Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised Canadians that 2015 would be the last election conducted under the first-past-the-post electoral system.

On Saturday, that now-broken promise sent protesters into the streets across the country for a national day of action. There were rallies planned for 29 cities across Canada.

In Toronto, a few hundred protesters gathered at Nathan Phillips Square to denounce what many called a cynical, underhanded move.

“We’re fed up with Trudeau breaking his promises,” said Phyllis Creighton, a protester with the Toronto Raging Grannies, who opened the protest concert with two songs on the stage at Nathan Phillips Square.

“He made all these promises to get elected,” Creighton said, referencing not just electoral reform but Trudeau’s other promises like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

“He could have been such a gift to this country because everyone believed him,” Creighton said. “But not so much anymore.”

Protesters later prepared to march to Yonge-Dundas Square chanting “fair elections, no exceptions!”

Only two months ago Trudeau was still committing to electoral reform.

In a meeting with the Star’s editorial board on Dec. 2, Trudeau said he heard “loudly and clearly” that “Canadians want a better system of governance, a better system of choosing our governments.”

That promise had been a major plank in the Liberal Party’s 2015 campaign platform.

“I make promises because I believe in them,” Trudeau told the Star.

His decision to scrap the plan undoes months of work by a special House of Commons committee, two separate public engagement and consultation exercises, numerous MP town hall meetings and one cross-country ministerial tour.

The move was called a “betrayal” by the opposition New Democrats, who accused Trudeau of lying to progressive voters when he made electoral reform a central promise in the 2015 election.

The government’s stated reasons for the reversal have evolved since it was first announced.

After electoral reform was taken off the table earlier this month, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said it was because no clear consensus had arisen over what to replace it with.

Gould’s predecessor, former Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef, said it was because the Special Committee for Electoral Reform had failed to endorse an alternative to the first-past-the-post system, something she had never actually asked them to do.

Speaking at a town hall in Yellowknife on Friday, Trudeau said he’d scrapped electoral reform because it would be too divisive an issue for Canadians, particularly at a time when the forces of nationalism and populism are sowing instability in countries around the world.

“I felt that it was not in the best interest of our country or of our future that I turned my back on that promise,” Trudeau said, to a chorus of boos.

In Iqaluit on Thursday, at another of his cross-country town hall meetings, a live microphone picked up Trudeau speaking with a woman in the crowd, and raising the specter of controversial Conservative leadership hopefully Kellie Leitch gaining too much power under a different electoral system.

“Do you think Kellie Leitch should have her own party?” Trudeau could be heard saying.

“Because if you have a party that represents the fringe voices … or the periphery of our perspectives and they hold 10, 15 or 20 seats in the House, they end up holding the balance of power.”

Leitch has drawn fire from inside and outside her own party many of her policy ideas, including advocating that immigrants be screened for “Canadian values” before being allowed into the country.

With files from Alex Boutilier and The Canadian Press

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