A small rally against proportional representation was interrupted by a smaller counter-rally over the weekend, with each side questioning the tactics and facts relied upon by their counterparts.
About a dozen people were out in Abbotsford’s historic downtown Saturday to mark their opposition and support for proportional representation in the B.C. legislature.
Opposition attendees extolled the lack of information from the provincial government on the three PR choices on the ballot, while the proponents of PR took aim at what they say is ignorance and fear-mongering from the opposition.
It started as a rally against electoral reform put on by first-past-the-post proponents in B.C. Liberal MLA Simon Gibson’s office, but was met with a counter-rally by a few supporters of proportional representation, volunteers with Fair Vote Canada.
“I see a rally is spontaneously happening because they’re afraid of proportional representation ‘threatening democracy,’” said pro-PR attendee Nate Loewen, referring to an article in the Oct. 26 edition of The News ahead of the rally, which he called “very offensive.”
“We’re here to provide facts and clear information of what the ballot is actually about. It’s not about implementing a system that Italy has or that Israel has or that any other scary system has, where there’s no local accountability. All three systems provide local accountability,” Loewen said.
“You keep your local MLA and you get extra, additional MLAs to represent the multiple perspectives in each region, allowing each region to have the full representation in government, according to the votes.”
Colin Reimer, who organized the anti-PR rally, said there had been some healthy discussion between the counter-rallies on Saturday.
“That’s really what this is all about, is talking to people about the fact that their vote matters,” Reimer said.
Reimer said his main opposition to the upcoming referendum is the lack of transparency on a variety of still-unresolved issues.
The public is being asked to decide whether to continue with the current voting system or one of three forms of proportional representation. That includes rural-urban, multi-member and dual-member.
The “no” side has largely hung its opposition on the aspects of those three forms of PR that will be decided by the electoral boundaries commission and a legislative committee after the referendum.
That includes issues like the size of riding boundaries, whether people vote for one or two representatives, and the ratio of regional to local MLAs, among others.
“A guy I know over in Mission, who’s a huge supporter of proportional representation … he’s voting no on this referendum, because this referendum really isn’t about proportional representation,” Reimer said.
“It’s about writing a blank cheque to the current government to rewrite our voting system. That’s really what it’s all about.”
Information on all four voting systems can be found at elections.bc.ca/referendum.
Mail-in ballots are expected to be arriving in Abbotsford by the end of this week, and they are due back by Nov. 30.