Suzanne Anton must live in some kind of parallel universe.
I think I snorted out loud at her assertion Saturday, at a so-called debate on the upcoming proportional representation referendum, that politics in B.C. isn’t … wait for it … political; that our system now isn’t party-driven but that under proportional representation will be.
One of her main arguments for keeping the current first-past-the-post electoral system is that MLAs, gol’ durn it, are good hard-working people who are non-partisan, through-and-through, especially when it comes to constituency work. OK, they are hard-working and they do lobby for their constituents, but to suggest the party they represent doesn’t call the shots is more than just laughable, it’s insulting to the intelligence of British Columbians.
Then she gleefully asserted that under a proportional representation we’ll be “giving up,” some of those “hard-working” MLAs. In Anton’s parallel universe, MLAs elected by proportional representation, for some reason, won’t work for their constituents.
She followed the No side playbook of fear-mongering, suggesting that people from the Lower Mainland, chosen by the party, will be parachuted into ridings like Prince George.
“No matter which of the three systems is chosen, there will still be some local representatives, but in order to achieve that blissful state of proportionality, which the ‘yes’ people want to achieve, you get people fed in,” Anton said. “You know where they’re fed in from? They’re fed in from party lists. Those lists are created in party headquarters, probably in Vancouver.”
Peter Ewart, arguing for the ‘Yes’ side repeatedly said said Anton was telling “fairy tales.” He was being kind. I think I would have been saying she was outright lying.
British Columbians are being asked to rank three proportional representation systems – mixed member proportional, dual member proportional, and rural-urban split. Only mixed member proportional uses a list to top up MLAs and all three parties have stated they prefer those lists to be regional. In other words, a top up MLA for the North won’t come from Vancouver and vice versa. Anton should know that.
Dual member proportional elects two MLAs for each riding and both of them will have been on the ballot for that riding. Rural-urban split uses a single transferable vote in urban areas, which is a ranked balloting system and, once again, all MLAs who are elected to create proportionality will have been on the ballot in that riding. Once again, no party hack swooping in from LotusLand to toe the party line. We have local MLAs who can toe the party line just fine, thank you very much.
Anton, and the No side, should know all this. I think they do, but are choosing to ignore the facts in order to preserve the status quo, which is a system that works pretty well for the Liberals and no one else.
I don’t begrudge anyone arguing to keep the first-past-the-post system (I’ve been having some good discussions on Facebook) as long as the arguments are based in fact. Nechako Lake MLA John Rustad had his hand up to ask a question at the forum, but they didn’t get to him. Because he posted later on Facebook, I suspect he was going ask a question or make a comment about the lack of electoral maps.
That is a legitimate issue and concern. I would prefer to debate that rather than listen to tripe that our current system isn’t party driven and that under first-past-the-post MLAs don’t report to the party first.
Saturday’s debate, which failed to give any explanation of how the three proportional representation systems work or probe the debaters’ knowledge of the systems any deeper than “one good, other bad,” was interesting but likely didn’t help anyone make up their mind about the upcoming referendum.