ProRep FAQs

ProRep FAQs


What’s this all about?
Answer:

This Fall, British Columbians will be voting in a referendum on whether to change the 
system that we use to elect our provincial government and representatives (MLAs) from 
the current system, first past the post (FPTP) to a new system of proportional 
representation. A ballot will arrive in the mail, and voters can mark their preference and 
drop it into a mailbox to vote between October 22 and November 30, 2018. There will 
also be in-person voting stations available. You can read more about the referendum 
here​


What is proportional representation? 
Answer:

Proportional representation is used in 80% of OECD countries and delivers legislatures 
that reflect the popular vote. For example, in 2017 under FPTP the B.C. Greens received 
17% of the vote but only 4% of the seats in the B.C. Legislature. Under a system of 
proportional representation, the B.C. Greens would receive approximately 17% of the 
seats.  
 
Other countries that use proportional representation include New Zealand, Germany and 
Sweden. In addition to Canada, countries that use FPTP include the United States, the 
UK and India.  


Why are we having this referendum?
Answer:

The referendum is part of our Confidence and Supply Agreement with the B.C. NDP. 
During the 2017 election, the B.C. Greens campaigned to implement a system of 
proportional representation, which we would have done if we had formed a majority 
government. However, the B.C. NDP ran on a platform of holding a referendum and 
campaigning on the “Yes” side. Since we didn’t form a majority government, we felt the 
most democratic thing to do was to go forward with a referendum. 


What is the BC Greens’ position?
Answer:

The B.C. Green Party supports proportional representation because we believe it will 
make our provincial legislature more representative of and responsive to British 
Columbians. We are campaigning on the “Yes” side of the referendum. 


What's wrong with the current system? 
Answer:

B.C. is currently divided into 87 individual districts (also known as ridings), each of which elects a single representative for that riding. Whichever candidate gets the most votes in that district is elected, even if they don't get a majority, or over 50%, of the votes. As a result, many British Columbians don't have a representative that they voted for and B.C. provincial governments have received 100% of the power with as little as 39% of the vote. This means all of the decisions for a 4 year term are made by politicians and a Party that less than half of British Columbians support.

Additionally, many voters live in “safe” ridings that typically always go to to one party, so they feel their vote is wasted. Others feel they have to vote strategically so that the party they like the least doesn’t get into power. Because FPTP is a winner-takes-all system that usually produces false majority governments, parties tend to focus on negative campaigning because sabotaging their opponents is their best shot at getting 100% of the power. These features of FPTP contribute to public cynicism and low voter turnout.


How will proportional representation fix the problems with FPTP?
Answer:

Under proportional representation, as long as you vote for a Party that gets more than 5% of the popular vote, your vote is guaranteed to go towards electing an MLA. Voters can feel confident going to the polls and voting for the candidate that best reflects their views.

A system of proportional representation will also require parties to work together, so we will see less negative campaigning and more cross-party collaboration on good public policy. Because we will no longer have false majorities, proportional representation is more likely to result in government policies that are more reflective of the views of most voters.

Studies also suggest that proportional representation can lead to more diverse legislatures, higher citizen satisfaction and higher voter turnout.


What are we voting on in the referendum?
Answer:

The referendum has two questions. You can choose to answer both questions, or only answer one of them.

The first question is if we want to change our system to be a proportional system. It is a simple "yes" or "no" question.

The second question is optional and lists three possible systems of proportional representation that B.C. could use. You have the option to rank the systems in order of preference, vote for just one, rank two of the systems, or leave this portion blank.

All of the systems on the ballot are proportional and will lead to a legislature that better reflects the will of the voters than our current system. One of the systems, MMP, is used widely in countries like New Zealand and Germany. One system, rural-urban, combines MMP (rural) and STV (urban). STV is a system used in countries like Australia (Senate) and the European Union. The final system, Dual-Member Proportional, is a made-in-Canada system that reflects our unique geography and demographics. Check out this video from CBC for an explanation of how the three systems on the ballot work.


What happens after the referendum?
Answer:

If over half of all referendum voters vote "yes" then British Columbia will have a proportional system for its next election. The second part of the ballot will determine which system that will be.

The referendum is binding, so in the event of a “yes” vote, an all-party committee of MLAs will get to work on implementing the details of the new system, which will eventually be voted on by all MLAs. No one party will have a majority on this committee or in the Legislature, so the MLAs will have to work together. Elections B.C., an independent body, will be tasked with further details, including convening an Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC). The EBC will consult with communities as it creates our new electoral boundaries under a system of proportional representation.

After two election cycles, B.C. will hold a second referendum so that voters can decide whether they like the new system, or want to return to FPTP.


How would this change how I vote in an election?
Answer:

You would be able to confidently vote for the candidate or party that you feel would best represent you. You would not need to worry about voting "strategically" to prevent a candidate that you don't like. The actual ballot that you use to vote might change, but would not be more complicated. As long as you voted for a Party that gets more than 5% of the popular vote, your vote is guaranteed to go towards electing an MLA.


How would this change contacting my representative?
Answer:

The multiple representatives for a district would work together on issues facing the community that they represent. On political issues they might have different views. As a resident of that community you could go to any of your representatives for support on an issue. You would be much more likely to have one of them that supports your position than if you only had a single representative, as you do now.


Why do we need to change our electoral system?
Answer:

Proportional representation keeps coming up because there are problems with our system that need fixing. Many voters feel they live in “safe” ridings, and so their vote doesn’t count, or that they have to vote strategically against what they don’t want, rather than for the party or candidate that best reflects their views. We are seeing a huge amount of instability in FPTP countries like the US and the UK. Proportional representation is used in the vast majority of democracies around the world. No country that has made the choice to modernize their system by switching to prop rep has ever gone back to FPTP.


Will proportional representation reduce rural representation in the BC Legislature?
Answer:

Proportional representation will mean more representation for every voter in every region of the province. Right now, many ridings are represented by MLAs who got less than 50% of the vote. That means that more than half of residents are represented by an MLA whose Party doesn’t best represent the direction they want the province to go in. In a system of proportional representation, the votes from British Columbians in all ridings - whether rural, semi-rural or urban - will go to elect representatives. What’s more, the referendum rules require that no matter what system voters choose, no region of the province will have fewer MLAs than it does right now.


Will proportional representation lead to fringe groups gaining power in the BC legislature?
Answer:

Extremism is a social issue that research shows is caused by things like marginalization, inequality and alienation. It can be present in any kind of electoral system. Right now, for example, there are elected politicians with extremist views in the UK and the United States - both countries with first past the post systems. As an extra safeguard, the B.C. referendum rules require that if we switch to a system of prop rep, a Party must get a minimum 5% threshold of the popular vote to ensure elected officials have a base level of support from the community.

In systems of proportional representation where fringe parties have been elected, the other parties usually all agree not to work with them. They tell those parties that they will not be able to participate in governing unless they moderate their positions. In countries like Germany and Switzerland the government is currently a broad coalition of center-left and center-right parties, excluding those that most people consider the fringe.


Will more minority governments mean less government stability?
Answer:

Not at all. Studies show that countries with FPTP and proportional representation have approximately the same number of elections. More discord is sown in first-past-the-post systems. Because First Past the Post is a winner-takes-all system, it encourages parties to sabotage each other and to try to take down the government to force an election. A proportional representation system instead encourages cooperation and compromise because parties to have to work together to implement policy.


How would proportional representation impact the economy and investment climate?
Answer:

In FPTP, parties can win a majority government, and exercise absolute power, without actually getting a majority of votes. It ignores the fact that most voters voted for someone else! But this means that governments often make decisions that don’t reflect the majority of voters. When the next government comes in they spend half their time undoing what the last government did. Under proportional representation a government will always be made up of parties supported by a majority of voters. Any decisions they make will stick around, because they were made with the support of a majority.


Will proportional representation impact the size of government?
Answer:

The regulations require that any increase in the number of MLAs will be no more than 8 more than we have now (87). More MLAs will mean more representation, while having a very small impact on government spending. It’s also important to remember that B.C. routinely adds MLAs as our population grows. For example, in 2005 we had 79 MLAs and in 2013 we had 85.


How can I tell what my riding will look like under proportional representation?
Answer:

If we vote to adopt a system of proportional representation, an independent electoral boundaries commission will consult with communities. This is the same process that is done whenever boundaries are redrawn under FPTP due to population changes. The Legislature votes on the recommendations of the electoral boundaries commission. Because BC currently has a minority government, if we vote to adopt PR, this means that no one party will get to decide what our new boundaries look like.


What if I will be away from my registered address during the referendum period?
Answer:

To receive an absentee voting package, send an email to voterservices@elections.bc.ca with the following information:
1. Full name as registered with Elections BC
2. Date of Birth
3. Current Residential BC address
4. Temporary mailing address


What if I've moved, or am unsure of my voter registration status?
Answer:

You can go here to update your voter registration online: https://elections.bc.ca/register-to-vote/update-your-voter-registration/
Or call Elections BC: 1-800-661-8683

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