Does our electoral system need changing? Andrew Coyne has argued it most certainly does: “Anyone who ever proposes to change anything inevitably runs into the unanswerable objection that this would mean… changing things. Nowhere is this more true than with regard to electoral reform. […] At some point someone invariably invokes that ancient bit of cornpone philosophy: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, which is very good advice unless it is broke.”
He continued, explaining why our current system is less than democratic – often, majority governments are formed with less than 40% of the popular vote. For democracy to work, people need to be free to vote for the candidate and party of their choice. But under our system, fear of splitting the vote means people are told, “you can’t vote for the party you prefer, but must vote for a party you don’t like to prevent a party you detest from getting in.”
Canada’s democracy has evolved over the years, sometimes to improve democracy, but other times, not so much. It wasn’t until 1918 that women were allowed to vote federally, and not until 1960, that indigenous people with status were given that right. In BC, in 1952, the then Liberal-Conservative coalition government went ahead, without a referendum, to change from the First Past the Post system we have now to an alternative vote (AV) system. An article in The Star argues this was done to prevent the CCF (the forerunner to the NDP) from taking power. In 1953 the Social Credit party won a majority under this system, then switched back to FPTP and stayed in power until 1972.
Fast forward to 2004. Eight years earlier, an NDP majority government had been elected even though the NDP had fewer votes overall than the Liberals. Then Premier Gordon Campbell established a Citizens Assembly, composed of randomly selected citizens from all across the province. They voted 146 to 7 in favour of a proportional electoral system for BC. Their preferred system was the BC-STV but the legislation required at least 60% support for it to pass. With 57.7% support, the referendum failed.
Opponents of BC’s current electoral reform process, including the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA) and the Canada West Construction Union went to court to stop the process but were unsuccessful. The no side has also produced ads that make false allegations. Fairvote Canada BC produced the https://prorepfactcheck.ca site to counter these false claims.
Now it is our turn. Everyone registered to vote should be receiving a mail-in ballot in the next week or two. The ballot is valid even if you only answer one question, but it needs to be returned to Elections BC by the end of November.