Citizens who vote in B.C.’s referendum on proportional representation (PR) should be wary of fear mongering. Recent opinion letters by authors eager to maintain the political status quo are cases in point. Keith Maxwell (“Democracy at risk,” Nov. 2) claims that we are “guinea pigs in a dangerous experiment” and that PR is a “confidence trick” somehow comparable to “live chemical warfare experimentation.” This inflammatory language is not conducive to a healthy debate.
Buzz Bennett (“System isn’t broken,” Nov. 2) likens the choices in the referendum to “throwing a dart with one’s eyes blindfolded.” According to him, we are being asked to evaluate options “without any of us really having any information or knowledge as to how each method might work.” In reality, a wealth of print and online information exists, with diagrams and videos, to help voters decide.
These writers claim that the current system functions well in B.C. and Canada. During the 2011 federal election, the Conservative Party won just 39.6 per cent of the votes but 53.9 per cent of the seats. This enabled Stephen Harper’s majority government to pass a massive and unfettered omnibus bill. Scientists, doctors in Alberta concerned about the health effects of the tar sands, members of his own party and non-profit organizations opposed to his policies were silenced.
The referendum is an attempt at progressive democratic reform, not a sinister plot. Some version of it is used in 87 nations, including highly stable countries such as Switzerland. In 1993 New Zealand voted for PR amidst the same sort of controversy we are experiencing. Popular support was reaffirmed in a follow-up referendum in 2011.
Whichever way people vote during the coming weeks, I hope it will be based upon a rational analysis of the issue, not misinformation and hyperbole.
Richard Carton, Sechelt