Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Mostly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy
High 5° / Low -1°
Mostly Cloudy
High 7° / Low 3°
Page 2

New mayor excited to get going on council

Oliver’s new Town council was sworn in Monday night. They were joined by youth ambassadors, family and friends. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

By Lyonel Doherty

Oliver Chronicle

Oliver’s new mayor can’t wait to get to work on Town council.

Monday night’s inauguration and swearing in ceremony filled council chambers with family and friends who watched each member take their oath of office.

“I’m very excited about it. I think it’s a great opportunity,” said Mayor Martin Johansen. “Getting to meet the councillors; they’re very supportive, and there is some experience here. I think we’re going to achieve some good stuff over the next four years.”

Johansen said he started seriously thinking about running for mayor a couple of years ago.

“I probably read every document that the Town of Oliver has produced over the last couple of years trying to understand the issues.”

Video: New Town Council sworn in

Once again, Johansen attributed his election win to people wanting change. “People wanted some fresh energy; some new blood.”

He also noted his qualifications and having a lot to offer as a candidate, with plenty of experience and knowledge of municipal government.

Johansen said one issue he wants to focus on rather quickly is establishing a coordinated enforcement committee to enhance policing and crime prevention in Oliver.

“I’ve been talking about that with council today already, and I did talk to Blaine (Sgt. Gervais) at the RCMP office and mentioned to him that is something I wanted to do.”

Oliver’s new Mayor Martin Johansen gets a hug after the swearing in ceremony in council chambers Monday night. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

Johansen said he needs to understand how policing is conducted in Oliver and the staffing issues that impact that.

“Are we going to get an additional two officers? I want to understand the dynamic of what’s going on.”

The other issue he wants to address as budget time nears is infrastructure and asset management.

“We’ve got to be able to maintain what we have. It’s nice to get out and cut ribbons and build new, but if we can’t maintain what we have . . .”

Yet another issue the new mayor wants to understand better is emergency room staffing at South Okanagan General Hospital and what Oliver can do to retain physicians in this community.

When Johansen is not working, he loves recreation. He coaches hockey, he golfs, he hikes and enjoys hunting as well.

“I like to spend a lot of time outdoors. That’s why I just love Oliver; there are so many amenities here for a small town.”

New Mayor Martin Johansen (left) chats with new Area C director Rick Knodel at Monday’s inauguration. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

VIDEO: New Town Council sworn in


The Town of Oliver hosted the inauguration and swear-in of the new council on Monday night. New Mayor Martin Johansen and the rest of council (Aimee Grice, Parminder Sidhu, Petra Veintimilla, Rick Machial, Larry Schwartzenberger and Dave Mattes) took the oath of office.

• Read more: New mayor excited to get going on council

Re-elected councillor Petra Veintimilla spends a moment with her children while Mayor Martin Johansen (background) is interviewed by reporter Roy Wood. (Lyonel Doherty photo)
New Town councillor Aimee Grice poses with her children at Monday’s inauguration in council chambers. (Lyonel Doherty photo)
New water councillor Parminder Sidhu takes the oath of office. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

Letter: PR reflects electorate

British Columbians by now have probably received their referendum ballots in the mail. These need to be received back by Elections BC no later than Nov. 30 for your vote to count. Those preferring the present voting system only need to darken the top oval of Question 1. Those preferring proportional representation can study the three different options and rank them by preference in Question 2. (Richard McGuire photo)

A voting system that is proportional reflects the true wishes of the electorate. 

I have been studying our choices since February and am convinced that proportional representation is what British Columbia needs.

The most important fact about proportional representation is that a majority government must have a “true” majority, not one based on 40 percent of the votes.  When 60 percent of the voters choose another set of values and ideas, those voters should not be shut out of decision making that directly affects them.

First past the post in the USA, the UK and France, as well as here in Canada (in Ontario), prove that the majority of the people are not being fairly represented in government. Some recent elections under this system have created dictatorship-type regimes where the leader of the province or country is pushing forward edicts that are dividing the populace, fanning racism and violence, reversing policies on the environment leading to worsening climate change, and sending education systems back decades. 

We cannot afford to continue with the status quo – it is a broken system that serves the elite and corporations but not the majority of citizens.

Any of the choices we have been given in this referendum would serve B.C. citizens well and be a great improvement over first past the post.

Lori Goldman, Penticton

Up and coming fighter discourages bullying

Marlan “Pretty Boy” Hall (right) poses for a family photo at Valley Hemp in Oliver. From left are dad Mario, brothers Bryant and William, and girlfriend Kelsey Williams. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

By Lyonel Doherty

Oliver Chronicle

A mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter in Oliver pauses when asked if he was ever bullied as a kid.

He then admits that he wasn’t a victim but rather the bully, something he isn’t proud of today.

But Marlan “Pretty Boy” Hall has changed and is focusing all of his efforts on a career as a disciplined fighter in the cage.

The 23-year-old member of the Osoyoos Indian Band recently won the 2018 Battlefield Fight League Amateur Featherweight Championship.

His goal is to fight professionally and be the top fighter in his weight class.

(MMS Sucka/Nelsonyeo photo)

Hall’s passion for the sport began when he started watching Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fights on TV and wrestling with friends in his backyard.

“In my mom’s basement I had a punching bag and I had, for my grappling mats, you know those air mattresses? Well, I deflated one of those and put them on the ground (via duct tape) so you could grapple around.”

When OIB Chief Clarence Louie found out, he told the young man about an MMA tournament that he might be interested in. The only catch was it was taking place the very next day.

“I was like, well, ya! But it was weird because he asked me on April Fool’s Day, so I was kind of like, I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

But it was the real deal; Hall was matched up with an opponent, whom he beat in one minute and five seconds with a triangle choke.

Following that event, a promoter called him about another fight card (in two weeks). Hall was again victorious and continued on the road to success.

Looking back, his training consisted mainly of horsing around with friends and watching Youtube videos. But he finally got a coach after his third fight at the age of 16.

Girlfriend Kelsey Williams spends a moment with the champ, Marlan “Pretty Boy” Hall, who recently won the 2018 Battlefield Fight League Amateur Featherweight Championship. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

“I felt like I was made for fighting . . . it doesn’t matter how big the guy is, I’m going be the guy that hits the hardest.”

Hall says he has a natural competitive instinct and his goal is to become a UFC champion at the highest level.

“I feel like I can. There’s a lot of guys that have a quitting mindset, and I had been pushed to the brink . . . I could have just rolled over.”

But he found his true warrior after his second fight against a state champion wrestler. “He was pounding me and I should have been knocked out, but it was that instinct when I said, ‘no, it’s not happening, not today.’”

His recent championship match was against a six-foot opponent, the tallest guy he ever fought. “It was a really tough matchup.”

Hall knew he had to push harder.

“I started throwing leg kicks, and I couldn’t just sit back because he would attack me, so I had to attack first.”

In the third round there was a big momentum shift where Hall noticed his opponent wilting.

“As the old saying goes, ‘the eyes never lie.’”

Hall says the guy got desperate in the fifth round and tried to take him to the ground, but he countered and finished with a choke.

Hall prefers the stand-up game where he can box as opposed to grappling on the ground.

“I was looking at boxers’ paycheques and I was like, mmm, maybe I can pursue this. But then my friend saw me grappling and said, ‘I don’t think you’ll ever be a boxer.’”

Dad Mario is Marlan’s biggest fan and is thrilled that his son is the Amateur Featherweight Champion. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

Hall admits that grappling isn’t his strength but he tries to hone both disciplines equally.

With a nine and three record, Hall is looking forward to his title defense in March. After his 10th win he wants to fight professionally, but he suspects the transition from amateur to pro will be a lot more challenging.

Hall is the first to admit that MMA fighting is very barbaric.

“At any point in time I can have somebody down on the ground, holding them by the throat. It’s violent.”

He recalls his coach going over various moves that Hall could use in the cage: “You have your knee on their back, you can pin their head down and just start smashing them. I was like, ‘That is the most violent thing I ever heard.’”

But the objective is to win the fight, not feel sympathy.

“You can see the fear in their eyes. I’m sitting there trying to hit you as hard as I can; I want to see that look (of fear).”

But after the fight he always feels bad.

Contrary to what some people may think, Hall is friends with a lot of his opponents, including the guy who beat him for the first time. “He actually wanted to buy one of these ‘Pretty Boy’ shirts.”

(MMS Sucka/Nelsonyeo photo)

Hall said when you look at some of these fighters’ previous lives, you see some of them doing jail time and getting into so much trouble. But when they enter a sport like this, they clean up their act.

“You can look at Dustin Poirier and Joey Beltran, people like that, pioneers of sport that came from rough beginnings but then made it and now they’re huge family guys.”

Hall suspects that if he wasn’t in this sport, he might be partying all the time and perhaps getting into trouble.

The fact is mixed martial arts have changed lives, even his own, he says. For example, it has given him a positive persona in life.

He looks back at some of the things he’s done, such as bullying, and shakes his head.

“I think back on my childhood; I was so mean to other kids, but I’m more . . . I’m very sympathetic now.”

He recalls his friends tripping other kids, so he would jump in and do the same because he didn’t want to be excluded.

“I don’t know, I just felt like when I bullied I had a sense of power . . . (but really) it’s a sense of insecurity. As a kid, you’re scared, you know?”

Bullying eats at you, Hall points out.

Read more: Would-be entrepreneur eyes ‘ultimate’ dream

He knows this all too well since he wrote a formal apology letter to one victim. It happened after his friend posted the fact that he won a title. A person soon commented that he “hated” Hall in high school.

Hall didn’t know who this person was but sought out more information about him.

He then remembered a pushing incident in a Grade 8 class, when Hall used a gay slur against another student.

“Ever since then he hated me and I had no idea.”

He made amends by writing the letter.

Hall believes that bullies need a sense of power and confidence, but urges them to get it somewhere else. He suggests a sport or anything that will provide an outlet for all that aggression.

“That’s why I believe this sport is one of the best sports in the world. You get all the pent up anger out.”

Hall hopes to inspire others by being the new head coach for Pacific Top Team Muay Thai in Penticton.

In the meantime, he continues to look for new sponsors to help him reach the top. For more information, call 250-328-4272 or email

MLA: If you don’t understand PR, don’t vote for it

British Columbians by now have probably received their referendum ballots in the mail. These need to be received back by Elections BC no later than Nov. 30 for your vote to count. Those preferring the present voting system only need to darken the top oval of Question 1. Those preferring proportional representation can study the three different options and rank them by preference in Question 2. (Richard McGuire photo)

By Richard McGuire

Special to the Chronicle

MLA Linda Larson has a simple answer for those confused by the referendum ballot on proportional representation – if you don’t understand it, don’t vote for it.

“You vote to keep what we’ve got unless you have a clear understanding of what is on that ballot besides what we’ve got,” Larson said in an interview after mail-in ballots began arriving in people’s mailboxes last week.

The referendum allows British Columbians to choose between the current “first-past-the-post” system for electing MLAs to the legislature and one of three proportional representation (PR) systems.

The provincial NDP government agreed to hold the referendum as one of the conditions set by the BC Green Party for maintaining Green support in the legislature to allow the NDP to govern.

“The literature is complicated,” Larson said of the information from Elections BC about the various PR systems. “It’s not something that the average person can just open, understand easily, mark and send back knowing that they have made the choice that they genuinely have been informed about.”

Voters who don’t support or understand the different PR systems have the option to simply mark Question 1 to indicate that they prefer the present system. It is not necessary to answer the second question.

The deadline for Elections BC to receive ballots mailed back is Nov. 30.

Larson said she has no objection to a proper referendum, like the previous ones in which citizen assemblies looked at different options and showed people what the different options would look like.

“People were then able to make a choice, and, in both cases, it was turned down,” Larson said, referring to previous votes in 2005 and 2009.

Of the three PR systems proposed, Larson notes that two of them are used nowhere else in the world.

The other, mixed member proportional, would only allow voters to elect about 60 per cent of the MLAs. The other 40 per cent would be appointed by parties, whether voters support them or not, Larson points out.

“Right now, people don’t necessarily like the system that we have, but you have the ability to vote somebody in or not,” said Larson. “That’s your choice and nobody is going to appoint somebody to represent you. That’s what people will lose, and I don’t think they understand that fully.”

By allowing parties to appoint about 40 per cent of MLAs, Larson adds, it could diminish the voice of rural British Columbians.

“The population in the Lower Mainland certainly far outnumbers us,” she said. “There’s no doubt about that. A very small geographic area in the Lower Mainland really can control the entire province on sheer population.”

Under PR, parties would not necessarily have to pick local people when they appoint MLAs, Larson noted.

“To set up a system whereby rural BC does not have equal voice, or at least good representation, is really wrong,” she said.

Larson also points out that proportional representation would cost more and involve more seats in the legislature.

“It is a more expensive government to operate,” she said. “So that is another thing. If people want to pay more, I guess that’s also their choice.”

Larson thinks the mail-in ballot is going to skew the vote towards people who are especially committed on this issue.

“If your heart is in it, you’re going to make sure that you get your vote in,” she said. “If you don’t understand it and you can’t figure out what the hell is going on, are you going to put your vote in?”

There is absolutely no reason the referendum could not have been a ballot with the municipal election, she adds.

“That in itself is another thing that you can question the motive of,” she said.

The B.C. Liberals have been seeking a debate on the issue between their leader, Andrew Wilkinson and Premier John Horgan, Larson said. But the NDP government has been stalling, she adds.

“I think it will probably happen, but by the time it does, three quarters of the people would have either thrown the ballot into the garbage or sent it in already, uninformed,” Larson said.

Both the NDP and the B.C. Liberals are parties that are coalitions between MLAs of different viewpoints who come together because they are looking at the bigger picture, she said. The Green Party “is kind of a standalone. It’s only got one focus,” she added.

In the 2017 provincial election, the Green Party elected three MLAs, but under PR they would be able to appoint 15, bringing their total to 18 seats, Larson said.

Man arrested after child pornography investigation in Penticton

(File photo)

RCMP in Penticton have arrested a man after conducting a child pornography investigation.

Over a three day period from October 28 to November 1, the Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen Regional Detachment’s General Investigation Section (GIS) executed two search warrants in relation to two separate child pornography investigations in the City of Penticton.

One man was arrested, and later released on numerous strict conditions, said Penticton RCMP Cst. James Grandy.

Both investigations were initiated as a result of information received from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

“The RCMP takes child exploitation and pornography offences very seriously and will continue to investigate and arrest those who involve themselves in preying on children,” Grandy said.

“The RCMP works alongside other law enforcement agencies around the globe to help identify those taking part in these kinds of crimes against the vulnerable.”

The GIS section was assisted by both the BC Integrated Child Exploitation Unit and the Integrated Technological Crime Unit.

Letter: Each vote counts in PR


The Vancouver Sun editorial of Saturday, October 27, “Vote no on electoral reform” made me sit up and take notice, for all the wrong reasons. I actually had to laugh when I got to the last two paragraphs.

According to this ardent “no” campaigner, the most shocking cause for the proportional representation (pro-rep) alarm is this. “…there is the low threshold the NDP has set to change how we vote, allowing 50 per cent plus one…with no requirement over how many ballots must be cast to legitimize the referendum.”

I see some obvious parallels with the basic requirements of first past the post (FPTP) election procedures. All you need is one uncontested vote to win.

The next statement is even more lamentable: “That means a small percentage of the population could change our voting system.”

Hello? A small percentage of the population? Isn’t that how we elect our politicians under first past the post? Currently, voters are not obligated to vote. There is no minimum vote count required and, the first candidate to stumble across the finish line with the most votes…wins.

That questionable triumph does not even require the most votes overall, only the most votes against any other individual candidate. As we all know this can happen with as little as 40 per cent of the cast votes.

The suggestion that the referendum be denied because more rigorous voting standards than FPTP seems extremely hypocritical.

Pro rep means each vote counts. We have greater individual representation. We can get beyond one size fits all.

                      Dianne Bersea, Kaleden

Town reviews traffic calming ideas

A raised crosswalk on Station Street was installed this summer to slow traffic down. Similar measures are being considered in other neighbourhoods in Oliver. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

By Lyonel Doherty

Oliver Chronicle

Hey Oliver, slow down!

That’s what the Town wants motorists to do as it looks at several traffic-calming measures recommended in a strategic report.

Council recently pored over the study with Director of Operations Shawn Goodsell and consultant Steve Underwood from True Engineering.

Goodsell said staff have received many calls over the years about locations where people believe traffic calming is necessary. Measures the Town is looking at include raised crosswalks, speed humps, traffic circles, medians and radar speed signs. An example of a raised crosswalk is the one established on Station Street at Bank Avenue (near the Coast Hotel).

(Town of Oliver / True Consulting)

Goodsell said the purpose of this study is primarily to slow traffic down and improve pedestrian safety.

School zones such as School Avenue and Haven Street have been identified as problem areas. Councillor Maureen Doerr called it a “gong show” with all of the traffic and children in the neighbourhood.

One measure being considered in the report is raising the crosswalk at the intersection of Gala Street and School Avenue to slow motorists down.

Goodsell suggested utilizing mobile speed reader signs in school zones.

Another problem area identified is Spartan Street at Rockcliffe Road. Underwood suggested installing an elevated crosswalk at the school district (shop building) entranceway on Spartan.

Fairview Road and Nicola Street are also mentioned in the study. This location already has a crosswalk, but its proximity to the rainbow crosswalk at the high school has prompted discussion of its removal (focusing on one crosswalk only).

Several traffic-calming measures have been identified for Park Drive at Tuc-el-Nuit Elementary School. One includes a raised crosswalk, while another includes curb, gutter and sidewalk with bumpouts (for $66,000).

What didn’t make it in the study was Merlot Avenue, where speed is an issue and subject of complaints, said councillors Petra Veintimilla and Dave Mattes.

Public park areas such as Rotary Beach and Kiwanis are under review as well, with Mattes recommending a raised crosswalk at the Kiwanis (Park Drive) location. A raised crosswalk is also being considered for the hike and bike trail at the amber flashing light on Fairview Road. And radar speed sign ($14,000) is an option being reviewed for Fairview Park near the high school.

Not surprisingly, Fairview Road is destined for traffic calming, too. “I call it the Fairview freeway,” Mattes said.

(Town of Oliver / True Consulting)

One measure being considered is a four-way stop at Road 2. Rumble strips were also mentioned but council doesn’t favour that idea on Fairview.

Highway 97 north of town (at the entrance sign) is also a concern due to speeding. One measure being looked at is a traffic light or blinking amber lights.

Tucelnuit Drive has historically been known for speeding, therefore, the measures being considered are the removal of passing lanes and narrowing the road paint lines. Underwood said this would create the impression of a more closed-in residential road.

Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger said this road would be a good spot for a radar speed sign.

Sawmill Road from the south is also in the Town’s sights for traffic calming. Mayor Ron Hovanes likened this road to a freeway in terms of speed.

Underwood suggested installing bollards at the intersection of Oak Avenue. A traffic circle is another option.

But water councillor Andre Miller cautioned council to keep in mind that farmers use Sawmill Road to avoid using Highway 97.

In the conclusions and recommendations, council will focus on a roaming radar speed sign ($12,000), Tucelnuit Drive repainting ($9,600), curb and sidewalk extension on School Avenue ($10,000), remove Nicola crosswalk and enhance pedestrian safety at rainbow crosswalk ($22,400), curb, gutter, sidewalk, crosswalk and bumpouts on Park Drive at school ($66,000), and Sawmill Road median bollards ($11,200).

Other measures such as traffic circles will also be considered, as will options to slow traffic at the Kiwanis Park / Fairview Road crosswalk.

(Town of Oliver / True Consulting)

SOSS Speaks: Setting goals furthers success

(File photo)

By Khushi Sharma

Special to the Chronicle

Speaking from personal experience, I don’t believe it’s very common to do activities in gym class that don’t involve either the basic sports-related games or grueling fitness testing. In my P.E. 10 class at SOSS, I believe we are doing a pretty unique project.

The assignment consists of choosing one active lifestyle goal, and setting smaller benchmark goals to reach the main objective. These targets can be things like participating in a marathon, benching a specific amount of weight, or a particular goal in a sport you play.

I went to my gym teacher, Mr. Russo, and asked him why he thought a lifestyle project like this was important. He told me, “If we are aware of our choices and feel we can do a better job making healthier decisions, we are going to be more likely to make a positive change in our lives. This [project] will allow students to make a positive change in their lifestyles or try something new, have some fun and get credit at school for being active and healthy.”

After completing my project, I can say that I agree with his philosophy. My objective was to run five kilometres in under 25 minutes, and even though I had to increase my time goal halfway through the project, I still accomplished a lot and had fun. I learned that building stamina isn’t really all that hard if you truly stick to your practice regime. But while you are building stamina, it is also important to give your body a break and not overwork yourself to avoid possible injuries.

Are there any new things you’ve wanted to try? Maybe being able to shoot a three pointer in basketball, run for 20 minutes every day, or start doing yoga regularly? Go ahead and start now! If you stay dedicated and motivated, you’ll definitely be proud of your end results.

(Khushi Sharma is a student at Southern Okanagan Secondary School.)

Letter: Cop glad he’s retired in view of workload

(Richard McGuire file photo)

Mr. Pat Hampson raises a number of points on a regional policing model that I think deserve a serious look by the incoming councils of our surrounding towns.

I feel the need to speak up to defend our local members on one point. Mr. Hampson says that he frequently sees three officers north of town on Highway 97. I see them too and can tell from their car numbers that they are members of provincial Traffic Services.

Traffic Services do not work inside city limits. A lot of their funding comes from ICBC and they have designated traffic priorities.

There is nothing anyone can do to make those members respond to criminal files in Oliver or the regional district. They are usually fully staffed and their only job is traffic enforcement on provincial roads.

From talking with local officers there has been a big push for patrols of the town. I think people need to keep in mind there is usually only one patrol officer working in Oliver.

If people want that officer on patrols for property crime, they can’t be parked at a stop sign.

When you only have one person and the priority is property crime; then yes, there will then be a decline in traffic enforcement. Don’t take that out on the patrol officers who are just trying to keep their head above water.

I’m glad I’m retired because I cannot imagine how hard it is for the girls and guys on the road right now.

If people read about a traffic related enforcement bonanza (riding a bus for cell phone users or coordinated check stops for cannabis) these are done by Traffic Services. It does not drain resources from the Oliver RCMP detachment.

Cpl. Sean Miller (retired), Oliver

Hosts wanted for classical house concerts

Living Room Live, a classical house concert network, is looking for hosts in the Oliver area. (

Have you ever considered inviting musicians into your living room to play a concert?

Living Room Live, a classical house concert network, is hoping to include Oliver in their next tour, but first they need to find a host.

Founders and pianists Nicola Davies and Lisa Rumpel are currently expanding their newly-created tour routes through Manitoba/Saskatchewan and B.C./Alberta, with about 40 concerts planned for the opening 2018-19 season.

“These tour routes help create opportunities for residents in rural areas where professional performances may be less common than in large cities,” Davies said in a news release.

The organization is currently reaching out to new hosts from B.C. to Manitoba, and will offer advice and assistance in becoming a house concert host for the first time.

Hosts can either join a tour route and present diverse seasons of two to three concerts per year, or for those in and around cities, can try out hosting on a one-off basis.

“House concerts have been around for years, and you may be surprised to learn just how many exist,” Davies said.

“Acoustic music is arguably best suited to a house, where musicians play for a small group of attentive listeners who can appreciate the music from a few feet away, often with a glass of wine or coffee in hand.”

Anyone who enjoys organizing events and inviting friends into their home could be a good fit for a house concert host. A well-maintained acoustic piano is ideal but not always necessary; some ensembles may not require a piano or may be able to bring a digital.

Anyone interested in hosting can contact More information is available at

Local shooters hit the mark

Cash James of Gallagher Lake (left) and Vanessa Caverly of Willowbrook both placed in a recent small bore shooting event hosted by the BCHSRA. (Submitted photo)

There are some great shooters in the South Okanagan.

The BC High School Rodeo Association (BCHSRA) hosted a small bore shooting event at the South Okanagan Sportsmen’s Association last week and six young adults from the Oliver area participated.

The contestants shot .22 caliber rifles at a distance of 50 yards in three different positions: prone, kneeling and standing.

First place and Senior Girl High Point went to Willowbrook local Vanessa Caverly, second place and Senior Boy High Point went to Gallagher Lake local Cash James, and third place went to Shenelle Neyedli of Peachland.

The top four placers now qualify to attend the National High School Rodeo Finals in Rock Springs Wyoming in July.

(Submitted photo)

Complex PR referendum aims to boost smaller parties, but voting to keep the status quo is simple

British Columbians by now have probably received their referendum ballots in the mail. These need to be received back by Elections BC no later than Nov. 30 for your vote to count. Those preferring the present voting system only need to darken the top oval of Question 1. Those preferring proportional representation can study the three different options and rank them by preference in Question 2. (Richard McGuire photo)

(The following is an analysis.)

By now, you’ve probably received the voting package for the referendum on electoral reform in the mail.

If you’re an active partisan for a political party, you’ve probably already figured out which of four electoral systems will give the most advantage to your party.

But if you’re like most British Columbians, you’re probably scratching your head and trying to figure out what the different options mean.

First some background. The referendum comes about because of a Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) reached in May 2017 between the BC NDP and BC Greens that allows the NDP to govern with the support of the Greens.

The Green Party has long been frustrated that under the current electoral system, known as “first-past-the-post,” they’ve been unable to elect MLAs in most electoral districts. In most districts, the Greens get between 10 and 25 per cent of the vote, which is not enough to win a district.

In Boundary-Similkameen in 2017, for example, Green candidate Vonnie Lavers took just 10.23 per cent of the vote, compared to winner Linda Larson of the B.C. Liberals, who won 42.8 per cent.

Greens therefore prefer a system where the number of seats each party gets is proportional to their popular vote across the province, rather than being determined by the outcome in each electoral district.

In 2017, the Greens took 16.84 per cent of the popular vote province wide, but they only took three seats, all on Vancouver Island. Under a proportional system, with 87 seats in the legislature, the Greens might be expected to gain about 15 seats in the legislature.

It’s less obvious how proportional representation would benefit the NDP. In 2017, they took 40.28 per cent of the vote, which would give them roughly 35 seats if these were allocated by percentage of the popular vote. This is actually less than the 41 seats the NDP won in 2018 under the current first-past-the-post system.

But without the support of the Green Party, the NDP would no longer have enough seats to command control of the legislature. Without the CASA signed between the two parties, the B.C. Liberals, who won two more seats than the NDP, would likely have remained the government.

And CASA is clear in one of its conditions that a referendum on proportional representation must take place in the fall of 2018.

If you’ve looked at the ballot, you’ve seen that it asks two questions. The first asks people whether they prefer the current first-past-the-post system or a proportional voting system. The second question asks voters to rank three proposed proportional systems in order of preference.

If you prefer the status quo, all you need to do is mark Question 1 to say you want the current first-past-the-post system. You don’t need to answer the second question, although you can.

As most people know, under the current system, the province is divided into 87 electoral districts. Each district is represented by a single MLA who is picked by name by the voters. The candidate with the most votes in each district becomes the MLA, regardless of whether they win a majority of votes in that district, or just a plurality (more votes than any other candidate).

In Boundary-Similkameen in 2017, Larson, with 42.8 per cent, won with a plurality, but not a majority. With 87 seats across the province, any party with 44 or more MLAs elected is able to form a government. Usually, under first-past-the-post, one party achieves that threshold and receives a mandate to govern for four years.

The 2017 election, in which neither the B.C. Liberals with 43 seats nor the NDP with 41 reached the 44-seat threshold, was an exception. And that meant the Green Party with its three seats had the ultimate power to choose which of the two leading parties would govern. It could tip the balance of power.

Proponents of first-past-the-post argue that the system is stable, easy to understand, and it allows voters in each district to choose the individual who will represent them in Victoria. It also encourages the formation of “big tent” parties in which people with a range of views work together for the broader good of their party and the people they are elected to serve.

The three proposed proportional representation systems all work a little differently from each other, but they all share the goal of making the number of MLAs from each party more or less reflect the percentage of the popular vote that each party receives across the province.

While to some extent they still allow voters in each district to be represented by their own MLA, many of the MLAs are appointed from lists by party bosses instead of directly by voters. This varies somewhat between the three proposed PR systems.

Many of the details on how these systems will work won’t be known before the referendum but will only be decided afterwards by a legislative committee. Voters must have blind faith in that committee, which hasn’t yet been chosen.

For example, it hasn’t yet been decided if voters under the mixed-member proportional system would vote for a closed list determined entirely by the party, or from an open list, in which voters could choose individual candidates from the party list.

Supporters of proportional representation operate under the assumption that a party’s power in the legislature is proportional to the number of seats a party holds. They describe a system with proportionality as “fair.”

PR advocates often ask the question of the present system: “Why should a party with 40 per cent of the vote have 100 per cent of the power?”

PR puts greater emphasis on the role of political parties than on the interests of particular electoral districts or the personalities of individual candidates.

Because PR increases the representation of smaller and single-issue parties, it reduces the tendency towards “big-tent” parties, which are favoured under first-past-the-post.

In addition to the Greens, other more narrowly focused parties are likely to win seats in the legislature. And the two big-tent parties could fragment into smaller factions, resulting in a multitude of small parties.

In Brazil recently, for example, 35 parties competed for seats in the chamber of deputies, which is elected by proportional representation.

Whether or not PR in B.C. results in that many parties competing, minority governments would become the norm, with smaller parties able to choose the terms under which they would allow larger parties to govern. And smaller parties would be able to withdraw support and topple governments that don’t adhere to their demands.

The three options for proportional representation systems on the B.C. referendum ballot are too complex to fully detail here, but voters can find explanations in the Voter’s Guide that was mailed out by Elections BC before the ballot was mailed.

It can also be found online at:

The three systems are: Dual Member Proportional (DMP), Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) and Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP).

Of these, MMP is used in some countries around the world, but the other two systems have never been tried before.

Under DMP, most, but not all electoral districts will be combined with a neighbouring district and these will be represented by two MLAs. Some of the larger rural ridings will continue to elect one MLA.

Parties put one or two candidates on the ballot and choose which is listed first and which is listed second. The first MLA elected is the candidate listed first by the party with the most votes. The second MLA is chosen according to province-wide share of the popular vote.

Under MMP, there are two types of MLA – one is chosen to represent a district through the present first-past-the-post system. The other, representing a wider region, is picked from party lists to ensure that the number of total MLAs in the legislature reflects the province-wide popular vote.

It won’t be decided until after the referendum whether voters will have one vote or two under this system.

Under RUP, voters in urban and semi-urban districts would use the single transferable vote (STV) system that was rejected by B.C. voters in 2009. Parties can list multiple candidates and voters can rank them in order. The districts would be much larger with multiple MLAs.

In rural districts under RUP, voters would use MMP to pick district and regional MLAs. Again, MLAs would be chosen so that their party affiliations roughly reflect provincial share of the popular vote.

The referendum does not have a minimum voter turnout requirement and for either first-past-the-post or proportional representation to win, support only needs to exceed 50 per cent.

This means a profound change to our voting system could be made by only a small percentage of the population. Then again, giving power to the minority may be what this referendum is all about.

Richard McGuire is the editor of the Osoyoos Times. He is a political science graduate. Before coming to Osoyoos, he worked 14 years at the federal House of Commons and briefly at the Alberta Legislature.

Air cadet squadron needs green to go green

The 232 Bighorn air cadet squadron’s hangar got 40 new solar panels, installed last month. The squadron is hoping the public will help cover the cost of the panels. The squadron is hoping to raise another $14,000. (Ron Hiller photo)

By Vanessa Broadbent

Oliver Chronicle

Oliver’s air cadets are going solar and hoping for a little green from the community to help make it possible.

With community donations and fundraising, the 232 Bighorn Squadron has installed 40 solar panels at its hangar on Cessna Drive. The group has already covered $10,000 of the costs but still has $14,000 to go.

Once completed, the panels will save the cadets about $2,000 in energy costs every year, said Squadron Sponsoring Committee chair Melissa Graf.

In spring of 2017, the committee was approached by a community member with information about switching to solar energy after the Oliver Food Bank installed solar panels.

“After long debates and discussions, our sponsoring committee decided to go forward with the solar panel project for our building,” Graf said. “Besides being environmentally friendly, it could be a cost saving measure for our organization.”

• Read more: Solar energy buff uses home to power Tesla

Like many local community service groups and non-profit youth organizations, the squadron works from what Graf calls a “shoestring budget,” and she says its costs are always rising, especially with cutbacks to support from the Department of National Defense.

“Each year of operation becomes more difficult,” Graf said. “The funds saved from the utility bills will help keep the costs of maintaining our building low and provide extra funds for our air cadet training programs.”

The 40 photovoltaic panels will generate 12,864.7 kWh of electricity every year and save about $1,500 annually, said Susan Huber of Summerland’s Swiss Solar Tech Ltd. who completed the project.

The building currently consumes around 14,000 kWh every year, so the panels will offset over 90 per cent of annual energy costs.

The hangar also operates as a community supportive structure, with local groups including the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club, the BC Archery Association and the Oliver Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs using the facility on a regular basis.

The 232 Bighorn air cadet squadron’s hangar got 40 new solar panels, installed last month. The squadron is hoping the public will help cover the cost of the panels. The squadron is hoping to raise another $14,000. (Vanessa Broadbent photo)

Graf now hopes the community will return the support.

A total of $7,500 has already been donated by outgoing Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes, Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff, councillor Mike Campol and regional district Area C director Terry Schafer, but the cadets are hoping the community will step up and help fund the remaining $14,000.

Swiss Solar Tech Ltd. will donate two free solar PV modules for every $5,000 donated to the cadets. The company is also pricing the system at cost.

Graf said she plans to create a GoFundMe page, and will give a tax-deductible donation receipt for donations over $25.

Cheques can be sent to the 232 Bighorn Squadron at PO Box 192, Oliver B.C., V0H 1T0.

Police investigate rollover on McKinney

This pickup truck that rolled off McKinney Road on Thursday is the subject of a police investigation. (Photo by Rich Walchuk)

Police are investigating a motor vehicle accident involving a pickup truck that rolled off McKinney Road on Thursday.

The Oliver Fire Department was not called to the incident, but Cpl. Christina Tarasoff from the RCMP said it was a single vehicle rollover with no injuries.

“The matter is still under investigation,” she said.