Michelle Stilwell, left, and Scott Fraser. (NEWS composite photo)

Michelle Stilwell, left, and Scott Fraser. (NEWS composite photo)

Why you should vote for proportional representation — and why you shouldn’t

Vancouver Island MLAs offer answers to electoral reform questions

Still unclear about the mail-in vote on changing the way BC votes?

We asked a pair of Vancouver Island MLAs — one Liberal, one NDP — to provide answers to five questions regarding the 2018 electoral referendum on proportional representation.

Their answers appear below:

Michelle Stilwell, BC Liberals, MLA, Parksville-Qualicum

Does the low ballot return so far concern you?

Our voting system belongs to the people and it’s critical that it’s fair. A low ballot return would not only be disappointing, it would mean that a small portion of the province will decide what the electoral process will look like for the majority of people. That was my concern from the start with the 50 per cent plus one voter threshold and no regional thresholds. The result should reflect a majority of voters and the majority of ridings. It’s unreasonable and undemocratic to make such a significant change to our voting system without the entire province represented.

Can you briefly explain how the new systems would work?

I can’t because only one of these systems, MMP, has been tested anywhere in the world and the outcome for all proposed systems is largely unknown with 29 factors to be decided after the vote by a legislative committee controlled by the NDP and Greens. This is what we do know:

• MMP combines first-past-the-post with some yet-to-be-determined form of regional representation. Basic elements of this system are yet to be determined.

• DMP was invented by a mathematics student from the University of Alberta a few years ago. This model is completely untested. The algorithm used to calculate the number of seats in this model is so complex that I have yet to find someone who can explain it.

• RUP is the most complex PR model. It combines the single transferable vote and MMP. Both methods are used independently in different jurisdictions but never in combination. It is unknown if Parksville-Qualicum would be considered urban or rural.

Why or why not FPTP?

Under our current first-past-the-post system, each voter gets one vote and chooses one candidate to represent his or her constituency. The candidate who gets more votes than any other is elected. First-past-the-post provides clear choices between main political parties. It promotes strong linkages between constituents and representatives, and popular independents can be elected without a political party. Each FPTP constituency has one MLA, who is personally accountable to their voters and their respective constituencies. This is a much more effective way to ensure the needs and wants of British Columbians in all corners of the province are actually being met. FPTP also provides more stable governments.

Why or why not pro rep?

Some PR models have merit, unfortunately the lack of details and information in this referendum make it impossible for voters to make an informed choice. People deserve to have all the information before a vote without political interference during the referendum. This process should have been led by a citizens’ assembly independent of government influence. The fact that we have a Premier who keeps moving the goal posts in the middle of the voting process is unacceptable. British Columbians deserve better.

Have voters received enough information to make an informed decision?

No. Currently there is a low voter turnout, which speaks to people’s confusion and lack of confidence in the information provided for something as fundamental as our democratic process. This NDP government has rushed through the referendum process without providing the details that voters want and deserve. We have no idea how many MLAs there will be in a region, how big the region be, and the boundaries are not yet defined. Furthermore, with untested systems we don’t have any idea what these options will look like when implemented.

Previous referenda were led by an independent citizens’ assembly free from political influence. Sadly, the Attorney General has had undue influence from the beginning and has designated a committee of politicians to make decisions after the referendum; decisions that belong to the people. It’s simply not good enough. Vote for first-past-the-post.

RELATED: Vancouver Islanders among B.C.’s most engaged on electoral reform

Scott Fraser, NDP, MLA, Mid Island-Pacific Rim

Does the low ballot return so far concern you?

There is still time to vote and everywhere I go, people tell me they are excited about the opportunity to change our outdated voting system. I think people are being thoughtful with their decision. Every day more and more people are filling out their ballots and mailing them in. What does concern me is the fear mongering that we see coming from the BC Liberals and the “no” side. I encourage everyone to mail their ballot in on time, and to tell your friends and family to participate in this historic referendum. It’s not too late to register to vote – you have until midnight on Nov. 23 to request your voting package from Elections BC. If you want to learn more about the ballot options, Elections BC has plenty of resources available. Don’t miss this historic chance have your say and to change our voting system.

Can you briefly explain how the new systems would work?

Each system works a bit differently, but all three keep the legislature relatively the same size, protect rural and local representation, and ensure that the number of seats each party gets is proportional to the number of votes it received across the province. In all of these systems, every MLA will be elected by the voters. There are some excellent resources available on Elections BC for people who want more detailed information, but you don’t need to be an expert in the mechanics of voting systems to support pro rep. The most important thing to understand is the outcome – that the number of seats a party receives will reflect the number of votes it gets. For example, 40% of the votes will mean 40% of the seats.

Why or why not FPTP?

Our old, outdated voting system doesn’t work for most voters, and it puts too much power in the hands of too few. Parties often get 100 per cent of the power with less than 50 per cent of the vote – in fact, this has been the case in every B.C. election except one since WWII. Too many people feel their vote is “wasted” or they have to “vote strategically”. This turns people off from voting, especially young people. Moreover, this winner-takes-all system leads to polarization and partisan fighting. Parties focus on their own interests instead of your priorities. The BC Liberals and their rich friends have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, because it often gives them absolute governing power with a minority of votes. They are spreading misinformation and fear because they don’t want a voting system that gives more power to the people of B.C.

Why or why not pro rep?

Pro rep is simple and fair, and it puts people back at the centre of politics. It gives voters more choice, and a stronger voice in every region of the province because every vote counts. Voters can say good bye to strategic voting and wasted votes, and can cast their ballots for candidates who share their values. Used by strong democracies around the world, pro rep leads to greater government accountability, more diverse representation, higher voter turnout, and increased co-operation between parties. This month, we finally have the chance to put power back in the hands regular people and elect governments that work for everyone. If you believe that every vote should count and that people should be at the centre of politics, join me in voting for pro rep.

Have voters received enough information to make an informed decision?

I am confident that British Columbians have the information they need to make an informed decision. Elections BC has mailed out voter’s guides and has excellent information on their website. Public discourse has been high, and thousands of volunteers have been knocking on doors, making phone calls, and hosting town halls.

There’s also a great, Elections BC-approved, online quiz at referendumguide.ca for those who want a quick and simple way to choose their preferred voting system. Really, it comes down to a simple question for voters: do you want to stick with the status quo, or do you want to modernize our voting system so that everyone’s vote counts? We will have another referendum after two election cycles to make sure people are happy with pro rep, but no other democracy in the world has gone back to FPTP. This historic opportunity may not come again, so I hope people will choose pro rep.

Just Posted

A conceptual rendering of the commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith/June 15 Council Agenda)
Rocky Creek commercial plaza passes public hearing

The proposed plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road would bring commercial activity to Ladysmith’s north end

Kate Cram and her team at Old Town Ice Cream are thrilled to be open for business. (Cole Schisler photo)
Old Town Ice Cream opens up right on time for summer

Located at 539 1st Avenue, Old Time Ice Cream is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Volunteers Alex Cook, Ron Dashwood, and Bill Drysdale have been hard at work restoring the old Ladysmith train station. (Cole Schisler photo)
Train station restoration on track for future community open house

Community is asked to give feedback on what they think the best use is for the station

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
‘Springsteen on Broadway’ clears way for AstraZeneca recipients to attend show

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Most Read