The debate for me in the upcoming referendum on our electoral system is whether elections that use proportional representation (Pro Rep) rather than first past the post (FPTP) will result in better government.
For those of us in British Columbia that are not ideologically bound to the left or right of the political spectrum, our voting choice often comes down to what is the least bad option. To date, our choices have been a party that champions strong economic growth, low taxes and balanced budgets, versus a party that brings strong programs to support social services, education and health, higher taxes and spending beyond the fiscal capacity of the province.
In the past, each of these parties has demonstrated that once in power with a majority government, often obtained with much less than 50% of the electorate, many of the constituents that did not vote for the governing party were ignored. This was equally true of those that represented business interests as well as people that needed better social, health and educational services.
Although I am not certain a political party will emerge in BC that has a platform that represents my political views, I do believe that Pro Rep will elect representatives to the legislature that bring a more balanced approach to public policy and legislation.
Under Pro Rep, I believe governments will no longer ignore the fact that BC’s child poverty rate is higher than the Canadian average of 18.5% meaning that 163,260 children—more than the population of Abbotsford—live below the poverty line. Under Pro Rep, governments would work to solve the 50.3% poverty rate of children living in lone-parent families, the vast majority of which are single-mother families, because those families would be seen as essential to winning power, just like other parts of the electorate.
I believe governments must be fiscally responsible and not spend more than they can generate in revenue, nor place an undue burden on the taxpayers—we must all live within our means.
However, how we spend the money is of equal importance. We are fortunate enough to be able to ensure that all British Columbian do not suffer the consequences of poor living conditions, homelessness and inadequate health care—we simply need to make it a priority.
By giving all citizens a voice, not only while voting but also through representation that reflects peoples’ voting preferences, I believe we will provide better services to British Columbians and enjoy better government overall.
Lyle Viereck is the past Chair of Family Services of Greater Vancouver and the former Director of Aboriginal Relations and Negotiations with BC Hydro.