Nathan Cullen #KeepYourPromise Tour in Kitchener

160 people were crammed into a 100 seat room… Kitchener Public Library staff had to turn away as many as 100 others due to fire regulations!

Nathan Cullen talks about Electoral Reform …

… and his work on the ERRE Committee …

…and about the Prime Minster’s broken promise.

Jonathan Cassels spoke about his Electoral Reform Petition e-616

The crowd breaks breaks into small groups…

…brainstorming ideas for the way forward.

…postcards are always popular!

Nathan Cullen with Fairvote Waterloo’s Bob Jonkman, Sharon Sommerville, Don Fraser and Anita Nickerson

There is a responsible path forward — Electoral Reform

In February, I wrote to my MP (Marwan Tabbara, Liberal) about electoral reform. He replied explaining that the Liberals abandoned their promise because:

1. Their preferred option was a ranked ballot. But they never wanted to lead in that directions because they “would have been accused, not without merit, as acting out of self-interest and of trying to rig the system”.

2. Didn’t pursue Proportional Representation because it didn’t receive enough support — despite the fact that the Liberal designed system of consultation received 80% and 90% supportive feedback for this option.

I replied, pointing out to him that:

1. If the Liberals were not going to lead towards a ranked ballot, it was never going to happen from the start.

2. If the Liberals don’t consider 80% and 90% support for PR (through a system they designed) as enough to pursue that option, it was never going to happen from the start.

3. If neither of those things were ever going to happen, the only remaining possibility is that they expected first-past-the-post to remain from the start.

This means that the Prime Minister’s promise that “2015 will be the last Federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post” was meant to mislead Canadians… from the start.

I’m sure, given that his own logic proves that this promise was meant to mislead from the very beginning, that he’ll be among the Liberal MPs who vote in favour of the NDP’s bill to this effect.

I hope everyone will write to their MP and encourage them to do the same.

Here is my complete e-mail correspondence with Mr. Tabbara:

From: Jonathan Cassels
Sent: February 8, 2017 12:49 AM
To: Tabbara, Marwan—M.P.; Trudeau, Justin—Député; Gould, Karina—M.P.
Subject: There is a responsible path forward — Electoral Reform

Dear Mr. Tabbara,

I am addressing this letter to you because you are the MP for my riding, but I am also sending this to other MPs who I believe may have an interest and may like the opportunity to respond (I very much hope they do).

Perhaps I should begin by mentioning that I am a constituent of Kitchener South and Hespeler, and also the initiator of a petition supporting electoral reform which has over 75,000 signatures. I understand it’s the largest petition ever on Parliament’s website, and many of the initial signers and promoters of that petition are people I know personally, who live here in your riding. I’m asking these questions for myself, but am sure the answers will be of interest to others.

I am writing to you to express my dismay with the sudden Liberal reversal on the issue of electoral reform. I supported the Liberal party in 2015 largely because of your promises on this subject, and I am unsatisfied with the explanations your party is putting forward to justify this change. I am hoping you can answer some questions about these explanations.

My first question is about the Prime Minister’s claim that a lack of consensus has stalled this issue. It seems to me that the stalling force isn’t a lack of consensus, it’s a lack of leadership. You and your party were elected to lead on the issues in your platform. Electoral reform was one of those issues. The most obvious way to lead on an issue like this is to make a proposal for how you believe electoral reform should work, which is something your party has never done. Without this effort, the Prime Minister’s comments have all the appearances of an attempt to blame Canadians for failing to follow, on an issue your party chose never to lead on. My question is, did your party truly believe that consensus would form without any attempt from the government to foster it?

My second questions also concerns comments made by the Prime Minister. In Parliament on Monday the Prime Minister said that we can’t proceed with electoral reform because “there were very many strongly held divergent views” on the subject. My question is what, specifically, are those “many divergent views”? Almost 65% of Canadians voted for parties which included electoral reform in their platform, and when the electoral reform committee elicited the input of Canadians, anywhere from 70%-90% of them (it varied with the method of feedback) were in favour of Proportional Representation. There are, of course, different types of Proportional Representation, but I have yet to meet a supporter of Single-Transferable-Vote, for example, which would not support a Mixed-Member-Proportional system if that was what was available. Almost without exception, these groups would happily support one another’s proposals, yet the Prime Minister made it sound like there’s a blood feud between the ” very many divergent” groups he mentioned. So, knowing that all the supporters of proportional representation (which appears to be a majority of Canadians) could be easily reconciled to one another, what exactly were the “very many strongly held divergent views” the Prime Minister mentioned?

Finally, some months ago, someone asked the then Minister for Democratic Institutions, Maryam Monsef, a question equivalent to; Why do we need electoral reform when the current system “has served this country for 150 years and advances a number of democratic values that Canadians hold dear, such as strong local representation, stability and accountability”. Her answer was that “first-past-the-post is an antiquated system” and that “we require an electoral system that provides a strong link between the democratic will of Canadians and election results”. And yet, now, that very quote which Minister Monsef answered so eloquently was spouted verbatim by her replacement, Karina Gould, she said the current system “has served this country for 150 years and advances a number of democratic values that Canadians hold dear, such as strong local representation, stability and accountability”. My question on this is, what changed? What happened in the intervening months which justifies moving from “we require a [new] electoral system”, to using the exact question she was addressing to support the status quo?

In fact, that’s the core of all my questions. What has changed between the time the Prime Minister first promised this change and today? Because it was clear from the start it would be a political fight. That didn’t change. It was clear from the there were numerous opinions on the subject. That didn’t change. It was clear from the start that electoral reform was supported by most Canadians. That didn’t change. The only thing which I can think of which changed is that the Liberal party went from a position where they would benefit from electoral reform, to one in which they may (in the short term) be hurt by it. Is there a less self-serving explanation than that?

My hope is that, while your party claims that there is no responsible path forward on electoral reform; your answers might show a responsible path forward for Canadians to continue to support the Liberal party. Whether or not that is the case will depend upon your answers.

I eagerly await your reply.


Jonathan Cassels
A well informed citizen

PS. I’ll be disappointed if all I receive in response to this is a form letter. I’ve seen the form letters other constituents have got from their MPs and they do not answer these questions. I realize that this letter is longer than most, and will take somewhat more time to reply in kind, but I have spent a great deal of my time getting Canadians engaged over an issue which the Prime Minister seems to believe they can’t be engaged on. Just yesterday, the Minister for Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, said argued that it is “incumbant upon all political leaders” to foster exactly that type of political engagement. I think a thorough and direct response to the questions in this letter is exactly the type of fostering of engagement she was referring to. That in mind, I have no doubt you will live up to her definition of what a political leader should be. Thx.

On 9 February 2017 at 18:05, wrote:

Thanks for your email, Jonathan.

I, too, am disappointed by our inability to move forward on the method of voting issue in the Electoral Reform file. I know this will disappoint many residents in the riding and in particular some who may have cast their ballot focused on this issue.

At the University of Guelph I studied different systems of voting around the world and graduated with a degree in political science. When I became a candidate in August 2015, I was excited about the prospect of putting that learning to use in fulfilling the platform commitment to change the way we vote.

One of the first stakeholder groups I met with after I was elected was Fair Vote Canada and the first Petition I presented in the House of Commons was a Fair Vote Canada Petition to undertake public consultations across Canada and amend the Canada Elections Act to ensure that the share of seats held by each political party closely reflect the popular vote.

I am not in Cabinet, and therefore cannot begin to detail everything that went into the decision to reverse our position on changing the way we vote, since I am not privy to those discussions.

It is clear that governments often must and do legislate without necessarily achieving consensus on an issue. While changing the way we vote does not require the kind of overwhelming majority support that constitutional change requires, I do believe it is within one or two steps below that threshold in requiring consensus. We have always been clear that major reforms to the electoral system, changes of this magnitude, should only be made if they have the broad support of Canadians. The support of a large and passionate minority of involved citizens would not be an adequate substitute for that broad consensus.

You suggest that we should have exercised leadership to help form a consensus. If we had led by advocating for our favourite alternative—ranked ballot or AV—we would have been accused, not without merit, as acting out of self-interest and of trying to rig the system in favour of being in government in perpetuity.

We took the only course really open to us, which was ministerial consultations, local town halls, and the creation of an all-party committee. The results, of course, were that those who were interested and involved enough to have an educated position on the issue—the large and passionate minority—came out in significant numbers and advocated for proportional representation. The parliamentary committee was split and the report didn’t provide at any clear position.

We made an attempt to determine the leanings of the people of Canada using modern psychographic segmentation techniques. Tens of millions of personally addressed postcards were sent out asking people to go online and answer a set of questions. Those questions were not intended to bluntly force people to decide among a set of options, but rather to determine how they felt about the features and likely outcomes of various voting systems. was destructively and effectively portrayed by opposition messaging as a useless and inept effort. Fewer than 400,000 people answered. I don’t know what analysis has been done with those responses.

I also note that parties of all stripes have failed to achieve this kind of reform in other Canadian jurisdictions. Referenda have typically resulted in defeat of reform. More recently local governments have been empowered to change the way citizens vote in municipal elections in Ontario. There has been no movement in that direction, due to lack of interest and/or possibly due to satisfaction with the current voting system.

I think you can imagine how embarrassing it is for our Prime Minister and our party and its MPs to climb down from such a definite election platform commitment. Clearly, it is politically damaging. Anyone can see that the political cost would have made this a difficult decision. Mr. Trudeau must have bad dreams of the next election derisively featuring insanely frequent opposition commercials showing videos of his statements of commitment to 2015 being the last election for first past the post. Disappointing a large, engaged and passionate minority is not something politicians do eagerly.

I accept the Prime Minister’s and the Cabinet’s explanation that they were looking at the broader picture. I believe that they were of the opinion that new challenges in the international trading and political environment and implementation of many other platform commitments would be impeded by further focus on changing how we vote, since there wasn’t a clear, common and well-supported path forward on electoral reform. I believe they saw this file as having the potential to disrupt all the other items on the government’s program.

I still would like to have an electoral system that better reflects the votes of Canadians, and I hope that we can eventually get there. For reformers, I think the lesson is that there should be a strategy shift to helping Canadians achieve a comfort level with alternative voting systems by achieving implementation at the local municipal and then provincial levels, before returning to the Canada-wide effort.


From: Jonathan Cassels
Date: Friday, February 10, 2017
Subject: There is a responsible path forward — Electoral Reform

Thanks for your response Marwan,

I wasn’t aware of your past work on electoral reform, I thank you for that. But I am still struggling to find coherence in your explanation.

I think it’s laudable that the Liberal party did not want to unilaterally bring its own preferred option into effect. However, a ranked ballot was the least popular electoral reform possibility among Canadians from the start. Perhaps Canadians might have rallied around it, if it had been advocated for strongly. However, if, as you say, the Liberals were never willing to lead in that respect, then it’s clear that no consensus (or even broad support) was ever going to form around it.

Proportional Representation, on the other hand, was the most popular option from the start. In 2015, 65% of Canadians voted for parties with electoral reform in their platform. In the consultations (largely designed by the Liberal Party) 80% and 90% of respondents preferred this option. If you do some basic arithmetic using those numbers, it suggests (at least the possibility) that a majority of Canadians support a proportional system. You claim to know that only a “passionate minority” of Canadians support this option. But there’s no data to support that. No polling. No referendum. No vote. And while the data we do have doesn’t prove majority support, it seems to justify at least putting the question to Canadians in a way which allows that support to be measured (something never did). The simple fact is that, unless you want to argue that 91% (as opposed to the 90% it received) of feedback needed to be supportive to justify moving forward, proportional representation cleared every reasonable hurdle. If the Liberals were not willing to proceed any further after the responses they received, then they would never have supported this possibility.

The problem is, there’s nothing left. If the Liberals weren’t going to lead on a ranked ballot, then you knew that would not happen from the start. If the Liberals weren’t going to pursue proportional representation any further, even when their own consultative process received as much as 90% feedback in favour of it, then they knew they would not allow that to happen from the start. The only alternative to those is the status quo. And the status quo is first-past-the-post. And if you knew the two possibilities which are not first-past-the-post could not happen from the start;

Then the Prime Minister’s promise that “2015 will be the last Federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post” was meant to mislead Canadians… from the start.

This logic is inescapable Marwan, and it all comes from your own statements on the issue. You’ve proven that the government meant to mislead Canadians. If I’m not mistaken, the opposition has introduced a motion into the house making this exact statement. It was debated this most recent Thursday, and is up for a vote this coming Tuesday. I trust, based on your own statements here which prove the motion to be correct in all respects, that you’ll be voting in favour of that motion, and add your voice to those asking that the government apologize publicly for abandoning this decision.


Jonathan Cassels
An informed citizen

Nathan Cullen’s “Keep Your Promise” Tour — Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Natan CullenHello Fair Voting Friends,

Last Thursday Nathan Cullen, NDP critic for Democratic Institutions presented Petition E-616 in support of electoral reform to Parliament. With over 130,000 signatures, E-616 is Canada’s largest e-petition to date. In this excerpt from a press conference held after the presentation, Nathan’s intelligence, conviction and passion for democracy is striking. It is well worth the time.

Nathan Cullen news conference

Nathan Cullen will be coming to Kitchener to speak this Wednesday, March 29th, 7pm at KPL as part of the Keep Your Promise tour. It is a town hall meeting in support of what we as citizens can do as Parliament prepares to vote this spring on whether or not electoral reform becomes a reality in time for the 2019 federal election.

What: Nathan Cullen’s Keep Your Promise Tour
When: Wednesday, 29 March 2017 from 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Where: Kitchener Public Library
Location: 85 Queen Street North, Kitchener, Ontario Map
Facebook: Keep Your Promise: a path towards democratic reform

See you Wednesday!

for FVC-WR

From an e-mail sent by Anita Nickerson, Fair Vote Canada’s Chapter Co-ordinator:

Hi everyone! Nathan Cullen’s Keep the Promise tour started on Saturday. Fair Vote Canada will be promoting all the stops.

I hope Liberal MPs do show up somewhere but even if they don’t (these are NDP events) it’s an opportunity for people to come together on this issue and get motivated to do things such as send letters, make visits to the MP and be visible in the ridings. We need to push the Liberals to vote yes in May OR encourage those who support PR to find some other way to come back to the table. Equally important in case we don’t change Liberal minds – we need to connect people in advance of 2019.

We can’t assume other groups will promote these so please do your best to share with your networks.

FVC is allowed to have tables at all the stops! Here are the list of stops so far below this email. We have TO, Kitchener and Guelph covered. If you are in one of the other places, please get in touch with me off list if you can have a table for us and tell me what, if anything, you need. (I’ll be emailing you soon otherwise 🙂

We really need to build Fair Vote Canada and this tour is one way to do it.
So please have the clipboards with Declarations and invite people to sign!
The ridings Cullen is targeting will include those we especially need to grow in for 2019 to elect pro-PR MPs.

Other awesome things to have on your table: Tabloids. (I only have one box left, not sure if Kelly has more). Postcards to Trudeau (that Kelly is mailing out to those who asked for them or use a different one with the same idea). Also, check out “photos” on our facebook page for things you might like to print for a display.

Thanks so much for helping make the best of this opportunity!


Saturday, 25 March 2017 Toronto Parkdale – High Park / Davenport
Wednesday, 29 March 2017 Kitchener Kitchener Centre
Thursday, 30 March 2017 Guelph Guelph
Saturday, 8 April 2017 Halifax/PEI Halifax & Charlottetown
Sunday, 9 April 2017 St. John’s St. John’s East
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 Sudbury Nickel Belt
Friday, 21 April 2017 Kingston Kingston and the Islands
Saturday, 22 April 2017 Peterborough Peterborough – Kawartha
Sunday, 23 April 2017 Hamilton Hamilton – Stoney Creek
Monday, 24 April 2017 Thunder Bay Thunder Bay – Rainy River
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 Winnipeg Winnipeg Centre
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 Regina Regina Wascana
Saturday, 6 May 2017 Whitehorse Yukon
Saturday, 20 May 2017 Vancouver Vancouver Granville
Sunday, 21 May 2017 Kelowna Kelowna – Lake Country

E-Petition E-616 Presented In the House on Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 10:00am

Hello Friends of Electoral Reform,

On Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 10:00am Nathan Cullen presented petition E-616 to the House of Commons. E-616 is the largest e-petition to date with 130,452 signatures and will automatically trigger a debate in the House. You can watch Nathan present the petition on CPAC.

At 11:00am Thursday there was a press conference to announce Nathan Cullen’s “Keep the Promise” Tour which you can also watch on CPAC: Nathan Cullen news conference

We are looking forward to the Kitchener “Keep Your Promise” tour town hall next Wednesday night, 29 March 2017, 7:00pm to 8:30pm at Kitchener Public Library. Nathan is an inspiring, insightful and thoughtful speaker. The opportunity to have a positive and constructive public conversation about the future of electoral reform with Nathan offers some hope that we could still see a fair electoral system in time for 2019.

Here is the Facebook event for the Town Hall: Keep Your Promise: a path towards democratic reform | Facebook

Looking forward to the Town Hall on the 29th at 7:00pm and seeing you there!

Till then,
Sharon for FVC-WR

You can get these announcements by e-mail by subscribing to the Fair Vote Waterloo Announcements mailing list or the Fair Vote Waterloo Discussion mailing list.

Cross Cultures Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at Kitchener City Hall, Tues 21 March 2017

Cross Cultures | since 1991 (c) MagazineHi everyone: It’s still a bit early for the Summertime Festival Season, but Fair Vote Waterloo is starting with an information table at Cross Cultures on Tuesday.

What: Cross Cultures Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
When: Tuesday, 21 March 2017 from 8:45am to 8:45pm
Where: Rotunda, Kitchener City Hall
Location: 200 King Street West, Kitchener, Ontario Map

The event is on all day, with a huge attendance of local schoolkids presenting and participating until 2:00pm, talks and lectures all afternoon, and a Peace Vigil and Peace Concert in the evening.

If anyone would like to help staff our information table for a few hours, either morning or afternoon, please drop by.

There’s a schedule of events on the KWPeace Calendar Pick any time, there’s always something interesting happening.

– –Bob.

A Morning at the Kitchener Market Info Booth

Today Fair Vote Waterloo staffed their information booth at the Kitchener Market.

At the Kitchener Market Info Booth

Kitchener Market Info Booth

People signed the Petition to the Government of Canada, the Declaration of Voters Rights, and sent a postcard to Justin Trudeau to tell him to Keep His Promise.

Signing a petition


Keep Your Promise | Bob Jonkman | I'm _really_ annoyed with you! Even my son knows to keep his promises!So far, Fair Vote Waterloo has collected:

  • 157 “Keep Your Promise” postcards to Justin Trudeau
  • 15 postcards for Kitchener Centre MP Raj Saini
  • 86 signatures on the Declaration of Voters Rights
  • 94 signatures on the Petition to the Government of Canada

If you missed us at the Kitchener Market you can catch us throughout the spring and summer at Cross Cultures, the Day In The Park for Peace and Nonviolence, the Multicultural Festival, Open Streets, and many other events.

A Chilly Reception for Liberal Meet & Greet, 2 March 2017

A meet and greet at St John’s Evangelical Church in Kitchener involving two Cabinet ministers and 3 MPs was picketed by Proportional Representation enthusiasts angry about the broken Liberal electoral reform promise.

We made the local CTV evening broadcast. Since my sign only appears for a second, I show both sides of it below. The second side needs explanation. “Harperism” is the type of governance promoted by Harper in his last and only majority government in which he consistently attacked our democracy. Proportional Representation leads to coalition government in which nobody has a majority and governing is done by cooperation and compromise. Three CPC Harper-clone-Trumpist leadership candidates, Leitch, Alexander and O’Leary remind us of the possibility of another Harper-like majority so long as we keep our present First-Past-The-Post election system.

Protestors at rally

We're angry about the broken election reform promise!!!

Proportional Representation Protects Canada from Harperism

Letter to the Hon. Bardish Chagger


Here is the letter I wrote to my MP the Honourable Bardish Chagger with respect to electoral reform…

19 February 2017

Dear Minister Chagger:

I am writing to offer your government an alternate approach to electoral reform given the recent change in position by the Prime Minister.

I understand and accept how various difficulties made the implementation of your party’s promise on electoral reform very hard to accomplish by 2019. However, the Prime Minister and your party made a clear promise. Not only am I dismayed by the reversal, I am very concerned about the added cynicism toward the public process that your government’s change in position invites.

I believe electoral reform must not be disposed of this easily. I offer the following suggestions to you and your colleagues for consideration.

First, I propose the establishment of a Canadian citizens’ assembly on electoral reform similar to the process conducted in British Columbia and Ontario. Such a non-partisan body made up of randomly-selected Canadians would be asked to:

1) Consider other options for electoral reform based on expert opinion;

2) Conduct public hearings to determine Canadians’ viewpoints;

3) Vote whether to keep the current method of electing MPs or choose another; and

4) If they vote to choose another system, propose an alternative as well as a method of implementing it to be recommended to Parliament.

Naming such an assembly would provide Canadians a unique opportunity for public participation. It would also provide distance from elected officials considering how they are elected, a question in which they almost certainly have a vested interest.

If a citizens’ assembly were to propose an alternative to our current electoral system, I would suggest it be automatically implemented for two elections so Canadians could experience how such a system would work. During the second election, Canadians could then be offered a referendum on whether to maintain the new system or return to first past the post. Such an approach would give Canadians a fair opportunity to see a new electoral system in action and make an informed choice.

In closing, your government made a clear commitment to electoral reform. If consensus about the type of system did not emerge (an aspect that was not part of your promise), then your government must do more to build a consensus. A citizens’ assembly would provide a way to do that.

I look forward to your response on my suggestions.

Thank you

Mark Karjaluoto

CC: The Honourable Karina Gould
Scott Reid, MP
Nathan Cullen, MP
Fair Vote Canada

Just to note that Minister Chagger called me yesterday at home, and we had a very pleasant chat about the electoral reform file. I appreciated her outreach I’ll wait to hear more.