COLUMN Voting for Proportional Representation

During my early days as a university student, I learned about different electoral systems in my Political Science 100 class. Before then, I hadn’t questioned our electoral system. My eyes were opened by professor Kating as he thoroughly walked us youthful students through various systems, all their acronyms as well as how each system fit within the political culture and societal context of where they were practiced.

As I learned more, it became evident to me that we did not have the electoral system that best matched how we as Canadians practice democracy. We needed proportional representation. We specifically needed Mixed Member Proportional. I wrote a paper about it and began advocating for changing to a system that better reflected who we are and made our votes count.

That’s why I’m proud to be part of a government that is putting this issue to you in the referendum on our electoral system. Not only do we have the right to vote, but we need to have each of our votes count.

In our current system of First Past the Post that’s just not the case. For example, the BC Liberals had 100% of the power for 16 years, but they only won between 57% (2001) and 44% (2013) of the overall provincial vote. They used that power to cut healthcare, fight with teachers, run up debt at ICBC, ignore skyrocketing housing costs, waffle on climate change, and turn a blind eye to money laundering. I can tell you that in the eight years as your MLA under a BC Liberal government, there was no collaborating, no accountability, and they liked it that way. That’s why they are opposed to changing things now.

Proportional systems, on the other hand, result in a government that reflects how people voted. A party wins 45% of the votes, they have 45% of the power. And as is often the case, the party with the most popular vote (roughly 40-45%) MUST collaborate with at least one other party to be able to make a government work. We’re doing this now in BC, and it is working. It’s not always easy, but it’s not supposed to be easy. Collaboration is supposed to work better for the public interest, and I can tell you first hand, it does.

Some worry that proportional systems allow extremist parties to flourish. The truth is, every electoral system, including First Past the Post has extremist parties already operating. Some are even successful in existing FPTP systems, and when they become the government in FPTP, they get 100% of the power rather than the small percentage they garner in proportional systems like MMP. It’s also important to mention that the success of any extremist party is determined more by the broader society’s discontent with a status quo or a perceived elite than an electoral system.

I am marking my referendum ballot for proportional representation and for a Mixed Member Proportional system. It’s used in other countries. It’s tested. It works. It’s more fair and makes every vote count. The way this system works, we get to keep our direct representative AND choose members from party lists for the remaining proportional seats. Our MLAs will have to collaborate more, work together and be a better government for all of us.

Let’s make our democracy stronger. Get your ballot in the mail before Friday, November 30.