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A Vote for Pro Rep is a Vote for Democracy

Patrick Johnson, UFCW 1518 Executive Assistant, outside the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, BC

With low voter turnout for elections at every level of government plaguing modern democracy, many people wonder if they should bother voting at all. Does my vote even count? would-be voters wonder.

Voter apathy and elections won with far less than a majority are just two of the reasons the BC NDP are holding a referendum on proportional representation, or “Pro Rep,” this fall. In 2017, the NDP and the Green Party, which now form British Columbia’s minority government, ran on an election platform that promised electoral reform, seeking to eliminate the ability of political parties to get 100 per cent of the power with a minority of votes. According to the government, with Pro Rep, every vote counts; for example, when a party gets 40 per cent of the votes, it gets 40 per cent of the seats.

“The idea is that everyone’s vote matters,” explains Executive Assistant Patrick Johnson. “With Pro Rep, people don’t have to worry about strategic voting or wasted votes.” Most of the world’s democracies already use proportional representation, and time has shown it to produce stable governments that work for people, not corporate agendas or special interests. “It also means a stronger voice for each region of the province, especially in the north and interior,” Johnson adds. “That means higher voter turnout, more youth participation and a more balanced government that better reflects BC’s diversity.”

The idea is that everyone’s vote matters. With Pro Rep, people don’t have to worry about strategic voting or wasted votes.

In the current, first-past-the-post system, the candidate with the most votes wins; under proportional representation, voters elect representatives in proportion to the way they voted. “Right now, voter turnout is not high,” says Betty Bi, a steward and food clerk at PriceSmart. “I think proportional representation can be more fair. It can more clearly show what people want, and what party they support.” Bi, a delegate to the Vancouver and District Labour Council, attended the BC NDP’s Forward conference in May, where she learned about Pro Rep. “It’s another way to encourage people to come out to vote and to let them know every vote is important,” adds Bi, noting that she will be encouraging her co-workers to mail in their ballots this November.

There will be two questions on the ballot. Those recommended by Attorney General David Eby after an extensive public consultation are:

  1. Which should British Columbia use for elections to the Legislative Assembly?
    A. The current first-past-the-post voting system
    B. A proportional representation voting system
  2. If British Columbia adopts a proportional representation voting system, which of the following voting systems do you prefer?
    A. Dual Member Proportional (DMP)
    B. Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
    C. Rural-Urban PR

Ballots for the referendum on proportional representation will be mailed in October and must be returned by November 30. Approval to change to Pro Rep requires a 50 percent plus one vote and if passed, the new system would be enacted before the next provincial election in 2021.