An electoral system is a means to an end. The expected end is an effective, well-functioning democracy. Proponents of proportional representation (PR), like the July 25 letter writer, conflate the means with the end, arguing that only PR can deliver democratic government. He laments B.C.’s “false majority governments.” referring to them as “undemocratic outcomes” and rule by “tyranny.”
However, a democratic state is not determined solely, nor even chiefly, by its electoral system any more than an undemocratic state is. The free election in Egypt did not produce a democratic government, for example.
Democracy is defined by a number of values, most importantly a commitment to individual liberty (freedom of thought, expression, and association), individual justice, the rule of law, security of property, and control of political institutions through universal suffrage by an informed public. The level of commitment to these democratic values is what defines the quality of a democracy, not the type of electoral system it has. Only a misinformed and/or extremely biased person would argue that our current electoral system destroys these values and that PR will rescue and deliver them.
Here’s the thing, if PR is introduced it will invite a number of new voices and special interests into our Legislature from both ends of the political spectrum. These voices may represent a wider spectrum of political opinion; but their commitment to the values mentioned above is uncertain. Most concerning is that they will exercise disproportionate political power since larger parties will depend on them to cobble together a majority of seats in the Legislature. The coalition that ultimately forms the government will be based on backroom deals between politicians without any input from the public.
At least under the current system it’s possible to ‘throw the bums out’ from time to time. Under PR, as long as extreme voices on the right or the left can generate enough support to win seats, they will always be represented in the Legislature and will wield disproportionate power to their numbers. There will be very little opportunity for the public to weaken their influence as long as other politicians need their support to form a government.
Think carefully before supporting PR.