Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Proportional Representation Referendum, I have no idea how I will vote

This referendum is making feel like I need to choose between losing a leg or losing an eye.   All the outcomes are bad and will not benefit the people of BC.

I have been interested in improving the voting system we have federally, provincially and locally for about 35 years.   At times I was very active in the electoral reform movement - REALLY involved.   In 2004/05 it was the fundamental focus of my life. 

I have looked at the history of voting systems and how they have been used around the world   We have a bad system for our federal and provincial elections but not the worst possible.   In BC our local elections use one of the worst possible ones.

What I want out of a voting system are the following values:

  • The results fairly represent public will
  • Power sits more with elected representatives than with political parties
  • The voting system encourages moderation and cooperation
  • We have a clear and stable government that follows through with a program that has majority support from the public

First Past the Post does not manage to reflect any of these values well but two of the proposed alternatives (Mixed Member Proportional and Dual Member Proportional) do no better than First Past the Post and the third (Rural-Urban Proportional) really fails on the first value.

I have a real problem with the two part referendum.   You can vote No and then decide which PR system we should adopt  - people who do not want PR will be able to decide what to change to.    That is just wrong.   We needed a clear choice between two systems fully fleshed out.

What also bothers me about the referendum is that we are being asked to vote for a new system without knowing how that will be implemented.   Mixed Member Proportional is a very complex hybrid system (it is not a real proportional system) but how it is implemented makes some serious differences in how it plays out.   The options could really screw over large parts of the province and effectively leave them without representation.   It also normally means shifting a lot more power to the leadership of political parties from the voters.   The government is saying "trust us to design the details after the referendum.    Of course we will be completely fair and ensure that in no way it benefits the NDP or the Greens.".    I do not trust elected officials to create a voting system that benefits the public or preserving their own high paid job.

As much as I worked my ass off to get PR in 2005 and 2009,. it feels wrong to me to have a vote again on the issue.   I feels unfair given the public decided to go with the status quo even though it was not beneficial for them.    People have a right to vote against their best interest and that decision should be respected.   We really should not be having another referendum on this subject so soon again.

I also really dislike both sides of the campaign.    The Yes side is approaching it as if this is a way to ensure the centre right in BC could never be in government again.   The No side is just using disingenuous fear based arguments and doing nothing to explain how our current system works and what it is OK for the minority to rule over the majority.

How will I vote?  I am not sure.   I am certain for the system I will only vote for Rural-Urban Proportional even though it really badly screws people in rural BC. 

 As to Yes and No.   I want to vote Yes because I have spent more than a generation on the issue but I worry that the system we will get because of it will be worse than what we have.   Voting Yes or No would be so much easier if I knew what a Yes outcome will look like.    It should have been a clear question on two systems.

I may end up voting Yes because of the No side and how they are using Trumpesque type campaign tactics.   I feel like voting No would make me feel complicit in a fundamentally destructive campaign.    But I have to balance that against my fear of getting Mixed Member Proportional, a system I see as corrosive to politics from watching German politics since the late 1970s.

Maybe I will not vote Yes or No and only vote for the system?

Overall I am resigned to a bad outcome no matter how the vote goes. 

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