Tag Archives: BC Politics

Information and Compliance

A couple of detailed BC COVID reports leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week. They were interesting in themselves – I just moved from 0% positivity rate North Saanich to .1-1% positivity rate Oak Bay – but they bring up the question of how much information should be given to the public and how much, if any, withheld? And for what reasons?

My own view is that it all should be released as soon as it is compiled so I can make informed decisions as to my relative level of risk and my behaviour in the face of such risk. Against that view are a variety of arguments: granular data may compromise privacy, detailed demographic data could lead to racial discrimination, data on co-morbidities might give people a false confidence (“I’m not fat so COVID is not a problem for me.”)

However, underlying the decision not to fully disclose is the public health agenda of compliance. In BC, unlike Ontario and Quebec, we do not have mandatory stay at home orders. Our public health response has been to suggest limiting contacts, eliminating a lot of indoor activities, mandating masks and asking people to limit travel to essential purposes. Whether this has worked better than the more restrictive lockdowns in other provinces is an open question.

For the BC light handed approach to work there has to be a good deal of voluntary compliance with the various measures suggested. Generally there has been, but as the vaccination program gains traction and Spring brings a welcome decline in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the logic of compliance is beginning to break down.

Having better, more granular, information would, I suspect, actually improve public health outcomes. We are going to open up in any event eventually; have good information will let each person assess his or her relative risk. Vaccinated in Oak Bay? You’re golden. In South Surrey? It would be wise to maintain precautions until a really significant percentage of the population is vaccinated.

In the early stages of the COVID problem there was a great deal of uncertainty. We were given advice in good faith which turned out to be wrong. COVID is almost never transmitted by surface contact so the sanitary theatre and gloves were largely a waste of time. However, COVID is airborne which means that ventilation is critical. Social distancing and masks have turned out to be of limited use in stopping the spread but may have some utility in “hot spots”. There are all sorts of pieces of information like this which are useful to individuals trying to reduce their own risk.

At the beginning the messaging was that “we are all in this together” and that messaging worked. But, in actual fact, we now know that some populations and demographics have much higher risks. Pinpointing those populations and demographics – the poor and the brown – means that vaccination doses can be targetted while shortages persist. (And, frankly, for those vunerable populations, the “two dose right on time” regime makes a lot of sense. Even at the expense of us Oak Baysians having to wait a bit longer.)

Most of all, giving complete information will tend to increase the public’s trust in the public health officials and the politicians who direct them. At this point, with the end of the crisis (but likely not COVID itself) in sight, that public trust is a critical factor in defeating the virus.

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No PR for BC

Well, that was crushing: 61% of the 41% of eligible voters who actually voted rejected proportional representation and opted to stick with “first past the post”.

Assorted lefties and millennials were unhappy. But, really, they have only themselves to blame.

I rather like PR but none of the options presented on the mail-in ballot was worth having. Because the lefties who supported PR wanted to ensure that the PR they would have would avoid the possibility of actual “representation” for any but the NDP and the Greens while increasing the voting efficiency of those Green and NDP votes.

I will leave it to voting wonks to explain the three useless choices presented as the PR alternatives; rather I will pay attention to a very simple idea which was, of course, not included.

Reduce the total number of MLAs elected by electoral districts by, say, one half. So the 87 current electoral districts would shrink to 43. Then take the 44 seats that would open up and run a province-wide list system with a threshold of 2.5% of the votes cast. So you would have one vote in a First Past the Post race in your electoral district and 44 votes to distribute to the 44 slots on the “At Large” lists. [And I would not allow a “straight ticket” single vote…you’d have to vote 44 times or once – because vote plumping would be encouraged.]

Essentially this is the system the Australians use to elect their Senate and it allows a wide variety of candidates to take a run for office with a decent chance of winning.

It would also be a wonderfully upsetting experience for the current parties.

Ezra Levant was happy to see the FPTP system retained but wistful because he would have run a Rebel slate and thinks he could get 10%. (Maybe, I rather doubt it.) But what would happen is that a ginger group of half a dozen to a dozen “list elected”

MLA’s could represent everyone from my own favourite Wine Tax Freedom (WTF) Party to a party composed of First Nations people and on to Christian Fundamentalists and Antifa. With a 2.5% threshold, you can pretty much guarantee the First Nations party would hold four or five at-large seats. So could a Teacher’s Party or a Resource Extraction Party (see Suits and Boots). Recent immigrants to British Columbia could run their own lists as could Aged Bald White Guys such as myself.

But this sort of radical democracy was not on the table in this referendum. Too scary for the NDP and the ultra-conservative Greens.

Because real Proportional Representation was not on the ballot PR lost.

Too bad.

(I might add that it was a huge mistake for the pro-PR forces to entirely align with the left and the greens. Essentially that alignment turned the referendum into a pseudo-referendum on the current Red/Green coalition. That is never a good idea on what is actually a process question.)

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Green Option

2017-001-pantone-color-of-the-year-2017-greenery-15-0343-coffee-mugIn the last BC provincial election Andrew Weaver – master of doubtful climate models and UVic professor – managed to win the riding I was living in. He has turned out to be a reasonably competent MLA and had led the Green Party on a relatively moderate course. Yes, there is still a lot of looniness about “climate change” but that goes with the territory.

A few years later and for this election I am living in a riding where there is a real chance that the Green candidate can pick up the seat bringing the Greens to two in the Legislature assuming that Weaver keeps his seat. Vaughn Palmer writing in the Vancouver Sun goes into the details of the three way fight in Saanich North here.

I have not voted yet and am weighing the options. I have no particular animus towards Christy Clark and the BC Liberals – other than the fact the silly woman put in a knee jerk carbon tax – but I don’t see any reason to vote for them other than to keep the NDP out of government. As a general rule I never vote for the NDP, especially at the provincial level, simply because BC has enough economic problems without putting a bunch of agenda driven, public service union beholden, socialists in charge.

Normally, that calculus means that I would hold my nose and vote Liberal; but in this election, in this riding, voting Green is very tempting. Not because I agree with much of what the Greens stand for, rather because voting Green is a safe way of registering dissatisfaction with the BC Liberals. (This, by the way, is driving the NDP crazy as illustrated in this interview with eco-warrioress Tzeporah Berman in The Tyee. There is nothing like a good faction fight on the eco loon left to warm the cockles of my heart.)

An ideal election outcome from my perspective is a BC Liberal victory by about one seat. Or a BC Liberal minority relying on the Greens to win confidence votes. The libertarian side of me wants to see government in all its forms rolled back; but if that is not going to happen then a weak, worried government is the next best thing. Voting Green in Saanich North takes a seat away from the NDP but avoids giving it to the BC Liberals. It is awfully tempting.

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