Letter: What is an evidence-based argument?

An evidence-based argument can be checked by others.

As the mail-in referendum on Proportional Representation draws nearer, voters are reading and hearing a great deal of information about our current voting system, called First Past the Post, and a new system called Proportional Representation.

Ballot packages will be distributed and returned by B.C. voters between Oct. 22 and Nov. 30. It has become increasingly clear to me that voters are going to have to evaluate the arguments and statements made when reading the “Letters to the Editor” in their local papers across the province. Not all arguments are created equal. Many arguments contain generalizations, assertions, speculations and misinformation as opposed to facts. Some examples: “First Past the Post works fine.”

That is a value statement so cannot be judged by facts. It works fine for some people but definitely does not work for many others.

“The change will be decided by a 50%+1 vote which is unfair.” A 50% threshold is fair — it makes votes for and against change count equally.

This threshold was set by the previous government in the Referendum Act in 2008 and was used in the 2011 HST referendum.

“The ballot is too complicated for voters.” From the voter’s perspective, it’s actually much LESS complicated. You figure out which candidate(s) align with your values, and you vote from them, knowing that your vote will have a 90% chance of electing someone. Under our current First Past the Post system, you have to figure out which parties stand a chance in your riding, then ask all your friends which way they’re leaning so you can vote strategically. Even then, you only have a 50% chance of seeing your ballot elect someone.

“Extremists will get elected.” Only with our current system can a party with “extreme views” gain 100% of the power with a minority of the vote. “Proportional Representation results in fragile, dysfunctional coalition governments.” Actually, some of Canada’s very best policies in history have come about because of minority governments and with cooperation between parties. Some examples are Universal Health Care, Canada Pension Plan, Canada Student Loans, our Maple leaf flag, labour legislation like the 40 hour work week and two weeks vacation…to name just a few. I could go on and on but you get the idea.

So what is an evidence-based argument? An evidence-based argument can be checked by others. It sets out the criteria for judgement clearly using facts and examples. Most importantly, an evidence-based argument is not produced by a vested interest that directly benefits from it.

If you would like factual information about Proportional Representation before you receive your ballot you can go to PR4BC/Fair Vote Canada or attend a short presentation about the many benefits of Proportional Representation at the Okanagan Regional Library on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.

Jane Weixl, Fair Vote Vernon

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