Opinion: BC's proportional representation referendum is deeply flawed

Nov 7 2018, 9:58 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Tyler Pronyk, Regional Director of Operations for a Canadian-owned national restaurant chain. He is committed to his community by servicing on a number of boards and advisory committees. He lives in Richmond, BC, with his wife and four children.  

_______________________________________________________________

You may have heard that BC is in the midst of a referendum that could fundamentally change the way we vote in provincial elections. Then again, you might not. As of the latest report, just 1% of registered voters have sent in their ballots ahead of the November 30th deadline for this mail-in referendum. And that’s deeply concerning, because the stakes could not be any higher.

So why should you be concerned about this referendum, and the results that will become known in early December? Well, allow me to share my perspective.

The process is deeply flawed

BC has voted on proportional representation twice before – both times in conjunction with a regular provincial election. This time, registered voters are expected to comb through their mail for a complicated voting package that, among other strange aspects, requires you to use black ink (not blue!) to mark your ballot or risk having your vote disqualified.

Social media has been rife with photos of voting packages sent to the wrong address or casually discarded as junk mail by confused recipients. What’s more, the government hasn’t set a minimum participation threshold for the result to count. This means that as few as 10 or 20% of voters could decide the future of the province for the rest of us – when even your average strata council can’t apply a new coat of paint without two-thirds of members voting in favour.

Not only that, but more than two dozen key aspects of the proposed proportional representation systems have been left to be decided by the ruling party – the NDP – after the votes are in. That’s like going to a restaurant and being told you have to pay up front, then eat whatever the server brings you. In effect, the NDP is asking for a blank cheque from British Columbians to impose the system of their choosing.

By voting for proportional representation, British Columbians would be taking a big risk.

Other countries around the world are demonstrating that proportional representation opens the door to extreme or single-issue parties holding the balance of power and driving the agenda in the legislature.

This means that party platforms and promises can be thrown out the window after an election, replaced by backroom deal-making as insiders and party bosses try to cobble together enough votes to form government. And instead of voters directly electing their representatives through our current, straightforward system, proportional representation relies on complex mathematical formulas to determine which seats and which votes go to which party – badly blurring the lines of accountability that allow voters to hold politicians responsible for their actions.

The instability of proportional representation would ripple into our daily lives in a serious way

Global experience shows that proportional representation produces more frequent elections – Italy has had, on average, a change of government every year since World War II – and coalition governments that form after the election through backroom horse-trading. Another example, New Zealand’s current Deputy Prime Minister is the leader of a far-right anti-immigrant party who was never directly elected by voters.

This means more confusion, cost, and uncertainty for average people – and overall instability that would make BC less attractive as a place to live, work, and invest.

For all of these reasons, I’m voting to keep our current First Past the Post voting system. It’s not perfect, but this flawed, rushed, ill-considered process is not the way to bring about positive change.

However you vote, please do it before the November 30 deadline, so your vote will be counted.