The Pros and Cons of the 2018 B.C. Referendum on Electoral Reform
Today (First Past the Post, FPTP) vs Proportional Representation (PR)
Referendum Ballot with FPTP (First Past the Post) Option Selected
'The Big Lie'
“In the coming weeks, British Columbians will be asked to vote in a very important referendum on changing how we elect our MLAs, not an insignificant initiative. We’ve rejected proportional representation twice before. It’s essential we do so a third time. I support our current voting system, which is simple, produces stable governments and is one of the institutional pillars that all our successes stand on. On the first question on the ballot, I urge you to vote in favour of First Past the Post (FPTP), option one. The alternative is to jump into the unknown. Three versions of Proportional Representation (PR) are on offer. Two have never been used or tried anywhere in the world and the third is presently used in just four countries. That third option is called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). It was soundly rejected in BC by the hard-working Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in 2005 because of the damage it does to local representation.
I point this out because there is a big lie in this referendum campaign. It underscores everything proponents of electoral reform say. The claims that PR jurisdictions out-perform ones like ours, or that PR improves voter turn-out or that the environment fares better under their preferred electoral system are not comparing apples to apples. Such claims stand on a foundation of misdirection, lies and obfuscations. That is because the electoral systems that inform the research findings are not even on the ballot in BC this fall.
The Yes side says PR is used in more than 80 countries. In truth, only four countries actually use any of the forms that appear on BC’s referendum ballot. The rest use some form of “list” PR. That means parties make lists of candidates to be elected, and seats are allocated based on the overall proportion of votes. Over 90% of the countries held up as examples use electoral systems BC isn’t even voting on. Citizens of countries that do use list system are becoming very uncomfortable with this form of election. The evidence is clear on at least two fronts.
First, radical parties of the left and the right are taking advantage of the low threshold to win a seat. They seize on voters’ fears and frustrations and run single-issue, municipal-style campaigns based on emotion, ignoring vast swathes of policy. You can see this today in Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, even Italy, which has had 61 governments in 67 years under such systems.
Secondly, countries are constantly fiddling with their electoral processes to try and make a flawed system work better. New Zealand has recently passed a bill that would strip MPs of their seat if they switch parties or their leader kicks them out of the party. Germany is trying for the third time to introduce a vote threshold to minimize small parties. The second question on our ballots in the fall referendum reflects the dense academic nature of this attempt to fix proportional representation.
Let’s look at the one option on the ballot used in the real world - MMP. Under this model 40% of the elected members are from party lists. This means constituencies will be at least 40% larger, with a real impact in the north and interior of BC. For example, the provincial riding of Stikine already large, if increased by 40% to allow for party lists, would be larger than New Zealand! Taking systems in use in small countries and transferring them to BC in a social experiment disenfranchises people outside the Lower Mainland. There is nothing fair about that. Local representation is cast aside.
On the No side, we know how important a local MLA is. Our current system, First Past the Post (FPTP) puts local representation first, where it should be. Most countries which use FPTP are or were members of the British Commonwealth. It is part of our heritage, part of who we are as Canadians, mirroring our Parliamentary traditions.
MMP is used for parliamentary elections in four countries including Germany and New Zealand. In Germany, it took almost six months to form a coalition government after last September's election, and is growing ever more fragile. Germany’s Bundestag is now home to seven parties, including radical parties on both the right and the left. Proportional representation amplifies their impact by giving them legitimacy and resources to advance their extremist agendas.
New Zealand recently switched electoral systems to MMP. It’s not going well. The current government is a hodge-podge of the Labour Party, the Greens and an anti-immigrant party called New Zealand First. The latter two members didn’t elect a single member in constituency elections by getting the most votes. They leveraged their seven percent of the popular vote into four cabinet posts, including that of Deputy Prime Minister.
This is the big lie.
PR promoters claim that proportional representation is the solution to all our electoral woes and point to its widespread use around the world. The truth is that the options we’ve been given are complex, esoteric and used in very few places with little experience to point to. We’ve rejected changing our system in referendums twice this century for very good reasons. How many more times do we have to go to this well? Another lie is in the details. All three options on the ballot leave the important details, including maps and the number of MLAs until after the referendum. It’s only then the NDP/Green marriage of convenience will carefully choose those to favour their electoral prospects. This referendum is a desperate move to give the Green party a permanent platform. If they can elect three people in a small corner of the province, they deserve three seats.
With apologies to Churchill, FPTP is the worst electoral system, except for all the others. Vote to keep our current system, and ignore the lies, vote to keep the status quo.”
by John Winter, Past President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, October 2018
The new guide from Elections B.C. doesn't tell us that, based on historical voting patterns, our future under proportional representation will consist entirely of successive minority governments, dickering for power through backroom deals with splinter groups. It doesn't tell us that the balance of power may be in the hands of any radical bunch that can get five per cent of the popular vote. It also doesn't tell us that all future provincial elections will be fought and decided in Vancouver and Victoria, while the rest of the province is relegated to insignificance. Pro-rep guarantees all three outcomes. Count me as a decided 'No! Clare Stevens, October 2018
In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith. - J. William Fulbright
I never vote for anyone; I always vote against. - WC Fields
Government is an endless pursuit of new ways to tax. - Unknown
The Golden Rule has no place in a political campaign. - John J Ingalls
Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory. - John Kenneth Galbraith
The secret of politics? Make a good treaty with Russia. - Otto von Bismarck
Sudafed: Brought litigation against a government official - Daffynitions joe-ks.com
Honor is not the exclusive property of any political party. - Herbert Hoover
Politics is for the present, but an equation is for eternity. - Albert Einstein
We live in a world in which politics has replaced philosophy. - Martin L. Gross
A government is the only known vessel that leaks from the top. - James Reston
Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. - Charles de Gaulle
World War II was the last government program that really worked. - George Will
It's a terrible shame that politics has become show business. - Sydney Pollack
I wish the government would put a tax on pianos for the incompetent. - Edith Sitwell
The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread. - Steven Wright
In politics, madame, you need two things: friends, but above all an enemy. - Brian Mulroney
Vote for the man who promises least; he'll be the least disappointing. - Bernard Baruch
The value of a leader is directly proportional to that leader's values. - Unknown
The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop. - P.J. O'Rourke
A good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. - H L Mencken
Political success is the ability, when the inevitable occurs, to get credit for it. - Laurence J Peter
When the body of the people is possessed of the supreme power, it is called a democracy. - Charles de Secondat
Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. - P.J. O'Rourke
We go by the major vote, and if the majority are insane, the sane must go to the hospital. - Horace Mann
What is the first part of politics? Education. The second? Education. And the third? Education. - Jules Michelet
Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. - Frederic Bastiat
Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. - John Kenneth Galbraith
Idealism is like a castle in the air if it is not based on a solid foundation of social and political realism. - Claude McKay
Taxpayer - someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination. - Ronald Reagan
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. - Benjamin Franklin
What is politics but persuading the public to vote for this and support that and endure these for the promise of those? - Gilbert Highet
I am sometimes a fox and sometimes a lion. The whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be the one or the other. - Napoleon Bonaparte
When it comes to politics, I sit down on a sofa and grab some popcorn - or sometimes I crouch down in order not to get shot. - Sergey Galitsky
Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. - Ambrose Bierce
The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men. - Plato
We're at a point in history where everyone needs to pay attention to politics. Too much is at stake for us to be apathetic. - Kevin Costner
A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won't cross the street to vote in a national election. - Bill Vaughan
I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay? It's, like, incredible. - Donald Trump
Political correctness is about denial, usually in the weasel circumlocutory jargon which distorts and evades and seldom stands up to honest analysis. - George M Fraser