Martyn Brown: Giving a new voice to B.C.'s marginalized “majority of minorities”

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      I’m warming up to the idea of embracing proportional representation in British Columbia.

      There, I’ve said it. Sometimes you surprise yourself.

      The more I read about PR and learn about its mostly positive effects on democracies around the world, the more I’m drawn to it.

      In some ways, B.C. is once again going through the process that New Zealand went through decades ago in its inexorable march through successive referenda to embrace and retain the mixed-member proportional system.

      Indeed, I am beginning to believe that a similar form of MMP might work just as well in Canada.

      I don’t propose in this long essay to address its relative technical merits or the details of various models of PR that are in use around the world.

      This piece is instead really more of an argument for reconsidering the idea of proportional representation as a potentially superior alternative to the status quo.

      There's only one day left before the February 28 cut-off to participate in the B.C. government’s virtually invisible “engagement” process, if you’re interested.

      The responses to the government’s decidedly skewed questionnaire will ostensibly “inform the development of a ballot for a November 2018 electoral reform referendum by the Ministry of Attorney General”.

      Sadly, that consultation and flawed referendum process sucks, as many have argued.

      Not least of which is because it is being conducted under the direction of a so-called “neutral” minister who ran on the NDP promise to campaign for PR in that referendum, instead of under the authority and guidance of a truly independent overseer.

      The information that has been made available to voters on the public engagement site is also very thin gruel indeed. Shockingly bad, actually.

      Anyone really interested in learning something useful could easily find much more comprehensive materials to help guide their feedback. (For example, see this, this, this, or this.)

      Attorney General David Eby is ill-suited to be the lead actor on proportional-representation, given his party's position during the 2017 election campaign.

      Legislation missed the mark

      The process also stinks because of the attorney general’s defective referendum bill.

      Chief among its shortcomings is that it would theoretically allow a bare majority of all B.C. voters from Metro Vancouver to decide the voting system for the entire province.

      The whole enterprise seems woefully biased to achieve a desired outcome, rather than to honestly engage B.C. voters in a balanced debate and neutrally framed referendum on PR.

      Perhaps that also partly explains why nine of the 10 written “stakeholder submissions” currently posted on the government’s engagement website actively support PR. The remaining one is neutral on that proposed reform and aims only to enhance the legitimacy of the referendum process and the integrity of its outcome.

      The Yes campaign happily offered its recommendations, which are inexplicably absent from its own website. But thus far, no one opposed to PR has cared to offer a written submission, far as I can tell.

      Moreover, the questionnaire affords limited leeway to register concerns and objections.

      That’s a real problem, I suggest, for it reflects a real lack of perceived legitimacy in the sincerity of the NDP’s “engagement” effort.

      If nothing else, the engagement process has failed to elicit a balanced response that is even remotely indicative of the opposition that’s out there to PR, in part because few British Columbians are even aware that their opinions are being sought. It has not been properly marketed or widely communicated, and it is clearly inadequate in design and substance.

      Even the No campaign opted not to make a written submission. I’m guessing so as to not help to validate that innately compromised “consultation” process.

      Too bad. It could be so easily salvaged with a little political will.

      Premier John Horgan really should immediately replace his attorney general as the lead actor for that referendum process. As a partisan member of Horgan’s cabinet, and as the chief legal adviser to that premier who has pledged to campaign for PR, David Eby can never be seen as truly neutral.

      Horgan should ask the chief electoral officer or a neutral panel to instead run the show, from helping to educate and inform the voting public, to designing the ballot question(s), presiding over the conduct of the campaign, and allocating any funding to help both sides make their case.

      That truly independent panel could also double as an electoral boundaries commission, to offer voters a clearer idea of how any proposed model of PR would redraw B.C.’s electoral map.

      I refer you recommendations 12 and 13 of the federal all-party parliamentary committee report on electoral reform that was included in federal Green party leader Elizabeth May’s supportive written submission.

      After months of public hearings and cross-country consultation, that committee suggested “that the government complete the design of the alternate electoral system that is proposed on the referendum ballot prior to the start of the referendum campaign period.”

      It further recommended that “Elections Canada should produce and make available to the public, materials describing any option, including maps depicting potential electoral district boundaries applicable under that option and sample ballot design, prior to the start of the referendum campaign period.” [Emphasis added.]

      Horgan should heed that advice he apparently didn’t get from his attorney general, who opted not to accord that responsibility to Elections B.C.

      B.C.'s 2017 electoral map would likely be radically transformed under proportional representation.
      Elections B.C.

      Public deserves to know electoral map under PR

      Any model or models for PR put to the public for a vote should be clearly reflected with an electoral map that would show how it would work in contrast to B.C.’s current electoral configuration.

      Due to the challenges in that regard, the complexity in trying to inform British Columbians about any new electoral model of PR, and the added complications that entails for the ballot question(s), I’d keep it simple.

      It might be best to simply put one or two options on the table for the referendum that are properly supported with an electoral map to show how they would actually apply, instead of confusing voters with a bunch of alternatives for PR that are hard to fathom or fairly judge.

      That would go a long way toward building public confidence in Horgan’s otherwise laudable initiative to let all voters directly decide whether to embrace some as yet unspecified form of PR.

      He should listen to the legitimate criticisms that have been made about the unfairness of the process to rural British Columbians and act to address them.

      He should admit that his government’s referendum law needs to be “tweaked” and act to ensure that no single region or even two regions could ever conceivably overwhelm the wishes of voters in every other region.

      Fat chance, I know.

      Taking those relatively minor steps would do much to enhance the premier’s reputation for listening. It would also reinforce his government’s brand of principled pragmatism.

      Process issues aside, however, the goal of that referendum on PR is a most worthy one, as I argued in the Straight almost three years ago, in advocating for a national referendum on electoral reform.

      I applaud the NDP for giving all British Columbians a direct say on how their votes should count under a proportionally representative electoral system that would give a new voice to B.C.’s marginalized “majority of minorities”, as it were.

      The current electoral system really isn’t very representative.

      It usually creates majority governments that are elected by only a minority of voters and that are not broadly representative of the majority.

      Up until the GreeNDP alliance following last year’s election, we hadn’t had a minority government in B.C. for the last 60 years.

      Apart from the B.C. Liberals’ landslide win in 2001, no party has won an election with a majority of votes since the right-wing coalition governments of WW2.

      Federally, no party has won a majority of votes in any election over the last 33 years. In fact, that has only happened three times in the past century.

      But that’s only part of the problem that PR aims to address.

      The bigger problem is in how our current “winner takes all” system shuts out the “losing” majority of combined voters that supported other parties.

      It silences those who should have every right to effective representation in their elected legislatures.

      It frustrates choice at the ballot box by making it virtually impossible for minor parties to win seats.

      It frustrates representation on specific issues that beg for a louder voice in our elected assemblies, without being watered down or fudged as they so often are by the large parties that are afraid to be quite so forceful, truthful, or direct in their appeals.

      Our current electoral system denies the parties with smaller voting pluralities their fair of seats and representatives in our legislative bodies. It leaves all those “losers” out of government decision-making.

      And it structurally ignores many voters’ concerns and priorities, even when they actually constitute the will of the majority.

      Too often, those voices are marginalized, unduly discounted, or trampled upon by the “majority” governments that are elected by mere pluralities.

      It doesn’t need to be that way.

      There are myriad forms of PR that might help remedy those problems, if we open up our minds to the possibilities PR affords in contrast to our current system.

      You can read all about them in the December 2016 report produced by Canada’s all-party committee on electoral reform.

      Lest we forget, it also recommended moving to adopt some form of PR through a national referendum.

      Our prime minister unilaterally rejected that advice he commissioned, in betrayal of his party’s 2015 election promise: “Within 18 months of forming government, we will bring forward legislation to enact electoral reform.”

      That breach of voter trust was itself an egregious example of why PR might make sense.

      It glaringly demonstrated the risks of putting 100 percent of the power in the hands of one leader of one party that only received a fraction of the vote.

      Trudeau’s failure to honour his commitment on electoral reform betrayed all voters, as it also marginalized the capacity of other parties to influence that imperative. It was old-school politics at its worst.

      You might say: this is a tale of two cities that offers one compelling argument for PR.

      Ottawa versus Victoria.

      The very different examples of the governments and politicians in each of those jurisdictions arguably make their own case for replacing Canada’s disproportional “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) democracy with some form of proportional democracy

      Justin Trudeau’s majority government vs. John Horgan’s minority government: the contrast couldn’t be greater.

      The former is an all-powerful government elected with 39.5 percent of the vote that yielded 54 percent of the seats. A government that cares little about how the other 60 percent of Canadians voted.

      Least of all, the 23 percent who voted for the NDP and Greens, who only collectively garnered 13.3 percent of the seats in Parliament.

      Nearly 3.5 million Canadians voted for the NDP and a further 603,000 voted for the Greens. Yet they are irrelevant to the Trudeau government.

      It treats those and all opposition parties as partisan enemies with no claim whatsoever to power, and no capacity to influence the government decisions that affect all Canadians’ lives.

      It was no different under the Harper government, or any other government in Ottawa before it, even under those rare minority governments.

      University of California, San Diego professor emeritus Arend Lijphart offered up many surprising revelations in Patterns of Democracy.

      Countries with PR demonstrate political stability

      The Horgan government, by contrast, is a very different minority government; one predicated on the combined strength of barely 50 percent of seats in the legislature. One that nevertheless gives new voice and power to the 57 percent combined majority of British Columbians who voted for the NDP and Greens.

      Had that popular vote been proportionally represented in seats, that minority government alliance would have had a much larger legislative majority. There would have been more MLAs from those parties to represent their supporters’ values, beliefs, and priorities.

      If what we have today is “responsible government”, it would be all the more so if those two parties had been awarded their fair share of seats, proportional to their popular vote.

      More than anything, the GreeNDP alliance is an experiment in power-sharing.

      It is doing much to effectively represent the previously marginalized voices reflected by its constructive majority that is, above all, dedicated to advancing progressive change.

      It is giving new power and voice to all people concerned with the environment, social justice, social equality, and sustainable development.

      And it is doing that within a collaborative and constructive approach to government policy-making and decision-making that fits PR’s mould of “negotiation democracy”, “compromise democracy”, or “consensus democracy”.

      It is subject extensively examined by political scientist Arend Lijphart in his 2012 book, Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries.

      Among other things, his exhaustive empirical analysis debunks many of the negative myths about how proportional representation actually operates in the real world.

      Turns out, the countries with PR tend to be more stable than not. They tend to be at least as good at governing as those with majoritarian systems, when measured in terms of worldwide governance indicators.

      They tend to be far less prone to wild policy swings with changes in government. The consensus decision-making and coalition governments that characterize those PR nations leads to more harmonious policy choices, which by definition, find their strength in numbers, balance, and partisan accommodation.

      They also tend to have “better results for women’s representation, political equality, and participation in elections. They are empirically associated with “a strong community orientation and social consciousness—the kinder, gentler qualities … that emphasize … ‘connectedness’ and ‘mutual persuasion’ instead of self-interest and power politics...”

      Moreover, Lijphart found that "the evidence does not support fears that PR, if it is too proportional, will inevitably lead to extreme party proliferation".

      Whatever moniker one chooses to describe Victoria’s GreeNDP alliance, its example, in contrast to what’s happening in Ottawa, is making a powerful case for the value, workability, progressivity, and representativeness of minority governments.

      One that might be strengthened by proportional representation, depending on the model, the ballot question, and the legitimacy of the currently flawed process that is still very much a work in progress.

      I say that as the guy who wrote the B.C. Liberals’ 2001 “New Era” election platform, which really kick-started B.C.’s journey toward electoral reform.

      It promised to "Appoint a Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform to assess all possible models for electing the MLAs, including preferential ballots, proportional representation, and our current electoral system".

      What inspired that commitment?

      In large measure, it was a response to the NDP’s 1996 electoral victory, which gave then premier Glen Clark the most seats and a majority government with barely 39 percent of the vote, even though the B.C. Liberals won the largest share of the popular vote.

      The New Era platform further promised to “Give the Citizens’ Assembly a mandate to hold public hearings throughout BC, and if it recommends changes to the current electoral system, that option will be put to a province-wide referendum.”

      That ground-breaking process that the Campbell government put in place was truly independent and put the project of electoral reform in the hands of average citizens, instead of in the hands of self-interested partisans that had their own political agendas.

      The Citizens’ Assembly still forms the gold standard for shaping electoral reform. It was beyond reproach in its construct and pure intent, in the interest of promoting more representative democracy. Ontario later copied it, in its unsuccessful ensuing vote to adopt MMP.

      Much has been made of the high threshold that the Campbell government’s process required for approving the model of PR recommended by that Citizens’ Assembly—the single transferable vote (STV).

      Many of those who supported STV still feel it was an attempt to make it impossible for that new electoral model to pass.

      Nonsense. It was nothing of the kind. Though I don’t expect those still angry proponents of STV to believe me, as nothing will convince most of them of that fact.

      It was, rather, an attempt to set a high threshold for approval—60 percent of the valid votes cast.

      That threshold was an attempt to reflect a higher standard than a minimal majority for approving a new voting system that necessarily stood to profoundly affect all voters, particularly those living in rural regions that already had very large ridings.

      That threshold for approval further required a simple majority in at least 60 percent of the total number of electoral districts that existed at that time (i.e. 48 of 79).

      The reasoning hearkened back to the Canadian constitutional amending formula. It requires an even higher threshold for changes—at least two-thirds of the provinces (seven) representing at least 50 percent of the combined population of all provinces.

      Some might argue that those thresholds were too high. In hindsight, I am inclined to agree, although it is interesting how voters’ response to STV swung so dramatically between the first and second referendum.

      I voted against STV both times it was put to a referendum, in 2005 and in 2009.

      Not because of the strategic political threat it posed for “my” governing party.

      Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less about that, resolved as I was that it would likely win that 2005 election. Moving to STV would not impact that result, even if the vote on that model was also something of a referendum on the Campbell government.

      Campbell didn’t have to put that model to a second referendum, in 2009. He did so, not because of any tangible public pressure to do that, of which there was little, but rather, because it was the right thing to do, given the strong show of support for STV in 2005.

      As a former B.C. “Reformer”, I was always sympathetic to the arguments that such minor parties have always raised in advocating changes to make our electoral system more representative of the voters’ wishes.

      Readers can accept that or not, it’s really not material to me.

      Fact is, I voted against STV for four main reasons.

      First, I thought it was too complicated and was not widely utilized by other jurisdictions compared to other models of PR.

      Second, I was afraid of how the sheer size of the electoral districts that model presupposed might affect rural British Columbians. Perhaps unduly, I was concerned that it would compromise the goal of effective local representation.

      Third, I had seen firsthand how multiple-member ridings worked—or rather didn’t work—in my experience during the Social Credit government’s last years. Several of the ridings at that time were dual-member ridings.

      Even members of the same party who shared those seats often despised each other. They pointed fingers at each other for their own failings. It was a real challenge for accountability that got even worse when members from different parties were elected to represent those same ridings.

      And fourth, I voted against STV because of the threat that I perceived minority governments posed for parliamentary stability and effective governance.

      Almost 58 percent of British Columbians supported STV in the 2005 referendum, just shy of the requisite 60 percent threshold for approval. Yet almost 61 percent of the electorate then rejected it in the 2009 referendum.

      Go figure. I don’t propose to fathom that flip here, although I have my theories.

      There will be time enough to explore that minefield, which the opponents of PR will be sure to exploit it as best they can in arguing to keep the system that best assures majority governments.

      I get that. It’s a valid concern, like the other three concerns I had were and still are, to some degree, depending on the model(s) of PR that might be recommended.

      Other concerns abound about each of those potential models, as we will hear and learn more about in the months ahead. Many of those concerns are overblown, unfounded, or red herrings that are really aimed at creating fear of the unknown.

      I, too, have long believed that majority governments—typically assured under Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system—have served the country and my province well, for all of their assumed "advantages".

      “Advantages” gained through the disproportional construct of that electoral model that usually alchemizes minority pluralities of votes into majority shares of seats that confer all power to one party.

      “Advantages” I am now newly questioning, in light of the more broadly representative example that is unfolding and working well in British Columbia, in contrast to the harm being done to our nation by its entirely too powerful and tone-deaf majority government in Ottawa.

      “Advantages” that now seem less material, and more politically contrived than empirically supported, undermined as they are by the hard evidence of how PR has worked in so many other jurisdictions.

      Mostly, however, I find myself newly receptive to the prospect of PR by B.C.’s current experiment in more cooperative decision-making.

      Working together, the NDP and Greens are rapidly advancing ideas and actions whose time has come, including on behalf of the 57 percent of British Columbians who voted for those parties.

      Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Serious climate action. Campaign finance reform. Human rights reform. Electoral reform. Environmental protection. Sustainable development.

      Greater access to affordable housing, child care, senior’s services, skills training, public education, and crucial health services.

      Program enhancements and affordability measures that are all about fostering progressivity, reducing inequality, and newly responding to the needs of the many that have for too long been sacrificed to the wants of the wealthy few. 

      New investments in public transit and infrastructure aimed at addressing the mounting deficits justified in the name of “balanced” budgets that too often put corporate interests ahead of public interests.

      These are the hallmarks of the new B.C. budget—the most progressive budget in decades.

      They are hallmarks of the Horgan administration’s constructive and collaborative legislative partnership with Andrew Weaver’s three-person caucus, in furtherance of the confidence and supply agreement.

      Maryam Monsef dropped the ball on proportional representation—with the full support of her boss, Justin Trudeau.

      Justin Trudeau turns his back on electoral reform...and more

      As of this writing, it remained to be seen what the new federal budget had in store.

      But suffice it to say, the way Trudeau and Canada’s old-line party leaders are frustrating needed change for the sake of political expediency is only helping to make B.C.’s case for PR.

      More than anything, it is demonstrating the tyranny of the false majority: the one that holds all the power awarded through Canada’s “winner take all” electoral system.

      The one that discounts and denies the disenfranchised voices that lack clout in Canada’s corridors of power, simply because their votes are not proportionately reflected in Parliament.

      Serious climate action to meet Canada’s solemn commitment to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030? Not on your life.

      Not even on our planet’s life, despite the prime minister’s big talk about that, while mostly fighting for Big Oil’s assault on that imperative.

      Truly sustainable development, predicated on renewable energy? When hell freezes over.

      Canada’s vision for growth is still firmly grounded in the dinosaur enterprise of digging up and shipping as much dirty fossil fuel as China and other Asian markets will possibly command.

      Strategies that actually protect Canada’s threatened land and marine ecosystems and species at risk? Nope.

      Not without new tar sands development and new heavy oil pipelines. Which Justin Trudeau now claims were “always” preconditions for his $1.5 billion “ocean protection” strategy, and equally ludicrously, for his plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and for his national carbon tax.

      Reconciliation with Canada’s 1.7 million Indigenous people that truly honours the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? In our dreams. Though it’s happening in British Columbia.

      A real national strategy to provide affordable housing, to restrict foreign investment in Canada’s limited and price-pressured housing stocks? Afraid not.

      Not in Ottawa. Just in B.C., thanks in no small measure to Weaver’s ongoing political pressure to push the NDP to do still more.

      Any national plan whatsoever to seriously combat illegal offshore investment and money laundering? Sorry, no.

      Not when there’s so much political cash and capital riding on not addressing that problem.

      Yet the Horgan government is forcefully acting on that front.

      The list of socioeconomic challenges goes on and on, as Ottawa turns a blind eye.

      Decade after decade, we are powerless to affect real political change that might meaningfully address them, largely, because of our defective electoral model.

      People are no match for the politics of business-as-usual that really only answers to the “Establishment cartel” it perpetuates: that unholy alliance between the old-line parties in power, the big-monied interests in the private sector, and the Fourth Estate.

      It is that informal political consortium of privilege, convenience, and power that actually thwarts the democracy it purports to embrace, by systemically silencing the agents of change that has that elitist cartel in their cross-hairs.

      It is the Establishment cartel of the nation’s two sole “governing parties”, corporations, and wealthy interests that are all in cahoots with one another. To preserve what they have and to get what they want by mostly resisting—not advancing—progressive change.

      It is the cartel of historic entitlement that has its main object the preservation of the dominant political culture that empowers and advantages it. Aided and abetted by the instrument of all-powerful “majority” governments comprised of minority pluralities that pay little regard to the powerless voices in opposition or on every street.

      We know this. We blithely tolerate it. We are, after all, Canadians.

      “That’s just the way it is,” we tell ourselves.

      As if resigning ourselves to accept the dispirited and frustrated cynics’ path is either a prudent way forward, or beyond our collective ability to change.

      The Trans Mountain pipeline controversy is a case in point.

      The federal “Liberals” and even Alberta’s “democratic socialists” have all locked arms with their conservative bedfellows of different labels—from politics, from Big Oil, and from the mainstream media. Postmedia be thy name.

      They aim to convince Canadians that the health of our economy and our environment depends on risking everything in that project’s path to ship more of that toxic tarsands crud to foreign markets.

      No conflicts there for Canada’s Fourth Estate.

      Only the promise of gobs of cash, courtesy of Canadian taxpayers, which the budget may or may not have addressed by the time this article is read by most readers.

      Only the prospect of increased cash flow for the political “powers that be” and for their wealthy friends in the private sector.

      It drains from taxpayers’ pockets into oil-stained piggy banks, and trickles back by the millions to Canada’s beholden parties.

      It oozes like diluted bitumen into the bank accounts of offshore investors.

      No worries. It’s working well, we are told. Money is what makes our world go round. All is going according to plan.

      I suppose it is, insofar as that plan is to perpetuate the socially irresponsible status quo, to deny real political choice, and to keep Canadians’ world safe from a more representative democracy.


      Because it’s forever 2015, as it were, to paraphrase our prime minister. The year in which he promised the electoral reform he had no intention of ever delivering, if it meant PR.

      Such is his blinkered, delusive defence of the “progressive change” that’s not: a static and regressive reality that owes its “sunny ways” to his largely unrepresentative government that is mostly about more power for the few at the expense of the many.

      The answer to that problem won’t be found from Canada’s Conservative leader, Andrew Sheer, who is adamantly opposed to PR for the same reasons that Trudeau is.

      What about the new NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh?

      Where the hell is he, anyway?

      How much hope can Canadians have in his commitment to PR, given his weak-kneed “leadership” on Kinder Morgan?

      He said nothing about it when he had the national podium at his party’s recent convention. He has been hiding out on the sidelines, refusing to “take sides”—knowing full well that B.C. is right and Alberta is wrong on that project that he opposed in running for his job.

      He has apparently been too afraid to even run for a seat in Parliament. Didn’t show up at the recent South Surrey-White Rock by-election. Pathetic.

      Instead of leading his party to stand up for the environment and for Indigenous peoples in support of Horgan’s efforts to protect B.C.’s Pacific coast from the threat of heavy oil spills posed by that project, Singh played politics.

      He failed to even talk to either Horgan or Notley, dodged the issue in his convention speech, and subsequently blamed it all on the prime minister.

      By refusing to act like a leader, not having the courage of his convictions, and failing to condemn both the project and Alberta’s unlawful trade attack on B.C., he essentially legitimized both.

      Which is not to minimize his leadership on other issues, or to diminish hope that he might yet prove worthy of his party’s mantle. He just needs to step up his game.

      Green Leader Elizabeth May is fighting for B.C. coastal residents far more effectively than the leaders of other national parties.

      Some politicians are showing leadership

      Thankfully, several other federal NDP MPs have helped lead the fight against that pipeline, most notably, Kennedy StewartMurray Rankin, Peter JulianFin Donnelly, Jenny Kwan, and Niki Ashton

      Their leadership on Kinder Morgan and their leader’s “old school” tap-dancing around that touchy file both make the case for PR, yet for opposite reasons.

      We need more voices like those NDP MPs in Parliament to lead the way, as B.C.’s own NDP MLAs are doing in fighting for environmental protection, under Horgan’s inclusive leadership.

      We need more fearless voices. Not politically expedient leaders who are more concerned with their party’s electoral chances in winning seats under FPTP than with saying what must be said.

      Indeed, of the national leaders, only federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May had the courage and conviction to stand up for British Columbia’s interests on Kinder Morgan when push came to shove.

      Only she was unwavering in her opposition to that project, as the others either supported Alberta’s unlawful actions to weaponize trade against B.C., or sat meekly on the fence.

      Time and again, @ElizabethMay has been there for all Canadians—in Parliament, at the NEB hearings, in social media, in columns and editorials, and on the podium—to speak up for a sensible approach to sustainable resource development that is truly in the interests of our environment, our oceans and wildlife, and our planet’s atmosphere.

      Tell me one MP or MLA can’t make an important contribution. Like Weaver proved in his initially lonely quest, May is putting the lie to that assertion.

      We need more of that in Canada and in British Columbia.

      We need more of her ilk in politics, and more MPs and MLAs from opposition parties that want to work with the government, help shape its decisions, and also hold it accountable as need be.

      Minority governments can help foster that. So can proportional representation.

      That is precisely what Weaver, Sonia Furstenau, and Adam Olsen are all doing as B.C. Green MLAs, in partnership with Horgan’s entire NDP government caucus.

      Instead of fearing PR, I now see it as an opportunity worth embracing, if smartly pursued and democratically adopted.

      It’s obvious that many of the NDP’s policies have already been profoundly impacted and advanced by the three B.C. Greens, pursuant to their power-sharing agreement with government.

      That’s good. It’s great, in fact.

      We should not fear minority governments, as some would have us do, as supposed instruments of paralysis and obstacles to needed change and stability.

      If anything, the reverse is true.

      It has been majority governments that have frustrated those ends as ultimate guardians of the failed status quo.

      It has been Canada’s too-comfortable majority governments that have made us all collateral damage of their arrogance of power and of their partisan, vindictive, and bloody-minded actions in service of the old adage, “to the victor go the spoils”.

      Proportional representation is not perfect, no electoral system is.

      It would have its challenges, drawbacks, and growing pains in B.C.

      But it is innately aimed at embracing diversity and pluralism in our party structures.

      It is aimed at better representing the plethora of different perspectives that our FPTP system systemically underrepresents.

      That can positively change our political culture over time. It can only elevate public discourse.

      It is aimed at fostering cooperative government, coalitions, and constructive power-sharing arrangements that more broadly reflect the spectrum of voters who hunger for greater political choice and a new voice.

      It is aimed at strengthening decision-making and better advocating for core policies, values, and concerns that are not diluted to the point of irrelevance by old-line, “one-size-fits-all” parties.

      There is no extra day this February. As I say, the government’s engagement process ends on February 28.

      But if Horgan and Weaver play their cards right, 2018 might prove to be a “Leap year” after all.

      A year to bolt past the fears of all that the critics of PR worry it might portend.

      A year to realize a better way of making our votes count than they have in the past.

      An Ipsos survey from last year found this:

      “A narrow majority (54%) of British Columbians say they support BC changing from our current first-past-the-post electoral system to some type of proportional representation system (23% strongly, 30% somewhat). Only two-in-ten (20%) oppose this idea (9% strongly, 11% somewhat), while one-quarter (26%) are undecided.”

      Will B.C. make that leap?

      Only time will tell. But something tells me, this time it might not be a leap too far.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at