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

Grand Forks’ Roly Russell met with The Gazette after he was named Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development Thursday, Nov. 26. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
NDP’s Roly Russell named secretary for rural development

Russell formerly represented rural Grand Forks on the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s elected board

RNG plant
Construction on ground-breaking RNG plant in Fruitvale set to go in spring 2021

REN Energy partners with Calgary engineering firm for innovative West Kootenay gas plant

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

A B.C. Supreme Court Judge ordered a Grand Forks couple to remove their trailer from its last known whereabouts at a Granby Road beach. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks couple leave Bare Ass Beach after court injunction

The pair had been in a long and contentious dispute with city hall since last Spring

From the left: Grand Forks sculptor David Seven Deers, Rotary Club President Grant Hill and Shinning Raven Woman Council member Regina Burrows pose for The Gazette at Seven Deers’ 9th Street studio Friday, Nov. 27. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks Rotarians raise money for Shining Raven Woman project

President Grant Hill said the Rotary Club “had to be a part of it”

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Most Read