Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.
Before I start, I have to say that I am absolutely flabbergasted by the ducking, the weaving, the dodging, and the deflection I have seen from the member for Winnipeg North.
I am also flabbergasted, because I am the father of four-year-old twin daughters who know that when they break a promise, they say they are sorry. What I have witnessed today is that I have four-year-olds who have more sense and more respect than the Government of Canada. That is a shameful thing.
I want to begin by repeating, again, because I just cannot say this enough, and neither can any of us in going over the Liberal broken promises, the fact that in June 2015, the Prime Minister made an explicit promise to Canadians that 2015 would be the last election conducted under the first past the post voting system and that a bill would be presented to the House within 18 months of forming government.
This was repeated in December, when a commitment was made in the throne speech, probably one of the most sacred speeches outlining a government's plans for the nation:
To make sure that every vote counts, the Government will undertake consultations on electoral reform, and will take action to ensure that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.
I checked the liberal.ca website. I am not sure if it has changed, but as of 11:30 a.m. today, it still says, “We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under...first- past-the-post”. It is still up there.
I also had time to look at the new mandate letter to the new Minister of Democratic Institutions. The Prime Minister had the audacity in the opening lines of that letter to say, “We promised Canadians real change—in both what we do and how we do it”. It went on to say, “I made a personal commitment to bring new leadership and a new tone to Ottawa”. Then we get to the crux of the letter: “Changing electoral reform will not be in your mandate”.
That just makes a mockery of the Prime Minister's words, an absolute mockery. The new minister actually made a call to my friend from Skeena—Bulkley Valley the day before the announcement was made, and everything looked like it was still on course. Then we were presented with a political deception of the highest order when the news was broken, and I think the sense of betrayal we felt was really profound.
We have a Prime Minister who obviously broke a promise, who obviously misled Canadians and the House, and who did not tell the truth. There are Canadians who have a word to describe such a person. We cannot use it in the House, but trust me, from the correspondence I have received from my constituents and from people across the country, that word is being used a lot out in the public.
I want to read into the record some of the correspondence I have received from some of my constituents, and I will start with this quote: “I was really upset when I heard what the PM had to say about no change in electoral reform.... I guess that is putting it politely. I was actually furious! All that work from the [electoral reform] committee, seemingly for nothing.”
Another quote: “I'm appalled that [the Prime Minister] has abdicated on his promise to make 2015 the last election under first-past-the-post. Thousands of Vancouver Island citizens spoke up at public consultations, canvassed voters, researched the issue and wrote letters to the editor. We all wanted a form of proportional representation, and we weren't alone".
These are from copies my office received of letters sent to the Prime Minister.
“Your failure to keep this commitment is a betrayal to the many voters who were counting on you to fix our broken voting system”.
Another quote: “Canadians need to feel included and represented in their politics, and if you choose not to include this in your mandate, you and the Liberal party of Canada will be further alienating this and other groups which feel unrepresented by the political parties of Canada. Please do not make this mistake”.
All of us on this side of the House, and I am sure many of my Liberal colleagues as well, are getting correspondence like this. Canadians are profoundly disappointed about this, because a promise was made that was black and white.
What is the word of the Prime Minister worth anymore? How can we trust him on other fundamental issues, like the great social change we need to see, the social contract with our veterans, how we look after our seniors, and what we are going to do with the retirement age? He keeps referring us to the Liberal website, There are still promises there that he does not intend to keep.
I also want to mention that we have an online petition, which I believe two weeks ago was sitting at about 6,000 signatures and has now surpassed 92,000 signatures. The petition is making history.
With my friend from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, I was honoured to substitute on the electoral reform committee while it was doing its cross-country tour. I sat on it for the Atlantic Canada tour. I was really impressed with the correspondence the committee received and the feedback from experts and Atlantic Canadians.
I remember specifically, when I was in Prince Edward Island, in Charlottetown, when we had the former commissioner responsible for the plebiscite in Prince Edward Island appear. He warned the committee to beware of the vested interests, those who want to see the present system maintained because it benefits them. He told a story about how when the recommendation in Prince Edward Island was to go to a proportional system, both the Liberal and Conservative parties of that province realized that it might upset their hold on power, and they both secretly campaigned against it in church basements and community halls in the province. They deliberately undermined the work of that important committee.
As we have heard time and again, nearly 90% of the experts and 80% of the members of the public who testified called on the government to implement a proportional representation system.
On the other side, in addition to all the deflection the Liberals have been promoting in the House, I have also tried to set up a straw-man argument. The Prime Minister, during question period, once said that a proportional system would give rise to alt-right parties and dangerous fringe elements in the House, while conveniently forgetting that the first past the post system in the United States just elected Donald Trump.
Yes, there could be fringe elements elected, but I tend to believe that the best disinfectant for those kinds of policies is sunshine. Bring them into the House. Make them defend their ideas. We, on the moderate side of the House, will just as quickly knock them down.
When Canadians vote, they should expect to have every vote count equally. Our present system is nowhere close to that. We have a system that allows 39% of the electorate to give a party 100% of the power. Make no mistake, when we have a majority government in the House, it is essentially an elected dictatorship. The fact that 39% of the Canadians who voted have sway over so much of our policy is profoundly undemocratic.
We need to encourage more participation and broaden participation in this country, not lessen it. This was a golden opportunity that was missed by the government.
Respect and trust in politics are finite resources, and they can be used up really quickly. Cynicism can be like a cancer. If unchecked, it can grow exponentially. The Prime Minister's actions last week, and indeed the continuing ability of the Liberal Party to not apologize for its actions, is growing cynicism in the country at an alarming rate.
I am profoundly saddened that the Liberal Party, the government, is deflecting and dodging the essence of our motion today. Why will the Liberals not act like adults? Why will they not show the same level of respect my four-year-olds have, admit that they misled the House and misled Canadians, and simply apologize?