GUEST COLUMN: B.C.’s proportional representation vote is dishonest, misleading

Veteran of 2005 Citizens’ Assembly urges rejection of new voting systems

GUEST COLUMN: B.C.’s proportional representation vote is dishonest, misleading

By Gordon Gibson

I was born in British Columbia a bit more than 81 years ago and have spent most of my life here. It has been a great privilege to live in this province and, like many, I have done what I could to give back.

My method was via politics. I ran five times, elected twice as an MLA. I was executive assistant to Pierre Trudeau and then leader of the B.C. Liberal Party in the 1970s. I contested that position again in the 1990s, losing to Gordon Campbell. I have since been non-partisan. In the last election the record will show I gave $2,000 to the campaign of NDP MLA Carole James.

Over that time I have learned there are two parts to politics. Most of the year-to-year decisions belong to our elected representatives, including taxation and spending. That is fine.

However some basic things – our rights and freedoms – do not belong to politicians. Central to our rights and freedoms is our electoral system by which we select our representatives.

Politicians are hopelessly conflicted and naturally will seek personal advantage in any change. But democratic elections belong to us, and if the rules are to be changed they should be changed by us.

In 2002 I was tasked by the B.C. government to design the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. That process was unanimously adopted by the B.C. legislature. It has been studied and copied around the world as the gold standard for making such important changes.

All 160 members of that assembly studied, consulted and deliberated for a year and proposed a precise system (it was called BC-STV) that was put to a referendum vote. That is the way to do it: citizen design, citizen approval. Almost 58 per cent of British Columbians voted in favour. That was not enough for the government of the day, though none of its members could even dream of such support personally. So the initiative support dwindled and died.

Now we have a new proposal for electoral change, but with a huge difference. This one is designed by partisan politicians for their benefit, however high-sounding their words.

Anyone who follows sports knows the importance of detailed rules. Even apparently tiny ones can tilt the playing field and rig the game. To all but the closest students of the game the tricks are invisible, but they determine who wins.

That is the basic problem of the current referendum on electoral change. Specific details like community representation, what bosses will choose party list MLAs, how many votes you will have and how counted – these essentials are hidden, to be decided only after the referendum by conflicted politicians. But that is too much of a mandate to give to a saint, let alone your average MLA.

In short, this process is dishonest, misleading and wide open to down-the-road manipulation.

What MLAs who support this referendum are advocating is an erosion of our rights and freedoms, as the politicians write their own employment contracts.

We know the right citizen process in B.C. and have used it in the past. That is the honest way to consider the respectable but very complex question of electoral change. Our current government is following a process that is wrong. I say, for shame.

On this self-serving and deceitful question, “No” is the vote for democracy.

Gordon Gibson was leader of the B.C. Liberal Party from 1975 to 1979. He was inducted into the Order of B.C. in 2008.

Proportional representation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

The North Country Inn and Restaurant in Vanderhoof notified the public Friday morning of a positive, COVID-19 case for one of its workers. (Facebook photo)
North Country Inn and Restaurant employee tests positive for COVID-19

The North Country Inn and Restaurant said the employee had not been in contact with its patrons

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

(Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday.
COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site

14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Pamela Wright, a UNBC professor in the department of ecosystem science and management, is presented with the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership - Professor, at a virtual ceremony today (Nov. 24) in recognition of her collaborative work with community partners and students to conserve Canada’s northern lands. (Photo submitted by Mitacs)
UNBC professor recieves prestigeous conservation award

Pamela Wright recognized for leadership in ‘breakthrough’ work on northern issues

Pamela Wright, a UNBC professor in the department of ecosystem science and management, is presented with the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership - Professor, at a virtual ceremony today (Nov. 24) in recognition of her collaborative work with community partners and students to conserve Canada’s northern lands. (Photo submitted by Mitacs)
UNBC professor receives prestigious conservation award

Pamela Wright recognized for leadership in ‘breakthrough’ work on northern issues

Most Read