Fair Voting BC sent a survey on voting reform to the four parties contesting ridings in BC who have polled above 5% at any point during this campaign. We also invited the parties to ask their candidates to submit individual responses, if they wish. We gave the parties the option to send in a separate statement if they preferred not to respond to our detailed survey questions.
In our survey, we asked questions about four main topics:
- Democratic Principles: Commitment to some key democratic principles that have received majority public support in polls
- Citizens’ Assembly: Interest in commissioning a citizens’ assembly to advance public discussion about voting reform
- Incremental Reforms: Interest in considering incremental reforms (rather than making an “all or nothing” decision)
- Local Municipal Choice: Willingness to grant cities and towns in BC the freedom to choose a proportional voting system if they so desire
Below, we have summarized the various party responses (if received) and assigned an overall grade that we hope will guide you in making your voting decisions over the coming weeks.
For details behind our scoring, as well as more details about our survey, please see the “Basis for Evaluation” section below the Report Card.
|Commitment to Democratic Principles||A+||DNA||DNA||NR|
|Support for Citizens’ Assembly||A+||DNA||DNA||NR|
|Willingness to Pursue Incremental Reforms||A||DNA||DNA||NR|
|Support for Local Choice||A+||DNA||DNA||NR|
|Any individual candidate responses received? (see below for details)||No||Yes||No||Yes|
At this point, we can only recommend voting for Green Party candidates or for Ryan Warawa (BC Conservative Party). No other parties or candidates have made any significant commitments to voting reform.
What the Green Party platform says: Not yet released (Oct 11, 2020)
Statements made in response to our survey:
- On Principles for Provincial Voting System: The B.C. Greens support proportional representation because we believe every British Columbian’s vote should count towards the makeup of our legislature. We believe British Columbians should have a clear, transparent process for determining the future of their democracy, and that no one political party should not be able to game a system to be in their best interests. Electoral reform was a significant reason for our decision to form a minority government with the B.C. NDP in 2017, with the 2018 referendum on Proportional Representation a necessary outcome of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
- On Creating a Citizens’ Assembly: Leading up to the 2018 referendum on Proportional Representation, the B.C. Greens recommended that the Attorney General create a transparent and independent advisory body to provide recommendations on a made-in-BC system of proportional representation that best suits the needs and values of British Columbians. We further recommended that this should be a body of trusted experts and diverse citizen representatives in order to incorporate multiple viewpoints and arrive at consensus-based recommendations, and that the results be made public. This body is crucial for ensuring that the decision-making with regards to an electoral system design is not partisan or politically motivated. By delegating recommendations to an independent body of citizens and experts, we can ensure the design of the system is not dependent on any one political party and is transparent and independent.
- On Incremental Reforms: The B.C. Greens believe that electoral reform is a key aspect of ensuring better governance in British Columbia. We support informed, evidence-based policy making and governance and would consider all viable options through consultation with experts and the public. We believe that the best approach allows citizens to weigh in on outcomes and values that they want to see in a made-in-BC system of proportional representation including through the election of a political party with a clear mandate to make a change to the voting system.
- On Local Municipal Choice: The B.C. Greens support necessary electoral reform across all levels of government, in the acknowledgement that no one political party should be able to dominate the system.
- On Voting Reform in General: There are many different systems of proportional representation, many of which could be tweaked and modified in numerous ways. We need to move beyond the status quo and towards a new system that elects local MLAs to represent your community, a fairer result ensuring voters are represented, and one that ensures that no single party gets 100% of the power with only 40% of the vote.
We feel that the Green Party’s responses represent a robust commitment to voting reform, so we have given them an A+ in all categories except “Incremental Reforms”. Here, the idea was that BC may be able to make some progress on voting reform despite the 2018 referendum result by pursuing incremental reforms rather than seeking a wholesale reform of the voting system. For example, we might start by adding a small number of top-up seats (e.g., 8-10) rather than the 35-40 envisioned in the Mixed Member Proportional system described in the referendum, or by combining pairs of ridings and electing two MLAs from each rather than moving more fully towards the larger riding sizes imagined in the original BC-STV system recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly. The Green Party indicated that they would prefer to move more directly to wholesale reform rather than settling for such partial measures. While we applaud their commitment to full reform, and hence gave them an A, we feel that electoral reform supporters should more actively consider encouraging the larger parties that are currently opposed to voting reform to consider partial steps in the right direction to break us out of the current stalemate. Nonetheless, it is clear that the Green Party is solidly committed to the idea that all voters are entitled to representation of their choosing in the legislature and we fully endorse their position on voting reform.
New Democratic Party
What the NDP platform says: The 2020 platform contains no commitments related to democratic reform.
The NDP submitted the following statement in response to our survey invitation:
Thank you for your email regarding democratic reform and allowing our party the opportunity to share our response.
In 2018, British Columbians had the opportunity to decide whether B.C. should keep its current voting system or move to a system of proportional representation. Elections B.C. reported that well over one million people voted in the referendum and we thank all British Columbians who turned out to have their say on how we vote in our province. British Columbians from all corners of the province seized this opportunity to participate in this important process, with the largest public consultation in our province’s history.
Following Election B.C.’s tabulation of the ballots, it was declared that British Columbians preferred to stick with our current voting system. Our government held this referendum because we believe that this decision needed to be up to people, not politicians. While we were disappointed in the outcome, and advocated for a proportional representation system, we respect the people’s decision.
Since forming government, we have been working to make life better for people. We’ve already banned big money and introduced tough new restrictions on lobbyists to put people back to the centre of our politics. There’s a lot more work to do, and if re-elected, a BC NDP government will keep working to make government work for people in B.C.
In short, the NDP feels that they gave electoral reform a shot, the people didn’t want it, and they have no further plans to address the concerns that gave rise to the Citizens’ Assembly in the first place. They also offered no specific response to our more detailed questions. For these reasons, we do not expect the NDP to take any steps to improve our voting system and we cannot recommend them.
Toni Boot (Penticton): We also received a response from Penticton candidate Toni Boot. She generally responded very positively to our questions, answering ‘yes’ to almost all our statements of democratic principles, with the exceptions of ‘no’ to “Do you believe that a party should only win majority power if its candidates win a majority of the vote?” and “Do you believe that voters should be able to choose among different candidates from their preferred party?”. She noted “I believe it is up to the members of the particular party to choose who they want to represent them in a riding, i.e. had a nomination race should there be more than one candidate who is vetted by the party executive.”
Boot supports the idea of a Citizens’ Assembly but would not make creating one a priority at this time, stating “I answered “no” to the preceding question because in my opinion, this is not a priority right now. The priority is an economic recovery that is equitable and sustainable and makes our province more resilient.”
Boot also supported the idea of trying a more incremental approach if that were on offer, stating “I answered Yes in the preceding question because, although I would like to see Proportional Representation, I believe a phased in approach (that is not confusing!) is a better way to approach this outcome. Previous referendums have failed, so let’s try something new!”
Finally, Boot endorsed the idea of giving Vancouver the ability to choose its own voting system, but not extending this right to all cities and towns, saying “Vancouver is the only city in BC that has a party system at the local government level AND because Vancouver operates under its own charter (Vancouver Charter) unlike every other local government in the province (that operates under provincial legislation –the Community Charter).” We note that several other cities (e.g., Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, Victoria) also have party systems at the local level.
In short, Ms. Boot supports most of the key principles that drive the electoral reform movement, and would support some key initiatives that could lead us forward. We therefore recommend her.
What their platform says: The 2020 platform contains no commitments related to democratic reform.
The Liberals submitted the following statement in response to our survey invitation:
On behalf of all BC Liberal candidates, please accept the following statement in response to your 2020 provincial election survey:
The people of BC have repeatedly rejected electoral reform through three separate referenda. Two of these referenda were conducted under the BC Liberals, and another was conducted under the NDP.
Even though John Horgan’s NDP stacked the deck in the third referendum in favour of electoral reform, the people of BC still rejected proportional representation overwhelmingly. The Globe and Mail called this Canada’s “least honest attempt” at electoral reform. We believe former Deputy Premier Carole James put it best when she said “Electoral Reform is Finished.” (Global News, Dec 20, 2018)
It is clear that John Horgan and the NDP can’t be trusted to respect our democratic process. This is only reinforced by John Horgan’s selfish decision to call a snap election, campaign against the concept of a minority government, and put our economic recovery from COVID-19 on hold in his quest for power.
In short, the Liberals feel that voters have rejected electoral reform three times (conveniently forgetting that voters supported reform with aa 58% majority the first time) and they have no further plans to address the concerns that gave rise to the Citizens’ Assembly in the first place. They also offered no specific response to our more detailed questions. For these reasons, we do not expect the Liberals to take any steps to improve our voting system and we cannot recommend them.
What their platform says: The 2020 platform contains no commitments related to voting reform, though it does have a few statements related to campaign donation policy.
We received no other response from the Conservative party, so can neither recommend nor not recommend them.
Ryan Warawa (Langley East): We did receive a response from one of their candidates, Ryan Warawa, running in Langley East.
Mr. Warawa answered most of our questions in the affirmative, thereby demonstrating a strong personal commitment to electoral reform and related issues.
The questions that he answered “No” to include the following:
- “Currently, our voting system means that NDP supporters elect almost no MLAs throughout the interior of the province, in the Fraser Valley or in many of southern ridings in Metro Vancouver. Do you believe we should have a voting system that would ensure that these NDP supporters could elect NDP MLAs from these regions to represent them in the legislature?” and “Currently, our voting system means that Liberal supporters elect almost no MLAs across Vancouver Island, in much of Surrey, and across the northern and eastern parts of Metro Vancouver. Do you believe we should have a voting system that would ensure that these Liberal supporters could elect Liberal MLAs from these regions to represent them in the legislature?”.
- Curiously though, he did answer “Yes” to “Recent polls show that approximately 15% of voters support the Green Party and a further 10% support the Conservative Party. Currently, our voting system means that supporters of these two smaller parties elect almost no MLAs. Do you believe we should have a voting system that would ensure that these supporters of smaller parties could elect Green or Conservative MLAs from the different regions of the province to represent them in the legislature?” We are puzzled that he seems supportive of a voting system that would elect Conservative MLAs to represent Conservative supporters, but is apparently not supportive of one that would deliver similar representation to supporters of the NDP or Liberal Party.
- While he indicated support for giving all cities and towns in BC the power to choose a voting system that addresses the deficiencies of the current At-Large Voting System, he answered “No” to the question: “If elected, would you work to implement enabling legislation similar in spirit to that which Ontario has already passed?” In other words, he’s supportive, but would not plan to actively take steps to ensure that this would happen.
He added the following comments to his response:
- “I will advocate the electoral reforms advocated by the residents of Langley East”
- “I support democratic reforms if approved by 50% + 1 of the voters in a referendum.”
In short, Mr. Warawa supports most of the key principles that drive the electoral reform movement, though he would not push for local municipal choice and would require a referendum prior to implementing reforms.