Madam Speaker, my colleague, the member for Salaberry—Suroît, spoke very powerfully to the motion we are discussing here today. This is an NDP motion that we are all very proud of, which is receiving tremendous support across the country. It is certainly a position that is receiving tremendous support across the country. I just want to repeat it for the sake of those who are tuned in or are tuning in.
The motion we put forward today states:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government misled Canadians on its platform and Throne Speech commitment “that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system”, and that the House call on the government to apologize to Canadians for breaking its promise.
I have heard the consternation from Liberals across, questioning why we are using such strong language, like “misleading”. It is because that is exactly what the Liberals have done. Let us go back into recent history to get a sense of that.
On June 16, 2015, the Prime Minister promised that the 2015 election would be the last federal election conducted under the first past the post system, and that he would present a bill in the House of Commons within 18 months of his election.
On December 4, 2015, the Prime Minister repeated this commitment in his throne speech where he said:
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.
On December 17, 2015, in an interview, the Prime Minister said:
It would be easier to do nothing and sit back and just say, 'Okay, you know what, this worked for us, I think we can make this current system work for a few more mandates' ... But that's not the kind of leadership that Canadians expected.
That was the story on February 4, 2016, March 11, 2016, May 11, 2016, October 19, 2016, November 6, 2016, December 1, 2, 5, and 7, 2016, and January 10, 2017, but on January 12 is when the story starts to change. The new Minister of Democratic Institutions twice refused to repeat the Prime Minister's election promise on electoral reform, and avoided the question by saying that she was committed to getting briefed on the file.
What we have seen transpire over the last three weeks is a full, complete turnaround for all of these other statements, and in fact a very clear statement from the government that it is willing to break its promise to Canadians on electoral reform. The Liberals are willing to go that far, and they are using all sorts of excuses in the House which outside of this chamber we would call “lame” to describe what has transpired here. I have never heard such pathetic excuses from any government when it comes to a situation where it has so blatantly broken its promise to Canadians.
I read a quote where the Prime Minister himself mocked the notion that the Liberals would possibly pull away from this commitment, because it was so important to them. This is the height of cynicism in politics. It is why so many Canadians are so frustrated and angry about the way in which the government has broken its promise. The excuses that we are hearing from the government are simply not going to cut it, nor is the reference to no consensus and that 45% only wanted this or that.
We are talking about a government that was elected by 39% of Canadians. It was fine for that percentage to be recognized as a legitimate win, and nobody here is saying that it is not a legitimate government, yet when the Liberals are throwing numbers around like this, it is as though they cannot move forward on this, and they fill in the blank and keep referring to a lack of consensus.
The point here is that the Liberals made a commitment to Canadians. Canadians believed them. Many Canadians voted for them, because they feel deeply about this issue. Now the Liberals have turned around, and like many politicians of the past, they have broken their promise.
I want to share a few thoughts about an article that came out today. The title of that article is “Millennials finally fall out of love with [the Prime Minister] after he abandons electoral reform”. Obviously, it is a provocative title. However, once one reads the article, there is a logical argument made that for many young people, electoral reform was identified as an important issue. Democratic reform is something young people feel strongly about. It is a system whereby their voices, their issues, are respected and heard in real terms. It is something they feel very strongly about, and they attached these values to a Prime Minister who spoke to many young people and who ultimately made a very clear commitment to young Canadians, and all Canadians, that if he were to be elected, he would make a difference.
Young people, for generations, have had promises to them by governments broken. Once again we are seeing that happen, but this time by a Prime Minister who truly claims to care about young people and the issues that matter to them.
There is a long list of things the Prime Minister alluded to that are not being acted on: the creation of good jobs for young people, and I have spoken many times in this House about the rise of precarious work for the millennial generation; the promise to do things differently when it came to pipelines, and obviously we know that young people are extremely concerned about climate change; and the need to respect the rights of indigenous people.
We know the rhetoric that was thrown around on the commitment by the government to legalize marijuana that was used to get votes from young people. Now we are seeing a very different tone from the government on that issue.
Last week the gallery was full of young people who were here in the hope that the government would live up to the tweet the Prime Minister sent in response to Donald Trump's racist immigration ban. Yet even there they did not see the government act on the kinds of values they and many of us as young Canadians hold so dear.
We are seeing a pattern whereby the government is pulling away from things it promised and issues it said it would stand up for young people on. However, nothing has been more blatant than this particular broken promise, this very obvious walking back from a commitment it made, repeatedly made, in black letters on white paper. I have mentioned the dates. We have all been in the House when the Prime Minister has said it. We heard it from his minister.
I want to acknowledge the thousands of Canadians who engaged in the consultation process the NDP held and those who came to the parliamentary committee meetings across the country. These are people who took time out of their lives, away from their families, and travelled to different communities. They took that time because they felt strongly about this issue. They believed that the current government, as it promised, was actually willing to make a difference.
Not only are we asking the government to apologize, the New Democrats are joining with many Canadians to say that what the government has done is unacceptable. Broken promises are unacceptable. A broken promise on electoral reform, something that is so fundamental to building a healthy democracy that truly represents us, is unacceptable.
Canadians deserve better, young Canadians deserve better, than a Prime Minister and a government that is willing to mislead us, as we have seen here today.