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Chilly noon rally on electoral reform

About 15 participants park themselves in front of MP's office.

Electoral reform appears to be on the minds of some in Guelph, but the city’s member of Parliament, Lloyd Longfield, says interest in the subject is not overwhelming locally, or nationally.

About 15 people who care deeply about bringing in a voting system that gives a more equitable distribution of seats, held a 30-minute rally in front of Longfield’s office at noon on Tuesday.

The local effort was part of much broader national campaigns to the put the feet of the Justin Trudeau government to the fire on the issue and ensure reform happens.  

Longfield is in Ottawa, but he was presented by rally participants with a framed and signed page from Justin Trudeau's Real Change plan, specifically the page promising electoral reform to "Make Every Vote Count."

Trudeau promised during the 2015 election campaign that it would be the last first-past-the-post election in this country, and that some alternative would be brought in, ensuring broader representation in parliament.

A special parliamentary committee on electoral reform was struck. It spent five months in consultations across the country, but found that Canadians were not overwhelmingly eager to engage in the electoral reform discussion, nor was there a consensus on what type of system was desired.

The federal government then mailed out postcards to millions of Canadian households to further gauge public sentiment on the issue.

Those who took part in the “Keep Your Promise to Make Every Vote Count” rally braved sub-zero temperatures Tuesday to insist that Trudeau reform the current system, which many in the country say leads to unfair election results that don’t reflect actual voting percentages.

It was clear that those who were part of the rally favour a proportional representation approach.

Steve Dyck helped organize the rally as part of LeadNow and FairVote Canada campaigns. He said the special parliamentary committee did, in fact, get a strong message that Canadians are in favour of a proportional representation system.

“I think there is a lot of fear among the new Liberals who were elected that they weren’t legitimately elected and might not be reelected under a fair system,” Dyck said. “There is some pushback within the party.”

He said Trudeau continues to insist that 2015 will be the last first-past-the-post contest, and that is heartening. But there are those behind the scenes who want to maintain the unfair status quo.

“I think Canada is an evidence-based society,” Dyck added. “All the experts spoke and really want a proportional system. I think Trudeau is going to see that, and if we encourage him he will rise to the occasion.”

Dyck said Longfield has not come out strongly in favour of any one kind of reform, and appears to be “waiting to see which ways the winds are going to blow.”

Longfield, speaking by telephone from Ottawa, was asked where he stands on the issue of electoral reform.

“What I thought was a burning issue, especially for Guelph, is not as burning an issue as I thought,” he said. “We haven’t had the engagement that I thought we were going to get.”

Some have been vocal on the issue, he said. A local town hall meeting on the subject attracted over 150 people.

“We’re not hearing from a wide range of people,” he said. “That’s where we’re at right now. If this is a burning issue we need to hear from people, and how do we make it more of a burning issue.”

Longfield said that Prime Minister Trudeau continues to say that the current system has to be replaced.

“The question of how we do that is one that we thought we would get a clearer answer on, with all the consultations that we’ve done,” he said. “Now we’ve gone an extra step to send out a postcard to all households in Canada. We’re trying to establish traction on this issue.”

To achieve traction, Canadians must participate in the process, he added.