“It’s a chance to ditch the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system which is outdated in the multiparty environment we have in Canada, and start using a proportional representation (PR) system which is fairer. As a member of Fair Vote Canada which is a non-partisan non-profit organization dedicated to fairness in elections, I support and have been involved in promoting PR since 2002.”
By Alison Watt
We can make history in BC this fall by approving a move to a new voting system. It’s the Referendum on Electoral Reform in the Fall — a mail-in ballot with the balloting period between October 22 and November 30.
It’s a chance to ditch the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system which is outdated in the multiparty environment we have in Canada, and start using a proportional representation (PR) system which is fairer. As a member of Fair Vote Canada which is a non-partisan non-profit organization dedicated to fairness in elections, I support and have been involved in promoting PR since 2002.
What’s wrong with FPTP? It inevitably distorts the overall election results, so the seats don’t match the popular vote. It leads to false majorities — governments which govern with far less than 50% of the popular vote. We have seen many elections where 39% of the vote = 54% of the seats = 100% of the power. Our democracy is at stake when small numbers of individuals can control the direction of our province and our country with false majorities. In the last eight elections in BC, seven have led to false majority governments.
With FPTP, there are safe seats. Take the riding of West Vancouver-Capilano. This has been a safe BC Liberal seat since 1991. Some voters probably have stayed home and didn’t vote because it was highly likely that the Liberal incumbent would be re-elected again (and he was).
And with FPTP there are swing ridings — where just a few voters changing their minds can swing a seat from one party to another. These are where the parties fight the hardest, because a dozen or so seats (out of 87) can deliver a different seat majority and a change of government.
Changes in government under FPTP lead to ‘policy lurch’ where the incoming government spends valuable time and resources undoing what the former government enacted.
I support PR systems where the seats in the legislature more accurately reflect the votes of the public. If a party get 39% of the vote, they get 39% of the seats.
I want to be able to vote FOR a candidate, instead of having to vote ‘strategically’.
I want to see a system where votes aren’t wasted. In 2017, in the two ridings of North Vancouver-Seymour and North Vancouver-Lonsdale, 55,655 votes were cast, and 30,100 votes (54%) were wasted.
PR voting systems produce governments where more voices are heard. Legislatures elected under FPTP do not reflect the range of public opinion today, whereas a Legislature elected with PR is likely to bring a broader range of ideas together to deal with the complexity of issues facing us.
In the referendum, the first question is the primary question: Do we want to have first-past-the-post or do we want a proportional representation system? I am voting for PR because I want my vote to count.
The second question asks which of three PR systems we prefer. I know that any of these systems will deliver a more proportional result than we get presently. My preference is for mixed member proportional (MMP) but I’m happy to let the BC voters decide.
When a PR system is approved, we will have a new voting system in place for the 2021 election. And a huge safeguard has been built into this process. Namely, there will be another referendum after two Provincial General Elections, and you will be asked whether you want to keep the new proportional representation system, or whether you want to return to first-past-the-post.
Let’s be courageous and move BC towards a fairer electoral system where our government actually reflects the views of us, the people. Support proportional representation!