Kelowna Liberal MP Stephen Fuhr says he’s disappointed the federal government has dropped the issue of electoral reform, but he says he did everything he could to make it happen.
Fuhr, was not available to speak with the Capital News Wednesday or Thursday, but did speak with CBC Radio’s Daybreak South program in Kelowna on Thursday morning.
He told hold host Chris Walker he was “as surprised as everybody else” to hear Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould announce Wednesday that the government would not move ahead with electoral reform, adding he had been talking with constituents about the issue as little as a week and a half ago.
“It is especially difficult for me as I know I was not a number of people’s first choice (in the last federal election), I was their necessary choice,” said Fuhr.
“But I was committed to helping move forward on electoral reform. I did everything I could to do that.”
In the last federal election, the Kelowna-Lake Country Green Party candidate bowed out of the race during the campaign to throw his support behind Fuhr, with one of the conditions being that Fuhr would fight for a change to how Canadians elect their federal political representatives.
Fuhr said he personally favours proportional representation.
But he said while there were plenty of opportunities for Canadians to get involved in the conversation, the federal government clearly felt not enough did, and that was why Prime Minster Justin Trudeau said the level of engagement needed to make such a fundamental change to how we vote was not currently there.
The decision to break Trudeau’s often-repeated promise that the 2015 election would be the last using the “first-past-the-post” system was slammed by local representatives of the Green Party, the NDP and the Conservatives.
Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, which includes part of Kelowna, said the decision not to move forward on electoral reform has angered many in his riding.
Despite interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose calling on the Liberals to drop the issue of electoral reform, Albas slammed Trudeau for doing so, saying it was clear from the recommendations of a committee set up to study the issue that a majority of the committee wanted to see a change and a national referendum should be held on the issue.
“The prime minister has certainly burned a lot of bridges with this one,” said Albas.
Gary Blidook, CEO of the Kelowna-Lake Country Greens also expressed outrage.
“To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” Blidook told the Capital News Thursday.
He noted the deal made with Fuhr during the election campaign that say the Green Party candidate drop out and support his Liberal opponent called for Fuhr to press for a number of issues important to the Green Party. The number one issue, he said, was electoral reform.
“I think the (Liberal) party is hanging all of the Liberal MPs in B.C. out to dry,” said Blidook, noting other changes in position of the Liberals since coming to power such a change in its attitude towards pipelines.
Maria Tokarchuk, president of the Kelowna-Lake Country federal NDP said she was “very upset, very angry and very disillusioned” with the decision to drop the electoral reform issue.
“I didn’t vote for (Justin Trudeau) but I believed he had credibility,” said Tokarchuk.
“He said he would do things differently. But this flies in the face of that.”
She questioned the message the decision would sent to young people, who the Liberals worked so hard to get involved in the last election.
“What does this level of cynicism do to them?”
With what she believes was at least 60 per cent of those who voted in the last election wanting a change to how we vote, Tokarchuk also questioned the “rhetoric” being espoused by Trudeau about there not being a consensus in the country about electoral reform.