By Tim Pearson, Communications Director
Last month, I wrote about the importance of the upcoming referendum on electoral reform. British Columbians will decide whether or not they want to move to a system of proportional representation (ProRep) instead of our current First Past the Post (FPTP) system.
I argued that, if you care about our environment, you should be in favour of ProRep, as jurisdictions with ProRep tend to score better on a whole host of environmental indicators. In short, ProRep would make our goals here at Sierra Club BC easier to achieve–or at least less difficult.
Last week, Attorney General David Eby release his report and recommendations on how the electoral reform referendum will be conducted.
The official campaign period will begin on July 1. Voting will be done by mail-in ballot from October 22 to November 30.
Eby recommends a two-part ballot.
The first question will ask which system British Columbians should use to elect MLAs. This will be a simple choice between keeping the current FPTP system or adopting a ProRep system.
The second question will ask British Columbians which system among three alternative forms of ProRep they prefer.
There will undoubtedly be a lot of debate about which of the three proposed systems is preferable. Setting aside the details of that debate for a moment, it is important to remember a couple of things.
First, all three systems increase the degree to which the composition of the Legislature reflects voters’ wishes (the principle of proportionality that underpins ProRep). No matter which system is chosen, we will no longer have to endure governments who derive 100 per cent of the power from less than 50 per cent of the votes.
Out of 21 elections since the Second World War, only once has one party formed government after having secured an overall majority of the votes. This was when the BC Liberals first came to power in 2001. Even then, the Liberals gained 97 per cent of the seats (77 out of 79 seats) with under 58 per cent of the vote.
And right now in Ontario, polls are predicting that Doug Ford’s Conservatives will likely win a majority government despite support levels around 37 per cent.
Second, we see policy outcomes favourable to the environment in ProRep jurisdictions across the globe, regardless of which particular system of ProRep is used.
In other words, the particular ProRep system we adopt is far less important than is jettisoning the minority rule that FPTP almost always brings.
The vested interests who oppose ProRep want a debate about the minutiae of competing systems, into which they will inject all manners of disinformation and deceit. What they don’t want is any discussion of the manifest benefits of ProRep, regardless of the system used.
Because that discussion will demonstrate that ProRep is good for the environment, leads to higher voter turnout, better representation of women and minorities in legislative bodies, reduced income inequality, and a host of other measures. This is all shown in academic research compiled by Arend Lijphart on government performance across 36 countries.
If you would like to show your support and receive updates from an alliance of organizations who are campaigning in favour of ProRep (of which Sierra Club BC is a member), you can sign up here.
Did I mention ProRep is good for the environment? 😉
Feature image by Lee-Anne Stack.