OPINION: Referendum choices

Mark Crawford is from Williams Lake, B.C. and teaches political science at Athabasca University.

OPINION: Referendum choices

To the editor:

Last week a relative of mine asked me what I believe is the best of the four choices we will be voting on in the electoral reform referendum this fall. He found the explanations on the BC Elections site somewhat confusing: we don’t know in precise detail what all three forms of proportional representation (PR) would look like, because it is only after the referendum is completed that Elections B.C. will determine how the new system will work, and an independent electoral boundaries commission will then determine the number and boundaries of the electoral districts represented in the legislature. With electoral reform options stuck in this abstract form, many voters may be tempted to not bother voting, or else simply go with the “devil they know”, i.e. First-Past-the-Post.

I hope not. I favour proportional representation both on principle (the percentage of seats should roughly reflect the percentage of votes; it will result in government by the majority, and not the rule of the minority, which is what we have now) and because, as a political scientist, I can vouch for the fact that most advanced democracies enjoy both higher voter turnout and better policy outcomes because they have more proportional systems. It is a myth that we need artificial majorities to have ‘strong’ or ‘stable’ or ‘effective‘ government. It is better to force governments to negotiate more and form broader coalitions.

But which one? Mixed-Member Plurality (MMP) is the type of system they have in Germany and New Zealand. So we might have a local riding that is somewhat larger than Cariboo-Chilcotin currently is and a large multi-member regional district that we share with several other ridings that has three to five MLAs in it, chosen from party lists.

This would give the Legislature more proportionality. Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP), would give us a multi-member district in each of the larger cities (e.g. Prince George and larger?), in which voters could rank candidates using a preferential ballot like BC-STV, and then have MMP for the rest of the province. So for residents of Cariboo-Chilcotin that would be similar to the MMP I just described. Finally, there is the dual member proportional (DMP) system, which achieves greater proportionality by having dual member ridings in “urban and semi-urban” districts, excluding only the largest rural districts. Assuming that the Cariboo-Chilcotin would be amalgamated with Cariboo-North, then we would have two MLAs, likely one in government and one from the opposition. Of the three PR systems, DMP is the easiest to visualize locally. It would not create two classes of MLAs (locally elected and regional party list) like MMP and would retain the same simple ballot that we have now. For these reasons, and because the details of what exactly MMP and RUP would look like in B.C. remain vague, I recommend Dual-Member Proportional.

Mark Crawford is from Williams Lake, B.C. He currently teaches political science at Athabasca University.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

The 100 Mile RCMP is currently looking for this man in connection with reports of a stolen vehicle. (Photo submitted)
Police seek ‘person of interest’ in truck theft

Vehicle went missing on Jan. 26 in 103 Mile.

Canim Lake Band remains in lockdown. (Martina Dopf photo)
Canim Lake Band grieves loss of second Elder due to COVID-19

Elder, who lived away from home, was ‘matriarch, a fierce protector’, Chief says.

A spaced, pruned stand of Douglas fir in the foreground shows fuels are cleaned up off the ground. In the background is a denser untreated area high in fuels. (Photo submitted)
Wildfire risk reduction project in Big Bar Lake area nears completion

Crews have created a series of fuel breaks to help reduce intensity of approaching wildfires.

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin makes preparations at Toronto’s mass vaccination clinic, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
3 deaths, 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

One death connected to outbreak at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, where 20 patients and 28 staff have tested positive

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Interior Health reported two more COVID-19 deaths at Sunnybank Retirement Center in Oliver Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 claims lives of two more South Okanagan care home residents

Five residents of the Oliver care home have died since the outbreak was first declared

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

Most Read