British Columbia is now in the midst of a lively debate over the option of sticking with our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, or moving to a proportional representation (pro rep) system in a referendum vote. People have until November 30 to get their voting package in to Elections BC.
I do not have a degree in political science and likely fall in the average range of knowledge and interest when it comes to all things political. However, the shortcomings of our current system are very obvious, and I believe we are overdue for a change.
Something all voters likely will agree on is the value of living in a true democracy, but that is sorely lacking with FPTP. It may have worked OK for the two party system we had a long time ago, but not now when we have several parties. Our current winner takes all system often results in a minority of votes electing a majority government. In short, many people’s votes are simply wasted. Power can also shift dramatically from one election to the next with just a small shift in the popular vote. How can anyone claim that is a good, stable, democratic system?
The main advantage of pro rep is that it will result in government representation closely following the popular vote. Under the current system, many people go election after election, never voting for a candidate or a party who ends up representing them. Under pro rep, that will be reduced greatly. You will more likely have a MLA or party in government who represents your views. The days of “strategic voting” can end.
Pro rep is used widely around the world by very successful countries. In fact, we are among a minority of countries still using FPTP. Furthermore, when countries do switch to pro rep, they do not clamor to switch back to FPTP. However, we will have the opportunity to switch back in a referendum after two election cycles.
With all the positive steps towards true democracy that pro rep offers, why is there such vocal opposition to it from various quarters, including some politicians? I think the short answer is that FPTP serves their interests very well.
Many politicians proclaim they support democracy, but inside they crave the dictatorship power a majority government gives them under FPTP. They are willing to sit on the sidelines in opposition knowing they will have another crack at unfettered power coming again.
During the last federal election campaign, Justin Trudeau proclaimed repeatedly that would be the last one done by FPTP. He then managed to win a majority government with only about 40% of the popular vote. Unfettered power must be addictive, because he reneged on his promise.
Furthermore, the big money and their lobbyists do not want pro rep. It is much easier for them to target and influence whichever of the two major parties get elected under FPTP, and then influence policy coming out of that government.
Having witnessed how poor decision making from unaccountable governments have resulted in the Site C dam project and other fiascos going forward, I am ready for a change in how politics is done in B.C. I encourage people to ignore the fear mongering message out there, and let’s give pro rep a chance.
Ken Boon lives and farms at Bear Flat.