Well, the ink has barely dried on the proposed legislation for next year’s referendum on proportional representation, and the fear-mongering has already begun. Todd Stone and Peter Milobar, our Liberal MLAs, recently made comments expressing concerns which have little basis in reality.
In fact, B.C.’s 2018 referendum to adopt PR represents a historic opportunity to jettison First Past the Post, a flawed and outdated system that routinely distorts the will of voters. By inflating the seat count of the largest party, FPTP usually hands majority governments to a party that the majority of BCers actually voted against.
What’s more, small differences in voter preferences are magnified at election time to give us pendulum swings from right to left and back again, with each change in power seeing one government undo the work of its predecessor, creating uncertainty for investors and a dysfunctional policy environment over the long term. BC can do better.
Under PR, the ratio of MLAs to voters would remain the same — no one is proposing any change there. However, since the largest parties would no longer be over-represented, there would be more room for alternate viewpoints. No one party has all the answers, and collaboration produces better governance. Studies of voting systems all around the world have confirmed this simple fact. Most advanced countries around the world use PR — Canada, the US & the UK are the last holdouts.
Contrary to what our MLAs are saying, PR would not diminish rural representation, but rural voters will get more of what they voted for. When all votes count equally, a far higher percentage of citizens end up with representatives who actually align with their policies. For the interior, that means that we would still elect a lot of Liberals, but that they would be joined by other MLAs from other parties which also receive high support. The tradition of one party being given carte blanche and the wishes of all other voters being ignored would be ended. It’s fairer to those on the left as well as the right edges of the spectrum.
No wonder the Liberals are nervous. This is the first time the referendum deck isn’t stacked against PR. So, get used to the fearmongering — there is bound to be much more of it. I urge voters to consider the source. The simple fact is that FPTP has worked really well for the Liberals to run the show, and naturally they want to keep it that way. It’s the only thing that keeps them in power when less than half of people in the province actually support them.
Sharing power and having to learn a less adversarial style of getting things done will be tough for the Liberals at first, but I have no doubt that they’ll be able to figure it out. And then we can all benefit from a system where policy has to represent the will of a true majority of voters. Less crazy swings back and forth, more thoughtful legislation, and voters having representatives who align with their own priorities. Sounds good to me.