The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

In conjunction with Tom Fletcher, I spent some time working on a letter by Larry Badke, who lost his property just north of 100 Mile House this week (see A1).

One of the other stories Tom wrote recently, was titled “B.C. NDP referendum plan sparks legislature battle,” focussed on an election referendum on proportional representation.

According to the article, “Liberal MLAs have focussed on the NDP government’s decision to make the vote a simple majority, which they say would erode rural representation and have the decision made by Lower Mainland voters.”

On a slightly different note, proportional representation, if it passed would undoubtedly take some overrepresentation, and consequently voting power, away from many rural areas. According to Elections BC as of April 11, 2017, some ridings in the Lower Mainland had in excess of 44,000 voters while the Cariboo-Chilcotin riding had 23,360. An even more rural riding such as Stikine had 13,240.

In terms of the current political makeup in B.C., this would likely benefit the Green Party and hurt the Liberal Party.

Outside of the political sides, pragmatically, any form of proportional representation would likely also give greater representation to underrepresented groups such as minorities or the LGBT.

On the other hand, Larry Badke’s story and the wildfire situation as a whole, if nothing else, shows the importance of having local representation.

It was immediately obvious who Badke would be best to deal with on the provincial level: Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. Under a different voting system, it’s possible local representation would disappear entirely (in favour of, for example, a list-based proportional representation system). Alternatively, in an effort to have both local representation and proportional representation without increasing the overall number of MLAs and consequently cost, ridings could become much larger; this wouldn’t be much of a problem in the population and public transportation rich lower mainland, but is wholly impractical in an area already as large as the Cariboo-Chilcotin riding.

Avoiding both these scenarios, there’s really only one way to achieve some sort of proportional representation that doesn’t increase the total number of MLAs and, consequently, cost. That’s to make the ridings in the urban areas larger, decreasing the number of MLAs from urban areas and put those towards a proportional system; fat chance of that happening though as it would actually give more power to rural voters.

Changing to proportional representation would do some good things, including making the value of each vote more equal, give greater representation to underrepresented groups and will create fewer “wasted votes” but there will almost certainly be a price to pay for rural residents beyond a loss of influence in Victoria. If the NPD-Green government lasts long enough to make it to the referendum, B.C. voters will have to weigh whether those benefits are worth the cost.

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