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Citizens’ Assembly

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Why we might want it

What are the problems with the current system?


First of all, MLAs are torn between loyalty to their political party and allegiance to the voters who elected them. This extreme party discipline is especially bad for the Interior. We are the province's economic powerhouse, yet our MLAs are muzzled at a time when we need them to speak out forcefully about rural and northern concerns.

Second, excessive power is concentrated in the Premier's office. The legislature, which is supposed to be a check on the power of the Premier and Cabinet, is reduced to rubberstamping politics worked out behind closed doors. We end up with four years of elected dictatorship. Under the current system, political parties are too powerful, breeding arrogance in government and an ongoing circus of fiascos and scandals.

Third, there is lack of proportionality that distorts election results. In the 2001 election, the NDP and Greens received 34% of the vote; yet only 2 opposition candidates were elected, compared to 77 for the Liberals. In 1996, the situation was reversed with the Liberals receiving more votes than the NDP, yet losing the election.

Lastly, the current electoral process fosters an extremely partisan political culture, resulting in huge swings in government policy after each election and an ugly political atmosphere. A new government gets elected, and spends the next four years burning down and dismantling whatever the previous government put in place. Is it any wonder British Columbians feel that our province is treading water?


How will BC-STV improve things?

BC-STV gives voters more choice and better representation. Each riding will have up to 7 MLAs depending on population, and voters will rank candidates 1... 2... 3... in order of preference. Prince George and region will have an expanded riding (about the size of a federal one), with likely 3 MLAs representing us. The number of MLAs relative to population will remain the same as now.

A problem with the current electoral system is that you don't have much choice and are stuck with just one MLA per riding, who, chances are, you don't agree with or is from a different party than yours. Even worse, the MLA might not be very good at representing you. Under BC-STV's multi-member ridings, voters will not be restricted to that one MLA, but have access to and be represented by other MLAs also. This is especially beneficial for voters in smaller towns like Mackenzie, McBride, and Vanderhoof, who often feel neglected. Under this new system, MLAs will rush in (and compete) to fill any gap in the riding (rural area, small town, or city neighborhood) where voters are not being represented. Hardworking MLAs will be rewarded on election day.

A unique feature of BC-STV is its tendency to relax party discipline. In multi-member ridings, candidates will run against candidates from their own party in addition to those from other parties. This means that successful candidates will need strong local roots and pay close attention to voters' views in order to distinguish themselves from the pack. Candidates who put party headquarters first at the expense of voters will not fare well. In addition, a relaxation in party discipline gives MLAs more clout in the Legislature to act as a check on the power of the Premier's office.

BC-STV is a more proportional system than the current one, and will result in a diverse Legislature that better reflects the voting preferences of British Columbians. Electing small parties or independents is easier under BC-STV. In Ireland, which has STV, about 10% of representatives are independents. Instead of bitter partisanship and wild swings in public policy, BC-STV will tend towards a more coalition-style Legislature and more civility in debate.

ith the Citizens' Assembly process, for the first time in Canadian history, ordinary citizens have the opportunity to set the rules for elected politicians, rather than politicians setting the rules for themselves. BC-STV is a step forward for voter empowerment. We should take that step.
 

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