This guest column is a response to an Open Letter from the Armchair Mayor, published Oct. 11, 2018, challenging Fair Vote Kamloops to publish articles on its Facebook page that are in support of First Past the Post.
By GISELA RUCKERT
Fair Vote Kamloops
Thanks for the shout out and the challenge. Just for fun, let’s play a game as I respond. I’ll pretend I’m an MLA elected under FPTP, and you’ll be my constituent. You’ve asked me to do something (support a specific bill in the Legislature, for example), but my party has a different take on the issue than you do. So I’m going explain to you why I’m going to vote with my party rather than do what you’re asking. (This scenario will feel distressingly familiar to many voters).
Thanks for coming into my office today, Mel! Clearly, we have a difference of opinion on this subject. So, while I do understand your concerns and your request for Fair Vote Kamloops to promote posts opposing proportional representation on our Facebook page, I’ll explain why I am not going to do that.
→ We are part of the “Yes” side. We are a grassroots, citizen-led group, 100% funded by folks who have read the research and want to see pro rep implemented. On that note, you may be interested in the Elections BC report released last month which compared the average donations on each side: $141 for us and $959 for them. Here at Fair Vote Kamloops, we’ve taken in a lot of $20 cheques in the past few months, and we are committed to making each one of them count in this very important campaign. (Kind of like votes in a pro rep election, if you get my drift 😉).
→ We are committed to evidence-based, peer-reviewed and published research. There is very little that is coming from the “No” side currently which can be substantiated by anything academic at all. (The Fraser Institute is a think tank with an agenda, not an academic institution). Asking us to promote the fearmongering and misinformation coming from the “No” side is akin to asking the Sierra Club to give equal space to climate deniers. It makes no sense. In fairness, we do send people to other neutral sites where they can confirm what they read on our pages, for example Elections BC’s referendum website.
→ Our opponents are doing an incredible job filling the airwaves with misinformation and targeting individuals on social media with blatant lies. Because ads are shown only to individual Facebook users who might be on the fence, they aren’t found on the public pages of the “No” side, and their dirty work flies largely under the radar (this seems to be the new normal in politics, sadly). We don’t have the ethics or the kind of money it takes to hire those professional manipulators of public opinion.
→ The media landscape is already incredibly skewed to preserving the status quo, and nothing we put out can hold a candle to the reach of our opponents. A three-month media analysis confirmed that few newspapers set out to educate or inform voters on this issue—the vast majority of articles merely advocate for the current system, as do your own columns. Have you printed anything at all on how the three proposed systems work? About how they would provide citizens with a team of MLAs, rather than just one from a party they may not have supported? About how each ballot has room for real names of local candidates, just like now? About how countries using pro rep tend to have better economic, social, and environmental outcomes and more satisfied voters? About the legislation that is being tabled right now to ensure that BC voters can choose to switch back after two elections if we don’t like the new system? We would be happy to collaborate on something educational like that! The fact is, our opponents control the ear of the media (and many of their paycheques as well).
I hope that answers your question regarding your challenge. The forces of “No” do not need nor deserve our help.
It’s truly unfortunate that the quality of the debate has declined to the point where voters don’t know who to trust. Hopefully they consider the source of the information they hear. On the “Yes” side, we have a group of citizens with nothing to gain but a vote that actually serves to elect someone they support.
On the “No” side, we have a hodgepodge of insiders with vested interests who have benefited from the current system. You may not like my characterization of the “No” leaders as “lobbyists, millionaires and Liberals”, Mel, but the shoe fits. The Liberal leader has gone so far as to pledge to do everything possible to see that pro rep isn’t implemented, even if most voters support it in the referendum! That’s democratic, isn’t it!
Electoral reform is a very personal matter for our interior MLAs. Since their party won 100% of the interior seats with only 50% of the vote, half of them would be out of a job if pro rep were adopted. Voters should let that sink in before taking what they say at face value.
I firmly believe that if we stick with First Past the Post, we will soon end up in the same mess in which our neighbours to the south now find themselves. You could argue that it’s already happening in parts of Canada. We have two provincial governments who were recently elected with far less than 50% support now promising to use the notwithstanding clause to override the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Indeed, a lot is riding on this referendum.
So, thanks, Mel, for coming into my constituency office today, to share your perspective. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. Do vote for me next time because, as you know, I work hard to represent ALL of my constituents. Have a great day!
PS: I do hope that you, as the Armchair Mayor, have made the same plea for balanced coverage to the “No” side – I notice they are a bit light on pro-PR content 😉. Actually, I was banned within 10 minutes from an opponent’s page for merely posting an inconvenient fact. Compared to the lively and diverse perspectives shared in our comment threads, the “No” side pages are a veritable desert for dissent.
Gisela Ruckert is President of Fair Vote Canada BC and Team Leader for Fair Vote Kamloops. www.fairvote.ca/pr4bc.