Friday, November 10, 2017

Legislature hears support for Proportional Representation plan from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice

The process of moving forward the provincial government's Bill 6, which is the Electoral Reform Referendum Act has been hearing from a range of MLA's over the last few weeks and joining in on the discussion on Thursday was North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice.

Ms. Rice, spoke to the topic in the late hours of the afternoon session on Thursday, just before the Legislature shut down for the ten day Remembrance Day break.

Not surprisingly, considering it's an NDP/Green initiative, the North Coast MLA offered up her strong support for the Bill, which would replace the first past the post system currently in place, with a proportional system, one which Ms. Rice declared would be a positive step in the development of our democracy.

North Coast MLA
Jennifer Rice added
her voice to the electoral
reform debate on Thursday
The introduction of the proposed Bill came in early October and the background to the NDP/Green bill and how it will be put into implementation can be reviewed here.

As it was explained in early October, there will be up to a one year run up towards the vote which will be based on a still to be developed question, or questions.

Once the government has settled on the question they plan to ask, registered voters in the province will be asked to participate through a mail in ballot to be held before the end of November of 2018.

Regardless of the results, should there be an election called before July 1st of 2021, it will take place using the existing first-past the post system.

The guidelines to the Electoral Reform Referendum Act can be examined below.  (click to enlarge)

Some of Ms. Rice's discussion points in favour of the change in electoral system included:

Adoption of a proportional representation system would mean that British Columbia never again has a situation like we had in 2001, where a party gets just over 50 percent of the vote, and yet occupies 98 percent of the seats in this Legislature. 

People in this province and around the country have said time and again that they are tired of the current first-past-the-post system, which does not adequately represent them in this House. This is why we have decided to let a simple majority of British Columbians decide whether or not we pursue electoral reform. 

This is an exciting time in our province. I am certain that the proposed referendum and accompanying legislation is going to lead to the development of a more fair and robust democracy in British Columbia. For too long, the acrimonious nature of our partisan political system has drowned out the voices of everyday British Columbians, who feel their government does not adequately represent their needs. 

The political theatre and partisanship fostered through the winner-takes-all nature of our current system unquestionably affects the way parties govern. On the other hand, governments with proportional representation are by their very nature more collaborative, as one party rarely has the type of broad range support needed to form a majority government. 

This has the potential to lead to more diversity and less partisanship in our political system. I for one believe that the government should be comprised of the diversity of people and ideas in order to reflect the many and varied people who help build and sustain this province.

The North Coast MLA also made some time to observe as to some of the opposition to the plan from the Liberal side of the legislature,

The members opposite have spoken at great length about the implications of such a dramatic change in our electoral system. But during their time in government, the B.C. Liberal Party tried to make changes to the system numerous times, because they know that our current system is not working for all of the people in this province. 

 I come from a rural riding, and I want to make sure that my constituents are well represented in this House. I am cognizant of the implications of proportional representation in my geographically large riding with a comparatively small population. 

But after 16 years of one party with a bare majority of the votes in this province having all the power in this House, I know there needs to be change in our system, and there are many options to better represent the diversity and unique characteristics of this vast province.

One of those Opposition MLA's to speak to the topic, was Skeena MLA Ellis Ross.

As we noted on the blog in October, Mr. Ross raised a number of concerns to the proposed Bill, and in particular the way in which the NDP/Green collective plan to introduce the significant shift to the way that the electoral system works.

The way that the NDP and their Green partners are looking to put into motion the proportional representation plans was one of the many themes that the Skeena MLA highlighted in his October 26th address to the Legislature.

What this bill represents to the Green Party is a carrot on a stick, and that's part of why this bill is fundamentally flawed. This piece of legislation is not designed to serve the interests of British Columbians. It is aimed directly at preserving a power-sharing agreement between the NDP the Green Party. In other words, the NDP is telling the Green Party that you have to get into bed and stay in bed for at least the next 4½ years. 

This bill is also hollow because it doesn't even contain a hint of what the referendum question would be or how proportional representation would redraw the political map of the province. What this bill does set forth is an empty process with details to be determined sometime in the future by the NDP and the Green Party behind closed doors. 

 As an elected representative and as a lawmaker for this province, I find that unacceptable. We have a minority government desperate to cling on to power that answers only to the Green Party. Instead of holding a proper vote that would change our entire democratic system, the matter will be determined through a mail-in ballot. 

 The government wants to bring B.C.'s democratic institution into the 21st century using snail mail. Sometime next fall, you're going to be at work, hopefully, and the government is going to slip an envelope through your door. Along with all of the other junk mail and flyers, there will be an envelope asking you to rig the next election in favour of the NDP and the Green Party, and that is unacceptable.

More of Ms. Rice's contribution to the debate of yesterday can be reviewed from the Hansard record of the Thursday afternoon session here, starting at the 16:24 point .

Her presentation to the Legislature is also available from her Facebook page below:

For more notes related to themes of discussion in Victoria and the Legislature see our archive page here.


  1. Proportional representation is an absolute joke. The green ndp party wants urban representation. Rural bc will not have a voice at all. Ms rice dont care because she can retire quite comfortable after this term. Its just sad that she has to back this because the green party got the ndp in power with an agreement they support proportional representation. Wow.

    1. Actually, proportional representation would ensure that rural regions are represented in proportion to votes cast, so that the House would include representatives in both government and the opposition. Meanwhile, all rural voters could be ensured to be represented by someone they voted for. It boggles my mind to think that representation in this form could ever be considered a "joke" by citizens who care about the state of our democracy.