Plan needed before change

How Proportional Representation (PR) is to be designed, is the question that needs addressing. The details are important and a proposal needs to be constructed before any electoral change vote should happen. Do we want to be similar to the Brexit vote and vote yes to move forward on a major political change with no plan? I say no, and subsequently say no to the existing vote on PR.

PR electoral systems require designers to consider a number of issues in addition to the choice of the electoral system type. These issues psychologically change incentives for voters and political parties alike; and the results will affect elections and government mechanically. We need to preserve the integrity of our elections and democracy before putting the cart before the horse. The details need to be discussed now as they are important. The following concerns are part of the difficulty in obtaining consensus around electoral reform, and why the issue is often tabled or dropped altogether.

We need to be talking about issues like:
-What kind of PR should we have? List PR, Single Transferable Vote (STV), or what hybrid.
-What are the 'made-in-BC' features going to be? (hybrid model)
-List PR - open, closed, or free lists?
-STV - Members of the same party compete against each other as well as against the opposition for votes.  How do we avoid promoting ‘clientelistic’ politics where politicians offer electoral bribes to groups of defined voters?
-How would the calculations (algorithm) be setup to establish the governing party?
-What minimum level of support would a party need to gain representation - 5%? 10%?
-What happens when radical fringe parties reach this threshold (say 5%) and the government must legally recognize the party?
-How would the party choose who would represent us after voting? Care must be taken to avoid excessive entrenchment of power within party headquarters and in the hands of senior party leaderships to choose who governs post election.
-How would we ensure geographic representation in government?
-What about independent candidates? How do we ensure their autonomy?
-Should a veto system be set up for the parties? How?
-How to address the extreme pluralism that can allow tiny minority parties to hold larger parties to ransom in coalition negotiations, threatening collapse of government. Is an immediate election the right answer?
-How would any of these changes affect Royal Assent?
-Under a PR system, it becomes difficult to remove a reasonably sized centre party from power. Is this a concern?
-How do we educate voters on the new electoral system?
-What are the costs and what government resources are needed to implement a new electoral system? Is it justifiable?

My point here is that many tough conversations exist and require further dialog. Overarching decisions need to be made and be firmly answered in a plan we constituents can discuss, understand and possibly vote on.  Just voting for PR because it is a good idea that works well elsewhere and worrying about the fine print later, will be problematic. Let’s grow the talk to how a PR system will be practically implemented and move this conversation forward.

Personally I don’t support a proportional representation electoral system although federally I’d like to see PR replace the partisanship in the Senate.

Reg P. Goldsbury

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