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Illegal snap election produces (sort of) new B.C. false majority government – will it finally be democratic?

Premier Horgan’s power-mad snap election during a pandemic leads to lowest voter turnout ever at just over 52% – NDP supported by only 23% of voters

Election call and results show that, while they failed to make promises to clean up B.C. politics, all parties need to work together to make changes or B.C.’s dangerous tradition of dirty politics will continue to hurt the province

Horgan’s self-interested snap election also delays much-needed actions in response to COVID-19 crisis for a deadly 2 months

Monday, October 26, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on B.C.’s provincial parties, especially the NDP led by Premier John Horgan who just called a dishonest, unethical, illegal snap election, to make all the changes needed to ensure democratic politics across the province. Last Friday, Democracy Watch announced that, together with Wayne Crookes, founder of IntegrityBC, filed a petition in the B.C. Supreme Court challenging Premier John Horgan’s advice to the Lieutenant Governor to call the snap election even though he promised to hold the election on the fixed election date in October 2021.

While the final seat totals for each party won’t be known for a couple of weeks after the final count and recounts, Premier Horgan’s power-mad snap election call during a pandemic led to 52.4% voter turnout, the lowest ever in a B.C. election (see summaries of the history of B.C. elections here and here). This means the NDP, which won about 45% of the vote, is actually only supported by about 23% of registered voters in B.C. (and the NDP is supported by only about 22% of eligible voters, as only about 95% of eligible voters are registered to vote, so only about 50% of eligible voters voted). Preliminary totals from Elections B.C. are that there were approximately 3.5 million registered voters in the 2020 elections, approximately 1.83 million of whom voted, out of about 3.7 million total eligible voters.

As well, the NDP won a false majority of about 63% of the seats in the legislature with only about 45% voter support, while the Green Party won only 3.5% of the seats with 15% voter support (the Liberal seat total and percentage roughly matched). Not that more evidence was needed, these unfair, undemocratic results show clearly that voting system reforms are needed.

However, voting system reforms only make election results more democratic and fair – other key democratic and accountability reforms are needed to ensure everyone in B.C. politics always acts honestly, ethically, openly, representatively and prevents waste.

“The B.C parties promised almost nothing to clean up politics in the province, but this dishonest, unethical and illegal snap election has shown clearly that many changes are needed to ensure everyone in B.C. politics is, finally, effectively required to act honestly, ethically, openly, representatively and to prevent waste,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. As with every jurisdiction in Canada, about 100 specific changes are needed in B.C. to ensure democratic good government and democratic politics.

If the B.C. parties and voters want not just a new but also a democratic government, the top 10 most important changes that need to be made for everyone (politicians, appointees, political staff, public servants) in the provincial and municipal governments, and in every government and government-funded institution across the province, are as follows:

  1. Enact an honesty-in-politics law that allows for complaints to the provincial Ethics Commissioner about broken promises, and about dishonest statements made anywhere (including in the legislature) by anyone involved in politics, with mandatory high fines as the penalty (including for false online election ads).
  2. Require all provincially regulated industry and service sectors (property and auto insurance, financial and investment services, health care institutions, energy and water) to include a notice in their mailings and emails to customers inviting them to join and fund citizen watchdog groups for each industry and sector, and increase royalties for all resource development sectors and put part of the increase into a fund that citizen watchdog groups jointly oversee and use for jointly decided initiatives.
  3. Establish a Public Appointments Commission whose members are approved of by the leaders of parties that receive more than 5 percent of the popular vote in the election, and require the Commission to conduct public, merit-based searches and choose a short list of a maximum of 3 candidates for all Cabinet appointments, with the Cabinet required to choose from the short list (especially for judges, tribunal members and other law enforcement positions).
  4. Enact a meaningful public consultation law that requires broad, in-depth public consultation with voters (including legislature committee hearings) before any government or government institution makes a significant decision, and free and empower MLAs to represent voters and hold the government accountable by restricting the powers of the Premier and party leaders;
  5. Ban political donations and gifts from businesses, unions and other organizations, and (as in Quebec) limit individual donations to $100 annually and establish per-vote and donation-matching public funding, and limit election spending by parties and candidates to about $1 per voter, and advertising spending by third parties to $50,000.
  6. Prohibit everyone in politics from participating in any way in any decision-making process if they have even the appearance of a conflict of interest (even if the decision applies generally), including banning anyone who leaves politics from communicating with anyone involved in politics about their decisions for 3-5 years.
  7. Require everyone in politics to disclose through an online registry any communication they have with anyone with regard to decisions they are making (to close the secret lobbying loopholes that still exist in B.C.) and prohibit lobbyists from helping with political campaigns or fundraising (as federal government does).
  8. Change the voting system to ensure a more accurate representation of the popular vote results of each election in the seats held by each party in the legislature (and in city councilors elected) while ensuring that all elected officials are supported by, and are accountable to, voters in each riding/constituency (with a safeguard to ensure that a party with a low-level, narrow-base of support does not have a disproportionately high level of power in the legislature) – and, if DWatch loses its court case, actually fix election dates (as Britain has).
  9. Strengthen the access-to-information law by reducing loopholes, applying it to all government and government-funded institutions, requiring that records of all decisions and actions be disclosed regularly, and giving the Information Commissioner the power and mandate to order disclosure (as in B.C., Ontario and Quebec) and changes to government institutions’ information systems (as in Britain), and to penalize violators, and ensure whistleblower protection by strengthening the rules and empowering the Public Interest Commissioner to protect all whistleblowers in the public and private sectors.
  10. Reduce waste by prohibiting omnibus budget bills, and empowering the Auditor General to: audit all government and government-funded institutions; audit projected spending to ensure truth-in-budgeting; prohibit government advertising if it is misleading or partisan; order changes to clean up the financial management of any institution, and; penalize violators of spending or procurement rules.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

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