Trudeau's timeline on electoral reform: from clear commitment to 'no consensus'

 June 16 2015

Trudeau commits to ending first-past-the-post

Before the 2015 election campaign officially begins, Liberal Leader, Justin Trudeau promises that a government lead by him would make the 2015 election the final election under first-past-the-post. 


We need to know that when we cast a ballot, it counts; that when we vote, it matters. So I’m proposing we make every vote count. We are committed to ensuring that the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first-past-the-post. We will ensure that electoral reform measures such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting and online voting are fully and fairly studied and considered. And within 18 months of forming government, we will bring forward legislation to enact electoral reform.

- Liberal Leader, Justin Trudeau



August 2nd 2015


The 41st Parliament is dissolved, the 2015 election campaign begins 


October 19th 2015


Justin Trudeau’s Liberals win the 2015 election

Liberal candidates win a 184 seat majority in the House of Commons, Justin Trudeau will soon become the next Prime Minister.  

For the first time in Canadian history, an overwhelming majority of MPs (229/338) are elected on platforms committing to ending the first-past-the-post electoral system. The Liberal platform  committed to changing the system, the NDP promised a mixed-member-proportional voting system, while the Green Party platform simply promised a proportional voting system.  The Conservative Party platform was silent on reforming the voting system. 


November 4th 2015


Trudeau’s Cabinet is Sworn in, Monsef in charge of reform

Maryam Monsef, the first-time MP for the Ontario riding of Peterborough-Kawartha, is sworn is as Minister of Democratic Institutions.

April 14th 2016


Monsef outlines eight principles for electoral reform

The first six months of Monsef’s term as minister are relatively uneventful, and marked by relative silence on how the government will approach its commitment to ending first-past-the-post. 

In a talk at the University of Ottawa, Monsef finally outlines some principles that will guide the government’s approach to reforming the voting system (emphasis ours): 

1) Electoral reform must ensure that Canadians perceive the outcomes of elections as legitimate.  

2) Electoral reform must restore Canadians’ confidence that they can influence politics and that voting makes a meaningful difference

3) Changes to the system must ensure [and encourage] greater diversity in both the House of Commons and in politics more broadly. 

4) Reforms should not make the voting system overly complex.  

5) Changes to the voting system should be designed to making voting more user-friendly and more accessible

6) Changes to our voting system should take into consideration the relationship and accountability between citizens and their representatives in Parliament

7) Reform must protect the integrity and the security of the vote.

8) … electoral reform must fundamentally shape our democracy as one that inspires Canadians to find common ground, pursue consensus


May 10th 2016 


Monsef and Leblanc propose a liberal dominated special committee on electoral reform

Monsef and Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc propose a special committee on electoral reform to study ‘viable alternative voting systems’ on which Liberal MPs would hold a majority of seats. Bloc and Green MPs would have seats on the committee, but would not have voting rights. The NDP’s Nathan Cullen resists the idea that the government should hold majority-power on such a committee.  

The Liberals have chosen to maintain their false majority on the committee, stacked the decks, and it calls into some question at the outset the legitimacy of what comes out the other end. Using the House of Commons as the model, which was created out of what the minister and the Liberals claim is a broken system — to then use that same model to fix the broken system makes no sense 

- NDP MP, Nathan Cullen 

Committee composition was not as strong a concern for the Conservative critic for Democratic Reform, Scott Reid. 

In the end, whether it's one party, two parties, three parties, all the parties [agreeing] doesn't change the fact that the people who ought to have the final say are actually the voters. No committee process you can design is a substitute to taking this matter to the people in the form of a referendum

 - Conservative MP, Scott Reid

 The mandate of the committee was described in the government’s motion as follows:  

to identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting, and to assess the extent to which the options identified could advance the following principles for electoral reform…

The motion outlined a shorter set of principles to guide the committee’s work

  • Effectiveness and legitimacy,

  • Engagement,

  • Accessibility and inclusiveness,

  • Integrity,

  • Local representation, 

June 6th 2016


Marc Mayrand, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Elections Canada announce his intentions to step down from his post at the end of 2016 

Having served nearly ten years in the position already, Mayrand note that the ambitious agenda of  Elections Canada, and the government's plans for electoral reform necessitated a leader who could see both efforts through to completion. 

I have concluded that it would be preferable to leave my position at the end of the year to allow my successor the necessary time to assume the responsibility and guide the future direction of Elections Canada. Given Elections Canada's ambitious electoral services modernization plans and the government's consideration of fundamental reforms to our electoral system, I believe the early appointment of a successor to lead Elections Canada well ahead of the next general election is essential and should not be delayed.

Marc Mayrand, CEO Elections Canada  


June 7th 2016 

Trudeau concedes on committee composition, parliament approves an amended motion to create a special committee on electoral reform

In response to resistance from the NDP’s Nathan Cullen, the government allowed the seats on the committee to be allocated proportionate to the 2015 election results, and extended voting rights to the Green and Bloc MPs on the committee. 

We heard the opposition's concerns that we were perhaps behaving in a way that was resembling more the previous government than the kind of approach and tone that we promised throughout the electoral campaign. We're happy to demonstrate that absolutely we're looking for ways to better work with our colleagues in the House, to better hear from Canadians and their concerns and I look forward to working towards reforming our electoral system with the input of as many Canadians, including opposition parties, as possible. 

- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

June 21 2016


The Special Committee on Electoral Reform begins its work at Parliament 

Francis Scarpaleggia, MP for the Quebec riding of Lac-Saint-Louis is elected chair of the special committee on electoral reform. During its Ottawa meetings, the committee will go on to hear from international experts and scholars on electoral reform including:  

- Arend Lijphart, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego and Author of Patterns of Democracy: Government forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries

- Michael Gallagher, Professor of Comparative Politics at Trinity College Dublin, and developer of the soon-to-become controversial 'Gallagher Index’ 

... and many others. 


July 7 2016  


Maryam Monsef presents facts against first-past-the-post to the special committee on electoral reform

Monsef uses her time with the Special Committee to remind members of the problems with first-past-the-post.  

First past the post is an antiquated system designed to meet the realities of 19th century Canada and not designed to operate within our multi-party democracy. We require an electoral system that provides a stronger link between the democratic will of Canadians and election results. As pointed out by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, during the course of the 20th century, a number of countries have opted to move away from first past the post, from Australia in 1918 to New Zealand in 1993.

More tellingly, few democracies in the modern era have gone the other way and adopted first past the post as their electoral model. There are good reasons for this: first past the post is a voting system that generates disparities between votes gained and the number of seats secured. 

Since 1960 we've had 10 elections that resulted in majority governments, but only in one case, in 1984, did the winning party receive more than 50% of the vote. Under first past the post, parties achieving similar or same percentages of the vote may not always garner a similar number of seats.


First past the post also regularly elects MPs for whom the majority of constituents did not vote. In the most recent election, less than 40% of those elected—including me—were supported by a majority of their constituents.

Beyond this, Mr. Chair, Canadians have indicated that they want change in their electoral system. In the last election, 63% of Canadians voted for parties that clearly stated they wanted an alternative to first past the post, and Canadians expect us to keep our promises.

- Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef   


August 29th 2016


Monsef begins "Federal electoral reform community dialogue tour” in Iqaluit, Nunavut

The fall of 2016 is marked by competing consultations - both the special committee and Monsef hold open meetings in major cities across Canada (on different dates) while each MP is encouraged by the committee to hold town-hall meetings within their ridings. 

Monsef’s tour to speak with Canadians about democratic reform begins on a Monday morning at 10AM in Iqaluit, Nunavut. 15 people attend, including the mayor of Iqaluit Madeleine Redfern who only heard about the meeting at 9:30AM on the same day. Redfern is disappointed n the fact that translation for the meeting was only only available from English to French.  

Meetings in Nunavut, particularly in Iqaluit, require Inuktitut translation, otherwise there is a significant portion of our population who will not be able to understand or participate.

Iqaluit mayor Madeleine Redfern



September 19th 2016

The Special Committee on Electoral Reform begins its cross-country tour

At great public expense, and with a travel schedule that few rock bands or visiting tourists would emulate, the special committee’s 18 day tour of 17 Canadian towns and cities begins

At each public meeting one or more panel-sessions with two-to-three invited local experts (or witnesses) is held to give MPs an opportunity for a lengthy Q&A session with with the witnesses. 

Each meeting also include an ‘open-mic’ session for any members of the public to speak to committee members (with no, or minimal exchange with committee members).  


October 19th 2016


While Monsef continues to consult, Trudeau suggests his government’s popularity has made the need for electoral reform less urgent

In an interview with the Quebec newspaper Le Devoir, Trudeau begins to hint that Canadian’s enthusiasm for electoral reform had waned. 

Under Mr. Harper, there were so many people dissatisfied with the government and its approach that they were saying, 'We need an electoral reform so that we can no longer have a government we don't like. However, under the current system, they now have a government they are more satisfied with. And the motivation to want to change the electoral system is less urgent. (English translation by CBC

In his Twitter debut, former NDP leader Ed Broadbent and namesake of the Broadbent institute issues a 20 part twitter essay in response to Trudeau’s comments to Le Devoir.


The tweets have been edited slightly for readability:  

(1) @JustinTrudeau's #electoralreform comments in @LeDevoir are outrageous & transparently self-serving. Let me explain. (2) 1st, on process. w/ #ERRE about to start final deliberations, PM Trudeau cynically undermines the whole democratic process. (3) Now, on substance. #LPC made clear commitment that '15 fed election would be last 1 under FPTP (4) And @JustinTrudeaurepeated commitment throughout 2015 campaign.

(5) And post-election, reaffirmed promise to scrap #FPTP "to make sure that every vote counts”. (6) Then set up process to deliver promise, w/ #ERRE seats allotted proportionally as per popular vote. (7) Then @MaryamMonsef kicks off hearings explaining why current #FPTP needs to go with clear rationale for change: (8) "antiquated"/"designed to meet realities of 19th c Cdn & not designed to operate w/in our multi-party dem” (9) & experts told us why PR must drive #electoralreform & how it's in sync w/ guiding principles. (10) esp as it relates 2 fairness & increased diversity w/ more women/visible minorities elected. (11) PR rec. is consistent w/ all previous studies & commissions, w/ calls for proportional system.

(12) And now @JustinTrudeau says need for #eletoralreform has waned bc Harper govt is out and ... #ERRE#cdnpoli (13) ... And ppl thought we needed diff voting system to oust Harper govt? (14) But now that Liberals are in office, ppl are more satisfied w/ govt, so no need for change, according @JustinTrudeau?

(15) Let me be clear: this is an outrageous statement that must be challenged. #electoralreform is not about ousting a gov. (16) To suggest that is the case is a complete misunderstanding of why we need #electoralreform in Canada. (17) It's about fairness and equality so every vote & voter counts, not partisan interests or popularity of any govt. (18) This govt was right to call FPTP "antiquated"/ill-suited 4 modern multi-party democracy & to promise. (19) But now PM is suggesting ppl got election result they wanted so no longer strong push for change.

Think about that. This is a totally self-serving Liberal argument. We must come together today & stand up for #electoralreform. (21) bc it's not about a party or a particular govt. It's about doing the right thing for Canada.


October 20th 2016


Monsef refuses to share results of cross-country consultations with the special committee

MPs were asked to file the reports on their electoral reform town halls with the special committee on electoral reform by October 14th. The special committee votes unanimously to request that Monsef do the same with the results from the town-halls she hosted across Canada. The request is refused. Monsef’s press secretary notes that the deadline for MP reports did not apply to the minister. 

“At no point in time was there a requirement for her to file to the committee.”

- Press Secretary, Jean-Bruno Villeneuve


November 2nd 2016


Monsef reveals she and Trudeau have ‘preference’ for new voting system

During the Victoria town-hall on her cross-country tour, Monsef tells participants that she and Trudeau have preferred voting systems, but does not indicate which system they prefer. 

“Even though the prime minister has a preference, even though I am arriving at a preference for a specific system with certain elements, we’re not going to move ahead unless we have broad support from Canadians. So, yes, we want change, but we’re not going to ram it through, because that’s just a political nightmare and anti-democratic.”

- Maryam Monsef


December 1st 2016


The Special Committee on Electoral Reform releases it’s final report; Liberals release dissenting report

The Special Committee on Electoral Reform delivers its report to the House of Commons, following months of meetings, research, and deliberation.

The key recommendation of the committee (dominated by opposition members) was for the government to develop a proportional voting system, and for Canadians to vote in a referendum that would pit a proposed proportional system against the current system.

The committee did not recommend a specific system, but urged the government to use the Gallagher index to measure the strength of a new system. The Gallagher index is a measure of the level of distortion, or disproportionality present in election results.

Liberal members of the committee issue a dissenting supplementary report. The report urged Trudeau to break his promise on electoral reform: 


"We contend that the recommendations posed in the Majority Report (MR) regarding the alternative electoral systems are rushed, and are too radical to impose at this time as Canadians must be more engaged. The timeline on electoral reform as proposed in the MR is unnecessarily hasty and runs the risk of undermining the legitimacy of the process by racing toward a predetermined deadline.” 

During its work, the special committee on electoral reform heard from 196 witnesses, and received 22,500 online submissions. According to analysis from Fair Vote Canada, 88% of the witnesses who presented to the committee recommended some form of proportional representation. 


December 1st 2016


Monsef Responds to and Mocks Special Committee’s work

They did not complete the hard work we expected them to… I have to admit I'm a little disappointed, because what we had hoped the committee would provide us with would be a specific alternative system to first past the post. Instead, they've provided us with the Gallagher Index. They did not complete the hard work we had expected them to. On the hard choices that we asked the committee to make, Mr. Speaker, they took a pass.

- Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef 

As noted by many, the committee’s mandate said nothing about proposing a specific alternative to first-past-the-post.

Both in the House of Commons, and in her scrums with reporters, Monsef carries a large printout of the Gallagher Index to accompany her speaking notes.


December 2nd 2016

Monsef Apologizes for “words that I deeply regret”

Yesterday in this House, I used words that I deeply regret, and if you'll allow me, I'd like to sincerely apologize to the members of this House, to Canadians and to the members of the special all-party committee on electoral reform. In no way did I intend to imply that they didn't work hard, that they didn't put in the long hours, that they didn't focus on the task at hand. Mr. Speaker, I thank them for their work.


December 5th 2016 


The Government of Canada Launches

Just days after the special committee’s report on electoral reform is shared with the House of Commons, Monsef announces The website is presented as "an interactive and engaging digital platform that will help Canadians explore the values and principles they share when it comes to strengthening our democracy – including how we vote, mandatory voting, and online voting.” 
Critics point out that the platform fails to address the fundamental questions related to electoral reform, fault the survey for being a buzzfeed-like personality quiz, and presenting false-choice questions that perpetuate common misunderstandings about electoral systems.  
Feels like being on a dating website designed by Fidel Castro. No matter how hard someone tries to be against the prime minister's preferred electoral system, the survey tells them that they really do support it. It is like magic. 
- Conservative MP Scott Reid (CBC)
"I thought it was a dating survey. They forgot 'do you like pina coladas and taking walks in the rain?”
- Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Twitter)
Last week, the minister insulted our committee and the thousands of Canadians who participated with us in this process because we weren't specific enough for her. Yet today we see a pop-psych survey from this minister and there's no mention of electoral systems whatsoever.
- NDP MP Nathan Cullen (CBC)
Up until this point, there have been three independently managed consultation processes: the one lead by the minister herself, the one lead by the special committee on electoral reform, and those held by MPs at the invitation of the special committee. is the fourth opportunity for Canadians to participate in the government’s consultations on electoral reform. 

January 24th 2017 

Results from are published 

Unsurprisingly, the results from yielded no clear results on which electoral system Canadians preferred. 383,074 unique visitors completed the survey, and generated the following results (from the CBC)

Seventy per cent preferred the idea of several parties co-operating and sharing accountability, as opposed to one party being solely accountable. But 53 per cent said it should always be clear which party is responsible for government decisions.

Sixty-five per cent said a greater diversity of views should be represented in Parliament, but support for representing the views of all Canadians was just 45 per cent when respondents were presented with the prospect of radical or extreme parties being represented.

Fifty-nine per cent of respondents said ballots should be as simple as possible, but 62 per cent said voters should be able to express multiple preferences, even if that means it takes longer to count the result.

January 10 2017


Maryam Monsef is out, Karina Gould is in as Democratic Institutions Minister

Burlington MP, Karina Gould replaces Maryam Monsef as Democratic Institutions Minister. Monsef takes over as Minister for the Status of Women. Gould’s undergraduate political science thesis was dedicated to electoral reform.


February 1st 2017


Trudeau to Gould: “Changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate.” 

Trudeau’s mandate letter to Gould places a new importance on issues like cyber-security and open-government, while making it clear the commitment to electoral reform is no longer a part of the job. 
There has been tremendous work by the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform, outreach by Members of Parliament by all parties, and engagement of 360,000 individuals in Canada through A clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged. Furthermore, without a clear preference or a clear question, a referendum would not be in Canada’s interest. Changing the electoral system will not be in your mandate. 
- Justin Trudeau, in his mandate letter to democratic institutions minister, Karina Gould. 

Feb 10 2017


Justin Trudeau gives an eight minute explanation to why he backed away from electoral reform in Yellowknife

At a town hall in Yellowknife Trudeau explained his own rationale for why he felt he had to back away from electoral reform. This explanation represents the first time Trudeau had been clear and open about his preferred voting system since some off-the-cuff comments during his campaign to become leader of the Liberal party.

Electoral reform changing the way we vote is a big change that will and could have far-reaching consequences for our country and needs to be taken very very seriously.  It's more than just who might win a few more seats in the next election it goes to fundamentally how we operate how we value and how we hear diverse voices within our Parliament. And for me - and I've been arguing this and long before I became leader - I always felt that we could make a clear improvement to our political process by offering people to not ever have to vote strategically again. 

To give a preference on your ballot to rank your ballot a lot of people don't like it a lot of people say it favors liberals… I've heard very clearly that people don't think that's a good thing or that they think it would, it would favor liberals too much and therefore: I'm not going near it. 

So then we get down to the remaining choices a referendum which we've seen recently what happens when referendums go. Whether it's brexit, whether it's the Italian one whether it's - there is a lot of divisiveness particularly on an issue that is very important to a small number of people but not nearly as important as jobs and health care and educational opportunities and reconciliation and a whole bunch of other issues. 

And then there's proportional representation which is the one a lot of people like [applause]. One of the things that's great about Canada and I’ve talked about it a few times in this is we're a country that focuses on common ground or a country that focuses on the things we have in common with each other even though we're different …  if we were to make a change or risk a change that would augment individual voices that would augment extremist voices and activist voices that don’t get to sit within a party, that figures out what the best path for the whole future of the country, like the existing three big parties do, I think we being - entering an era of instability and uncertainty and we would be putting at risk the very thing that makes us luckier than anyone else on the planet.

- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 


Later, while walking through the crowd at the same event, a woman challenges Trudeau on his views on proportional representation. 

“Do you think that Kellie Leitch should have her own party?” 

The woman responds by saying “I think that’s a different conversation.” 

“No it’s not, it’s not at all. Because if you have a party that represented the fringe voices, the periphery of perspectives, they hold 10, 20 seats in the House, they end up holding the balance power.” 


April 4 2017

Trudeau’s deadline for proposing an alternative to first-past-the-post arrives  

It has been 18 months since the Trudeau and his cabinet assumed office, marking Trudeau's self-imposed deadline to propose a new voting system. 


May 31 2017 


Parliament Votes on Special Committee Recommendations, Liberal MPs Erskine-Smith and Casey vote with opposition parties 

While Trudeau and Gould had already made clear that the Liberal government would not be moving ahead on the special committee’s recommendations on electoral reform, a motion comes before parliament at the end of May, asking MPs to vote on the recommendations made by the special committee.  

The motion fails, with just 146 MPs supporting it and 159 MPs voting to reject the committees recommendations. Most Liberals MPs vote to reject the motion, except for two: Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, and Sean Casey.  

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the MP for Beaches-East York, was expected to vote against the government, and had made his disappointment in his own party public in an op-ed for the Huffington Post published in February. He wrote:  

I am disappointed that we have broken our promise, and I strongly disagree with our government's decision to abandon electoral reform... 

In my conversations with constituents on this topic, I ask a simple question: should a party with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote control 100 per cent of the power in our democracy?  

There is an overwhelming consensus that the answer is "no." Democracy's legitimacy lies in its authority from the people, and the majority of Canadians are left unrepresented in governments under our current voting system.

- Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MP for Beaches-East York 

Sean Casey’s vote to accept the special committee’s recommendations comes as a surprise to some. The Charlottetown MP understood that the majority of his constituents, who had voted in favour of a mixed-member proportional system for provincial elections in a plebiscite held the previous year, were also likely to favour a proportional system for Canadian elections:  

I was sent to Ottawa by the good people of Charlottetown to project their voice, and last November there was a plebiscite held in Prince Edward Island. That plebiscite had over 9,000 people from Charlottetown vote, and the plebiscite indicated at the provincial level, more than two-thirds of those 9,000 wanted to move away from first-past-the-post. So I felt that I had a very, very clear indication of the sentiments of the people I represent with respect to electoral reform.

Sean Casey, MP for Charlottetown 

June 27 2017

Trudeau offers another lengthy response to a reporter’s question on electoral reform 

At a press conference held immediately after the House rises for the summer of 2017, Huffington Post reporter Althia Raj asks Trudeau about his commitment to electoral reform: 

I'd like to know if you feel badly about breaking your electoral reform pledge. 

Trudeau's (long and unedited) response: 

I have been consistent and crystal clear from the beginning of my political career. You can look at the speeches I made here in Ottawa at the convention in 2012, or the debates I had on stage, particularly in Halifax during the Liberal leadership, where I think proportional representation would be bad for our country… Unfortunately it became very clear that we had a preference to give people a ranked ballot so that they could reduce the aspect of strategic voting… 

Nobody else agreed. The NDP was anchored in their belief that proportional representation was the only way forward... Conservatives wanted the status quo no matter what. And the only way to break that logjam was to do a referendum, which I definitely don’t think was in the best interest of Canadians.

- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau


September 5 2017 


Privacy investigations over re-surface

More questions are now being asked regarding the government's motivations for asking certain the types of questions that caught the attention of privacy advocates inside and outside of government. From Marie Daneille-Smith writing in the National Post 

Even as the federal privacy commissioner decided to launch an official investigation, government officials were quick to reassure Canadians that the protection of their personal information was of utmost concern. But according to documents obtained by the National Post, the Liberals only established specific privacy protections for the data collected through well after the website went online.

The issue remains a subject of an active investigation by the federal privacy commissioner. The results of that investigtation will be made public by the end of September. The House of Commons returns from its summer break on September 18th. 


October 2017 

The Deadline for Electoral Reform legislation in order to implement for October 2019 election

According to Elections Canada Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Maynard, October 2017 would have been the absolute latest point at which a new voting system could be put in place in time for a 2019 election.  

Spot a tpyo? Did I miss something? Let me know:

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We are raising the money necessary to file the case in court. In the Fall of 2018 we received a strategic opinion from the lawyer we have retained, advising us on the approach and lines of argument for fighting this case.

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- Finally, if the Court chooses to grant this case leave, it will be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada, where the decision will be final. If the case isn’t granted leave, the decision of the appeal court is final.

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At each step, we will set a goal based on our estimate of the costs at each stage, and ask supporters to contribute to help us reach that goal, and to ensure the case can continue to move forward.