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Posted: October 28, 2018

I hear that British Columbians are offended

By Doug Clovechok

Op-Ed Commentary

As the MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke, people from across the riding have been asking me on a daily basis, ‘What should I do with the Proportional Representation (PR) Referendum Ballot?’

For the individuals who have done some research on this referendum, they are telling me just how offended they are. They are offended that their government has not provided enough information for voters to make an informed decision; on a referendum which has the potential to change the political landscape in this province, forever.

This isn’t fear-mongering, there are many unanswered questions; yet when the Premier was confronted about a number of the ‘grey’ areas, his response was that voters should “take a leap of faith” and trust him. In effect, he is asking us to take a leap into an abyss of unknowns; voters do not have a clear and transparent understanding of the choices that are being offered, no side can refute that.

There are no riding maps, no direction as to how MLAs will be elected, or for that matter, how many MLAs will be elected. In the 2009 referendum, there was a threshold that would protect rural B.C., and a commission that was non-partisan; there is nothing like that with this referendum. Again, the pro-side cannot refute those facts.

I am not against a PR system that is well thought out, shows us exactly what we are going to get, and doesn’t pit rural and urban citizens against one another.
B.C. must keep the current system (First-Past-the-Post), which is used across North America and the UK.

Here’s why:

More elections means more taxpayer dollars? Italy uses a form of PR and has had, on average, one election every year since 1945. Who the heck thinks that voters want more elections? Elections are costly. Do you know how much this referendum alone is costing British Columbians?

Mainstream or fringe? PR opens the door for influence from smaller, single-issue parties, who are often extreme on issues. Right now, Sweden has larger mainstream parties that must partner with a Neo-Nazi party. The mainstream party must satisfy the needs of the Neo-Nazi party, if they want to form a government.

Electing a mainstream party is not a bad thing; electing a party with broad interests benefits the greater good of a large diverse population, such as our province.

Majority or minority governments? It’s difficult enough for majority governments to get good things done for people. PR leads to governments made up of multiple parties, each with their own special interests. Under PR, nothing gets done; the balance of power rests in fickle hands.

Elect or appoint? The three proposed PR options would result in some MLAs being appointed by their parties, not elected by the people. These MLAs will be loyal and accountable to their party, not their constituents. This is a huge diversion from what voters and taxpayers deserve.

Leap of faith? Two of the three PR options on the ballot are not in use anywhere in the world; they are theories. I choose to not be a guinea pig with something as vital as the workings of our provincial government. If the proper time and attention were spent filling in all the grey areas we wouldn’t worry so much about being guinea pigs.

Rural influence? When my party held two previous referendums in 2005 and 2009 on this same topic, we weighted rural ridings to make up for the larger populations on the coast. The NDP has not done this. If any of the PR systems on your ballot are passed, rural B.C. will lose any meaningful influence in Victoria. Columbia River-Revelstoke as we know it will disappear forever as a riding.

Motives? The NDP has been granted political power by B.C. voters for only 13 of the last 65 years. Their proposed PR systems will give them political influence without them having to earn a majority. That is their motive. It has nothing to do with “fairness.”

This referendum is costing us, the taxpayers, $15 million for nothing more than a political scam.

This money could have been spent on an informative, non-partisan exploration of electoral reform, which I would have supported. I cannot express strongly enough that this 2018 referendum is rigged and cloaked in mystery and disingenuous promotion.

Why didn’t the government finish filling in the grey areas for us? We have been told that we will not start using it until 2021; why are they rushing this referendum?

You would never purchase a house or accept a new job offer with such little information about what you are actually getting, so why would you accept this ‘Swiss cheese’ offer to change our democracy in B.C.?
It is very important to do your research and for everyone to vote, because the voter threshold has been marked as such:

– No minimum voter turn-out (ie: 10% of the province’s voters could decide our fate); and out of those cast ballots, there only needs to be 50% plus one single ballot to tip the scales in favour for, or against PR.

As such, I will mail in my ballot this week, and mark the ballot with one notch, to keep our current system, First-Past-the-Post.

“Mark one and you’re done!”

Doug Clovechok is Member of the Legislative Assembly for Columbia River – Revelstoke

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