A new political party that has formed in British Columbia wants to help diversify the economy in the rural parts of the province.
The Rural BC Party announced on Thursday that it is starting to build its base “as an alternative devoted to promoting and advocating for the residents of rural BC.”
The party said it was created as a response to “growing concern” that the existing major political parties are only interested in supporting the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island.
“The people of rural B.C. are no longer willing to sit on the political sidelines. We are a major economic driver of the province, but we are increasingly forgotten about and neglected. Many communities are on life support and have never had the opportunity, or the means, to diversify their economies and truly flourish.” Jonathan Van Barneveld, interim party leader and current councillor with the District of Houston, B.C. said in a statement.
Darcy Repen, mayor of Telkwa B.C., said the Rural BC Party is a better alternative.
“It will allow us to cut through the political rhetoric and truly advocate for the needs of rural BC,” Telkwa said in a statement.
“To properly represent the voices of rural BC, we believe that it is critical our representatives have full independence to represent their constituents, rather than Victoria’s wishes.”
The party said it will advocate for the needs of rural British Columbians, help develop those areas and run provincial candidates in B.C.’s 23 rural ridings in the next provincial election in 2021. The party also said if Rural BC MLAs are elected, they will vote on what will represent the needs and wishes of their constituents and not along party lines.
Before the provincial election in 2021, B.C.’s NDP minority government is holding a mail-in referendum on proportional representation starting on Oct. 22 and ending on Nov. 30. Voters will be asked if they prefer the current first-past-the-post system, which declares the candidate with the most votes the winner in each constituency, or a proportional representation system. There are three new systems in the second question, including:
Dual-member proportional (DMP) – Under this system, voting would remain the same in rural ridings in B.C.’s north and Interior. Everywhere else, two people would be elected in each district. There would still only be one vote. The voter would vote for a party listing two candidates. The candidate that gets the most votes in the ridings is elected. Another candidate is chosen from each of these ridings to ensure that a party gets the same percentage of seats as votes — provided they get at least five per cent of the province-wide vote.
Mixed-member proportional – This system combines single-member with party list candidates. Ridings would increase in size. People would vote for one candidate from one party and the person with the most votes would get elected. But in each region of the province, there would be a combination of regular ridings and extra proportional representation MLAs, allocated by how well the party did in the region overall.
Rural-urban proportional- Under this system, rural regions keep the mixed member system but urban areas would use a single-transferrable vote where you rank candidates.
With files from Justin McElroy, CBC