MLA Dan Davies – Weekly Column – On the three models of proportional representation

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It’s been said that proportional representation is a voting system designed by politicians, for politicians.

Certainly, this is the case with the NDP and the Green Party bypassing any public consultation with a neutral citizens assembly as done previously and instead opting for their own custom-designed referendum question.

Since British Columbians will be asked to fundamentally change the way we elect a government in this province, I thought you should be aware of a few basics. Rather than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ referendum, you will be receiving a mail-in ballot with a two part question. The first part will ask if you prefer the current system or if you desire proportional representation instead.

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That sounds pretty straight forward, but then you will be asked to rank three different forms of proportional representation in order of preference. While most voters have a pretty good idea how the current system works, most would have a hard time explaining proportional representation in general – let alone describing the difference between three different models of PR.

Here are the three different systems being proposed:

Dual Member Proportional: This model would see two ridings combined into one across the province. The new, larger ridings would then have two MLAs: one primary, one secondary. The primary MLA would be elected under the current first past the post system, while the secondary would be chosen by a mathematical formula. This system is untested and not used anywhere in the world.

Mixed Member Proportional: This system also uses a mathematical formula that combines first past the post for 60 per cent of the seats, while the remaining 40 per cent would by chosen from lists assembled either by a ‘closed list’ of candidates (chosen by political parties) or by ‘open lists’ based on popular vote. MMP is currently used in Bolivia, Mexico, New Zealand and Germany.

Rural-Urban Proportional: This is a model that uses something called a single transferable vote in urban ridings and mixed member proportional in rural areas. Multi-member STV districts are elected using something called the ‘Droop formula’, where last-place candidates are eliminated until a member hits the required amount of votes for election. This elimination continues until the prescribed number of candidates in a multi-member district are elected.

These are your choices in a nutshell. All models will have unelected MLAs in the legislature and all models will require a noted increase in MLAs, meaning larger government and millions of dollars in more costs to you – the taxpayer. The most important thing to remember is that even if voters choose any one of these three models this fall, it will be a parliamentary committee dominated by NDP and Green Party MLAs who will have the final say on the precise details.

In the end, we will end up with a voting system designed by politicians, for politicians.


Dan Davies

Member of the Legislative Assembly

Peace River North

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