WHAT IS PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION?
how does it differ from what we have today?
For most of our history, British Columbia has been governed by strong, stable governments that are elected through a straightforward balloting system.
The province is divided into geographic ridings. Each person gets one vote and the candidate with the most votes in each riding wins. The party or parties with the majority of seats forms government.
This system ensures that people have a direct link to their elected representative – to express their view on government and policy initiatives, and hold their MLA and government accountable. Under our current “first past the post” system, parties are accountable for implementing their platform promises.
Proportional Representation is a system of electing representatives used in countries like Italy, New Zealand, Israel, the Netherlands and Germany. Representatives are elected by a complicated formula that attempts to reflect divisions in the electorate proportionately in the elected body.
Voters are asked to complete a complex ballot – often involving multiple steps – in order to have their vote count. There is little or no attention given to regional or geographic representation. In this way, Proportional Representation weakens or eliminates the bond between constituent and elected representative. It leads to unstable, coalition governments that survive through backroom deals by political operatives.
- Two of the three models of prop rep on the ballot have never been tried, anywhere in the world. Do we really want BC to be a sandbox for untried academic theories?
- The NDP has refused to provide maps for how riding boundaries would change under prop rep. Already large rural and Northern ridings could double or more in size – making effective representation impossible.
- Many other key details have been left to be decided after the referendum – by government insiders behind closed doors. It’s fundamentally unfair and undemocratic.
- While our current system encourages moderate, broad-based political parties, prop rep allows radical fringe parties to win seats in the legislature – often allowing them to hold the balance of power.
- Proportional representation has seen extreme, far-right parties elected in countries like Germany and Austria. And in New Zealand, an anti-immigration party that got just 7.2% of the vote holds the balance of power – with its leader serving as deputy prime minister.
- Under prop rep, party platforms go out the window after the election, as politicians strike backroom deals to try and form a government.
- With our current system, local MLAs are directly accountable to the voters in their riding. Proportional representation involves representatives elected off political party lists – often well-connected political insiders without a real connection to the people they represent.
- Thanks to the instability and fracturing created by proportional representation, Italy has had a change of government on average every year since 1945…Greece has had an election every year and a half…and Belgium has had an election every two years.
- Belgium recently went 589 days without an elected government, setting a new record – until it was surpassed by Northern Ireland, which also uses prop rep, this August.
This is why we’re encouraging British Columbians to inform themselves, then vote to keep our current First Past the Post system. In each riding, the candidate with the most votes wins – fair, straightforward, and democratic. We’re also urging voters not to select any of the prop rep models offered on the ballot, to avoid giving any legitimacy to this rigged referendum.
What could Prop-Rep mean for British Columbians?
We could have “mega-ridings”.
Under a Prop-Rep system, many of the ridings that you know will disappear. In their place will be a huge electoral district that doesn’t recognize geographic and demographic needs. In Northern BC, for instance, one riding could stretch from Atlin to Fort St. John, to Prince Rupert and all the way back to McBride. Communities will be an afterthought.
You won’t know your MLA.
An MLA should be an advocate for YOU – taking your voice and the voice of your riding to Victoria. Under the system proposed by the Green/NDP coalition, you’ll lose that direct connection to your MLA – and you won’t be able to hold them accountable. Instead, you will have your representatives chosen off political party lists. Most often, these people are well-connected political operatives who, more often than not, will be from the Lower Mainland or Victoria. You shouldn’t have political elites representing you in Victoria without your say-so.
Fringe Parties will hold the balance of power.
If the NDP’s proposal goes forward, you will see fringe political parties have undue influence on government policy. This isn’t hypothetical, it’s fact. In Germany, far-right political parties are no longer a thing of the past. In Israel, it’s nearly impossible to govern without granting concessions to a small but influential radical party. Prop-Rep empowers the rise of these fringe parties – sometimes with objectives that are sharply at odds with mainstream society.
Government doesn't work for you.
Unlike the current system we have in BC today, there is no certainty that you will get the stability required for proper government. In countries with Prop-Rep systems there are periods of prolonged horse-trading before power sharing arrangements are reached. Sometimes the result is an unstable coalition; other times, there is no agreement at all. We deserve a government that can act decisively on behalf of British Columbians – not one founded by backroom political agreements.
British Columbians have already rejected changing our voting system twice since 2005.
Our system works. Don’t risk changing it.
Vote to keep our current First-Past-The-Post system.