Debate on proportional representation hopes to increase voter turnout

Kerrisdale Community Centre hosted a debate on the referendum in hopes of increasing voter turnout


Reported by Roxanne Egan-Elliott

With 18 per cent of B.C.’s proportional representation referendum ballots cast as of Nov. 16, Kerrisdale Community Centre held a debate to give both sides a chance to present their arguments on electoral reform.

B.C. is holding a referendum on whether to keep the current electoral system or move to one of three proportional representation models. Mail-in ballots must be received in Victoria by Nov. 30. This year’s vote is the third time British Columbians have voted on electoral reform since 2005.

About 30 people attended the debate moderated by Richard Johnston, a UBC professor who studies electoral systems.

Antony Hodgson, president of Fair Voting BC, told the audience the current system is not as fair as it could be, citing cases across the country in which parties formed majority governments with only 40 per cent of votes or less.

“If you really believe in democracy you have to favour the inclusion of more voices in our democratic process,” Hodgson said.

Some say pro rep is unrealistic for B.C.

Former Liberal MLA Suzanne Anton, who represents the No BC Proportional Representation Society, criticized those in favour of proportional representation. She said the idea of political parties working together in the province is “a fairy tale.”

“We have a demonstrated history in the province of non-consensus and that’s not going to change,” Anton said. “I’m not even sure it should change. I think it is very healthy to have a government and opposition to have your ideas tested.”

Hodgson countered Anton’s statement saying, “We could be doing better but we’re not because of partisan infighting.”

He noted Canada’s ranking on the UN Human Development Index. Once sitting at the top of the list, Canada is currently 12th on the index. Nearly all of the countries with higher rankings than Canada use some form of proportional representation.

Ivy Li, who attended the debate, said she felt that Johnston and Hodgson were trying to provide the facts in a conversation that is normally full of rhetoric and fearmongering.

“I’m very interested to look at the electoral reform and see how we can make our government better,” Li said.

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