One of the best things about living in a country like Canada is that it is a democracy. But you might be surprised that our democracy doesn’t function like it should.
Do voters cast secret ballots for candidates of their choice? Yes. Do the results of the election accurately reflect the will of voters? Rarely.
Canada’s “first-past-the-post” system rewards candidates with 100% of the power, but it doesn’t matter if they were elected in a landslide or by a single vote.
This is why we’re voting this fall on a better system.
Proportional representation (“pro rep”) is based the principle that our legislature should reflect the votes cast by the population (and that’s why most Western democracies have adopted it).
With first-past-the-post, we regularly see majority governments formed by parties that get somewhere between 38% and 45% of the province-wide vote—of those who voted. Voter turnout in B.C. is generally 60% of eligible voters.
In other words, our current system gives four years of virtually unfettered power to parties who have garnered as little as 22% of popular support. That’s not a fair result in a democracy.
Under pro rep models, local candidates with the most popular support are still elected, but the votes cast for the other local candidates are also tabulated towards regional or provincial candidates (depending on the system).
It’s this second round of tabulation that ensures that the numbers of MLAs from each political party in the legislature matches the popular vote totals. This way, 30% of the province-wide vote yields 30% of the seats in the legislature, and so on.
But there’s even more good news.
What has been proposed for British Columbia’s referendum draws directly from the feedback that voters gave the government during the public consultation. The following principles will guide B.C.’s electoral reform:
- No significant increase in the number of MLAs.
- No decrease in MLAs for non-urban regions.
- A 5% popular support threshold (so that no fringe political parties can get a seat)
By incorporating the feedback from tens of thousands of British Columbians, we can be confident that B.C.’s new system will reflect the best features of ProRep while respecting our province’s unique characteristics and history. It’s a new way of voting that will work for you.