One coalition killing another

Legislative reporter votes no to voting changes

Now that the B.C. NDP-Green coalition has engineered the looting of the public treasury to replace union and corporate money for political parties, it is moving on to tilt the electoral system to favour its urban support base and prop up smaller parties.

That’s the essential strategy for the electoral reform referendum being pushed through by Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby. It’s rigged, or as Eby calls it, “hard wired” to shift political power to cities and away from rural B.C., to the benefit of the urban coalition and its professional environmentalist allies.

“Proportional representation” is the core demand of B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver, and it’s easy to see why. This change would double or even triple the number of Green seats, based on current voting patterns.

It is the one issue that could cause the three-member Greens to withdraw support from the NDP and trigger an election. “It’s who we are,” Weaver likes to say, and he’s right. The Greens are a fringe party aiming to join the establishment. And this, along with millions of taxpayer dollars, is how they mean to do it.

Weaver didn’t even want the public to have a say. In the intense, closed-door negotiations to support the NDP minority and topple the B.C. Liberals in July, he conceded to have the voting system put to a referendum. We now know the deal included the key condition that the referendum be decided by a simple majority of those who actually vote, regardless of region or turnout.

When this formula was revealed in early November, I asked Horgan if he is prepared to let Metro Vancouver decide to change the voting system for all. Half of B.C.’s population lives there, and it certainly makes campaigning easier when you can ignore most of a province that’s twice as big as Germany.

I have his answer on video, from Nov. 8. Horgan noted that whenever electoral boundaries are reviewed, preserving rural representation across a vast, thinly populated area is a strong demand.

“It’s fundamental to British Columbians, and I’m committed to make sure that happens,” Horgan told me. This is the next promise I expect him to break, after that one before the May election where he said taxpayers wouldn’t have to finance political parties they don’t support.

How much of your money do they get? Based on current voting patterns, the NDP and Greens will split as much as $18 million over the five-year renewable term of their just-passed public subsidy law. The B.C. Liberals, if they accept it, would collect about $12 million from a system that starts paying in January at $2.50 per vote in the last election.

Other fringe parties can get on the gravy train. The B.C. Conservatives should revive, if they can refrain from knifing their latest leader and burning their own house down, as is their recent style. Communists could win a seat in the B.C. legislature, perhaps joined by one of those hard-right anti-immigration parties that are flourishing in Europe.

This of course threatens the life of B.C.’s long-running governing coalition, the one that used to call itself Social Credit and now goes by the name B.C. Liberals. Killing that is another goal of the NDP-Greens.

We don’t even know yet what the multiple referendum questions will be. Eby is “consulting” on that and then will be the “neutral arbiter,” or so he says.

There must be a yes-no question on whether to change the voting system at all. I’ll be voting no.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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