Democracy is a flawed and challenging institution. Canadians have recently begun complaining heavily about the first past the post voting system that allows candidates to form majority governments with less than 50% of the vote. Voters turnout has been lower and people are disengaging. Critics state that it is the voting system to blame and a new and different one would mean more people voting as every vote would count.
Justin Trudeau ran in the 2015 elections promising that 2015 would be the last election to use first past the post as the method to form governments. He got elected and put in an all party committee and appointed Maryam Monsef as the Minister of Democratic Institutions. Fast forward 14 months, we have a new Minister of Democratic Institutions and a heavy report from the all-party committee that recommends a referendum asking all Canadians to pick a system BEFORE implementing any changes. Justin Trudeau and his Liberals are not big fans of referendum. (I know everyone is wary of them post Brexit). Maryam Monsef was heavily panned by all for trying to state that the committee did not actually do anything when the report proves otherwise. What she meant to say but could not say was that the committee did not come back with the answer she was hoping for.
Now, we have Karina Gould as the minister for this portfolio. She is young (29 years old) and has a background in international trade. She also is the youngest cabinet minister in Canadian history. This is super cool.
When she got promoted to this position from her old post of Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of International Trade, some shaked their heads and asked why her? Well, WHY NOT HER? Think about it. Trade deals require negotiation, a lot of discussion and willingness to compromise and build consensus. This can be said for how electoral reform discussions will go. With how stubborn all the parties are in their views on the issue of electoral reform, it is important that the minister who leads this portfolio is able to consider all viewpoints and help find common areas and a common ground to build off if we can seriously expect any change to how elections take place in Canada.
Next, consider this: our population is aging as well as the number of young people (“millennials”) are going up. This means the next generation is already actively involved and engaged in democratic practices and want their voice heard. Having a young and savvy minister makes sense. Having said that, Maryam is not old herself but looking at Karina’s work and life background, she seems to be more suited for this portfolio. Karina is truly a millennial. She spent a year after high school working in an orphanage in Mexico and was president of her undergraduate arts council. In this role, she organized a fundraiser that raised 20000 dollars for Haiti earthquake in 2010. By supporters and friends, she is described as a community activist. Her work history is relatable and #goals for many millennials as she has done international work in field of migration and international relations. She seems capable to sell the idea of a electoral reform to Canadians and maybe bring true the dreams to have a better system where all votes matter. Now the question, will this actually add up and lead to a legislation or referendum to changing the system for real? Or will this add to the growing list of broken promises from this Liberal government? Fortunately/unfortunately, we don’t have to wait to find out. At the time of writing this article, it was just reported that Trudeau has dropped changing the voting system as a key promise and priority as consensus was not reached and he does not believe a referendum is in the best interest of Canadians. Brexit ruined referendums for everyone y’all.