On Friday, Aug. 10, there were three letters to the editor, all skeptical of Proportional Representation (PR), the subject of a mail-in referendum in B.C. this fall.
I would like to respond to some of their concerns.
In the first letter, the writer expressed concern that the proposal of three types of Proportional Representation was vague. It is true that some of the details will have to be worked out by a non-partisan committee once the referendum results are in, as this is not possible until B.C. voters have chosen a system.
However, the basic information is very clear, far more than most people will want to know, and is available at https://elections.bc.ca/referendum/.
The process of working out the details once a system is decided upon is exactly how the government of New Zealand proceeded in 1993, after a vote in favour of PR. Incidentally, New Zealand did have a follow-up referendum in 2011 and the population voted in favour of keeping PR. B.C. also plans to hold a follow-up referendum after two elections with a new system (if the referendum is decided in favour of PR).
The second letter-writer appears to misunderstand what PR is. It is a voting system whereby the number of seats won by each party will closely reflect the total number of votes in the province earned by that party. Nothing else will change and government procedures will continue as before.
In other words, the writer’s concern that there will be changes to the way that government decision-making will take place is unfounded. Decisions will still be determined by a simple majority of the votes of sitting MLAs.
The third letter expresses concern that the new system is complex and will lead to dysfunctional governments. Virtually every country in Europe, most in Latin America, as well as a scattering of other countries now use some form of PR, a total of between 62 and 92 countries (depending on your criteria).
Clearly, PR is not that complicated. While there are some dysfunctional governments using PR, there are also some dysfunctional governments using every system possible. Germany and all the Scandinavian countries use PR, and these are among the most modern and successful governments in the world today.