Tag Archives: british columbia

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.


  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.

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



5 Peaks – Alice Lake – My First Trail Run

2014 MB 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake-83
I ran the 5 Peaks – Alice Lake 11 km Enduro Race last Saturday. It was my first trail run and one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. The hills chewed me up and spat me out. But it was also one of the most scenic and gratifying races to finish.

5 Peaks
2014 MB 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake-7I have nothing but good things to say about the race organizers. The 5 Peaks race was easily the best organized and most fun running event I’ve been to. Kudos to the organizers. The pre-race emails were informative and funny; the race package included snazzy arm warmers (much better than yet another shirt); the course was well marked; and the post race festivities involved sunbathing, a dip in Alice Lake, and copious amounts of fresh fruit.

The Race
5 Peaks - Alice Lake
I started the race in the first wave, which may have been foolish but a few friends convinced me that’s where I belonged. I kept up with a lot of the runners, but it was my first real trail run, never mind my first trail race, and I was unprepared for the toll the hills would take. I was fine for the first 6 km, covering the rolling hills and steady uphill climb at a good pace. The 2 km descent down Credit Line was fun, but I felt like I was going stupidly fast, on the verge of wiping out, and I was still being passed by quite a few runners. I got good advice from a guy on my tail who told me to mimic the technique of one of the ladies who had just passed me – long strides with careful foot placement. I tried. I guess this is why people practice running trails before races.

After the long descent was a brutal uphill climb that felt like it would never end. I was glad I wasn’t the only one struggling to even walk up the hill. It took all my energy just to keep my legs moving. I was dehydrated and spent. Occasionally the trail would flatten out for a few meters, but it was difficult to get running again. Once the trail peaked, it immediately plunged back down. Near the bottom of the descent I rolled my ankle. Luckily the last 500 meters was on mostly level ground and I was able to keep running without much pain. My heart rate peaked at 194 bpm as I sprinted for the finish line.

I was worried about passing on the narrow, single track sections of the race, but it was surprisingly easy. When I heard someone running behind me I would slow down a bit and leave some space for them to pass. Most runners would yell “on your left” as they approached and “thank you” once they were by.

5 Peaks posted 434 photos on Flickr. Sadly, I’m not in any of them (need to work on my smile while running) but Scott and Simon are.
2014 MB 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake-200 2014 MB 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake-247 2014 MB 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake-107 2014 MB 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake-377 2014 MB 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake-136 2014 MB 5 Peaks BC Alice Lake-389

The Result
Time: 1:04:18
Overall: 33/223
Men 30-39: 14/41
Strava Activity
Full Results

Final Thoughts
I found trail running to be more fun than road racing, but a lot harder on my body. I’ll need to practice more and strengthen my ankles before I run another race. I guess it’s time to suck it up and ride the bus to the north shore mountains on the weekends. It’s just hard to justify hours on the bus when Vancouver’s nicest flat trail, the seawall, is seconds from my front door.

Greater Vancouver Snowshoe – Red Heather and Elfin Lakes

Mountains in the Clouds
Date: March 15-16 2008, January 30 2010, and March 10 2012

Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park, near Squamish (map)

SquamishDescription: For winter fun, the trail up to Red Heather and Elfin Lakes has something for everyone. It’s close to Vancouver but removed from the crowded North Shore trails; it is perfect for snowshoeing and ski touring; the Red Heather hut makes for a great day hike destination; and Elfin Lakes cabin is an excellent overnight shelter for those looking to spend a few days in the backcountry.

Beams AwayThe highlight of all of our trips to Red Heather has been sledding through knee-deep snow. I highly recommend packing crazy carpets. The trail from the parking lot to the Red Heather is wide and gently sloped, which makes for good sliding on the way down. In addition, the Red Heather hut is in a meadow surrounded with sloping hills that are perfect for tobogganing, if you don’t mind creating your own bobsled runs. It’s tiring work, but rewarding. After playing in the snow, you can warm up and dry off in the hut, which has a wood stove.

Gear Parking LotIf you’re feeling adventurous and want to spend the night, you can continue past Red Heather to Elfin Lakes where there is a cabin that sleeps 30. It costs $15/person/night and there are no reservations, so head up early if you’re going on a popular weekend. When we went up in March, we arrived at the cabin around 2 PM and were one of the first groups. By the evening, every bunk was taken. The hut is heated and has a cooking area on the bottom floor and wooden bunk beds on the top floor. You only need to bring a thermarest and sleeping bag, but if you want a real winter camping experience you can pitch a tent outdoors or build a snow cave. More info and trail reports on the BC Parks website.

Snow TrailsThe hike up to Red Heather is in the trees and doesn’t have many viewpoints, but it is relatively safe when the avalanche conditions are high. If you continue on to Elfin Lakes, you’ll end up walking above the treeline along Paul Ridge, which has spectacular views of the surrounding mountains but has a higher risk of avalanches. Make sure you check the Sea-to-Sky avalanche conditions before heading up.

More trail descriptions at Trail Peak, Vancouver Trails, and Snowshoe Magazine.
Trekking Out

Day Trip to Red Heather: 4+ hours
Parking Lot to Red Heather: 1.5 hours
Lunch: 1 hour
Sledding Time: 30 minutes +
Descent down: 1 hour

Snowshoe to Elfin Lakes with a Large Backpack: 5 hours up, 5 hours down
Parking Lot to Red Heather: 2 hours
Lunch Break: 1 hour
Red Heather to Elfin Lakes: 2 hours

Transportation: The trail starts in Squamish, about 90 minutes from Vancouver. You drive past Quest University along Garibaldi Park Road to the Diamond Head Trail parking lot. The road is routinely plowed, but can be hard to drive after a snowfall. Four-wheel drive is recommended. Directions from Google Maps.

Pictures: Elfin Lakes Snowshoeing 2006
Base Camp Gearing Up Practising Group Shot - Front Hiking Up Rhea Hiking Up Red Heather Park Rangers Elfin Lakes Trail Cloudy Mountains Hike or Freeze Snow Cave Inside Snow Cave Outside Elfin Lakes Hut Kitchen Area Monopoly Bunk Beds Elfin Lakes Shelter Dawn Getting Snow Snow Trails Frosted Skis Gear Parking Lot Sunday Morning Crew

Red Heather Snowshoeing 2010
Hiking Up to Elfin Lakes Snowball Attack Ready to Hit the Slopes Crazy Carpets and Snowshoes Crazy Crapeteers Powder Puff Carpeting Airborne Capturing Big Air Poor Form Perfect Form Beams Away All Downhill From Here Superman Style Helmet Cam Captures the Action

Red Heather Snowshoe Bachelor Party 2012
Bachelor Snowshoe Party Snowshoeing Whiskey Jack and the Neon Man Whiskey Jack Whiskey Jack Daniel Red Heather Hut Drying Out the Chest Hair Snowy Outhouse Breaking Trail Deep Snow Free-for-all First Sled Run Deep Snow Sledding Crazy Carpet Dan Head First Crazy Carpet Snowy Fun Penguin Style Shovel Jousting Snowy Sled Run Crazy Carpet Mountain Heading Downhill Drying Out Human Avalanche Snowshoe Descent Heavy Snowfall in Garibaldi

Shuswap Lake Houseboat

Shuswap Hot Tub
To celebrate our crew of friends getting older (Dan’s 30th and Erica’s “29th”), we spent the Labour Day long weekend partying on a houseboat crammed with 24 people. We had good food, lots of alcohol, swimming in the lake, a glow-stick dance party with a piñata, and bonfires on the beach. It was a party weekend, but our boat was pretty tame compared to the craziness we witnessed on other boats that docked on the beach each night.

Loading up the boat and sleeping in the cubbyhole.
Lake Mara Wheelbarrow Loading Cubby Hole Accomadations

When it was sunny out, there was lots of deck space to lounge.
Sunny Morning Deck Chairs Relaxing Morning
Decktop Relaxing Captain Christina

Beaching the boat was tricky the first time, but we got the hang of it.
Beaching Knot Tying Driving the Stake

How not to land a boat (some drunken neighbours arrive).
How Not to Land a Boat

The lake had the warmest water I’ve found in BC.
Pineapple Toss Houseboat Leap Lake Floaties

Good food and lots of booze.
Vegetable BBQHouseboat Alcohol

More photos on Flickr. Videos of the fun we had with the boat’s slide below.
Continue reading Shuswap Lake Houseboat

HST Referendum – My 12 Cents

I finally got my HST referendum in the mail. Now I just have to figure out how to vote. I’m not happy with either option.

On the right hand, we have the Liberals lying about introducing the HST, spending ridiculous sums of money to convince voters to keep it, making dubious claims that it will create jobs, and promising to reduce the HST to 10% if they’re reelected.

On the left hand, we have the NDP and Bill Vander Zalm whipping up anti-tax sentiment, claiming British Columbians are ‘struggling to make ends meet’ and can’t afford any more taxes, and ignoring the complication of going back to the GST/PST after the change has already been made.

I think both are stupid.

When the HST was first introduced, the Liberal government said it would be ‘revenue neutral’. Then they realized they would make more money off it, but said all the extra money would help fund health care – ok, I can support that. Then they said they would lower the tax rate to 10%. Wait a minute, I thought that money was needed to support health care?

The HST is obviously a simpler tax then the GST/PST, and I can support that. I don’t envy any retailers who will have to revert the changes to their computer systems if the referendum passes. The old PST rules had hundreds of exemptions. Yes, bikes and biking gear was one exemption, and I don’t like that bikes are now more expensive, but there are better ways for the government to support cycling then tax breaks.

I think I’d be willing to support the HST if it was left at 12%. Getting rid of the HST seems irresponsible at this point. Keeping it and lowering it to 10% will hamstring future government revenue. What to do?

Maybe the battling stickman videos will help me decide. The first one is part of the government’s $5 million ad campaign to sell the HST and has almost 50 views on Youtube (the video on Vimeo has closer to 1000). Money well spent.

Journey to Prince Rupert

Cow Bay Group Shot
BC is a huge province, but I can now say I’ve seen some of its more rugged coastline. At the end of June, Emily and I traveled up Vancouver Island and took the ferry in the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert. We were traveling with Emily’s mom Mairy, and her partner Martha who were taking a tall ship from Prince Rupert to Alaska on an adventure cruise. Our journey was full of spectacular scenery, wild and beautiful animals, and miserably cold and wet weather.

Some of the highlights:

  • Hiking in Cape Scott Provincial Park
  • Grizzly Bear Watching in the Khutzeymateen
  • Exploring the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park

Pictures of our Journey to Prince Rupert

Continue reading Journey to Prince Rupert

BC NDP Environmental Leadership Debate

There’s still 2 weeks left in the BC NDP’s Leadership Race, but after watching the environmental debate yesterday, I think I’ve made up my mind. All 5 candidates were really impressive, and my opinion of each improved after watching them talk about environmental issues. I’m really happy to see the NDP focusing on the environment. They lost my vote last election because they abandoned the issue, but now seem to have realized their mistake. All five candidates had similar policy but brought different leadership qualities.

Mike Farnworth – most honest and thoughtful. I liked that he admitted the NDP made a huge mistake when they opposed the carbon tax. Seemed to have a good sense of what the party needed to do to connect with voters.
Dana Larsen – most activist and radical. He brought the most original ideas and delivered them with a no-nonsense, rabble rouser approach.
Nicholas Simons – most compassionate. He’s in politics because he truly wants to make a difference. Whenever he finished talking, you felt like giving him a hug.
Adrian Dix – most aggressive and knowledgeable. Was able to quote facts and figures off the top of his head. Really wants to go after Christy Clark and is itching for a fight.
John Horgan – most eloquent, funny, and personable. He won over the crowd with his charisma, but also had lots of great ideas.

It’s too bad the leader can’t be an amalgamation of all 5 candidates. If I could build a leadership robot, I’d put Dix as the brain because he had an encyclopedic knowledge of issues, and the fists because he’s a keen debater; Simons would be the heart because he brings so match compassion to every issue; Horgan would be the mouth because the has a great ability to weave a story and connect with a crowd; Farnworth would be the gut and intuition because he seemed to have a natural grasp of what matters to the party and the public; and Larsen would be the lungs because, all puns aside, he really is a breath of fresh air and energizes the party with new ideas.

That said, only one person can be leader. I think Simons would be eaten alive by the press. His soft style wouldn’t translate well in modern media. Larsen was the least political and most ideological. He has an important role to play influencing the policy of the party, but I don’t think he’s leadership material. Dix is a real fighter and a really smart debater. I think he’d do well against Christy Clark, but I’m not a fan of combative politics.

That leaves Mike Farnworth and John Horgan, my top picks for leader. Horgan offered the biggest difference in style from Dix. In his closing remarks, he made it clear his strategy is to win over voters by giving them a positive vision to vote for, not by telling them Christy Clark is evil. Farnworth was somewhere between Dix and Horgan in style. He doesn’t have Horgan’s ability to connect with a crowd, or Dix’s feisty debater nature, but he balanced attacking the Liberals with promoting a strong vision. He also impressed me with his honesty.

In the end, it was Horgan who most impressed me and he secured my top vote. He’s charismatic, a great public speaker, and he really understands public policy and can explain it to anyone. He was also less dogmatic in his beliefs then some of the candidates. He seemed best able to balance the environment with economic realities. The full debate is available online, so you can see for yourself.

My ranked ballot now looks like this (changed slightly from a few weeks ago):

  1. John Horgan
  2. Mike Farnworth
  3. Adrian Dix
  4. Dana Larsen
  5. Nicholas Simons

Looking at the BC NDP Leadership Candidates

I’ve been an NDP supporter for longer then I’ve had the right to vote, but since moving to BC 4 years ago, I’ve been really disappointed with the BC NDP. Their opportunistic opposition to the carbon tax lead me to vote Green last election. I’ve been disappointed with how few original ideas they have put forth. I didn’t like Carole James as the leader, but now that a new leader is being selected I’ve rejoined the party and have been examining the 5 candidates, deciding who to vote for.

I’ve read through their websites, watched their twitter feeds, and looked at their responses to surveys. What I’m looking for is a leader who has positive ideas for the environment and transportation, has some personality, and is willing to engage voters using social media. So far, the candidate I’m most impressed with is John Horgan.

From a policy perspective, all 5 candidates have similar positions. The NDP has finally smartened up and committed to fixing the carbon tax instead of axing it, something I’ve been advocating for since day 1. John Horgan and Mike Farnworth have the best environmental platforms. Both are promising to include industrial emitters in the carbon tax and ensure part of the proceeds go toward expanding public transit. They’re both committed to local agriculture and transitioning away from open-pen fish farming. Horgan also has some commitments about energy efficiency and conservation programs, which is a huge plus in my book.

On transportation issues, Rail for the Valley put out a survey to all the Liberal and NDP leadership candidates. None of the Liberal candidates bothered to respond, but all the NDP candidates did. If you read through the responses, Horgan is the candidate who has the best grasp of transportation issues and understands where SkyTrain and light rail is best suited.

Personality is a bit more difficult to define, but Horgan tweeting while getting a ride from snowboarders really cracked me up and impressed me. I’ve been following his Twitter feed for a few weeks now, and like what he tweets about.

All of the candidates are have Twitter and Facebook accounts, but some are using it more actively.

Candidate Website Twitter
Tweets / Following / Followers
Fans / Last Post
Adrian Dix 225 / 308 / 465 216 / 26 hours ago
Mike Farnworth 164 / 629 / 708 540 / 11 hours ago
John Horgan 439 / 604 / 617 456 / 3 hours ago
Dana Larsen 292 / 63 / 373 1713 / 7 hours ago
Nicholas Simons 187 / 144 / 316 548/ 26 hours ago

Horgan is the most active social media user, Farnworth has the most Twitter followers, and Larsen the most Facebook fans.

The vote isn’t until April 17, so I have lots of time to change my mind, but here is how I would rank the 5 candidates on my ballot today:

  1. John Horgan – I’ve been really impressed with his policies and his personality.
  2. Mike Farnworth – Strong environmental platform.
  3. Dana Larsen – Surprised that he has more ideas then marijuana legalization.
  4. Nicholas Simons – I like him, but he’s kind of invisible.
  5. Adrian Dix – Very unimpressed with him. Strikes me as an old-school politician.

I’m looking forward to the environmental debate to be held at the Creekside Community Centre on April 2. That will likely decide my vote.