Bob D'Eith: Voting for change will empower the people

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      By Bob D'Eith

      During the election, I spoke with many young people who felt disempowered when it comes to voting. Who felt like their vote did not count. Who felt like the political arena was a space for the elite, making decisions that did not resonate with them.

      Switching to proportional representation will put power in the hands of regular people, and help to engage young people in the democratic process.

      Updating our voting system will improve the makeup of our legislature. It will ensure we have a diversity of opinions and perspectives among the people who represent our province.

      We are working to make the system fairer for everyone, to make sure that a diversity of people, parties, and ideas are heard, instead of relying on a winner-takes-all system, and to make every vote count.

      The majority of countries in the world have some form of proportional representation because it makes sense that a party that receives 25 percent of the vote, gets 25 percent of the seats in the legislature.

      It is time that we develop a voting system that puts people first, a system where every person’s vote counts, and where governments have a better mandate to work for people.

      It will also mean that members of different parties will have to work together in order to get things done. This will help to combat the polarization and partisanship that is has become so prevalent in countries still hanging on to the first-past-the-post system of choosing their representatives.

      In our current system, majority governments have absolute control over the direction of government. However, majority governments rarely reflect a majority of votes.

      In fact, since 1928 there has only been one general election where a single party has received over 50 percent of the popular vote. That means that over the past 50 years, a party with less than 50% of the vote has held 100 percent of the power. It is time that our representatives in the legislature truly represent the votes cast by citizens.

      The B.C. Liberals are the main opponents of proportional representation, and that’s because they know they won’t get a majority government with a minority of votes ever again—and they refuse to compromise and work with other parties in the interests of British Columbians.

      In fact, B.C. Liberal MLA Michael Lee went so far as to say that proportional representation “is only going to lead us to what we have today…a situation where [parties] have to get along with each other and that’s not good government.”

      We think that cynical view is exactly the sort of reason why many people feel disempowered about politics.

      The B.C. Liberals are so reliant on having absolute power, that they believe that working across party lines is bad for democracy—a ludicrous idea that doesn’t resonate with the majority of British Columbians.

      Imagine going to your job, and refusing to work with a coworker, just because they disagree with you on certain issues. I believe that good policy and good ideas come from working together; it will be good for democracy to have people from all parties working together. We are proving that right now with our minority government.

      B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said during his candidacy that defeating proportional representation is his number one priority as leader. His number one priority. Not working for the people of B.C., not tackling the housing crisis, not enhancing education and health care, not building our economy.

      It has been shown that proportional representation systems lead to higher voter turnout, more youth engagement, and co-operation between parties.

      Our government campaigned on this issue, but ultimately it will be the people in British Columbia who will make this decision. I hope you will join me in supporting this much-needed change to our electoral system.

      Bob D'Eith is the NDP MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission.

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