Mr. Trudeau and his sunny team up at Parliament Hill have outdone themselves again. A vague survey that seemed more like a personality quiz was used as a substitute for legitimate discussion on electoral reform. The survey, filled with hypotheticals, was presented to the public on 5th December 2016, and closed on 30 December 2016. In that time, it was met with much disdain.

MyDemocracy.ca was defined as “an innovative way to join the national conversation on electoral reform” [1]. And yet, nowhere in the survey did it ask what Canadians thought about electoral reform, what their preferred electoral system was, or whether they wanted a referendum on the issue. Mr. Clifton Van Der Linden, the CEO of the company responsible for the survey, Vox Pop Labs, stated that the government had asked him to “focus on democratic values and not electoral systems” [2]. It is rather interesting that a survey which was publicized and described as a way to communicate about electoral reform did not do so at all.

The content in the survey was questionable. It was highly repetitive, asking similar questions over and over again. Statements such as “There should be parties in Parliament that represent the views of all Canadians, even if some are radical or extreme” [1] and “There should be greater diversity of views in Parliament” [1] were redundant.

The survey often asked Canadians to choose between two extreme options, not allowing the public to see that there was room for compromise. One of the statements proposed in the survey said that “Voters should be able to express multiple preferences on the ballot, even if this means that it takes longer to count the ballots and announce the election result” [1]. With today’s technology, it would be a shame if this problem could not be solved. If thousands of dollars can be spent on questionable surveys, surely some can be spared to guarantee more efficient election results.

Another statement read that “Canadians should have the option to cast their vote online in federal elections, even if it is less secure” [1]. The internet does not necessarily guarantee a lack of security. Measures can be taken to ensure that voters are able to safely vote online.

At the end of this highly misleading personality quiz, citizens were sorted into one of five groups: Guardians, Challengers, Pragmatists, Cooperators, or Innovators. Not only did this reek of Buzzfeed, but it also did not give voters any insight into their preferred electoral system. Instead of telling citizens which electoral system matches with their ideologies, the quiz sorted them into largely meaningless, generalizing categories.

Furthermore, it was possible for the survey to be completed multiple times. This guarantees misrepresentation if the government decides to use the survey’s data in the future. However, the Liberals are yet to comment on how this survey will be used in the future, and have vaguely suggested that it will help them understand the democratic values of Canadians. This lack of transparency and purpose makes the survey even more dangerous; what if the survey is not a way to gain insight into Canadians’ opinions, and is just another effort to boost public opinion of the Liberals? This could be a way for the Trudeau government to show that they are taking action on the electoral reform issue, when in actuality, they are not.

What is more troubling is that the report released by Vox Pop Labs to announce the results of the survey is quite misleading. It places a heavy emphasis on the fact that more than two-thirds of Canadians, according to the survey, are satisfied with the current democracy of the country. Only about 380,000 Canadians (less than 2% [6]) responded to the survey, however, making this statement inaccurate. This emphasis can only be seen as an attempt to justify the lack of action that the Liberals have taken regarding electoral reform. Other questions asked in the survey were “too vague” [5], said NDP MP Nathan Cullen, and therefore elicited an unclear response. For example “59% of respondents said ballots should be as simple as possible, but 62% said voters should be able to express multiple preferences, even if that means it takes longer to count the result” [5]. This indecisiveness can only be blamed on the indirect and unclear questions included in the survey—the survey that has been the only real action the government has taken on electoral reform.

It seems as if Canada’s leadership is just not interested in electoral reform anymore; this is an unfortunate turn of events, given that it was Mr. Trudeau himself who initially raised the topic. He had promised that “2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system” [4]. But like many of the Prime Minister’s promises, this one has led to nothing but disappointment.

Liberally speaking, Canadians “want change, some real change” [3] and to accomplish that, we need to abandon sunny skies and move on to some real action.

Illustration: Amy Yan

[1] https://www.mydemocracy.ca/

[2] http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-making-of-mydemocracy-ca-the-liberals-electoral-reform-survey/

[3] https://www.liberal.ca/justin-trudeau-delivers-real-change/

[4] https://www.liberal.ca/realchange/electoral-reform/

[5]http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/mydemocracy-survey-results-electoral-reform-1.3950671

[6] http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/canada-population/