The current referendum on Proportional Representation (PR) is not something that should be taken lightly.
In time, both systems filter out parties that gain the majority.
First past the post (FPTP) systems, given enough time will eventually end up with a system where two parties dominate the landscape and switch back and forth as the dominant party from election to election.
In Canada, the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP dominate most of the electoral landscape.
Proportional Representation systems, given enough time will eventually end up with a multiple party system where fringe parties gain dominance.
In the European Union, almost every country uses PR.
What is happening there is the mainstream parties are losing ground rapidly and extreme right wing parties are gaining ground rapidly; these include anti-immigration parties, racist parties, and even Neo-Nazi leaning parties that use differing party names.
This is largely due to instability in government, fallout from the 2008 financial crash, and the high unemployment that resulted. In every European state that uses pro rep in Europe, there are today Neo Nazi parties sitting in their parliaments.
Adopting a proportional representation electoral system in BC would potentially open the doors of the legislature to far-right politicians, just like what is happening in the European Union.
The NDP party is a left leaning party, so, in fact, they are trying to create a voting system that in the long run could lead to their demise if far right politicians gain voter support at some time in the future.
The most important concern that most people should have about the proportional representation referendum is the way that it is being conducted.
At least one court case is contesting this. Unfortunately, it will not be heard until after the referendum is completed, due to a high case load at the Supreme Court of B.C.
In 2009, a referendum was done at the same time as the provincial election and was a part of the electoral ballot.
The referendum would have required 60 per cent overall approval and 50 per cent approval in at least 60 per cent (51 out of 85) of the province’s electoral districts in order to succeed. However, the province’s voters defeated the change with only 39.09 per cent of 1,651,139 votes in favour of change (representing a 55 per cent voter turnout).
This referendum is not by riding, rather it is by every valid returned vote in the province.
This gives the population of Greater Vancouver a huge advantage over the population of the rural ridings.
It has been estimated that in rural ridings that 70 per cent up to 90 per cent of the mailed in ballots must vote against PR just to balance out this serious population disparity.
The referendum, if allowed to proceed as determined, offends several core values grounding section 3 of the Canadian charter of rights. One being equality of voting power of which the courts have described as fundamental to the Canadian concept of democracy. (See page 16 of the Dixon decision)
One thing that is missing from the information that is needed to make an informed decision is the fact that the size of the new ridings could be huge. This will be decided after the referendum?
This effectively means your local MLA office will be closed and the new MLAs may not even live in your area.
The second thing to make note of 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 or go back to using First Past the Post.
The fact is one government cannot 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 per cent 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! During this referendum – the 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.