Getting the word out in favour of proportional representation

Members of Fair Vote Prince George remind motorists about the proportional representation referendum.
Members of Fair Vote Prince George remind motorists about the proportional representation referendum.

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

Daniel Kelly wants a better democracy.

That better democracy involves British Columbians choosing one of the three proposed proportional representation systems in this fall’s mail-in referendum ballot on changing our electoral system.

“We’re certainly trying to convince people to vote for proportional representation, but it is a debate,” said Kelly, who is part of Fair Vote Prince George, which working to raise awareness about the referendum vote and what it means for British Columbians.

“Basically, it’s more democratic,” said Kelly. “We know we live in a democracy right now but the essence of proportional representation is often our government doesn’t have the majority of the popular vote supporting them. Proportional representation is a way to say no matter who is in government they should have at least half of the people behind them.”

The referendum will ask British Columbians a couple of questions. The first will be which system should be used to elect MLAs – the current first-past-the-post system for a proportional representation system. The voters will then be asked rank their preferred proportional representation systems – dual member proportional, mixed member proportional, or rural-urban proportional representation.

Kelly urges voters decide whether they want proportional representation first, then choose which system they prefer.

“Understand what the essence is, if that’s good then move on from there,” he said. “They’re all pretty close to the essence of what proportional representation is. No matter what, I think we’ll get a better way of voting. I think you could vote for any one (system) and you will get a better democracy.”

Opponents of proportional representation, especially in the North have been arguing that it will diminish or eliminate local representation, something that Kelly says simply won’t happen.

“Those fears are unfounded,” he said. “It’s known that people in B.C. want local representation. The proportional representation systems that we’re thinking of, all have local representation. There’s not going to be people parachuted into ridings. There will always be a local MLA who you vote for, they get in, they’re your No. 1 person.”

The mixed member proportional system will draw on lists to make the MLA make up proportional, however, Kelly says those lists will at the least be regional and likely be local.

“It’s pretty clear there will be local representation like there is now,” he said. “It’s definitely a fear campaign. You will always have that one person guaranteed local.”

Another fear of proportional representation is the possible emergence of fringe parties or, as Kelly refers to them, minority parties.

“There’s going to be an opportunity for other parties to gain a bit of a share like the Greens, maybe Libertarian or Conservative,” he said.

Regardless of which proportional representation system may be chosen, parties will have to secure five per cent of the popular vote to gain a seat.

“It’s an attempt to say ‘let’s not have democracy because a Nazi might get in so let’s shut down the Greens, let’s shut Conservatives, let’s stop having choice,’” Kelly said. “It’s like throwing the baby out with the bath water and saying let’s not have democracy because we’re afraid of that.”

Kelly and Fair Vote Prince George have been working hard trying to get volunteers to give out flyers. They have had road signs up, booked tables at farmers’ markets, and are preparing a list so they can call and remind people to vote.

They will be having a public information session in the Keith Gordon Room at the Prince George Public Library on October 3 from 7:30-8:30 p.m.

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