Locals are mulling over their proportional representation ballots, but the discourse around the province’s election referendum appears to be about as clear as the West Coast’s foggy fall sky.
Mail-in voting packages are arriving to Tofino and Ucluelet P.O Boxes asking residents whether they would like B.C.’s electoral system to change from the current ‘first past the post’ system to a new proportional representation model. A second, optional, portion of the ballot goes on to ask voters what type of proportional representation they would like to see out of three proposed options—dual member proportional, mixed member proportional or rural-urban proportional representation—though voters can simply answer the first question and leave the second one blank.
The options being presented seem to be a source of frustration for locals who are struggling to understand what they’re voting for.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” Ucluelet resident Kyle Deakin told the Westerly News.
He said he would like to see a change to B.C.’s current voting system, but can’t see the benefits of the options on the ballot.
“The first past the post system is old and outdated and we seem to have gotten to a point now, especially in the past two elections, where it’s all about strategic voting…I don’t like that,” he said.
“What I don’t quite understand is how will changing the voting system make things any better for us here in the province…I have a hard time to finding the benefits to voting, ‘Yes.’ As I’m reading about all these different kinds of options that were given, I don’t really see what would make it beneficial.”
Resident, and former Ucluelet councillor, Geoff Lyons told the Westerly he will be emphatically voting, ‘No’ on his ballot.
“It’s too convoluted for me to even understand it fully,” he said. “Until someone gives me a clarified option, I’m going to say, ‘No. Come back to us when you’ve figured out what you really want.'”
Lyons fears the options on the ballot leave too much wiggle-room for interpretation and added that he would prefer to see a neutral party organizing the referendum, rather than the provincial government.
“It’s open ended. They’re saying, ‘Trust us and we’ll figure out how to do it,’ and I don’t trust anybody in government, no matter what their calling is, to do something right,” he said.
“They need to spell it out completely instead of saying, ‘Trust us to make the decision after you give us the mandate.’ Without knowing what the mandate is, it’s not proper politics.”
Ellen Hunter-Perkins agrees that the process the government has laid out is frustrating, but said she is an adamant ‘Yes,’ vote and is encouraging others to “give change a chance.”
“I’m really frustrated that they gave us those options because proportional representation itself is quite simple. You vote for a party and the proportion of people that vote for a party in B.C. is how much power they have in government,” she said. “To me, proportional representation is the most fair governmental system for voting we’ve ever been offered…I feel like, if I can help get proportional representation in as our voting system, then I can finally vote for who I want to vote for and I don’t have to vote strategically.”
The 28 year old Ucluelet resident is part of a group of local proportional representation fans who are hosting a barbecue at Ucluelet’s Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Club, 1708 Peninsula Road, on Nov. 7 from 5-7 p.m. to help spread awareness of the referendum.
“If I’m going to put energy into one thing right now, it’s going to be to get people to vote for proportional representation,” she said. “I think it’s going to be huge. I think, with time, it will make people feel like they have a say in how issues pan out more than they do right now…For me, when I look at the way our voting system works right now, I feel like I can have a say, but I could have a far greater say if we had proportional representation.”
She said she’s encouraging people to vote, ‘Yes,’ for the change to propositional representation, but not to pick either option on the ballot’s second portion if they don’t feel confident doing so.
“You actually don’t have to choose an option if you are unsure about which one is the best,” she said. “The key message is that they’re proportional and it’s a much fairer system.”