MLA Jordan Sturdy cast a critical eye on the proportional representation referendum, echoing the stance that his BC Liberal party has taken regarding the ongoing vote.
However, a local political science professor disagrees with a number of assessments the MLA has made.
Sturdy criticized the NDP-Green government for failing to provide details such as electoral maps for the new system.
“Now, the premier says, in fairness, you know, ‘It’s a leap of faith.’” said Sturdy. “Not how I do business.”
It was the latest message that Sturdy had during his stop in town on Nov. 2 at the Adventure Centre, but a familiar one.
Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has been waging an extensive campaign against the proposed vote reform since the referendum was announced earlier this year.
While Sturdy said he wasn’t against proportional representation in general, he noted in this case he had a number of concerns.
He said there could be less representation for smaller communities and less direct accountability. He also said the process for the referendum was politically driven, and therefore, flawed.
In his view, MLAs in first-past-the-post are more accountable because each riding has one clear representative.
Sturdy also noted that when he saw how electoral maps were drawn in 2009 under the then-proposed single transferable vote, his riding would’ve expanded, therefore diluting his community’s representation.
“Pemberton — I didn’t see how we were going to have a voice,” he said. “Our voice was going to be diminished.”
He also expressed fears that proportional representation would mean parties, rather than voters, would have more control over who represents a riding.
“Depending on the system, a certain percentage will be appointed by the parties, so it really becomes a politically-driven approach,” Sturdy said.
He also said that there was no binding guarantee that the government will have another referendum to reassess proportional representation after two election cycles, as promised.
However, Quest University professor Doug Munroe questioned a number of Sturdy’s complaints.
“The concerns that Jordan’s articulating are a little bit overblown,” said Munroe.
Munroe said proportional representation may diminish the voices of smaller communities in a sense that ridings could become bigger.
There is an easy fix for this, however.
“If we really didn’t want that to happen, we’d just have to add more MLAs and keep the riding smaller,” he said.
There isn’t anything stopping this from happening in a proportional system. It’s just that B.C. voters have previously said that they don’t want more MLAs, Munroe said.
“I think a lot of people who hear that think cost,” he said. “[But] the cost of the legislature is trivial compared with what the provincial government costs to run every year.”
He also noted that riding boundaries change every 10 years and that MLA numbers goes up over time in our current system.
“Even if we do nothing, there will be more MLAs and different ridings,” he said.
With respect to the fear that MLAs will be less directly accountable to voters, Munroe said that he didn’t think that’s a valid concern for the proportional systems B.C. is voting on.
“In the mixed member proportional system... you always have a riding with an MLA. We would still have our Jordan equivalent... the only sort of difference... is that we’d also have a regional MLA,” he said.
As for the idea that parties will have more power in appointing MLAs, Munroe noted that this already happens in the first-past-the-post.
“It actually has very little to do with the voting system — it has more to do with how parties behave,” he said.
Finally, with respect to Sturdy’s concern that there is no binding guarantee to have another referendum about proportional representation, Munroe said that this is true — but it’s the same regardless of any promise made by any government.
“That’s true, but it’s true of everything the provincial government does,” he said.