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Crossing the line

It’s come to this: vote for PR, or you’re a racist

On the heels of the long and lively municipal elections, British Columbians are being thrust – again – into a third referendum on proportional representation.

Recently, Vote PR BC – the official “Yes” side in the campaign – published a tweet declaring those opposed to PR racist.

Apart from the appalling offensiveness of this tweet, it’s a ridiculous statement. Let’s not forget we live in one of the most diverse countries in the world, where support for immigration, multiculturalism, and equality is nearly universal among political parties.

There’s a reason for this.

Our current system pressures parties to choose candidates that represent the diversity of the ridings, but with a PR system that includes lists, it doesn’t matter what people want or whether they reflect the area, it only matters what the leader wants.

On an issue as important as this, we can’t rely on the whim of a leader to chart the course for diversity in our politics and government.

First past the post encourages parties to have positions in the center of the spectrum – to build coalitions of voters and compete in ridings throughout the country or province. Under PR, parties only have to worry about their total vote share – and a switch to single issue campaigns that divide rather than unite.

PR and MLAs chosen from party lists is not only less democratic, it complicates the progress we’ve made in Canada in making our legislatures more diverse, with more women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Fringe parties, like those seen in Europe, have too often been prejudiced or discriminatory towards minorities. When they get more than 5% of the vote, they aren’t going to consider diversity in picking their MLAs – and those new parliamentarians could easily hold the balance of power, like we have seen in Sweden.

As a lawyer, when the other side says “don’t worry about the details on a contract, let’s just sign it now and figure out the rest later,” there’s a problem.

We’ve been told not to worry; the politicians will figure it out later. We wouldn’t make the most basic decisions in our lives without knowing the details. Why would this be any different?

Imagine buying a car. The dealership offers you three choices –but you’d have to buy one of the cars to discover all the features. Does it have Air conditioning, fuel economy, or four-wheel drive? Just take a leap of faith.

Would you buy one? I wouldn’t think so.

This is exactly what’s happening in this referendum.

We live in one of the best countries in the world – a place that values and respects diversity, with a system that encourages broad coalitions and stability.  That’s why I chose to come here, and that’s why so many others make the same choice every day, from around the world.

PR is a big change that’s not worth the many risks. So I’m asking you to vote to keep our current first past the post system.

Puneet Sandhar is a lawyer and managing partner of Sanghera Sandhar Law Group based in Surrey, B.C. She has served on numerous charitable and government organizations for, which she was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. Puneet is currently an official spokesperson for the No BC Proportional Representation Society.