We may have a democracy, but it isn’t a representative one. Politicians are not elected by getting the majority of votes, but just more than their nearest competitor — often less than 50 per cent.
In turn, political parties gain power by having the most seats in the legislature, not the support of the majority of voters. And having the most seats is a rubber stamp for whatever bills they want to pass — woe betide the MLA that chooses to vote against the party line.
Attorney General David Eby has decided the Nov. 30 ballot will contain two questions – the first being a choice between the current system or a proportional representation one. A simple majority in the first vote will allow responses to count on three types of possible new voting systems: dual-member proportional; mixed-member proportional; or rural-urban proportional representation.
In a way, the fixed position the B.C. Liberals have taken on electoral reform shows just how badly that reform is needed. Long before the referendum questions were released last week, Liberal MLAs were delivering the message that first-past-the-post shouldn’t be abandoned.
The universality of the message shows those MLAs are neither representing the views of their constituents or even their personal views. Instead, they are representing the views of their party, to us.
The ideal for those we elect to office in Victoria – or Ottawa, for that matter – should be to represent the interest and will of their constituents. On a larger scale, the idea of a legislature should be to come to the best decision through reasoned discussion and finding a compromise with opposing points of view.
We hope the referendum on electoral reform brings change, but even if it doesn’t it puts the decision where it belongs, in the hands of voters. Political parties on all sides – all of which have a vested interest in the outcome – shouldn’t be trying to influence the vote.
There are many arguments for and against different styles of proportional representation – but as it stands, first-past-the-post is not set up to deliver fair representation.