World

Trudeau Fears ‘Alt-Right’ Will Benefit From Electoral Reform

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke a major election campaign promise out of fear of the “alt-right.” In the 2015 federal election campaign, Trudeau pledged it would be the last time the country used the traditional first-past-the-post, winner take all electoral system. Trudeau promised “electoral reform,” with some variant of proportional representation where parties are represented by the exact percentage of the vote they receive.

As CBC reports, according to comments Friday from an unnamed senior cabinet minister close to the prime minister, Trudeau increasingly came to believe that proportional representation would allow for the emergence of right-wing extremists and “white supremacists.”

The government “announced” the end of electoral reform on Wednesday — but not with a news release or statement. It rewrote the mandate for the minister of democratic institutions with a line indicating that “changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate.”

The veiled revelation — as soon as reporters discovered it — sent shock waves through the Parliamentary press gallery as Trudeau had regularly reiterated his commitment to change the electoral system in his first 15 months as prime minister.

The anonymous source claims that Trudeau reversed his position at a recent cabinet retreat in Calgary because “the more he thought about proportional representation, the more he thought it was exactly the wrong system for a big, regionally and culturally diverse country.”

The official opposition Conservatives, never huge advocates of Trudeau’s electoral reform, were only critical of Trudeau’s flip-flop on the issue. Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose told reporters that “Canadians should think twice about believing what Justin Trudeau says.”

In the House, Trudeau said reform might produce “an augmentation of extremist voices in the House.”  Critics of proportional representation often cite the pre-Nazi Weimar Republic as an example of how the system bolsters party extremism.

Most of the Liberal cabinet was opposed to changing the way Canadians elect their Members of Parliament, with many critics wondering why they apparently did not bother to voice their dissent until now.

Although any changes would have been subject to a national referendum on the issue, Trudeau is said to have rejected that course as well because it could divide the country.

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