Proportional Representation: Opinions For and Against

Two BCRTA Members Offer Thoughts on PR

British Columbia is having a referendum on what voting system we should use for provincial elections. The referendum is being held by mail from October 22 to November 30, 2018. Registered voters will get a voting package in the mail from Elections BC between October 22 and November 2, 2018.

See the official referendum website: https://elections.bc.ca/referendum

There has been interest from BCRTA members to discuss the merits of Proportional Representation. As a member-led non-profit association, it is not the role of BCRTA to take a partisan position on political issues. But we do advocate for the well-being of our members, and effective democracy is something we all desire. So in the interests of fairness and balance, we’ve invited two BCRTA members with differing opinions to each make their case.

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Opinion: No, PR is a Bad Idea

 

First Past the Post (FPTP) is how BC has voted since 1871. BC once experimented with a form of PR. In 1952 voters got a ranked ballot (Alternative Vote system) in each constituency and Social Credit (SC) was elected, despite having less of the popular vote than the CCF (successor to the NDP). The SC removed the system the following year.

Since then BC voters have rejected PR twice. A 2005 vote on the BC-STV system did not pass the required thresholds of 60% in the vote or a majority in 60% of constituencies. In 2009 the BC Liberals re-introduced this and it failed again.

Now we have a third PR proposal. Why reject PR again? FPTP produces accountable governments. I know who I voted for and whether they won or lost. If they lost, I don’t consider my vote ‘wasted’. The “losing” side forms the Opposition. I know who to go to for help: my local MLA of any party.

The FPTP system, easy to understand, gives a real chance for a winning party to fulfill their mandate.

PR systems focus on the value of the party and not the candidate. Citizens sometimes vote for “Anybody but” and thus convey a lot of negative power. We may vote for a candidate we trust rather than for their party. A PR system puts party first.

The referendum includes three choices. Two have never been used anywhere and are theoretical: Dual Member Proportionality (DMP) and Rural-Urban Proportionality (RUP).

Under RUP, urban voters elect MLAs in huge regions one way (by STV, overwhelmingly rejected nine years ago), and rural voters choose a different way. All constituencies change. And we don’t know HOW the map of BC will be divided up. That’s a real Leap of Faith!

In DMP every constituency ends up with two MLAs—but your second MLA may be the candidate who came in not second but third or even fourth.

The third option and the one favoured by most PR supporters is Mixed Member Proportionality (MMP). This would mean reducing our 87 constituencies to perhaps 52 so we could elect “regional MLAs” from lists prepared by the political parties. This scheme might require BC to add as many as seven more MLAs. We don’t know the new boundaries or how many we will end up with.

Germany has a system like MMP – it recently took over five months for seven parties to form the government. The moderate second party gave up being the Opposition (government in waiting) in order to keep out the neo-Nazi party. Extremist parties proliferate. Now Sweden grapples with a populist anti-immigration party as PR requires nearly impossible coalitions to govern.

New Zealand voted for MMP in 1993 and neither major party has governed with a majority since (22 years). Candidates urge supporters to give their constituency vote to a minority party that will form a coalition with them. Yet PR proponents claim that PR ends that sort of strategic voting.

Voting for workable government is more important than dwelling on the overall provincial vote summary. Say no to PR.

German ballots are complicated.

A ballot from New Zealand

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer.

AGM Passes Motion to Study Cost of Living Adjustments

Pension and Benefits Committee to Report on Inflation Protection

Members from the Lower Vancouver Island Retired Teachers’ Association (LVIRTA) brought a motion from the floor of BCRTA’s 2018 AGM, asking for more detailed study of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) provided annually by the BC Teachers’ Pension Plan (TPP). Speakers from LVIRTA expressed concern that the actual cost of living in different regions may vary from the Canadian Consumers Price Index (CPI) which forms the reference point for the adjustment. They pointed out that last years’ adjustment of 1.6% was less than the rate calculated for residents of Victoria, which was 2.0%. Are TPP recipients falling behind?

Representatives of the BCRTA Pension and Benefits Committee (PBC) responded to the motion with some additional facts. While local indexes may exceed the CPI in a particular year, over the long term, TPP recipients are significantly further ahead by having the COLA guided by the national CPI. While this fact is reassuring, members of the PBC welcomed the call for further study, and the motion was passed unanimously. When the PBC report on cost of living adjustments is complete, it will be made available to members through our publications and on the BCRTA website.

In other news about COLA and the BC TPP, incoming BCRTA President Gerry Tiede offered insights on the state of educator pensions across Canada. Retired teachers in BC fare extremely well in terms of the preservation of their purchasing power. The BC TPP is fully funded, with a value of $28 billion, and has a 10 year annualized return of 7.2%. The TPP paid out $1.2 billion in pensions in 2017, and this is a significant contribution to the BC economy. Tiede reminded delegates that pension recipients aren’t “freeloaders” – their pensions are not paid out of current government revenue, but are funded by past contributions from teachers and employers and the retained earnings of the plan. “I never get tired of reminding you,” he continued, “that 10% of the pension you receive is money you contributed when working. About 10% is the deferred wages that your school board contributed when you were working. The remaining 80% comes from investment returns built up over the years.”

As to inflation protection, the TPP has an separate Inflation Adjustment Account (IAA) with a 2017 value of $5.2 billion. The IAA is fully administered by the pension plan, funded by investment returns, surplus earnings and payroll contributions by both employees and employers. The IAA has grown by 44% since 2013, and provides significant security for pensioners that their pensions will continue to receive full indexation against inflation.

Retired educators in other provinces are not so fortunate. According to a recent survey by the national body of retired teachers, ACER-CART, many retired educators receive adjustments significantly lower than inflation. No provincial pension plan offered a higher COLA percentage than the BC TPP did last year. The chart below shows the significant variations across Canada.

Cost of Living Adjustment, Teachers’ Pension Plans, 2018, by Province

2018-2019 BCRTA BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Delegates to the 2018 AGM elected a new Board of Directors, led by incoming President Gerry Tiede.

Seated, Table Officers: (left to right) Past President Patricia Clough, First Vice-President Grace Wilson, President Gerry Tiede, Second Vice-President Charan Gill. Standing, Directors: (left to right:) Caroline Malm, Floyd Smith, Dave Scott, Sterling Campbell, Janice Androsoff, Terry Green, Dale Lauber (ACER-CART), Barb Mikulec. Absent: Director Stefan Cieslik

Collette Offer for BCRTA Members Sept 18-30

Save 10%*

on tours to Australia & New Zealand.

Two weeks only: offer valid September 18-30 Use offer Code: BCRTASAVE

For reservations, call Collette at 844-310-5258
or contact your travel professional.

Save an additional $100 per person when you mention the BCRTA Members Advantage Program.

Choose from select departures on six tours:

  • From the Outback to the Glaciers
  • South Pacific Wonders
  • South Pacific Wonders featuring New Zealand’s North Island
  • Complete South Pacific
  • Exploring Australia
  • Exploring New Zealand

Offer combinable with free extension to Fiji on June/July departures of South Pacific Wonders & From the Outback to the Glaciers

*Use offer code to save 10 percent on land portion of tours to Australia and New Zealand. Offer valid on bookings made 9/18/18-9/30/18 for specified departures in 2019. Offers are not valid on group or existing bookings, or combinable with any other offer, excluding member benefits. Offer not available online; must call 844-310-5258 to reserve. Other restrictions may apply. Offer may be withdrawn at any time. Call for details.

The Mystery Teacher Who Gave Him Confidence

Was his extraordinary success based on a lie? Author Michael Lewis reports on the story of a highly accomplished professor and former Bosnian refugee, who has a confession. He tricked his high school teacher into believing in him, using a stolen library book and fumbling through an English translation. But the search for the retired teacher yields new facts and a far more complex story. This American Life, Episode 504: “How I Got Into College” is a gripping story of teacher and student, how they understood and misunderstood each other, and the positive and not-so-positive outcomes of their encounter.

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/504/how-i-got-into-college (1 hour broadcast)

Nelson’s Vision

Over the years readers have enjoyed BCRTA member Nelson Winterburn’s extraordinary photography. We asked Nelson to tell us more about his journey with this craft.

Tell us about life before your retired.

I began teaching in 1968 and retired in 2002, 33 years of which were in District #48, Howe Sound Sea to Sky, Squamish area. Although I taught adult night school (GED) for a few years and one session of summer school to high schoolers, all my teaching experience was at the upper elementary grades that included 25 years teaching grade seven.

Prior to teaching, I served five years in the Royal Canadian Navy (1959-1964) and that is where my interest in photography began on a very casual basis. Since then, I have taken a few courses in photo work, but a lot of my ‘learning’ has taken place by reading photography magazines and online lessons. The best lessons were analysing my pictures and deciding how to improve.

What sort of equipment do you use?

My camera is a Nikon D-3200 DSLR and I alternate among three lenses: 18-55 mm, 55-300 mm, and this past June I purchased a 10-20 mm wide angle lens. In addition, I use a tripod and a favorite filter is a ‘star’ filter to capture sunsets (or moon shots). All my editing is performed on a Mac.

Nelson Winterburn

Do you have any favorite locations?

Squamish is a hotbed of photographic subjects and therefore a favourite location. I have the ocean with boats/ships; mountains with peaks, lakes, and rivers; buildings old and new, and animal life – seals, fish, and now whales; deer, bear, elk; and no shortage of avian subjects, my favourite being eagles.

However, I take my camera with me wherever I go as one ever knows when one might be by the ocean and catch sight of a pod of marauding orcas, travelling into Bella Coola and coming across a Grizzly sow with two cubs, (and also a black bear sow with two cubs a few km down the road!), or people at a music festival dancing to the music.

What do you hope to photograph in the future?

For my bucket list of photography, I want to get pictures of a bull moose with a full rack as well as a bull elk. Next, I would like to capture some of downtown Vancouver’s older buildings such as the Marine Building. If I won the lottery, I would be getting on a plane and going to the Yukon to get pictures of the Northern Lights and to Churchill to see the polar bears. I have been to South Africa and have wonderful memories of ‘shooting’ elephants, lions, giraffes, hyenas, hippos, and Rhinos. But I need to get to Australia and New Zealand!

Any favorite stories of adventure while getting a photo?

Just last night I met my daughter and family at Porteau Cove Provincial Park for dinner. While prepping, she happened to look up and saw — a pod of orcas swimming past the dock. Immediately, I grabbed my camera bag and started walking at a fast pace, all the while removing my small lens and hooking up my zoom lens. Below is one of the shots of the orcas. I have lived in Squamish nearly fifty years and have seen lots of seals, porpoises, and jumping fish, but this was a FIRST for me to actually see whales in Howe Sound.

What a great evening to be with my granddaughter and see a pod of orcas!! Who knew??

Always have your camera handy.

Any advice for wannabe photographers?

For anyone wanting to take up photography, start with a point and shoot. Eventually, you will want more from your efforts and that will be the time to explore a more complex camera.  The world is your oyster – and your subject matter.

Thanks, Nelson, for sharing these amazing images with us!