If the NDP and Greens hold true to their promise, B.C. will go to the polls to answer the question of whether or not they want to switch to some form of proportional representation.
A simple question — even just yes or no — is not a bad thing.
We’ve been in this position twice before and the proposition failed. But that wasn’t necessarily, as the Liberals would have you believe, because the people didn’t want to switch from the first-past-the-post system. Instead, you might want to consider how high the bar was set for the referendums to pass, and how complex and confusing the B.C. Single Transferable Vote System seemed to many people.
Once you understood it, BC-STV was a straightforward concept. But getting to that understanding required at least a couple of advanced math classes.
The Liberals are also taking the position that proportional representation would cause a string of minority governments, essentially making it impossible to govern the province.
They’re half right. There will be more minority governments, but if our parties and elected representatives choose to work together rather than take the first chance to bring the government down, legislation that supports the people of B.C. rather than special interest groups might stand a chance of getting passed.
Good things can happen under minority governments; Medicare and the Canada Pension Plan being two good examples.
First-past-the-post does tend to ensure majority governments, but it has the fatal flaw of allowing, in many ridings, a candidate with less than 50 per cent of the vote — more people voting against the candidate than for — to take the riding.
When it finally comes to a vote, the question isn’t really yes or no to proportional representation. It’s a question of whether we want to continue with a system that creates a government that represents a minority of British Columbians or move to one that represents the population fairly.