GUEST COLUMN: Proportional representation curbs extremist movements

Pioneer of B.C. electoral reform argues for yes vote in referendum

Nick Loenen is a former Social Credit MLA for Richmond. (Contributed)

By Nick Loenen

I will vote in favour of proportional representation (Pro Rep) in the referendum on electoral reform this fall, because Pro Rep is more effective at keeping extremists from government than the existing voting system.

In Canada, we’ve avoided extremists in government not because of strong institutional safeguards, but rather because Canadians themselves have largely shunned extremists. Now that is changing. Today, all around the world, extremism is on the rise. That’s why now is the time to strengthen our institutions.

Pro Rep is an opportunity to take pre-emptive action, lest a Donald Trump or Doug Ford take power in Victoria. Don’t think it can’t happen here: in B.C., we have exactly the same system that elected these two extremists. Trump won control of the executive branch of the U.S. government even though the majority of US voters—54 per cent—did not vote for him.

In Ontario, Ford’s Conservatives gained control of government by increasing their vote-share seven per cent, but incredibly, received 46 per cent more seats. It is our system that produces wild swings in government like this.

Gordon Gibson: B.C.’s referendum vote is dishonest, misleading

The weakness of B.C.’s status quo voting system is two-fold: only some votes count and governments get elected with a minority of the vote. Under Pro Rep, all votes count and governments get elected on legitimate majorities. Under Pro Rep, neither Trump nor Ford would ever have a chance to form a government. Changing our voting system to Pro Rep almost guarantees that no extremists will come to power. If you are apprehensive of the likes of Trump and Ford, vote in favour of Pro Rep to make our voting system more robustly democratic, and keep extremists far from the levers of power.

B.C.’s referendum proposal has built-in mechanisms to keep extremist and fringe parties from gaining control. Parties must win a minimum of five per cent of the popular vote to win seats in the BC Legislature. Even then, winning seats in parliament is not the same as controlling or influencing government.

In recent years, European far-right parties have increased their vote-share and gained more seats. But significantly, and with few exceptions, extremists have not gained influence on government. The most recent example is Sweden, where a far-right party increased its seats, but still has no part in government.

In his landmark study of 22 democracies, Arendt Lijphart, the world’s foremost scholar of voting systems, tested the effectiveness of small parties and concluded that in nearly all instances, parties have influence commensurate with their numerical strength and no more. Our own experience in B.C.’s current coalition government bears that out.

Under Pro Rep, all significant political interests and diversities exert pressure on the tiller of the ship of state in proportion to their numerical strength. In contrast, under the current voting system, the captain, elected on a minority of the vote, takes over the helm and orders everyone else off the bridge.

Everywhere democracy is in retreat. Fuelled by fears, people look for strong leadership. But what is strong leadership? I will vote for strong leadership based on inclusion, consensus, cooperation. The best guarantee against abuse of government power is to share that power among the many, rather than the few.

Nick Loenen is a former Richmond councillor and Social Credit MLA, co-founder of Fair Voting BC and author of the 1997 book Citizenship and Democracy, a case for proportional representation.

Just Posted

Outdoor ice rink opens in the North Shuswap

Those looking to skate in the fresh air can do so at Farrell’s Field in Celista

Man admits responsibility for 2016 death of Shuswap motorcyclist

Brian Watson, 60, died after being struck while riding his motorcycle on Squilax-Anglemont Road

Super blood wolf moon fills Okanagan skies, to photographers’ delight

Photographers had a rare chance Sunday to capture a rare lunar eclipse

Video: Snow Pitch Tournament a home run

Teams competed for softball supremacy on the snow-covered Finlayson Park ball diamonds

UPDATE: Vernon serial arsonist sentencing delayed

The sentencing hearing for William Munton contiunes at 2 p.m. Friday in Vernon Supreme Court

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, expenses

Speaker Darryl Plecas’ report details ‘flagrant overspending’

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

Former Kelowna city manager downplays possible Costco move

Ron Mattiussi says if store leaves for Westside, another big box retailer will likely take the site

Kamloops video rental store robbed for second time in 8 days

Movie Mart was robbed on Jan. 11 and held up again on Saturday afternoon under very similar circumstances

Most Read