Ever since the convoluted single transferable vote system was rejected by British Columbians, there hasn’t been much debate about changing the electoral system.
That’s too bad. It’s an issue that really needs to be addressed in this province, and in this country.
In 2009, then-radio-host Christy Clark said “people are sick to death of the way our political system operates. … People tell me … they’re tired of electing politicians who ignore what their constituents want and do what their leaders want them to instead.”
Clark could have chosen no better example of this behaviour than the recent HST fiasco, according to Fair Voting BC, a group that is dedicated to changing our electoral system.
“Regardless of the technical merits of a value-added tax, even the government has acknowledged that opposition to the tax was ‘in large measure due to our own handling of the introduction of that major policy change’, as Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said,” according to Fair Voting BC. “Premier Clark likewise noted that ‘government understood the way this was brought in well over a year ago wasn’t good enough.’”
Fair Voting BC president Antony Hodson attributes the Liberals’ decision to plow ahead with the HST to the fact that they have a significant majority in the Legislature. It didn’t really matter what the opposition was, the Liberals could implement it anyway.
“In 2009, the Liberals won 46 per cent of the popular vote, but our first-past-the-post voting system gave them 58 per cent of the seats,” Hodgson said. “Since half the seats effectively gives a party all the power, the government was able to cut off debate on the HST in the legislature and ignore calls to engage in public consultation. Dissent inside the party was squelched. When high-profile Liberal MLA Blair Lekstrom felt heat from his constituents and called for slowing down and engaging the public in conversation, he was forced to resign.”
Hodgson is right. The Liberals undoubtedly knew there would be opposition to the tax but because they have a majority, also knew that nothing could stop them from implementing it. They did, however, miscalculate the public’s distaste for being treated like they were sitting in the Oppsition’s backbenches.
It’s ironic that, in 2009, Clark supported the single transferable vote referendum. “The change it will bring frightens [the backroom boys] – politicians will be forced to listen to their communities first and their leaders and parties second,“ she said.
I wonder what she thinks about the single transferable vote system now?
It’s an interesting question – if the Liberal government had less of a majority or perhaps even been in a minority position, would it have pushed ahead with implementing the harmonized sales tax? If there was even a slight suggestion that it could have been defeated in the Legislature, would the Liberals proceeded?
Probably not. And that’s why we need to change our electoral system.
Not to prevent items such as the HST from being implemented, but to stop governments from not respecting the public and to stop governments from feeling they can act with impunity.
Fair Voting BC is calling on the province to re-open the dialogue on changing our voting system. It definitely is time.