Proportional representation or First Past the Post?
The upcoming referendum on whether to abandon the First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system in BC will have a profound impact on our province. Here are some facts that voters should consider before voting (by mail) in the referendum in late October/early November:
• In the last 65 years in BC, the NDP have had political power for only 13 of those years – moving to Proportional Representation (PR) is about giving them power more often, without their Party having to earn the most votes, as is necessary under FPTP;
• When the BC Liberal government held two previous referendums on the same topic, recognizing the population imbalance between rural and urban BC, we gave rural ridings the same influence over the outome as highly populated urban ridings – the NDP has not done this;
• Of the three choices you have on the referendum ballot, two have not been tried anywhere in the world – apparently, we are guinea pigs to the NDP;
• If you vote yes to PR, up to 40 MLA’s will be appointed by political parties, not elected as individuals – this makes MLA’s accountable to parties rather than constituents & political parties already have too much influence;
• Our Riding of Kootenay East will disappear, to be replaced by a Super Riding that covers most or all of the Kootenay region – it’s good bye to local representation;
• Since WWII, PR in Italy has resulted in one election per year on average, in Greece, one election every 1.5 years and in Belgium, one election every two years. Do we really want more elections?
• PR inevitably leads to smaller, fringe & often extreme parties having disproportional influence. Sweden right now has a neo-nazi party that the larger parties must satisfy if they want to govern;
• Majority governments get more done than Minority governments. I can say without hesitation that even with a majority, it is very difficult to get things done in government. Under PR, it would be hopeless.
Making every vote count
The dust seems to have settled finally on the new Ontario Government’s heavy handed intrusion into the democratic process of Toronto’s current civic elections. Now it should be very clear to all Canadians that under Canada’s Constitution civic government does not exist except at the whim of the Provinces.
All it would take for something similar, or even worse, to be imposed on municipalities here in BC, is for us to persist with our current, archaic, First-Past-the-Post electoral system. This system creates false majority governments that enable a minority of the voters caught up in the passions of the moment to give an extremist party leader with only 40 per cent of the vote the keys to 100 per cent of the power in our Provincial Legislature as just happened in Ontario.
Proportional Representation (Pro Rep) is our best protection against extremists taking control of our government. If the recent Ontario election had happened under Pro Rep, Doug Ford‘s PC party would only have won 40% of the seats in the Ontario Legislature, not sufficient to form a government. So, to become Premier, he would have had to persuade another party in the Legislature with at least 10 per cent of the seats to support him.
Winning the support of another party would have required serious negotiation about his government’s proposed legislative agenda and priorities. During such negotiations, Premier designate Ford would have to have told his negotiating partner(s) of his plan and his reasons for halving the size of the Toronto City Council.
I’m confident no responsible leader of any other Ontario political party would have agreed to associate themselves and their party with Doug Ford’s personal vendetta against his former Toronto City Council colleagues. Under Pro Rep, Doug Ford could never have rammed through his draconian vengeance against the Toronto City Council.
I’m enthusiastically voting for Proportional Representation for BC in the upcoming referendum so that everyone’s vote will count equally in all future elections and so that British Columbians will have an effective shield against extremists taking control of our Government.
Candidates in the upcoming civic elections in BC should, perhaps, be asked if they’ve learned the same lesson from what’s just happened in Toronto and now support Pro Rep themselves.
Proportional representation referendum ‘should not be taken lightly’
The referendum on Proportional Representation (PR) should not be taken lightly.
(PR) systems, in time will eventually end up with multiple party systems, where fringe parties gain dominance.
In the European Union almost every country uses PR. There – the mainstream parties are loosing ground rapidly and extreme right wing parties are gaining ground; these include anti-immigration parties and Neo-Nazi leaning parties. Every European state that uses PR in Europe today has Neo Nazi parties sitting in their parliaments.
Adopting a PR electoral system in BC would potentially open the doors of the legislature to far-right politicians, here as well.
People should be concerned about the way that the referendum is being conducted.
This referendum is not by riding, it is by every valid returned vote in the province; which gives the population of Greater Vancouver a huge advantage over rural ridings. It is estimated that in rural ridings that 70% up to 90% of the ballots must vote against PR to balance out this serious population disparity.
This referendum, offends several core values grounding section 3 of the Canadian charter of rights, one being equality of voting power which the courts have described as fundamental to the Canadian concept of democracy. (See page 16 of the Dixon decision)
Missing to make an informed decision is the fact that the new ridings could be huge. This will be decided after the referendum? Your local MLA office could be closed and the new MLA’s may not even live in your area.
Another, is the claim that another referendum will be held after two general elections to see if B.C. wants to keep the new voting system.
The fact is one government can not bind the future action of a future government. Government, including this one, can amend the legislation they passed last year and change it, never mind a new government after the next election. So, a new referendum may never happen, actually?
It is expected that the voter response will be low and if this happens only 15% of the registered voters could decide how we vote moving forward.
Therefore, now is not the time to not vote because you are happy with the current voting system! Voters that are happy with the current system must pay heed to the fact that their votes are needed to keep the voting system the same as it is.
It’s time for proportional representation
Most voters have a down-to-earth idea of what democracy means: a government elected by a majority of voters. It is a disturbing fact that our present system, First-Past-the-Post, doesn’t do this. For example, in each of three recent elections in BC (2005, 2009, and 2013), the Liberals won a strong majority of MLAs (58 per cent) – and 100 per cent of the power – with only 45 per cent of the vote. No wonder they want to keep First-Past-the-Post.
Such distorted outcomes are common. In 1996, the NDP got fewer votes than the Liberals (only 39 per cent) but won more seats (52 per cent) and formed government. Just this week, the CAQ won a strong majority in Quebec (59 per cent of MNAs) with only 37 per cent of the vote. Doug Ford won a strong majority in Ontario (61 per cent of MLAs) with only 40 per cent of the vote. And Donald Trump won the US election despite receiving three million fewer votes than his opponent.
How are such outcomes desirable in a democracy? Or fair? First-Past-the-Post distorts the will of voters. It makes governments vulnerable to take-over by extreme groups. It needs to be replaced – and we have a chance to replace it in this month’s referendum. With proportional representation, a party that wins 39 per cent of the vote would win 39 per cent of the seats. A simple idea. And one with many benefits.
With three major parties in BC, proportional representation will frequently result in coalition governments – a big plus. Under such conditions, political parties act as checks on one another. Politicians will be forced to engage in discussion and cooperation to come to a consensus about policies. They will have to be civil, perhaps even truthful.
The result will be more stable (and better) public policy. Under the current system, policy lurches as different minorities elect governments that have no need to consult or cooperate with others. With 100% of the power, they impose their own agenda. Under proportional representation, more diverse views are considered, and better solutions to complex problems can be found. Let’s remember that we owe our health care system and the Canada Pension Plan to coalition governments. This is how democracy can work.
In the current referendum campaign, it’s special-interest minority groups who are trying to frighten us into keeping First-Past-the-Post. They like being the minority that has 100 per cent of the power. It’s time for a system that reflects voters’ preferences. It’s time for Proportional Representation.