Liberal electoral reform survey derided as manipulative, simplistic

In the wake of rejection of electoral-reform committee’s report, fails to ask about specifics, critics argue

Demoncratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

OTTAWA – Days after complaining that an all-party committee didn’t recommend a specific alternative to Canada’s voting system, the Trudeau government launched Monday an online interactive survey on electoral reform — which doesn’t ask about specific voting models.

The new online portal, called, was immediately criticized by opposition parties as an attempt to either steer public opinion towards Justin Trudeau’s once-preferred voting system — ranked balloting — or to produce an unclear result that would justify abandoning the prime minister’s promise that the 2015 federal election would be the last conducted under first-past-the-post.

It also spawned a Twitter hashtag “#rejectedERQs,” where thousands mocked the federal survey with their own proposed questions, such as “Would you like to keep the status quo OR be a little ungrateful brat?” and “Would you prefer the Liberals just admit they lied or dick you around with a nonsensical survey and pretend they care?”

But Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef insisted is a “new, engaging initiative that will allow all Canadians to have an opportunity to have a say in this conversation.”

MORE: How was made

The government has sent post cards to 15 million Canadian households, encouraging people to go to the website or phone to participate in the survey. During mid-afternoon question period on Monday, Monsef boasted that more than 8,000 users had already completed the survey.

But NDP democratic reform critic Nathan Cullen shot back: “There are 20,000 tweets mocking this minister’s survey.”

He derided the government initiative as a “pop-psych survey” and advised Monsef that the first rule for engaging the public should be “not to treat Canadians like they are stupid.”

Cullen questioned why the survey doesn’t mention the word proportional, despite the fact that almost 90 per cent of the witnesses who testified before the all-party committee favoured some form of proportional voting system — a conclusion ultimately recommended by the majority on the opposition-dominated committee.

Monsef last week accused the committee of shirking its job by failing to recommend a specific proportional model — a hostile and dismissive response for which she later apologized.

MORE: The problem with Maryam Monsef’s contempt for math

“If the minister truly wants a clearer answer, why will she not simply ask the obvious questions?” Cullen demanded Monday.

Conservative democratic reform critic Scott Reid said “feels like being on a dating website designed by (late Cuban dictator) Fidel Castro.”

“No matter how hard someone tries to be against the prime minister’s preferred electoral system, the survey tells them that they really do support it. It is like magic,” he scoffed.

Reid also questioned why the survey doesn’t ask Canadians if they want a referendum to pass judgment on any change to the voting system, which the all-party committee also recommended.

“Would it be because the Liberals do not want to know the answer to that particular question?”

Indeed, the words proportional and referendum do not appear in any of the 31 questions the government plans to ask Canadians, who have until Dec. 30 to participate.

The survey, by Toronto-based Vox Pop Labs, asks respondents to rate their level of agreement to 20 “propositions” labelled “values.”

The five-point scale ranges from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

One proposition states: “A ballot should be easy to understand, even if it means voters have fewer options to express their preferences.”

Another says: “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.”

Yet another says: “There should be parties in Parliament that represent the views of all Canadians, even if some are radical or extreme.”

Another section asks respondents to pick between two statements, or “preferences.” Respondents are asked whether “ballots should be as simple as possible so that everybody understands how to vote OR ballots should allow everybody to express their preferences in detail?”

A separate backgrounder titled “Democracy in Canada” outlines some of the ways Canadians could cast their votes. It says:

“You could:

— pick just one candidate on the ballot, like we do now;

— rank the candidates — your 1st, 2nd, 3rd and last choice; or

— choose multiple candidates with or without ranking them.”

The Liberals have signalled repeatedly that their enthusiasm for electoral reform has waned since they won a majority of seats last fall — while winning less than 40 per cent of the popular vote.

Trudeau has suggested that public interest in reform has diminished since the Liberals won power. And Monsef has repeatedly said she’s detected no consensus around any particular voting alternative and has warned that the government won’t proceed without the broad support of Canadians.

“We want to hear from as many Canadians as possible before we come out with legislation, and it’s not easy doing something that hasn’t been done before,” she said in an interview Sunday.

Monsef would not say what minimum level of participation is needed to make the survey of use.

Filed under:

Liberal electoral reform survey derided as manipulative, simplistic

  1. A referendum is required to offer legitimacy. Period. They just had one in Italy.

  2. The premise underlying this electoral reform survey is that the values measured can be matched up with corresponding voting systems. The worry is that some of the questions included appear to already embed an incorrect matching. Everyone wants effective, accountable, representative government. The decision as to which voting system is best for that should be left to a body of experts, because many politicians and even some of the supposed experts don’t realize that proportional representation functions better than winner-take-all on all three of these, on average.

  3. Like the Liberal party that created it this survey is an effing joke.

  4. A referendum is a waste of time, as many Canadians, (unless they’re political junkies) wouldn’t know much about any of the voting systems. This leaves them open to manipulation, via social media, and mainstream media. NDP wants proportional representation so they can get their foot in the door, Conservatives don’t want a new system, so they can continue the decades old tradition of splitting the left, and the Liberals want ranked ballot so they will end up as a majority more often than not.

    All parties know what they want, it’s the public that is in the dark. Most people are far too busy with their own lives to take the time to understand the different platforms. A referendum is a huge waste of time and money.

    Liberals have a majority, use it, pick a system then put it to a house vote. The senate can then send it back or approve. The current senate has 102 sitting senators, the Conservative Party currently holds 41 seats, there are 40 non-affiliated senators and 21 “Independent Liberals”.

    If the Conservatives or NDP don’t like a ranked ballot system, then they should do a better job of being electable. Why should the majority of Canadians have to put up with a referendum that will be exploited with mass misinformation by two losing parties?

    • I could not agree with you more. I am getting really pissed with our minority parties adopting the politics of division from our southern friends. It does not apply in Canada and will be a passing fad.

      • Agreed. It is horrible watching the obstruction in the House of Commons. How is the constant childishness in the interest of the average Canadian? Harper had a 235 page handbook on how to obstruct Parliament and its obviously still being used today. NDP is also following suit, I had some hope for them, but they are quickly losing the respect Layton brought them. The orange crush has gone flat.

    • I don’t recall the Conservatives or even the NDP being terribly upset with FPTP so why should they come up with anything. This is 100% the dumb dumb idea of our current PM who tossed it out at a campaign rally as a promise and he is now only realizing that his words and promises actually have expectations attached to them. Shocking!

      • The NDP have been campaigning for Proportional Representation for ages, even though you don’t recall it. The vast majority of Canadians and electoral experts want Proportional with regional representation. People are tired of voting out of fear, and prefer to vote for what they actually want. It blows my mind how any member of the public would not want democracy. Please, don’t let me vote count! I want regressive government forever, shortening my lifespan.

  5. I am against Proportional Representation. I also feel strongly in favour of a Preferential Ballot as a better indicator of voter preference than our current FPTP voting method. I must say that I resent the attempts by the NDP and Green Party to force their own self-interest on the country and pretending that theirs is the only valid opinion.

    I have taken the survey at and I found it a valid exercise in trying to go behind the labels that our being used by the Parties and discuss what the voters want from the Electoral Process. Some people are treating this as a joke. Why?

    • Because it’s obviously a push-poll, nudging people towards myths about PR. Because a legitimate survey of Canadians and electoral experts has already been taken, and we overwhelmingly want Proportional with regional representation.

      Because they got my “results” completely wrong, accusing me of supporting things I am adamantly against and answered “strongly disagree” multiple times. For example, I indicated on all 4 or 5 online voting questions that I strongly disagree with it, because it’s an easily hackable disaster for democracy, zero integrity. Most Canadians might not be familiar with the perils of electronic voting, because we haven’t suffered from it yet. So this was preying on well-intentioned people who want voting to be more inclusive, higher turnout, convenient, etc.

      The “results” at the end basically told me, “YAY, you’re a purple unicorn! You strongly support online voting!” (and a bunch of other things I clearly indicated I was against).

      I’m terribly sorry that you don’t want my vote to count, but I’ll keep annoying you until it does.

  6. Its evident that what ever the liberals want is going to be rammed down our throats without what really knowing Canadians want. The only way to find out appears to be a referendum however this is exactly what the libs. do not want. A responsible PM would have replaced the minister for her ignorant and misguided messaging.

    • With 20,000 tweets mocking the PM’s survey, I’d say the opposition is always at the ready. Ready to misinform Canadians. Trudeau should put his foot down now and ram through a ranked ballot system. All parties can still win if they appeal to Canadians. If however, ie: you have a party leader like Leitch, well then you’ve made your choice, just don’t expect the rest of the country to go along your fanatic. You get back what you put out.

      • Oh, so since I recognized the “survey” as a propaganda push-poll which purposefully misleads and muddies the waters about PR, that means I’m the one misinforming Canadians? Nice logic there.

        Are you also trying to do the thing where you mock anyone who criticizes the Liberals from the left, that we’re actually right wing extremists in disguise? The neoliberals just tried that in the US; didn’t turn out too well for them.

        • Ever since Harper paid posters on mass to descend on message boards in his favour, there has been zero trust for Conservative/Reformist points of view online.

          Don’t believe me? No problem, go see for yourself. As I said Cons are simply not to be trusted anywhere online –

          The money is being spent at the same time as recently released figures from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation show the federal government’s roster of communications staff is more than 3,300 and is expected to cost nearly $263 million this fiscal year.

          Newly released documents show federal departments and agencies have hundreds of media monitoring contracts and subscriptions – covering print, broadcast, online and social media – to help them keep tabs on what and how journalists are reporting on government.

  7. A traditional referendum would cost too much money – an online vote referendum may be more suited to this, and for those who don’t have online capability, a postage-paid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would be fine.

    The survey was a joke to me. I filled it out and then found out what kind of voter I am. WTH? No ‘comments’ section, no way to choose proportional or other ways to vote. It was fuzzy with direction and the same questions were asked three times, three different ways.

    Not cool. Not cool at all.

  8. A referendum is nothing more than a snap shot of people’s angst at that moment in time. A referendum should be used to indicate the citizens feeling about a subject but should not be used to determine long term objectives, or government policy. Democracy is a process that relies on duly elected “politicians” to advocate for the best interests of their constituents and the country in general. If anything needs to improve or be encouraged to change, it is the sometimes childish and occasional irresponsible behaviour of MPs as they seek out individual attention. Act like immature high school students standing around in the hall looking for opportunities to cause problems for the rest of their peers should not be tolerated.

    • If we want to call it democracy, then maybe our government should actually be fairly elected.

  9. Would you like to be ruled by His Majesty Trudeau II and his heirs for another 150 years, or would you rather for everyone’s vote to count equally, even if it means that dragons will descend from the skies to melt the skin from our bones in a flaming apocalypse? #RejectedERQs

    Trudeau’s push-poll propaganda “survey” blew my mind with myths and condescension. The Liberal Party have outdone themselves! According to them, democratic PR voting with regional representation, leads to “radical and extreme” parties getting power! Ooooh scaries! You mean like in the US, where FPTP, not PR, just elected someone totally not radical/extreme? ;)

    Proportional Representation (with regional representation) is needed for progressives (and everyone) to have a true voice in government – instead of fear-based voting keeping the neoLiberal Party in power forever, trading off with the Conservatives every several years when we tire of their shenanigans.

    We want our votes to count. How hard is that to understand? Fear-voting against what we *don’t* want, instead of voting for what we *do* want, is not democracy and sabotages our future.

    The people have already spoken: the response to the #ERRE House of Commons all-party Electoral Reform Committee was overwhelmingly in favour of some form of Proportional Representation, with regional representation. Based on clear feedback (not a biased personality quiz) from electoral experts and thousands of Canadians. So this is what the committee recommended; not ranked ballot or continuation of FPTP.

    The Liberals didn’t like the answer they got, so they made a bunk push-poll to both scare people away from PR, and to say “see, now we’ve engaged Canadians! And they said ___insert whatever the Liberals want to fabricate here___”.

    The “result” on mine actually told me that I support the opposite of what I answered on a few different issues. There were about 5 questions on online voting, and I selected each time that I’m strongly opposed. Because it’s easy to hack, it’s disastrous for democratic integrity. Yet, the results said, “You’re an Innovator! You strongly support online voting! Among other things that you indicated you totally don’t support! Yayyyy thanks for you input, the government will take it into concern!” :(