This weeks Duel for 24Hrs Vancouver: Bill 20 too intrusive.

This week, Brent and I take on one particular change to the Election Amendment act that all political parties in BC support:

Should a list of all people who voted in B.C. elections be provided to political parties?

When I read about the proposed amendments to the Election Act in a Facebook post by pro-democracy government watchdog IntegrityBC, I was stunned. Why? Because in the famous Apollo 13 message: “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

This famous line sums up the state of politics in British Columbia precisely. When it comes to voting in provincial elections, we’ve had a big problem for decades.

On average, only around half of registered voters actually do so, and looking back at statistics, it’s a sorry tale of declining turnouts that speaks to voter apathy and growing cynicism with politics in general. Somehow political parties in B.C. now think that being provided with a list of who actually voted in the last election is going to help them engage voters and get the vote out – I strongly suspect it will have the opposite effect.

That voters were left out of this process tells me how out of touch political parties really are in addressing this voter apathy. Party members have defended this amendment to me in conversations by saying party scrutineers already keep track of who voted at the polls – a fact many readers I’ve spoken with were unaware of.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

While how you voted would still be protected, the list of people who actually turned up at the polls would be available to any registered political party in the province. As IntegrityBC pointed out recently, there are 23 registered parties here and it only takes two people to form one. Anyone can see the potential hotbed of issues that could arise from having access to a list of who voted – or didn’t.

That’s why I’m watching closely to see how provincial MLAs react to privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s letter to Attorney General and Justice Minster Suzanne Anton. The Ministry of Justice has already issued a statement saying it doesn’t intend to withdraw the amendment, leaving any opposition to this up to individual MLAs. And while Anton has stated she is open to the chief electoral officer potentially drafting regulations on the use of this info, it’s my view the amendment allowing this list to be released should be dropped completely.

If political parties really wanted to address voter apathy and cynicism, putting the interests of the people before their own would be a good place to start.

Vote and read the comments HERE:

14 thoughts on “This weeks Duel for 24Hrs Vancouver: Bill 20 too intrusive.

  1. Stop blaming the voters for the lousy turnout on voting day. We have learned there is no point to wasting our fuel, our time, and the trees that were cut down to make those ballots.

    Politics is a sham and there is no democracy. Campaigning is an exercise similar to the Sears Christmas Wish Book catalogue; as if wishing for something makes it reality.

    Politicians stop at nothing to out-offer each other in an effort to win, but voters know it means nothing the following day. A good example — although a bad experience — was Christy Clark’s promise to pay off the entire provincial debt with the revenue from LNG! At the same time, LNG prices were dropping like rocks. The whole exercise can be simply explained with a well-known Boss Tweed quote. “I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.” (1823 – 1878) What worked in politics back then is still the order of the day; nothing has changed. Back in Tweed’s day, there was less effort spent in dressing up the ugly to make it appear beautiful. More people voting will not change politics.

    Until voters can nominate those who will represent them and until politicians are the servants of the voters instead of their rulers, we will continue to get what we have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Somewhat ironically Liz, your link at BCrefed gives an Error 404 message…..

      This is just a thought.The people I know who keep mentioning direct democracy, are unable to provide a comprehensive plan to show people how that change would occur and what it would take.An actual plan to show people who have no clue, how to get from what we have now, to that kind of system.

      Have anything like that?


      1. Laila, as you are most likely aware, a 404 message can occur for a variety of reasons such as an inadvertent typo in the url, a web page being down briefly due to updating, or a server going down for a brief period for some inexplicable reason. The BC Refed website is functioning correctly and has been updated many times over the past month as new information is uploaded.

        With all due respect Laila, when you say, ” The people I know who keep mentioning direct democracy are unable to provide a comprehensive plan to show people how that change would occur,” in this instance must be a presumption on your part! Have you spent any time at all reading what BC REFED is offering the voters of BC?

        “Have anything like that?” Yes! We most certainly do have something like that. Would you like to provide a place on your blog for us to, “show people who have no clue how to get to ‘that kind of system’?” Having the information and getting it before the eyes of the voters Is a very difficult task indeed, especially when mainstream media for good reason ignores anything we would put forth because we are not following along the same path as the mainstream parties such as collecting donations from big businesses and unions, telling fairy tales during campaigns in an effort to get elected, etc.We get relegated to the ‘fringe party’ status. Mainstream parties, big business, big unions and the media do not want our message to be heard by the voters.

        The only attention that will ever be paid to us or direct democracy, would be for an opportunity to discredit us, because under the existing political system and its lucrative rewards for MP’s and MLA’s and including billion dollar media conglomerates direct democracy is not conducive to their continued success.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Unless I missed something on your site,I see nothing to indicate how voters would get from the system we have now to the system of government you advocate for. If I have missed something, feel free to post it right here in the comments. I did however find this link on the Swiss system.

          You cannot expect anyone to do the work for you Terry, but there is very little info on your site other than the most basic, which doesn’t tell readers anything concrete.


        2. I did not have time to respond yesterday, and I’m glad you re-asked the question.

          Direct democracy is not a difference in voting or who one can vote for. Direct democracy is about people who are qualified to vote by residency and age having the ability to control ‘how’ governments respond once elected. Under direct democracy, there would be no single person who would have the authority to assent to or disallow legislation that has been introduced in the legislature and has passed through the rules of readings, debate and the vote of the members of the government. The authority lies with the voters, when and if a required number of them disagree with the proposed legislation.

          Unlike BC’s present Referendum Act, which was never intended to work, a referendum under direct democracy would first and foremost be workable as to the amount of time allowed to gather signatures and the number of signatures required to initiate a referendum. Once the conditions are met, the results become binding on government. It is a process which government cannot control or forbid.

          The H.S.T. was a good example, albeit difficult to achieve, of direct democracy. It was a start. The problems with the current legislation are that only the lieutenant governor can call a referendum; it takes an enormous amount of energy, work and money to collect the required number of signatures; and, it is not binding on government.

          There are numerous issues that are not in the best interest of British Columbians, and which I am quite certain would be put to referendum if we had a workable system in place.

          A few of the most recent issues might include a bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel, the closure of St. Paul’s Hospital, the proposed location of the new hospital, the present method of fish-farming, the sale of alcohol in grocery stores, etc. A highly contentious issue is the proposed building of the Site-c dam.

          There are numbers groups opposing this project. They are forced to go through the court system which will cost far more than a referendum; these costs will be an additional burden on taxpayers whether the dam is built or not.

          British Columbia is not in a good position with the exception of its natural beauty, and people are working hard to protect even that. Big corporations have not been good stewards of this province. At the very least the people who live and work in this province and love it could not do worse.

          Direct democracy would give us a new way of dealing with important issues. The only people who would be negatively affected are those who currently have too much power and no responsibility.

          Thank you for the opportunity to say our piece.

          BC Refed


        3. I have to say i agree….sort of. The elections themselves should continue as they are, but I like the way that private initiatives are given creedence south of the border. In fact, I am envious of some of the changes that have occurred in Washington. IN BC we have had one private initiative that was successful. It is appalling to think that politicians “know better” and our voice is only to be heard once every four years or so. It also irritates me to think that anyone has any right in knowing how you vote. Most people know how I did, but that isn’t the point. I am not afraid of repercusiions. Back to the point however, in the wider view, this is dangerous ground to tread and Stafford (as usual) has no clue about what would happen were such information as to how one votes to become public domain.


        4. Laila, thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss direct democracy. There may be some confusion between us in regards “change of system” on the one hand and, correct me if I’m wrong, you are referring to a new system of voting. I am referring to a new political system which will be in place and effective after and no matter how politicians and governments are elected.
          Currently we elect governments by placing a ballot for the candidates and party of our choosing in the ballot box, which is generally based upon the platform and policies which is put fourth by those candidates during a campaign. Once elected under the current system the newly formed government can, (based on history) completely ignore all their campaign promises, and in essence do whatever they wish with the leader and the whip having the most influence on the cabinet. Promises to the voters are ignored while simultaneously unwanted and harmful legislation is being pushed through by the newly formed government. Selling off BC Rail, private public partnerships, proposed flooding of prime agricultural land because of proposed Site C Dam, etc. are examples and there are many more that could be listed here.

          Direct democracy would not change the way people vote in any way, even though such a change may indeed be warranted. Direct democracy merely provides for a fully accountable government where all actions by governments can be scrutinized and halted if the need arises. For example the proposed Site C Dam could be vetoed by the electorate, and voters wouldn’t have to wait for an election to make their voice heard.

          BC Refed:
          1) has proposed rules ( that all MLA’s would have to accept as part of their function. The failure to live by these rules would result in penalties/consequences for leaders, MLA’s and ministers;

          2) is creating a Direct Democracy ACT specific to BC which incorporates those rules and confers authority to the voters.

          3) is working on a constitution to replace the Constitution ACT that currently masquerades as a Constitution. We propose a constitution which British Columbians will finally be given the opportunity to review and ratify, something they have until now never had the opportunity to do.

          4) is currently working on new fiscal management rules which will require:
          a. honesty during campaigns, meaning that every effort must be made to give voters correct information about how much a promise will cost and where the money will come from to pay for it;
          b. incorporating independent studies, analysis and reports from independent experts before making exaggerated predictions of anticipated revenue during a campaign and in budget preparation;
          c. using realistic criteria for revenue and expense estimates when preparing budgets;
          d. using accurate estimating of entire projects when presenting proposal information to the public;
          e. disclosure of any partnership details including buy-back clauses and/or guarantees of profit when proposing partnership agreements, etc.
          f. Governments will not be allowed to use revenue from crown corporations to balance the annual budget if that revenue is generated by inflating the prices of a service from a government owned monopoly to consumers while the same crown corporation must then borrow for its own functions. BC Hydro is an example.
          g. No government or its departments will be allowed to borrow money beyond the amount stated in the annual budget without first presenting a request to borrow to the legislature for debate and a vote, after which it will be available to the votes to submit it to a referendum if so desired.
          h. When borrowing is required, full discloser of the source, the amount, the interest, the amortization, the payment structure and any other relevant contractual details must be made available to the electorate.
          i. All governments and government departments shall use only GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) in all accounting procedures and in preparing the Public Accounts

          5) BC Refed Is fully aware of and is currently formulating proposals that will once and for all remove the inequities and potential monopolistic leverage that exist under the BC Elections Act regarding funding of candidates and provincial parties by corporate and other large group donations

          In short Refed intends to change the system from a vote for the best Liar (Let’s be clear: Gordon Campbell was elected on a lie and then given the title “Honourable” premier.) then be subjected to the rules of a dictator until the next election comes along to a new direct democracy system of electing a government that is wholly accountable to the electorate.

          I would also like to say Laila that I don’t, nor have I ever expected anyone to do my work for me. I have dedicated thousands of volunteer hours to this cause and do not regret any of it. That said I do expect fairness when it come to media, You have always given me a fair shake in that regard and I appreciate that.


  2. Non-voters should be subjected to a Mandatory voting law. If they don’t vote, the penalty will be attached to their Driver’s License and/or Insurance on their motor vehicles, whichever comes first.

    Double the fines when the Electoral turnout is less than 30%!


  3. It would be nice to be able to make voting mandatory. The problem is the people who have no idea about not only a candidate’s mandate … or if it’s truthful.
    Last civic election here, I voted. Took my ballot to the man at the machine. He ran it thru. It spit out. He ran it thru again. It spit out. BEFORE he finished asking permission to look at my ballot he Already Had !!!. He said it looked properly filled out and promptly put it in a cardboard box on the floor beside the machine. What the !?!?!
    How do I know my vote was even counted? We have serious issues w/ voting and no one should be able to have my name.
    Great column, thanks Laila.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The day voting is mandatory, I will visit the police station and demand they arrest me and put me in jail. Making more people vote for the same people that run for office now is simply outrageous.


  4. As one who volunteers for the political party of my choice, I despair at the inability of grown-ups to show up and vote on election day. It’s a secret ballot. But, if one really can’t see the difference between the parties or candidates then maybe the best choice is to stay home instead of voting for whoever offers the most Sparkle Ponies on election day.

    There is no risk of harm to those who vote so I don’t worry about being on the list of who’s voted. Were candidates to have this information, I would get a phone call from any party that hasn’t already recorded my view of their party or candidate, I listen to their pitch and politely let them know that I support a different candidate. They are unlikely to call again, it would be a waste of their resources. Those that keep records from past elections won’t even bother to call me this time if I am already noted as not supporting them. I expect the party that I support to ask me to donate time and money. I would be disappointed if they did not.

    Here’s a tip, if you want less calls, pick up the phone instead of glaring at the call display and waiting for the ringing to stop. The computer will re-dial your number again in an hour or a day to try and contact you. When you talk to the volunteer or call centre employee, pick an answer that suits your mood without being rude, but try and make sure that the caller records something about your voting preference such as:

    I Don’t Vote,
    I Don’t share mypolitical views over the phone,
    or I Support another candidate or party.

    Never say you are undecided, that’s an invitation to call back.

    And to those who’s excuse is that their votes don’t count until we get PR ,blah, blah, first past the post etc., our votes are counted now. It’s just that sometimes we vote for a candidate that doesn’t win. Next time, donate some time and money to support who you think is the best candidate running in your riding or support the party of your choice. Hell, if you want to influence who runs in the election, join a political party and vote at the nomination meeting. There are candidates and parties out there that support PR so you could volunteer for and donate to one of them and contribute to someday getting electoral reform.


    1. Rick….you know who to vote for and I do too. In fact almost everyone here does. I have a friend who did not and he offered me a logical explaination. He simply had no idea who to vote for. I am of two minds here with one telling me that most of us should vote. If I have an independant candidate to vote for federally I will do so. Otherwise I’m voting NDP. This is out of step with me BTW as I voted BCCP after a lot of soul searching and the fact that my local NDP candidate was Steve Gunner- a honest, intelligent candidate, yet I cannot and will not vote for either Harper or Trudeau as both as distasteful to me. Like I said everyone knows who I voted for. Yet it frightens me the clueless drones who vote either the way they were programmed to or due to a set of beliefs that will tolerate no “new information”. Winston Churchill once said “The biggest argument against democracy is a fiftenn minute converation with the average voter, and he turned out to be one of democracys staunchest defenders. If people don’t know then maybe we shouldn’t force them to.


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