Maxed out 

Liberal democracy in British Columbia

By G.D. Maxwell

If the two official languages of Canada are English and French, what’s the official language of Victoria?

Well, yes, that may be a trick question. Anybody who’s seen the Official Ballot for the Referendumb on What to Do About Those Pesky Redskins might be forgiven for wondering if bullshit hasn’t become the third official language of the province.

I have to admit, I’m probably at a disadvantage when trying to decipher exactly what the referendumb questions mean. Three college degrees – plus two more racked up by my Perfect Partner – doesn’t seem to help. An admittedly vague understanding of the often laughable political scene in B.C. isn’t of much value either.

No, to even begin to understand what this exercise in democracy is all about, you pretty much have to think like Gordon Campbell. That would require either a sharp blow to the head or paranoid delusions so rich they’d make Chuckie Manson seem like Mr. Rogers.

You’d also have to give a damn and I can’t understand why anybody would waste the energy to even try to figure out what the questions mean. Gordo and his bully boys have such a tenuous grasp on the fundamental principles of democracy they’ve made your answers irrelevant.

They’ve already said their government will be bound by the referendumb results if the results are a yes vote. Now, in what you and I might think of as a democracy, we’d be forgiven for thinking they’d also be bound by a no vote. Not so, sucker. Gordo and the boys feel empowered to ignore a no vote; they’ve said as much. What next, jackboots and brownshirts?

Why, exactly, are we spending so much dough – estimates of between $7.5 and $10 million – on this farce?

And then there are the questions themselves. Written in a style best described as Early Japanese Motorcycle Owner’s Manual, the questions have been dubbed "vague, ambiguous, misleading, amateurish and unintelligible" by professional pollsters, academics, community and religious groups and virtually anyone who’s taken the time to read them.

Assuming anyone manages to decipher the questions and cast a vote they believe accurately reflects their stand on the issue at hand, they then have to successfully get past the seven steps and three envelopes that will make their ballot official. The ballot, it should be noted, comes with a flowchart reminiscent of the startup procedures for a nuclear submarine. The whole exercise, beginning to end, is guaranteed to make Florida’s voting procedures seem like simplicity itself.

To summarize, we have eight unintelligible questions, seven steps, three envelopes and maybe 10 million bucks to come up with a vote that only counts if it goes the way the government wants it to go.


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