A statement in the B.C. Legislature on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 on the recent municipal election campaign and the current referendum on proposed electoral change.
P. Milobar: It gives me pleasure to rise and make a statement today around voter suppression. I thank the Third Party for not addressing this last Monday. It gives me the opportunity to address it maybe in a little more detail than we would have had the opportunity if it had actually come forward last Monday.
Issues around voter turnout, I think, are critical to any level of government that we have in this country. It’s very important, I think, that members of this assembly and all elected bodies take steps to try to drive voter turnout on any issue, on any topic, at any time that the public has an opportunity to try to get out and exercise their franchise.
When we look at just a few short weeks ago with Remembrance Day services around the province and what that means to people and the sacrifices that were made by so many people and so many families in this country and around the world in several different conflicts, to make sure that we have that ability to get out and exercise our right to vote, I think it’s very important that we do make sure, moving forward, that all efforts are taken.
One of the most critical things is that people (a) need awareness that there is actually some sort of an event being undertaken that requires their vote, and (b) that they had confidence in the process that’s being brought out and that the rules are very clear to people and that the steps that they should take to be able to get the information that they need to base themselves and have an informed vote is very important.
On the making sure that people understand there’s even an election…. It doesn’t take much to look at our most recent municipal campaign, where there was a very low voter turnout again, in fact lower in several parts of the province than previously. This in spite of the fact that there were several open mayor chairs around the province and in the Metro Vancouver area. One, I think, in direct line understand there’s even an election….
It doesn’t take much to look at our most recent municipal campaign, where there was a very low voter turnout again, in fact lower in several parts of the province than previously. This in spite of the fact that there were several open mayor’s chairs around the province and in the Metro Vancouver area.
One, I think, can draw a direct line to the change that started to heavily restrict what people could fundraise in terms of an overall campaign, when it comes to municipal elections. Now, we had already seen that there was a cap on what they could spend on a municipal campaign. The problem was that there was a cap also put on what you could personally put into your campaign, which resulted in many people, instead of being able to spend a reasonable sum of money….
I’m not talking about making sure that there were no more corporate dollars in there. That was a totally understandable and an appropriate step to take. It’s unfortunate that there were still loopholes left in the legislation that allowed unions to fully step up — and gear up for good times, as always, in an election — but made sure that we hammered down on anything to do with the corporate world.
However, when you look at what it resulted in…. Certainly, in Kamloops’s case there were fewer signs out than ever before. Some may say that was a great service to eyesight pollution, but in actual fact, signage does help people understand that there is something going on that they should probably start to turn their heads to, for a campaign. Certainly, the more signs you have out, that does start to really build for people.
My experience has been, in municipal campaigns in Kamloops — and I’m sure it’s the same way around the province — that although it seems to be a bit of an eyesore for that three or four weeks that the signs are out in earnest, the signs are removed. If the election is on a Saturday, they’re usually gone by Sunday or Monday at the latest. There’s a very quick up-and-down process of the signage.
But with the new rules that were brought in by the government, unfortunately, we didn’t see that to any great degree. We didn’t see very much advertising happening around the province — very sporadic, especially in communities the size of Kamloops and the like. As a result, we see a lower voter turnout, which really does lend itself to that whole concept around voter suppression.
When you look at what’s happening with the referendum on proportional representation, I would suggest that it’s very clear that there’s a very big lack of confidence in this process. There’s a very big body of confusion out there around this process, and that really does start to chip away at the public’s ability and wanting to engage in a process when they start to have serious fundamental questions about process and information available to them.
When you look at just the contradictory statements that have been made by the Premier and even the Leader of the Third Party when it comes to the confidence and supply agreement, and the ability to walk away from promises made in those documents or promises made at an election time around a single vote or single yes-or-no question, it’s very easy to see why the public would get very cynical over this process and start to detach themselves from it and start to, unfortunately, fall back on their preconceived stereotypes that they may have around politicians.
I know the politicians, the members, of this Legislature to be of very high character, regardless of political stripe. But unfortunately, there is that overarching belief by the public. So when you hear things like, “Take a leap of faith,” or statements like, “Don’t worry about it,” from the Premier, when you hear statements from the Premier saying that an all-party committee — which, in actual fact, is dominated by the Third Party and the government, and they will have the majority rule to set any rules moving forward after you vote — it’s not hard to see why people would start to detach and get very concerned and really stop engaging.
That’s what we’re seeing with the low voter turnout that we’ve seen. When you see the Premier make statements at the Electoral Boundaries Commission that an independent body will suddenly be making these types of decisions, that’s really not what will happen. The Electoral Boundaries Commission will be tasked with setting up boundaries of ridings, of course, and they will work within however many MLAs have been capped and deemed by the government and the Third Party, but they won’t actually be figuring out any of the other two dozen types of issues that the public would like to have answers about.
When the Premier insinuates to people that the independent body will actually be the one making all these decisions, it adds further confusion to the whole process, because in actual fact, they won’t be. That’s really at the core of this. I think that in order to make sure we drive a high voter turnout and have people engaged in a process, they need to have confidence in the institution providing the information, moving forward. They have to have confidence in the leaders that have been elected, who are standing up and saying: “This is the process we’re laying out, and this is actually what will happen.”
Instead, what we have seen, time and again, with this referendum, is that it’s anything but. I think we’re seeing that when you see practically unanimous commentary across the media spectrum on these types of issues, that even takes the politics side out of it and really does, I think, convey what the average person is seeing, hearing and feeling time and again, with this referendum, is that that’s anything but. I think we’re seeing it when you see practically unanimous commentary across the media spectrum on these types of issues, that even takes the politics side out of it and really does, I think, convey what the average person is seeing, hearing and feeling.
It’s being conveyed by the media out there, as well, that in fact, there is so much confusion that, of course, we’re seeing low voter turnout. Of course we’re seeing that when it comes to mail-in ballot.
Source: BC Hansard.