By Christine Beyleveldt, Editor-in-Chief
Despite writing a special feature about Proportional Representation several weeks ago, I’ll admit my understanding of the options on the ballot was still somewhat hazy until fairly recently. Proportional Representation has been put to a referendum in BC twice before, and twice it has failed. There isn’t a lot of information out there, many people don’t know what the options would entail, and that’s where opposition to Proportional Representation springs up. It’s hard to get behind something if you don’t know anything about it, but that’s where it becomes your job to look for the qualities you desire.
When I turned 18, I was seriously stoked about being able to vote. I spent months leading up to the last federal election researching party platforms, listening to debates and comparing my values to those of Stephen Harper and those looking to replace him as Prime Minister. I even attended a rally in Vancouver. Unfortunately I’ve become a lot more cynical about the democratic process in the span of just three short years.
Our incumbent Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, promised that if he were elected in Oct. 2015, that election would be the last where votes were counted by First Past the Post (FPTP). I even remember news anchors on nearly every channel comparing the new seating assignment in the House of Commons to how it would have looked under various systems of proportional representation instead, because it was such a major part of his campaign. Trudeau failed to keep that promise. And why would he? The very system he sought to replace propelled the Liberal party to a majority government back from nearly being off the map, and the catch is that they received just over a third of the vote across the country.
In BC right now, we have a unique opportunity to have our voices heard. Even if we never end up with a fair system of governance, we might be able to make it at least a little bit more fair. That cynicism I mentioned earlier? I began stewing not long after I realized that we the people actually have no say in what goes on in government. We elect a representative – or sometimes just a quarter to a third of the constituents in any given riding elect a representative, which gives way to strategic voting – to vote on our behalf in Ottawa. We have to trust that they’ll vote in accordance with our wishes. Obviously it’s not at all practical, but the most upright course of action would be to allow every voting citizen a say in what bills get passed. Our representatives have half of the say, and the other half goes to the Senate, who are appointed by the government.
Politicians say young people don’t vote. Not from my standpoint. I see young people coming out in droves to do more than just vote, they actively campaign. During last year’s provincial election, the Green Party candidate in my riding was fresh out of high school. The Capilano Students’ Union (CSU)’s own former president Sacha Fabry recently ran for Squamish Council. The CSU invited mayoral candidates to Capilano University last month to debate in regular fashion. What I see is a generation more engaged in the politics of their communities, the rest of the province and as far as the Capital than ever. We may disagree on who we vote for or even how our ballots are counted, but the most important thing is that we vote.
A quote I’ve heard so often that we don’t even know who to attribute it to anymore goes that we don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. Now that we’re in a position to make decisions that will affect how our democracy is run for decades to come, we need to take advantage of the opportunity. No matter which way you choose to vote, just fill out your ballot and mail it back to the elections office. Oh, and get a move on, because Canada Post is on strike right now.