BC’s First Past The Post voting system (FPTP) is simple, but old and inadequate; familiar, but no longer fit for the times. Placing an X beside one name expresses total support for that candidate, that candidate’s party, program and leader, and complete rejection of all alternatives.
Proportion Representation (Pro Rep) allows voters greater choice, expressing support for a particular local candidate, while allowing support for a different party, program and leader at the same time. It more accurately reflects voters’ desires, as few give complete, absolute support to any one party.
The old system worked when life was simpler and our population more homogenous. Voters fell into two camps and just two political parties would take turns running government, often undoing the other party’s work as a matter of course.
Today, we have a diverse population and many competing interests facing complex issues with many possible answers. Forcing such diversity into a two-party system guarantees disappointment, anger and disillusionment with the system. It generates polarized politics and wild swings in policy direction.
No one party can speak for all British Columbians. The needs of the Interior and North are very different from those of the Lower Mainland. Even within regions, some want unbridled free enterprise while others value government intervention. The interests of business, developers and landlords are very different from those of pensioners, homeowners and renters. All those interests and needs should be fairly represented in the legislature and around the cabinet table. That is what Pro Rep delivers.
FPTP Means local candidates do not need a majority of votes to win and a political party does not need a majority of votes to gain absolute control of the legislature. Pro Rep rarely gives one party complete control, forcing all parties to work together. It removes the political incentives for wedge politics and confrontation, instead rewarding cooperation and respect for others.
Pro Rep also makes politics more honest. The old FPTP system induces politicians to build so-called “big-tent” parties to appeal to as broad a cross section of voters as possible, making promises which cannot be delivered, leaving everyone disappointed. Under Pro Rep there are more parties, each representing their voters more authentically. The focus will shift from spin, style and image to platforms, policies and principles.
Pro Rep is a modern system for modern times. We know Pro Rep works because nearly all new democracies since the Second World War have adopted Pro Rep and none have turned back to the old FPTP system.
Our world needs less polarization and more cooperation, less spin and more honesty. From October 22 to November 30, let’s vote for Pro Rep, a new voting system that works for you.
Nick Loenen is a former Richmond Councillor and MLA, co-founder of Fair Voting BC and author of Citizenship and Democracy, a case for proportional representation.