There have seen so many articles coming from the No Proportional Representation (PR) side of the debate on the referendum, in the mainline press, and I find it quite disturbing. I want to draw attention to this article from the Fraser Institute, The Impact of Proportional Representation on British Columbia’s Legislation and Voters.

The following statement: “it focuses only on the benefits of proportionality and ignores the many inevitable trade-offs involved in a proportional system.” I suggest that there are far more benefits to a Pro Rep system than what we have now. *Note at bottom for acronyms.

There is a paragraph that seems to suggest there are benefits to PR but the author speaks of “voter accountability”? Our current system has very few consequences for political parties the way it stands. Because of the way the system counts seats rather than votes, it is very difficult for a voter to show their dissatisfaction through their vote. For example, in BC the Greens have become a significant party, yet have never been able to gain the number of seats they should have because our current system is distorted and people’s votes don’t count. The combined vote of the NDP and Green Party in the last election was 57%, a majority of votes, but is not reflected in their seat count.

If we had a system of PR, voters would be able to hold political parties and their candidates more accountable.  Two of the PR systems on the ballot would give voters more choice and candidates from the same party would compete against each other for the public’s vote. (Mixed Member Proportional and Rural-Urban Proportional) MLAs would be truly held accountable. Policies would be debated and hopefully reported on in the press in a way that would be far more transparent than it is now.

She uses the word fragmented in this statement as though having more parties represented is a bad thing – “the province’s legislature would become more fragmented, meaning that more parties would be represented in the legislature.”

Our current system has three major parties with other parties wanting to spring up because their interests are not being represented by the existing parties. This continues to happen, both provincially and federally, but their voices will not be heard because they are shut out of the legislature. Making the statement, “it is incorrect to assume that minority views are not well represented in FPTP” becomes completely false.

I like to remind people that one of our cherished policies is the Canada Health Act. I always wondered how we have an NDP policy when the NDP have never been in power federally? A Liberal minority government in the 60’s was supported by the NDP because the Liberals agreed to implement their policies. Many of these policies that were implemented under that agreement are still in effect today. It truly is amazing how parties can work together to institute policies that are popular and can withstand the test of time.

While one large tent party may promise things during an election that “appeal to a number of constituent groups”, the reality is that many times they do not follow through on their promises. One glaring example is Justin Trudeau’s promise to make 2015 the last election under First Past The Post (FPTP). An interesting side note is that in 1921 PM Mackenzie King promised the same thing. Afterall why would a Prime Minister who won power under a FPTP system decide to change it? It got them elected, often with a majority of seats, and they have all the power under this disproportionate system.

When the author talks about “moderate policy platforms” under majoritarian governments, I would argue that Doug Ford’s cancelling of the minimum wage, the slashing of the Toronto Municipal government, the cancellation of the carbon tax and green initiatives put into place by the previous government, are not moderate. Not only do they promote inequality and climate change, but they are not in the interests of the majority of the voters. Many people who voted for Ford in this election just wanted change, but not at such a drastic cost to both their personal lives and those of the planet.

The assumption of majoritarian governments being more stable is another red herring. Quite the contrary is true. Gareth Hughes, Green MP for NZ said: “When we moved to MMP in the 90’s I remember the argument that NZ would become politically unstable if we adopted it. The reverse has been true. Our politicians learnt to talk, negotiate and compromise.”

What we have under our current system is one government coming into power and reversing policies.  Often this is both costly and uncertain for businesses and citizens alike particularly when the previous government promised tax breaks for certain initiatives.  

Miljan said. “Moving to a form of PR would fracture the provincial legislature and lead to increased uncertainty, not only for voters but also potential investors who may look for more stable jurisdictions.” This statement looks like governments are run for the express purpose of doing business and making investments. This is important, but governments have the ability to control and direct what type of investments would be in citizen’s interests, not just corporate interests. We have to have governments that keep our interests in mind when making good legislation. It is much easier for lobbyists to influence one party, than it would be to influence two.

The reason there is a huge desire for change is because under our current system, policies are made by single parties in the vested interests of the few at the top. Under a PR system those making the decisions will be more readily held accountable.

Note about acronyms:

PR/Pro Rep – Proportional Representation

FPTP – First Past the Post is our current system, also known as a majoritarian system

MLAs – Members of the Legislative Assembly who we vote for and win seats.

MMP – Mixed Member Proportional

RUP – Rural Urban Proportional

The above are two of the proportional systems listed on the referendum ballot.

 

Barb Berger

Comox Valley Council of Canadians and Fair Vote Comox Valley