Calls for electoral reform in B.C. are increasing in volume once again - not surprising, as it begins more and more to look like a seriously lopsided result will come out of the next provincial election.
Lopsided results tend to emphasize a flaw in first-past-the-post voting, in which the candidate with the most votes wins the election, regardless of how few votes he or she actually polls. With three or four strong candidates running, a winner could have less than a third of the total ballots cast. That inequity can be magnified dramatically between ridings. Gordon Campbell led the BC Liberals to a massive victory in 2001, winning all but two ridings - about 95 per cent of the seats in the legislature - despite receiving less than 60 per cent of the popular vote across the province.
Traditionally in B.C., the uneven split between popular votes and final outcomes in the legislature has favoured the political right, particularly with greater balance between parties vying for power. Nevertheless, in 1996, the NDP took more than half of the available seats despite having polled less than 40 per cent of the popular vote, while the losing Liberals actually received 42 per cent of the votes cast in B.C.
The likelihood of another lopsided election - this one probably electing an inordinate number of NDP MLAs - is rekindling the fires under a transferable vote system that requires a candidate to acquire at least 50 per cent support, either initially or through voters' second (or third.) choices. This time the calls for reform are coming from the right end of the political spectrum, from folks like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, likely because the right is split, and would stand most to gain from a change.
But a change in balloting would not address the real problem. When MLAs go to Victoria, they become blind representatives for their party. If they actually represented their ridings - and the people who elected them - the first-pastthe-post system would serve us just fine.