Letter to the Editor: Why I’m voting for proportional representation

Letter to the Editor

Wednesday, October 31 2018

Before moving to Gabriola, I had the misfortune of almost always living in “safe” ridings where the elected candidate represented a political party whose policies I could not support. Over countless elections, my vote for my candidate of choice was wasted. I’m not alone – in Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system, roughly half of voters cast votes that do not elect anyone. That would change under a proportional representation (PR) system. Electoral reform experts estimate that any of the PR models proposed for BC will make over 95 per cent of votes count. With a PR system in place, I can be assured that my vote, even though it may not elect my local candidate of choice, will help elect other candidates of my preferred political party in proportion to the total provincial support for that party. Don’t you think this might encourage voter turnout? In fact, many studies have shown that voter turnout is higher in countries with PR than in countries with “winner-takes-all” systems. 

Opponents argue that PR systems are too difficult to understand. While it’s true that the actual counting of votes is more complex, what concept could be simpler: 30 per cent of the vote = 30 per cent of the seats? It’s certainly simpler than trying to explain how a political party with 40 per cent popular support can win a majority government, sometimes with 60 per cent or more of the seats. 

Contrary to what critics suggest, all the PR models proposed for BC retain local MLAs elected by voters in specific ridings and regions. No region of the province would have fewer MLAs than it currently has, and each region would always have government and opposition MLAs (likely with local constituency offices). 

Don’t believe the spurious claims that parties with a tiny percentage of the vote will be elected or that PR will result in the election of extremist groups. The Attorney General’s report has guaranteed that a party must attain a five per cent threshold of popular support before electing MLAs to proportional seats. Let’s put that in perspective: In the 2017 provincial election, the combined vote for all 15 “fringe” parties which ran candidates and who did not get anyone elected and the 33 independent candidates added up to only 2.5 per cent of the total votes cast – not nearly enough to earn even one seat.

Finally, don’t believe those who claim that voting for PR will ensure NDP/Green coalition governments for decades to come. In countries with PR voting systems (totaling over 100 countries), governments change based on how people vote at election times, with left-leaning and right-leaning parties all having turns in government. 

~ Rob Brockley