Trudeau Vows Electoral Overhaul as Canada Campaign Heats Up

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The Liberal Party wants to re-engineer Canada’s electoral system as part of a series of platform announcements before a fall election.

If the Liberals win government in the Oct. 19 vote, they would end the “first past the post” system that awards electoral districts to the party with the most votes, according to Leader Justin Trudeau.

“We need to know that when we cast a ballot it counts, that when we vote it matters,” Trudeau, 43, said in Ottawa Tuesday. “I’m proposing we make every vote count. We are committed to ensuring the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first past the post.”

Canada’s existing system allows parties to win a sweeping majority of seats with less than a majority of the vote. Instead, the Liberals would study reforms including ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting and online voting. They would draft and enact a new system within 18 months of taking office, Trudeau said.

The measure is one pillar of a democratic reform package the Liberal Leader announced as Canada’s parliamentary session winds down and its election campaign heats up. Recent polls show Trudeau slipping and the left-leaning New Democratic Party surging, setting up a three-way race with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.

A Liberal government would appoint the same number of women as men to cabinet, Trudeau said. It would expand access to information laws, beef up communications from the Canada’s tax agency and empower individual lawmakers to make Parliament more than a “rubber stamp” for the Prime Minister.

Census Pledge

The party also promised to immediately restore Canada’s mandatory long-form census, make the national statistics agency fully independent and allow government scientists to speak freely about their research.

“In the last ten years, we’ve had good advice from scientists, officers of Parliament, government agencies and commissions, all ignored by Stephen Harper,” the Liberal Leader said. “We’ll let science and scientists speak, even when the truth is inconvenient. We’ll make policy based on facts, not make up facts based on policy.”

A Liberal government would also reform Canada’s Senate by bringing in a non-partisan appointment process, Trudeau said. The party’s proposed electoral reform would include a ban on partisan government advertising, tougher penalties for electoral fraud, and closing loopholes in political finance laws, according to background document published on its website.

Trudeau was among lawmakers to vote against a motion proposed seven months ago by the main opposition New Democrats calling for the upcoming election to be the last under the first-past-the-post system, party spokeswoman Greta Levy said Tuesday in an e-mail. That motion was defeated.

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