Sunday, January 14, 2018

NO BC Proportional Representation Society brings together political opponents to fight Pro-Rep in BC fall referendum

Bill Tieleman and Suzanne Anton - at CBC Radio launch day

No to Proportional Representation in BC

I am pleased to share our first news release of the campaign to stop Proportional Representation in BC and keep our current electoral system - First Past The Post - that has served British Columbia well. 

NEWS RELEASE                                                                Wednesday January 10, 2018

Former Attorney General Suzanne Anton, ex NO-STV President Bill Tieleman, and retired veteran deputy minister Bob Plecas set up new society to fight Proportional Representation in 2018 vote

Former BC Liberal Attorney General Suzanne Anton, long-time BC New Democrat Bill Tieleman – who successfully led opposition to the Single Transferable Vote electoral system in the 2005 and 2009 provincial referenda, and Bob Plecas, who served as a deputy minister in multiple portfolios under several BC governments – have formed the No BC Proportional Representation Society and serve as its three directors.
Bob Plecas
The Society will work to defeat any proportional representation system proposed for the fall 2018 referendum schedule and support the current First Past The Post electoral system that has served BC well.

Anton, Tieleman and Plecas say that proportional representation systems put political parties ahead of voters; are confusing; cut directly accountable locally-elected representation – especially in rural areas – and promote extremist parties who can hold the balance of power in perpetual minority governments, and decide who governs, and with what policies.

“Proportional representation electoral systems put parties ahead of people,” said Anton.  “Pro-rep systems where 30 to 40 per cent of elected officials come from a party-chosen list means that party bosses choose legislators and not people. Those legislators are not from geographic ridings and are not accountable to citizens.”

Tieleman says the rise of extremist parties in Europe is aided by proportional representation, since as little as 1 per cent of the vote is enough to elect legislators.

“Our First Past The Post electoral system forces winning candidates to gain the support of their ridings and be held directly accountable to them or face defeat,” says Tieleman.  “But proportional representation systems allow parties with extreme positions of the right or the left to be elected with a tiny percentage of votes – and then use that validity, legitimacy and platform to further their cause.”

Plecas says his experience working with governments ranging from Social Credit Premier Bill Bennett to NDP Premier Glen Clark showed him that the First Past The Post system serves British Columbia well, whatever their politics.

“Our current electoral system encourages parties to gain broad-based support and take into account all regions of the province and all perspectives – or face defeat,” Plecas said.  “It is particularly important that non-urban voters have locally elected representatives who they can hold responsible – and ensure their interests are not lost in a rush to gain urban votes.”

Tieleman and Plecas both helped organize opposition to the Single Transferable Vote proposed in the 2005 and 2009 referenda, building a wide coalition with support from all political perspectives.  In 2005, STV was narrowly defeated but in 2009 after a much more significant public debate, voters strongly rejected STV, a form of proportional representation, by 61 per cent to 39 per cent.

Tieleman, who also helped lead opposition to the Harmonized Sales Tax that was eliminated in a 2011 referendum, warns that the 2018 electoral system referendum will be a difficult test for those who support the First Past The Post.

“The requirement in 2005 and 2009 that 60 per cent of voters approve of such a fundamental change is now gone and only 50 per cent plus one could give us a disastrous electoral system with endless minorities, backroom deals and unaccountable politicians forever,” Tieleman said.  

“We have our work cut out for us to defeat proportional representation and not end up like Italy, Israel, Austria or other countries where the electoral system promotes extremists and damages democracy.”

Anton agreed, saying the No BC Pro-Rep will encourage British Columbians from every perspective and community to join together to reject proportional representation.

“I’m pleased to work with Bill Tieleman because this referendum is too important for partisan politics,” Anton said. “We will be building a strong, non-partisan team that supports our current electoral system and rejects a system that puts parties ahead of people.”

Plecas, Tieleman and Anton say No BC Pro-Rep will seek to be the official proponent group opposing proportional representation and supporting First Past The Post in the provincial referendum, and that they support equal public funding for both sides.

“Voters need to hear the arguments for and against proportional representation and First Past The Post in order to decide for themselves what’s best for BC,” Plecas said. “The most effective way to do that is by the government ensuring fair, adequate and equal funding to both sides for public awareness campaigns, as well as sponsoring debates around the province.”