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Do we trust British Columbians to determine the future direction of their democracy? Yes or no?

Yesterday in the legislature we continued debate on a hoist motion put forward by the BC Liberals on Bill 6 – 2017: Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Act. The motion was designed to kill the bill aimed at enabling a referendum on proportional representation in the fall of 2018. I have already spoken in support of Bill 6 at second reading.

Anyone who has watched the debates on Bill 6 will have heard the BC Liberal MLAs lining up to argue against the merits of proportional representation. At times it seemed that they were reading the same speech. What’s remarkable is that all Bill 6 does is enable a referendum on proportional representation. There is an ongoing consultation process designed to gather feedback from British Columbians.

In the speech reproduced in video and text below, I note that the entire debate on both sides, has boiled down to one question. That one question is this: do we trust the people of British Columbia to actually determine the outcome of how their democracy would like to be?


Video of Speech



Text of Speech


A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in the debate on the hoist amendment, hoist motion brought forward by the members opposite with respect to our discussions on Bill 6, Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Act.

I’ve listened to the debate. Speaker after speaker after speaker raised issues. I wonder, after reflecting upon it, if they recognize that we’re actually debating a bill that’s designed exclusively to create the legal framework for conducting a provincewide referendum before November 30, 2018, representing a proportional voting system.

Now, what I’ve heard here, in reflecting upon the need for more time, is members opposite on the one hand arguing passionately against proportional representation for reasons and rationale that are based on them actually knowing the outcome of the consultative process that is ongoing now. On the other hand, I’ve heard people argue against proportional representation in general. Some of the arguments have gone so far as to be, I would argue, somewhat outlandish.

One member opposite stated, and I quote — I mean, this is so inappropriate: “By the time they realized what had happened, it was too late. You ended up with World War II. You ended up with the Holocaust. You ended up with a number of countries that had to rebuild — meaning all of Europe. Many of the people that come to Canada should know this, because most of your ancestors came from Europe.”

This is the member for Skeena who stood up and, in arguing against letting the people of British Columbia decide whether or not they would support proportional representation, evoked the fact that this could potentially lead to the rise of nazis and a holocaust. This is so profoundly offensive that I honestly believe that that member should stand and apologize to the Legislature for those comments.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: The member opposite said I was taking it out of context. I encourage anyone here to go and read the Hansard, because it was not taken out of context. It was there for all to see.

This entire debate, on both sides, has boiled down to one question. That one question is this: do we trust the people of British Columbia to actually determine the outcome of how their democracy would like to be?

This is not….

Deputy Speaker: Member, speaking to the amendment.

A. Weaver: Hon. Speaker, I do appreciate you saying that, but I’ve listened again to speaker after speaker give speeches without referring to the amendment a single time during their speech. I have referred to the amendment many times already in this speech, yet the previous speakers have not.

I will continue to speak to the amendment and the reason why we don’t need to have the extra time. But I do reflect upon the fact that I did not hear other members do that in speaking to the amendment.

Coming back to the amendment, coming back to the rationale, we’ve had this debate boiling down to one question, on this amendment, as well as the motion before that: do we trust the people of British Columbia? Members opposite don’t seem to believe that we can trust the people of British Columbia to actually determine whether or not they want proportional representation. They don’t believe that we can trust the people of British Columbia to determine the outcome.

Their arguments against proportional representation and the need to consult further are compelling to themselves and their groups and friends, perhaps. Then vote no, if there is a referendum. But we’re not debating proportional representation. We’re debating whether or not — this one question — we trust British Columbians to have a say. And do we need another six months to actually go through?

We know the reason why members opposite have turned this debate on whether or not British Columbians are entitled to a choice into a debate on proportional representation. It’s because fundamentally, to quote their future leader, Dianne Watts. On November 4, 2017, she said this. It’s because they said this: “Because you know what, if we do not defeat this referendum, there will be no majority. There will forever be a minority of B.C. Liberals.” She also said: “That is my number one priority, and I’m hell-bent in terms of making sure that we defeat that referendum.”

Now therein lies the problem. This hoist motion that’s before us is nothing about proportional representation. It’s about fear — fear that the B.C. Liberals will actually tear apart and actually British Columbians, who we’re here to serve, will have a better choice as to who they want to represent them.

You know, I have friends in the B.C. Conservative Party. I’ve got friends in the B.C. Liberal Party. I’ve got friends in the B.C. NDP There is an unhealthy tension over there right now, an unhealthy tension because there’s a struggle for voices by members within that party. The whole purpose of proportional representation is to not create artificial coalitions, but to allow society to be reflected in terms of the makeup of the people who represent them in government….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Again, the members opposite, who we sat patiently listening to, and it was trouble at some times, feel very uncomfortable when the truth is pointed out. The truth that this is only about whether we trust British Columbians or not.

They don’t. They don’t trust British Columbians. They need more time — throw a hoist motion forward, and in doing so, what you’re basically doing is killing the bill. We all know that a hoist motion is killing the bill. That’s the purpose of this. They want to kill the bill, because they don’t trust British Columbians to actually determine the outcome of what they think is best. They don’t trust British Columbians to vote yes or no on proportional representation because the B.C. Liberals know the answer.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Members opposite are hung up on process. They’re hung up on process. What is ironic….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: This is the uncomfortable nature of the discussion, because the truth hurts. Let’s talk about the process, in response to the heckles from West Vancouver–Sea to Sky. This is what the process is. There is a three-month consultative process ongoing right now. I encourage members opposite to do what the B.C. Greens are doing and to do, frankly, what the NDP are doing, and make your own submissions.

I’ve listened for must be two months now. I don’t know how long we’ve been debating this bill. Member after member after member already say what proportional representation is. I heard one member saying: “Its ranked lists don’t work.” Well your leadership convention is about to go through in terms of a ranked debate. I guess it works for B.C. Liberals, but it doesn’t work for proportional representation.

I’ve heard others talk about party lists, so you’re not actually voting for people, and “that doesn’t work.” But again, we don’t actually know what the question is.

So all this fear being put forward by the B.C. Liberals, and through their hoist motion trying to kill this, is basically fear of losing power, because the B.C. Liberals care about power — not about doing what’s right for the people of British Columbia.

The irony in this as well — as we’ve heard talk, time after time, about these so-called backroom negotiations that led to this — is that the same negotiations were happening with the B.C. Liberals, who agreed to have a referendum in the fall of 2018. So I’m not sure what’s….

Interjections.

A. Weaver: It’s interesting that none of these members who actually attended those meetings seems to know exactly what went on in the meetings, but I was at those meetings. Let me tell you. There was no difference in the discussions that we had between both parties about the importance of having a referendum on proportional representation, in light of the fact that this is something that British Columbians had told us was very important to them — as the Prime Minister did as well, federally.

Let me come back to this again. Here’s the irony. I sit through question period day after day, listening to the members opposite hurl abuse at government and say: “You’re not fulfilling a promise.”

Interjections.

A. Weaver: It’s hard to hear….

Deputy Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: “You’re not fulfilling a promise,” they will say. “This promise is broken. That promise is broken.” But here we have a promise being fulfilled — a promise that the B.C. NDP campaigned on. They campaigned in the last election on actually having a referendum on proportional representation, and that’s what this bill is doing.

This bill is simply enabling a referendum to occur. There’s no question being posed yet. There’s no structure being posed. It’s simply informing a referendum.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: See, there we have the heckling, coming back to that again — the heckling opposite, saying: “You need to put the question for it.” Well, this points to the scale of their arguments. They’re internally inconsistent. They want to consult and we need to have a six-month hoist in order to consult as to what the question is, but now they’re heckling and saying we need to know what the question is now.

This is what happens when you have a party that’s hurting, and I get that you’re hurting. I get that they’re hurting — in power for 16 years, now sitting in the benches there. There’s internal strife, as a few inner elite from the party from the past still dictate the way it will be and others don’t know what’s happening until they’re surprised in the chamber, and it frustrates them.

They see the liberty on this side of the House, where we have a working agreement, a working situation, showing British Columbians that two parties….

Interjections.

A. Weaver: It’s interesting again. Nobody wrote my speech. I’m actually just going from the cuff there, to the member of West Vancouver–Sea to Sky.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: Here, too…. It’s hard to get a word in with the heckling, but I will say what’s interesting here, with the comment about the speeches. The speeches I’ve heard to this hoist motion, time after time…. I wonder if you have one speechwriter downstairs, because I hear the same examples appearing by 41 Liberal MLAs, time in and time out. The same examples. The same rhetoric.

I was actually quite pleased with the member from Peace River North. I commented. He’s gone, but I think he wrote his speech.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: That’s true. The member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan — I have to give this to you. It cannot be said you’re not green opposite, because you’re into recycling and reusing the speeches.

Coming back to the reason why the hoist motion is not necessary…. What we’re showing right now to British Columbians is that, yes, parties can work together. They can working together despite being fundamentally different in terms of values, despite the conflict that we have between these parties in the election campaign.  We can show British Columbians that we can put people ahead of our partisan narrative.

But we see again this morning, as illustrated again, the games — which is why this is troubling to the B.C. Liberals — that get played. We need to hoist this motion. We need to hoist this bill to the future because it might affect our power. Everything is a game, and that’s what is so sad. That is what is so sad with what is going on here in the Legislature, both earlier today as well as now, when we listen to good people, good members opposite, the hon. members opposite — at times just reading scripts given to them by the 20-something-year-olds downstairs telling them to just make stuff up.

Again, I don’t want to criticize the member for Vancouver–False Creek, because his speech was very good. It was actually clear that you wrote it yourself — not something that I’ve heard very often.

It’s important, though, to recognize that this ultimately comes down to one question again. This is what the debate is. The debate is one question. Do we trust British Columbians to determine their outcome? Yes or no?

The B.C. Liberals clearly will vote later and say, “No, we don’t trust British Columbians to determine their outcome,” whereas members on this side will say: “Yes, we trust British Columbians. We trust you to have a say in your future. We will give you that say in the future, despite the fact that in the quest for a Liberal majority, at all costs, they will suppress the rights of British Columbians to have a say in their democracy.

2 Comments

  1. Grant Crawford-Reply
    November 29, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Mr. Weaver, I believe a better question might be: Do we trust our politicians to roll out, administer or even pose the question in a referendum. If we look back at the hysteria that surrounded the HST rollback that was more about punishing the Liberal government than about a sensible tax, we see what can happen. There is so much distrust of politicians, their motivations, who is actually pulling the strings that it is difficult for the public to know what or who to believe. Your coalition with the NDP appears to be creating more calm discourse and responsible discussion. A positive step. Politicians have to trust voters, there is no other option in a democratic society. The responsibility of all parties should be to present all options clearly, without bias or hysteria, in plain language that all can understand. To my eyes proportional representation would lead to our province being ruled by the major population centres leaving smaller communities under represented and at the mercy of the big cities. Trust needs to be re-established with those who occupy our legislative offices in Victoria. Good luck to you.

  2. Bruce Gunn-Reply
    November 29, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Spot on Andrew. The Liberals are fighting for their ” Party”. They know allowing the Legislature to reflect the “values” of the Electorate will mean political suicide for them. They dòn’t know what their value base is…Liberal or Conservative. That’s the outcome of “big tent” politics. Add to that (Sonia made the comment that put me on to this…”how out of touch ” things seemed to be in the Legislature. EXACTLY! That’s because the Liberals didn’t formulate policy based on “evidence”, values, or “in the interest of British Columbia…THEY DID IT FOR THEIR DONORS! Please keep this in mind ALWAYS in understanding what the Liberals are ALL ABOUT! Thank-you GREEN CAUCUS for the truly ground breaking work you are doing for ALL British Columbians!

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