Wading through the proportional representation fearmongering

There is a lot of misinformation, fearmongering, cheap shots, and just plain lies flying around the discussion about proportional representation in British Columbia.

It’s coming from both sides, although I must admit those who oppose proportional representation seem to be a little guiltier of the tomfoolery, and it’s coming from people who should know better. Sadly, debate these days seems to be more about twisting reality than uncovering it.

Over the next few weeks, The Prince George Daily News will be presenting detailed information about the three electoral systems we will be asked to make a decision on.

I don’t profess to know everything about the proposed systems but, I can certainly recognize a lot of the B.S. that is being thrown about (which perhaps means I’m expert in B.S., but that’s another story).

So here’s a couple of items that you’ve probably been hearing about proportional representation that, frankly, you should ignore.

The first is a fearmongering tactic proclaiming that proportional representation will give rise to fringe parties getting representation in the Legislature. The fear tactic is that extremist groups will be represented in the Legislature or there will be so many parties with seats the Legislature will get bogged down.

The reality is it could happen under the first-past-the-post system as well and the likelihood of it happening under either system is about the same. Fringe parties won’t take hold until they start attracting voters.

Under the all three systems proposed, the threshold for parties to be considered for proportional representation is five per cent. Unless a party receives five per cent of the popular vote, they don’t get a seat, unless they win a specific riding. To put that in perspective, in the 2017 election, the Liberals received 40.36 per cent of the vote, the NDP 40.28 per cent, and the Green Party 16.84. The Conservatives were the next highest with less than one per cent of the popular vote.

That means, under proportional representation, only the Liberals, NDP, and Greens would have representation in the Legislature. The only difference would be the Greens would have more seats. A threshold of 10 per cent might put people more at ease. My solution would be that parties with a statistical chance of forming a majority government to be considered. In other words, parties would have to field candidates in at least 50 per cent of the ridings to be eligible for proportional representation seats. That would eliminate single-interest parties from even being considered.

You’re probably also hearing claims that you won’t get to vote for your MLA. This is simply a falsehood. Each of the three systems entails voting for local MLAs.

If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen those for proportional representation painting former Canfor CEO Jim Sheherd, who is funding a campaign against proportional representation, as an ‘ultra-rich,’ ‘fat cat,’ ‘Liberal insider.’

As far as I know, even though he’s wealthy, he’s entitled to his opinion and to use the resources at his disposal to argue ‘yay’ or ‘nay.’

Attack the message, not the messenger.

Proportional representation may be for you, maybe not. But before you decide, arm yourself with knowledge. And here’s a hint: memes on Facebook don’t contain any knowledge.