Libby Davies and Katrina Pacey: Proportional representation will lead to more diverse, better governments

Originally published in the Vancouver Sun, October 24, 2018

B.C.’s electoral referendum has begun, giving British Columbians the opportunity to choose a stronger, more democratic system of electing government.

We care deeply about this referendum because of our decades of work on civic engagement, human rights, environmental justice and equity. We have seen how our existing system — first past the post — does not serve these fundamental social values. We are speaking out to urge voters to say loud and clear that it’s time to modernize our electoral system and make it work for people by voting in favour of proportional representation.

We are concerned about the impact of our existing system on voter engagement. Many people who care passionately about creating a better society — grounded in human rights, climate protection and social justice — feel turned off by the current system. They feel our diversity is not reflected in who wins. Many people and communities are excluded by our current system and do not see their interests represented by the major parties.

It is time to change, and join the vast majority of democratic countries that have embraced proportional representation. We know PR is a fairer, more transparent and democratic system that actually ensures every voice and vote counts.

Moving to proportional representation means voters across the political spectrum will see their vote reflected in election outcomes. The percentage of seats held will reflect the popular vote won. More British Columbians will vote, knowing their vote actually counts, improving on the abysmal 50- to 60-per-cent turnout we have seen for decades.

Finally, proportional representation will eliminate the scourge of strategic voting. No one wants to vote for a party they dislike in order to stop the party they dislike most, as they often do under first past the post. People want and deserve to vote their values and perspectives. First past the post stifles many critical voices who have important perspectives to bring to the table.

Voting for PR will bring a positive impact to future elections in B.C. It’s a change that gives diverse voices and communities a fighting chance to be heard in the political arena. We think that’s long overdue.

Libby Davies was the Vancouver East NDP MP from 1997 until 2015. Katrina Pacey is a human-rights lawyer who lives and works in Vancouver.