The upcoming referendum on electoral reform provides us with a chance to advance the state of our democracy.
Every election in British Columbia except for Gordon Campbell’s victory in 2001 and one in 1916 was “won” with a majority of seats going to a minority of votes.
That’s not really how democracy is supposed to work.
Our current system of First-Past-The-Post winner-take-all really works where there are two and only two parties, like the United States: now a ferociously divided bi-partisan country, with catastrophically low and ever-lower voter turnouts (partly due to voter suppression but in large measure because the majority of the population doesn’t have a choice relevant to their desires).
I don’t believe anyone except hard-core rightist populists would really believe that Mr. Ford’s election in Ontario with less than 40 per cent of the vote should give him 60 per cent of the seats and 100 per cent of the power, to be wielded just as arbitrarily as he chooses (just as Messrs Harper and Trudeau got their “majorities”).
Similar examples are legion, well known to anyone who studies politics even a little.
Proportional representation or “Pro Rep” in any of the many forms used around the world by nearly all modern democracies, is a clear improvement.
As non-partisan Elections BC says, “Proportional representation is when the share of seats a political party wins in the Legislative Assembly is about the same as the party’s share of the popular vote.
“So, if a party receives 40 per cent of the popular vote, they are likely to have about 40 per cent of the seats in the legislature. There are many different voting systems that are designed to produce proportional results.”
As democracy matures, the franchise gets extended more and more to include more and more voters.
In our (British and later Canadian) political history, first the kings have it all, then the barons and the clergy get a little, then others of the upper classes, then men with property, then men without property, then (gasp!) women, and here, in Canada, finally even Indigenous Peoples.
In every one of these cases, the extension of the franchise has been resisted by some of those who want to defend their relative hold on power. Extending the franchise to those whose desires are not represented by either one of only two choices is just one more such advance.
Rules for minimum votes prevent tiny fringes from getting into power, and even when ugly parties like the hard right in Holland get 14 per cent of the vote, the others can, and do, refuse to include them in coalitions.
And the claims of some opponents about “secret party lists,” “losing your MLA’s accountability,” “all power to Vancouver” are simply and demonstrably untrue.
Our excellent MLA Jackie Tegart, in her recent column in [The Journal], says “British Columbians have received few details on the referendum.”
I suggest that Jackie, and those of your readers who are interested in facts about the important choices coming up, will want to look at the clear and unbiased details on the Elections BC website at elections.bc.ca/referendum.
And the accuracy of overblown statements from either side of the debate can be checked out at prorepfactcheck.ca.
Pro rep is simply the next logical step in making our democracy work better. Nothing complicated, nothing to be afraid of, just one more step along the path toward more representatives and better-functioning governments.