A leaked draft of an online federal survey on electoral reform to be launched next month has raised suspicions that the Trudeau government is trying to skew the public consultation process to favour the status quo.
The questions in the draft survey, leaked Thursday, are broad and at no point ask respondents for their opinions about specific models of voting systems.
Although the overwhelming majority of experts and Canadians consulted by an all-party committee favour a proportional voting system, the survey does not ask participants if they believe a party's share of seats in the House of Commons should reflect its share of the popular vote.
Government insiders said the leaked survey was just a field test and the final survey will be quite different.
However, it will still not ask for views on specific voting models, confining itself to exploring the broad principles that Canadians believe should underpin the electoral system.
The Every Voter Counts Alliance, a coalition of groups and individuals who favour proportional representation, obtained the draft survey. The alliance denounced the government for ignoring the testimony before the committee – which is supposed to recommend an alternative to the current first-past-the-post voting system by Dec. 1 – and for asking misleading survey questions aimed at producing "skewed results."
In the House of Commons, NDP democratic reform critic Nathan Cullen accused the government of spending $2-million to conduct a "pop psych survey" aimed at producing the result the government wants to hear.
"Today, under the guise of consultation, we see the Liberals engaging in decision-based evidence making, apparently designed to maintain the status quo," Cullen said, flipping the Liberal mantra about "evidence-based decision making."
"Almost 70 per cent of MP town hall reports, 88 per cent of expert witnesses and 87 per cent of Canadians who testified in front of the committee want a fair, proportional voting system. But apparently that's not enough for the government."
But Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef said the government is simply looking for new and innovative ways to consult as many Canadians as possible about "the values that matter most to them" in their voting system.
To that end, the government has hired Vox Pop Labs, the group behind the popular Vote Compass online tool, to conduct the online survey next month. The government intends to send post cards to 13 million Canadian households, urging them to get involved and directing them to the survey website.
"From the very beginning we were clear, we will not move forward on reform without the broad support of Canadians," Monsef said.
The timing of the survey – to be launched after the all-party committee has already submitted its report – has previously raised concerns that the government plans to ignore the work of the committee.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during last year's election campaign that the 2015 vote would be the last conducted under first-past-the-post.