German immigrant to Canada Freddy Marks founded the Fraser Valley East Against Proportional Representation. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

German-born B.C. man warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

During the last provincial election in British Columbia, voters in the Vancouver-Fraserview riding decided they had enough of BC Liberal MLA Suzanne Anton and voted her out.

In Surrey-Fleetwood, voters did the same thing to Peter Fassbender.

But under a mixed member proportional representation-style electoral system, senior cabinet ministers like Anton and Fassbender would likely have seats in the Legislative Assembly in Victoria for life, regardless of what voters think of them.

The deadline for Elections BC to received the referendum on electoral reform is Nov. 30. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

That’s part of the insanity of proportional representation according to Agassiz-based realtor Freddy Marks who founded the group Fraser Valley East Against Proportional Representation.

Marks is a German immigrant to Canada who has lived under governments elected under proportional representation and he has a warning for British Columbians: Don’t do it.

“It’s so complicated in Germany to get somebody out of parliament,” Marks said in an interview. “The last election, for example, here in B.C. Peter Fassbender and Suzanne Anton were all sent home. That would never happen in Germany because they would always be on the safe party list.”

Germany’s version of proportional representation (PR) is similar to one of the three options on the current 2018 referendum on electoral reform ballot, namely mixed member PR. In that system, voters choose which candidate they like in their particular riding and those candidates fill up half of parliament in a first past the post style vote.

Then the popular vote is tallied and the rest of parliament is filled to match the percentages with members chosen from party lists.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack MLA says PR process is partisan and tainted

The benefit of PR, proponents argue, is there are no wasted votes. If a party receives 44 per cent of the popular vote they can’t get 100 per cent of the power, they get 44 per cent of the seats.

“In theory that is 100 per cent fair and it makes sense,” Marks says. “But in practical terms you will see that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the same guys are still sitting in Parliament. The leaders are always the same guys.”

The top group of party elites, such as Anton and Fassbender, would almost certainly be atop the BC Liberal list so they would have been re-elected despite losing races in their respective ridings.

In Germany, Marks says there are people who have been in parliament for 30 years despite never having directly won a mandate from voters.

“That drives normal people like me and you somewhat crazy,” he says.

Marks also doesn’t disagree with the criticism that PR can give a voice to extremist parties. This has been criticized by many as fear-mongering, but Marks says in the last seven years radicals with anti-immigration policies earned enough votes to win seats, and they have risen to hold close to 20 per cent of the seats.

“Adolf Hitler came into parliament in a proportional representation system. He was voted in.”

This comparison along with the current rise of far right parties in Europe in various countries such as Sweden is part of the fear-mongering some say is coming from the “no” side. University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) political science professor Hamish Telford said the rise of extreme parties in Europe doesn’t have anything to do with PR.

“When we look at those places the problem isn’t proportional representation, the problem is that in Sweden one in five people voted for a fascist party,” he said.

But Marks figures that you can find 10 to 15 per cent of any large group of people are attracted to radical ideas, and giving them a proportional number of elected seats only draws attention to dangerous fringe ideas.

He uses soccer hooliganism as a metaphor: “Ten to 15 per cent of every stadium are radical. You go into a stadium, where is the camera pointed? Where there are 20 idiots who are fighting. In a PR system, they would right away have a platform where they could build on.”

He gives Maxine Bernier and his People’s Party of Canada as an example of this, paralleling the anti-immigration parties in Europe. Bernier’s main focus has been on criticizing immigration in Canada, and if the country had a PR system, Bernier would be in Parliament, Marks figures.

• RELATED: Threat of extremism posed by proportional representation overstated: academics

“At the end of the day, the voter is losing his power,” he says. “At the moment he can still send somebody home. In PR, you send nobody home. Only the party will send them home.”

For political science professor Hamish Telford, much of the rhetoric from the “no” side is based on misinformation and exaggeration about how it would change things.

“German voters and New Zealand voters seem quite comfortable with PR,” Telford said in an interview last month, adding that PR does seem to be more fair.

“When we are talking about proportionality, we are not talking about a simple technical matter. We are talking about some fundamental democratic principles. The first principle is that the party that gets the most votes, should get the most seats.”

What many people seem to agree is the flawed nature of how the referendum was implemented, and how fractious and partisan it has become with the NDP on the “yes” side and the BC Liberals on the “no” side.

And what also seems at least partly true is that the BC Liberals opposed to PR are using scare tactics, while really what’s on the line is their own political lives.

“What the Liberals really fear is a splintering of their famed coalition between two distinct parties,” Telford said.

As for Marks, while he has had Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness speak at his group’s events, he insists he has nothing to do with the BC Liberals and that he is non-partisan in this debate.

“I’m not involved in any political party here in B.C.,” he says.

The deadline for Elections BC to received referendum ballots is Nov. 30.

• RELATED: Lack of public response threatens B.C. referendum credibility


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: One injured in shooting on South Surrey-Langley border

Shots reported near 194 Street and 34 Avenue, burned-out vehicle found in 18100-block of 12 Avenue

Mother-daughter charged in 2017 torched-SUV killing in South Surrey now allowed contact

Judge grants Manjit Kaur Deo permission to connect with Inderdeep Kaur Deo through a lawyer

White Rock acupuncturist suspended for ‘scare tactics, excessive fees’

30-day suspension for Jun Hua (Davy) Hua issued Aug. 18

Man sought in connection with ‘suspicious occurrence’ in South Surrey

Police asking the public’s help to identify man who may have information on Aug. 4 incident

Surrey school district student enrolment down from projections

‘That’s not something I can say in my time in Surrey, I have ever said at the board table’: superintendent

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Machine pistol among 14 firearms seized from Alaska man at B.C. border crossing

Corey Scott Kettering faces charges of smuggling and prohibited firearm possession

Most Read