Hold your nose and take the proportional representation survey

 

If you haven’t taken the province’s survey on the upcoming referendum on proportional representation yet, you should.

Whether you think it’s a good idea, a bunch of hooey, or something in between, any time the powers-that-be ask for your input, you should give it. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes they actually listen. Hopefully this will be one of those times.

The NDP government, which has promised a referendum by next fall on possibly changing to some sort of proportional representation system (they haven’t picked one yet), has trotted out the online survey as a way to ‘shape’ the referendum.

Granted, simply picking a proposed new system, educating British Columbians about the proposed system, and then asking us to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would have been an easier approach. However, for some reason, whether it’s the feds or Victoria, we seem to have to make changing our electoral system an overly complicated and convoluted affair.

It doesn’t have to be. But what do I know? I came to that conclusion without the help of focus groups, online animations and social media buzz words that obfuscate the fact someone’s got their hand in the taxpayers’ pocketbook.

Even after all that, you should still take the survey and put your two cents’ worth in because government can’t, and shouldn’t, operate in a vacuum. Whey it asks for your input, give it.

I took the survey. It doesn’t take too long … less than 10 minutes for the long version. Yes, there is a short and long version.

The Liberals, who see this as a threat to their very existence, have come out with all guns blazing, condemning every aspect of the plan. They have criticized the survey as being tilted in favour of proportional representation. Of course it is. It’s a survey about a referendum on proportional representation so, surprise surprise, it focuses primarily on proportional representation. Attention Liberals: It’s not a survey on British Columbians’ views on the first-past-the-post system … get over it. The referendum will settle the first-past-the-post question.

That being said, the survey does ask some hokey and overly simplistic questions. It does the usual survey shtick of asking the same question twice, only worded differently, I suppose to see if you’re paying attention or, more sinister, hoping to diffuse an answer not hoped for by the authors.

It also asks your views on party solidarity and whether you want your MLA to represent the views of constituents or the party. That really has nothing to do with proportional representation. Party solidarity will still be a thing under proportional representation. Only the parties themselves can change that.

The survey also asks whether you want to vote on just one proportional representation system or several, ranking your favourites. Channelling my inner Millenial here … OMG!!!! WTF!!!!

Please take the survey just to say ‘no’ to that question. It’s goofy. Here’s why:

Imagine if British Columbians vote 60 per cent in favour of proportional representation but only 40 per cent of those support a mixed member system, 35 per cent a single transferable vote system, and 25 per ranked ballots. Then where will be? Total confusion.

Victoria should pick one system and have British Columbians vote on whether they want that system or stick with the status quo. I suspect the survey authors feel, probably correctly, that the idea of proportional representation overall is more likely to get a favourable result than the specifics of one system over another. Still, our choice should be between two systems. Period.

As I mentioned, the Liberals are pulling out all the stops to fight this because they see it as an end to getting a majority government with only 40 per cent of the vote, which it is. Some of us see that as a good thing.

At any rate, there is lot of rhetoric coming from the Liberals. Nechako Lake MLA John Rustad posted on his Facebook page that “Under Proportional Representation, you no longer elect an MLA.” Uh, wrong. He also says that independents will never get elected. Uh, wrong. He also says, “you can’t hold your MLA accountable for their actions.” Uh, wrong.

The Liberals are also upset that the referendum will require 50 per cent, plus one, to pass. They point out that this means a teeny-tiny portion of the Lower Mainland will determine the outcome of the referendum.

Welcome to the world outside the Lower Mainland, whether using first-past-the-post or not.

Leadership hopeful Andrew Wilkinson tweeted that this will mean a massive shift of political clout away from rural British Columbia to urban British Columbia. Spoken like a true Vancouverite. Firstly, the divide in this province isn’t an rural vs. urban one, it’s a Lower Mainland vs. Interior one. There is a difference.

My question is when did the Interior of the province ever have “massive political clout?” The Lower Mainland has always ruled the day. The May election, under the first-past-the-post system BTW, is proof of that. The NDP/Green alliance virtually ignored the Interior during the campaign and still managed to seize power.

Whether you like the idea of proportional representation or not, the government of the day wants your input on what to ask in next fall’s referendum. Oblige it. If that means giving the government an earful, do it (there are spots where you can actually give written answers).

The worst thing you can do is sit back and do nothing other than complain about how the government never listens to you.

You can take the survey here.

  • Amber van Drielen

    Thanks for this informative article. One thing I really like about proportional representation is that we will no longer have one party win 100% power with only 40% of the voter support. As well, as a rural interior voter I believe I will be better represented with proportional representation as we will have MLA’s in the interior from all political colors – this can create a fuller dialogue/consideration of more solutions on important rural and regional issues such as our resources, job creation, health care in rural areas etc.