Politicians have a notoriously bad record predicting the consequences of policies they have adopted. Recent tax increases on the highest income earners in Canada were predicted to raise revenues by $3 billion but in the first year (2016) the amount of taxes these Canadians in the top one percent paid were $4.6 billion lower than they paid in.
Politicians love forecasts of doom, which increases their power and status as they adopt policies to prevent it. Politicians created recycling programs after thein 1972 predicted that the world was running out of natural resources. The was the conventional wisdom around the turn of the century.
As a wit once said, predictions are very difficult, especially about the future. Predictions like those by the Liberal government, the Club of Rome and energy analysts often turn out wrong because of improbable events that could not be foreseen – the black swans discussed by. But predictions also are often wrong because predictable events are not properly considered. History has shown convincingly that high-income earners always shift income through time, space and into low-taxed investments to reduce their tax obligations. Consumers always reduce purchases when the price of a good increases and producers react by increasing supply so that the world will never run out of resources.
The predictions by politicians and pundits about the political landscape in British Columbia resulting from the adoption of a proportional representation system for elections is likely also to be false. The leaders of the NDP and Greens initiated a referendum on this change in the expectation that they would continue to receive at least the same proportion of votes as they did under the old system and thus together would be able to form government easily without precarious majorities as they have since 2017. The Greens believe moreover that they will receive more votes than they did under the old system as voters will realize that they no longer “waste” their votes on a party that has no chance to be in government.
The defenders of the current electoral system predict that the new one will bring into parliament politicians representing existing parties that have never had electoral, such as Libertarians, Communists, Christian Heritage, Cascadia, Social Credit and, until the 2017 election the Greens, all of which were on that year’s ballot. They also predict the formation of entirely new parties with policy agendas that are “extreme right-wing”, “racist-fascist”, “anti-immigrant”, “single issue”, “communist “, “libertarian unlimited immigration” etc.
It is quite unlikely that any of the small existing parties or the expected new parties will get more than five percent of the vote, which will be a threshold required by the proposed new voting system leading to seats in parliament. The votes they receive will come from the supporters of the existing major parties but affect them unpredictably and in the aggregate could lead to major changes in their election platforms.
However, in the above list of parties are absent some, which have large constituencies with strong bonds among voters and a good chance to win seats in future elections. These parties are likely to be rooted in the large ethnic populations living in Richmond, Surrey and other suburbs of Vancouver. Opportunistic political entrepreneurs could gain votes with the promise to get spending programs and regulations benefiting their regions in return for joining a ruling government coalition.
There are also likely to be opportunities for new, populist parties that attract voters who want to see changes in some policies made unchallengeable by the code of political correctness. According to opinion surveys, this is the case for reform of Canada’s immigration and refugee policies. Maxime Bernier has successfully formed a federal party with such a policy as an important part of its agenda.
Bernier’s proposed reforms of immigration policies are widely condemned as racist and fascist by the political elites in Canada. In fact, they are neither but are designed to serve the national interest, just like the federal Liberals policies on supply management, culture and banking. A BC branch of Bernier’s Peoples’ Party under proportional representation might attract enough votes from all three major parties to enter parliament with uncertain effects on the establishment parties
Most of the parties with a chance to gain seats in parliament are unlikely to fit the traditional classification of left or right but they are likely to win enough votes from the NDP, Liberals and Greens to create major changes to the political landscape in British Columbia and with them bring unpredictable new social and economic conditions.
Voters in the BC referendum who do not want to see such changes should vote for the retention of the system that has made the province one of the most prosperous in Canada.
Emeritus Professor of Economics
Simon Fraser University
Published in Vancouver Sun Predicting the political landscape after electoral reform in B.C.
Vancouver Sun editorial, November 4, 2018https://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/herb-grubel-predicting-the-political-landscape-after-electoral-reform-in-b-c