Way back in 2004 the Liberals, led by Paul Martin, squeaked out an election win that resulted in a minority government. In order to remain in power, they needed the support of the NDP. Jack Layton, NDP leader, had said he would make proportional representation (PR) an ”absolute condition” for entering into a government with the Liberals. That didn’t quite work out.

The list of demands he made on Martin concentrated on health care, a worthy cause to say the least, but PR got shuffled aside. In any case, Layton wasn’t satisfied with what was on offer so instead pushed for a new election. He seconded a non-confidence motion moved by Stephen Harper, and we were off to the polls and a Conservative minority government.

Now, once again, the Liberals need NDP support to stay in power. Earlier this month, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh wrote the prime minister a letter, suggesting that the current social and economic upheaval offers an opportunity for “finding a way forward on important democratic reforms.” 

He has claimed that a solid majority of Canadians support a citizens’ assembly to consider what that way forward might be. He bolsters his claim by stating that “97 percent of Canadians want a democratic system that encourages parties to work together more in the public interest” and 93 percent “support the idea that laws passed in Parliament should have the support of parties representing at least 50 percent of voters.”

He references how in the last parliament the good work of a committee that studied reform was ignored by Mr. Trudeau. He emphasizes the cynicism that sort of response generates and how difficult it is to get reform from those who benefit from the current system.

In response to that committee’s recommendation that “government further undertake a period of comprehensive and effective citizen engagement,” he proposes that the Liberals establish a citizens’ assembly to consider reform.

He doesn’t, as Layton did, make this an absolute condition for NDP support. But he does point out that it’s not too late for Trudeau to fulfill his promise to end our first-past-the-post system and redeem his “reputation as an honest advocate of voting reform.” As a strong proponent of PR, and as someone who has felt betrayed by Mr. Trudeau’s failure to keep his promise, I too would very much like the prime minister to redeem himself.

Singh concludes his letter with the words “I look forward to your prompt reply.” As do I.

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