Governance & Politics
July 9, 2018

Understanding Proportional Representation — Three Models, One Video

Trust The Tyee to get a political scientist to help British Columbians understand what proportional representation is, and what the three voting system choices are, via this snappy YouTube video.

The video, produced by Christopher Cheung, features Megan Dias clearly explaining the three proportional representation voting options for the province, as proposed by Attorney General David Eby.

A ballot will be mailed out for voters to rank the three different models, during this fall’s referendum period, which runs October 22-November 20, just after the civic elections across the province. One such model may end up replacing the “first past the post” system currently in place.

Those three models are mixed-member proportional, rural-urban proportion, and dual-member proportional. To learn more about them, take a look at the video below.

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Jock Finlayson and Ken Peacock have reported in Business in Vancouver on another startling casualty of rising housing prices.

Late last year, British Columbia started to experience a surprising drop in people moving here from other provinces. While migration across Canada has historically risen and fallen with economic swings and employment potential, this drop in the influx of new residents may be more directly attributable to the increasing cost of housing in British Columbia.

This province has Canada’s lowest unemployment rate, and “by mid-2014, interprovincial migration was adding more than 5,000 people to B.C.’s population every quarter – upwards of 20,000 annually. Over the subsequent three years, net interprovincial migration ranged between 4,000 and 6,000 per quarter. But in the third quarter of 2017, the net inflow plummeted to 500, and it stayed low (at 800) in Q4.”

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You may have seen, heard or read about the Great Vancouver Versus Seattle Debate, held by the SFU City Program and VIA Architecture.  Well, here’s a variation in print: the Portland Versus Vancouver Smackdown.

It began with Vancouver’s Tyee, which did a series by Christine McLaren on Portland and featured articles on Why Portland Beats Vancouver and Portland’s Progress on HomelessnessThat in turn was critiqued by Clark Williams-Derry at Seattle’s Sightline Institute.  (Disclosure: I’m on the board of Sightline.)

Okay, too many links.  I’d recommend all the items – but here’s an excerpt from Clark’s piece that jumped right out at me.

McLaren points to Portland’s recent progress in tackling its own homeless problems as evidence that Vancouver’s homeless policies and funding sources simply aren’t up to snuff.  Perhaps that’s right.  But focusing on a few of Portland’s successes misses a huge and somewhat hidden blemish in the Rose City’s homeless record: Portland puts vastly more people in jail than Vancouver.

The numbers on homelessness rates themselves are a bit dicey.  Both cities do one-night counts of their homeless population (here’s Portland’s, and here’s Vancouver’s). But the counts are hard to compare directly, since they were done on different dates, used slightly different  methods and definitions, use different geographic boundaries, and could have different error rates.  Because of the methodological confusion, I’ll call the numbers on homeless rates a draw — while noting that the raw counts found that Multnomah County alone, with only 714 thousand residents, had slightly more unsheltered homeless folks than all of Metro Vancouver, which is three times Multnomah’s size.

But the difference in prison and jail populations between BC and Oregon are simply staggering, and subject to the none of the data confusion that surrounds homeless counts. Oregon’s state prison system houses almost 14,000 inmates, and Portland’s jail population tops 1,300.  In contrast, British Columbia has more total residents than Oregon, yet only about 2,700 total inmates in its jails and prisons.  Apples to apples, Oregon imprisons more than 5 times as many people as BC.  And, of course, many of Oregon’s prisoners are locked away for drug crimes — which is at the root of many of Vancouver’s most public homelessness struggles.

The bottom line:  including Portland’s large and growing prison population puts the city’s “success” in homeless policy in a different light.  Portland’s homeless problem may seem less pressing, but that’s largely because — as is completely typical in the United States — Portland locks a large portion of its homeless problem in jail, where it’s harder to see.

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