Tag Archives: bcpoli

PR Referendum Guide

BC is having a referendum on how we choose our elected MLAs. This is a big deal. If the referendum passes and we move to a proportional representation voting system, it will fundamentally reshape voter engagement and politics in this province. So vote wisely. Your ballot should arrive by mail in the next few days, if you haven’t already received it.

The Ballot

There are two questions on the ballot.

  1. Which system should British Columbia use for provincial elections?
    1. The current First Past the Post voting system
    2. A proportional representation voting system
  2. If British Columbia adopts a proportional representation voting system, which of the following systems do you prefer? (Rank in order of preference.)
    1. Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
    2. Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
    3. Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP)

You need to fill out your ballot and mail it back to Elections BC so that it arrives before November 30.

If voters choose proportional representation, the next 2 elections will be conducted under the most popular system from question 2. After that, there will be a second referendum to asking if British Columbians like the new voting system or we should go back to the old voting system.

The Options

The options might be overwhelming at first, but in less than 10 minutes you can learn the basics.

Here’s a 3 minute summary of what is wrong with our current system, from National Post columnist Andrew Coyne.

And a fun, easy-to-understand 4 minute video summarizing the options you’ll be voting for. If you only have 4 minutes to figure out how to vote, watch this video.

How I’m voting

Question 1 is easy. I’m voting for proportional representation. Our voting system is broken and needs to change. Too many people vote strategically for a party that isn’t their favourite. More people don’t even bother voting because their vote doesn’t seem to matter. Proportional representation should fix these problems, but if it doesn’t we can always go back to First Past the Post after 2 elections. So there is little risk of trying.

Question 2 is harder. Any of the options will be better than the system that we have right now, but they each have their pros and cons. As the video above points out, Dual Member is the simplest, Mixed Member is the most common around the world, and Rural-Urban gives voters the most power with ranked ballots.  I used the survey at referendumguide.ca to explore the characteristics of each of the proportional systems and this is what it suggested.

BallotRD

  1. Rural-Urban
  2. Dual Member
  3. Mixed Member

Rural-Urban is clearly my preferred system. I like having a ranked ballot and power as a voter to pick candidates from a bunch of political parties. As an example of how this might play out for me in Vancouver, my ballot would probably rank a bunch of Green and NDP candidates with the best ones at the top. That level of choice might not appeal to everyone, so I’m glad there are other options like Dual Member and Mixed Member being proposed that offer simpler ballots.

More Details

If you want more details on the voting systems and how the mechanics work, this 24 minute summary goes into all the details:

If you’re curious what the results of the last election (2017) hypothetically would have been under the 3 proportional representation systems, checkout bcvoteoptions.ca.

If you have an hour to hear more about why we should keep our voting system or change it, you can listen to a debate between the Yes and No sides from the Politicoast podcast, featuring Suzanne Anton and Seth Klein.

If you want to read more, there are descriptions of the three PR voting systems proposed here:

If you want to have a celebrity explain it to you, here’s Dan Mangan.

Lastly, there seems to be a lot of fear mongering coming from the No PR side (especially with Facebook ads) so to counter it I suggest you checkout Fair Vote Canada’s mythbusters series (which tackles questions like will proportional representation remove local representation or lead to unstable governments) and this spoof ad below for a chuckle.

Bonus Videos

Public Education in BC

I’ve started paying more attention to the province’s education system since our daughter was born. And it does not look good. Public education in British Columbia is a mess. The BC Liberal government has been systematically dismantling the system since it was first elected in 2001.

Looking at the data from Statistics Canada is depressing. From 2001 to 2011, BC and Newfoundland were the only provinces to see cuts to the total number of teachers – but Newfoundland’s population was decreasing during that decade whereas BC added an extra 500,000 people. BC now has the worst student-teacher ratio in Canada, and it is getting worse.

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BC spends less per student than any province except PEI.
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Between 2001 and 2006, BC lost 5.9% of its teachers.
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From 2006 and 2011, the number of teachers in BC fell by another 3.2%.
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BC now has the worst student-teacher ratio in Canada.
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It’s the only province where the student-teacher ratio is getting worse.

 

The BC Liberals and Premier Christy Clark are downright hostile toward the public education system. They’ve torn up teachers contracts (then got in trouble in the Supreme Court), starved local school boards for money and forced school closures, and recently fired the elected school trustees in Vancouver. Not surprisingly, the Premier sends her own son to a private school (which receives generous tax support from the government), so she doesn’t even feel the pain she causes parents and their children.

We’re still 5 years away from sending our daughter to school, so there is time for the next government to fix things. I’ll do what I can to ensure the BC Liberals lose the next election. BC desperately needs a change.

Update to add a better chart from Nic Waller:

https://twitter.com/nic_waller/status/790387325993836544

 

Trophy Hunting is Not a Sport and Should Be Banned

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Reading about Cecil the Lion has been breaking my heart. What a pointless end to such a beautiful creature. The rich American who killed Cecil deserves all the hatred coming his way right now.

Even as a vegetarian, I have no problem with people who hunt for food. But so-called “sport hunting” or “trophy hunting” is barbaric and should be illegal. If these big game hunters want to get a thrill shooting something, put them in a forest with other hunters and let them battle it out Hunger Games style. In real sports there’s a good chance you will lose.

Even here in British Columbia, the government permits trophy hunting of grizzle bears. Maybe Cecil’s death will spur support for Andrew Weaver’s private member’s bill to end trophy hunting.

Photo by Peter Glenday

Transit Referendum – Vote YES

Chennai metro under construction
I might be half way around the world, but I’m still following the transit referendum in Vancouver. Being in India, I have a unique perspective of how important good public transit is. Many of the big Indian cities we’ve been to are choking with air pollution and traffic congestion.

Over the past few decades, Indian cities have seen spikes in population and car ownership without any new public transit projects. Now, they trying to play catch up and are investing heavily in rapid transit. It seems that every major city we’ve been to has a metro system under construction – Chennai, Kochi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Jaipur, Agra, and Varanasi. In fact the Indian government is funding metro construction in any city of more than 2 million people.

Sadly, our current Canadian government ignores urban issues and the BC is no fan of transit. Neither recognize the importance to the economy. The BC Liberals have no problem spending billions on highway expansions and new bridges but won’t finance new transit projects. The best they’ve agreed to is a referendum on a new 0.5% sales tax in Metro Vancouver with the money raised going to fund transit and other congestion reducing projects (including bike lanes and a new Pautullo Bridge). It’s ridiculous that public transit has to beg for money via a referendum, but it is the best chance Vancouver has to get new infrastructure in the next decade.

So, I’m encouraging all my friends in Vancouver to vote YES. I’m happy that the mail-in ballots aren’t due until the end of May so I’ll have time to vote when I get back.
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Details on the referendum.

Welfare Food Challenge – Shopping Trip

Welfare Food Challenge
Tonight we did a big shopping trip in preparation for the Welfare Food Challenge. Amazingly we managed to buy what we think is a week’s worth of groceries for only $36.60, well within our $42 budget. There isn’t a lot of fresh vegetables, but what we bought is reasonably nutritious. We scouted out our neighbourhood grocery stores on Saturday and found the cheapest prices at Buy-Low and Kia.

Kia Discount Fruit and VegetablesThe bulk of our diet for the next week will be beans ($10), rice ($4), flour ($3.50), and oatmeal ($2.17). Our best find was a 10 lb bag of carrots for $4 at Kia. We got lucky with lots of items on sale at Buy-Low and discounted vegetables at Kia.

Here’s what we managed to buy with a rough calorie count. If we ate everything, we’d have almost 3000 calories each per day, more than the daily requirement. Although that doesn’t take into account vitamins and other nutrients, and a large portion of those calories come from the flour and oil.

Item Weight (g) Price Calories
Green Lentils 450 $1.50 1475
Red Lentils 450 $1.50 1475
Pinto Beans 450 $1.50 1475
White Beans 450 $1.50 1522
Black Beans 408 $1.64 1384
Chickpeas 617 $2.48 2245
Rice, Long Grain Brown 1814 $4.00 6853
Macaroni 454 $1.25 1602
Flour, Whole Wheat 2500 $3.49 9167
Canola Oil 473 ml $2.19 3784
Yeast, Active Baking 23 $0.36 160
Soup Stock, powder 50 $0.39 117
Oats, Quick 1000 $2.17 3750
Sugar, White 240 $0.96 930
Potatoes, White (5 lb bag) 2268 $1.99 1841
Carrots (10 lb bag) 4536 $3.99 2041
Tomatoes (9, discount) 828 $1.00 99
Kale (discount) 400 $1.00 402
Apples, Granny Smith (3) 700 $1.53 364
Bananas (3) 560 $0.84 364
Onion, Yellow (1) 155 $0.24 348
Garlic (40 cloves) 120 $1.00 160
Jalapeno Pepper (1) 15 $0.08 4
Total 18.963 kg $36.60 41,470

I’m optimistic now that we can survive the week. With the garlic, onion, broth, and jalapeno our food will be reasonably flavourful. The trade-off is time. We’ve spent hours planning our meals and grocery shopping. Making our meals from raw ingredients and dry beans will mean many more hours spent cooking this week than we normally do.

Taking the Welfare Food Challenge

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Welfare rates are ridiculously low in BC and haven’t increased in 7 years, even though the cost of living continues to rise. To help raise awareness, Emily and I have decided to participate in the Welfare Food Challenge. For 7 days, our food budget will be the same as two people on welfare – $42 ($21 each).

I expect this to be a difficult challenge. I’m generally a cheap person, but food is one area where I’m willing to spend more for quality. I like buying local, organic food and shopping at the farmers market. I also enjoy eating out. On average, we spend $120 on groceries each week plus another $150 on restaurants. Cutting that down to $42 is not going to be easy. It might be impossible.

If Soylent was cheaper, I might consider experimenting with it, but it costs $10/day. Our plan is to buy the cheapest, most nutritionally dense foods we can afford. That means we’ll be eating a lot of oatmeal, rice, and beans with only a few vegetables and maybe some fruit (and we won’t be shopping at Urban Fare or Whole Foods). Homemade bread, essentially just flour, yeast, and water, will also help stretch our food budget.

End of Blacktop Politics – Peak Car Use in Vancouver


For the past 40 years, the car has been king and BC politicians have been promising shiny, new (and expensive) highways, bridges, and expressways to get elected. It’s been known as ‘blacktop politics‘, and although it never delivered on its promise of congestion-free commuting, it has never been a losing strategy for politicians.

But that’s beginning to change. There are two transportation visions being floated for the Lower Mainland. Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberal government think expanded highways are the future. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council think expanded public transit, encouraging people to walk and cycle, and discouraging car use is a better plan.

It’s a big shift, but there are reasons to think the era of the car is coming to an end. Car use has peaked in many western countries, driven by high gas prices and young people who would rather spend their commute on a bus with their cellphone then behind the wheel of a car in traffic. In Downtown Vancouver, current traffic volumes are the same as they were in 1965!

The Sightline Institute has been documenting peak car use in the Pacific Northwest with a series of posts entitled Dude, Where Are My Cars? The most recent post shows that traffic on the Port Mann Bridge peaked in 2005, and yet the Liberals spent $3.3 billion building the widest bridge in the world (10 lanes, 65 meters) to replace it. Now, Premier Christy Clark is promising to expand the Massey Tunnel, which saw volumes peak in 2004. (Data from Ministry of Transportation – missing two years from 2000-2001).

Vancouver (and the region) has a growing population, and people are still commuting and traveling, they’re just using public transit and cycling instead of a car. Transit use is at an all-time high, and there’s a huge latent demand for new rapid transit projects. The Canada Line is years ahead of its ridership projections, averaging 110,000 passengers a day. Cycling is the fastest growing mode of transportation in Vancouver, and 4.1% of all trips are now done on a bike (1.9% in Greater Vancouver).

Politicians need to realize that our transportation future is not in wider bridges or bigger tunnels, but in more trains and bike lanes. There is a world-wide shift occurring away from the car. In Italy, last year more bikes were sold than cars for the first time since World War 2. In Australia, vehicle use is at the same level as 1992 and people are questioning the governments spending on highways. It’s time we start building for the future.