Abandoning the promise of fair voting – the story of how Justin Trudeau fed the wrong wolf

Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
February 2, 2017

There is an old parable of a North American indigenous culture. My best sources say it is Cherokee, but I first heard it from a M’qmak elder.

It is the story of a grandfather who told his small grandson that within him a war was raging.

“There are two wolves,” he said. “And they are fighting in me and they are fighting in you.

“One wolf is vile. It breeds resentments, greed, envy and violence. The other is pure goodness. It thrives on love and hope, healing and generosity.”

The little boy’s eyes grew wide.  “Which wolf will win, grandfather?”

“Ah,” said the grandfather. “That all depends on which wolf you feed.”

Our society is now in the throes of a desperate battle.  The life of democracies around the world is being torn asunder as if by two wolves. Competing styles of politics duke it out. Some carry a worrying odor. Is it fascism? Or is it merely a bit off? Some give oxygen to the previously presumed dead forces of White Supremacy, racism, misogyny and hate.

One thrives on fear, division, raw prejudice, and cynicism. The other is pure. It needs hope, faith, mutual trust and cooperation. It thrives on love.

Our young prime minister came to us wearing the mantle of the good wolf.  He inspired hope. He imbued caring and compassion, generosity and sharing. He told young people (and he told us old people), “I am here to bring real change.”

I loved that the Liberals formed government without paying for one single moment of attack ads. (Take that cynical politics. Score one for the good guys. “Dog whistle politics” takes a beating.)

I loved that the power of the executive was redistributed from an all-powerful PMO to Cabinet ministers. The 2015 mandate letters made transparent the promises of the platform. I firmly believed that every campaign promise would be met because every campaign promise was distilled into the Speech from the Throne.

Admittedly, I never thought the Liberals’ promises on climate were particularly hard to meet.  They were vague and weak – better than Harper’s – but not a challenge for delivery.  I figured the platform was thin on promises in order to make sure they were all met.

Then blow upon blow rained down in the last eight months. Woodfibre was approved. Site C permits to dam the Peace River were issued. Petronus LNG on Lelu Island got the thumbs up. Harper’s weak climate target was embraced as the new government’s goal. And painfully, brutally, Kinder Morgan and its risky tankers, loaded with dilbit (a substance that cannot be cleaned up), was given a green light.

But I told myself – these decisions, egregious as they are — violating the commitment to First Nations, breaking faith with the principle that decisions must be evidence-based, with a strong scientific foundation — these projects were not mentioned specifically in the platform.  By extension, they blow huge holes through the Liberals promises, but it is possible the Liberals do not appreciate the facts of dilbit, Flora Bank and the eel grass that supports the Skeena salmon.  The Liberals are misled by their advisors. The ministers are new and untested and unaware of how far they have fallen off course.

Yes, I made excuses.  Why am I so willing to give the benefit of the doubt? It is because I know how critical it is to keep hope alive. I do not want to feed the bad wolf. Citizen engagement and faith in the system are essential ingredients for our survival.  I speak not of a figurative survival. I speak in real terms of real survival. Rapid decarbonisation is essential in order for human civilization to survive.  We cannot risk feeding cynicism.

The promise to make every vote count, to ensure that 2015 would be the last election held under First Past the Post, was clear. It was not open to interpretation. Claiming, as the prime minister and his newly minted youngest woman minister – replacing as the youngest minister in government, the previous minister of democratic reform– claimed today that they had “always” said no change would be made until they knew what the majority of Canadians wanted – is raw meat to the bad wolf.

There was never a condition precedent that consultations would be required to ascertain the will of the body politic. That was the stuff of the 2015 election in which 63% of those who voted supported candidates (whether Liberal, NDP or Green) calling for an end to our perverse voting system.

Our promising (pun intended) prime minister must take stock. This is a moment for urgent course correction. Do not feed the wrong wolf. Too much is at stake.

This article was originally published in the National Observer here.