A voter walks past a sign directing voters to a polling station for the Canadian federal election in Cremona, Alta., Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Support for federal electoral reform skyrockets: Angus Reid poll

While reforming Canada’s electoral system is no longer a priority for the Trudeau government, support for the idea has actually skyrocketed since the Oct. 21 federal election where the Liberals managed to hang on to power despite losing the popular vote, according to a new poll.

A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds that more than two-thirds of Canadians (68 per cent) now say that they would prefer to change the country’s voting system.

Support for changing Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system for a proportional representation system has seen the biggest surge among Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) voters.

Seven-in-ten (69 per cent) Canadians who voted for the CPC in October say they would change the electoral system, compared to just 28 per cent of Tory supporters who supported the idea in 2016.

There is an even higher level of support for the electoral system reform among left-of-centre voters.

Eighty-six per cent of New Democratic Party voters and 83 per cent of Green Party supporters want to change the electoral system.

Fifty-five per cent of Liberal voters also support the idea.

“Increasing approval across all parties has transformed this – at least for now – from a divisive to a consensus issue,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the institute.

During the 2015 election, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau campaigned on it being the last run under the first-past-the-post system. He promised an “electoral system that does a better job of reflecting the concerns, the voices of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and give us a better level of governance.”

The Liberals undertook extensive consultation, including convening a multi-party House committee, where the majority of members recommended a referendum on a form of proportional representation.

But Trudeau ultimately cancelled his electoral reform promise in early 2017, saying no clear choice had emerged for an alternative system. Trudeau also ruled out a referendum.

“With something so fundamental as changing our electoral system, there needed to be consensus among Canadians,” said in a statement Amy Butcher, a spokesperson for Dominic LeBlanc, the minister responsible for democratic institutions in the new cabinet. “Although no consensus was found across the country, or among parties, it was an important conversation to have.”

There was nothing about electoral reform in the Liberals’ 2019 platform and the very title of the minister of democratic institutions was eliminated in the expanded new cabinet presented on Wednesday, featuring such portfolios as minister of middle class prosperity, minister of diversity and inclusion and youth, and minister of digital government.

LeBlanc, who was named President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, took over the files managed by former minister of democratic institutions Karina Gould, Butcher said. 

“Through Bill C-76, the Elections Modernization Act, we modernized our voting system to be more inclusive and reflective of Canadians’ needs, and our government will continue to work to strengthen, improve and protect our democracy,” Butcher said.

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