PR vote a Christmas lump of coal

Thankfully, the long provincial nightmare is over.

The proportional representation referendum is done and now we can all breathlessly await the results, sure to be a lump of coal regardless of the outcome.

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Whoever wins will proclaim a great day for the province, proclaiming the power of the electorate. Whoever loses will insist the end is nigh.

Both sides behaved horribly throughout, spreading half-truths, misconceptions and illogical arguments meant to pump up themselves, portray their opponents as evildoers and confuse everyone else.

The PR proponents would have voters believe that PR will solve so many of B.C.'s political problems and voter apathy, all by having the number of seats a closer reflection of the popular vote. That's a basic logical fallacy around causation and correlation.

Are fewer people voting because of first past the post?

Are difficult issues not being addressed because of first past the post?

It's hard to pin both those questions on one cause, but that didn't stop the PR people from saying PR would fix both.

Same goes for their "but most of the rest of the civilized democracies use PR" argument.

Has voter participation improved in those countries and can that improvement be linked conclusively to PR? And even if the electorate is happier in places like Ireland, Italy and Norway, will that happiness translate to B.C.?

Same nonsense came from the anti-PR folks, with their fear mongering about fascists getting elected to the legislature (wow, that's some faith in the common sense of voters) and their circular complaints about reduced representation and complicated math.

Yes, the math can be complicated but does that make it wrong? Not necessarily.

And is reduced representation really a bad thing? Not necessarily. If Prince George had four MLAs in the legislature instead of two, would the city and surrounding area be worse or better off?

The referendum wasn't even necessary in the first place. John Horgan's NDP government could have arbitrarily changed the electoral system, with backing from the Greens.

Their leader, Andrew Weaver, urged Horgan to do it that way but Horgan insisted on a vote, which was wise. But a better choice for Horgan would have been to tell Weaver to forget about having a third provincial PR referendum in a 13-year span.

Weaver might have stomped his indignant little foot, but his other option was Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals.

Weaver's urging of Horgan to just change the electoral system to one that would have put as many as 15 Green MLAs in the legislature if that system had been in place for the spring 2017 election is the kind of shameless political power grab that creates voter apathy.

It seems once they all get elected, regardless of political stripe, the first order of business is to empower themselves, rather than their constituents.

If Horgan had followed Weaver's advice and just rammed electoral reform through the legislature, B.C. residents would have had a preview of what's currently happening south of the border in Wisconsin and Michigan.

In the U.S. midterm elections last month, those states tossed out their incumbent Republican governors and attorneys general in favour of Democrats. Before those Democrats are sworn in this coming January, Republican lawmakers in both states are trying to pass new laws that limit the powers of the governors and the attorneys general.

That's on top of the ridiculous gerrymandering that's been going on across the United States for years, where elected officials have changed the borders of their districts, dropping areas that vote against them and picking up areas that vote for them, in order to win re-election.

Seen another way, B.C.'s PR referendum was simply gerrymandering the votes, starting with changing the way the ballots were counted compared to the last two polls.

If it passes, Weaver and the Greens potentially secure a hold on the balance of power in B.C. for years to come.

Is that what voters saw when they looked at their ballot? Also hard to say.

The majority had their say, however, and made a choice in this referendum by not voting at all - probably because they thought it was a stupid thing to be arguing about, compared to finding and keeping a decent job, protecting the environment, accessing health care, education or other priorities.

If the referendum fails, the Horgan government can get back to work on those kinds of priorities, having wasted months of time, energy and money on this unnecessary vote.

If it passes, those priorities will be pushed aside in favour of legal challenges, political negotiations and more Weaver tomfoolery to fill in the blanks on all those missing details regarding riding size and composition that was missing before voters cast their ballots.

If that's the case, the nightmare's just getting started.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

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