Democratic Reform

By Hilary Crowley
November 6, 2018 - 11:06am
Photo Credit: Hilary Crowley

Some people are still unaware that there is a referendum underway. However, this is the critical time to bring back Democracy to BC and indeed to Canada. We have the chance to exercise our vote and determine whether we want to stay with the status quo or join most other Democracies by moving to a system of Proportional Representation. So many people complain about how our Government is run and how the majority of our opinions and priorities are not fairly represented in our current system of Government. This is our chance to change things and make a difference for future generations.

It’s not possible that the majority of British Columbians believe that climate change is a hoax. It is indeed the most pressing issue of our time and yet no election has been run on this issue. Politicians just give us platitudes and carry on building pipelines and condone fracking in order to get gas out from under the rocks then they want to liquefy it by using huge amounts of energy to cool it so it can be shipped across the ocean, using vast amounts of fuel, to China so China can burn it, producing vast amounts of greenhouse gases every step of the way, from the moment the fracking process starts.

We need to change our voting system so everyone’s vote counts and we get a Legislature that works towards the future, rather than only looking to the usual four year window. This is the only way that our leaders can really work towards a sustainable future rather than just looking for short-term economic gain. We need politicians to work together to find solutions. Together they can find ways to stop subsidising the oil and gas industry and instead give incentives for more innovations to the renewable energy sector. This takes courage as people don’t like change. An example of this is the reluctance of some to embrace and try out proportional representation. However it is necessary for our future.

Those living in Alberta and North Eastern BC are particularly concerned about any talk of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Their livelihood depends on a thriving oil and gas industry. I understand this as many of our family members work in this industry and historically these companies have largely paid the taxes for our education and health-care. This is all changing though. Many of these companies are now foreign owned and don’t have the same community ethic nor do they pay anything like the Royalties that the earlier, Canadian owned companies, did. The change away from fossil fuels, although inevitable for the life of our planet, will not happen overnight. It is important that families look to and embrace this change now. The next generation needs to obtain skills in renewable energy enterprises. There are plenty of opportunities but the sooner we embrace this concept, the better it will be for the next generation.

Voter turnout is abysmally low in our elections as so many of the electorate feel disenfranchised when none of the viable choices meet their needs, particularly for the younger voter. It takes 110,000 votes to get one Green seat, yet 19,000 votes for each Liberal or NDP seat, does this sound like Democratic fairness? I don’t think so. Many of the electorate, who have a strong distaste for one of the large parties, are afraid of “wasting their vote” by voting for the smaller party, who they really prefer, so they vote for the one they dislike the least. This is not the way Democracy should work. Proportional Representation will stop all this nonsense.

As Andrew Coyne said in a recent youtube video, “ If a bill passed in the Legislature with only 39% support, there would be rioting in the streets.” How can a Party form Government with only 39% of the popular vote and then rule over the majority while we complacently accept it? We have got so used to this unjust system but due to this, many have turned away and don’t vote at all. This referendum is our chance to rectify the situation.

Time is of the essence. The ballots have been mailed out and everyone should have received theirs by now. The Guide was distributed a couple of weeks ago and contains most of the information needed to familiarise people with the choices. The appendices of the Attorney General’s Report, “How We Vote” found under “engage” on the government website, explains the different systems. There was significant consultation with British Columbians prior to designing this referendum process. This included over 91,000 completed questionnaires, from diverse sections of the population. This represents considerably more consultation than the Citizens Assembly of previous referendum, who also recommended Proportional Representation.

There are two questions on the ballot. You can answer both or just one of them. The first question asks, which system British Columbians should use for provincial elections:

The current First Past the Post voting system or A Proportional Representation voting system.

The second question asks, if British Columbia adopts a proportional representation system, which of the following voting systems do you prefer?

Dual Member Proportional, Mixed Member Proportional or Rural-Urban Proportional.

Each of these systems are explained in the Voter’s Guide and in the Attorney General’s Report: “How We Vote”. The Ballots must be mailed in time to be received by November 30th. If you didn’t receive your ballot by November 3rd, you can ask for one by calling Elections BC at 1-800-661-8683 or by visiting elections.bc.ca prior to November 23rd.

Importantly, exercise your right to vote, to strengthen our Democracy, before the deadline of 4.30pm November 30th. Better still – do it now and get it in the mail!

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