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

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

Nanaimo Community Archives is looking for submissions from homeowners who took on exterior renovation projects, no matter how big or how small, for the first Heritage House Renovations Awards. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo archives holding first Heritage House Renovation Awards

Judges want photos and descriptions of exterior renovations that enhanced character of Nanaimo homes

Nanaimo Courthouse. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Justice system is failing us

Crime rampant, police overworked, businesses targeted, citizens unsafe, says letter writer

News Bulletin file photo
Wrong set of golf clubs given away outside Nanaimo thrift store

Family spreading word about mistake in hopes clubs might be returned to them

The Regional District of Nanaimo faces challenges with garbage bin replacement requests. (Michael Briones photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo faces challenges to meet requests for garbage bin replacements

Waste manager says RDN will have a surplus of 100-litre carts

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board is forwarding a motion on illegal dumping to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities’ upcoming annual general meeting. (Kane Blake photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo motion seeks to ask province for help to combat illegal dumping

RDN resolution to be forwarded to Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales. A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest's endangered orcas eat. Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured. They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Study reinforces importance of Chinook to Pacific Northwest orcas

Data confirms how central the big salmon are to the orca’s diet year-round

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Most Read