Misinformation

There is an amazing amount of misinformation out there.

Wondering about some outrageous thing someone claims Pro Rep will do?

Dipper “Stumpin Tom” takes it to a hilarious extreme (85 secs.):

Check out a long list of myths at Pro Rep Fact Check.

In the age of Trump it seems impossible to counter it all. There’s a sea of falsehoods being spread about the 2018 BC referendum on electoral reform and proportional representation. Here are five more myth-busting sites:

https://voteprbc.ca/2018/10/proportional-representation-myths-facts/

https://pressprogress.ca/5-times-the-leader-of-the-bc-liberals-misled-british-columbians-during-the-televised-electoral-reform-debate/

Here’s one tragic-for-democracy example. The video BC’s Electoral Reform Referendum: Simplified  had gotten over 7,000 views as of 2018/11/12 and came across as a serious and even-handed study evaluating the four electoral systems in the Referendum.

In reality, it was a sophisticated hatchet job. It’s been getting about one new viewer every four minutes, but how many viewers would have seen a posted comment discussing its errors? From online comment by Maxwell Anderson, Chair of VotingBC:

“There are both minor and major errors in the video. For example, a careless minor error is the chart calling Rural-Urban Proportional “Urban Rural Proportional”, which is not on the ballot.

More importantly, you can tell your presentation is flawed from your chart. For example, each of the systems is shown as having one red (bad) characteristic except MMP which is shown with three. This is contrary to the ratings of international electoral academic experts, the great majority of whom rate MMP superior to our winner-take-all voting, and also superior to the other common PR systems. Since MMP is the leading candidate for PR in BC, your chart is effectively campaigning against PR succeeding altogether.

If we look at it quantitatively, and assign green=4 (most satisfactory), yellow=2, orange=1 and red=0, then FPTP’s scores add up to 24, DMP 25, RUP 23, and MMP distinctly less at 19. Again, this near-equivalency of FPTP with most of the PR systems is completely at odds with the Canadian findings of over a dozen government commissions, 8 out of 9 international experts, and three-quarters of Canadian experts. It proves your methodology is badly flawed and/or biased.

Getting now to specifics:

It’s noteworthy that you assigned a yellow warning on local representation to DMP and RUP, presumably on the basis that the districts would be physically double in size with DMP (except for a few rural areas), or variable but probably averaging a bit over double in size with RUP. While this physical difference is literally true, what the voters should be concerned about with respect to local representation are the implications for (a) nonpartisan local servicing of citizens and (b) having a rep whose views are aligned with your own, particularly with respect to local issues under provincial jurisdiction. Experience overseas suggests that (a) will be as good or better under PR. With respect to (b), the PR systems DMP and RUP, particularly RUP, improve local representation almost double. So, I believe the chart is wrong – it’s precisely only FPTP that should have the yellow warning (or a red one) for local representation because it leaves around half the local residents without a local rep they support or who supports their views.

Closely related to this is the fact that you’ve omitted from the chart one of the biggest flaws of FPTP – it’s disastrous misrepresentation of regions, and the improved regional representation with PR (sending both government MLAs to do stuff, and opposition MLAs to Victoria to hold them accountable, from every sizable region.)

Because simplicity is the voters top priority, I’m particularly upset under “Simple Ballots” you again took a literal stance on the basis that FPTP and DMP require only one choice, so you put them as green. That’s also ignoring that MMP, and the MMP portion of RUP, might use a single ballot exactly the same as FPTP, using the candidate’s vote as a party vote. If the MLAs who decide the details want simplicity, they can choose that under MMP. But let’s assume they would go with two MMP votes; it is twice as complicated as FPTP in a simplistic literal sense. But wait – the purpose of a ballot is to convey the voter’s intentions effectively. That’s often defeated in FPTP because, to reduce the chances of wasting your vote altogether, you have to guess who are the top two candidates and then vote for the one you hate least. These vote splitting guesses and strategic voting is complicated – much more complicated than PR, in which you simply vote your preference. So, for the voter’s real concern of being heard, for Simple Ballot you should have FPTP as yellow (not red because vote splitting isn’t a concern in the many safe ridings), DMP as green as you have it, MMP as green (because it’s simple to vote twice, who can’t make two choices on the ballot? in Vancouver municipal elections we make about 20) and RUP as yellow (because you might need to rank a rather long list).

Saying ‘if you want a ranked ballot then your only choice is Rural-Urban’…is a really bad way to discuss ranked ballots, because most people dislike ranked ballots, no-one “wants” a ranked ballot per se so if anyone takes your statement literally this could cause them to rule out RUP, but they do (some of them anyway) “want” the benefits of a ranked ballot (and while they don’t much like it, they’re perfectly capable of ranking their preferences), so it would have been more appropriate to omit the “Ranked Ballots” factor line if you didn’t have the time to discuss their pros and cons rather than just the physical “ranked ballot”. In other words, presenting that line in literal terms is a very inaccurate depiction of the whole ranked ballot issue.

Then you go on to ‘strong majority government’ for speedy decision making – and make the mistake of not considering both “speedy and wise” decision making, because PR governments have been shown to make wiser decisions, which is pretty important. Then you say that PR governments are not usually majority governments when in fact they usually are – a major blunder. Sure, they’re coalition majority governments, but still majority, not minority. Then you say under FPTP minority governments are rare – but they’re not rare; they’ve been relatively uncommon in BC, I think about 1/8 of my lifetime, but they’ve been quite common federally, and the trend in BC is that way with the rise of the Greens (who won 9 of 10 candidates they ran in Vancouver municipally apparently), so ‘rare’ is completely misleading.

Under “Don’t like Party Lists” you say “If you don’t like the idea of a party creating their own ranked list of candidates that will get seats, then you shouldn’t vote for Mixed Member or Rural-Urban if you live in a rural area. In the other three systems, First Past The Post, Dual Member, and urban ridings of Rural-Urban all the candidates that win seats are the most popular candidates at election, although they all calculate that slightly differently.” This version of MMP is a straw man, it has been specifically disavowed by the governing party – see https://www.bcndp.ca/pro-rep. You could have been forgiven if you had stated that there’s no law against the MLAs bringing in such a version of MMP, but a fair presentation would have at least mentioned that there are many different versions of MMP, including both open and closed lists, rather than making the blanket statement that a voter should not vote for MMP if they don’t want parties choosing their MLA for them. That’s misleading in BC and therefore inaccurate.

You then waste valuable time to distinguish between ranking two or three PR systems, but these do not differ in effect. Then you take considerable time to discuss and suggest “it’s worth noting” that they have the option of strategic voting, that a person might want to vote for FPTP if they are extremely against one PR system. This implies that there are major differences among the PR systems, which is hugely inaccurate because in fact they are merely mechanically different and not hardly different at all in political outcome terms, so encouraging ignorant people to believe that they are highly different is irresponsible. Moreover, a strong dislike of one of these systems is quite rare because of the general ignorance of them, so talking about that point in a three minute video comes across as just spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about the whole mess rather than educating people about the main points, and this FUD clearly will favour the status quo, first past the post.

You may have good and honest intentions and be as pure as the driven snow, but somehow your video became a self-serving promotion (Patreon) and one of the more sophisticated hatchet jobs. And in my experience, opponents of Pro Rep are not willing to read hundreds of research papers and are rarely willing to open their minds to change, so debating with them is a waste of time.”

Aren’t opponents of pro rep making some strong-sounding arguments? See what’s behind them, and why they’re wrong, in Prof. Dennis Pilon’s article at Canadian Political Science Review Vol. 12 No. 1, 2018: 24-49:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JeTwDEJLd6GoWftdGjzKm2Gb21mKZei-/view?usp=sharing