Friday, April 29, 2005

STV REFERENDUM PROVIDES HOPE FOR THE FUTURE - Proportional Representation Needed!

Many people in the world today are concerned about the future of the environment that provides a life support system for humanity and all living organisms on the planet Earth. I am one of those people and I find it extremely frustrating to deal with politicians who are out of touch with their constituents. I can not reconcile governance in British Columbia today with true democracy. I want a system that recognize the fact that so many people are aware of the plight of the ecosystems that surround us, have realistic solutions, and are willing to work toward sustainability.

For many decades British Columbia’s politicians have been elected by very slim margins of the popular vote, yet they are represented in the provincial legislature by a massive majority. In the last election 42% of BC voters cast their ballots for candidates opposing the BC Liberal party. However, the last four years has seen 97% of the seats in the legislature controlled by BC Liberals under the firm hand of Premier Gordon Campbell. The current BC electoral system has allowed the ruling parties to govern with absolute power.

This brings to mind the phrase “Absolute power corrupts absolutely!” You may have noticed that after an election in BC the ruling party seems to work on its own agenda with little regard for public opinion. The Premier takes on the dictatorial role that most people associate with military authorities in far-off parts of the world. They become untouchable for four years.

Thankfully the coming election comes with a second ballot sheet in the form of a referendum to decide if BC should embrace electoral reforms. For 11 months, 160 ordinary British Columbians worked hard on the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. They came to a near-unanimous agreement to put forward to BC voters a proven system known as the Single Transferable Vote or STV.

This form of proportional representation shifts some power from party bosses to the voter and individual MLAs. STV works in Ireland where voters have twice endorsed this system through referendums called by politicians who were disgruntled by the power that they had lost. Political bosses hate STV because it shifts control to the voters and holds elected representatives accountable to their electorate, not their party bosses.

In Australia STV is used to elect their senate and New Zealand also uses a form of proportional voting to elect their government. Many European countries use electoral systems that allow for representatives from a wide range of political view points to form governments. This allows for real and meaningful debates that provide the voters with a voice that must be respected in government decisions.

This type of governance increases civility and moderation in politics. Coalition governments have proven to be financial prudent and exceptionally productive. Lester B. Pearson was Prime Minister of Canada with a minority government that produced Medicare and old age security which revolutionized public benefits.

The pendulum may swing in BC politics, but there has never been room for alternatives that truly represent the people. By voting Yes in the coming referendum you will help to shift the balance of power so that you might have a say in the future.

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