Letter: Problems with PR

Kent-Chilliwack MLA Laurie Throness weighs in on proportional representation debate

The residents of the District of Kent have now received a mail-in ballot in a province-wide referendum on whether to keep our system of ‘First Past the Post’ elections, or to change to one of three forms of ‘Proportional Representation.’

I hope that people will decide to keep our system, which elects local MLAs in local constituencies, accountable to the local voters who choose them.

The main tenet of PR is that a political party will get seats in the legislature in direct proportion to that party’s vote received across the province. 11% of the vote means 11% of the seats in the House.

Supporters of PR call it ‘fair, but the word that stands out to me is ‘party.’ PR is all about political parties, greatly increasing the influence of party in our democracy, to the detriment of individual elected members and their voters.

For example, in New Zealand, which has a form of PR being proposed in the mail-in ballot, there are 120 MPs in the House, but 49 of them are appointed by political parties from lists of favourites made by party bosses making decisions behind closed doors, not elected by the people! PR downgrades democracy.

In New Zealand, the Deputy Prime Minister is the leader of a small party that only received nine per cent of the vote in last year’s general election, but it holds the balance of power in the House much like the Greens do in BC. Moreover, that person lost his own election, and was yet made Deputy Prime Minister because his party favours him. This is the influence of Party under proportional representation. It provides disproportionate power to smaller parties, and to unelected people. That’s not good for BC.

There are many other problems with PR. It leads to many parties in the House – and pillowcase-sized ballots. PR is very complex. Your own MLA doesn’t understand how it works, and neither do NDP Ministers. Under PR, about 40% of MLAs will be appointed, not elected or accountable to specific voters in a specific riding. Voters can’t kick them out if they don’t perform. Under PR, constituencies will at least double in size. And PR means that small parties hold the balance of power, often negotiating for months before a government is even formed.

But to me the main flaw of PR is the inordinate power it gives to small parties, run by unelected people, appointing MLAs that voters may not even know.

Finally, the referendum has been structured in a most unfair way. There is no threshold for participation, and no geographic requirements. The fix is in – the people of Vancouver can decide for the whole province.

The existing system is simple, electing local MLAs accountable to their voters.

BC rejected PR twice already, in referendums in 2005 and 2009. Let’s continue to stick with the electoral system that has provided stable, accountable, elected governments in BC for more than a century.

–Kent-Chilliwack MLA Laurie Throness

Related: Voting set to start in B.C. proportional representation referendum

Related: GUEST COLUMN: Proportional representation curbs extremist movements

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