Dangers of double negatives

Riding around British Columbia one can’t help but notice the posters encouraging people to either vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in an upcoming referendum. Being the curious type I have of course asked around and discussed it with a few of the locals we have encountered. As a temporary visitor any opinion I might form on the actual tax is totally irrelevant but what has been building slowly as an irritation is the way the referendum seems to be worded.

Citizens of BC are being asked to “Vote Yes to extinguish HST” or “Vote No to keep the HST”.

So, if you don’t want it then you must vote Yes but if you do then you must vote No.


A link here to a local publication covering the same story.

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  1. Steven
    Posted 18 July, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s so much ‘tricky’, at least not intentionally so. It comes from the fact that the current status quo has HST. So in order to get rid of it you must pass legislation. You must pass by voting yes.

    So any change to the status quo needs a ‘yes’ vote and to keep status quo you vote ‘no’.

    I think it would be far more confusing to ask people to vote ‘no’ to remove an existing tax. Remember, you’re not being asked if you like the tax (that would be a poll), you’re being asked if you would like to pass the proposed referendum to remove the tax.

    BTW, I’m also not a resident of that area, but the same rules apply most (all?) government voting measures.

  2. Posted 18 July, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    I was living (and voting) in Los Angeles when Prop. 8 was on the ballot. You had to vote ‘No’ if you didn’t want to make same-sex marriages illegal again.

  3. david
    Posted 18 July, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    The actual question is, would you like to replace the HST with the GST and PST. Not sure on exact words. It makes more sense when you read the question

    For background the PST is provincial, the GST is federal. The GST applies to more things than the PST. Last year the two taxes were replaced by the HST to harmonize the systems. Now everything that we paid GST on, we pay HST (well almost, there are some at the cash register provincial rebates for some items, such as books and home heating). The largest benefit is that it is half the paper work for all the companies that have to collect the taxes and submit them to the government, and then only 1 government office to process all the taxes.

  4. Posted 19 July, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    It is frequent here in Italy to have that kind of referendum.

    Thing is, the vote is about removing something, so voting Yes means you want it removed, and voting No means you don’t want it to be removed.

    And yes, the use of inverse logic is counter–intuitive as hell.

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