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How Proportional Representation in BC & Canada can Save Public Education

One of the best ways to understand political strategy is to understand your enemy’s greatest fears. Most of those who follow public policy in Canada are aware of the Fraser Institute (FI). This far-right corporate sponsored, neo-liberal think tank is one of the great enemies of public education. Besides their campaigns for standardized testing and the ranking of schools, they oppose increases to education funding at every turn. They support increased public funding of private education, charters and vouchers. They are strongly opposed to teachers’ unions, salary increases, pensions and benefits.

Turns out FI lives in fear of Proportional Representation (PR). They are very clear in their own propaganda. PR leads to greater social spending. For our purposes read greater spending on education but also on healthcare, social services, social housing, public transit, all the things we love.

After checking out the link we can see that we want PR for exactly the reason that FI lives in fear of it. The FI observations that PR alone can convert conservative/liberal societies into liberal/social democratic societies.

British Columbia may be on the cusp of a referendum on PR as promised by the recent GreeNDP cohabitation. The Christy Clark Liberals are calling the NDP government in alliance with the GPBC “unstable” with 44 seats while she would have been “stable” with 43 seats. Well, the election ‘looks’ close but, in fact it was far from close.

In other words, if this election was run in any PR jurisdiction, the NDP GPBC alliance would have 50/87 seats to 35 Liberal seats and 2 ‘other’ possibly Tory seats. In other words the alliance would have a 15 seat, huge majority. Could PR lead to a revival of the Tories? Well, yes it could but mainly at the expense of the Liberals. The LPBC is really an amalgam of Tories and right wing Liberals as the only workable strategy on the right to keep the NDP from power.

The idea that PR is a non-starter in BC defies the fact that a referendum already passed a form of PR with 57% although the Liberals established a phony 60% threshold.

The NDP favours a system known as Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). Where all MLAs would run in their ridings but extra seats would be added to fix the proportionality problem. For example 87 regular MLAs plus 14 seats distributed to the parties that were under-represented in the 87 seat vote. BC already approved a system known as Single Transferable Vote (STV) very similar to the recent nationwide Tory leadership vote.

This REPORT prefers to see BC divided into 8 seats, each of which elects 10 members by proportion, one MLA for each full 10% of the vote received, final seats decided by greatest faction by rounding.

The last seven seats in the far north of the province could retain the existing First Past the Post system due to their huge scarcely populated size.

Example: Riding X  Liberal 33% NDP 35% Green 18% Tory 12% Other 2%

Seats: Liberal 3  NDP 4  Green 2  Tory 1  Other 0.

Picture eight ridings, each electing ten MLAs with names like Vancouver Island, Vancouver City, Richmond-Delta-White Rock, Surrey, Burnaby-Coquitlam-Port Moody, The Okanagan, or The Kootenays. Of course few natural areas neatly divide into 10 but a boundaries commission will know what to do with this instruction.

The benefits of the system are real regional representation with proportionality.

Each voter would see a ballot with ten names under each party listed as the party proposes probably based on a mini convention or mail in candidate selection, There would also be a column for independent candidates. There would be a ‘Party Box’ which indicates that the voter wants all 10 votes for their party as listed by the party. Although most voters would choose the party box, voters would be free to choose up to 10 names from different parties or even ‘plump’ their vote by using less than their full 10 votes to give a favourite candidate an even greater chance this is known as Open List. We expect 90% of voters would vote a straight party list but the option would be there for those who choose not to.

Not a perfect system but an attempt at a great improvement including local representation and greater proportionality.

There will be those who say “I don’t like your system or any PR system”. Sure but just be clear that you are really saying you don’t want to greatly increase support for public education, healthcare, housing, Sky Train, and other critical public services.

Better a flawed diamond than a perfect pebble – Confucius.

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