Do you want to choose your own MLA or do you want a political party to choose for you?
Do you want your MLA to look to you for your vote or owe their position to a political party?
A referendum will decide if you’ll continue voting directly for your MLA or move towards a system where political parties make this decision for you. This referendum could shift power from voters to parties.
All three proportional systems give parties a greater role in choosing MLAs; none of the fully ‘voter choice’ proportional systems will even be on the ballot.
In 2004, a Citizen Assembly of 160 voters studied proportional representation. They selected a ‘voter system’ STV (Single Transferable Vote) and rejected the ‘party system’ MMP (Mixed Member Proportional).
But the current process is in the hands of politicians. Their public consultation offered four possible systems, both voter choice and party choice.
But the two governing caucuses submitted a joint endorsement of MMP, the system rejected by the Citizen Assembly, in which political parties choose 40% of all MLAs.
When the referendum question was made public, three of the four systems were gone. The MMP system remained and two new systems were added. Neither had ever been tried nor were they part of the consultation process. Both featured MLAs chosen by political parties. How many is uncertain; details will be decided after the vote. The public consultation did not even hint of this possibility.
Citizens will choose from four systems
Our current system essentially holds 87 elections. The winner of each gets a seat in the assembly, usually with a stable, majority government so voters know who to hold accountable. This is the only system on the ballot where citizens vote directly for all MLAs.
If you reject this system, you are limited to three proportional systems. All of these transfer some of your right to choose MLAs to political parties.
In Dual Member Proportional, the ridings double in size. Each party runs two candidates, but the party designates one primary and the other secondary. You cannot vote for them directly. If you like the secondary candidate and not the primary, your vote for the one you want will give you the one the party wants. All losing votes are distributed to the parties. A fringe party with only 5% of the vote would have to be given a riding somewhere. This might be your MLA, living in a different riding, with an agenda shared by few, representing you.
Mixed Member Proportional is the system preferred by political parties as they choose 40% of all MLAs. You give your vote to a party; the party chooses these MLAs for you.
Rural Urban Proportional uses STV (Single Transferable Vote) in urban areas and MMP in rural areas — even though the Citizen Assembly rejected MMP in part because rural voters opposed it. You may think you live in a rural or urban riding, but that boundary will be decided after you have voted.
Many decisions will be made after the referendum. For example, candidates strive for party approval to get placed at the top of party lists where their election is almost guaranteed.
Will the party lists be fixed, or will citizens be able to make their own ranking?
Party leaders say there is no time to allow independent experts or citizens to decide these details. Instead these decisions will be made by a ‘multiparty process’.
This referendum is of political parties, by political parties, for political parties. Citizens will not be able to vote for a proportional system where voters to choose all their own MLAs.
This fall you can express what you think of these choices. And decide if you will continue to vote directly for your representatives or whether political parties will choose some of your representatives for you.