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Portioning out proportional representation


If there was one thing that all six of the Liberal leadership candidates agreed on during their debate in Prince George, it’s proportional representation.

They hate it.

Dianne Watts opened with it, and others voiced their disapproval of it. The NDP, of course, have promised a referendum on some sort of proportional representation system by next fall.

The Liberals have long touted the first-past-the-post electoral system as being the best. Well, of course it’s the best system, it favours the Liberals.

Now, give full credit to the Liberals, first-past-the-post favours them because they, on any given election, can secure somewhere between 38 and 42 per cent of the popular vote, give or take, which is usually good enough to form a majority government.

This year it wasn’t.

They see proportional representation as a threat to their traditional position of power. You’ll hear a lot of rhetoric about democracy and majority rules, etc., from the Liberals, but just remember the debate is more about securing power than serving the public.

The Liberals are circulating a graphic online about the upcoming referendum showing a map of B.C. with the vast majority of it coloured in blue (Liberals colours, of course) and a small dot of orange down in the Lower Mainland in orange (NDP colours) pointing out that the people in the small orange dot can out-vote all the people in the rest of the province.

It’s catchy, but it’s nothing new. We’ve been under the first-past-the-post system since W.A.C. Bennett ditched proportional representation decades ago and Lower Mainland issues have always dominated provincial politics because that’s where most of the people in the province live.

Bridge tolls in the Lower Mainland were a big topic in the last election. Don’t really apply here in the hinterland. Yet, we get subjected to them. It was even a topic during the Liberal leadership debate here in Prince George. Gee, maybe they could have spent some more time on forestry issues, a topic that several of them were severely lacking in knowledge about. Or maybe they could have spent some more time on Indigenous issues. Nope, got to talk about the Massey Tunnel replacement.

Just look at the recent election. The NDP ignored most of the province and focused on winning Surrey. It put Horgan in the premier’s office. Watts’ biggest argument for becoming leader is that she can likely win those Surrey seats back for the Liberals.

To suggest that the Lower Mainland doesn’t already dictate provincial politics is simply wrong.

Proportional representation doesn’t really change that. But what it does do is push political parties out of their comfort zone, and that’s a good thing.

Under first-past-the-post the Liberals can win majorities, most of the time, by appealing to 40 per cent of the population. The rest can go jump off a Lower Mainland bridge.

One of the arguments against proportional representation is that it will produce minority governments. The Liberals don’t like minority government because it doesn’t grant absolute power. Minority governments mean compromises.

Plus, the Liberals seem to forget that under proportional representation, majority governments are still possible. They’re just harder to get because a party has to actually gain the support of a majority of voters to form a majority.

Gee, what a novel idea.


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