Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson points to a slide during his presentation on proportional representation to about 30 people in Northwest Community College in Smithers in February. (Chris Gareau photo)

Why I’m voting Yes to Proportional Representation – a matter of rural, northern values

Local Stikine NDP MLA Doug Donaldson makes the case for proportional representation.

There are many good reasons to support democratic reform by voting yes in the current proportional representation referendum.

On principle it makes sense — replacing an old system where a party with 40 per cent of the vote gets 100 per cent of the power, with a new voting system used in the majority of democracies around the world where the number of seats a party wins is reflective of the number of votes it received. That just seems a matter of fairness.

And as a northerner, what makes proportional representation especially attractive to me is a matter of rural values. As northerners we value cooperation and collaboration as fundamental qualities held by rural people as we strive to make our communities better places to live. I’ve witnessed numerous northern examples where people who don’t necessarily share perspectives 100 per cent of the time end up collaborating to get something good accomplished for their community. Likewise in the legislature, Proportional Representation will encourage more cooperation amongst politicians of all stripes, unlike the current system that discourages cooperation and promotes an adversarial approach.

That adversarial approach incites hyper-partisanship. A recent example was when the BC Liberal leader was quoted in a Dawson Creek newspaper telling the local Rotary Club that Pro Rep would mean “you will never have an MLA again.” That is nonsense. The fact is, all three proposed Pro Rep systems would preserve the same levels of rural representation that we have today, while ensuring rural residents would still be voting for the local representative they want.

The current system that breeds such hyper-partisanship leads to cynicism in the political process and that cynicism is especially reflected in the low voter turnout among younger people. It’s a dangerous trend that has seen voter turnout in the 18-24 age group steadily decline. I believe a voting system that encourages cooperative solutions will attract young people to get out and vote in greater numbers, something that is urgently needed for a healthy democracy.

It’s time for a new way of voting that works for people, not political parties.

It’s time for a new way of voting that creates the conditions for more cooperation between politicians and less partisan bickering.

I’ll be voting in favour of Proportional Representation and I hope you will too.

–Doug Donaldson is the NDP MLA for Stikine and B.C. Minister for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

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