Letter: Why Proportional Representation is a bad idea for BC

As the BC Government considers changing the nature of our First Past the Post (FPTP) voting process and looking at Proportional Representation (PR) as an alternative, I feel compelled to share my thoughts and experience as someone who has lived under both systems.

I first came to Canada in 1989 as a German citizen with NATO and was stationed in Shiloh, Manitoba. I immediately fell in love with this amazing country. As an outdoorsman and nature lover, it was an easy sell. I liked the opportunities Canada offered to young entrepreneurial people and I started the process of immigration.

As a German citizen I had always been interested in politics but found the voting system frustrating as it always seemed to benefit parties and their friends, and not the people who wanted to represent a specific riding. There was a disconnect between local issues and state or federal government.

It was another thing I liked about Canada; one of my Canadian NATO comrades explained the FPTP voting system. It took all of 5 minutes and made clear that this system was all about someone representing a specific riding and championing the needs of that riding as part of a political party.

So, let me explain what I see as the major flaws in a PR voting system:

· In most PR systems each party has a list of candidates. Candidates are selected depending on the percentage of the province-wide vote. There is no direct connection to a specific riding, and accordingly the party controls who sits in the legislature, not the voter. In Germany and many other PR countries these lists of politicians are created exclusively by party bureaucrats. Accordingly, these lists tend to be rather stagnant and this has meant the same people are always at the top of the list, so the same people end up being appointed by their party. Angela Merkel has been running things in Germany for 13 years even though her party only received 30% of the vote in the last election.

· The PR system is very complicated to understand for the average voter, and certainly in Germany most people do not like it because, unlike a FPTP system where if your local MP disappoints you, you can vote him out, in Germany if she has a safe spot on the party list she will be there forever.

· The PR system inevitably leads to coalition government as no single party typically gets 50% or more of the vote. Coalitions can sometimes work but often give disproportionate power to smaller parties, extremist parties and one-issue parties. Think of the undue influence of the Greens with their 3 seats in the BC legislature. Coalitions can also take a long time to form. In the Netherlands last election, 20 parties were elected and it took over 1 year to form a functional coalition. In the interim period there was effectively no government.

· Coalition governments can be weak and indecisive during a crisis or when dealing with major threats and issues. It simply takes one small party in a coalition to waver on the government decision to stop a decisive response. In a time of crisis where minutes matter, this can be catastrophic.

· The PR system also tends to support and provide a platform for extremist parties. Parties that would never stand a chance in a FPTP system may garner just enough votes province-wide for one or two seats. Now they have a platform to promote their extremist agenda. Not only that, the leadership of these smaller parties are now entitled to a secure, often lifetime salary and pension if they can maintain their 1 or 2 percent of the popular vote.

· PR systems, because they lead to coalitions and inevitable compromises between coalition parties, also lead to higher government spending. In research conducted for the book “The Economic Effects of Constitutions” by economists Torsten Persson and Guido Tabellini it was determined that the government spending in PR countries was 6% higher than the GDP of other countries. Compromise is inevitable in a coalition and compromise tends to be expensive.

While the current FPTP system may not be perfect, it is certainly better in my view than any PR system I have seen. FPTP brings accountability because the voter has the power to send any member of the legislature, even the Premier, home during an election. This means that an elected representative actually knows and cares about local issues because local voters decide whether they get re-elected.

In a FPTP system the voter has all the power – and this power should be something that all voters should be reluctant to give up.

–Freddy Marks, Harrison Hot Springs/Agassiz, founder of the Elections BC-registered group No Pro-rep Fraser Valley East

Just Posted

No dramatic increase for water, sewer fees in Agassiz secondary suites

Kent had considered increasing secondary suite fees to match that of single-family residences

Bizarre ‘hole punch cloud’ forms over Chilliwack

Several people posted images of the odd formation, which is scientifically known as a cavum

New playground surface possible for Agassiz’s Schep Park

The District of Kent will be applying for two grants to cover the $90K project

Christmas Seals campaign helps British Columbians breathe easier

One in five Canadians have lung disease such as COPD or asthma

Westbound Highway 1 crash in Langley

Accident occurred just west of 264th Street shortly before 6 a.m.

Agassiz’s Dickens Tea sells out for seventh year

The annual holiday event saw visitors enjoy high tea and historic talks

Tavares scores twice as Maple Leafs earn 4-1 win over Canucks

Vancouver sees two-game win streak snapped

UPDATED: No survivors in Gabriola Island plane crash: RCMP

Coroner confirms multiple fatalities after small plane goes down Tuesday night near Nanaimo

VIDEO: Harbour Air makes history with first electric aircraft test flight

Successful flight marks first of its kind in the world

The Grinch who Stole a Hedge: Security camera captures Chilliwack tree theft

RCMP arrives as person calmly walks away with tree in downtown area

Salmonella outbreak in Canada linked to rodents and snakes

92 cases of salmonella across six provinces, including B.C.

Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

Defence lawyers allege the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated

10,000 affordable rentals a year needed to tackle Metro Vancouver housing crisis: report

The report focused on building government-funded housing, rather than relying on the private sector

Toronto Raptors, Don Cherry top the list of Canadians’ Google searches in 2019

‘Champions’ was the theme of the last year, Google said

Most Read