BCs’ changing political system

One of the few things that I have been happy to see come out of our current “Liberal” (actually totally Conservative) government has been the Citizens Assembly.

This is a group that was created by random selection to address the question of electoral reform in our province. A few other provinces in Canada are looking at changing their current “First Past the Post” systems as well and it is starting to take hold as an issue at the Federal level as well.

I believe our current system is out of date. In BC especially, where two completely opposing parties (Liberal and NDP) dominate the political scene, elections too often lead to dramatic shifts from right to left and back again, leading to turmoil in the workings of government itself, as well as uncertainty from business, and investors who see the situation as potentially volatile and uncertain.

This Assembly was created to look at alternative systems and, if they deem the alternatives worthy, to put the proposal to the BC public through a referendum at the next election (in May 2005).

As I have linked above, on Saturday they voted in favour of a form of Proportional Representation. Their proposal which can still be modified but likely will not, is that we move to a system where voters “rate” their choices for the candidate in their riding.

There is one major flaw to this system, but, as I think about it more and more, I think I would vote FOR this change.

First, the flaw.

Our current system is very simple. You vote for one candidate in each riding/constituency and the one with the most votes wins. X in the box… that’s it.

This new system would add a ton of complexity and really gives me nightmares of hanging chads and spoiled ballots and confused voters.

But.. I think I’m not giving the Electorate the credit it deserves. When people choose something out of a range of possibility they instinctively rate each choice in their head. They might do it without even knowing it. I just did it today when I decided on the look/layout of this site.

So really, if you’re faced with a bunch of choices, you will automatically rate each one anyway, so this is simply a way of recording that natural event.

Another big advantage that this system might have is that it rewards people (like me?) who take any interest at all in the differences between candidates. If you don’t know anything about the candidate except that he’s for the political party that you support, then you can still put him as “#1” and nothing has really changed.

But if, like me in the last federal election, you are split between supporting the candidate you’d really like… or the party you know will win overall… then what do you do? You don’t want to throw away your vote right!? If we had this system I could have voted for NDP as “#1” and Liberal as “3” and the Conservatives as either not even on the list, or right down on the bottom.

This would clearly show my preference, I think if we had had this system in the last federal election, many voters would not have been scared way from voting for the NDP because of Liberal scare tactics. Instead, they could have simply vote for NDP #1, and Liberal #2… and we would have gotten the candidate that the majority of voters selected as their first, second, or third option.

There is a lot of time between now and May when this question goes for to a referendum. But as of right now I think tentatively support it. What I know I *do* agree on with the Citizens Assembly is that there needs to be change to our current system. I don’t ever want to see another election where 77 of 79 seats go to one party. It is bad for the province, and bad for democracy in general.

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