Proportional Representation

Advocating for “Proportional Representation” (PR) is one of the cornerstone policies of all Green Parties; both nationally as well as provincially.  It is with this in mind that the North Okanagan Shuswap Green Executive support and commend the efforts of the Green Party of BC in their endeavour to bring the BC democratic system into  the modern era.

The importance of this undertaking cannot be overstated, as failure to move forward with Proportional Representation (PR) will likely make good, honest, fact based governance on behalf of us citizens, very difficult if not impossible in the coming years.

In fact, our system was once famously lampooned for how much worse our system was to the American system – a system which produced a Trump presidency.  In our system there is no functional difference between our executive and our legislature.  The Prime Minister lords over both.  Therefore not only are we just as vulnerable as the States is to having someone in power who does not share the views of the majority, but we have no safe guards, no checks and balances or, as was joked, “unpaid checks and political imbalances”.

Having a multi party political system combined with the recent trend in North America towards greater and greater ideological polarity, means that the current “First Past The Post” (FPTP) system is becoming an increasing liability.

By far the greatest weakness of the current “First Past The Post” (FPTP) system is that it typically grants absolute power to minority groups with a minority of the total vote.  This can leave the majority of voters captured by an ideological minority with regional or self serving ambitions.

In the 2008 federal election the Bloc Quebecois received 1,380,991 votes and the Green Party of Canada received 72% of that or 987,613 votes.  The Block got 51 seats but the Greens did not get 72% of that seat count or 37 seats.  No, they got zero seats; not a single one.

Because the Block voter base was regionally concentrated, a little over one million separatist voters held 51 seats and the balance of power.  And almost one million people who voted for a national party were ignored.

But it gets worse.

In that same 2008 election, the NDP with 2,515,288 votes from across the country, earned almost twice as many votes as the Block.  But instead of winning what should be almost twice as many seats, the NDP got a mere 37, not even 3/4’s of the Block’s seat count.

And that is how a regional group stole the balance of power from a national party.  But the disruption caused by regionalism and ideology did not end there, and again the First Past The Post caused the aberration.

In 2008 the Conservative Party received 822,147 votes in the Alberta region while again the Green Party  received 987,613 votes across the country – 25% more votes than the Alberta region Conservatives.  The Conservatives were given 27 seats in Alberta alone but as we already know, almost 1 million Greens got zero seats; zero representation.

Had the 822 thousand Conservative voters been ignored like the 987 thousand Green voters, the Conservatives would not have been able to hold power with just a 38% minority of the total vote – only 22% of the actual electorate.

The very nature of PR is to create governments that rule by true majority often built through consultation and co-operation between parties.  This protects the voter from being subject to minority rule. And Proportional Representation also increases voter turnout because most of our votes actually count for something. 

When one ruling minority takes control of the government from a previous ruling minority, there is often a radical seesawing of policy.  For instance: Here in BC, the recent banning of political donations from corporations and unions reversed years of unencumbered donations which tended to buy elections.  Unless we get PR before the next election, the next ruling minority may just as easily reverse that ban, and again allow foreign or special interests unfair access to our decision makers through their targeted funding.

Because PR protects the majority from being ruled by a minority that could hold regional or ideological interests, the chance of wild policy shifts is greatly alleviated and the more extreme ideological elements remain under control.

The high sensitivity of FPTP to small shifts in voter preferences that often flips governments and policy in opposite directions, creates an air of regulatory and fiscal (tax/funding) uncertainty in the industrial and financial communities which often leads to reduced investment and a stagnating economy. Countries with PR have a 1% higher economic growth than countries with FPTP.  When you consider that Canada’s growth in 2016 was 1.5%, an extra 1% is sizable.  It would bring Canada’s growth up to the world’s average growth of 2.5%.  This 66% increase in economic performance is attributed to a tendency for PR governments to provide more credible long term economic policy.

The statistical evidence that  the First Past the Post system has become a liability and that any form of Proportional Representation is a better way to function and compete on the world stage is voluminous and compelling.  If you can help or would like to learn more, please go to Fair Voting BC.  There is more information and links below.

If our votes aren’t equal, how can our rights be?

How you can help

Why we need electoral reform

Statistical evidence

Federal Election Results 2008 – National,_2008

Federal Election Results 2008 – Alberta

Canada’s growth in 2016

Explanation of various electoral systems

Harper speech to the U.S. Council for National Policy (unpaid checks and political imbalances)