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Analysis

Meet the establishment groups defending the status quo ahead of BC’s referendum on electoral reform

The usual suspects have already come out against a fair voting system

With voters soon having the opportunity to upgrade BC’s old-fashioned electoral system, big and positive changes could be on the horizon.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way.

The exact terms of British Columbia’s forthcoming referendum on electoral reform have yet to be defined, but those attached to the unfair status quo are already getting organized.

The referendum will give voters a chance to ditch BC’s outdated First-Past-the-Post voting system (FPTP): one that rarely reflects the will of the people and often produces distorted results. Proportional representation, the leading alternative to FPTP, awards parties seats in a way proportionate to the number of votes they receive and is used by most industrialized countries around the world.

In short, it’s fairer, more democratic, and ensures everyone’s voice is heard equally when they go to the ballot box.

Unfortunately, misinformation and misdirection have a long and storied history in the electoral reform debate, especially coming from people invested in the status quo.

With BC’s referendum coming up, here are a few of the groups already working hard against change.

BC Proud

Sure to amp things up when the public debate really gets going is BC Proud.

The brainchild of a former Harper government and Sun News staffer, the group’s Facebook page is a sometimes confusing blend of light internet humour and politics memes.

Make no mistake, though: it’s a right wing group on a right wing mission.

Who’s funding it, you ask? That’s the thing: no one is quite sure

Keep Voting Simple

In a recent email blast, Keep Voting Simple told its supporters that BC’s upcoming electoral reform referendum is an “obvious attempt to confuse and manipulate voters” as part of a scheme to “transform BC’s electoral system”

The email then ended with an appeal for donations to “help us keep voting simple in BC,” an appeal followed by a PO Box address located in Markham, Ontario.

Keep Voting Simple

Presumably, that has something to do with the group’s head Nick Kouvalis – a backroom conservative strategist who previously managed Kellie Leitch’s controversial leadership campaign, Rob Ford’s 2010 mayoral campaign, and who now happens to be facing charges for breaking and entering.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kouvalis has also previously done public relations work for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals. In 2011, his Campaign Research Ltd. company received a secretive $167,000 payout from the BC Liberal government for communications work promoting the controversial Harmonized Sales Tax.

No B.C. Proportional Representation Society

Leading the charge on behalf of BC’s entrenched political establishment is a new group that’s opted for the catchy title “No B.C. Proportional Representation Society.”

Fronted by Bill Tieleman, a former NDP strategist; Suzanne Anton, a former Liberal cabinet minister; and Bob Plecas, a former civil servant, the group’s arguments against PR seem largely to hinge on a series of cliches that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

These include the idea that it’s “too complicated”, despite being used and understood by voters throughout the industrialized world; and that it could “empower extremists” (because, as we all know, electoral systems modelled on FPTP never do that…).

Go figure.  

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