Keith Baldrey: The NDP wants to let unelected experts, not voters, determine new voting system

The NDP/Green party alliance that governs B.C. wants to change the system of how we elect governments in this province, but they don’t want the voters to pick an alternative to the one we use currently.

Rather, they want to allow unelected, so-called “experts” of the NDP government’s own choosing (presumably with input and signoff from the Green party caucus members) to determine the actual model of proportional representation (PR) should voters reject the current first-past-the-post model. 

In other words, the NDP and Greens are advocating that a sitting government be able to determine a new system of voting, likely to ensure it remains in power.

This startling and breathtaking proposal to eliminate one of the tenets of basic democracy – that voters decide the voting system – is contained in a little-noticed document dated Feb. 28 and entitled the “Joint Submission to the How We Vote Engagement Process” from the NDP and Green Party caucuses.

This process was overseen by Attorney-General David Eby, who claims to be neutral on the whole referendum process, but his past comments show him to be a strong supporter of moving to some kind of PR model.

This fall, there will be a referendum on whether to keep the current first-past-the-post system or switch to a proportional representation model.

So far, the NDP government has not said what the question will look like, but if the NDP caucus’ view is anything to go by, look out.

The NDP and Green Party recommend there be a single question on this fall’s referendum ballot, one that asks voters whether they want to stick to the FPTP system or if they wish to “support moving to a system of proportional representation.”

In addition, if there is a second question, the two caucuses say it should be a question “on the values” that should be included in a new system “as opposed to a question on specific systems.”

However, there are many kinds of proportional representation models, with the single-transferable vote (STV) and mixed-member PR (MMP) systems two of the more commonly used ones, and there are others.

Supporters of one PR model can be vehement opponents of another model. They can be obsessive and domineering in their insistence on a particular model (if you don’t believe me, just check out Twitter).

Yet, the NDP-Green caucuses do not advocate letting voters choose a specific model. Rather, they favour farming the actual details of how we elect governments to a “transparent and independent advisory board of trusted experts and diverse citizen representatives to provide recommendations.”

That is quite a mouthful, but it fits with two political parties that love expert-driven reviews of all kinds of things. 

Those recommendations would be for some kind of “made-in-B.C. system of proportional representation” and they would be presented to the B.C. attorney-general and made public.

Essentially, the NDP-Green alliance is proposing to allow unelected “experts” of the NDP government’s own choosing to help set the rules for how the NDP government can be re-elected, with the NDP cabinet having the final say.

One has to wonder whether the two caucuses have someone like Vladimir Putin on speed-dial. 

The caucuses’ submission is rather breathtaking in its brazen assault on fundamental democratic values. 

In addition, it arrogantly suggests that hand-picked “experts” know so much more than the average voter, and can be trusted to do the proper thing (as long as it leads to more New Democrats and Green candidates being elected). 

This is the nanny state approach to governing gone rogue.

Whether we switch to proportional representation is one thing. Letting a government set the rules on how it is or is not elected is quite another.

The NDP government has already been accused of stacking the deck to ensure the referendum defeats the current system. It is being secretive about the process, and an online survey designed to weigh public views on voting system was heavily skewed to ensure there was ample pro-PR feedback.

Now it appears the government caucus – in collusion with the tiny Green caucus – wants to ensure the fix is in come the next election as well.


Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC

ANALYSIS: The NDP wants to let unelected experts, not voters, determine new voting system

Gordon Clark: Eby’s ‘security concerns’ are an insult to his constituents


That seems to be the prevailing public sentiment concerning Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby and his decision to cancel a public meeting about the NDP’s despicable “school” surtax on homes over $3 million because of “safety concerns.” It’s a well-deserved denunciation, especially since Eby’s entire career, if one can call it that, has been dedicated to protesting one thing after another.

Eby and his buddies are trying to sell the notion that it was irresponsible of Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson to urge citizens to attend the event, which Eby had attempted to control by issuing a limited number tickets and framing it as a “discussion” between those opposed to the tax and its advocates.

Yeah, nice try, but politics doesn’t work like that. Citizens, especially those hurt by the NDP’s bogus “school” surtax — and all the other envy taxes the NDP hopes to employ to expropriate hard-earned property wealth from British Columbians — won’t be stage managed.

They are pissed off, and for good reason. They already pay staggering levels of tax, often from pensions, and the NDP is changing the rules on them in going after their main assets, acquired through great effort over long careers.

In claiming “safety concerns,” Eby not only comes across as disingenuous, but as a fool. Clearly, the meeting was cancelled because he didn’t want to end up on the news being berated by a large crowd of angry grey hairs. To suggest his constituents represent a “security” threat is beyond bizarre. Those folks might be angry, but the odds of some septuagenarian from Point Grey taking a swing at Eby is, well, do I really need to finish that sentence?

If Eby is truly frightened to face his almost exclusively well-educated, professional-class and retired constituents, he should find another line of work. Frankly, there’s a high chance he will have to anyway after the next election. Does he think he would have been elected last year if he’d run on bringing in these taxes?

But there is something else about Eby’s “security concerns” comment that is more sinister, reflecting an ugly habit of the NDP and others on the left (although some on the right also do it) to manipulate language for political ends with little regard for truth. We can — and should — laugh at Eby’s ridiculous security comment, but it is also a not-too-subtle defamation of his critics in implying they would resort to violence.

This happens frequently on university campuses when controversial figures such as University of Toronto psychology professor and best-selling author Jordan Peterson are invited to speak. Activists, usually from the left, threaten violence and events get cancelled for “security concerns” by cowardly university officials with a shockingly low commitment to free speech.

I’ve noticed the Horgan government frequently manipulates language. The “school tax” is clearly a wealth tax. In justifying its new and additional property taxes in ads, the NDP goes on about “foreign investors” and “speculators” in blaming — as others have more terrifyingly through history — outsider scapegoats for our pricey housing. Turns out, “foreign investors” are a relatively small part of the market (and we invited them to come and invest here) and the “speculators” are largely Canadians who have often owned B.C. properties for decades. Worse, the NDP is doing almost nothing to address the real cause — low supply.

What about the language the NDP uses in justifying its new law to kill private health care, claiming it was to “protect” British Columbians? Setting aside their disrespect for the court in bringing in the new law while in the middle of a lawsuit on the matter, the NDP is actually trying to protect the party’s biggest sacred cow — socialized medicine — not patients.

The NDP would rather have people wait in agony for months or years for joint surgery slowly rationed out by public officials than let them pay for private care that would increase the number of surgeries completed each year in a mixed medical system found everywhere else in the developed world.

How about Premier John Horgan dismissing the Kinder Morgan pipeline as in the interest of “Texas boardrooms?” I don’t know what NDP backroom bozo came up with that talking point, but the pipeline actually means thousands of jobs, billions in taxes for Canadians and lower gas prices, not to mention that many Canadians, including the pension funds millions of us rely on, are invested in the company.

NDP politicians can play word games and political spin all they want, but voters aren’t stupid, as Eby is learning. They see through it.

Gordon Clark is a columnist and editorial pages editor for The Province.

Mike Smyth: What happened to David Eby, the guy who never backed down from a fight?

David Eby is not the type of guy who backs away from a political fight or cowers at the idea of confrontation.

In fact, he wrote the book on such things. Literally.

Back in 2010, Eby wrote a training manual for “legal observers” at the Winter Olympics held that year in Vancouver.

The purpose was to ensure the Olympics did not become an event “where the homeless are displaced, free speech interfered with and citizen rights trampled,” the manual said.

The training manual encouraged observers to carry swim goggles or a scuba mask, an air-filter mask and “a damp bandana,” all to guard against police tear gas and pepper spray. It also recommended carrying a water bottle for “cleaning eyes or wounds.”

“Are you ready to join us on the front lines preserving rights and freedoms during the 2010 Olympics?” Eby asked in the manual.

Of course, that was back when Eby was the head of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. He could be regularly found at the head of protest rallies as he challenged the powers of the police and the government.

But now that Eby is the attorney general and the guy in charge, he’s not as enthusiastic about those pesky protesters.

On Tuesday, Eby cancelled a town-hall meeting in his Vancouver-Point Grey riding after it became apparent protesters were planning to crash the event at the encouragement of the opposition Liberals.

In a Facebook posting, Eby postponed the meeting “until we can ensure we can hold it safely.”

The meeting was expected to focus on the NDP’s new real-estate taxes, including the new “school tax” on homes valued at more than $3 million.

The tax (which is not a school tax, as the money goes into general revenues of government) is unpopular among homeowners in Eby’s well-to-do riding.

So was the cancellation of this meeting really about “safety”? Hardly. A large portion of the protesters would have been senior citizens.

In fact, until now, the New Democrats appear to have enjoyed the political optics of this fight. The NDP’s base of supporters love taxes on the rich, and the Liberals are playing right along by siding with wealthy homeowners.

But I suspect Eby is worried about the local politics of this one, as the tax disproportionally hits voters in his own riding.

Now he has fallen short of the standard of accountability that he himself demanded back when he was B.C.’s most vocal political agitator.

“His own constituents are concerned and worried and he doesn’t want to meet with them,” said Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.

“So he’s trying to isolate himself from voters.”

I suspect the protesters will be back, especially now that they’ve successfully rattled one of the NDP’s steadiest performers.

Related Article

Statement from Andrew Wilkinson on David Eby’s cancelled townhall

Instead of listening to the concerns of his own constituents, Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby cancelled his public townhall yesterday – for the second time.

He’s a career activist with a long history of supporting demonstrations, protests and uprisings, yet according to him seniors, pensioners and families are “security risks.”

British Columbians deserve representation and accountability. They deserve to have their voice heard by their MLA.

The NDP have introduced a so-called school tax – but it’s really a tax on homeowners.

I have heard from Point Grey families who bought their home decades ago when the assessed value was a fraction of the current number. Families who worked hard and lived frugally in order to afford their home only to have the BC NDP swipe their earnings away with their new homeowner tax.

I have heard from Point Grey seniors – who rely on their lifetime of savings in retirement – watch their nest egg evaporate by the new NDP homeowner tax grab.

I encouraged David Eby’s constituents to have their voices heard at a public town hall and will continue to do so because I believe in leadership for all of BC.

I am calling upon David to reschedule his townhall meeting at one of the many large public venues available in the next ten days.

Andrew Wilkinson, Leader of the BC Liberal Party

Mike Smyth: Breaking down where your gas money goes

It’s always cringe-inducing to hear Premier John Horgan plead with the federal government to do something about soaring Metro Vancouver gas prices, the highest in North America.

Horgan was at it again Monday, blaming the feds for a lack of fuel-refining capacity in B.C.

“Let’s make more (refined gasoline) here, creating more jobs here and relieving the enormous pressure on the travelling public,” he said.

Say what? He’s worried about pressure on drivers? At the same time he jacks up the carbon tax on every litre of gas sold in B.C.?


The Horgan government increased the carbon tax on April 1, and it now stands at 7.78 cents per litre. On a typical 50-litre fill-up at a gas station, you’re now paying nearly four bucks in B.C. carbon tax alone.

The carbon tax used to be “revenue neutral” meaning the government was legally required to lower other taxes to offset it.

The NDP changed the law, and now the entire carbon tax flows directly into the coffers of government with no neutral offset required.

The provincial bite at the gas pump doesn’t end with the carbon tax.

There’s also the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority fuel tax of 6.75 cents a litre. And the general B.C. Motor Fuel Tax of 1.75 cents a litre.

Then in Metro Vancouver, you have the whopping TransLink fuel tax: another 17 cents a litre, or $8.50 per fill-up.

And now Horgan wants the federal government to ease your pain? Good grief.

Of course, the federal taxman has to get his piece of the action. So you also pay the federal fuel excise tax of 10 cents a litre.

The sour cherry on top is the five-per-cent federal GST, which is charged on top of your total gas purchase, including all the other taxes.

That’s right: You pay tax on your gas taxes.

Would refining more fuel in B.C. ease prices? Sure, but publishing tycoon David Black has been trying for six years now to get his refinery project off the ground with no success.

Now Horgan says he’s in talks with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee about expanding refinery capacity south of the border.

Yes, this is the same Washington state that refines million of barrels of diluted bitumen pumped through British Columbia from Alberta via the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

No wonder Horgan says he would continue to allow 22 million tonnes of bitumen to flow through B.C. a year, at the same time he says the stuff is dangerous to the environment and human health as he fights the pipeline’s expansion.

The hypocrisy — like the price at the pump — is breathtaking.