November 21, 2017

BC electoral reform: How it could help Conservatives — or hurt them

Christopher WilsonRebel Commentator

The Trudeau Liberals failed spectacularly in their attempt to implement sweeping electoral reform without putting the question to a referendum. Meanwhile, next November British Columbians will be voting on electoral reform for the third time in thirteen years. 

The BC NDP and BC Greens have long wanted to see changes to our “first past the post” system based on the Westminster parliamentary model.

But in 2005 and 2009, British Columbians rejected a switch to a “single transferable vote” (SVT) system.

In 2018, British Columbians will have one or more options for the type of electoral reform available to them according to Attorney General David Eby, who told the Globe and Mail that this third referendum would be the final say on electoral reform in BC.

"The goal is to provide British Columbians with a very clear opportunity to state their preference about where they want to go. I just have a hard time imagining, coming out of a process like that, that there could be any further discussion to be had."

Watch as I explain why the knee-jerk reaction from conservatives might be to oppose electoral reform, even though it could benefit a true Conservative Party in the province.

It may represent an opportunity for a true blue Conservative party to gain a larger voice, win some seats and possibly hold the balance of power one day, so it’s not surprising that the BC Conservative Party has officially endorsed electoral reform.

But there are also reasons to be wary. Going to a straight proportional representation system as groups like LeadNow want, could disenfranchise the rural portions of the province and swing all the power down to the populous lower mainland of Metro Vancouver.

Where we end up will all come down to the options and choices on the ballot, something Attorney General Eby will be deciding over the coming months through public consultations.

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commented 2017-11-24 20:15:12 -0500
First of all, it all depends on the type of electoral system to be chosen. If province-wide party list is used (as it was proposed for ON back in 2007) then yes, rural BC will lose 2/5 of its MLAs. There are however other options that would maintain full representation for different regions. One of them is the STV – that uses region-wide preferential ballot, electing 3-6 MLAs per constituency (there will be fewer constituencies, but the number of MLAs won’t change, hence rural communities won’t lose their representation in the Legislature).

Another option is the DMP – dual-member proportional, that uses 2-member constituencies. Unlike STV (where we can have dozens of candidates on the ballot) DMP uses practically the same ballot as first past the post. Again, it’s 2 candidates per constituency, one is elected using First Past the Post (same as now) and the other is added to make final results proportional. With some northern BC constituencies being too large for 2 members, there might be not 1 but 3 of them left as “stand-alone” single member constituencies, where only 1 MLA would be elected. Their votes however will be added to the total, so votes cast for minor party candidates will still be counted and will make a difference nonetheless. And again, rural communities will fully maintain their representation in the Legislature.

As for the coalition governments being unstable – that depends on elected members’ attitude. Many are used to see minority Parliaments as sort of a glitch that should be corrected by another election. And we can’t say they are wrong because under First Past The Post, a 2-3% swing can make a difference between minority and majority government or (if the swing is in the other direction) – between the governing and the opposition party minority. No wonder there’s always at least one major party interested in pulling the plug on the minority Parliament. IfPR is adopted, then a 2-3% swing will only result in 2-3% change in seat count, so there will be many more politicians shrugging their shoulders, thinking – what’s the point?

On a final note, I’ll say that in my opinion I believe Canada has lost greatly that Brian Mulroney didn’t think about kicking the ladder back in the early 1990s. If, along with the referendum on Charlottetown accord there had been a successful referendum on proportional representation, then Canada’s recent history would have been much different and in my opinion – much more beneficial to the Conservatives.
commented 2017-11-22 16:26:01 -0500
This is a nice piece. One thing – it’s a bit weird to accuse the Liberals of trying to push through electoral reform without proper public consultation. There was no attempt to change the electoral system whatsoever.
commented 2017-11-22 04:53:46 -0500
But we already have a “whiff” of what PR looks like after the last election here in B.C.!.. Weaver never even campaigned outside of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland yet now has Horgan doing “the tango”… European countries with PR are a miasma of one-issue regional parties, short-lived coalition governments, and “nutters” sitting in parliament… Italy being a prime example…
commented 2017-11-22 01:33:05 -0500
Proportional Representation can be a good system, the problem is that it is so hard to explain to the voters that are not political junkies.
It reminds me of the Federal Election when Stephen Dion was the Liberal Leader running on the Green Plan. The poor guy couldn’t explain his Green Agenda in a TV commercial, So Harper made a commercial mocking Dian’s commercial, and won the election.
The same happened last time in BC. If you cannot explain something like Proportional Representation in a simple way, the voters will reject it.
commented 2017-11-21 20:28:44 -0500
Christopher, you should have put more emphasis on PR causing the likelihood of continuous left-wing governments, as has happened in high-tax socialist Europe.
Just look at the history of Canada’s vote: if PR was our system, only 2 conservative (right of centre) gov’ts would have won a majority since 1867. Our electoral history would have been primarily Liberal/NDP coalitions. Of course, if you like the high tax, lower standard of living that socialism brings, then PR is for you. Oh, did I mention mass migration and $3/l gasoline?
The BC Cons (and Greens) continue to be self-absorbed and care nothing of the province, only about their own chance at grabbing a few seats in perpetuity. Glory!
FPTP is a system that allows conservative majority gov’ts to regularly clean up the mess left behind by the socialists.
commented 2017-11-21 18:33:56 -0500
My grandfather spent much of his life living, working and employing hundreds of people in the East Kootenays and he told me that if they ever had a referendum on joining Alberta in his neck of the woods it would be a huge landslide for the “yes” side.
As he put it, “You gotta drive up and down mountains for two days to get to Victoria from here but we can jump in my car right now and get to the flatlands of Alberta in two hours.”