The electorate is steadily losing faith in government. Evidence is based in the decreasing number of voters casting ballots for either party. In 1983, 71 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the B.C. provincial election. Yet in every one of the seven elections since that time the percentage of eligible voters that both registered and voted has declined. By 2009, the percentage of eligible voters casting ballots had dropped to a dismal 50 percent. How can this be a true representation of the people?
The situation is even more deplorable for 18 to 24-year-olds. In 2009, only 68 percent even registered to vote. The percentage of eligible voters that cast ballots in this age group dropped to a mere 27 percent. And it is these young people we are counting on to help determine the future in this province.
Why are these figures so low? What is causing people of all ages, but particularly young people, to disregard civic involvement in ever increasing numbers? And what can be done about it?
The many young people I talk with in my job as an educator consistently cite many and varied reasons not to vote. Included are: My vote will make no difference to the outcome. The existing parties are all the same. Too many politicians are crooked. The entire government process lacks transparency. The issues that are important are not taken seriously. What they say they will do, they do not, and what they do not say, they do anyway.
Granted, these anecdotal comments are primarily limited to one age group. But similar comments stem from older voters too. And their voting patterns illustrate a decrease.
In order to attract voters of all ages, particularly young ones, the structure, intent, and focus of government must change. In order to accomplish this the Green Party of B.C. would engage the following reforms.
We would decentralize government by reducing the power of the premier’s office, giving more power to MLAs in the form of free votes. The “whipping system” forces MLAs to vote according to the “party line” and limits the freedom of MLAs to represent the wishes of constituents. We would strengthen and restructure “all party” committees. New appointments to boards of Crown corporations would be conducted by a nonpartisan independent office.
Campaign finance reform would include limiting party contributions by individuals and organizations.
Greens would develop voters’ rights legislation and establish an independent platform commissioner to perform an audit in between elections and issue a report to the public.
B.C. citizens complain about the huge salaries and severance packages given to executives and Crown board members. Salaries would be tied to a one to 10 scale where the lowest paid employee would receive no less than one-tenth of the most senior.
We deserve a new voice, a new way of conducting business. In conjunction with the people of B.C., the Green party will develop a comprehensive program to bring participatory democracy to B.C. and to build a more cooperative and effective government that works for the benefit of all British Columbians.
The Green Party of B.C. has the most robust policy statements about electoral, legislative, and democratic reforms of any party in B.C., and is hoping to bring those initiatives into the legislature by electing MLAs on May 14. Green policies around democratic reform can be viewed in the Green Book 2013.