Reasons for PR vote failures

Re. Carole Kormendy's letter 'Passport pics no big deal' (Castanet, May 19) and Andrew Kaszinski letter 'Victim culture warriors' (Castanet, May 23)

In two letters supporting electoral reform, the “following was added: Editor's note: B.C. residents have voted three times on adopting a form of proportional representation. In 2005, 57.7% voted in favour but that did not reach the required 60% threshold set by the government of the day., In a 2009 referendum, it was rejected by 60.9% of voters and in a 2018 vote, 61.3% of voters rejected a move to proportional representation."

The editor is correct. The referenda did fail, However, I think it is important to examine the context of each of those failures

Looking at the 2005 referendum, the B.C. Liberals, under Gordon Campbell, set the bar for the passage of the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation at an unreasonably high 60% of votes cast and a majority of the 79 ridings in favour.

The result of the referendum was 57.7% of voters and 77 of the 79 ridings in favour of electoral reform. I think it is hard to deny the majority of B.C. voters were in favour of electoral reform. Governments get elected with less of a mandate.

The 2009 referendum failed because the results of the Citizens' Assembly was four years back in the rear view mirror and most B.C. voters forgot the deliberations of the 180 citizens who made up the assembly and who spent countless hours reading submissions and listening to experts.

All the expertise gained by the assembly was easily subverted by the “obfuscations” and “disinformation” spread by a small group representing vested interests.

A poll commissioned just after the vote, asking participants a simple question, should the percentage of seats won by a party equal the percentage of the popular vote that party gets. A majority said, yes.

The 2018 referendum was lost for a couple of reasons, the second a reflection of the first. The referendum question posed by (the NDP government) gave voters three choices of electoral systems to replace the flawed “First Past The Post” system. Each of the systems was a variation of proportional representation.

The mechanics of each had similarities and differences but they all delivered a proportional result. The percentage of seats equals the percentage of votes. However, voters, who would not attempt to understand the inner workings of their cell phones, felt they needed to understand the inner workings of these three systems, an not only understand, but to pick one of the three.

The second reason for the defeat was again, the obfuscation and disinformation spread by a very small number of people, again representing vested interests. Their job was made easier by the difficulties the voters faced in making a choice, as mentioned above.

These vested interests were concerned they would lose the FPTP electoral system that historically gave them 100% of the power with only 40% of the popular vote.

The well-run media campaign of this small group played on the confusion in voters’ minds. Making an informed decision became mind-boggling and voters with busy lives gave up and went with the status quo.

That was borne out by several subsequent nation-wide polls that, when asked a simple, easy-to-understand question, voters supported proportional representation, i.e. that the percentage of seats obtained equal the percentage of the popular vote. Again, a majority said, yes.

The second question was, should we have a nation-wide citizens' assembly to study electoral reform? The result, across all provinces and across voters of all parties was a resounding, yes.

Daryl Sturdy, Vancouver

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