Glenn Martin's letter to the editor in Saturday's Citizen makes the assumption that because there are right wing radicals appearing in some European countries then proportional representation is at fault. Not true. Far right politicians are appearing in every corner of the developed world no matter what form of government. We only need to look at the U.S. and Ontario for examples of first past the post constituencies sliding to the right.
These right wing resurgences have everything to do with the millions of people attempting to escape from corruption, war and famine in other parts of the world and nothing to do with proportional representation. The right wing radicals are spouting simplistic solutions to what is an extremely complex problem and unfortunately many are buying into it. European governments are having to contend with millions of refugees from Africa coming to their countries and wanting to stay there.
These right wing extremists are going to rear their heads everywhere in the developed world and the best defense against them is an engaged, involved population. People need to be aware of what is happening politically, both provincially and federally. Proportional representative countries, on average, have a 10-15 per cent better voter turnout than first past the post countries. More people voting and getting involved in their constituencies is the best safeguard for a moderate democracy.
PR is not about giving one or another political ideology an advantage, it is about ensuring that the will of the majority of the electorate is represented in our government, something our present system does a poor job of. In the five elections from 1996 to 2013 there was only one where a majority of the electorate voted for the winner yet all of them saw the winner have a majority government. The other four were all false majorities where the government did not represent the majority of those who voted. Proportional representation is all about ensuring the governments that govern us represent a majority of the voters.
If a party gets 40 per cent of the popular vote, then they should get 40 per cent of the seats in the legislature. That to me is democracy - not what we see happening repeatedly in B.C., and for that matter, Canada. Our current system gives the winning party a "bonus" at the expense of lesser parties. This bonus is what the "No" side is wanting to keep going.
Each of the three options for PR on the ballot will meet the criteria British Columbians say is important to them. That is a system that is simple, produces proportional results, does not significantly increase the numbers of MLAs, and does not reduce local and rural representation.
PR would not reduce the number of MLAs in northern ridings nor would it in any way reduce the north's influence in the legislature.
Nor will the system be too complicated. There are nearly 100 countries worldwide presently using PR. If they are intelligent enough to vote, I am confident we will be too. Over 80 per cent of the 35 countries in the OECD (the most successful democracies in the world) have a PR form of government. They manage to elect governments with a higher percentage of voters than we do, and have stable, prosperous, content, peaceful societies. We will too.
Is the system rigged to favour the left? The "No" folks would like to see a threshold of 60 per cent for PR to win. They want to retain a system that elects majority governments with 40 per cent of the vote but feel 60 per cent should be required for this one. Go figure.
"No" supporters are throwing out several fear mongering suggestions of what will happen with a "yes" vote. They talk about MLA's not being accountable to their constituents. Simply not true, they will be no less accountable than they are now. They claim our government would be less stable and there would be more elections. Studies show that PR governments, on average, last as long as FPTP governments. The United Nations declared the top six of the world's best run democracies are PR. They want to retain an unfair, dated method of voting simply because it gives the winner a bonus of more seats than the number of votes they have received justifies.
I would like to see us have a voting system that will consistently give us governments that represent the majority of voters.