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Promises to keep

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Dear friends,

Canada is getting a new Prime Minister.

On October 19, Justin Trudeau and his Liberal candidates came in first in 184 ridings, more than enough to win a majority of seats in Parliament.

Many of us are disappointed at the loss of a lot of good, progressive MPs. They will be sadly missed.

But despite the losses, some good things happened. OPSEU and other groups worked hard to get out the vote this time, and it worked. Voter turnout jumped from 61 per cent last time to 68 per cent this time. Canadians took this election seriously.

Best of all, Conservative leader Stephen Harper has nothing left to do at 24 Sussex Drive but pack his bags. That’s pretty satisfying. Over the last nine years, Harper has inflicted terrible damage on Canada. I won’t miss him for a second.

So now the focus is on the incoming PM.

I don’t agree with Justin Trudeau’s approach to building public infrastructure. I don’t agree with his approach to child care or the need for a national pharmaceutical drug plan (he’s against it). That said, some of his promises are good ones. During the campaign, Trudeau said he would:

  • launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls;
  • repeal Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, two bad Harper bills designed to weaken unions;
  • enhance the Canada Pension Plan; and
  • restore the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 65.

For policies like these, we need to hold the Liberals to their promises. This will be especially important when it comes to how voting works next time.

As we’ve seen so many times before, our voting system skewed the election results. Under our “first past the post” system, the Liberals won just under 40 per cent of the vote. This gave them 54 per cent of the seats in Parliament – and 100 per cent of the power.

This isn’t fair. If the parties had won seats based on how many votes they got overall, our new Parliament would look like this, more or less:

Liberals: 135 seats
Conservatives: 108 seats
NDP: 68 seats
Bloc Québecois: 16 seats
Green Party: 11 seats

If we used this approach, called “proportional representation,” parties would be forced to work together to get things done. Government decisions would have more input and broader support.

But that’s not the way we do things today. Something’s wrong.

Before the election, the Liberals recognized this. “We will make every vote count,” their platform says. They promised that “2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.”

If it happens, this will be a huge change to politics in Canada, and we will have to keep an eye on how the Liberals go about making it. There are many alternative voting systems, and not all of them produce fair results. In the months ahead, we’ll have to get involved in electoral reform to make sure the Liberals go with an option that is truly fair.

Justin Trudeau made a lot of promises in this campaign. Let’s make sure he keeps the good ones.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

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