What you need to know about proportional representation in B.C.


WATCH: It’s now the most common electoral system in much of the world but is B.C. ready for proportional representation? Tess van Straaten looks at the options.

There was tough talk on Tuesday from B.C.’s opposition leader, as the debate over our voting system heated up.

“It works and it’s been very reliable and very stable,” says B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson. “The NDP have put forward an incomplete picture with lots of unknowns, which they say they will tell us about we vote. That’s just dirty pool.”

The mail-in ballots, which voters started receiving this week, ask people to pick between the current first-past-the-post system and proportional representation, where a party’s percentage of the popular vote roughly matches the number of seats it gets in the legislature.

“We’ve had years and years of one-sided election results where government’s get 100 per cent of the power sometimes with less than 40 per cent of the vote,” says NDP education minister Rob Fleming.

Voters get to pick between three different proportional representation (PR) systems.

In dual member proportional (DMP) , voting stays the same in large rural ridings. Other ridings are combined with a neighbouring district and have by two MLAs.

Parties can run up to two candidates and the candidate with the most votes is elected. The second seat’s determined by province-wide results.

In mixed member proportional (MMP), there are district MLAs — elected by getting the most votes — and additional regional MLAs elected from a party list.

The last option, rural urban proportional (RUP) would use MMP in rural areas and a single transferable vote everywhere else.

Electoral areas would be larger, parties could run multiple candidates, and voters would rank their choices.

Anyone getting a minimum number of votes would get a seat and their votes over that quota would be transferred to the next candidate in their party.

But many key details on all of these haven’t been worked out.

“The number of ridings, the size of the ridings, how many MLAs would be voted through the traditional first past the post system, how many would be proportionately selected,” says political science expert Michael Prince. “All those fundamental questions have yet to be decided.”

Right now, between 40 and 50 per cent of eligible voters in B.C. don’t bother to vote.

Many feel it’s a waste of time and their vote won’t count and that’s one of the big arguments for proportional representation, where proponents say every vote counts.

Critics claim it say it can give special interest groups more power, even though a party must get at least five per cent of the popular vote to get any seats.

Even more confusing, two of the options, DMP and RUP, haven’t been used anywhere else in the world.

Learn more here about the voting options

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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