform and that the government would not resign in the advent of a defeat.
So what is the real reason? Well, the real reason is that the Liberals managed to turn 40% of the popular vote into 54% of the seats. That seems to have killed the desire for reform. But they are making a big mistake.
The below figure graphs Canadian vote shares since the turn of the last century. The parties are ordered (roughly) from most conservative at the top to most liberal at the bottom. The Bloc Québécois is much more left than the New Democrats, but due to their unique nature I have put them in the middle.*
And what does the figure show? Well, since 1945 the Conservative Party has been in power for 27 years but conservative parties only won a majority twice: 1958 and 1984.
Proportional representation or preference ballots might be bad for the Liberal Party. They are unlikely to be bad for liberalism. To all extents and purpose, the New Democrats and the Greens are just slightly more left-wing versions of the Liberals. (See here if you do not believe me.)
In other words, abandoning electoral reform seems like a very shortsighted move on the part of the Liberals. Is there something I am missing?
* Yes, I am aware that there is at least one Canadian reader out there prepared to be pedantic. Therefore, to clarify: I know that the New Democrats were called the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation before 1958, Social Credit ran under the name “New Democracy” in 1940 and split into two parties for the ‘65 and ‘68 elections, Conservatives were Progressive between 1942 and 2003, and the Reform Party was CRAP in 2000.