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

The data from the latest BCCDC reporting period. Image courtesy of B.C. Centre for Disease Control
Cluster mostly confined to Fernie: Sparwood Mayor

David Wilks said only a handful of cases were elsewhere in the Elk Valley

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.
South Columbia Search and Rescue called in the Nelson Search and Rescue and Kootenay Valley Helicopters to provide a long line rescue. Photo: BCSAR submitted.
Long-line rescue needed for injured hiker near Trail

Members of South Columbia and Nelson SAR and Kootenay Valley Helicopters did a long-line evacuation

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kamloops hospital grows to 66 cases

A majority of cases remain among staff at Royal Inland Hospital

Most Read