Casey refuses to toe Liberal party line on electoral reform vote

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey made one last stand for getting rid of the first-past-the-post voting system in federal elections Wednesday, when he voted against his own Liberal Party in the House of Commons.

Charlottetown MP says he went with his what his constituents wanted, not Trudeau government

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey says he voted against his party because constituents had spoken loud and clear on electoral reform. (CBC)

The death knell sounded loud and clear in the House of Commons Wednesday night for major electoral reform in Canada, but not before one Island MP made a last stand.

Liberal Sean Casey of Charlottetown refused to toe the party line on the issue, voting in favour of moving ahead with electoral reform by holding a national referendum on different voting systems.

The Trudeau government rejected an all-party committee report calling for the referendum, despite making a platform commitment in 2015 to replace the first-past-the-post system of voting by the next federal election.

Casey and one other Liberal, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith of Ontario, voted in favour of the report, along with all the opposition, but the Liberals rejected the report thanks to their majority.

Casey said he based his vote on what his constituents were saying.

"I was sent to Ottawa by the good people of Charlottetown to project their voice, and last November there was a plebiscite held in Prince Edward Island," he said. "That plebiscite had over 9,000 people from Charlottetown vote, and the plebiscite indicated at the provincial level, more than two-thirds of those 9,000 wanted to move away from first-past-the-post. So I felt that I had a very, very clear indication of the sentiments of the people I represent with respect to electoral reform."

Not expecting punishment

Casey isn't expecting any repercussions for going against his party.

"The policy of this prime minister is that every member of parliament is free to vote as they please on any question that  doesn't touch the platform, the charter or the budget," he said. "This was one of those, so this was a free vote."

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Liberal MP for Beaches-East York, Toronto, was the only other party member to vote against the government. (Nathaniel Erskine-Smith)

As for making a further stand, Casey doesn't think there will be any more opportunities on the issue.

"I would say that the elements of electoral reform that we'll take on going forward won't include changing the voting system. We're looking at making some changes to the Unfair Elections Act that was brought in by the Conservatives, but they'll be around election financing, making it easier for people to vote and enhancing security as opposed to the voting system itself."

He called any talk of getting rid of first-past-the-post voting with this parliament "flogging a dead horse."

With files from Stephanie Kelly