It’s been disturbing but predictable to read First Past the Post (FPTP) supporters crowing about the supposed victory in the referendum. They, and their media backers, say that proportional representation (PR) is over in B.C. and that somehow democracy has won. This is the same nonsense that was spouted throughout the referendum campaign by supporters of FPTP, who believe that democracy somehow is served when 40 per cent of the voters equals a majority government. When half the votes cast don’t influence election outcomes, there is something that desperately needs fixing.
That democratic deficit remains but for many FPTP supporters, there only interest is in preserving the status quo. Their intention is not to improve democracy but rather to preserve the advantage they see being gained by their political party. No, B.C. did not win in this referendum but the big-business Liberals did, hoping to again win a 40 per cent majority.
One thing that can be agreed upon is that the NDP government screwed up royally and, for whatever strategic party reasons, they really didn’t want this referendum to succeed. Similarly, Weaver did his part by declining to answer PR questions at his town hall during the campaign. For those of us who will always support PR, this is cause for great concern.
Results by riding, shows that Victoria strongly supported PR, due to strong education efforts conducted by advocacy groups in the region. Where Horgan failed miserably, was in not providing an effective educational campaign throughout the province, along with their ridiculously confusing roll out of proposed PR systems. Failing to understand and susceptible to deliberate misinformation propagated by the No campaign, many voters chose the status quo.
Just as women’s suffrage movements did not collapse with early defeats, PR efforts will persist in B.C. and Canada until PR is achieved. B.C. may not be the leader in evolutionary democracy but other jurisdictions are going to look at this in the near future and perhaps their success will help BC to become more informed and eventually bring in PR. Polling shows young voters strongly favour PR but, not realizing their power, allow the old guard FPTP to thwart democracy simply by showing up to vote, something sadly lacking with younger citizens. Perhaps it will take another generation for awareness to develop and our democracy to evolve.
PR, first and foremost, is about fair voting – having an effective say in an election, which sadly is not the case today. Let’s just hope reform efforts are not too late to save democracy.