Canada is a nation that values diversity. We are often described as having a cultural mosaic, as opposed to the melting pot approach of our neighbours to the south.
We value the many identities that are part of who we are as Canadians. We understand that diversity, rather than conformity, brings strength and resilience.
The same is true of our media landscape. Our democracy is stronger when we are exposed to a diversity of views that genuinely reflects of our society. It is weaker when media power is concentrated and reflects narrower, less diverse viewpoints and interests. It is not healthy for our democracy if we are fed a diet of news and opinion that reinforces the power and privilege of a narrow group within society.
We only have to look at the way social media has pushed us into bubbles where we are only exposed to people who share our views. It can be comfortable in these silos but views harden in these echo chambers and an intolerant “us and them” mentality grows and is reinforced. It’s why I have always believed we need a national public broadcaster, deeply rooted in the regions to provide an alternative to private sector journalism.
It seems strange therefore that we have persisted, both in Canada and specifically in British Columbia, with a voting system that tends to discourage diversity, while encouraging a confrontational style of politics. One hundred per cent of the power can be captured by harnessing a minority of voters in strategic locations to serve the interests of a narrow sector of society.
That’s the reality of our deeply flawed First Past The Post voting system. And that’s the opposite of diversity.
By contrast, in jurisdictions where there is proportional representation, we see much more diversity, better reflecting public opinion and encouraging a more tolerant, less confrontational politics.
An abundance of research shows that Pro Rep allows citizens to vote their values and beliefs as reflected in a broader spectrum of choices. They can mark their ballot secure in the knowledge that each party—including the one they support—will receive the number of seats equal to the percentage of votes won. It makes it more important for candidates to tell you what they believe and who they are than to tear down their opponent.
Too many people today don’t see the diversity of our population reflected in who gets elected. More women will be elected, as well as more minorities. Under our current system, far too many voters feel their interests and perspective are never represented in the legislature, so they don’t see any point in voting at all. Under Pro Rep their vote will count which means more engagement in our democracy, and that’s good for all of us.
When politicians know the voting system results in a diversity of opinions then we will see a more cooperative approach to governing. This is far better than the confrontational, us versus them, style of First Past The Post, which encourages a total disregard for opponents. Under Pro Rep, politicians will be forced to better understand each other’s viewpoints, in order to forge the kind of constructive compromises that lead to good policy and good government. It also means the traditional backroom party strategy of targeting specific ridings and ignoring others will no longer work; all votes and ridings will matter.
Again, the parallels to our media landscape are striking. Today, our adversarial politics gets reported as a clash of opposites. In fact, our media thrive on conflict. No one, least of all the media, cares about who came second or what they had to say. It’s simply winners and losers, black or white. Citizens are rarely, if ever, exposed to the idea of grey, let alone orange or pink or—dare I say—green!
As a former CBC journalist, I can attest to the importance of a diverse media landscape—and a diverse political one. We all benefit when we are exposed to a true diversity of viewpoints. And we all benefit when we see ourselves reflected in the news and in our legislatures. I encourage you to vote yes to Pro Rep.
Jo-Ann Roberts is the Deputy Leader and Arts, Culture and Heritage Critic for the Green Party of Canada and a veteran journalist and broadcaster.