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FORSETH – We need free votes in Legislature, not a different system

ON MONDAY (Oct. 15, 2018) my friend Bernard von Schulman said, “Time to open a can of worms.”  And with that he proceeded to say:

I have wanted to see a better electoral system for BC for close to 40 years but the more I look at this referendum the more I am not comfortable with the alternatives being offered.

There are good PR systems out there but for some reason, the government decided not to offer them on the ballot. Denmark, Sweden, and Ireland all have good PR systems. None of these are on offer.

I really dislike the lack of detail about the three alternatives. All we are offered is a name of a system without explaining how it would work if adopted. MMP is notoriously complex and slight differences in this hybrid model really change the outcomes.

The primary reason I might vote yes is that the no campaign is almost all pure bullshit. I do not want to feel like I am rewarding bad behaviour. But the chance we may end up living with a worse electoral system will mean I will most likely end up voting no.

It feels weird to be thinking of voting no, but I am not sure I can do much else

Now upon reading that, I had two questions for Bernard:

What makes Swedish, Irish, and Denmark systems better?  AND …

Elections BC has independent info on all systems we will get to vote on — are you saying it’s not detailed enough?

All three of the systems have been presented without more or less none of the details how any of them would work in detail, said Bernard. It is like expecting me to buy a house from a photo, and information on how bedrooms and bathrooms it has, but no other information.

As to how the other systems work?

Ireland is STV, Denmark and Sweden have regional party lists. Denmark and Sweden have had long term stable coalitions with clear left and right alliances that will form government, he continued.

I feel it would irresponsible for me to vote yes in such a badly designed referendum.

He concluded with … This thread is doing a good job of pushing me from lost in the middle, to seeing that it through one of my fundamental values, good process. This is bad process that was not developed from the public and forces us to choose from three bad alternative systems. This I know realize is a bigger deal to me than the moronic bullshit campaigning from the no side.

No surprises there, and more or less what I expected Bernard to say, along with also echoing many of my thoughts.

The pro-PR side always seems to say anything other than First-Past-The-Post would be better.  And as Bernard stated, we’re not getting the details on how they will work.  When at an information meeting a few weeks back, sponsored by Fair Vote Kamloops, I asked why I would want to “buy a brown paper bag with something in it, and not know what it was“?  I was told to trust the committee which would make the decision, because they’ll do what’s right.

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a tough time with that.

I’m also having a tough time trying to decide HOW a SLATE of PARTY candidates puts any more power in to the hands of voters?  Have we not simply traded one version of ‘vote for us and then we’ll do as we please, for another version of the same thing?

A few weeks ago, I was asked to attend a screening of the Sean Holman film, “Whipped,” and then afterwards be a part of a panel.

Let me say, for anyone who has never seen the film, it shows why in no uncertain terms there needs to be a change in how our elected officials represent us – however it definitely does not suggest we need to change our voting system.  Instead it spoke of the need for our elected MLA’s to actually be accountable to the people who elected them, and to also vote the will of their constituents.  No mention of changing our system of electing our MLA’s, and so I thought it odd they were sponsoring the screening of the film.

I think instead they should have been speaking about three people who did champion true legislative change.

In 2013, Vicki Huntington, Bob Simpson, and John van Dongen released a policy paper called the Democratic Reform Agenda.  Of the six suggestions, two have already been implemented (Campaign Finance Reform, and Moving the Fixed Election Date) … two are

not strong on my radar although they are good ideas (Elections BC oversight into how the leaders of political parties are elected – and – Election of the Speaker by Secret Ballot) … and then there’s the remaining two.

Empowering Legislative CommitteesandFree Votes in the Legislature.

Legislative Committees rarely meet, and, they only consider matter which are referred to them by the Legislative Assembly (although within their terms of reference they do have total independence in their deliberations).

I pointed out to Fair Vote Kamloops that the Education Committee (for example) had not met since the 40th Session of Parliament (2013), and I asked, “Does that make sense?”

I also asked, “Is not the education of our youth one of the most important things our MLA’s should be considering?”

Check it out for yourself if you do not believe me.  The official webpage for this Legislative Committee, on each and every time the legislature met, states:

The Select Standing Committee on Education has not received terms

of reference from the Legislative Assembly to work within the current

session.  Previous work is accessible through the links on this page

Session after session — year after year.

From the Spring of this year, back to 2013 – the Committee has been given no work to do.  Isn’t that kind of like sending students to school, and then not providing them with any assignments or work to do?

Same thing for Aboriginal Affairs … nothing going back to 2014.  The same thing sadly can also be reported for what I would consider to be another very important committee — Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing Orders and Private Bills.

Thank goodness the committee for Children and Youth, as well as Health, did actually meet recently!

Rest assured however the MLA’s from the governing party, hand-picked and selected to be the Chair of each of the nine committees did get a large bump in pay.  Nice (lack of) work of you can get it.

Those Committees need to be meeting, and working, at all times … and they need to be asking for, and seeking input from the public.  They also should be presenting their findings to the legislature, along with proposed legislation to improve the lives of British Columbians.

What a novel idea … and one which would actually bring about real change for the good of all British Columbians!

Here’s Number Two … FREE VOTES IN THE LEGISLATURE.

The Democratic Reform Agenda notes that it was Social Credit MLA Jack Weisgerber who in the early 1990’s first brought up the topic.  At the time he stated, “We don’t need to change the standing orders, or have a lengthy debate; we just need to have the political will to do it.  True reform is about having the political will to do the right thing.”

After moving to the BC Reform Party, Weisgerber went into the 1996 election campaigning on MLA’s having the ability to cast a vote free of party obligation – this on matters that did not pertain to fundamental policy they would have been elected on, as well as money bills.  I know this to be true because in that 1996 provincial election I ran as a BC Reform candidate, and signed an official party declaration that indicated I would be obligated to vote the will of constituents ahead of party.

I did this without hesitation as I believed it to be the right thing to do.  Regrettably, only two Reform candidates were elected – Jack Weisgerber and Richard Neufeld – both from the Peace River ridings.  By the next election, the BC Reform Party was fractured, and that was the end of it.

Former BC Liberal leader and premier, Gordon Campbell, did speak on the need for free votes in 1994, but other than a few rare specified occasions, it has never been declared by a governing party to be their policy for all legislative votes.

We do not need to change how we vote, because none of the forms of Proportional Representation will provide us with governments that respect our will.  For that to happen, we need to demand our elected officials recognize that Legislative Committees must be active and working at all times … and that all votes, with the exception of matters of fundamental policy and monetary measures, be ones that MLA’s vote their free will.

Here’s the bottom line.  The up-coming referendum will decide if we in BC keep First-Past-The-Post, or vote for one of three systems of Proportional Representation, none of which we have been given the full details on.  I know which way I’ll be voting.

In Kamloops, I’m Alan Forseth.  If you care to share your thoughts on the referendum vote, please do so below in the Comments Section.

Alan Forseth is a Kamloops resident and former member of the Reform Party of Canada and the B.C. Reform Party, and a past and current member of the BC Conservative Party. His blog is My Thoughts on Politics and More.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6186 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on FORSETH – We need free votes in Legislature, not a different system

  1. Tony Brumell // October 17, 2018 at 11:34 AM // Reply

    if you liked “Whipped ” then you should read Rafe Mairs last op ed called ” Democracy and civil disobediance “It is printed as the last chapter of Wendy Holmes’ new book called ” Damming the Peace .

    Mairs’ peace is an amazing monotribe and indictment of party politics.and how useless and wastefull it is.The thought on “free votes” is of course nothing new. It tends to lead to clicques within gov’t but is in the long run more effective than the “party is always right “system we are using now.This is of course little more than an elected dictatorship.This leads one to understand that if all votes in the ledge were “free ” that the party system would die and the independant MLA would come to the fore. Which we see happening in the Vancouver election .When the entire ledge becomes independant the party system dies.As it should.
    I have long been an advocate of “non partsan” government.Canada has been using it for a long long time.The Northwest and Nunavut territories have always been non partisan.I believe that while clicques do form they are designed to better the citizens of the territory.
    To even out some of the tough points of non partisan gov’t I think a mandatory vote and a working recall system would help.It would also be necessary to teach CIVICS in high school so the electorate would be engaged in running the country and understand their responsibility in it.
    This :Like pro rep is a stretch , but what we have is obviously not working.Trump’s party politics is probabnly the most divisive I’ve ever seen. It ‘s where we ( Canada ) are heading.In Trumpland it will probably end in another uncivil civil war .A war that will destroy democracy and freedom as we all know it.

  2. Ian M MacKenzie // October 17, 2018 at 9:19 AM // Reply

    I suspect from you closing remarks over how you’re goint to vote that you would rather have a disguised dictatorship made up of 40% of the voters nullifying the influence of 60% of the voters. The opponents of Prorep brazenly call this a “majority government”. Simple arithmetic and semantics is completely morphed by such a egregious falsehood! However, despite the fact that no system made by man is going to be perfect, any of the three Prorep options will more closely achieve representative democracy than does FPTP.

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