The Other Referendum

Quick notice before we dive into our post on the referendum on Proportional Representation…

Referendum:  As we near the deadline (Nov 30th) for filling out and returning ballots to the Province for the referendum on Proportional Representation, I shudder at what I have witnessed.  Beyond the two sides of the campaign there has been, at least for me, an interesting observation.  This has become a referendum on critical engagement and emotional fear.

There is the Pro Proportional Representation side (ProPR), and the Anti-Proportional Representation side (AntiPR).  The ProPR side is tasked with informing about the differences between PR and FPTP;  secondly they are sharing information on three PR systems; and lastly they are proposing change and we all know who loves change.  WE DO!!!

Gord filling out his mail in ProPR ballot

The AntiPR side does have the easier job as it is the no change “incumbent” system, and they do not need to inform and educate, and therefore can just focus on the emotional aspects of change or even worse, create fear.  They just need to create noise and give the idea that’s it’s too confusing for us simply minded folks to get our heads around.  I liken it to the way any lobby group challenges its opponents by creating doubt (e.g. tobacco lobby, climate denial lobby).  I witnessed this with the debate between Mr. Horgan and Mr. Wilkinson, which was nothing more than a heckle fest, in which the “noise” allowed no room for debate – (Shame on the weak moderators for doing a poor job…maybe this was their plan?).

Ann filling out her mail in ProPR ballot

Ann and I, for those who know us, recognize we are creatures of ration (I think Gord is trying to say “Rational Creatures”?), we are generally not political party types but more policy and ideas focused, and rely on information to inform our opinions.  Basically we are a household comprised of a female Spock and a male Data, with humour (you choose who has the humour).  Ann often argues that since she has the higher IQ (by 2 points), that she must be funnier due to the correlation between humour and intelligence.  Anyways, what we have witnessed is a population that has been told they are not capable of critically thinking about such items as governance (or I guess humour if the correlation is correct).   Therefore if they are not capable, not smart enough, they should not attempt to try.  No joke.  Here’s some bad humour…imagine this was our ballot about PR:

Which do you prefer?
1) ice cream
2) a kick in the balls

Do you prefer ice cream in:
1) waffle cone
2) regular cone
3) cup

Voters against #PR4BC response: “what’s the cone size? Is the cup biodegradable? Too many unknowns, I’ll just take a kick in the balls”

There is nothing more infuriating than someone else telling me what I can and cannot understand.  I can guarantee you that this task of seeking info and informing myself was by no means a hard or challenging process, but it did consume about 1 hour of my time over three weeks.

FPTP – a waning archaic system

Yes it is a historical system that has been in use for a long time, and it is clear that there are only three democracies remaining that still use this (Canada, US, Britain), and the other 84 democracies have shifted to proportional representation of one form or another, many over 50 years ago.  Many would rightly argue that the US is not actually a democracy.

Is FPTP representative of the population?  If you had a two party system, as we historically did, then yes.  The US still has pretty much a 2 party system, and we can see how well it works to keep out extremists.  (heavy sarcasm and eye rolling).  Nothing to look at here folks… move along.

Do we generally have a 2 party system here in Canada, in BC?  Of course not, we have a diverse population, with diverse opinions, and generally the views and values that differentiate the parties comes down to differences around social, environmental, religious, resource extraction, economic, and science perspectives.

The wasted energy of negativity compared to the positive results of collaboration

I have little respect for party politics based on towing a party line or even the whole idea of opposition.  In contrast, take our own Highlands Municipal Council.  We all come to the table with diverse opinions and through collaboration, listening, and respectful dialogue, we come to a decision on a topic…often consensus.  It has lead to our community becoming ranked the top Municipality in BC (of 152) in regard to being the most efficient in per capita expenditures, despite having a strengthening of environmental initiatives.

The present system of FPTP has led to polarized and adversarial politics, where many citizens feel unrepresented, disengaged, and end up holding their nose to vote against what they don’t want and not for what they do want…if they vote at all.  Would I vote for anything other than a Donald Trump or Doug Ford… damn straight I would.  This is fundamentally wrong.  It wastes time and energy, and creates disenfranchisement amongst voters based on negative responses.   I would rather vote for what I do want, and feel part of the solution.

The other wasted energy I see from the increasingly polarized politics is the pendulum swing of policies – swings that create uncertainty in the economy as policies rapidly change.  FPTP is not the system in this day and age to create certainty.  Again we can look to Brexit, US Canada relations, and environmental policies in all countries using FPTP – stability is not there.  Fear of the “other side” is there.    The US exemplifies this with unbelievable clarity as two parties stagnate governance and embroil the country into a virtual civil war where even families are crumbling because of diametrically opposed views.   We literally are watching a FPTP system transform into a fascist regime.

How does any one of the three ProPR systems address this?  It would enable a broader range of views and values as exist across our Province.  True representation lends to less majority governments, and hence more collaboration and communication.  As Ann recently said about the PR system, “Minorities are not directing the majority…collaboration is. Think teamwork.”  Does it mean policies may be slower or less dramatic in their swings from left to right, from rational to emotional?  Sure.  Is this good?  I think so.  At this moment in time we need more stability, cooperation and trust to address the climate crisis, and we need to stop the radicalization in politics and culture or Canada will follow shortly behind the US…as Ontario already has.

We implore you to cozy-up to that emotional anxiety of change, put it into perspective, fact check the claims that Bill Teilman (lobbyist/political consultant) and those supporting the status quo are pushing.  Are they providing factual information or are they stimulating your reptilian fear brain by pushing an emotional argument?  Who will benefit from keeping FPTP?  Follow the money.

It’s probably no secret that we both voted for PR.  What many people may NOT know, it that if you don’t have the hour to research and decide which of the 3 PR systems you like best, you can leave that question blank.  It’s ok to do that.
DEADLINE:  Your ballot must be received by November 30th, 2018.

Below are useful links we found:

This is where we started – quiz that we took before we even starting to look at the systems –

Christy Clark on Proportional Representation – very good video clip.

Elections BC – link to 4 different videos – each of the systems is covered –

Andrew Coyne – 3 minute video –

Andrew Coyne – 1 hour presentation –

BC Civil Liberties Association –

Fact Check ––gKaE

This one is for your kids to use to understand the concepts –

Overview – can skip the first 2 minutes –



4 responses to “The Other Referendum

  1. Hi All,

    If it is possible to take a spring workshop instead, I’d be grateful, things are piling up in my life. Perhaps you have a couple interested…

    Please let me know if that is possible, Hilary


  2. Francis and Ellie

    As always a pleasure to see/hear/read. I think one of the things I enjoy most about your posts is the humour laced throughout. Thanks Francis

  3. This article is too complicated.
    I will take a kick in the nuts instead, thanks

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