Just imagine if the dreams of PR reformers come true after the 2015 election. Somehow, we manage to get a government to pass a bill that makes PR law. If a party runs on that platform — which the NDP appears to be doing — it will have its mandate. There’s no requirement to hold a referendum.
How it could happen
How it could all go wrong
But what happens when the bill gets to the senate? The senate controlled by Conservatives appointed by Stephen Harper?
According to the Constitution, both the senate and House of Commons are equal in power (except in some rare cases.) The senate is supposed to restrain itself because it’s comprised of partisan crony hacks. Yet every once in a while, it weighs in and kills legislation.
Technically the House could pass a PR bill 20 times and the senate could reject it 20 times.
Role of corporate media
Clearly they would laud the senate’s decision to stop the “unfair, unwise and anti-democratic” legislation that would turn Canada into a “laboratory for electoral reform.” (Which is what Martin Regg Cohn said about RaBit — the ranked ballot initiative for the Toronto mayoral election.)
Even if a 50% threshold referendum is held and won, the senate could reject it claiming a 60% threshold is required. (That’s in designed-to-fail territory: New Zealand, for example, won two PR referendums by less than 60% — 54% in 1993 and 58% in 2011.)