The current British parliamentary system for electing representatives should be maintained, former NDP premier Dave Barrett says.
At an NDP potluck dinner Wednesday, he urged party members not to support the proposed change to a single-transferable vote (STV) system in a referendum May 17.
“Does anybody understand that system?” Barrett asked in a talk that ranged from religion to BC Rail to ICBC.
Under the system, voters will rank candidates in order of preference. A candidate who meets the quota to be elected -determined by the number of voters and the number of candidates – has his or her extra votes transferred to voters’ second choice. The process continues until all MLAs in a riding are elected. Voters can choose among several candidates from the same party, and independents.
The theory is that the legislature will represent the support each party as reflected in the popular vote. The number of ridings will shrink from the current 79, but ridings may have as many as seven members each.
In that case, Barrett said, a riding could have two New Democrats, two Liberals, and two independents representing it.
“If you have a local problem, who do you go to?” he asked. “It is insane. The British parliamentary system was built so that an MLA or MP – no matter which party they represent -for a geographic area represents you.”
But even before members are elected there is a problem, he said.
“Who does a New Democrat choose as their second choice? Who does a Liberal choose as their second choice?”
He pointed to the 1952 B.C. election, when a similar system saw Social Credit take power on the strength of second-choice votes.
“It’s a system designed for one purpose – to elect a right-wing government,” he said.
The current system, he said, is simple and forthright, and best for British Columbia, a jurisdiction with vast and diverse regions.
“This is not Malta, this is not Ireland,” he said, referring to other jurisdictions with the STV system. “Mathematical games do not apply here.”
He quoted former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the current system: “It is chaotic, it has problems, but there isn’t a better system in the world.”