This fall, British Columbians have the chance to change the way we vote for our provincial political leaders.
I’ll be voting for proportional representation and a fairer, more responsive kind of government with better outcomes for people.
Proportional representation means exactly what it says. What ever proportion, or share, of the vote a party wins, they get that many seats in government. It’s a system that’s used by some of the most stable, progressive countries in the world — and it’s my hope that when the ballots are counted this fall, BC will join its place among them.
Championing electoral reform was something our party ran on in last years’ election. It was a foundational part of our agreement with the BC Greens. It’s something I enthusiastically support. Because, truth be told, I didn’t always.
In 2005, I voted against proportional representation.
At the time I had all sorts of reasons why I didn’t think it was a good idea. I thought pro-rep would be too complicated, too confusing. So, when my ballot came, I voted no and didn’t think much of it.
And then I was elected to the legislature.
I went to work with a lot of hope and ambition. I carried with me all of the values the people in my riding held. But my party didn’t hold the balance of power, and those who did didn’t value many of the same things.
It was a long four years of partisan fighting.
My fellow BC NDP MLAs and I fought hard against the decisions of the BC Liberal government, but they didn’t need our votes to pass legislation.
I watched the issues my constituents cared about get passed over time and time again.
I thought about how different things could be for people if they had representatives in government who would work together for them. Proportional representation started to seem a lot less scary, a lot less complicated, and a lot more democratic.
By the time 2009 rolled around and BC held another referendum on electoral reform, I enthusiastically marked a ‘yes’ on my ballot. I’ve stayed a fan of proportional representation ever since.
Someone asked me recently ‘What’s the biggest change with a pro-rep government?’ The answer is simple: it puts people front and centre.
Under proportional representation, governments can’t win 100% of the decision-making power with less than 50% of the vote. We’ve seen that happen in BC, and across Canada, many times before and it isn’t all that democratic for people. It feeds arrogance on the part of the government in charge, and it makes lots of people feel as if their vote doesn’t count.
Proportional representation is people-focused.
Governments elected by proportional representation are more diverse. They elect more people from more backgrounds, more socio-economic conditions. They elect more women — and they elect more women of colour. They give more power — not less — to rural and remote areas. Their elections see increased voter turnout, particularly among younger people.
Most importantly, their parties in government work together for people. There’s less space for parties to be arrogant and unaccountable. Governments elected under proportional representation need to do what so many of us do every day: work together to get things done.
Some of this means working with people with different opinions and values — and that’s OK. I believe — and the BC NDP and BC Greens have shown — that great things can happen for people when parties work together. Listening to people from other parties makes governments stronger, and more representative, and it’s good for democracy and for BC.
Now, if you’ll permit me a basketball metaphor - winning this referendum isn’t a slam dunk.
There are some very powerful folks who strongly prefer the First Past the Post system and want to keep things as they are.
The BC Liberals oppose proportional representation. They like things the way they are now because it often gets them elected. The BC Liberals’ rich donors — the same ones who gave them $150 million over 16 years and opposed our government banning big money — don’t like proportional representation because they want a government that works for them.
But, the 57% of British Columbians that voted NDP or Green deserve a government that puts people first — because there’s far too much progress at stake.
Government services, environmental protection, an economy that works for everyone, eliminating MSP and bridge tolls, a poverty reduction plan, affordable child care, decent homes to live in: all of that could be on the chopping block with Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals.
Friends, we cannot let that happen. We will not let that happen.
If you believe that governments should work for people, if you believe working together makes governments stronger and if you believe every vote should count then I ask you to join me in voting for proportional representation this fall.
Over the next few weeks, BC NDP teams will be out in your community talking about pro-rep.
We’ll be knocking on doors, making calls and spending time at festivals and events. If you’re able to join us, we’d love to have your support.
Last spring, you joined me in helping to bring power back to the people of British Columbia, and to make government work for people again. This fall, join me in making sure it stays that way.
Let’s make proportional representation happen here and, for the first time, make sure every vote really counts.