Editorial: Parties push referendum preferences on voters

With local elections barely in the rearview mirror, voting packages for the 2018 Referendum on Electoral Reform began to arrive in Powell River area mailboxes last week.

Some residents may have made their decision already and returned the filled-out form. Others might be waiting to watch premier John Horgan and opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson debate the matter on November 8 before selecting a choice. A few might be in the midst of deciphering the options for and against switching to a proportional representation system.

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Whether residents find the information confusing or not, it is out there, in the voting package, online at elections.bc.ca, and through various news outlets, including a three-part series that ran recently in the Peak. Becoming informed by asking questions about the current first-past-the-post system or any of the three proportional representation options is wise, even though it may be difficult to find a source with all the answers which is not politically motivated or trying to sway the vote for one reason or another.

Both sides are campaigning hard and, as is typical with elections, they both spend more time and effort telling voters why the other side is wrong than explaining why their way is better.

BC’s three political parties currently holding seats in the provincial legislature have made their preferences known: Liberals want to keep the current system and the NDP and Greens are advocating to change it.

While each party is perfectly within its rights to promote what their caucus considers the best choice, each has its own agenda, and that agenda is based on what is best for the party, not necessarily the residents of BC.

There are flaws to every system, but each party is more concerned with what can put them in a position of power, and will try to steer voters toward whatever system suits its agenda.

When any party is elected, one of the first things their leader will tell the electorate is that they will represent all residents and make decisions that are best for the province as a whole, not just those who voted for them. Does anyone actually believe that?

In the 2017 general election, the Liberals won 43 seats, the NDP 41, and the Greens three. The Liberals and NDP both negotiated with the Greens in order to hang onto or ascend to power. The fact that the two parties with the most seats collectively earned 80.64 per cent of the votes was never a factor in forming a government.

Rather than representing the highest possible majority of what most voters wanted, both parties allowed the Green Party to impose its will, even though only 16.84 per cent of voters indicated support for its policies.

For those of you thinking, ‘that’s ridiculous, the Liberals and NDP can’t work together,’ remember, it’s not supposed to be about the will of the party, it’s supposed to be about the will of the people. Do the math, 80.64 per cent is far more of a mandate than 57.2 (Liberals and Greens combined) or 57.12 (NDP and Greens combined).

Proportional representation will prevent a party from gaining power with less than 50 per cent of the popular vote, which can happen with first-past-the-post. But it will not stop parties from pursuing their own agendas. That likely means whoever receives the most, or second most votes, will be influenced by an opponent making a deal to just get them over that 50 per cent threshold rather than truly representing the voice of the people. In other words, the two parties with the most support should have to work together in order to reflect the wishes of the people, but we all know that won’t happen.

Pick your poison, for or against, but don’t expect any political party to put the electorate before its own agenda.

Copyright © Powell River Peak


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