Voters in B.C. have until Nov. 30 to return mail-in ballots in the proportional representation referendum. —Image: file photo

B.C.’s leaders to debate proportional representation: The case against switching to PR

Premier John Horgan and Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson will square off at 7 p.m. on TV tonight

  • Nov. 8, 2018 4:48 p.m.

By Justin Dalton

First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) is a voting system where voters indicate on their ballot the candidate of their choice and the candidate with the most votes wins. If it seems simple, that’s because it is. FPTP is used by over one third of the countries in the world including Canada, the United States, India and the United Kingdom.

FPTP provides accountability and a geographical link between voters and their representative. Under FPTP, elected officials remain answerable to their constituents. In British Columbia, our electoral system has single member constituencies. Each riding has a member of the legislative assembly (MLA) which is directly accountable to the constituency that they represent as elections are held at the constituency level. In contrast, the PR system does not provide the same level of accountability. Depending on the type of PR, MLAs are no longer elected at the constituency level but are elected from party lists. The intention of PR is to ensure that the number of seats each party has is more proportionate to the overall votes they receive in an election. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of local representation at the constituency level.

RELATED: To change, or not to change, that is the proportional representation referendum question

FPTP often results in stable majority governments which are preferable to the coalition governments which typically form under PR. Compromise and coalition building is a necessary part of both FPTP and PR. In a FPTP system, the coalition building and compromise takes place before the election. Parties present costed platform to voters resulting in greater transparency to voters. A majority government is typically formed following a FPTP election and that government can carry out its platform. Under PR, parties must negotiate with each other to form a government following the election. Often this results in smaller parties, many of whom are single issue or fringe parties, having disproportionate power in government. Additionally, the coalition governments that PR produces are often weak and unstable. Following the 2010 election in Belgium, negotiations went on for 541 before a government was formed which essentially left the country ungoverned for 18 months. In contrast, coalition governments are rare following a FPTP election and the majority governments that result are often moderate as large parties compete for the political center to capture the most votes.

RELATED: B.C.’s proportional representation referendum: The case for switching to PR

Most proponents of electoral reform focus on elections as means to choosing a government. What is often forgotten, and equally important, are elections as means of removing a government. FPTP enables voters to remove governments from power once they have reached their expiration date. Removing a government from power is much more difficult under a Proportional Representation system.

While the current FPTP is not perfect, its has served us well and provided British Columbia with political stability. Proponents of PR state that PR will make every vote count. In reality, PR will take power away from voters and give it to the political parties, it will damage the geographical link between voters and their representatives and it will provide disproportionate power to single issue and fringe parties.

Justin Dalton is a Kelowna lawyer.

Just Posted

Day one of Hometown Hockey in West Kelowna

Special guests, music, games, and free pizza! Hometown Hockey countinues on Sunday.

Women’s March draws small crowd in Kelowna

The small, but passionate, group marched along Water Street Saturday

Surrey man fined $10,000 by Kelowna’s Provincial Court

The man was convicted for three Wildlife Act offences after shooting a bull moose not in season

UBCO Heat men’s and women’s basketball squads bounce over MacEwan

The women got their first win of the season, while the men keep their playoff hopes alive

West Kelowna Warriors fall short to Vernon

The Warriors lost 1-0 in the hard fought battle

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Most Read