Today I step over journalism’s red line, into activism. I’ll volunteer with the citizen’s group Fair Vote to ask people to vote yes in the electoral reform referendum in British Columbia this month. I hope I can help debunk some myths.
In America Brett Kavanaugh would not be a top judge nor Donald Trump president, and in Britain Brexit would not be a thing, had they run in fair elections. Fairer elections are held in almost all first-world countries – except the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. We three use First Past the Post, where the winner doesn’t need a majority to take it all.
When 10 people order pizza under First Past the Post, and four ask for spinach, three want cheese, one desires fish and two like meat, everybody is forced to eat spinach. That’s great for spinach-lovers – until the next time, when the meat and cheese people gang up to force those down everyone’s throat.
If Canada elected our governments under proportional representation, Quebec’s Coalition Avenir Quebec, Ontario’s Doug Ford, Alberta’s New Democratic Rachel Notley, and Canada’s Liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau, would either not be in power, or have to temper their policies, work with others to get things done.
Cooperation is the essence of democracy – else why go to the effort? Far easier to anoint a king, or bow before a dictator. Since Europe’s Enlightenment people have waged wars for the right to think for ourselves, to have a measure of control over our own lives. Democracy is not some starry-eyed notion – it’s a proven way of life that people have fought and died for. And, it’s threatened.
Watching enraged opponents to Trump rise up in the US, watching marchers in my ancestral Scotland protest Brexit, awaiting the Ontario and Quebec protests in Canada, I’m thankful that in Western Canada that my standing at a table at the Kitsilano Farmer’s Market in Vancouver, to promote fair voting, counts as “activism.”
But this is a big change for me – and as an ethical journalist it will now bar me from reporting on electoral reform.*
Some Canadians think we have it good enough. Fine, but the danger of losing the good life is evident all around us, so let’s protect what we have, make it better. Some Canadians (I’m with them) think Canada can do better. Fair enough – let’s make it so.
The evidence from other countries with proportional representation is overwhelming: almost all have more stable governments, less debt, more competitive and sustainable economies, and a higher standard of living. There’s no guarantee things will be better in Canada under proportional representation – but if they’re not, BC has a safety valve: there will be another provincial referendum after two general elections under proportional representation.
British Columbia has a once-in-a-generation chance to revise how we’re governed. This time, let’s not miss our chance.
Official Elections British Columbia site for the 2018 Referendum on Electoral Reform: https://elections.bc.ca/referendum/
Fair Vote Canada citizen’s group Mythbusters page: https://www.fairvote.ca/category/mythbusters/
ProRep Factchecker (two independent experts provide the real facts, on a site set up by Fair Vote): https://prorepfactcheck.ca/
Fair Vote Canada website briefly taken down by cyber attack, radio news story about a troll attack on a fact-checking site https://www.radionl.com/2018/09/26/16513/
*Note: Reporters (unlike opinion writers) should aim to be as unbiased as possible. Reporting, like education, aims to provide the unvarnished facts and context people need to make wise choices in democracies and our daily lives. It’s the pillar of democracy, and I think we’d be in less trouble if more citizens supported real quality reporting and opinion journalism both, instead of falling for the “fake news” mantra being peddled by the trolls. But that’s for another post, another day.