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
All politics is local. - Thomas P O'Neil
Man is by nature a political animal. - Aristotle
In politics nothing is contemptible. - Benjamin Disraeli
Crime does not pay as well as politics. - Alfred E. Newman
Taxation without representation is tyranny. - James Otis
Most bad government results from too much government. - Thomas Jefferson
The severity of the itch is proportional to the reach. - Steven Wright
Honor is not the exclusive property of any political party. - Herbert Hoover
Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under. - H L Mencken
World War II was the last government program that really worked. - George Will
Politics is a profession where the paths of glory lead but to the gravy. - Billy Boy Franklin
To lodge all power in one party and keep it there is to insure bad government. - Mark Twain
Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has gotten into the wrong hands. - Jesse Helms
The police force cannot be completely independent of the executive government. - P Chidambaram
The flood of money that gushes into politics today is a pollution of democracy. - Theodore White
A filmmaker we almost lost to politics... my friend and colleague, Warren Beatty. - Jack Nicholson
Either the government will be given to us or we shall seize it by marching on Rome. - Benito Mussolini
The fastest way for a politician to become an elder statesman is to lose an election. - Earl Wilson
Ideas are great arrows, but there has to be a bow. And politics is the bow of idealism. - Bill Moyers
I learned a long time ago in Hollywood that the only person I should vote for is myself. - Jack Nicholson
Of all the tasks of government, the most basic is to protect its citizens from violence. - John Foster Dulles
We go by the major vote, and if the majority are insane, the sane must go to the hospital. - Horace Mann
I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it's the government. - Woody Allen
Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. - James Bovard
I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. - H L Mencken
Politics, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong. - Richard Armour
The man who can make others laugh secures more votes for a measure than the man who forces them to think. - Malcolm de Chazal
The largest party in America is neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. It's the party of non-voters. - Robert Reich
Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. - Thurgood Marshall
I have certain rules I live by. My first rule: I don't believe anything the government tells me. Nothing. Zero. - George Carlin
The business of government is to keep the government out of business - that is, unless business needs government aid. - Will Rogers
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
It's especially hard if the government is not providing services, or is even conducting ethnic cleansing against you. - Paul Harvey
Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect. But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in. - John F Kennedy
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy. - Groucho Marx
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
A man who cannot work without his hypodermic needle is a poor doctor. The amount of narcotic you use is inversely proportional to your skill. - Martin H. Fischer
Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the Government take care of him, better take a closer look at the American Indian. - Henry Ford
Regarded simply as a politician, and compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind. - Mahatma Gandhi