In a few days, Elections BC will be mailing a ballot to every registered BC voter. By return mail, we will be able to vote on which system we use in the future when electing our provincial MLAs.
As this mail-in referendum draws closer, the voices of both “Let’s change the system” and “Let’s keep it the same” are becoming louder and more frequent, and it appears that the results of the referendum may be close.
To help sort fact from fiction in this debate, I have done some digging into the Elections BC website at www.elections.bc.ca/referendum, particularly to answer two questions:
Firstly, in any new system, will everyone in B.C. still have a local MLA to contact and to represent them? From the Elections BC website’s description of each system, the answer is a clear “yes.”
Secondly, might a new system lead to electing MLAs from fringe parties with extremist views that they could impose on the larger parties in the Legislature? The Elections BC website states that a party generally would need at least five per cent of the overall vote in order to elect any MLAs. I looked back on B.C. election results over the past 20 years, and no party other than the BC Liberals, the NDP and the Greens has ever come close to that five per cent threshold.
Over those same 20 years, the number of registered B.C. voters who have turned out to vote at election time has slumped from 70 per cent to 55 per cent, suggesting more and more people are feeling “what’s the use?” From what I’ve learned on the Elections BC website, I’m now even more convinced that a new system—of proportional representation – would be a good step forward for voters and our province.