In order to best represent the diversity of opinion across all regions of the province, our Legislature should roughly match the makeup of the electorate. Two things are needed:
- There should be a match between the number of seats in relation to each region’s population (along with some compensation for areas with very low population density).
- There should also be a match between the number of seats for each party in each region, based on the popularity of that party in that particular region.
If these principles were met, it would mean that each MLA would be elected by about the same number of like-minded voters and as much as possible those like-minded voters would be grouped according to the region they live in.
These are in fact the two top principles that were identified this past summer by the Federal Electoral Reform Committee.
In the election just held in BC, around 1.9 million voters cast a ballot and 87 MLAs were elected. That’s about 22,000 votes per seat.
Using Vancouver as an example of a region, there were around 260,000 votes cast. Roughly 134,000 went to the NDP, 87,000 to the Liberals, and 34,000 to the Greens.
Vancouver elects 11 MLAs, so according to the “all voters are equally represented” strategy outlined above, the voters of Vancouver ought to be represented by 6 NDP MLAs, 4 Liberals and 1 Green – that is roughly proportional to the vote for each party.
So that’s how it would go if we had some kind of proportional voting system.
What actually happened is quite different.
With our current system, each riding elects one MLA based on whoever gets the most votes in that riding.
The total number of votes for the winning candidates in Vancouver’s 11 ridings is about 143,000. That leaves roughly 117,000 votes cast for “losing” candidates. That is thousands of voters in each riding who would have preferred a different MLA to the one they ended up with. It includes all the Green and “other” voters in the city, as well as many many NDP and Liberal voters.
In Vancouver Langara for instance, 10,000 voters elected a Liberal MLA, while around 11,000 other voters would have preferred a Green or NDP representative.
The result using this system of counting is 8 NDP MLAs and 3 Liberals which is quite different from the proportional numbers shown earlier. That’s because the first past the post calculation ignores those 117,000 voters. That’s the reason that the result is out of whack with what Vancouver voters actually wanted.
This distortion is repeated in every region of the province, with about 50% of the vote cast for “losing” candidates across the province, and therefore half the electorate represented by an MLA they didn’t vote for.