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In the wake of Harper's defeat, let's not forget electoral reform

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The good news is that -- as the late Gerald Ford so aptly put it in a different context after Richard Nixon resigned the American presidency in disgrace in 1974 --"our long national nightmare is over." Or, to borrow the more triumphant, if cheekier chant of some social media commentators last week: "Dong Dong! The witch is dead!"

The bad news...

Well, with such delightful electoral results last week, who really wanted to contemplate the uh-oh that came with the thank-God of showing Stephen Harper the prime ministerial don't-let-it-hit-you-on-the-way-out door?

In 2011, Stephen Harper had taken the popular vote endorsement of just 40 per cent of us and used the parliamentary majority our skewed first-past-the-post system handed him to dismantle much of what we are as a country. He employed the clout of his acquiescent (whatever they may claim now) Harper majority to reshape us into his own mean-spirited, politics-over-policy, ideology-over-science, jails-over-justice, passion-over-compassion neo-conservative self-image.

It will take more than one electoral mandate to unravel the damage Stephen Harper has done.

But in our understandable rush to bid good riddance to Harper, we have, in some ways, created his mirror image: a crushing Trudeau majority of 184 seats in the House of Commons, based on less than 40 per cent of the popular vote.

I know, I know. Justin Trudeau isn't Stephen Harper. And since the Liberal platform wasn't so dissimilar to the NDP or Greens, we could argue the new government's general thrust has the support of close to 63 per cent of the electorate. Perhaps more importantly, the Liberals have pledged to introduce electoral reform legislation within 18 months.

But it's worth remembering the first piece of legislation Canada's least accountable, least transparent government introduced was the so-called Public Accountability Act (followed later by the Orwellian Fair Elections Act).

The devil will be in the details. And the details will be devilish.

All of us will have our political priorities for the new government -- un-muzzling scientists, restoring funding for the CBC, leveling our taxation playing field -- but if there is one thing we should all demand, it is that the Liberals follow through, in a meaningful way, on their promise to change the way we do democracy.

That would be good news.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Canadian Pacific/flickr

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