For almost 25 years, my work with the Agricultural Land Commission took me to the vast majority of B.C. communities connected to the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Each of these communities is unique. But they have one thing in common: a feeling of alienation from the centres of power in Vancouver and Victoria. As someone who grew up in Fort St John, I know exactly where they are coming from.
Residents complain Vancouver and Victoria don’t listen to them and take them for granted. They believe their contributions to B.C. aren’t valued enough.
These concerns seem to grow the further away you live from the centres of money and power.
And there’s no doubt they are caused in large part by our antiquated, unfair First Past The Post voting system.
Under First Past The Post, if you live in a riding that has elected an opposition MLA, you have no voice in government. The current government has very few MLAs outside the lower mainland and Vancouver Island, leaving voters in the north and interior feeling they are not represented effectively.
Previously, the north and interior were over-represented in government, meaning those who voted for opposition parties had no voice. Either way, First Past The Post means rural B.C. lacks effective representation and its concerns remain under-appreciated.
In stark contrast, under Proportional Representation (Pro Rep), rural British Columbians will always have a voice. Every region will be guaranteed both government and opposition MLAs. That’s because in each region of the province, the composition of MLAs will reflect the popular vote. No more voters left out in the cold.
No matter which system of Pro Rep is chosen, no region of the province will lose MLAs. Anything you hear to the contrary is simply fearmongering by supporters of the unfair status quo.
Supporters of the status quo—led, by the way, by three Vancouver and Victoria-based insiders—say Pro Rep is too complicated for British Columbians to understand. Telling voters they aren’t smart enough is just the sort elite we-know-what’s-good-for-you attitude that has alienated rural B.C. for decades.
Nine of the ten top performing economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development use Pro Rep. If voters in Luxembourg, Ireland and Norway are smart enough, I think we can safely conclude the voters of Vanderhoof, Port Hardy and Kamloops are too.
Lastly, let’s not forget if British Columbians chose Pro Rep this fall, they’ll get a chance to confirm they want to keep it. After two elections using Pro Rep there will be another referendum in which voters can decide if they want to keep it or go back to the old system.
Pro Rep is a risk-free chance for rural British Columbians to choose a system that will give them a guaranteed voice in the corridors of power. I’m voting for Pro Rep because I want my home town and agricultural communities throughout BC to be better represented.
Kirk Miller is the former Chair and General Manager of BC’s Agricultural Land Commission. Kirk worked with the ALC for 25 years.