Bob D’Eith (NDP) MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission and Simon Gibson (Liberal) MLA for Abbotsford-Mission were both asked six questions about proportional representation. Their answers are below.

Mission MLAs answer six questions about proportional representation as BC prepares for vote on electoral reform

Bob D’Eith and Simon Gibson appear to have some different views on the subject

British Columbia is holding a referendum on what voting system should be used for provincial elections.

The referendum is being held by mail from Oct. 22 to Nov. 30, 2018. Registered voters will get a voting package in the mail from Elections BC between Oct. 22 and Nov. 2.

Voters will be asked two questions on the referendum ballot.

The first question asks if BC should keep the current “first past the post” voting system or move to a system of proportional representation.

The second question asks voters to rank three proportional systems: dual member proportional, mixed member proportional, and rural-urban proportional. Detailed explanations on how these systems work are available at elections.bc.ca.

However, before ranking the different systems, voters must first decide whether they want to switch to a proportional representation system.

With that in mind, the Mission Record asked both Mission MLAs – Bob D’Eith of the NDP and Simon Gibson, Liberal – to answer six questions about proportional representation and its possible impact.

Their answers are below:

Bob D’Eith (NDP)

MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission

1. Why should, or shouldn’t, British Columbia adopt a system of proportional representation?

Our old, outdated voting system doesn’t work for most people. The status quo system allows parties to get 100 per cent of the power with a minority of votes, and this leads to arrogant, out-of-touch governments. Too many people feel their vote is “wasted” or they are required to “vote strategically.” It’s time for a new way of voting that works for everyone – where everyone’s vote counts and parties work together to get things done for people in B.C. We have an historic chance this November to bring in proportional representation and put people at the centre of politics.

2. What impact would proportional representation have on the Mission area?

Pro Rep will give people in Mission more choice, and a stronger voice in the legislature. We will continue to have strong local representation, but we will also have a fair representation of parties in the region.

No matter who you vote for, your vote will count toward the makeup of government. Mission residents will be able to choose from more parties without worrying about strategic voting or a wasted vote, and will have a stronger voice regardless of what party is in government.

3. What will proportional representation do for accountability and representation?

Proportional representation leads to increased accountability. Under the status quo, governments are usually elected by a minority of voters, and then get 100 per cent of the power. This leads to arrogance and lack of accountability. Pro Rep puts more power in the hands of all people, not just the wealthy and well-connected. Pro Rep gives voters more choice, so parties have to work harder to earn your support.

4. Many prosperous, developed countries use proportional representation. Some use first-past-the-post systems. Some that use proportional representation have very stable governments. Some do not. Under a system of proportional representation, would B.C. be a province with stable governing coalitions, or would it see periods of unstable government?

Countries around the world use proportional representation because it leads to stable governments where political parties work together to get things done for people. Experience shows that Pro Rep provides more stability than our outdated first-past-the-post system. Under the status quo, we often see wild policy shifts when governments change after an election. With Pro Rep, there is more stability in the transitions from one government to another.

Pro Rep leads to more co-operation between parties, and it puts an end to governments where parties get absolute power with a minority of votes.

5. Would proportional representation increase or decrease citizens’ access to elected MLAs?

Proportional representation would increase citizens’ access to elected representatives because every region will have some MLAs in government and some in opposition. With the current system, too many regions are not represented in government, and too many people feel left out at election time.

6. Would proportional representation increase or decrease the voice of certain defined communities within the legislature?

Proportional representation would strengthen all voters’ voices within the legislature and improve representation of women, Indigenous communities, and people of colour. Research shows that countries with proportional representation have greater diversity in their parliaments. With proportional representation we can make our government more reflective of the diversity in B.C.

Simon Gibson (Liberal)

MLA for Abbotsford-Mission

1. Why should, or shouldn’t British Columbia adopt a system of proportional representation?

The NDP-Green coalition is proposing a dramatic change in our democratic system with virtually no public consultation. PR would create instability – as we have seen in Israel, Italy, New Zealand and Belgium, for example – and give rise to small fringe parties that would bargain to get their way. PR is complicated and overly partisan with governments potentially formed from party lists. Ironically, the PR theme of “make every vote count” is compromised with less accountability, less opportunity for input, with no minimum threshold. (The Cabinet has guided the entire process with limited public engagement.)

2. What impact would proportional representation have on the Mission area?

There is significant uncertainty with PR, and the impact on our community could be dramatic. We don’t know what future constituencies will look like and we could be combined with Maple Ridge or Abbotsford, for example. Accountability, as mentioned, would be compromised and it is possible that future MLAs may not live in their ridings. The proven experience of your local MLA as your advocate in Victoria could be reduced significantly.

3. What will proportional representation do for accountability and representation?

Accountability is the hallmark of our political system; it is truly “taxation with representation.” With PR, there may be less responsiveness to local residents and their concerns with more involvement of unelected party officials. Ridings will be bigger and the sense of a local representative – your MLA – could be diminished. PR would definitely be negative for Mission constituents.

4. Many prosperous, developed countries use proportional representation. Some use first-past-the-post systems. Some that use proportional representation have very stable governments. Some do not. Under a system of proportional representation would B.C. be a province with stable governing coalitions, or would it see periods of unstable government?

While we would always hope for constancy, I think there is a legitimate fear that would see a decline in healthy compromise and consensus-building. There are 27 registered B.C. political parties – with more to come – and, under recent legislation, a party can have just two seats to have official status. The experience of many other countries is telling with PR leading to significant instability. Since WW II, Italy has had one election every year; Greece, every 1.5 years; and Belgium every two years. Such uncertainty means governments make poor decisions and abandon long-term planning.

Our current system creates stable majorities. And the ballot is simple and easy to understand!

5. Would proportional representation increase or decrease citizens’ access to elected MLAs?

There is no doubt that proportional representation will be negative. The public’s ability to meet with local MLAs will decrease if government implements PR. Closed political party lists may be employed and a local MLA might not even live in the community! I really appreciate our current system which allows me to freely meet constituents right here in our riding.

6. Would proportional representation increase or decrease the voice of certain defined communities within the legislature?

PR would take our current system and politicize it. As the local MLA, I represent a certain party, of course, but I see myself as an advocate for everyone who phones, emails, or comes by the office. This is the essence of accountability – being able to represent everyone and be an advocate whatever their affiliations. I take that seriously and worry that PR would destroy those ideals forever.

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