July 14, 1999
EBC file: 84100-02
John Allen West
#8 Arthur's Road
RR#1, Hornby Island
BC Canada V0R 1Z0
Robert A. Patterson, Chief Electoral Officer
Elections British Columbia
1075 Pendergast Street, Victoria,
British Columbia V8V 1X4
Subject: Peace, Order and Good Management of Collective Affairs in the Province of British Columbia through changes in the Forms used for ballot procedures in the upcoming by-election in BC as described under section 281(1) of the British Columbia Election Act.
Dear Mr. Patterson,My congratulations on your appointment as Chief Electoral Officer. When I wrote to you last in early 1996, you were Acting CEO.
I wish at this time to bring, again, to your attention the "None-of-the-Above" option for the upcoming by-election in South Delta. Here is a golden opportunity to test the public's often expressed desire for non-partisan options. (Please see attached newspaper commentaries).
As Elections BC has a non-partisan mandate and a responsibility to make appropriate improvements in the electoral process, I am seeking your support in exploring the principle of random sampling for representative Government.
It is not my intention to destroy the political party system, whatever it's disadvantages. Rather I seek to give an opportunity for expression to disaffected voters who have gained the maturity and the ability to think for them selves and to seek co-operative rather than adversarial alternatives to those directions presented by the current partisan process.
I am writing separately to the Lieutenant-Governor since it appears that under section 282(1) of The Elections Act, he has some authority to influence matters of public concern which have a non-partisan support.
Opinions in the press give evidence that very few British Colombians are satisfied with the management of the Province's recent affairs by the Cabinet formed by the majority party mandated in the last election. To many thoughtful people in British Columbia and Canada, the eve of the new millennium is an excellent time to carry out an experiment toward better management of collective affairs.
Election Act, section 282, Plebiscite on matters of public concern,
"(1)The Lieutenant-Governor in Council may direct the chief electoral officer to conduct a plebiscite to determine the opinion of the voters in all or part of British Columbia on a matter of public concern specified by the Lieutenant in Council.
(2)For the purposes of a plebiscite under subsection (1), the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations governing the procedure for the plebiscite.
(3) To the extent that the procedure for a plebiscite is not established under subsection (2), the plebiscite is to be conducted in accordance with the regulations of the chief electoral officer".
My reading of these sections of the Election Act suggest to me that the Crown, in the body of the Lieutenant Governor, is empowered to protect the people's democratic interests. This prerogative of the Lieutenant Governor is especially valuable in these times, when it appears to a majority of the general population that fundamentals of fair play in good management of public affairs is being undermined by short term Cabinet decisions that reflect partisan advantage, rather than matters of serious practical concern.
Section 283 of the Election Act allows the chief electoral officer to make regulations under Section (b) "prescribing forms for the purpose of this Act and information that may be included or requested on them".
A man and a woman selected by random process from each constituency would overcome many of the outstanding gender biased deficiencies and would provide a method of sampling wider lifestyle experiences and expressions of the diversity of the people of British Columbia.
If a simple majority of such NOTA representatives were elected then the legislature would logically become a non-adversarial co-operative, caretaker assembly forum.
Public debate in a non-adversarial forum would by nature be co-operative towards the common good. A recent example of this can be seen in the performance of forums assembled by The Spicer Commission.
Such a constituent assembly might very well meet in separate gender forums, that is a men's and woman's circle, and then combine when the issues of public concern are close to accord.
People who trust themselves to act honorably and honestly in the role of representatives, if chosen by chance, are much more likely to act in a selfless way seeking the highest values of their communities and the wider Province. They would take on their responsibility in an open and unsullied way having rejected the adversarial partisan approach to Government by voting NOTA in the first place.
An individual selected to serve would have the option to step aside if for any reason they feel unable or incapable of carrying out their duties at the time. This voluntary quality of willingness to serve would encourage people who, although they felt unready to fill the roles themselves, would, none the less, prefer randomly selected representation as an alternative to party selected candidates. For many it would represent reaffirmation of their desire to vote and their essential trust in the common wisdom that prevails in Canadian society.
Also, I think it would be wise that youth, from the age of 12, are eventually included in this process.
Secrecy in the election process would be retained by revealing the identity of only those selected from the pool of NOTA electors for office.
In a multi-cultural society, this random selection system and regular referendum responses from the community would cut through many of the perceived and often very real ethnic and cultural biases. In this society which claims egalitarianism as a legitimate human expression of the Divine Will, it is common for people to see themselves as children of one creative source. Any registered voter is eligible to be a candidate. Therefore random selection would be a logically consistent and an honourable way to choose constituency representatives. And in these times when many British Columbian people are familiar with lotteries, this would not be a surprise or be unwelcome.
In your role as Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Patterson, you are quite aware of the dangerously low voter turnout. I see that the NOTA option, if properly managed, would encourage a significant public response in registration and at the polls.
In the third paragraph of your letter of March 12, 1996, you mentioned that the suggestion of the "simple matter" of adding another box at the bottom of the ballot would have significantly greater ramifications than would be implied. I agree. But, it is widely understood at this time, that if the powers of the common people through Government are not to be lost due to the financial capabilities of Competitive Corporate Capitalism, then structural changes in our democracy are vital.
Please instruct me as to the correct approach that should be made so that this idea may receive serious consideration, agreement and encouragement of "the leaders of the registered political parties entitled to be represented on the Election Advisory Committee". Please clarify for me if your role on this committee is to represent non-partisan interests within the commonly perceived democratic ideals framed by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Yours, in the knowledge and love of truth,
John Allen West