Opinion » Editorial

Democracy: a lot of work, but worth the effort



Well, another municipal election has come and gone.

Finally, we're done with that incessant "go vote" messaging, imploring you to do your civic duty and cast a ballot.

Just kidding! Mayors and councillors across the province might be set for swearing-in ceremonies later this month, but on the heels of that vote is the referendum on electoral reform.

In recent weeks, Pique's inbox has been inundated with letters arguing whether to keep the current First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system or to change to proportional representation (PR). The issue seems to be a polarizing one—but in the middle of the heated debates are a large group of British Columbians trying to make sense of what, exactly, all this political jargon means.

Critics of PR might often be the ones who support political parties that tend to benefit from the status quo, but they make one valid argument about this mail-in vote: it's confusing.

First, British Columbians are being asked to answer not one but two questions (though they can choose just to answer the first if they like): Do you want to keep the First-Past-the-Post system or move to a system of proportional representation? Second, you have to rank the three types of proportional representation, which includes dual-member proportional, mixed-member proportional, and rural-urban proportional.

DMP, MMP, RUP, PR, FPTP—is your head spinning yet?

This editorial isn't meant to serve as an explainer of each electoral system; there are plenty of great videos, news articles and opinion pieces delving into the benefits and drawbacks of each just a click away.

Rather, here's the thing no one seems to want to admit: voting in this referendum takes a lot of effort. It means reading, researching and dedicating time that would otherwise be spent doing something you'd enjoy or completing some kind of obligatory task, delving into kind-of complicated political ideas.

That said, just like you were for the recent municipal elections, you should feel compelled to put thought into this process and mail in your ballot before Nov. 30.

Many people have been lamenting the low voter turnout for Whistler and Pemberton (including in this space last week), which was a pretty lousy 32.46 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively (compared to 47.8 per cent in Squamish).

It's easy to want to chastise people for being lazy or apathetic, but the truth is, like learning about electoral systems for the referendum, it took a lot of work in places like Whistler where there were 20 council candidates to consider.

Unlike a provincial or federal election, candidates ran as individuals without the help of a political party to indicate their core beliefs. Voters were required to research each candidate (unless they were incumbents or past councillors) and extrapolate on their listed priorities to determine how they might treat other issues.

When you have a full life—working multiple jobs or caring for children—that kind of spare time might not be abundant.

The good news for this upcoming vote, however, is that you have 30 days (depending on when the ballot arrives in your mailbox) to do your research and decide what kind of system you'd like to see.

As of this issue, Pique has written stories explaining all three types of proportional representation proposed and there's certainly been no shortage of columnists and members of the public weighing in via our letters section. (See related story on Page 20.)

My only other tip: be sure you take into consideration whether a piece is opinion—where a person will use selected facts to make an argument for one system or the other—or a fact-based news story.

While it's helpful to consider the opinions of others, ultimately the decision should be your own.

It might take more work, but it's worth the effort.