Supporters of the current First-Past-The-Post system (FPTP) argue that changing to a Proportional Representation System (PR) will result in the proliferation of multiple single-issue parties in the Legislature and unstable governments resulting in more frequent elections.
Is this true? What is clear is that the B.C. voter had a plethora of choice available in the 2017 election.
There were 18 parties to choose from plus independents and non-affiliated candidates. Yet, official results show that about 97.5 per cent voted for the NDP, Liberals or Greens.
An important requirement for election in all the PR systems proposed for B.C. is that a party must garner at least 5 per cent of the votes cast to be eligible for a seat. Using this yardstick, even the B.C. Conservative Party that garnered 0.53 per cent of the vote in 2017 would not gain one seat; they would have to increase their vote almost 10-fold to gain a seat under the electoral reform legislation. In short, the risk of a PR system resulting in the election of single-issue or regional parties seems very remote in B.C. under PR.
Application of PR principles to the same 2017 election would have given the Green Party 17 per cent of the vote and about 15 seats, not their current three seats. The other two parties’ seat allocation would be reduced to about 35 seats each. The NDP would see an almost certain reduction in seats under PR.
This suggests that the referendum is not about assuring that they retain power. It is apparent that PR governments will have to govern in a coalition representing at least 50 per cent of the voters. This would require that politicians co-operate rather than confront each other.
We have seen the divisive politics coming out of the United States, Ontario and Quebec, where so-called “majority governments” elected by a minority of voters have polarized the electorate.
We need a collaborative government that develops policy by accommodating a variety of viewpoints that most voters can support. This type of policy would be best accomplished under governments elected by a proportional representation electoral system.