Andrew Wilkinson discusses proportional representation in Okanagan

B.C. Liberal leader addresses Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Predator Ridge

When you receive your proportional representation voting ballot in the mail, whatever you do, said B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson in Vernon Friday, don’t throw it away.

Wilkinson expects a mound of ballots to turn into recycling.

Speaking to about 40 people on proportional representation during a luncheon at Predator Ridge Resort, hosted by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, Wilkinson said to make sure you keep your ballot when it arrives in the mail.

British Columbians are being asked in a provincewide referendum on what voting system should be in place for provincial elections. The referendum is being held by mail Oct. 22 to Nov. 30. Registered voters will get a package in the mail, and Wilkinson estimates 3.5 million ballots will be sent out.

RELATED: Proportional representation means more B.C. parties, coalitions

“What we’re asking you to do, whether you’re pro or con on prop rep (proportional representation), is to make sure you keep that ballot, take it to work, take it to dinner with your friends, take it to Tim Hortons and wave it around,” said Wilkinson.

“Do not throw this away because millions of those ballots are going to go in the trash, be treated as junk mail, and community mailboxes and huge apartment buildings will be in mountains of these things. That’s a democratic failure.”

Wilkinson, who devoted his entire presentation Friday to the prop rep vote, said the concerns his Liberal party have is that the current system in place has worked for 147 years in B.C., 300 years in the United Kingdom, and provides for a lot of flexibility in government.

One of the key things, he said, is local representation. In the Vernon-Monashee riding, said Wilkinson, everybody knows current MLA Eric Foster, and in the Shuswap riding, everyone knows MLA Greg Kyllo, both Liberals and both in attendance Friday. If you like your MLA, said Wilkinson, you re-elect him. If you don’t, you kick him out.

RELATED: B.C. Premier John Horgan agrees to debate on new voting systems

“Along comes 2018 and we’re going to referendum. We ask why is this happening, what’s the demand for it,” said Wilkinson. “The demand is, (leader) Andrew Weaver and the Green Party has said he won’t support the NDP unless they get this shot at PR. They’d never have to campaign because they’d always get five to seven per cent of the vote, which would guarantee them something like four or 10 seats in the Legislature.

“Their concern is they’re not electing enough people. Those in favour of PR say we will have a fair voting system where the percentage of the vote is reflected in the number of members in the House. It sounds great in theory, but that’s a very mathematical approach to life.”

There will be four systems on the referendum ballot: the current and traditional first past the post; dual member proportional (DMP); mixed member proportional (MMP) and rural-urban proportional (RUP).

“Two have never been used anywhere in the world, one of the two is invented by a grad student at the University of Alberta that contains a complicated formula for reallocating rural and northern votes and nobody is able to explain it,” said Wilkinson. “MMP is used in one of the smallest and poorest countries in Africa, the poorest country in South America and Germany and New Zealand, where it’s been a fiasco.

“The balance of power is held by a goofy fringe party that didn’t actually elect anybody directly by their name, they were all chosen off the party list. The leader went behind closed doors, chose his buddies to be MPs and he’s now deputy prime minister of New Zealand.”

Wilkinson said the way the NDP has gone about bringing in the referendum has been “really, really manipulative to the point of being dishonest.” He encourages North Okanagan residents to get informed on proportional representation and to care about it.

“We’ve had a very functional society for 147 years,” said Wilkinson. “It works. We quibble about a lot of things but that’s why we have elections. Under this (PR) system, it transfers power from you the voter in selecting a person to entirely to the party bosses. They cut deals on the platform that you thought you were voting for; they decide who the MLAs will be and who to get in bed with to form these coalitions. It’s totally closed door, behind-the-scenes thing.”

Wilkinson added tongue in cheek it was very convenient for the NDP to schedule the referendum on the eve of the provincewide municipal elections Oct. 20.

“They don’t want people thinking about this and talking about it,” he said. “They have consciously suppressed the conversation and to me, that stinks. It should be a vibrant conversation. It should be a citizens’ decision, not parties manipulating what’s going on but that’s what the NDP is doing.”



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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