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

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

Opponent says there’s more accountability with ‘first-past-the-post’

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Great Bear Snowshed on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack testified in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Feb. 25, 2021 that his brakes started smoking in about this location, and soon after he lost all braking, which led to a multi-vehicle crash further down the road on Aug. 5, 2016. (GoogleMaps)
Truck driver charged in Coquihalla crash showed ‘wanton and reckless disregard for other people’s lives’: Crown

Despite already having brake issues, Roy McCormack tackled the steepest hill on the infamous highway

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

(HelloKelowna - Twitter)
West Kelowna billboard bearing anti-vaccine messaging deemed misleading

Ad Standards investigated the billboard, noting a lack of evidence to support the messaging

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Christina Camilleri: Making holistic health care accessible

Christina Camilleri founded and operates Healthy Essentials Clinic

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Chase RCMP held two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight in their detachment’s cells on Feb. 6. (File Photo)
Chase RCMP hold two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight

The two seperate incidents took place less than an hour apart.

Kamloops Fire Rescue battled a landfill fire which belched toxic smoke into the air on Feb. 27. (City of Kamloops Photo)
Fire at Kamloops landfill sends thick black smoke into the air

Firefighters made slow progress on the fire throughout the morning.

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Baldy Mountain Resort is temporarily closed following the death of a resort family member. Pictured above is a sunrise at the resort, Feb. 19, 2021. (Baldy Mountain Resort/Facebook)
Baldy Mountain ski hill closed following death of resort family member

Authorities currently investigating, resort set to reopen Sunday, Feb. 27

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Chase RCMP arrest intoxicated man running into highway traffic

The man was wanted on several warrents in Alberta; was held overnight but released

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Most Read