Change of Government Opens the Door to Electoral Reform!

Since May, citizens in British Columbia have been biting their nails waiting to see who will govern the Province. Last month, NDP Leader John Horgan emerged from the Government House to announce that he had been invited to serve as B.C.’s next premier.

“I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for a new legislature to work co-operatively,” he said. Speaking for Fair Vote Canada (FVC) and its twelve thousand supporters in BC, Terry Dance-Bennink, chair of FVC’s BC Steering Committee says she “couldn’t agree more. It’s time for cooperative politics and we believe a promised third referendum on electoral reform is poised to return a favourable outcome for voters.”

FVC would like to congratulate, NDP Premier John Horgan and BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver. Their Confidence and Supply Agreement lays the groundwork for a new kind of collaborative, productive parliament and is supported by 57% of BC citizens.

FVC’s Executive Director, Kelly Carmichael, is upbeat, stating that “Reformers are confident that the electoral reform movement can win this time. Our message is getting through loud and clear and we believe the media, through years of education, has realized that Canada has become a laggard on this issue. It’s time to join over 90 countries around the world (over 80% of OECD countries) and modernize our electoral system. It’s time for a new approach in Canadian politics in which non-partisan cooperation and respectful debate become the norm.”

Canadians have learned a lot from politicians promising electoral reform. To secure a positive outcome, we think it is imperative to have leaders who truly believe in democracy and fair elections and who have the confidence to debate policy ideas on an equal footing. We believe that John Horgan and Andrew Weaver understand that false majorities do not benefit citizens and we need a new type of politics that respects all voices.

We are also heartened that Christy Clark supported proportional representation in the 2009 referendum. In her throne speech, Christy Clark stated that she was listening to the people, which is very commendable. However, this raises the question of why she did not adopt such a compromising approach much earlier. The answer has to do with our electoral system, which allowed the government to rule with impunity based on a false majority.

Twelve years ago, BC’s held its first electoral reform referendum, which achieved 58% support for proportional representation in 97% of ridings. Unfortunately, the referendum imposed a threshold that was designed for failure. Research tells us the format of the referendum is integral to its success. We hope the new Government will learn from the past and design the upcoming referendum for success rather than failure.

We look forward to seeing what a new NDP/Green Government can achieve to level the playing field for voters, politicians and parties. Proportional Representation is an idea whose time has come.

Fair Vote Canada (FVC) is a grassroots, nonprofit, multi-partisan citizens’ movement for electoral reform in Canada. It promotes the introduction of an element of proportional representation for elections at all levels of government and throughout civil society, instead of the first-past-the-post electoral system currently used at all levels of government in Canada.