Sunday, March 18, 2018

No BC Proportional Representation Society makes 9 recommendations in submission to BC government on electoral systems referendum

The British Columbia Legislature
NO BC PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION SOCIETY

No to Proportional Representation in BC

Wednesday February 28, 2018

Attorney General David Eby
Ministry of Attorney General
PO Box 9044 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Dear Attorney General Eby:

The No BC Proportional Representation Society was formed to oppose any proportional representation electoral system in British Columbia.  Our organization will campaign vigorously in every part of our great province to keep the First Past The Post electoral system that has helped build a strong democracy, an inclusive society and a powerful economy. British Columbia is a jurisdiction admired around the world and we believe that proposed changes will have a serious negative impact.

We are therefore pleased to make this public submission to you and the BC government on the proposed electoral system referendum and in response to the online government consultation website.

Unfortunately, we are making this submission under duress and with significant and grave worries about the process the BC government has undertaken.  We believe this consultation process is unfairly biased in favour of Proportional Representation electoral systems and against our current First Past The Post electoral system. 

These are fundamental concerns that we fear will undermine the referendum.

We also respectfully disagree with your own statement: “The Attorney General will serve as a neutral arbiter throughout the process to ensure the referendum is conducted fairly and in accordance with B.C. law”.

As a New Democratic Party candidate, you campaigned in favour of Proportional Representation in the May 2017 provincial election and you are on the record as being in support of changing to Proportional Representation.
While we fully expect that the Attorney General will indeed, as your statement said: “recuse himself from all cabinet and caucus debate and decisions regarding the referendum,” there is at best a clear public perception that you have already decided and favour one side in this debate. 

In the election, your party promised to campaign for proportional representation: 
“A New Democrat government would not only consult British Columbians on the specific proportional reform to be put to a vote, but would campaign strongly in favour of that reform.”

And the NDP-Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement states that:

“The parties agree that they will work together in good faith to consult British Columbians to determine the form of proportional representation that will be put to a referendum. “The parties agree to both campaign actively in support of the agreed-upon form of proportional representation.”

We hope that you take additional steps to ensure any perception of bias is removed and we have some recommendations on how that can be achieved.

That said, we did appreciate your statement regarding giving information to British Columbians: “We will be providing them with neutral information about the different voting systems. There are all kinds of benefits of first past the post. There are all kinds of benefits of proportional systems.”

You also said that the public input and opinion gathering would be: “fair, neutral and as independent as possible.”

We indeed hope that will be the case going forward; We do believe, however, that you need to remove yourself from the process given your pre-determined and frequently expressed bias as to the result.

Bill Tieleman
Suzanne Anton
Bob Plecas

Directors, No BC Proportional Representation Society

  
Recommendations - No BC Proportional Representation Society

The No BC Proportional Representation Society presents the following recommendations for the conduct of the 2018 referendum on electoral systems.

1.    British Columbia voters should have two clear choices in the 2018 electoral system referendum: our current First Past The Post system and whatever Proportional Representation system the government recommends.  There should not be any “two-part” ballots or “ranked ballots” with multiple choices.

We agree with BC Premier John Horgan on the need to two clear choices for voters in this referendum.  Premier Horgan told The Vancouver Sun editorial board prior to the May 2017 election in discussing the referendum question that:

“A consensus on yes or no is pretty easy.  You are going to have 50 per cent say yes or no.”

“So you give them one system to vote on?” he was asked for clarity’s sake.

“Yeah, yeah exactly,” the NDP leader replied.

Having two clear choices is the only way voters can compare electoral systems as apples to apples, not apples to oranges – to ensure they have the full information before deciding.   Full information includes any constituency boundary changes as well detailed information about how votes are counted and allocated.  

2.    For further clarification, the proposed Proportional Representation electoral system must have all details made public well prior to the referendum, including proposed geographic riding boundaries; Proportional Representation Candidates List rules; whether that List will be open or closed; and comparisons with similar systems around the world.

A fair and democratic referendum means giving BC voters all the details they need to make an informed choice.  And that requires providing substantial information about the proposed Proportional Representation electoral system that could be adopted.

All details include knowing the answers to these questions:

·      What the electoral geographic ridings are with each system – our current First Past The Post and a proposed Proportional Representation system or systems;
·      What type of local representation there would be under each system or systems;
·      What the role of political parties would be in deciding if there is local representation – which is not guaranteed under certain Proportional Representation system – and what kind of local representation would be determined by the electoral system;
·      Whether there would be Proportional Representation List candidates chosen by political parties to “top up” each parties’ MLAs to match the province-wide popular vote;
·      What laws and regulations would determine the Proportional Representation List of candidates and how it would be administered;
·      Whether the Proportional Representation electoral system would force parties to create the Proportional Representation List of candidates with required regional, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic heritage or any other qualifications;
·      How BC’s unique Recall and Initiative Act could be amended to allow the recall of Proportional Representation List candidates by voters, since they would not be representing any geographic riding, or if they would be beyond the reach of recall; http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/96398_03#section19  
·      Whether political parties under a new Proportional Representation electoral system could expel Proportional Representation List candidates MLAs from the BC Legislature if they quit their party to join another, as currently is being proposed in New Zealand’s Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill. That legislation, popularly called the “waka jumping bill,” would give party leaders enormous new power over their Members of Parliament.

As National Party MP Nick Smith has argued: "It will enable party leaders to dismiss MPs from Parliament. It risks turning our parliamentarians into party poodles. An MP who questions a policy, criticizes a leader, or votes differently to their party faces dismissal from Parliament by their party leader. This is a fundamental change to the centuries-old principle that the public alone gets to hire and fire MPs. The greatest harm would be to stifle debate and further concentrate power with political parties and leaders.”; 

3.    The referendum should require that to change our current electoral system, a 60% vote in favour of a Proportional Representation system across the province of those voters participating and a 50% plus one vote in favour in at least 60% of British Columbia’s 87 geographic ridings vote in favour.

Changing our electoral system is a very significant decision that not only determines how we will be governed indefinitely but also impacts our economy, our society and our communities.

For that reason, we strongly disagree with the Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Act and the decision in Section 9 (1) that allows a 50% plus one vote to change our electoral system.

We respectfully urge the BC Legislature to amend the Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Act before the referendum this fall.

The precedents are extremely clear: in British Columbia’s two previous electoral system referenda in 2005 and 2009 a 60% vote in favour of the Single Transferable Vote electoral system across the province of those voters participating was required along with a 50% plus one majority in at least 60% of British Columbia geographic ridings voting in favour.

The province of Ontario in 2007 https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/s07001 had an identical requirement for changing electoral systems as did the province of Prince Edward Island in 2005 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/electoral-reform-rejected-1.533310

Why require a majority stronger than 50% + 1?  We believe it is necessary for a stronger consensus among BC voters to be reached before making a fundamental and significant change in our electoral system.

The legitimacy of changing BC’s electoral system with such a narrow margin will lead to ongoing questions and objections to its validity.  Surely requiring a strong majority of voters in favour is not too much to ask?

Ironically perhaps, but other provincial legislation requires even higher democratic thresholds of 75% in order to make much less significant changes.

The BC Strata Property Act – Section 97 – demands that strata property owners must approve by a ¾ vote in favour any additional expenditures not previously approved in the strata’s budget. 

In other words, a Strata Council must hold a special general meeting to spend $20,000 to replace a furnace and obtain 75% approval – but BC’s Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Act would change our entire electoral system with just 50% + 1 in favour!  How absolutely absurd.

4.    The ballot question must be drawn up by Elections BC and meet the test of being neutral and fair.  Adequate time should be given for possible judicial challenge of the ballot.

This should go without saying but given the biased nature of the government consultation process on electoral systems, it must be clearly stated – Elections BC must draw up the ballot question and it must be neutral and fair. 

And Elections BC should make public the question with adequate time left before the referendum for a possible judicial challenge of the ballot. 

5.    That the term “electoral reform” be dropped from all further government and Elections BC reference, as it indicates a strong bias in support of a proportional representation electoral system. 

“Reform” has a particular meaning that indicates “improvement” or “positive change”.  While that may well be the view of proportional representation advocates, it should not be the term used by either the government in official communications about the referendum or by Elections BC. 

British Columbians voted strongly in the 2009 referendum against one of the alleged “electoral reforms” – the Single Transferable Vote.  To use a biased term in the 2018 referendum is not only unfair but fails to recognize that a majority of voters in a binding referendum decided democratically that proportional representation is not a “reform”.

6.    Proponent groups on each side of the referendum should have equal funding at a minimum of $500,000 each as in the 2009 STV referendum.

There should be a minimum of $500,000 provided to each of the two sides in the referendum – that amount was given to each side in the 2009 referendum to undertake a public awareness campaign. 

That amount is a minimum in our view based on the previous electoral system referendum and the need to inform voters prior to such a fundamental decision that could last for decades to come.  Ideally the amount would also at least reflect inflation since 2009.

Whatever the total amount is, it should be equally split between only two parties, one representing the First Past The Post side and the other, the Proportional Representation side. 

And there should be no restrictions on how proponent groups use the funding so long as they are accountable, transparent and following all applicable laws and regulations.

The funding decision should be made independently of the government by a neutral third party individual [or panel] as has been done previously and should be based on the proponents’ groups experience, knowledge of the issue and recognized public leadership and support.

7.    No referendum funding should be provided to proponent groups from outside British Columbia, including non-profit organizations, unions or businesses.

We believe that this referendum is exclusively an issue for British Columbians to decide, not organizations or individuals from other provinces, let alone other countries.  It is essential that during the referendum campaign period prior to the balloting, outside organizations and individuals not be allowed to fund either side, or place advertisements of any kind.  Of course, speakers representing views one way or another should be allowed, as freedom of speech and full discussion are important.  For this type of free debate notices of speaking forums should be exempt.  Elections BC should be asked to provide approvals and be the watch guard. 

8.    Unions and businesses based in British Columbia should be allowed to make donations to proponent groups, with full disclosure.

We do not believe it is fair or reasonable to restrict unions or corporations from making contributions to proponent groups.  A referendum on electoral systems is quite different from an election, since: 

·      The BC government has said it will be “campaigning” in favour of proportional representation – to restrict unions and businesses from supporting either side would further increase the bias of the government being on one side, potentially with all its resources;
·      No MLAs are being elected so political party financing changes need not apply; the results are indefinite and could last for decades;
·      This is a public policy issue, not a partisan issue;
·      The choice of electoral systems will have a significant impact on our economy and jobs – blocking unions or businesses from having their right to free speech would be highly undemocratic; and
·      The potential negative impact of proportional representation on rural representation in the BC Legislature is such that unions and businesses based in rural areas should have every right to oppose an electoral system that could hurt their interests.

9.    Third-party advertising by British Columbia-based organizations should not be restricted during the referendum period.

For many of the same reasons listed above, we believe that there should be no restrictions on third-party advertising by British Columbia-based organizations or individuals during the referendum period. 

We believe that so long as there is disclosure of who the third-parties are and that their expenditures are also disclosed after the referendum, British Columbians are more than able to think for themselves and decide this issue on its merits after hearing all arguments from both sides.

Conclusion

There are flaws in every electoral system.  Transplanting a foreign concept into our British-based parliamentary system will not solve any that critics of First Past The Post raise. 

We could propose workable solutions to these problems, and will during the referendum campaign, but that is not within the request for submissions. 

We are fortunate to live in the best province in the best country in the world.  At the center of our success is our democracy, and at its core lies the current electoral system.

Stability, simplicity, success. 

Your government has chosen to bring forward the third referendum on the same topic in 13 years.  Attempts to change our electoral system have failed twice. 

Some people will not take no for an answer.  Instead you have changed the rules, lowered the threshold and slanted the early stages of the discussion. 

We nonetheless remain hopeful that you will consider the above and bring forward a referendum that is unbiased and fair. 








Wednesday, February 28, 2018

No BC Proportional Representation Society demands two clear, simple choices in fall electoral system referendum; rejects Attorney General David Eby's "neutrality"


No to Proportional Representation in BC

NEWS RELEASE                                                                 Wednesday February 28, 2018

No BC Proportional Representation Society makes recommendations on electoral systems referendum despite “grave worries” on process and results, while rejecting Attorney General David Eby’s “neutrality” in government public consultation process and ballot

The No BC Proportional Representation Society has made several strong recommendations to the BC government public consultation process on the fall referendum on electoral systems despite “grave worries” about the process and its results, while rejecting claims by BC Attorney General David Eby of “neutrality” in supervising the referendum and asking that he remove himself from involvement.

The No BC Proportional Representation Society intends to: “Campaign vigorously in every part of our great province to keep the First Past The Post electoral system that has helped build a strong democracy, an inclusive society and a powerful economy,” it says in its submission to the consultation process which ends today.

The key No BC Proportional Representation Society recommendation is that in the referendum voters should have two clear choices between: “Our current First Past The Post system and whatever Proportional Representation system the government recommends.  There should not be any ‘two-part’ ballots or ‘ranked ballots’ with multiple choices.”

The No BC Proportional Representation Society says it agrees with BC NDP Premier John Horgan, who said before the May 2017 provincial election that: “A consensus on yes or no is pretty easy.  You are going to have 50 per cent say yes or no.”

Unfortunately, says Bill Tieleman – a No BC Proportional Representation Society director, the BC government consultation actually proposed a possible two-part ballot and ranked ballots with multiple choices that would prevent voters from comparing apples to apples or ensuring that they have the full information to decide about competing electoral systems.

“British Columbia voters deserve a clear choice and an understandable alternative to our current First Past The Post electoral system, with detailed information about the negative impacts of potentially dramatic reductions in local, accountable representation,” said Tieleman, a former BC NDP strategist who successfully led opposition to the Single Transferable Vote electoral system in the 2005 and 2009 provincial referenda.  “This is a fundamental question about how British Columbians are governed – and it demands a ballot question with clarity.”

Attorney General Eby’s involvement in making recommendations to the BC cabinet about the referendum process and the ballot question, when he has made public statements supporting Proportional Representation and campaigned on implementing it mean there is a clear perception of bias, says Bob Plecas, a No BC Proportional Representation Society director who served as a deputy minister in many portfolios under several BC governments.
“We respect Attorney General Eby’s genuinely held belief in Proportional Representation that he has expressed personally and as a BC NDP candidate, as is his right,” says Plecas.  “But for that very reason, the Attorney General should not be involved in recommending the ballot question and other important referendum details – he has already made up his mind and therefore should remove himself from the process immediately.”

The No BC Proportional Representation Society also says that the government’s decision to remove strong consensus requirements for changing electoral systems that previously existed in BC’s 2009 and 2005 referenda, as well as identical requirements in Ontario and Prince Edward Island’s referenda in 2007 and 2005, should be reversed.

Changing our electoral system is a very significant decision that not only determines how we will be governed indefinitely but also impacts our economy, our society and our communities,”
says Suzanne Anton, also a No BC Proportional Representation Society director and former BC Liberal Attorney General. 

“BC should return to the 2009 and 2005 requirement that 60% of voters agree to any change to ensure that we have a strong, cross-province consensus and that non-urban voters are not unfairly deprived of their right to local, accountable political representation,” said Anton.  “We also need a requirement that any change has a 50% plus one majority in favour in at least 60% of BC’s geographic ridings to again guarantee a significant consensus.”

“The current BC Strata Property Act demands a 75% vote in favour of any additional expenditures in condominiums – like replacing a furnace – surely changing BC’s electoral system should require more of a consensus than a bare minimum of 50% plus one of those who turn out to vote?” asked Anton.

The No BC Proportional Representation Society also recommends that:

·       the ballot question be drawn up by Elections BC to ensure fairness and neutrality;
·       that the term “electoral reform” be dropped from all government communications due to bias;
·       that both sides in the referendum receive public funding of at least $500,000 each to conduct a province-wide public awareness campaign as in the 2009 referendum;
·       that organizations outside BC be prohibited from funding either side in the referendum;
·       that unions and businesses based in BC be allowed to donate to either side; and
·       that there be no restrictions on third-party advertising by BC-based organizations on either side.


The full No BC Proportional Representation Society submission is online now at the BC government website here.

   


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Sunday, February 25, 2018

No BC Proportional Representation Society charge Fair Vote Canada BC with trying to subvert government public consultation process, stuff ballot box

No to Proportional Representation in BC

NEWS RELEASE                                                                Sunday February 25, 2018

NO BC Proportional Representation Society charge Fair Vote Canada BC with trying to subvert government public consultation process with “guide” to filling out online questionnaire on electoral systems and stuff ballot box

Part of Fair Vote Canada BC "guide" to BC government consultation
An advocacy group is trying to subvert a BC government public consultation process on possible changes to British Columbia’s electoral system in the fall 2018 referendum by asking supporters to use its “guide” to answer the government’s online questionnaire, says the No BC Proportional Representation Society.

Fair Vote Canada BC is attempting to wrongly influence the results of a BC government website seeking public input by encouraging its supporters to follow its directions on answers rather than think for themselves and answer honestly, says Bill Tieleman – a No BC Proportional Representation Society director.

Tieleman said every one of Fair Vote Canada BC’s “recommendations” on answers would bias the government consultation heavily in favour of proportional representation and against our current First Past The Post electoral system.

“It is absolutely offensive that a group which purports to want more democracy and voter engagement in elections is out trying to subvert a public consultation process and stuff the ballot box to meet its own narrow goals,” said Tieleman, a former BC NDP strategist who successfully led opposition to the Single Transferable Vote electoral system in the 2005 and 2009 provincial referenda.  “Fair Vote Canada BC is attempting to bias the results in favour of its own agenda and not listen to what actual voters think about our electoral system and our democracy.”

The Fair Vote Canada BC website states that: “FVC has prepared some tips to help you answer the questions in the BC government survey.... This guide will provide tips on some specific key questions – 5, 7c, 8, 9, 18b, 18c, 19, 20, 21, and 24 – related to the referendum question format, values and PR systems.”  And a FVCBC Tweet says of the survey: “We recommend using our guide for completing it (some confusing questions)”.

The Fair Vote Canada BC website guide is blatant in its disregard for even its own supporters’ personal opinions, says Suzanne Anton, also a No BC Proportional Representation Society director and former BC Liberal Attorney General.  

And Anton notes that another Proportional Representation advocacy group – Leadnow – is also referring supporters to the Fair Vote Canada BC guide: https://www.leadnow.ca/BCPR/

“Fair Vote Canada BC is literally telling people what they should think and how they should answer important questions about our democracy – that is exactly the opposite of what should happen,” says Anton. 

“Proportional representation supporters like FVCBC and Leadnow are trying to stack the deck in their favour for the referendum ballot and how it is going to be conducted – that is reprehensible.”

Anton added that the No BC Proportional Representation Society is not telling anyone how to fill out the government consultation questionnaire.

“We trust BC voters to answer important questions however they believe – Fair Vote Canada BC obviously doesn’t even trust its own supporters – because they might think for themselves and give the ‘wrong’ answers,” Anton said.

Bob Plecas, a No BC Proportional Representation Society director who served as a deputy minister in many portfolios under several BC governments, says it is astonishing for a public advocacy group to openly attempt to subvert the consultation process.

"I find it insulting to British Columbians that some back room hack in Fair Vote BC believes there is a need for a Dummies Guide to the Referendum Questions,” says Plecas. 

“The trouble with zealots who believe they know all the answers, and provide people with a paint by numbers kit to answer the most simple of questions, is that it makes a mockery of the process and their members.  Zealots and ideologues spawn bad pubic policy." 

Plecas said the Fair Vote Canada BC “recommendations” – if followed – would result in a highly unfair and biased referendum ballot question.  He gave one example where Fair Vote Canada BC recommends rejecting “simplicity” as one of voter’s top 5 values because it would favour First Past The Post. [See photo above]

“The fact that not only would Fair Vote Canada BC argue against simplicity as a value in our electoral system but also then have to explain exactly why –because Proportional Representation is so complicated – is laughable,” Plecas said. “Here’s an even more simple idea for them – let people figure it out for themselves!”

The No BC Proportional Representation Society will work to defeat any proportional representation system proposed for the fall 2018 referendum schedule and support the current First Past The Post electoral system that has served BC well.

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Thursday, February 08, 2018

BC government consultation stacks the deck for proportional representation electoral system

BC government electoral system referendum website consultation logo
Bill Tielemans 24 Hours Vancouver column

Tuesday November 21, 2017

By Bill Tieleman

“When you're playing against a stacked deck, compete even harder.” 

-       Pat Riley, ex-National Basketball Association head coach

Heads or tails?  Ante up or fold? Black or red?

Whether it’s flipping a coin, playing poker or roulette – you have two choices, not multiple choices – just pick one and either win or lose.

Unless you are the BC government and consulting the public online about possibly changing our electoral system in the fall of 2018, which determines how we are governed and how we choose our representatives.

Regrettably, the New Democratic Party I support wants to change the voting system to something called proportional representation.  So does the Green Party.

I disagree – and successfully led opposition to the Single Transferable Vote in referendums in 2005 and 2009.

But I respect voters choosing through a democratic referendum.

What I don’t understand is why the NDP government appears to be reneging on a clear pre-election promise Horgan made.  

Horgan told the Vancouver Sun in May that referendum ballot would have only two choices – either keep our existing First Past The Post system or move to some proportional representation model.

“A consensus on yes or no is pretty easy.  You are going to have 50 per cent say yes or no,” Horgan said then.

“So you give them one system to vote on?” a reporter asked.

“Yeah, yeah exactly,” Horgan responded.

But last week Attorney General David Eby launched a consultation website that’s anything but clear – except in its bias towards proportional representation.

It appears to encourage using a “ranked ballot” in the referendum – designed to maximize the possibility of some proportional representation system squeaking through. 

How?  Voters whose first choice comes in last place then get their second choice counted.  And maybe their third and fourth choices.

One disturbing question: “The referendum should offer voters the choice between the current First Past The Post voting system and MORE THAN ONE Proportional Representation voting system.”

And then another: “Voters should rank order their support for all the proposed systems.”

So – is the referendum ballot going to be “yes or no” – one system or the other – as the premier promised? Or multiple choices and a ranked ballot?

Instead of stacking the deck in favour of proportional representation the NDP government should reshuffle – and get back to what it promised.

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