All the facts, straight from a Parliamentary Secretary.
On October 22, the referendum on proportional representation in BC begins with mail out ballots being delivered to voters. The referendum comes after the NDP’s campaign promise of electoral reform during the most recent provincial election.
Jennifer Rice, the current Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, answered some questions regarding the upcoming referendum. According to Rice, the reality of our current legislature in terms of opposition Member of the Legislative Assembly’s (MLA) is bleak; “During my first term in 2013, I quickly learned the reality of being an opposition MLA. Our caucus submitted amendments to government bills and introduced our own legislation we felt was in the best interest of British Columbians. However, because they held 100% of the power, the previous BC Liberal Government could simply ignore us – and anyone else who didn’t agree with them.”
When asked about the form of the referendum, including why a method of proportional representation was not chosen beforehand, Rice stated that the question was influenced by the public engagement the legislature experienced this spring. More than 90,000 BC residents shared their thoughts on the process and question, leading to the current two-part question of choosing proportional representation, and then what form of it. Rice also emphasizes that they wanted British Columbians to be able to provide their opinion over the form, rather than choosing it for them.
If proportional representation is voted in, the electoral reform would not occur until 2021, and would not drastically change the amount of MLA’s in our legislature. It would, however, impact the reflection of diversity in the legislature, with more representation of more resident’s interests. Rice said that according to other countries, “we could expect to see a Legislature with about 10% more women, and MLAs that better reflect the diversity of B.C.”
Students will also be better represented. As Rice emphasized, First Past the Post makes it easier for those with money or connections to influence government, meaning that issues important to students are currently ignored. Under proportional representation, “governments can no longer ignore the issues important to the majority of British Columbians, and so when students speak out, governments will have to listen.”
Rice emphasized the importance of this referendum by stating: “we have [a] historic opportunity to change our unfair, outdated voting system and make every vote count. We have a chance to change our politics to a system that works better for people and ensures that parties can no longer grab 100% of the power with only 40% of the votes. That’s huge and students should be part of it.”