IN THE LEDGE – A poetic dissertation on what’s wrong with the referendum

MLA Mike de Jong in the Ledge.

Debate in the Legislature Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 on the referendum on electoral change, with Opposition members questioning Premier John Horgan on a date for a televised debate with Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson:

P. Milobar: It’s one thing to agree. It’s another thing to have so little prioritization in your scheduling that it takes over two weeks to come up with a date. I would note that the Premier had no problem getting on a plane to go to Washington to pick up a cheque for $165,000 on a moment’s notice but wasn’t so quick to come up with a debate date.

I asked myself: why would the Premier be ducking away from a date so much? I remembered a quote from — very highly regarded in these circles — A Matter of Confidence, a lovely book. In it, it says: “He earned the nickname ‘Asphalt Gopher’ for his tendency, when hit, to drop to the ground.”

Yesterday the Premier showed that he hadn’t changed, because he said: “I pick no fights with anyone.” That seems to be very apparent, Mr. Premier. When will the Premier set a date for this debate? Enough is enough.

Hon. J. Horgan: My pugnacious pal from North Kamloops has the same problem as the Leader of the Opposition. I’ve agreed to debate the member in November. We’re working with the networks to find a day. I can’t believe that they want to characterize my not being able to find a particular time to talk about something that’s before this House right now. It’s staggering to me. I stood right here and put my views forward on proportional representation. Why won’t you?

Mr. Speaker: Kamloops–North Thompson on a supplemental.

P. Milobar: What’s before the House is actually a bill that’s trying to change the rules of the referendum mid-referendum, but that could be all hammered out in the middle of a public debate. The Premier has many things that he could answer during the debate.

Again, if the Premier wants people to take his great leap forward…. Oops. Sorry. That was Chairman Mao that said that. If the Premier wants people to take his leap of faith, why are so many important details unknown? What is he hiding? Which is it? Is the Premier not picking a debate date because of all of the hidden details, or is he not picking a debate date because he’s afraid of the format?

Hon. J. Horgan: Okay. Let me get this right. Now I’m afraid of the format. First of all, I won’t look at my calendar to pick a day. Now my learned colleague from Kamloops reads, chapter and verse, the quarterback for QP’s question for the day. I think they should give up on this question. Happy to debate you. As soon as the networks give us a time, I’ll see you there.

M. de Jong: Twenty-nine separate issues and details that the people of British Columbia need to make an informed choice that this Premier and his government refuse to provide them with. How is that having confidence in British Columbians?

I remember a different Premier. I was thinking about this last night. Maybe a poetic dissertation on what’s wrong with this:

He once stood tall, said he’d tell all

but now he’s changed his tune.

He won’t disclose the facts, you see,

because facts will be his ruin.

He cut a deal in green ink to grab the Premier’s chair.

Manipulate the vote, will he, to keep it.

That’s what he cares about.

Party lists and riding size, people need to know,

but the Premier doesn’t care, you see. Into the dark you go.

He’s turned this vote into a sham.

I’m not surprised. That was the plan.

But on this day and in this place

provide some facts. End this disgrace.

Hon. J. Horgan: I was hopeful that perhaps proportional representation would have helped that member become leader, but he came fifth under first-past-the-post. It does lead me to think of a limerick that I will save for another day, perhaps in private with the member.

I can only now assume, based on that question, that the real reason that the B.C. Liberals want a televised debate is so we can all see the Leader of the Opposition do interpretative dance to explain his support of first-past-the-post.

T. Stone: With such a flawed process, it is increasingly easy to understand why so many British Columbians are frustrated and angry at this entire sham of a referendum. There’s no regional approval. No minimum turnout. No simple yes-no question. A mail-in ballot on top of the municipal elections. No citizens’ assembly. No maps. And 29 details to be determined after the vote. And, of course, the promise of a second referendum do-over.

Folks across British Columbia are feeling like the NDP and the Greens are trying to pull a fast one on them. The Premier seems intent to hide every critical detail possible from British Columbians as part of this entire process. Our democracy is much, much better than this.

Will the Premier agree to a date — that’s the question today — to debate the Leader of the Opposition on the mockery of this referendum? Or does the Premier lack the guts to defend his referendum?

Hon. J. Horgan: Another reference to my midriff. I think, clearly, my suits are ill-fitting if it’s of that much import to those on the other side.

Today’s question is: pick a date. That’s what I just heard from the member for Kamloops–South Thompson. Pick a date. That’s what the member for Richmond-Queensborough has come up with to take the government to task. “Pick a date when I can get on a network so that my leader can do interpretative dance.” That’s the question for today.

As I said weeks ago, happy to do it. As soon as we get the date nailed down, I’m looking forward to seeing the Leader of the Opposition on stage.

Mr. Speaker: The member for Kamloops–South Thompson on a supplemental.

T. Stone: In this Referendum on Electoral Reform, the most sacred aspect of our democracy — that being how we actually elect the members who sit in this chamber on behalf of British Columbians — the Premier has conveniently and purposely chosen to direct people to go to Google to get information. He’s called on British Columbians to take this great leap of faith. “You’ll get a do-over referendum if things don’t work out,” he says. His government has engaged in outright attempts to manipulate the results of this referendum.

Now our leader, the Leader of the Opposition, has got the guts and the courage to debate in prime time with the Premier. Yet all we hear from the Premier are excuses, which continue to this day — excuse after excuse after excuse.

It’s not a time to be timid, Mr. Premier. It’s not right to show such contempt for the people of British Columbia, the voters of British Columbia. When will you agree to a specific date to debate this critical question in front of British Columbians?

Hon. J. Horgan: Again, I’m perplexed. The member on the other side, who also would have come in, I think, second under first-past-the-post…. No. Third. I’m sorry. Number two is right beside you there.

It was okay for the B.C. Liberal Party to use proportional representation to select their leader. I can understand buyer’s remorse at this point. I realize that. But that is not a reason to withhold the opportunity for British Columbians to make their choice on how they elect people to this House. That’s what the referendum is all about.

During the clone speech period of the evolution of the B.C. Liberals, they were all in favour of a referendum on proportional representation. I don’t know what happened. What happened? Come on, man. Stick with the program and go from there.

Hon. Speaker, today’s question of the day was: pick a date. We will have a date. The opposition leader will have an opportunity to put his views forward. He chooses not to use the Legislative Assembly of the province of British Columbia to do that. These cameras apparently aren’t good enough. The ratings aren’t high enough. It sounds Trump-like: “I don’t like the ratings, so I’m not going on.”

No fake news in here. Just passion and reasoned debate. That’s why we have the Legislature. Why the Leader of the Opposition refuses to stand up, I don’t know.

Source: BC Hansard

About Mel Rothenburger (7618 Articles) 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 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.

6 Comments on IN THE LEDGE – A poetic dissertation on what’s wrong with the referendum

  1. Proportional Representation means more taxes for you and I and every other British Columbian. P.R. will add up to 9 more MLA’s. MLA Salary and Benefits +$150,000/year minimum, Office staff, office expenses, per diems, meals, travel, economic junkets, accommodation. etc, etc easily adds up to $750,00 to $1,000,000 per MLA and don’t tell me we are going to be better representation. We are going to get more Government; which ain’t always a good deal for your average tax payer.

  2. Ian M MacKenzie // October 24, 2018 at 7:14 AM // Reply

    I see this verbal sparring as a pretty feeble effort on the part of the MLA’s in the house to protect their jobs. The question is simple. Do we want to continue with FPTP and continue disenfranchising the majority of voters or do we want to change to Pro-rep which redistributes votes in a different and fairer fashion by giving the same value to every vote. 40% of the votes gets 40% of the seats. A simple idea that doesn’t have to be debated. Do we believe in representative democracy for all or just for the preferred and moneyed few? I’ve just finished sealing my ballot envelope; it’ll go in the mail today; and that will be one vote closer to achieving Pro-rep.

  3. Thanks for posting, Mel. Surely anyone who reads can see what a farce the “debates” in our Legislature are. If this isn’t an indictment of First Past the Post, I don’t know what is. Proportional representation means more substantive debate and less partisan attacks. What does it say about First Past the Post that politics has become a sport, where the goal is to score points against an opponent, rather than cooperate to create good policy that benefits all British Columbians? I can’t wait until we kick this medieval voting system to the curb. Let’s let in the light — bring on Proportional Representation!

    • Mel Rothenburger // October 23, 2018 at 9:50 PM // Reply

      And yet, Premier Horgan keeps dragging his feet on a televised debate, insisting the best place to debate proportional representation is in the Legislature.

      • Grouchy 1 // October 24, 2018 at 7:26 AM //

        Seems to me Mel, that they are waiting on the TV networks to free up a date & time for the debate. How is this Horgan dragging his feet ?

  4. Any news on the money laundering at the Casinos’? What’s the poetry there? I think there is a need for some heavenly deity for all repentants but the first step is a little “mea culpa”…

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