What on earth has electoral reform got to do with Sierra Club BC’s work?
By Tim Pearson, Communications Director
This fall, British Columbians will decide whether or not we want to adopt a new voting system. Voters will have a choice between continuing with our current “First Past The Post” (FPTP) system or some form of Proportional Representation (ProRep).
What has this got to do with Sierra Club BC and our environmental work?
Quite a lot, it turns out. Let me explain, but first let me explain the differences between FPTP and ProRep.
Under FPTP, in any given riding, no matter how many candidates are running, the one who gets the most votes wins. This means the winner frequently only has a plurality of votes, rather than a majority. In the 2015 federal election, one candidate won with 28.5% of the vote, another with 29% and another with 31%.
This problem applies to the formation of governments too. In the 2015 federal election, the Liberal Party won 54% of the seats with 39.5% of the vote.
FPTP frequently leads to situations in which the majority of voters voted against the winning candidate in their riding and the majority of voters overall voted against candidates for the winning government. FPTP basically becomes a form of minority rule.
ProRep attempts to address this problem by trying to make sure the wishes of voters are better reflected in election results. In short, ProRep makes every vote count.
So back to my original question: what has this got to do with Sierra Club BC?
There is a strong argument to be made that ProRep would make the successful pursuit of a progressive, environmental agenda much less difficult than it has been under our “First Past The Post” system.
The evidence demonstrates that jurisdictions with ProRep score significantly higher on a number of measures of environmental stewardship. For example, ProRep jurisdictions are responsible for a shrinking share of global carbon emissions. ProRep jurisdictions ratified the Kyoto protocol much more quickly. And ProRep jurisdictions score six points higher on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index, which includes measures of environmental health, air quality, resource management, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, fisheries, agriculture and climate change.
ProRep also outperforms FPTP on a host of other measures, including:
- higher voter turnout,
- better representation of women and minorities in legislative bodies,
- reduced income inequality,
- higher levels of human development,
- greater tolerance of diversity,
- a less punitive approach to law enforcement,
- greater respect for privacy, and
- lower levels of conflict and militarism.
Over the coming months, we’ll be providing more information to help you make your own decision in the referendum. Sierra Club BC will be arguing in favour of abandoning “First Past The Post” and adopting ProRep.
Our view is if ProRep brings better environmental policies (and other benefits), the environmental movement needs ProRep. Put more concretely, old-growth trees need ProRep. Salmon need ProRep. Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples needs ProRep.
Our planet needs more ProRep jurisdictions—and B.C. can be one of them.
Feature image by Jens Wieting.