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This week’s mailbox: electrical bills and electoral reform

Hefty increase in electrical

Hefty increase in electrical

In your February 4th article [ATCO Electric responds to complaints of high January bills], recent higher electric bills were attributed to the ‘perfect storm’ of Christmas baking, holiday lights, and increased time at home in colder weather.

True enough, we up our electric consumption considerably, every winter’s Christmas, every year. What was not addressed was the considerable increase in electrical fees year round over the past five years.

Using my bills as a measure, late 2016 delivered 1186 KWH for $161.64. End of year 2021, a nearly equivalent amount of 1154KWH now cost $221.54, an increase of over 37 per cent.

I expect most folks would wish their wages suffered that windfall. I requested an explanation for this hefty increase from the previous minister. The response was long in coming and failed to enlighten.

Wolf Riedl

Haines Junction

Regarding the electoral reform committee

Expert presentations were givento the Special Committee on Electoral Reform between January 21st to January 31st. This letter examines the last three presentations.

On January 27, Theresa Arseneault, Adjunct Senior Fellow, University of Canterbury, talked about the history of electoral reform in New Zealand.

According to Arsenault, electoral reform New Zealand was the result of voter revolt and unique circumstances. In a unitary system lacking a second house, New Zealand only had majority governments which ruled, without answering to anyone, from election to election.

In both the referendums of 1992 and 1993, the public overwhelmingly voted for a Mixed Member Proportional system which allows both proportionality in government and regional representation. Everyone was on the same page as a result of the 1986 Royal Commission which did a thorough job of determining which electoral system would serve New Zealand best and of educating New Zealanders.

In a third referendum in 2011, New Zealanders reconfirmed their approval of the Mixed Member Proportional electoral system.

If New Zealand had a series of lucky circumstances leading up to electoral reform, the exact opposite was true in New Brunswick. On January 28, Paul Howe, Professor of Political Science, University of New Brunswick, gave a presentation on the history of electoral reform in New Brunswick. Howe attributed its failure to “process issues”.

In Phase 1, a New Brunswick commission recommended Mixed Member Proportional. There were plans to hold a referendum in 2008, which were scrapped when the government lost the election.

In Phase 2, a commission on electoral reform was created in 2016 consisting of hand-picked members from applications. This commission recommended preferential ballots with Proportional Representative set aside for later consideration. The government lost the election and the 2020 proposed referendum was scrapped.

On January 31, Dr. Keith Archer, the Committee Researcher responded to questions from the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.

When asked about the value of a Citizens’ Assembly to make recommendations on electoral reform, Archer said that it was difficult for politicians to remove their own interests while examining electoral reform. A randomly chosen Citizens’ Assembly would be a short-term quasi-institution without partisan self-interest.

Electoral systems are complicated. The consequences of using any electoral system are complicated. To make good recommendations on electoral reform requires detailed, thoughtful conversations.

Archer suggested two options to adequately study electoral reform and make recommendations; an independent commission or a Citizens’ Assembly.

Brad Cathers wondered if selection requirements would be necessary to avoid having members self-select thereby bringing bias to a Citizens’ Assembly. Archer thought that the only requirements for Citizens’ Assembly members, beyond diversity and regional representation, should be independent mindedness.

All the presentations to the Special Committee on Electoral reform have been extremely interesting. I learned more than I could possibly put down in a letter to the press. I encourage everyone to watch them.

Links to the recordings of these presentations are on the Yukon Legislative Assembly website page, or on the assembly’s Facebook page.

Linda Leon