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Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda

Sorting the wheat from the chaff in B.C. Politics

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

The Pros and Cons of the 2018 B.C. Referendum on Electoral Reform

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

Today (First Past the Post, FPTP) vs Proportional Representation (PR)

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

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
QuotaBills
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Every country has the government it deserves. - Joseph de Maistre

I never vote for anyone; I always vote against. - WC Fields

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. - James Madison

The art of government is the organization of idolatry. - George Bernard Shaw

Poetry is about the grief. Politics is about the grievance. - Robert Frost

I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together. - Gerald R. Ford

World War II was the last government program that really worked. - George Will

Idealism loses to pragmatism when it comes to winning elections. - Danny Strong

I wish the government would put a tax on pianos for the incompetent. - Edith Sitwell

Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed. - Mao Zedong

I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. - Will Rogers

Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for. - Will Rogers

The value of a leader is directly proportional to that leader's values. - Unknown

A filmmaker we almost lost to politics... my friend and colleague, Warren Beatty. - Jack Nicholson

Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people. - Oscar Wilde

Ideas are great arrows, but there has to be a bow. And politics is the bow of idealism. - Bill Moyers

Everyone wants to eat at the government's table, but nobody wants to do the dishes. - Werner Finck

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. - P.J. O'Rourke

My brother Bob doesn't want to be in government - he promised Dad he'd go straight. - John F Kennedy

I think it's an absolute disaster that Australia, the government, allowed kangaroo culling. - Steve Irwin

It's our experience that political leaders don't always mean the opposite of what they say. - Abba Eban

Why pay money to have your family tree traced; go into politics and your opponents will do it for you. - Unknown

The man who can make others laugh secures more votes for a measure than the man who forces them to think. - Malcolm de Chazal

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When government accepts responsibility for people, then people no longer take responsibility for themselves. - George Pataki

Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. - E.B. White

Idealism is like a castle in the air if it is not based on a solid foundation of social and political realism. - Claude McKay

Canada's political parties spend a few years in opposition and then govern as if it's permanent payback time. - Bob Rae

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. - Thomas Jefferson

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

One lesson you better learn if you want to be in politics is that you never go out on a golf course and beat the President. - Lyndon B. Johnson

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy. - Groucho Marx

I am quite sure now that often in matters concerning religion and politics, a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkeys. - Mark Twain

The quality of a person's life is directly proportional to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor. - Vince Lombardi

When one may pay out over two million dollars to presidential and Congressional campaigns, the U.S. government is virtually up for sale. - John W. Gardner

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

Ever occur to you why some of us can be this much concerned with animals suffering? Because government is not. Why not? Animals don't vote. - Paul Harvey


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