Week (BC, Canada)
slated for citizens' assembly
By Darshan Lindsay
May 23, 2004
Next year's provincial election could be the last of the
first-past-the- post system in B.C.'s history. The Citizens'
Assembly on Electoral Reform is nearing the halfway mark of
its provincewide public meetings, with one planned for
Kamloops next month. The committee's task is to determine
whether or not to propose a change to the electoral system
and, if they do, have their suggestion put to voters in a
referendum coinciding with the May 2005 election.
"There is a fair amount of interest," said Ray
Jones, a Kamloops resident who sits on the 160-member
assembly. For logistical reasons, the members are only
required to attend two to three of the 50 public meetings.
Jones attended one in Valemount earlier this month and will
listen to presenters at both the meeting in Merritt on June 15
and one in Kamloops on June 17. In Valemount, while there were
only six presenters, 20 people came to the meeting to listen
to the discussion.
"Most felt there was a problem we had to fix," said
Jones, with proportional representation offered as the
solution. Under such a system, the number of seats won by a
party would be proportional to the votes they garnered. For
example, in the 2001 provincial election, the Liberals took 77
of 79 seats in the legislature (97 per cent) but had only 58
per cent of the vote. Under a proportional system lobbied for
by the provincial Green Party, that 58 per cent voter support
would have instead resulted in the Liberals taking 51 seats in
the legislature, the NDP 18 (instead of their current two),
and the Greens 10.
"What we would have had was still a majority government
but strong opposition voices and debate. That would have
served democracy better," said Green Party leader Adriane
Carr. Though a critic of the Liberal government on many
things, Carr said the Liberals did the morally right thing
through the creation of the Citizens' Assembly. Now, she said,
it's up to British Columbians to do their part and