To hold on to power, the NDP signed a backroom deal with the Green Party. Part of that deal is a scheme to change the way we elect our MLAs and governments. We don’t know what the ballot question will be, who will write it, or what systems of proportional representation will be included as options. What we do know is this process is being conducted behind closed doors by the NDP.
What is Proportional Representation? How does it differ from the system we have in BC today?
For most of its history, British Columbia has been governed by strong, stable governments that are elected through a straightforward balloting system. The province is divided into geographic ridings. Each person gets one vote and the candidate with the most votes in each riding wins. The party or parties with the majority of seats forms government. This system ensures that people have a direct link to their elected representative – to express their view on government and policy initiatives, and hold their MLA and government accountable. Under our current “first past the post” system, parties are accountable for implementing their platform promises.
Proportional Representation is a system of electing representatives used in countries like Italy, New Zealand, Israel, the Netherlands and Germany. Representatives are elected by a complicated formula that attempts to reflect divisions in the electorate proportionately in the elected body. Voters are asked to complete a complex ballot – often involving multiple steps – in order to have their vote count. There is little or no attention given to regional or geographic representation. In this way, Proportional Representation weakens or eliminates the bond between constituent and elected representative. It leads to unstable, coalition governments that survive through backroom deals by political operatives.
Life is complicated. Voting shouldn’t have to be.
What will Pro-Rep mean for British Columbians?
We could have “mega-ridings”.
Under a Pro-Rep system, many of the the ridings that you know will disappear. In their place will be a huge electoral district that doesn’t recognize geographic and demographic needs. In Northern BC, for instance, one riding could stretch from Atlin to Fort St. John, to Prince Rupert and all the way back to McBride. Communities will be an afterthought.
You won’t know your MLA.
An MLA should be an advocate for YOU – taking your voice and the voice of your riding to Victoria. Under the system proposed by the Green/NDP coalition, you’ll lose that direct connection to your MLA – and you won’t be able to hold them accountable. Instead, you will have your representatives chosen off political party lists. Most often, these people are well-connected political operatives who, more often than not, will be from the Lower Mainland or Victoria. You shouldn’t have political elites representing you in Victoria without your say-so.
Fringe Parties will hold the balance of power.
If the NDP’s proposal goes forward, you will see fringe political parties have undue influence on government policy. This isn’t hypothetical, it’s fact. Germany, far-right political parties are no longer a thing of the past. In Israel, it’s nearly impossible to govern without granting concessions to a small but influential radical party. Pro-Rep empowers the rise of these extremist, fringe parties – sometimes with objectives that are sharply at odds with mainstream society.
You don’t get a government that works for you.
Unlike the current system we have in BC today, there is no certainty that you will get the stability required for proper government. In countries with Pro-Rep systems – like New Zealand, Austria, and Germany – there are periods of prolonged horse-trading before power sharing arrangements are reached. Sometimes the result is an unstable coalition; other times, there is no agreement at all. We deserve a government that can act decisively on behalf of British Columbians – not one founded by backroom political agreements.
The BC electorate has rejected changing our voting system twice already in just over a decade. It’s not broken. It doesn’t need fixing.