Last week, the BC government launched its public consultation on BC’s upcoming referendum on proportional representation. The answers the government receives from citizens across BC could shape the referendum question and choices on the ballot, so we'd like to invite you to respond - the more people who show an interest in this referendum, the more of a mandate the government has to act.
The good news: The government
is asking voters for input about the upcoming referendum: What
question(s) should the referendum ask? What systems should be on the
ballot? What values are important to you? This is an important opportunity to weigh
in and tell the government what kind of referendum you want.
The bad news: Because of ambiguities or misleading assumptions built into the survey, there are some potential traps that could cause reform supporters to inadvertently give opponents ammunition to use against reform.
If we want to succeed in this referendum, we need to make our voices heard and be smart about what we say.
Fair Vote Canada's BC team has analyzed the government's survey and wants to offer you some recommendations on how best to respond. These recommendations are based on extensive research into previous referendum experiences, particularly related to the eight electoral referendums on electoral reform that have been held previously in
Canada, the UK and New Zealand.
Fair Vote Canada's guide to the survey is at the link below - please read and share:
Fair Voting BC largely endorses FVC's recommendations, with the following additional comments:
Question 5 in the survey is the key one on guiding values. You are asked to pick your top five 'values'. Most of the statements in this question are either strongly or reasonably compatible with proportional voting systems, but we caution you to watch out for the following, which may be, or are likely to be, interpreted as expressing support for retaining our current system:
- "MLAs who focus primarily on the interests of their local community"
- "MLAs who focus primarily on what is best for the province as a whole"
- "A voting system that is easy to understand"
- "Single party majority governments where it is clear who is accountable for decisions"
Question 8 asks about the form of ballot you would prefer to see. We concur with FVC that the second answer has a lot of merit - ie, that more than one proportional voting system option appear on the ballot - as that will allow for a wider range of public debate. The third option also merits consideration - it proposes a question on the principle of proportional representation, followed by a process to select a system. This could work if the follow-on process was suitably arms-length from the government (eg, using some form of public deliberative process such as citizens' juries) - if you choose this option, we recommend you explain your reasons and expectations in Question 9. Finally, as FVC points out, there is no explicit option for a two-part question - please read their recommendation on this.
Question 16 should hopefully be pretty obvious - saying that you prefer "a few big parties" will be interpreted as being opposed to proportional voting. Better to answer "more small parties".
Question 17 sets up a strange dichotomy - do you prefer MLAs who do what their party promised or what their constituents want? It's not clear how this will be interpreted. Probably safer to answer "Prefer not to answer"
Question 19 - please read FVC's advice on this. "Prefer not to answer" is safest, but then use Question 24 to explain.
Question 21 is a very important question - it asks you to indicate which systems you'd like to see on the ballot. We recommend that you indicate at least STV and MMP (adding in Q24 that you do not want to see a closed list version of MMP), that you do not mark MMM (Mixed Member Majoritarian), which is more of a nod to proportionality than a real effort, and that you add "Local PR and Rural-Urban PR" under the "Other" category.
Question 24 - please read FVC's advice on this, and explicitly mention both Local PR and Rural-Urban PR again.
Share the FVC Guide on Facebook
Thanks for considering carefully your response to this survey. We look forward to achieving a voting system in BC that truly Makes Every Voter Count.