Yet another referendum?

BY PETER CHRISTENSEN

Special to the News

I support the Westminster first-past-the-post electoral system because it is straight forward to understand, one knows who and what one is voting for and it is least vulnerable to corruption and influence peddling.  It is a system where the B.C. Legislative Assembly debates an aggregate of policies derived through plurality, it is representative democracy rather than government by lobby where governing parties are held hostage by small parties and special interest oroups in order to pass a bill or to stay in power.

Proportional representation models are promoted as more democratic, but are they:

  • they will diminish and merge ridings outside the lower mainland into characterless units with scant representation for regional constituents,
  • are confusing and complicated,
  • it is a whole new way of doing business based on influence peddling,
  • encourages meddling by social engineers, noisy fringe groups and elitist associations that have limited support.

The Westminster model of government avoids such complications with the first-past-the-post electoral system accords a high degree of democracy by tabling an agreed upon aggregate of policies for debate. And it ensures that the elected Government will have the necessary power to effectively govern the province.

Proponents of proportional representation often rally support by stating that majority governments should have 50 per cent or more of the popular vote but conveniently neglect to point out that this is only possible in a two-party election. Further, when a less than 50 per cent popular vote majority is achieved in the Westminster FPP electoral model of choosing a government it ensures confident leadership on the government side of the House and a solid varied opposition in the Legislative Assembly.

Democracy is much more than simply a matter of tallying percentages. For instance, most people supported the National Socialist Party in Germany during the Hitler regime, this neither made Germany a democracy or socialist. The checks and balances inherent in a FPP electoral system ensures that all arguments are heard. It also ensures that should a government prove unable it can be more easily defeated by a vote of non-confidence.

The proposed notion of combining two types of proportional representation voting systems one for rural and one for urban constituents is divisive.  How far down the road of consideration for special groups do we go before our governments disintegrate into a freefall of favours granted in order to stay in power?

Proportional representation is not really about percentages, it is about a different way of doing business. It is about coalition governments becoming dependent on under the table deals cut with special interest groups in order to stay in power or to pass bills.

While PR coalitions may seem appealing if you belong to a particular tribe and therefore believe that PR will advance your ambitions one might remember that not only your favorite special interest group will have increased access to government but so will many others. You may have to get in line with Right to Life Party, Advocates for Sharia Law Party, Skinheads Party, Right Wing Industrialists Party, The All Union Party, etc, etc. 

The current first-past-the-post system elects a government that represents an aggregate of policies. It ensures ample opportunity in the assembly for debate. Proportional representation on the other hand is what the tail wagging the dog looks like. It isn’t a pretty picture.