There are two different issues to be decided on this referendum. The first is whether the system should be changed. The second is what to change the system to.
These are two very different types of questions, and the amount and the kind of trust you should apply to what you hear on each question is very different.
Question One: Change or No Change?
This question breaks down along partisan lines. The Liberals have been the recipients of all the advantages under the old system. They are blatantly doing everything they can to keep it. The NDP and especially the Greens have the chance of getting the most advantage from the new system. So, with the caveat that they are the government and they shouldn’t be seen to be too partisan, they are campaigning for change.
When it comes down to it, you can’t really trust anything any of them tells you. Yes, that also means the FairVote organization, and even me. You really do have to use your brains and make a decision on every piece of information you are given and make up your own mind whether it is valid or not.
You might consider asking yourself, “What does this person/organization get out of it?” Since all I get out of this campaign is the pleasure of helping positive change in our society, I guess you might want to consider that when I tell you something. Check out my other posts if you’re not sure. Maybe I’m just a busybody.
As far as the others, not-for-profit organizations like FairVote don’t stand to benefit overtly. But who knows? Maybe we’re all being secretly funded by Vladimir Putin for the purposes of tearing down democracy.
But you don’t have to dig too deeply at this point. You can figure out your answer to the “Change/Don’t Change” question by considering the two options and deciding what you believe is best for our society.
Question Two: Which Version of Pro-Rep?
Once the choice to change has been made, the focus shifts. Now the democratic system will be working in favour of the voters. 40% will no longer dictate policy.
Imagine This Scenario
You’re in charge of fleet purchases for a large transportation company, and you’re buying 20 new vehicles. Your boss has told you that your primary focus is reducing fuel bills but full electric is not possible because of distances travelled. What do you do?
Well, the first choice you have is whether to go internal combustion or hybrid. After that, you must choose what model of car to buy. If your objective is to lower fuel costs and you choose full internal combustion, it doesn’t matter what model you choose; you’re sewered before you start.
And that’s the way it is with this referendum. The big choice is whether to change. Once we decide to change to Proportional Representation, the gravity of the next choice is much less important. Despite what opponents will tell you, all of these systems have been tried in various jurisdictions: federal, provincial/state, municipal. Each has its own positives and negatives. In the 55% of democracies using these systems, not one has resulted in a disaster, either social or financial. Nowhere in the literature is there a body of opinion in those countries demanding a return to FPTP (except in supporters of the old parties, of course). People may argue the value of each different system, but they’re all working fine.
Assuming a win for the “change” side, I think an all-party committee would be the best way to make the final choice of system, based on input from Elections B. C. and the outcome of the second half of the ballot.
And of course the number of members each party has on the committee should be based on…wait for it…their proportional percentage of the popular vote in the last election, of course. Why? Because that’s what the people just voted for. That’s what proportional representation is all about, and once the ballots in the referendum are counted, our foot is on the new pathway; we might as well get started.
Who Not to Trust?
The main point is that the potential to affect your life is quite different from one question to the next. The first question could affect democracy in B. C. for the next 50+ years. On this scale, there are a lot of people and parties who have a vested interest in this question. So be wary.
- Beware appeals to your emotions, especially fear. “It’s too complicated; you’ll never figure it out.” “It will allow ……(fill in whoever you are most afraid of: unions, Vancouver, Victoria, fringe groups, Communists, political parties etc. )…… to take over.” “You’ll lose your local representation.”
- Watch out also for false comparisons.
– A proportionally elected government is not equivalent to a minority in the FPTP system. Pro-Rep governments do “get things done.” It’s just that those things have to be approved by more than 50% of the voters, instead of the average of 40% under FPTP.
– Pro-Rep governments historically tend to last longer than FPTP governments, even majority ones. That’s because parties in power aren’t in any rush to give up their present power in hopes of winning a majority in the next election because they probably won’t.
Who to Trust?
You can probably trust people who are giving you facts and statistics, because all parties are using the same information, and you can check it. Elections BC is a good, impartial source. Use the Internet. If you doubt the contention that FPTP usually elects a government with 40% of the popular vote, just look up “List of B. C. General Elections” on Wikipedia and do the math for the last 50 years.
On the other hand, watch out for the spin anyone puts on the numbers. Remember, data breaks down into “lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
Once the first question is decided, we can probably trust an all-party committee to do a decent job on the second question, as long as they are properly constituted by the new rules, not the old ones. Remember the kerfuffle when the Federal Liberals first made up their “All-Party Committee” to study the topic of Pro-Rep federally. If you have a free ten minutes, you won’t waste it by watching CBC’s At Issue panel on the topic.
Note also that when the Liberals were restrained from stacking the deck they stopped supporting the concept. So much for integrity and campaign promises. We won’t be trusting Justin Trudeau so much in the future.
The Bottom Line
Go online, listen to the news, get the information, and trust yourself. There’s nothing more democratic than an educated electorate. And then send in your ballot. The best way to disenfranchise yourself completely is to not vote at all.