A change in the voting structure in British Columbia could affect future election outcomes, proponents of proportional representation say.
On Saturday morning, Margaret Holm of Fair Vote B.C. presented information about the proportional representation concept and how it could affect future provincial elections.
The meeting was held at the Summerland Community Arts Centre. Around 30 people were present.
Holm said the existing voting system in British Columbia does not necessarily represent the wishes of the voters in the province.
She said a candidate receiving support from fewer than half the voters could be elected in a riding, even though a significant number of voters did not choose to vote for that candidate.
And provincewide, Holm said parties are often elected to majority governments, even though they do not have the support of the majority of voters.
“Since 1956, 88 per cent of our governments in B.C. have been false majorities,” she said.
The exception was in the 2001 provincial election, when the B.C. Liberals won a sweeping majority, with support from a majority of those who cast ballots.
The present government, elected in May, 2017, is a coalition of New Democrats and Greens.
Those two parties had the support of a little more than half of B.C. voters.
The B.C. Liberal Party, which has elected members in 43 of the 87 B.C. ridings, did not become the governing party.
Holm said the existing voting system, also known as First Past the Post, has not always been used in British Columbia.
In 1871, the province had 12 electoral districts with 25 legislative members.
At that time, Summerland and Penticton were part of the Yale riding, which elected three MLAs.
As recently as 1986, there were still 17 two-member ridings in the British Columbia, including the Penticton riding. “We’ve tried it before,” Holm said of multiple-member ridings.
Proportional representation, where voters could select their first and second choices, has also been used in the past.
In the 1952 provincial election, a proportional representation system led to the first Social Credit government in Canada, when W.A.C. Bennett, the province’s longest serving premier, came to power.
However, after that election, the province returned to the First Past the Post voting system.
A referendum on changing British Columbia’s voting system will be held later this year, in the form of a mail-in ballot.
While the wording of the referendum has not yet been determined, Holm said the results of this referendum will be binding.
The next provincial election in British Columbia will be held in October, 2021.