Like some of us, I marvel at the power grassroots movements have to generate a sea-change in how people think and what people believe.
As a child of the sixties, I remember the significant role regular people played, who mobilized at the grassroots, in changing the course of history. Think Canadian efforts in the Peace Movement, the Women’s Movement, and the Environmental Movement.
Some big names and well-known faces are associated with each movement, but, we now think of as movements would have been nothing but blips on the historical screen without the discontent, the righteous indignation and the lay-their-freedom-on-the-line action of the nameless and faceless many.
Grassroots movements are the conscience of the powerful. They ring a bell for those least likely to be heard. They create symbols to be remembered as well as slogans and songs that somehow are passed down from one generation to the next.
Sometimes a grassroots movement may experience several starts and stops before it actually gains the momentum needed to win the day.
That’s the case for BC’s proportional representation movement. Yes, it’s a movement, one which came close in 2005 by gaining 57 percent of the vote which almost reached the requirement that voters approve it by a supermajority of 60 percent. In 2009, the proportional representation movement, with only 39 percent of voter approval, crashed and burned; there’s no other way to describe it.
But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, proportional representation is now, in 2018, experiencing its third life, much to the consternation of those who oppose it.
But, let’s not worry about the opposition. They’re repeating their same old song and dance, thinking, perhaps, that if their tunes and steps were effective twice before, they’ll be effective in swaying voters again.
The opposition comes at us on several fronts. There’s the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) which has filed a court injunction that questions the legality of the referendum. There’s the BC Liberal Party and its leader, Andrew Wilkinson, whose top priority is the defeat of electoral reform. There’s the pundits and lobbyists, sometimes one and the same person, who treat voters to their tired fear mongering about fringe parties and the rise of racism.
Same old, same old.
They don’t want to debate issues because they know that any debate of the issues readily exposes the positives about proportional representation.
Positives like the number of votes a party gets closely equaling the number of seats it gets in the Legislative Assembly. Like parties collaborating to find a balanced approached to governance that stands the test of time. Like more diverse representation – women, youth, First Nations – which mirrors the diversity of the BC population.
One of my friends tells me that I’m standing in the middle of an activist whirlwind and that I’m a bit naïve to think that the effort some of us are expending to see electoral reform pass in BC can actually be called a movement.
OK. Call me a pie-in-the-sky kind of gal. Call me infected by living in the la-la land of the Wet Coast. Call me hopeful. Because hopeful, I am.
When other hopefuls like me work for two hours at one event or another, passing out information and talking to people about proportional representation and people stop and listen, we’re hopeful. When our canvassers talk about the interest people at the door express when they hear that most of their votes will actually count toward electing a candidate that represents them, we’re hopeful. When people sign the pledge sheet to vote for proportional representation and, then, contact us offering to volunteer to spread the word, we are hopeful.
In fact, hope is the driving force of any movement.
The proportional representation movement has momentum. History will remember this movement because it will mark a significant change for the better in our provincial government and in our lives.
This is a movement that is destined to cause a trickle-up effect that shakes the halls of government.