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Sunday, October 21, 2018
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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.

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.

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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.

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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

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