BC’s electoral referendum is just a week away, and British Columbians will have the opportunity to call for a stronger, more democratic system of electing government.
We care deeply about this referendum because of our decades of work on civic engagement, human rights, environmental justice, and equity. We have seen how our existing system – First Past the Post (FPTP) – does not serve these fundamental social values. That is why we are speaking out to urge BC voters to say loud and clear that it’s time to modernize our electoral system and make it work for people by voting in favour of Pro Rep.
There are many reasons to be concerned about the impact our existing system has had on voter engagement. Many people who care passionately about creating a better society, grounded in human rights, climate protection and social justice feel turned off and excluded from the current system of voting. They feel it denies our diversity from being reflected in who wins. We know many people and communities are excluded by our political system and do not see their interests represented by the major parties.
It is time to change, as BC and Canada are lagging behind the vast majority of democratic countries who have already moved to Pro Rep. Based on evidence from around the world, we know Pro Rep is a fairer, more transparent and democratic system that actually ensures every voice and vote counts. Here are some of the main reasons why we should choose this system and follow the lead of most well-established democracies around the world that have Pro Rep.
Moving to Pro Rep will mean voters across the political spectrum will know their vote will be reflected in the outcome of the election. The percentage of seats held will reflect the popular vote won. More British Columbians will be motivated to vote with the knowledge that their vote actually influences the outcome. With voter turnout hovering between 50 – 60% over the past few decades, it is important to choose a system that increases engagement. Further, Pro Rep will avoid what happened in the 2001 BC election, where the successful political party held 97 percent of the seats, having won just 57 percent of the vote.
Pro Rep will increase the diversity of elected representatives, meaning those in power will be more reflective of the population they represent. More gender, racial and ethnic diversity makes for better governing. For many people whose communities are underrepresented, this added diversity will forge a stronger connection between elected representatives and the populations they serve.
A final point will ring true for anyone who has felt the need to vote “strategically” for a candidate or party that was not their first choice to avoid an even worse outcome. In our current FPTP system, people often feel they have to vote for the least offensive party that has a likelihood of success to prevent the most offensive party from winning. People want and deserve to vote their values, perspectives, and interests. The current FPTP system stifles many critical voices – both voters and candidates alike – who have important perspectives to bring to the table.
We all count – our votes should too.
Voting for Pro Rep means saying yes to a change that will have a positive impact on the outcome of future provincial elections in BC. It’s a change that gives diverse voices and communities a fighting chance to be heard in the political arena. We think that’s long overdue.
Libby Davies represented Vancouver East as Member of Parliament from 1997 until 2015. Katrina Pacey is a human rights lawyer who lives and works in Vancouver.
This article originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun: https://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/libby-davies-and-katrina-pacey-proportional-representation-will-lead-to-more-diverse-better-governments