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Whistler Question

June 10, 2004

Summary: Whistler Canada considering replacing current electoral system with PR.

Whistler Question
'Proportional' Voting Favoured, Opposed
 June 10, 2004

The idea of replacing B.C. current electoral system with a mixed
proportional representation (PR) one is not an easy decision to weigh.
These sentiments were evident at the public hearing hosted by the Citizens Assembly last Thursday, June 3, when Whistler and Pemberton residents gathered at the Telus Conference Centre.

After hearing from five speakers who offered insights into the various
forms of mixed PR, some of the information was straightforward while other information confused some audience members.

Doug Morrison gave an impressive and extensive presentation on mixed-member PR that included discussion of preferential balloting and weighing riding MLA voting in the legislature according to riding population.

Are you getting this? one Whistler resident inquired during Morrisons talk.

As with anything new, fully grasping the five different PR systems that the
Citizens Assembly is being asked to consider for a possible revision of
B.C.s electoral system will require some study and further investigation.

However, much like the announcement that the world was indeed round, not flat, the exploration of PR that is already used in most first-world
countries may give voters a more realistic version of a democratic system.

PR doesn't produce as much simplicity as our present system, Whistler
resident Rupert Merer said in his presentation on the merits of minority
governments. Democracy isn't always easy Like Churchill said, It is not very good, but it is the best thing we have.

The Citizens Assembly is a non-partisan group of 160 B.C. residents chosen at random. The group will look at electoral reform and not just make a recommendation to the government, but if the assembly feels its necessary, carry the question to a province-wide referendum.

Starting in January, the group spent three months learning about
alternative electoral systems to the current one and now is conducting
public hearings all over B.C. The group will then deliberate and make a
recommendation to the province in mid-December.

Less than two dozen people attended the Citizens Assembly in Whistler.
Blame the sunny evening, peoples lack of interest in participating in their
political system, peoples decision to give up on a system they don't see
working  all of these issues were addressed in the various speeches.

Sara Jennings said that if a PR system is introduced, more people will

Most people don't feel their votes count unless they vote for a major party, she said.

If votes somehow resembled their views, they would vote more. That is why a lot of younger people don't vote because they feel like (the situation) is hopeless.

She also opposes the current system because it often results in strategic

People vote against people they don't want to get in, she said. This isn't
democratic, because they are not giving the vote for the party they would
really like to vote for.

Merer said he hasnt voted in a provincial election since 1978. He said he
feel s spoiling his ballot is meant to show his frustration with the system
and help bring about change.

He drew on the title of Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpsons book The Friendly Dictatorship to describe Canada.

Unfortunately, (the current system) doesnt lead to a government-led
political system, but leads to a political system totally dominated by the
Prime Minister, he said.

It leads to a five-year dictatorship where a premier or prime minister has
absolute power over everything.

He said the U.S. has checks and balances to keep president in check and that the president cannot call the election time. Canada has none of these, he said, and therefore, the political system operates more as a
dictatorship than a democracy.

Merer said that if anyone wants to influence political decisions, he or she
rarely bothers with the back bencher MLA, but have to go straight to the
cabinet to bring about meaningful change.

It is sad (that in) our system (our MLAs) dont have influence anymor e, he said.

Citizens may still voice opinions on the topic by logging on to the
assembly's website,

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