The mail-in referendum on proportional representation (ProRep) is heading down to the wire. The deadline has been extended from November 30 to Friday, December 7, at 4:30 p.m..
You can mail in your ballot, or you can drop it off directly at any provincial government office in your community.
The chance to start using this more mature electoral system, which makes nearly every single vote count for something, is still open to British Columbians.
Who will win if we get ProRep in B.C.?
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Everyone who is under the age of 40 and likely to be alive in 2050 will win on a grand scale, because ProRep will make it far easier to address the big issues on the mind of every young person who’s awake to the state of our world – challenges like climate change, plastic pollution, and species extinction.
Standard politicians and old-style political parties like the BC Liberals and BC NDP are often reluctant to act on these issues because they think major changes would offend the fossil fuel industry CEOs and the bosses of many large unions (respectively), thus hurting their chances in elections.
While leaders in the fossil fuel industry, and the large unions they work with, know full well that such big issues exist and are important, they also know their shareholders and members (respectively) will need to hear how dealing with these issues won’t adversely affect the value of their shares, or their job security. That takes careful public planning and negotiation, which is not their responsibility.
But careful negotiation, thoughtful planning, collaborative thinking, broad input from diverse sectors – these are the core properties of voting systems based on proportional representation.
So if we do select ProRep in the referendum, it will augur well for coming generations.
But who stands to lose if we move away from the current first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all system (a system, by the way, that is rarely found anywhere outside former colonies in the British Empire)?
The first group of losers will be big business players, whose money and influence will be diluted when political parties — after most ProRep elections — form coalition governments. In a coalition government, partners watch one another closely for signs of political corruption (special favours, undisclosed payoffs, etc.); unless such questionable behaviour is dealt with and eliminated, the coalition is likely to fall apart, meaning another costly election.
And which party wants to be part of an election with accusations of corruption hanging over its head?
The other losers will be dominant political binary parties. In our current system, many voters gravitate towards these large parties — like the Conservatives, BC Liberals, BC NDP — simply because they feel they have no other choice.
Falling back on “strategic voting,” they abandon hope of electing their chosen party’s candidate, realizing that support for their particular party, in their particular riding, is not extensive enough to have him or her elected.
So instead they hold their nose and vote for a second-choice larger party, hoping for a few political scraps from its table.
The alternative is to go ahead and cast a vote for the party and candidate they really want, knowing that their vote will be wasted.
I have met people who have faithfully voted in a dozen elections and never had a single favoured candidate elected. This is the kind of thing that makes people disillusioned with voting, and feel that their voice won't be heard.
There are still a considerable number of people who have received their referendum voting packages but have not sent them in yet, because they are not sure which system would work the best for them.
Fortunately, there is a way out of this dilemma.
Systems engineer Jamie Deith has independently designed a non-partisan, neutral questionnaire, which can be accessed at the website (simply type in “referendumguide.ca” in your browser’s subject line, and it will show up). Just answer about 15 or so straightforward questions on your own personal preferences in a voting system, click a button, and instantly, the system or systems you prefer are spelled out clearly, based on your own values and priorities.
I’ve used this system several times, and it’s been completely consistent.
If we are to deal with the pressing and large-scale problems that face the world today, we need a voting system that encourages everybody to come on stage to play a part.
Proportional representation gives us the core of such a system.
For the sake of a better future, vote in favour of proportional representation, and mail your ballot in, or deliver it directly to a provincial government centre, by 4:30 p.m. on December 7.