Considering that they were feeling like Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government was giving them the cold shoulder, the chilly air and lightly falling snow provided the perfect atmosphere for a demonstration on electoral reform today at Market Square. Although bitter, angry and disappointed that the Liberals will not be following through on a campaign promise to reform the electoral system, between 60 and 70 protestors promised to not give up the fight.
"We're dealing with high tech polling, decisive politics that capitalize on hate and fear and they victimize minority people," said Steve Dyck, a spokesperson for Fair Vote Guelph. "I don't want another election in Canada where Muslims, poor people, and women are the subject, where we talk about the niqab. That's not Canada."
Dyck pointed to a recent study paid for the by Fair Vote that showed a vast majority of decided voters in Guelph believed strongly that electoral reform should move forward. "Strong," judging from the tenure of the speakers, was putting it mildly.
"As a youth of Canada, I'm tired of the Liberal government and their lies," said activist Shayne Douglas Ward. "The fact that the Liberals campaign on electoral reform, and still have it to this day on their website, is shameful, and I really do hope Lloyd Longfield's listening and he continues to push."
Guelph's MP escaped much of the vitriol that was cast about Sunday afternoon, probably owing to the apologetic post on his Facebook page and his pledge to keep pursuing the issue in the House of Commons.
Ward 2 City Councillor James Gordon was sympathetic saying that Longfield is presently "torn" between his role in government and his constituents, but he added that the onus was now on those gathered to "demonstrate with our voices and our sheer numbers that this is no acceptable."
"We've become pretty smug in Canada since the American election. We look at our neighbours to the south and think 'How can they vote for someone that's made lying the new normal?'" asked Gordon. "It turns out that we have elected a prime minister that thinks it's okay to break a promise. Many of us consider that he is lying to us. But there's one thing worse than telling a lie to me, and that is accepting a lie."
While Gordon called out Trudeau for lying, others felt guilty for getting caught up in what electoral reform advocate Susan Watson called the PM's "cynical calculation." "I engaged in the Leadnow vote together initiative, and I said to many people who might have otherwise voted for Green of NDP, 'We have to get rid of Stephen Harper. Please vote strategically The Liberals are going to bring in proportional representation. This is going to be the last time you have to vote strategically.' And now I feel that I participated in a deception, and so I publicly apologize to those people."
Laurie Garbutt, a Guelph teacher and city council candidate in 2014, focused on the lesson to the youth of the prime minister breaking a promise, she said, he made more than 1800 time. "We teach our children the value of honesty and integrity, so look at what our prime minister is modelling for them," she said. "We teach them the importance of their word, the value of conviction, and the prime minister shows them that all you really need to do is to tell people what they really want to hear over and over again, and you get what you want. That is the lesson being taught to our youth right now."
After that, NDP riding president Andy Pappin used the prime minister's own language against him. "When he started to talk about proportional representation he used the phrase 'We can do better.'" he said. "Well we can do better, we can bring in proportional representation, and we can tell Parliament we want it now, not in 2019, not after the election, not after the election following that, we want it right now, and we can make it happen together."
In summation to the afternoon's airing of grievances, Fair Vote member David deWeert discussed how his group is preparing to move forward on advocating for electoral reform without the Trudeau government. "Working across party lines, and working with some of Canada's greatest experts in proportional representation voting systems, we're going to present him with a Guelph model," deWeert explained, adding that Longfield is willing to work on persuading the government on his end. "He said he will receive it and go to work in Parliament to see whether it might be accepted. This is exactly what you want from a representative and he's to be respected and applauded for this."
If you feel like getting involved, Fair Vote Guelph is asking all those who want to make their concerns heard about electoral reform to call Longfield's office, or call Trudeau's office in Ottawa. Fair Vote will also be fundraising to conduct similar polls to the Guelph one in the ridings of Trudeau, Minister for Democratic Reform Karina Gould, and Liberal member Nathan Erskin-Smith who spoke out against his party breaking its promise on electoral reform. Most importantly though, they're asking Guelphites to keep up the conversation, and help make electoral reform a national priority again.