New electoral system recommended

  • Nov. 1, 2004 5:00 p.m.

When we go to the polls for the provincial election in May, there’ll be another question besides the usual choice of candidates.
The Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform (a randomly selected group of citizens from across the province) has overwhelmingly voted (146 to 7) to adopt a new electoral system for BC. Now it is up to voters next May to decide whether the proposed “Single Transferable Vote (STV)” system is better than our current system. The Assembly has spent almost 10 months studying, researching, and debating, has held 50 public hearings and read over 1600 written submissions, and has now arrived at the conclusion that our current system needs to be modified.
Right now, we elect representatives by “first past the post,” ie. the candidate who gets the most votes – regardless of the total votes received – gets to represent that riding. In the proposed system (STV) the ballot would look different, and instead of just putting an “X” beside the candidate of your choice, you will be able to rank the candidates 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on – which would ensure that each party’s share of seats in the house should reflect its share of the popular vote.
Another difference would be geographically larger ridings, each with more than one representative. Sparsely populated constituencies (such as ours) would have 2 or 3 MLAs, and the denser urban ridings would have up to 7. However, the size of the legislature would remain the same, at 79.
The Citizen’s Assembly will meet again in mid-November to work on its report to the public, to draft a referendum question, and fine-tune their “made in BC” model before they pass it on to the public. Then they will submit the final report on December 15th, explaining the reasons for and implications of the recommendation. If voters give the proposition the green light, the government says it will pass enabling legislation so we will see this new system in 2009.

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