As a veteran politician with a resume that includes four years as attorney general of British Columbia and two terms as a member of Vancouver City Council, Suzanne Anton has some clear views about how the political system should function.
And with British Columbia voters being asked to participate in a referendum on electoral reform this fall, Anton has jumped into the discussion in a big way. The former Duncan resident is a director of No BC Proportional Representation Society, joining former BC New Democrat Bill Tieleman and Bob Plecas a former deputy minister in several B.C. government departments.
The society is determined to defeat the proportional representation system proposal that British Columbians will vote on by mail between Oct. 22 and Nov. 30. The organization supports the current first past the post electoral system that it believes has served B.C. well.
“Everybody has faith in the current system and under proportional representation voters give away their authority and give it to political parties,” Anton said during a stopover in Duncan over the weekend.
Pointing to political systems in countries like Germany, Northern Ireland, Israel and Sweden, Anton says proportional representation is a recipe for disaster.
“You lose the ability to make decisions. It leads to the rise of crazy parties,” she suggests, referring to the success of a far-right, anti-immigration party in Sweden’s Sept. 9 election. That party has roots in the neo-Nazi movement.
British Columbia voted twice, in 2005 and 2008, in referendums to change the way we elect our MLAs and both times they rejected a proportional representation voting system.
Now the NDP, agreeing to a Green Party election commitment to pitch proportional representation, is hoping voters will have a change of heart. Horgan’s party included electoral reform in its platform in 2017 but rejected the Greens’ plan to take proportional representation to the legislature, opting instead for a two-part referendum.
“Why Horgan wants this is beyond me,”Anton says. “Under proportional representation, he could lose some of his best MLAs.”
“It’s a matter of the Greens propping up the NDP and it’s part of a the deal.”
Critics of the proportional representation concept also suggest it is too complicated for many voters to sink their teeth into. Adding to the problem, Anton says, is the fact that municipal elections are being held in October.
“People are not paying attention to pro rep. They can’t understand it and since voters have to make up their mind by Nov. 30, it’s a very short time period.”
On Monday, Elections BC began the process of getting voters up to speed on the referendum. Voters will be asked two questions. The first question asks if British Columbia should keep the current first past the post voting system, or move to a system of proportional representation.
The second question asks voters to rank three proportional systems: dual member proportional (DMP), mixed member proportional (MMP), and rural-urban proportional (RUP).
If more than half the votes support first past the post on the first question, British Columbia’s voting system will stay the same.
If more than half the votes support proportional representation on the first question, the proportional system with the most support on the second question will be adopted.
Supporters of proportional representation believe it is a system that guarantees people will be represented in proportion to how they voted. This means the percentage of seats a party has in the legislature will reflect the percentage of people who voted for that party.