By BOB RANSFORD
Our old first-past-the-post voting system isn’t fair. It doesn’t work to support democracy. It works for political insiders. Those insiders know how to use the system to get elected without having support from the majority of all voters.
The voting system is the hardware of our representative democracy. It is supposed to elect people to government to make decisions that represent the views of not just the people who elected them, but everyone in society. Most often, provincial governments in B.C. have been handed 100 per cent of the power with less than 50 per cent of voters supporting them. Outcomes like this make it easy to ignore the public.
I know that because I’ve been an insider. I was first attracted to become a political activist 40 years ago because I believed in the fundamental principles of democracy and wanted to strengthen them. I’ve regrettably seen, close-up, democracy cast aside and, instead, party politics and political preservation prevail. That’s why I’ve long been an advocate for a new voting system that makes democracy stronger.
Soon, voters will have a chance in a referendum to scrap the first-past-the-post voting system and choose proportional representation as our new voting system.
Proportional representation will strengthen democracy and re-activate its basic principles at a time when we desperately need to make representative government work. Our individual freedoms, our human dignity and the strength of community depend on understanding that not everyone can have their way, but everyone must have a say. Voters can’t have a say if the representatives they voted for have no way of being elected as MLAs. Proportional representation will ensure that everyone’s vote counts.
Governing is all about addressing community concerns and making decisions for the welfare of all people. This is the software of our democracy. In our inter-connected world, where decisions of all kinds are becoming increasingly more complex, involving so many more diverse concerns than in the past, we’ve begun to realize we need to enhance that software by seeking more public input, embracing more diversity in our institutions and demonstrating more fairness in our decision making. So, we’ve started upgrading the software. But the old hardware — the voting system by which we choose those who govern us — has proven to be incapable of truly representing voters.
Too many people have opted out of democracy by not voting, and many more don’t feel that political activism is worthwhile because the same small group of people they didn’t vote for seem to forever hold all the decision-making power.
We will soon have an opportunity to choose a new voting system based on proportional representation and that will mean we will have the ability to elect governments that are more accountable to voters and MLAs who will put people ahead of party interests. Choosing proportional representation is the right choice.
Bob Ransford has worked in the national government of Brian Mulroney and in a B.C. Social Credit provincial government. He was a founding director 20 years ago of Fair Voting BC. He lives in Steveston.