Sonia Furstenau, the Green MLA for the Cowichan Valley, will be one of two leaders of a new group that will try to move proportional representation forward in B.C.
The other is Maple Ridge MLA Bob D’Eith, and the pair have been tasked to help choose which types of election systems will be voted on during next year’s referendum on the issue.
As part of their agreement to form a new government, both the Greens and the NDP decided that legislation would be introduced to hold a referendum on proportional representation in the fall of 2018.
Furstenau said the working group will encourage public participation in the process as much as possible in the consultation process.
“We’re going to approach this in a couple of ways,” she said.
“First, we’re going to invite experts and citizens to meet with us to provide us with as much information as possible on the issue, and we’ll be reaching out to all citizens in the province to encourage them to participate and give their opinions.”
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.
Under a proportional system, the number of seats in the legislature would be proportional to a party’s share of the vote.
Furstenau said that after a full consultative process, she and D’Eith will prepare a joint submission for the attorney general on what options for proportional representation they would recommend for the referendum, and have it completed by the end of February.
“The attorney general’s office is independent, so our submission, which will be made public, will be made just like any other submission from citizens,” she said.
“We’re hoping the attorney general will get a huge volume of submissions from the public.”
Furstenau said it’s important to change the first-past-the-post electoral system, in which the candidate with the single largest number of votes gets elected, because it only works well when there are only two political parties, while B.C. has many.
“Under the current system, a minority of voters can ensure a majority government. That means the majority of voters feel unrepresented, and this has played a big part in the fact that voter turnout in B.C. is steadily declining,” she said.
But some critics say that abandoning the first-past-the-post system produces unstable governments and the rise of far-right parties.