Cancel Your Vacations – It’s Time For Electoral Reform

By Grant T. Smith

electoral reformIt is going to be a summer and fall full of discussion and debate. The vast majority of BC’s citizens will spend much of their free time huddled in discussions and seeking co-operative agreement on the best course of action. People are already cancelling their vacations so they can participate. The libraries are stocking up on books to meet the insatiable demand.


Yes, we are voting on electoral-reform!


(Boy I hope that line is below the fold or no one will read on.)


Late in October, British Columbia will go to the polls and be asked to answer one or two questions. The first question is: do you want to switch from our current voting structure to a proportional representation structure? The second question, should you say yes to switching, is: what kind of proportional representation would you prefer? The government is offering us three choices:

  • dual member proportional,
  • mixed member proportional, and
  • rural-urban proportional representation.


But more on that later.


I have long been opposed to changing our system, which is commonly called “first past the post” or FPTP. Primarily I have rejected it because it may lead to less stable governance and more coalition governments. For my example I have usually reached to Israel, where the governments are frequently coalition and, it appears to me, one-issue parties gain undue influence.


My expectation is that a proportional representation voting system will result in a plethora of parties vying for seats in any election. The result being that smaller parties will find themselves gaining seats in the government without substantial popular vote and without a fully formed political or economic platform.


But, alas, I have undergone a bit of a reformation particularly after the results of the Ontario election. For those of you who did not follow it, the Conservatives formed a majority government by taking 76 of 124 seats with approximately 40% of the vote. I say 40% of the vote, but it’s actually 40% of the 58% of available voters who voted. To be clear: 24% of Ontarians elected a majority Conservative government.


I found the results distressing and not simply because of my political leanings. Too many people sat on the side lines out of frustration and dissatisfaction with their ability to participate. This reality devalues our elections. It is important that we find a way to energize the electorate, engage young people, and empower the disenfranchised.


Now that I have my newfound interest in proportional representation, I wish to engage in learning a bit more about the three systems. For today’s purposes, I do not propose to discuss them here and I am instead giving you a link to start your engagement.


What I am proposing today is to start a conversation. I will be reaching out through this platform – you can engage with me by sending an email. I will be reaching out through LinkedIn and we can talk there as well. Finally, I will be reaching out on Facebook. If you have any interest in discussing this with other citizens, please don’t wait, because if we put it off it will never happen.


Thank you.