Bob D’Eith is leading group on electoral reform. (THE NEWS/files)

MLAs from Maple Ridge, Cowichan Valley to lead electoral reform committee

Voters decide next fall if they want to change system

Maple Ridge MLA Bob D’Eith and Green party MLA Sonia Furstenau are leading the group that will try to come up with a new way of electing B.C. politicians.

The pair will help choose which types of election systems will be voted on during next fall’s referendum.

“My kids and their friends tell me that right now, they don’t see the point in voting, that they feel that their vote won’t count,” D’Eith said in a news release Thursday.

“When a government gets less than half of the votes, but holds 100 per cent of the power, I can see why they feel that way… This isn’t about partisan politics, this is about making everyone’s vote count.”

The consultation is to decide on the question to be put to a province-wide referendum on changing the electoral system. B.C. Liberal MLAs however have criticized the NDP government’s decision to make the vote a simple majority, which they say would favour Lower Mainland voters.

As well, the current first-past-the-post system will be only one option, along with a variety of other types of electoral systems, in the referendum.

READ MORE: Battle lines drawn over B.C. electoral reform referendum

READ MORE: Electoral reform: what are we afraid of?

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver initially wanted to impose proportional representation without a referendum, but then agreed to a mail-in vote as part of his deal to support the NDP minority government. That trade-off included the NDP agreeing to offer more than one alternative to the winner-take-all voting system that B.C. has used for most of its history.

Since 1928, there has only been one general election in B.C. where a single party received over half the vote. Under a proportional system, the number of seats in the legislature would be proportional to a party’s share of the vote.

In the 2017 B.C. election in Maple Ridge-Mission, D’Eith was elected with 42 per cent of the vote. The Liberals took 41 per cent and the Greens 13 per cent

Other critics though say that abandoning first-past-the-post system where the candidate with the single largest number of votes gets elected, produces unstable governments and the rise of far-right parties.

A move to a single transferable vote system was rejected during a 2005 referendum because didn’t receive the required 60 per cent threshold. A referendum on STV in 2009 also failed.

– with files from Black Press

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