Former Liberal MLAs Doug Bing, second from left, and Marc Dalton, second from right, campaigned against proportional representation Saturday. (Contributed)

Proportional representation proposal a partisan problem

Liberals pound the pavement in Maple Ridge

The NDP and the Liberals are battling it out in the streets again, this time over the 2018 Referendum on Electoral Reform.

Two former Liberal MLAs joined in on the party’s “Super Saturday,” which took place on the weekend in opposition to changing B.C.’s electoral system and knocked on about 150 doors in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

“Most people, actually don’t know there’s a referendum going on,” said Doug Bing, former MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.

Former Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton was also there.

“Those who did, they were very glad to talk to us because they were so confused by the question and they didn’t understand what was being asked in the second question.”

Bing said people can understand the first question, which asked people if they support the current first-past-the-post system, where the candidate with the largest number of votes wins a riding, or if they wanted a proportional representation system.

But the second question, asking people to choose between three versions of proportional representati0n, confused many.

He estimated that fewer than half the people who answered their door knew there was a mail-in referendum going on.

“A lot of people are throwing it away in their junk mail.”

Bing said it is an unfair and confusing process designed to favour the NDP and that the 50-per-cent-plus-one threshold for victory and the rushed process are skewing it in favour of that party.

“You have to really ask, ‘Is this going to improve our democratic system?” Bing said.

Bing said that when the referenda on the single transferable vote took place in 2009 and 2005, he voted in favour because he knew what was being proposed and it made sense. The STV came from a citizen’s assembly which devised the system on a non-partisan basis.

This time around, Bing said he’s voting no.

Bing added that he could explain only one of the three systems being proposed in the mail-in referendum. He understands the mixed-member proportional system, in which people vote in an MLA who has the overall largest number of votes, in a riding.

In addition to that, under MMP, there would be other MLAs in the riding, who would be appointed, based on the overall percentage of votes each party receives.

The ridings would be larger and likely see the two Maple Ridge ones combined, with one MLA elected and another appointed, he said.

“Why do we want to have this appointment system? It’s going to change all sorts of things,” Bing added.

“[John] Horgan said he would have a simple yes or no question.”

Those opposed to proportional representation are also raising the spectre of extremist parties winning seats in the legislature.

Bing agreed, the ads that raised fears of neo Nazis taking power are exaggerated, but noted there are now 92 members of the right-wing Alternative fur Deutschland party in the German parliament, elected through proportional representation.

Bing maintained a non-partisan group should make a proposal for electoral reform and said he had no idea how the public feels, although the advantage usually falls to the government.

The mail-in referendum takes place between Oct. 22 and Nov. 30.

However, NDP Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith, said there’s been a “huge uptake” on the issue on social media and defended the 50-per-cent-plus-one threshold that will allow a win in the referendum, saying that’s how democracy generally works. He plans on knocking on doors this week to explain the proposal.

“It’s not working that way right now when you have 40 per cent of the vote leading to 100 per cent of the power. That’s certainly not democratic in the sense of the present system we have and that’s the whole point of this,” D’Eith said.

D’Eith described the No-side’s threat of neo-Nazis gaining power through proportional representation as fear mongering, adding that the requirement for a party to have five per cent of the total vote, in order to get a seat in the legislature, will make it difficult for fringe parties to gain seats.

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