Trudeau defends axing electoral reform and talks ethics ahead of town hall meeting

Prime minister will hold town hall meeting with residents in Lower Sackville, N.S., tonight

CBC News

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says proportional representation was a “potential threat to the country” that “would have been damaging to our stability.”

Trudeau made the comments during an interview on CBC’s Information Morning on Tuesday. He was speaking in advance of a town hall meeting in Lower Sackville, N.S., this evening.

“My responsibility as prime minister is to make sure that I’m doing things that help the country,” he said.

“And moving towards proportional representation, as a few people wanted, would have been damaging to our stability, to our electoral system. And when it was obvious that that was really something that was a potential threat to the country, I decided that instead of ticking off an electoral box, I was going to stay focused on the things that actually matter.”

In the lead-up to the 2015 election, Trudeau vowed that a Liberal government would ensure a new electoral system was in place for the next federal vote, but he later backed down from that pledge.

Trudeau said he has “always been very open” to the idea of a ranked ballot, where voters mark their first, second and subsequent choices.

“But when it was obvious that there was a whole bunch of a very strongly vocal but very much a minority of Canadians who were going to accept nothing else but proportional representation, which I think would be bad for the country, and I’ve always said that, it was obvious there was no path forward,” he said.

Government bills

During the five-minute interview, Trudeau also addressed his government’s apparent slowness in passing bills. The Liberal government has passed 34 government bills during its first two years in power, compared with the former Conservative government’s 61 during the first two years of its most recent mandate.

“If people actually compare the impact of what we’ve done with what the previous government actually got done, people are really feeling the difference,” Trudeau said.

As examples, he cited lowering taxes for the middle class and raising taxes for the wealthiest Canadians, strengthening the Canada Pension Plan, increasing the guaranteed income supplement for seniors and reducing poverty through the Canada Child Benefit.

“We’ve done really, really big things, and we’ve done them in ways that respect Parliament, that have a more independent Senate, that yes, perhaps pose certain challenges in terms of the pace of things through the House, but the size of the things we’ve done have made a deep and lasting impact in the opportunities that Canadians and their families have.”

Ethics commission

Finally, Trudeau addressed calls for him to appear before the government ethics committee about his vacation with the Aga Khan.

“We have an ethics commissioner that is above partisan politics to make rulings and to look into things to help Canadians separate the partisan attacks and mudslinging and the politics from what actually happened,” he said.

“I’m happy to work with the ethics commission. I think keeping politics and partisan attacks to the side on this is what Canadians expect.”

The town hall will take place at Sackville High School at 1 Kingfisher Way in Lower Sackville at 7 p.m.

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