Opinion: Electoral reform: Four lessons for a new B.C. government

The B.C. NDP and the Green party have committed to a referendum on electoral reform in B.C. This is great news, as it is high time we ditch our outdated first-past-the-post system for a better, more-representative alternative.

We have already had two referendum votes in B.C. in the past 12 years. The proposed B.C.-STV electoral system received 58 per cent support in a 2005 vote, but wasn’t implemented. And only 39 per cent supported change when a second vote was held in 2009.

So, what might enhance the chances of a “yes” vote in the future? There is much to learn from B.C.’s previous attempts at reform, as well as from Ontario’s experience with a similar unsuccessful referendum on switching from first-past-the-post to a form of proportional representation called mixed-member proportional, or MMP.

An extensive analysis of voter attitudes was conducted during the B.C. and Ontario referenda by political scientists who looked at a range of factors that influenced whether voters supported or opposed electoral reform. I want to highlight four.

First, one of the strongest predictors of support in B.C. was trust in an innovative process called a Citizens’ Assembly, a randomly selected group of citizens from across the province who were tasked with recommending a new system. In the 2005 vote, the researchers found “voters said yes if they knew the Citizens’ Assembly was made up of ordinary folks and not stacked with government-appointed elites.”

If B.C.’s new government wants to see an electoral reform vote succeed, it should keep the design of the proposed new voting system out of politicians’ hands.

One worthwhile option is to entrust the design of a system to a new B.C. Citizens’ Assembly or another process that is similarly credible and independent of political elites. Another option is to again vote on B.C.-STV on a 50-per-cent-plus-one basis.

Second, a …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun

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