At Issue: Liberals on the defensive on electoral reform, internal issues

CBC's At Issue panel on The National analyzed the Liberal government responses this week on the matter of electoral reform and the resignation of a cabinet minister.

Tootoo leaves caucus under vague circumstances, and Trudeau confronts electoral reform reality

Liberals give up majority on electoral reform committee

Power and Politics

5 years ago
Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef discusses the decision to support the NDP proposed structure for the electoral reform committee. 8:17

At Issue panelists Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hébert and Althia Raj joined Peter Mansbridge on Thursday to take on the Liberal government's response this week on two major fronts, a concession to the opposition parties on the issue of electoral reform and the resignation of Hunter Tootoo from the Liberal cabinet and caucus.

At the NDP's long-held suggestion, seats on the electoral committee will be allotted proportionally according to the popular vote in last year's federal election instead of the current seat count, it was announced Thursday. As a result, the majority of the 12-person committee will be non-Liberals.

National Post columnist Coyne said that while somewhat of a symbolic move — the Liberals, after all, weren't obliged to do anything — it "sends the right signals when previously they were sending the wrong signals."

Toronto Star columnist Hébert said the Liberals will need to get one or more opposition parties on side with their plans for reforms, not likely the Conservatives, in order to avoid a national referendum on the issue. Ultimately, it will be the NDP who will face the pivotal decision on whether to sign off on a Liberal idea or punt it, she argued.

Raj, Huffington Post Canada's Ottawa bureau chief said that, combined with missteps on setting the parameters of House of Commons debate and trying to push through assisted-death legislation, it has dented the brand of transparency and co-operativeness espoused in last year's election

Tootoo, the minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, is battling addiction issues, it was announced this week.

The panel grappled with the seemingly unusual removal of Tootoo from caucus and prime minister Justin Trudeau's noncommittal responses as to whether the member from Nunavut would be welcomed back into caucus in the future should he make progress confronting his issues.

"If if there's nothing there, they're going out of their way to make it seem like there's something there," Coyne said.

As to whether privacy should trump full disclosure, Hebert was unequivocal, arguing his constituents should be able to know what's going on with their member of parliament.


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